Volunteering at the National Railway Museum

This is a guest post written by one of our summer placement volunteers, Monica Bottin

I graduated from the University of Venice in April 2014 and began looking for a placement in the UK, as I was eager to improve my English.

Manning the Information Point in Great Hall

Manning the Information Point in Great Hall

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Work and Play on a First World War Ambulance Train

The most recent addition to our rare book collection is an amazing insight into the lives of people who worked on ambulance trains during the First World War. The book was compiled by the Friends Ambulance Unit (FAU)  and (in their words) consists of ‘ articles from our train magazine, and reflects for the most part the lighter side of our life – the other side was all too present in our minds’ 

The Friends Ambulance Unit was made up of conscientious objector Quakers, who by choosing not to fight often served in medical positions assisting injured soldiers.

Working on ambulance trains meant dealing with the many horrors of war; terrible debilitating  injuries and diseases and men traumatised from their war experiences. The Friend’s Ambulance Unit dealt with these terrible things, whilst at the same time being opposed to the war that caused them.

A.Train Errant. Being the experiences of a voluntary unit in France. 1915-1919

A.Train Errant. Being the experiences of a voluntary unit in France. 1915-1919

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The Last Campaign of the railway ships

In March 1918 a treaty between the Central Powers and the newly formed Bolshevik government of Russia was signed at Brest – Litovsk (now Brest in Belarus) which effectively ended the war on the Eastern Front.

This had two major effects on the Western Allies: firstly it freed up the forces of the Central Powers meaning that they could redeploy to both the Western Front and the Middle East Front: secondly it threatened the large naval and military stores in the Russian ports of Murmansk and Archangel through which the allies had been supplying the Imperial Russian Army.

Under pressure from the UK and France, the Americans agreed to the necessity of deploying forces to support the Loyalist (White) Russian Forces in the hope that they would defeat the Bolshevik (Red) Russians and thus re-open the Eastern Front.

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Maids of all work

So far in these blogs I have looked at what could be called the more glamorous jobs performed by ships requisitioned from the Railway Fleet, but the rapidly expanding Royal Navy also needed ships to perform the day to day routine and maintenance required by the Fleet. The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and the Great Central Railway found that many of the foreign ports they served had fallen into the sphere of influence of the Central Powers and therefore it was impossible to continue their services, it is therefore unsurprising that their ships became available for use.

The vital need to supply war ships meant that the need for stores vessels increased and this is primarily where the cross channel steamers of the GCR and the L&Y were used. They transported ammunition, explosives, food, coal and all manner of naval spares and operated in all European naval theatres of war. The GCR provided at least seven vessels and four came from the L&Y.

Image

1977-5781 Great Central Railway steamer SS Notts, by Alfred J Jansen. Copyright NRM/SSPL

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High Flyers

This guest post was written by our archive volunteer, Tania Parker

The railways and airlines have long had an association. Between 1934 and 1947 the Big Four group of railway companies (Great Western, Southern, London & North-Eastern and London Midland & Scottish) worked alongside Imperial Airways to operate Railway Air Services. This airline operated domestic air services across the United Kingdom. One of our archive collections, the Forsythe Collection of Transport & Travel Ephemera, contains publicity material that comes from not only the railways but also all forms of transport such as airlines from the late 1950s to the 2000s.

Caption: Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/A/4, ALS2/113/B/3, ALS2/113/A/6

Forsythe Collection ALS2/113/A/4, ALS2/113/B/3, ALS2/113/A/6

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Transporting the wounded: Railway ships as floating ambulances

At the outset of World War 1 the Admiralty requisitioned many ships from the fleets of Britain’s railway companies and their affiliates. These ships were converted to serve a number of purposes including the transport of wounded servicemen.

Technically a Hospital Ship is a floating hospital and is painted white with a green stripe (red if privately fitted out) running along the side and the red cross should be clearly painted on the bows, amidships, and at the stern, these red crosses should be clearly lit at night.

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Conserving the Mersey Railway poster

Over the last two years we’ve been working to conserve and frame the biggest poster in the National Railway Museum’s collection. At more than 2m x 3m its been a challenge, but it’s finally complete and ready for the wall.

Mersey Railway poster, detail, after conservation

Mersey Railway poster, after conservation, Feb 2014

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