Peter Handford founded Transacord Limited in 1953 as a vehicle for his proposed business of transcribing audio recordings made on tape to disc. The name was derived from the words ‘transcribe’’ and ‘record’. Initially it produced records of amateur choirs and the like. However, Handford, who was already recording the sounds of railways for his own pleasure, identified a market for railway recordings and decided to release his recordings to the public through Transacord. The first such records were released under the Transacord label in 1955. They were advertised in The Railway Magazine and Trains Illustrated, and supplied by mail order at the price of ten shillings and sixpence, plus two shillings packing and postage, nearly £16 today. The earliest records used the 10-inch 78rpm format, approximately three to four minutes on each side. In 1956 Transacord moved onto the 10-inch LP format.
The venture proved a commercial success, but, like many small businesses, it needed to expand to survive. Meanwhile, Handford was finding that running Transacord was becoming ‘a restrictive and worrying chore’. He considered stopping production of records. Fortunately, he was approached by Harley Usill of Argo records, part of the Decca group of companies, initially about a railway sound effects for a recording of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. Following this in 1961 Transacord and Argo reached agreement to release records of Handford’s railway recordings under a new label, Argo Transacord. During this period the catalogue expanded substantially, including some records of diesel locomotives. The record format also changed to 12-inch LPs and cassette tapes.
In 1980 Decca was sold to Polygram. Polygram was not interested in the niche market represented by Argo Transacord and consequently the Argo Transacord label ceased to exist. Harley Usill now founded a new company called Academy Sound and Vision (ASV) and a new label, ASV Transacord, came into existence, to carry on where Argo Transacord left off. ASV Transacord continued to issue LPs until 1989. Subsequent issues were in CD format. ASV Transacord also issued CDs of more general sound effects. By 1999 ASV had decided not to release more railway recordings although sales of the existing recordings would continue. This arrangement continued until 2007, when ASV became part of the Universal group.
Transacord continues in business in 2017, selling recordings through its website.