‘Defending land and sea? Come get your free tea!’ – Station comforts offered by lady volunteers

Whilst volunteering at the National Railway Museum, we have been tasked with finding information about the over 20,000 railwaymen who served and fell during the First World War. Our online database can be found here.

Our research led us to an interesting story regarding how volunteer movements based in British stations brought comfort to those fighting for King and Country. We’ve already heard about the Soldiers and Sailors Canteen at York Station, but our research has found that this was a nationwide movement.

Thousands of men waited around for hours at the London termini from the early stages of the war, whether going on leave or waiting to be dispatched to the South Coast and then onto the front line. Stations also received sick and injured men from ambulance trains. The War Office had to decide how to cope with this influx of men, the solution came to be rest rooms for soldiers, sailors and allied troops alike.

Volunteers at Euston Station serving refreshments to soldier’s c. 1915

Volunteers at Euston Station serving refreshments to soldier’s c. 1915

One of the first rest rooms in London was established at Euston Station, after learning of one in Boulogne (it was argued that the UK shouldn’t be behind France in such matters.) Tea, coffee, cocoa, Bovril, buns, cakes, sandwiches and soups were provided for the men with refreshment bags also being offered for those about to endure a long journey. Cigarettes were also provided by the ladies, as a means of calming the nerves or staving off boredom, this form of comfort is discussed further in another blog by one of our volunteers.

According to the LNWR Gazette, Volume 4 (found on the open shelves in our archive and library centre Search Engine) these were all offered as a way to avoid intoxication from the Railway Bars, as ordered by Kitchener himself.

Up to 600 men could be seen in one day at Euston, with a place to sleep set up at platform 12, where 18 beds had been placed being accessed between 10pm and 7am. It wasn’t just Euston that saw success, with Waterloo proving the most successful in the capital. Up to 25,000 men visited Waterloo on average during the week, and 8 million in total passing through the Rest Room in the five years it was open. So how were these rooms so successful?

These services ran solely on volunteers, many being women of aristocratic status, 250 volunteers working at Waterloo. Not only were the volunteers essential, but there was a huge reliance of Railway companies for the accommodation, and local businesses for money and food. A great deal of fundraising went on to raise support, with concerts being a popular choice, one held at the Coliseum helped bring in £4000 to the cause for Waterloo, a staggering amount which contributed to the hot drinks and snacks but also to games provided and literature for men to read.

Ladies serving Sailors and Soldiers at Paddington Station c.1914

Ladies serving Sailors and Soldiers at Paddington Station c.1914

It wasn’t just Euston and Waterloo that had these rooms for those in need of comfort, they were also present in Charing Cross, Victoria and Paddington Station.
There were reports of Royal visits to the railway stations in early 1915, with the Railway Gazette (April 2nd, 1915 issue) noting the visit of Queen Mary at Victoria Station, and King George V at Liverpool Street Station. They inspected the buffets on offer, and visited the volunteers and thanked them for all their work.

The work of well-meaning ladies was not always well received during the First World War, these women had not experienced and could barely imagine the horrors of the fighting front. As written in The Roses of No Man’s Land by Lyn Macdonald some visits from ‘well-meaning’ ladies actually gave the opposite effect to injured men in hospital. Rifleman Bill Worrell, talks of women offering cigarettes, then ‘…trying to save their souls’ by the selling of religion. These visits were not enjoyed, with those that could walk hiding in the recreation rooms, and those that were bed-bound pretending to be asleep.

Those who were unable to fight and stayed at home did encounter hardships that are sometimes overlooked in First World War histories. Zeppelin raids from 1915, caused the deaths of over 500 civilians with cities such as Nottingham and York being targeted. These attacks are discussed in more detail in another of or blogs.

Wounded soldiers on a station platform

Wounded soldiers on a station platform

A postcard from Owen Willis describing the help offered by the volunteers.

