Music on Rails – expect a musical treat!

On Saturday 6 September, the National Railway Museum along with MOR Music will be hosting a family friendly music extravaganza called Music on Rails.

As a huge supporter of local music, I am particularly excited about this upcoming event, especially as it will include a high quality line-up performing a mixture of musical genres. The music festival will be hosted in our atmospheric Station Hall as well as on a moving train (the Director’s Saloon) out in the South Yard.

Top (left to right): The Blueprints and Barcode Zebra Bottom (left to right): Boss Caine and According to Eve

Top (left to right): The Blueprints and Barcode Zebra
Bottom (left to right): Boss Caine and According to Eve

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Borough Market Junction Steps Out

As regular readers of the NRM Blog will know, Borough Market Junction, ‘Britain’s Busiest Signal Box’, has been the subject of a conservation programme. The resulting works have prevented visitors from gaining access to this icon of Southern Railway modernisation. However, on 21 and 22 of June, this will all change, when Borough Market Junction, complete with new steps, opens its doors to visitors.

What you will find within Borough Market Junction

What you will find within Borough Market Junction

For these two days, Borough Market comes alive, and you have the chance to explore the space where 2 signallers and 35 levers handled about 1000 trains a shift. It was no place for the faint hearted; as one signaller explained, you only cleared the signals, when you could see the whites of the driver’s eyes.

Having completed the external works, the next task is to conserve were appropriate and restore were suitable. This process will include the jewel at the heart of Borough Market Junction, the Westinghouse K series signal frame. As the responsible curator, I see this is a real step forward in the process of returning ‘Britain’s Busiest Signal Box’ to a state, worthy of its place in the National Collection and in railway signalling history. The box is now sound, watertight and able to welcome visitors. With regular washing and occasional re-paints, it will easily last another fifty years; which is more than I can say.

You can check out the rest of the 21/22 June signalling activities at NRM by following this link to the York Festival of Ideas web pages.


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Just the ticket?

A visit to NRM’s Search Engine facility allows anyone to access what is arguably the world’s most extensive railway library and archive. Those who can’t make it to York for whatever reason can hire a researcher by using the Inreach team, a small group of volunteers who carry out research as requested (for a reasonable fee of course – all proceeds to NRM). The queries we receive are many and various…

1997-7059 Poster Manchester VictoriaOne of our recent requests was to calculate how fares have changed during the lifetime of the railways. Thankfully a forensic-level study wasn’t needed, but on the other hand something more than just a back of an envelope job was. Specifically, we were asked to look at how a typical ticket price has varied over the years. To do this a number of years were examined; looking at the fare for every single year would have been very time-consuming, and it’s unlikely that full information would be available anyway, so fares were checked at 10-year intervals, although for periods known to be inflationary (e.g. the 1970s onwards), this was reduced to 5-yearly. The price of a basic single ticket for Third Class was calculated; this was redesignated Second Class in 1956, subsequently further renamed Standard Class. To try to make an even comparison, in each case the basic Ordinary ticket price was used, as would be paid by a passenger who arrived at the booking office intending to travel there and then. Advance purchase and discounted tickets, whilst always a cheaper option, were excluded; although these have become a significant proportion of the tickets bought as the years have passed, we felt it was important to compare like with like.

London to Manchester was the route used for comparison. This was done for convenience as for many years in the 20th century the exact price of a ticket on this journey was quoted in Bradshaw, which also stated the price in pence per mile pertaining nationally at the time. Bradshaw used the Manchester to London route to illustrate how fares were calculated from pence per mile, the basis of rail fares for over a century. For many years, where there was more than one route between two places, the price was calculated from x pence per mile using the mileage of the shortest route. For example, there were four routes from London to Manchester, the shortest being from London (Euston) to Manchester (London Road, now called Piccadilly),  so this line was used to set the price for all four routes. Where we couldn’t find a quoted fare it was calculated from the price per mile multiplied by 183, the mileage from Euston to Manchester. Prior to 1914 1d per mile pertained; inflation was minimal throughout the preceding Victorian period and prices were virtually stable. In 1968, the price per mile formula was abandoned, and various prices applied in subsequent years, but to maintain the comparison this same route was chosen again.

