Railway libraries and the culture of self-betterment

Saturday 7 February is National Libraries Day and we thought it would be the ideal time to show the important historical role railway libraries have made to the rail industry, its workers and society at large.

Libraries often formed part of the Mechanics Institute, which was a social and and self-improvement body affiliated to large railway works such as Crewe, Derby and Swindon. During spare time workers were encouraged to make use of the library as companies wanted employees to be engaged and literate plus, if in the library, they could not be down the pub! (punishment for intoxication was immediate dismissal due to safety implications).

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Conserving Hubert Herkomer’s portrait of William Cawkwell

Today’s post comes from Ed Bartholomew, Senior Curator of our image and sound Collection.

The National Railway Museum has an art collection containing over a thousand paintings.  Many of them are depictions of locomotives and original artwork for railway posters, but few people, perhaps, will realise that we also preserve an excellent collection of railway portraits.

One of these is a portrait of William Cawkwell, who was General Manager of the London & North Western Railway (LNWR) between 1858 and 1874.

The portrait before conservation

The portrait before conservation

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How a dolls house inspired a train set

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

Toy trains have existed almost as long as the first railway building boom of the 1840’s. From live steam models, known as dribblers to push along toys made for the play room floor, toy makers from around the world turned out an ever increasing variety.

Wooden toy locomotive made for railway promoter Sir Edward Watkin for his son Alfred in 1866 by the South Eastern Railway Workshops. Such push along toys were the staple of the toy train world until the 1890's.  NRM Image No. 10446189

Wooden toy locomotive made for railway promoter Sir Edward Watkin for his son Alfred in 1866 by the South Eastern Railway Workshops. Such push along toys were the staple of the toy train world until the 1890’s.
NRM Image No. 10446189

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A weed or not a weed? That is the question.

Today’s post is by Chris Mossop, Design Manager at the National Railway Museum.

Keeping the tracks clear of vegetation is a constant problem for the railways. The most effective way of doing this has been the use of chemical weed-killer sprayed across the track from slow moving trains. This photograph from 1955 shows a steam-hauled train with six tankers of weed-killer:

Weed killing train, 1955 (NRM archive - 1995-7233_LIVST_EH_51)

Weed killing train, 1955 (NRM archive – 1995-7233_LIVST_EH_51)

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The Last Englishman is Laid Low

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

At 7am on 24 January 1965, Sir Winston Churchill’s immediate family gathered around the great man’s death bed, and by 8am the BBC had broadcast the news of his death to a waiting world. The effect on the world’s media was electric; however, the reaction of government officials was a model of calm efficiency.

It fell to the ‘modernising’ Harold Wilson to lead the nation in official morning for the loss of a giant from what must already have seemed like another age.

It fell to the ‘modernising’ Harold Wilson to lead the nation in official mourning for the loss of a giant from what must already have seemed like another age.

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Collision on Signal School Model Railway 

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

At 2pm on 17 January 2015, the School of Signalling Model Railway will restage a collision that happened near Heighington, North East England in 1949.

In 1949, the UK rail network was crowded with goods trains like this 1966 example, photographed at Stockport Teviot Dale. Image No. 10659629 | This is a Rights Managed image

In 1949, the UK rail network was crowded with goods trains like this 1966 example, photographed at Stockport Teviot Dale. Image No. 10659629 | This is a Rights Managed image

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Southern C&W Goes Live

We’re pleased to announce that the catalogue for our collection of Southern Railway Carriage and Wagon drawings is now live. You can find the catalogue on our website here. The drawings in this collection cover subjects from the 1840s right up to the 1960s and include plenty from the pre-grouping SER, LC&DR, LSWR and LBSCR, as well as the Southern Railway and BR Southern Region. You can view any of the drawings in the collection by arranging a visit to Search Engine or you can order copies via our copy services.

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