A postcard from Owen Willis describing the help offered by the volunteers.

This postcard from the archive of Owen Willis (kindly reproduced with permission from his family) documents the work of Red Cross ladies who met ambulance trains offering ‘cigarettes. Matches, chewing gum and bags for souvenirs ect’. Our ambulance train exhibition, opening 7 July this year includes more fascinating information on wartime stations.

Find out more about our First World War programmes here.

Posted in Museum news

Inside our film collection: looking for nitrate cinematographic film

Last November we told you about the film production of the Big 4 as we had selected some of them for screenings during the Aesthetica Film Festival. In our collection we have some of these films on 16mm film copies, on video tapes or as digital files. Besides these films produced or sponsored by the Big 4, we hold some original amateur footage, original research footage from British Rail Research and copies of British Transport Films and other productions.

Our whole film collection is actually made from various types of format: film, video and digital. Beyond these there are even more formats: the professional standard 35 mm film, the semi-professional and amateur 16 mm, the substandard 8mm, Super 8, 9.5 mm… For video, there is U-matic, Betacam SP, VHS, Super VHS tapes, etc. Most of the time, each specific format requires its own specific equipment to be played, viewed or projected, and specific ways to be manipulated or taken care of. So, in an archive it is important to know how to recognize them and take care of them accordingly.

A selection of some of the different tape formats

A selection of some of the different tape formats

And the equivalent for film

And the equivalent for film

Today, to talk a bit more about the different formats in a film collection, we are focussing on film with a recent case. We quoted the formats of film we have in our collection, but there are actually even more existing formats, some very peculiar. For example, you may have heard recently of Tarantino’s newest film, “The Hateful Eight”, filmed and meant to be projected on 70 mm film. Already rare in the age of film, this is so rare in the digital age that there is only one 70 mm copy circulating in the UK and only two cinemas showed it, one in London and one in Edinburgh.

For film stock, we have to be concerned about the base. Film is fabricated with a chemical concoction involving silver halide and gelatine, forming the emulsion which is applied on a plastic base. The main characteristics for the base are flexibility and transparency. The pioneers of cinematography made their experiments by working on what they already had and knew: photographic film. At the time, the best film base was cellulose nitrate. Nevertheless, nitrate film had one major disadvantage: being highly flammable.

An example of a nitrate film from our archive – a Southern Railway Film Unit Production from 1945 ‘Alfred and the Cakes’, a film about the dangers of children trespassing on railway lines. The original negative is held by the BFI.

Through the years, inventors came up with alternative solutions. A new base was created, cellulose acetate. This was used for almost all the non-standard films developed around the 1910s and onwards. Most film production studios and cinema theatres did not completely turn to acetate film until the 1950s.

Acetate film also named “safety film” offered the advantage of being less hazardous, but was more expensive. It also had always been regarded as performing less well and being of lesser quality compare to nitrate film. The quality of acetate based film was improved by the use of triacetate. With time, acetate turned out to be less efficient in terms of preservation. Indeed, it is subject to the vinegar syndrome. This is a reaction from the acetate film base which causes the acidity level to rise, the base can shrink which can distort or unstick the emulsion causing the loss of a film. When it is decaying acetate releases vapours of acetic acid, which smells like vinegar.

As film is a chemical recipe, it implies that from the moment it is fabricated it starts decaying. The role of an archive is to prevent or rather slow down this inevitable decay, especially by storing the films in stable and controlled temperature and humidity. Prevention and proper storage condition are the best tools for film archivists to avoid vinegar syndrome. When it is too late, the process cannot be reversed and the only option left is to make a preservation copy of the film if possible.

