The making of Parallel Tracks

This is a guest blog post by artist Andrew Cross

On 1 July, around 6.30pm, I was standing on Main Street in the small Kentucky Town of La Grange. I had just arrived having spent the day travelling from London. It was a beautiful hot summer evening and I found the town very quiet – everything looked closed for the night. Before settling in at my hotel, I decided to check out the town centre. This was where I intended to spend the first day of over two weeks of intense train watching. Ultimately, I would visit a number of contrasting locations across six different states.

When I arrived on Main Street only 15 minutes earlier, I had watched the headlight of a train coming into view. Its slow passage down the centre of the road fulfilled my every expectation ­and I would undertake the task of filming this somewhat unique event the following day. What a fantastic environment in which to watch trains.


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How I learned to love Trainspotting

This is a guest post written by our interpretation developer, Jamie Taylor

Earlier in the year we launched a national campaign to collect stories and photographs for our Trainspotting season. It‘s been my job to look through all of the fantastic stories and photos we have received and select some of the best ones to share with you. These are displayed around the museum and on our website for you to explore and enjoy.

Working on the season has been quite an eye-opening experience and the ultimate in on-the-job training. I can now identify a Black Five from the shape of its smokebox, I know what it means to cab a loco and I recently copped my first class 47 diesel, 47580, on its way to Scarborough. All this thanks to the knowledge and expertise in our trainspotter’s stories.

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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.


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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