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Newsletter no. 13 from our Archive and Research team.

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New Archive Catalogue Launched


We are in the process of migrating our old archives lists to our new online archive catalogue. Once complete, it will be easier to find documents and make connections across disparate archive collections. Here is a selection of what is available to date:

Melksham Turnpike Trust 1844-1846. Letters and associated material over dispute with the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth Railway Company over whether or not to build a bridge to take the road over the railway. 

Letters from Robert Stephenson dated 4th June 1824 to 20th June 1826, to his parents regarding his venture to Colombia. First three letters, written before sailing, principally justify his decision to go; the five written from South America describe some of his difficulties at work, living conditions, animal and plant life and express increasing longing to return to England. 

Notebook of John Urpeth Rastrick (1780-1856) used to record details of the Rainhill locomotive trials, 1829, Rastrick being a judge at the trials. The notebook includes sketches of locomotives that were part of the trail, including the winner, Stephenson's Rocket. 

Diary of John Watson 1840-1846. John Watson was a police constable, fireman and possibly driver with the London and Greenwich Railway Company. Watson describes working conditions, shift patterns and wages; he names members of staff working with him and company officials.The diary also contains information about John Watson's private life. 

Autograph letter from William Brunton 1777-1851. Engineer, giving a description of his Steam Horse at Butterley Iron Works. This includes diagrams and an explanation of the workings of the legs and feet that propelled the engine.

Woodhead Line and Tunnel Campaign Archive. These files and documents relate to the Woodhead Campaign created by the Glossop, Hadfield, Longdendale Special Action Transport Group (GHLSAG) concerned with the preservation of the Woodhead line and tunnels.

Price and Reeves Collection. The collection consists of drawings prepared for contract work on the London Electric Railway, Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway, Gosport Wharf, Rotherhithe Tunnel and other dock and drainage projects. Read the blog post for this collection.

The largest archive of material on the catalogue is our GEC Collection. More on this below.

Explore our archives.

NRM's largest single archive collection now available

Masai Tribesmen 

The GEC Traction archive is our largest archive collection which, until recently, has been publicly inaccessible. Thanks to funding by the Archives Cataloguing Grant scheme, this vast collection is now complete and ready to be interrogated via our archive catalogue and viewed in Search Engine.

GEC Traction was a constituent company of the General Electric Company which today is Alstom. The archive collection contains fascinating engineering drawings, glass negatives, films, lantern slides, photographs, project files and bulletins ranging from a Chapman and Furneaux Ltd spares parts catalogue from 1898 to technical drawings from 1991. In total there are 941 boxes, 458 drawing folders, 37 drawers worth of material and over 100 companies records with their own histories detailed and linked to other archives held within the Science Museum Group.

The successful outcome of this project would not have been possible without the invaluable help given by our team of specialist volunteers from GEC's past and present companies, as well as the dedication and input from our team of archive volunteers.

Explore the GEC Traction archive.

The next IRS Seminar, Thursday 9 March 2017


2.00-4.00pm at King’s Manor, the University of York's city centre premises, Lecture Theatre K/133

Our speakers will be:

Dr Stefan Tetzlaff, who will be giving a talk on: "Competition, Coordination and Control: Road and Rail Transport Between Government Institutions and Commercial Actors in Interwar India (c. 1920-1939)".

Stefan Tetzlaff is a historian who specialises in the social and economic history of modern South Asia and its connection with the world. He currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the German Historical Institute in London. Before this, Stefan trained in history, area studies and political science in Berlin and New Delhi, and completed a PhD in Mediaeval and Modern History in Gottingen in 2015. The central themes of Stefan's PhD and postdoctoral research to date have been the large-scale emergence of motorised road transport in rural and small town India in the interwar period and the development of an indigenous automotive industry since the 1940s on the background of specific local, regional and transnational developments.

Mark Lambert will be basing his talk on his current PhD research which is looking at: "The designation and display of British railway heritage in the post-war decades". Primarily his talk will focus on the decision-making processes which led to the preservation of locomotives in what was to become the National Collection, between 1948 and 1962. His research has come from the archives of the Science Museum Group as well as at The National Archives.

Mark is doing his PhD at the University of Nottingham's School of Geography.

As usual, the IRS seminar is free.

Click for location information.

A touch of winter from our film collection


Our film collection holds the original films of John Adams and Patrick Whitehouse's 'Railway Roundabout'. This series was originally broadcasted on the BBC between 1958 and 1962 as a children program. The collection is digitised and we wanted to share with you an extract of one of these films: 'The Snow Train' on the Furka-Oberalp Railway shot in the Swiss Alps in 1963.

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Background: Suitcase with railway luggage labels