Non-standard film formats and film production from the 1950’s use acetate. Since the 1980’s films are made on a polyester base, which is very strong and resistant. Unlike nitrate and acetate film that would break in a projector if something went wrong, polyester film would actually break a projector or camera mechanism before breaking itself. According to some studies, polyester is the most reliable film base for preservation . Nitrate, despite the fact that it is highly hazardous, has a good life span when stored in the proper conditions as some of the first films ever made on nitrate film over 120 years ago, are still preserved in film archives today. In comparison, because of the vinegar syndrome, acetate films are not behaving so well. When it comes to polyester, it could theoretically last for 1000 years.

The part of our collection that is on film is actually on acetate base. We know it as there are mostly amateur films (mainly 8mm and Super 8 formats), 16 mm copies or originals from late 1950’s to 1990’s. However, a few weeks ago we found a 35 mm film in a parcel with a stamp from 1934. The film is about the Kearney High Speed Railway.

'Kearney High Speed Railway' - a film from our collection found in a parcel

‘Kearney High Speed Railway’ – a film from our collection found in a parcel

It was highly likely that such a film would be on nitrate base. It is important to know for different reasons. Obviously, the first is the hazard involved by nitrate. The physical condition of a nitrate film is important as if it is in a state of advanced decay, it can ignite on its own. In any case it would ignite very easily next to a flame or at high temperature. Another reason is that, even when nitrate is not decaying in a worrying way, the nitrate vapours can still affect other films, and for example accelerate the decay of acetate film. Nitrate films are generally stored separately from other type of films, in highly secured and conditioned stores. In the UK, most of the nitrate film collections are held and stored by the British Film Institute and the Imperial War Museum who have dedicated facilities. For example, films produced by the former railway companies prior 1948 were made on nitrate films and most of the original nitrates are held by both of these institutions.

There are different ways to identify a nitrate base, some with more efficiency than others. Sometimes the word ‘nitrate’ or a blast symbol is actually written or drawn on the edge of the film roll. It can be a good clue but it can be printed from a previous element from which the film you are looking at was made. For example, the film negative could be on nitrate base and you are studying the positive made from this negative, the positive would be on acetate base but the edge would have been printed on it.

This is a picture of a 35 mm safety print (acetate base) of the black and white sound film “The Kearney Monorail” (another film about the Kearney Railway). On top of the picture, below the perforation you can see the optical sound track, then the frames, and on the edge below the perforation in the bottom of the picture the printed “Nitrate film” and blast symbol in white on a grey back ground. These were printed on this safety film from a previous nitrate negative element.

This is a picture of a 35 mm safety print (acetate base) of the black and white sound film “The Kearney Monorail” (another film about the Kearney Railway). On top of the picture, below the perforation you can see the optical sound track, then the frames, and on the edge below the perforation in the bottom of the picture the printed “Nitrate film” and blast symbol in white on a grey back ground. These were printed on this safety film from a previous nitrate negative element.

These pictures are from the nitrate film found in the collection “The Kearney High Speed railway”. You can see that the film is a bit yellow compare to the previous acetate example and quite dirty, also there is no mention of “nitrate” on the film edges.

These pictures are from the nitrate film found in the collection “The Kearney High Speed railway”. You can see that the film is a bit yellow compare to the previous acetate example and quite dirty, also there is no mention of “nitrate” on the film edges.

Sometimes another clue is the smell of the film roll. Decaying acetate smells like vinegar. Nitrate can also have a distinctive smell at its first stage of decomposition. Some compare the smell to garbage, camphor, mothballs… and also a slight smell of sweets. If the film is stored in a metal canister, the condition of the canister can also be a clue. The film we found has the distinctive smell we know of nitrate and the inside of the canister is clearly rusty.

The film roll and rusty can

The film roll and rusty can

When you cannot gather enough clues and you have a doubt whether a film is nitrate, you may have to perform a test on the film. There are two possible tests.

