Ambulance trains in 1914 “This is Christmas, and the world is supposed to be civilised”

We have become familiar with images of wartime Christmas truces where fighting stopped, football matches were played and carols were sung, but this certainly wasn’t the universal experience on the Western Front a hundred years ago.

Ambulance trains did not stop running during Christmas 1914, many patients still needed treatment and staff remained on trains during the holidays. Men worked 24 hours a day during Christmas to prepare Dover Marine station for an increasing amount of patients expected to be received onto home ambulance trains in 1915.

Continental ambulance train number 17 photographed in snow

Continental ambulance train number 17 photographed in snow

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Christmas Crash Test for School of Signalling Model Railway

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

On 29 December 2014, the School of Signalling Model Railway will abandon part of its usual operating programme to recreate the rail crash at Irk Valley Junction on 15 August 1953. Expert volunteers will use the model railway to explain how a combination of casual rule breaking and failures in concentration led to death and destruction in a Manchester suburb.

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway were pioneers of electrified suburban railways, beginning with Liverpool - Southport in 1904 and Manchester - Bury following in 1916. A Bury electric train was involved in the disaster at Irk Valley. (Ref 10444617)

The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway were pioneers of electrified suburban railways, beginning with Liverpool – Southport in 1904 and Manchester – Bury following in 1916. A Bury electric train was involved in the disaster at Irk Valley. (Ref 10444617)

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How our winter weather nearly won an Oscar  

This is a guest post written by Associate Curator of Railway Collections, Simon Batchelor.

Now that Bonfire Night and Remembrance Sunday have passed we can begin to look forward to winter, and for film buffs that means the start of awards season. The Globes, The BAFTAs and The Oscars cast a golden glow across the dark nights, distracting us with promises of glamour and glitz. It is perhaps surprising therefore that among the nominees for an Oscar in 1965 there was a short documentary about the British weather.

1991-7829 Nomination for Award, Laminated certificate for “Snow” 1965.

1991-7829 Nomination for Award, Laminated certificate for “Snow” 1965.

Snow was produced by British Transport Films and depicts the efforts taken by British Railway staff to keep the rail network running through the winter of 1962-1963. The Director, Geoffrey Jones, had been asked to produce a design for the British Railways Board, however whilst reviewing footage he had taken a new idea began to form in his head. He approached Edgar Anstey the head of British Transport Films with the idea of producing a film contrasting the experiences of warm comfortable passengers with those of the men working to keep the trains running. Anstey agreed and Jones, along with his cameraman Wolfgang Suschitzky, set off around the country to film the railwaymen at work.

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The ABC of trainspotting literature: adventure, pedantry and fun

As part of our Trainspotting Season I have been looking in a bit more detail at the literature of the hobby – the many guides, memoires and journals that have featured large in railway publishing since the boom of interest started in the 1940s. My aim has been to discover what, if anything, it can tell us about the hobby, its followers and railway history itself.

As with all booms, it doesn’t come out of nowhere and begins, as all things do, at the beginning, with childhood and the dawn of railways. Children’s railway books started being produced around the 1860s with simple ABC books teaching children to read, and introducing them to this important, growing network of railway lines, stations and, locomotives.

The railroad alphabet. Published by George Routledge & Sons around 1860.

The railroad alphabet. Published by George Routledge & Sons around 1860.

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Explore, Build, Move, Pretend

This blog is written by designer Rachel McCluskey

We’re visited by huge numbers of families every year, and many of our youngest visitors are also our most enthusiastic. So here in the design team, we’ve been busy working with the learning department to create a new purpose-built play area for the under-sixes.  Our aim is to provide an exciting and interactive space for children to learn about the world of railways and our collection through play.

The new play area will be made up of four different zones: Explore, Build, Move and Pretend.  Each will have its own activities, plus free space to play.

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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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