Bradshaw ceased publication in 1961, after which date the National Fares Manuals were consulted, although the ATOC Avantix Traveller Fares Info was used for 2006 and the First Transpennine website for today’s prices. This is what we found (prices before 1971 have been converted to decimal currency):-






15/3 = 76p



£1 2s 10.5d = £1.14



£1 3s 0d = £1.15



£1 4s 2d = £1.21



£1 17s 6d = £1.87



£1 17s 6d = £1.87


Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable



Not applicable


1997-7059 Cheap railway tickets


A Purchasing Power Calculator, which uses the RPI, shows that 15s 3d (76p) in 1914 had the purchasing power of £63.89 today(!). Whilst this is by no means a cut and dried result, it still contrasts with today’s price of £160.50. How and why our currency came to buy so little is another question, well beyond the scope of the NRM’s Inreach team…


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Football Crazy

As we all settle down to enjoy the trials, tribulations and heroic moments of the 2014 world Cup; few would connect the beautiful game with railways. Yet the early story of football is thoroughly intertwined with the story of Railways.

Football Specials were the transport of chice for edwardian fans.

Football Specials were the transport of chice for edwardian fans.

The creation of a national rail network made the national sports calendar possible. In 1879, Queens Park FC of Glasgow travelled to Manchester on Friday night, played on Saturday afternoon, returning the same evening. Of course, England had been playing internationals since 1872, however, the key for the mass game was founding of the football league in 1888. These were teams of working men, who drew mass support from the working classes.

The poster almost says, we don't want to transpiort you, but if we must!!!!!

The poster almost says, we don’t want to transport you, but if we must!

To the railway companies the Football League offered predictable fan flows, to specific locations, at specific times. As early as the 1880’s White Heart Lane station handled 10,000 passengers on Match days. In 1908 The Cheshire Lines Committee estimated that the Old Trafford halt would yield 220,000 extra passengers a year, with recites of £2,950 from home fans. In an age when railways held large fleets of carriages; it was easy to run football ball specials one week and holiday specials the next.

Football Association Cup Final', LNWR notice, 1922. (ref )  Poster advertising excursions to London for the FA Cup Final, 29 April 1922.

Football Association Cup Final’, LNWR notice, 1922. (ref ) Poster advertising excursions to London for the FA Cup Final, 29 April 1922.

Cup finals were the peak of the football season and for the railway companies, the crowing effort of the season. Tottenham Hotspur feature in a pre-world war one record, when a crowed of 110,000 people watched them play Sunderland in an FA Cup Final at Chrystal Palace. The London Brighton & South Coast Railway reporting that they transported over 50, 000 fans within London alone.

Fans take the train to cup glory, at the new Wembly sation.

Fans take the train to cup glory, at the new Wembly sation.

The trend continued with the first Wembley final in 1923, when the railways moved 126,047. Amazingly, another 100,000 fans entered the ground; those who failed to get in, flooded back to the trains, forcing some rapid re-working of the railways schedules. The fact that railways coped with this sudden rush, is a brilliant demonstration of their organisational flexibility.

Disco time, at the end of the football specials line.

Disco time, at the end of the football specials line.

The close relationship between football and the railways began to unravel in the 1960’s; as the private car became the preferred form of match day travel. By the 1970’s violence and vandalism was forcing British Rail to question its interest in running football specials. Having their stations besieged by drunken fans; upsetting the ordinary passengers, was not exactly the way to sell the joys of train travel to a public falling in love with the car.

Now thats what you call a football special - FA cup victors Liverpool heading home.

Now thats what you call a football special – FA cup victors Liverpool heading home.

Today, railways are back in fashion and that includes as a way to get to football. Teams like Liverpool and Bolton are rumoured to be regular train users and as a fan myself, I can confirm that my match day travel, is in the company of other supporters. NRM has a rich seam of football related resources and to help you make best use of it, we have produced a Football Resource Pack. To find out more, just follow the link and enjoy the golden moments from the national game.

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All Clear for our signal weekend

On the 21 and 22 of June 2014, we will be hosting a signalling weekend. The event will take place as part of the York Festival of Ideas and involve talks, tours, demonstrations and theatre performance about railway signalling.

Service by Night', artwork by David Sheperd for BR poster, 1955.

Service by Night’, artwork by David Sheperd for BR poster, 1955.

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5th and 6th June: Two significant dates in wartime Railway Shipping

So far my blog posts have concentrated on the service given by railway owned ships during the First World War, but two significant anniversaries occur this week involving events in the Second War. June 5th marks the official end of operation Dynamo – the evacuation of British and Allied troops from Dunkirk, whilst June 6th marks the first day of Operation Overlord – the invasion of Europe.


1977-5805; Sinking of the LMS steamer SS Scotia off Dunkirk, by Norman Wilkinson.
© National Railway Museum / SSPL

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Our locomotive cleaning volunteers

‘The Daves’ – as they are known in the museum – are one of a number of our volunteer teams. Called after the first name of the majority of its members, this band of six volunteers undertakes locomotive cleaning for special events as well as for many private owners around the country.

Dave and the team taking it easy after cleaning the a4s

Dave and the team taking it easy after cleaning the a4s.

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