The first is called a floatation test. It relies on the density of film bases compare to the density of a solvent, trichloroethylene. In this chemical liquid, each film base will react differently. For this you take a small sample of the film you need to test. Ideally a round sample made with a simple paper punch. You prepare a beaker or a small jar of trichloroethylene to drop the film sample in. In the solvent, acetate would float on the surface. If the sample sinks to the bottom of the beaker, it would be nitrate. Polyester would float around. Nevertheless, this test is not a complete guarantee for identifying a film base. Doubts can still remain even after a floatation test as decay might affect the chemical composition of the base and its density on which is based the success of the test.

The floatation test

The floatation test

The second test is efficient but definitely not recommended: the flame test. Performing such a test, should always employ all precautions to make it safe. It should only be done in an entirely controlled environment with a very small sample. The idea is quite simple: setting a film sample on fire to see how quick it burns and how high the flame goes. A nitrate flame is inextinguishable. So when a nitrate film starts to burn, it won’t stop until all of it is consumed. Even if it is dropped into water it would keep burning. If you want to see some examples of this test:

Burning test on different film bases:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4tl48TPCVw

Trying to extinguish a nitrate film fire:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AL9izOFrqbw

So we are excited to let you know that we actually have one rare nitrate film in our collection. We don’t know much about the film for now, and we wish to research and gather as much information on it. The film deals with the Kearney High Speed railway and is likely to have been made between the 1910’s and 1930. If you think you have any information on this film, please let us know.

To learn more about film process, you can visit the National Media Museum or you can find some specific articles about this topic on its website.

Posted in Museum news

Restored, revitalised and ravishing: the Flying Scotsman steams back into service

The world’s most famous locomotive, the Flying Scotsman, made its inaugural run from London to the National Railway Museum in York today after a £4.2m effort to restore the steam legend to its former glory.

Tens of thousands of people, from fascinated bystanders to train fans and ‘puffer nutters’, lined platforms, crowded tracks and hung over bridges as the venerable locomotive thundered up the East Coast Main Line, pulling 11 carriages crammed with dignitaries, press, paying ticket holders rail engineers and former staff.

Just before it departed from King’s Cross, National Railway Museum Director Paul Kirkman told me:

It has taken years of hard work to get this far and it is incredibly satisfying to see the most famous locomotive in the world back on track, steaming up the East Coast Mainline. We would like to thank all the generous supporters of this complex project – this moment is a vivid testament to their achievement.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

At around 7.20am, passengers climbed aboard including Scotsman’s former owner Sir William McAlpine; broadcaster Michael Portillo; Secretary of State for Transport rt. Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP; Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group, SMG; Dame Mary Archer, Chair of the SMG board; Sir Peter Luff, Chair of HLF, and Fiona Spiers, Head of HLF Yorkshire and the Humber; Trustees Lord Faulkner, Simon Linnett, Anton Valk and Averil Macdonald; former Scotsman firemen and drivers and many of the people involved in the decade-long restoration project to bring the steam legend back to life.

Twenty minutes later the behemoth departed with a piercing whistle through billowing clouds of steam from Platform 1, arriving at Platform 9 in York at around 12.30pm, then moving at a steady der-dum, der-dum next door to come to a halt at around 3pm in the North Yard of the museum, home of the world’s most important rail collection.

Arriving into York station, only slightly later than schedule due to some over enthusiastic spectators .

Arriving into York station, only slightly later than scheduled due to some over enthusiastic spectators en route.

Over its lifetime of more than nine decades this magnificent symbol of railway heritage and technology has travelled some 2,500,000 miles and, more like a living creature than museum piece, seen a constant turnover of components and parts, along with enhancements to allow it to operate in the 21st century.

Today’s historic journey between London King’s Cross and York allowed the public to see the restored icon of British engineering in green livery, BR Green 60103, and carrying its iconic nameplates for the first time.

The enthralling feat of engineering was cheered from beginning to end of its two hundred mile inaugural run, spellbinding trainspotters and the public alike: as the tabloids remarked, train fans ‘went loco.’

