Armoured trains in the First World War

Fearing invasion in 1914, the government of the United Kingdom sought ways in which to protect our shores.  One of the measures mooted was the use of an armoured train based somewhere on the East Coast. The idea was that an armoured train would be able to reach a possible invasion point with speed, be armed and sufficiently manned to deploy an infantry force with artillery support, and capable of slowing down the enemy advance until some further support arrived.

In December 1914, Great Northern Railway 0-6-2 tank engine (1587) was purchased and two 30 ton boiler-trolleys were acquired from the Caledonian Railway, along with two 40 ton coal wagons from the Great Western Railway. These vehicles were sent to the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) works at Crewe to be made into the armoured train.

Continue reading

Posted in Railway History, Research and archive | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Six degrees of separation and the ‘Chinese Engine’

Today Bob Gwynne (our Associate Curator of Railway Vehicles) celebrates Chinese New Year with a look at how we came to acquire the mighty KF-7 locomotive.

When looking at an object in a museum I like to ask ‘why is this here?’ How did this particular object end up here, as opposed to some village in Sumatra or buried in a field? The ‘why’ of some objects may seem obvious –  you might expect Brunel’s walking stick to have ended up at the National Railway Museum, and the same for railway posters. Presumably at some stage in the past these were given to the museum, or acquired because the museum had (in the past) direct links with the state railway?

Continue reading

Posted in Collections | Tagged | Leave a comment

Women at Work in the First World War: Central to the Railway and the War Effort

This blog is written by Harriet Steers, one of our archive volunteers who is researching railways and the First World War.

We have recently started a project to enhance the National Railway Museum’s list of railwaymen who died in the First World War. We are regularly adding information to the list of 20,000 men and will keep you up to date on the project with blogs and regular updates to the list as we find new information.

We have started by looking at the Great Central Railway (GCR), specifically their journals that were printed during the period of the conflict. In the course of our research we have found some wonderful information about the work of the women of the GCR during the war.

Continue reading

Posted in Collections, Image collections, Railway History, Research and archive | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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).

Continue reading

Posted in Railway History, Research and archive | Tagged | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Collections, Conservation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

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

Continue reading

Posted in Collections, Research and archive | Tagged | 1 Comment

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)

Continue reading

Posted in Image collections, Research and archive | Tagged , | 2 Comments