Volunteering at the National Railway Museum

This is a guest post written by Communications Volunteer, Rebekah Warburton

I recently met with Soren, a postgraduate History student at the University of Dresden, to find out what he had been up to in his volunteer placement at our museum.

Image of Soren

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Design guru and iconic train lift the gloom of autumn

This is a guest post written by Associate Curator of Rail Vehicles Bob Gwynne.

Sir Kenneth Grange is an industrial designer whose work includes: the Kenwood Mixer, the Parker Pen, the Kodak Camera and the London taxi. All of his designs are examples of how he has worked to ensure that objects are good to look at as well as a pleasure to use. Out of all the items he has designed, his favourite project is the work he did on the High Speed Train, which he styled into a symbol of modernity that gave Britain’s railways a boost in the doldrums of the 1970s. He recalled to the BBC in 2006, that when it first came out in 1976:

“There wasn’t a sign of modernism in Paddington station. So I think the workforce – let alone the passengers – was mightily affected. This was a real symbol of hope for the future. I believe that most fervently. Porters, guards, everybody were themselves buying little badges of this train.”

Sir Kenneth Grange and the British Rail Class 41 (HST)  41000

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Prevention is better than cure: promoting safety on the railways and beyond

This is a guest post by Mike Esbester, Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Portsmouth, introducing a new resource on our website.

Nearly 15 years ago I was doing some research at what was then the National Railway Museum Library – as it had yet to be improved into Search Engine – reading the Great Western Railway Magazine, the staff journal of the Great Western Railway (GWR). I was looking for something specific, but starting from the August 1913 issue, one thing kept attracting my eye, month after month – articles featuring posed photographs, perhaps funny by our standards today, showing workers doing unsafe things. It seems employees were forever standing in front of trains, falling off wagons, getting their fingers caught in machinery or their feet crushed by buffers.

Image of article from 1914

Great Western Railway Magazine safety article, March 1914

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Cleaning City of Truro

This is a guest post written by collections volunteer Ken Woods.

I was looking forward to cleaning City of Truro when it was put on display on the Great Hall’s turntable.

Ken Woods City of Truno

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Trainspotting – an executive pastime?

This is a guest post written by Associate Curator of Railways, Russell Hollowood

In many quarters, trainspotting is regarded as a byword for socially awkward people with personal problems.  So how can it be that people of power could be associated with this most niche of railway enthusiasms?

The answer lies in the context of the activity. From the late 1970’s, UK governments began a drive to control the spending of local authorities. The result was a tendency to centralise control of local activities from the corridors of Whitehall.  The result was that local officials, business leaders and people who wanted to make things happen, needed to travel to London and make their case in the corridors of power.

Its 1977 and the HST is about to become the executive transport of choice. (1978-9726) Credit © NRM/Pictorial Collection / Science & Society Picture Library -- All rights reserved.

Its 1977 and the HST is about to become the executive transport of choice. (1978-9726) Credit © NRM/Pictorial Collection / Science & Society Picture Library — All rights reserved.

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The Number of the Beast  

This is a guest blog post written by Curator of Museum Collections, John McGoldrick

As part of the Trainspotting season, the Curators have been presenting on-gallery talks looking more in-depth at the subject.  I have laid down a few personal thoughts on the meanings of locomotive numbers, nameplates and associated identifiers.  Along with these, I have picked out some examples of the more illustrious and unusual plates from the collections to illustrate the theme.

The smokebox door plate from British Railways, 9F class 2-10-0 No 92220 ‘Evening Star’, (1975-7024)

The smokebox door plate from British Railways, 9F class 2-10-0 No 92220 ‘Evening Star’, (1975-7024)

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Operation Smash Hit!

This guest blog post was written by archive volunteer, Jack Garside  

The Moment of impact – Centre spread of ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

The Moment of impact – Centre spread of ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

How do you prove carrying nuclear waste by rail is safe?

About 30 years ago on the 17th July 1984 millions of people worldwide tuned in to watch a train crash on live TV, a crash with no casualties and on a section of disused railway that made headlines.  This was no ordinary crash and the reason why it was so widely watch is explained by an eight page booklet I found whilst re-boxing a donation in our archive.

This was Operation Smash Hit, a demonstration to show how safe the flasks used to carry nuclear waste by road and rail were, by running a 239 ton train into a flask at 100mph.

The demonstration was part of a series of test which involved dropping, crushing and burning the flasks to prove their safety. The train crash was to be the final, most spectacular demonstration, using the heaviest loco British Rail had, on the Old Dalby test track near Melton Mowbray.

Some of the previous tests - ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

Some of the previous tests – ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

Following an eight mile run-up the train hit the flask, which had been laid at an angle in a worst case scenario, and the 22 year old locomotive was almost completely destroyed along with its three carriages. Once the dust and smoke cleared it became obvious that the flask was completely intact, having just lost 0.29 of it 100 pounds of pressure (0.02 bar or practically nothing).

With its safety proved the Central Electricity Generating Board (predecessor to the National Grid) produced a booklet showing the crash, with lots of pictures of the train hitting the flask and bursting into flames, mangled metal and of course the undamaged flask.

The aftermath and press response - ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

The aftermath and press response – ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

Following the test, which feature heavily on the news and in the papers, along with cartoons suggesting a better test would be to run a train in to a BR sandwich, the critics were silence, mostly, and nuclear waste continues to be carried by rail to this day.

A Nuclear flask train in everyday use - ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

A Nuclear flask train in everyday use – ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’ ALS2/9/C/4

The booklet, ‘The CEGB Proves its Point’, that these images are taken from, is available from Search Engine: www.nrm.org.uk/ResearchAndArchive/about.aspx

A full list of our collection can be found on our archive and research page: www.nrm.org.uk/ResearchAndArchive/archiveandlibrarycollections/RailwayCoWorks.aspx

For more information you might want to take a look at our post on ‘How Would British Rail Survive a Nuclear Attack?’ www.nationalrailwaymuseum.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/how-would-british-railways-survive-nuclear-attack/

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