The first passenger-carrying outing put a firm full stop at the end of a long and thorough testing and commissioning process, showing that the Flying Scotsman is officially back on track after being restored at the Bury engineering works of Riley & Sons (E) Bury.

The 96 ton locomotive was designed by Sir Nigel Gresley and built in the Doncaster railway works. Among the innovations in its design was a corridor to allow the driver and fireman to walk through to the carriages so that crews could swap mid-journey without stopping the train.

Unveiled in February 1923, the Flying Scotsman consolidated its reputation a decade later when it was clocked at 100mph, becoming the first locomotive to have officially reached that speed. During the pre-war years the locomotive came to symbolize all that is speed and style, not least because it was the star of British cinema’s first ‘talkie’ in 1929 and carried innovations such as the cinema car, cocktail bar and hairdressing salon.

Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Group, who helped to save the Scotsman with a £365,000 gift, talked glowingly about how he ‘loved the glamour that the Flying Scotsman brought to travel… I also love the Flying Scotsman’s record breaking history.’

In 1963 the locomotive went out of service and spent 40 years in private ownership touring the world. More than a decade ago the National Railway Museum bought it for £2.3 million, supported by a £1.8 million national lottery grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the incredible generosity of the public. The restoration has also been undertaken with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £275,000.

The Flying Scotsman was recently confirmed as the world’s most famous locomotive after its name topped a poll commissioned from YouGov, even overtaking the locomotive that had propelled the industrial revolution, Stephenson’s Rocket, that also belongs to the Science Museum Group.

Today’s inaugural run got the Flying Scotsman celebrations off to a flying start during the locomotive’s ‘birthday month’. Among the forthcoming events, one will celebrate when it reached 100mph on a London to Leeds run under the guidance of Driver William Sparshatt. The LNER’s 1905 Dynamometer Car was in tow to record the feat on 30 November 1934 and will once again be reunited with the Flying Scotsman in the Museum’s March-May Stunts, Speed and Style display.

Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, pointed out that since the heyday of the Flying Scotsman, when it made regular trips from London to Edinburgh, the journey time has halved and frequency quadrupled. “Alongside celebrating the glorious history of the oldest railway in the world we also look forward to investing to continue the huge contribution the railway makes to the future of the UK.”

Looking majestic at platform 9, shortly before heading round the corner to the National Railway Museum

Looking majestic at platform 9, shortly before heading round the corner to the National Railway Museum

The historic service still runs: Virgin Trains’ modern day Flying Scotsman-liveried 91101 locomotive was unveiled by First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon at Edinburgh Waverley Station earlier this year. The modern train, which departed at 8.30am today from an adjoining platform, overtook its venerable sister as it raced north in just two hours. David Horne, Managing Director of Virgin Trains on its East Coast route, said: “The Flying Scotsman has an incredible history and we’re proud to be sponsoring a season celebrating its return to the tracks.”

If you were unable to join us at either Kings Cross or York, Watch our video of the day:

Visitors to the National Railway Museum can immerse themselves in the glamour of the world’s longest-established express train with a ticketed exhibition. Starring Scotsman, the Museum’s exhibition about the engineering icon, is now open to visitors. Service with Style will use sound and archive film on board three carriages to tell its stirring story of speed, innovation, fame and luxury.

For the latest news use hashtag #FlyingScotsman and to give us your recollections of this engineering legend use #MyScotsman or visit http://www.flyingscotsman.org.uk/my-scotsman-story/

Posted in Museum news

Pulling Flying Scotsman off the Drawing Board

Our historic collection of railway engineering drawings is an invaluable tool for anyone restoring a steam locomotive. When overhauling a loco, a good drawing can save thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours of hard graft.

Without a drawing you’ll need to reproduce new drawings, which requires a lot of expertise and time, plus a great deal of confidence that you’ve got your measurements right. Original drawings give you certainty that you can manufacture exactly what came out of the workshop a hundred years ago. Moreover they can teach you all the lessons that the original engineers learned over the locomotive’s life – the small incremental changes they made to the design to improve performance and safety.

