Latest archive & research newsletter

Newsletter no. 7 from our Archive and Research team at the Museum.

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Research and archive newsletter - April 2015

Institute of Railway Studies seminar: Wednesday 20 May 2015

The Institute of Railway Studies, a partnership between the National Railway Museum and the University of York, is re-starting its popular public seminar programme. The seminar series will run several times a year and feature speakers from across the industry and academia discussing the latest railway research and topical themes.

The first seminar will be held at the museum in the Duchess of Hamilton Conference suite on Wednesday 20th May at 2.00-4.00pm. It will showcase the research-in-progress from three of our current PhD students. Hannah Reeves will be giving a paper on Women and the railway family, 1900-1948; Thomas Spain will be discussing Food transport distribution in Britain, 1920-1975 and Alison Rees will be presenting her research on the Design, fitting and decoration of train interiors in Britain, c.1920-1955.

With opportunity for discussion and questions at the end of each paper, the event promises to be a stimulating opportunity to hear and be a part of the railway research being undertaken at the Museum.

The seminar is free and open to all, but is ticketed. If you would like to attend please book your place.


Anatomy of a traction merger: the archives of GEC Traction

National Railway Museum research and archive newsletter

Following a successful application in 2014 for The National Archives Cataloguing Grants Programme, we have received funding to catalogue and make available the archives of General Electric Company Traction Ltd. This collection is the largest uncatalogued collection in the National Railway Museum archive and documents a key part of Britain's railway industry.

It is also the only major archive in the country to cover railway manufacturing and the export industry in the 1970s and 1980s. GEC Traction was formed by GEC?s acquisition of two of the most significant British railway manufacturing firms: Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) in 1968 and English Electric (EE) in 1969. These firms were themselves born from mergers of historic railway engineering firms, including Robert Stephenson and Co., Vulcan Foundry, R. W. Hawthorn and Leslie, British Thomson-Houston and Dick, Kerr and Co.

The collection dates back to the early 20th century and is made up of a wide range of record types including: engineering drawings, microfilm, technical manuals, publicity brochures, order books, photographs, drawing registers and project files for projects such as the Channel Tunnel and the Docklands Light Railway.

The project started at the beginning of February and is due to take two years. The first task is to make an assessment of the entire collection of around 1000 boxes, and this is now underway. Keep an eye on the NRM blog and @railway museum and @GEC_Archivist for project updates and interesting finds.

Discover more about the history of GEC via these publications, which can be read in Search Engine, our library and archive centre:


AHRC collaborative doctoral programme

National Railway Museum research and archive newsletter

We are currently advertising the latest studentship in the Science Museum Group's collaborative doctoral programme, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. It's a collaboration with the Department of History at the University of York, and is called Railways and Commemoration: Anniversaries, Commemorative Cultures and the Making of Railway History.

Through the analysis of anniversaries, the project will explore how railways developed and maintained their corporate identities and helped to shape narratives of railway history. The research will make extensive use of the NRM's collections and will also assess the museum's own role as an interpreter of history and venue for commemoration. The student will begin their research in the autumn term of this year.

Click here for further information or to apply.


New acquisition: Complete set of Parliamentary papers on railways 1837-1906

National Railway Museum research and archive newsletter

We have just purchased a major acquisition for the library collection - a complete set of Parliamentary papers from the dawn of railways in 1837 up to the early twentieth century in 1906; in total 123 volumes containing over 1400 individual papers. This is a truely remarkable collection in terms of historical scope as well as in its completeness and rarity and will allow researchers to chart the official story of the rise of the British rail network.

As an insight into what the set contains, there are the Select Committee reports; discussions surrounding the many Bills/Acts to do with railways; railway returns and Parliamentary discussions on key events and people such as the discussion and evidence to do with railway gauges by Robert Stephenson and I.K. Brunel; the Tay Bridge disaster and railway servants and their hours of labour. In addition to the written word are hundreds of fine lithograph drawings of maps, plates and plans which are a work of art in their own right and practically serve to enhance the information and understanding of the subject.

These Parliamentary papers have just arrived on site and the plan is to catalogue each of the 1400 papers so that they can be found easily within the library catalogue. They will then be available to be consulted in Search Engine.


Work, Rest and Play: family history conference 19 September 2015

National Railway Museum research and archive newsletter

Booking is now open for our third archives conference, Work, Rest and Play: Exploring the Extended Railway Family, in conjunction with family history specialists Your Fair Ladies. The conference takes place in our Conference Centre on Saturday 19 September 2015 and will be investigating lesser-known aspects of railway working life while seeking to understand what is meant by the term Railway Family. Speakers will be historians, NRM staff and genealogists drawing on records from a variety of sources and repositories as well as their own expert experience. Judging from previous conferences, it promises to be a fascinating and popular event. The price of a ticket is £35 (£30 for Friends of the NRM) and includes lunch and refreshments.

Click here to buy your ticket.

Background: Suitcase with railway luggage labels