And that’s been no different with our project to restore 60103 Flying Scotsman. Over the course of its 10 year overhaul we have digitised hundreds of drawings from the LNER’s Doncaster drawing office. Drawings like this one of the combination lever (part of the motion):

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

Or this drawing that we used to fabricate the new smoke deflectors:

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

However, we’ve recently had one more drawing to digitise. It hasn’t been used in the restoration but given how beautiful it is, it deserved special attention:

Click for a larger version

Click for a larger version

This fantastic coloured general arrangement shows Sir Nigel Gresley’s A1 class as built, just how Flying Scotsman appeared until it was rebuilt as an A3 in 1947.The drawing was signed by Sir Gresley himself in 1923 and we believe it spent much of its life hanging in the CME’s Doncaster office. It would have taken many hours of careful work to painstakingly hand draw and colour this drawing – all the more daunting for the draughtsman given where it was to spend its life.

We’ve spent the last few months conserving the drawing and then digitising it. It has returned to the safety of our stores for the time being to make sure its vibrant colours are not damaged by light, but an original waxed linen version is available to view and photograph on request for any visitor to the museum’s Search Engine library.

Also, from the 25 February and throughout the Flying Scotsman season, we are offering special prices on copies of this drawing only in Search Engine, with up to 80% off our normal prices on a selection of Scotsman prints.

If it was good enough to hang on Gresley’s office wall, you might like it as well.

Posted in Museum news

Sir Nigel Gresley overhaul – update 2

In The Works, the overhaul of Nigel Gresley continues. Locomotive Engineer Darrin Crone provides us with an insight of the previous couple of weeks’ work.

Week starting 8 February 2016

On Tuesday we arrived to find that Flying Scotsman 60103 had been placed facing the front of 60007! It gave the workshop a real Doncaster Works feel. This week we have been removing boiler tubes and as 60103 was very close to us so extreme caution had to be exercised when pulling out the 18′ long tubes from Gresley’s smokebox.

Removing the flue tubes - without whacking 60103 in the process

Removing the flue tubes – without whacking 60103 in the process

A particular challenge has been to cut the flues at the top of the firebox as it is difficult to see where the torch is cutting at times. However by the end of the week all of the top 3 rows have been removed.

On Tuesday work started on the release of the boiler at the firebox end in preparation for lifting the boiler off the chassis. The brackets that support the drop grate shaft were separated from the foundation ring along with the expansion brackets. Later in the week all the cotters in the pins that hold the ashpan to the foundation ring were removed. The ashpan is now not connected to the boiler. The only thing holding the boiler on at the rear of the loco is the diaphragm plate. All lower bolts have been loosened, removed and replaced in turn to ensure they can be removed easily when we lift the boiler.

The front tubeplate - top 3 rows of flue tubes with surrounding small smoke tubes removed

The front tubeplate – top 3 rows of flue tubes with surrounding small smoke tubes removed

Also this week the dome cover has been removed in preparation for the removal of the regulator and on Saturday the mechanical lubricators were removed. This week we will continue to strip the boiler and make it ready for lifting. Stripping the boiler of it’s flue and smoke tubes at the National Railway Museum gives the public a rare opportunity to see this work which is usually carried out, out of sight, in boiler works.

Week starting 15 February 2016

A start was made this week removing parts from between the frames. Work involved the removal of AWS (Automatic Warning System) and TPWS (Train Protection and Warning System) equipment from beneath the loco. The lubricators removed the previous weekend have received a deep clean and the area where they were removed from on the loco was also cleaned. Elsewhere, cleaning of components removed from the engine continued – its an un-glamorous but essential task.

Right hand cylinder cladding removed

Right hand cylinder cladding removed

This week saw the removal of the 4th row of flue tubes. Before removal the 3rd row next to the engine had to be moved outside the workshop along with a number of small tubes. Even though we are now well practised in transporting them into the yard it is still a time consuming and exhausting task moving the flue tubes about.

A view looking forward in the boiler toward Flying Scotsman

A view looking forward in the boiler toward Flying Scotsman

On Thursday all the last row of flues were released at the smokebox end along with the row of small tubes above them. Then work started at the firebox end. All of the row of small tubes worked on at the smokebox end were knocked forward and were ready for removal and one flue was cut through, then we were stopped from working as Flying Scotsman was to be varnished. We were told that we could not make dust for the next couple of days so that put an end to pulling the tubes out. However progress was made elsewhere on less dusty jobs. These included the removal of the diaphragm plate that helps to hold the back of the boiler down onto the frames.

Darrin (left) with some of the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust volunteers helping to overhaul the engine.

Darrin (left) with some of the Sir Nigel Gresley Locomotive Trust volunteers helping to overhaul the engine.

Posted in Museum news

Raid on the railways! First World War Zeppelin raids and black-outs

As part of the First World War Railway project here at the National Railway Museum, we are continuing to research and up-date the online fallen railwaymen database.

('Search Lights over London', 1917, T B Meteyard - This item is available to be shared and re-used under the terms of the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

(‘Search Lights over London’, 1917, T B Meteyard – This item is available to be shared and re-used under the terms of the IWM Non Commercial Licence)

One area of my research that I have found particularly interesting, has been the subject of Zeppelin raids and Black-outs on the railways during the first War. This important and often overlooked part of the war shows that the danger faced by those working on or the railways was not only fighting on foreign soil, but also from the terror of the Zeppelin raids back at home.

The Black-outs of World War Two and the terrible damage and loss of life inflicted by the blitz, are held within the nation’s collective memory most strongly, and we often associate this period as being the time in which the idea of ‘black-outs’ was first conceived. However during the First World War, there was also a need to put out the lights, as German Zeppelin raids commenced on Britain in 1915.

There were over fifty separate Zeppelin raids across the country during the Great War, only coming to an end in May 1918. Although the damage caused by these raids reached nothing like what would be seen in the later Blitz of World War Two, there was still around 300 tons of bombs dropped, resulting in the deaths of 1,414 people, and the injury of many more. There was also wide spread material damage of industrial and port facilities, government and military buildings, as well as civilian properties.

A large proportion of the Zeppelin raids occurred at night, and therefore the need to conceal light was paramount, as any light source would give the enemy a clear target to strike. The government recognised the need to enforce certain measures to secure public safety, and at the beginning of the war, the ‘Defence of the Realm Act’ (DORA) was passed. This act contained, among others, an enforced blackout in certain towns and cities to protect against air raids. The attacks were often indiscriminate, and as such there was little that escaped the wrath of the Zeppelins destruction, including the Railways.

'The Cowardly Zeppelin Raid of Oct. 13: Bomb-Wrecked Dwelling-Places of Civilians and Women and Children' as published in Illustrated London News

‘The Cowardly Zeppelin Raid of Oct. 13: Bomb-Wrecked Dwelling-Places of Civilians and Women and Children’ as published in Illustrated London News

There are numerous accounts of Zeppelin attacks on Britain during World War One, including one account of a Zeppelin raid on London in 1915, and a subsequent fire in a hostelry and other buildings, caused by an incendiary bomb. The Great Western Railway Magazine, November 1915, reports the bravery of the men from the nearby Euston Station, foreman Hannon (an ex solider), who with a bucket of water rushed into a building to put out a fire. Hannon, along with Shipper Tackley, and Checker Yarnall, were able to rescue some of the occupants, and assist the injured until the arrival of the metropolitan fire brigade and an ambulance. The men were complimented by the company for their prompt and courageous conduct. (source: Great Eastern Railway Magazine, November 1915)

Another account of a Zeppelin attack comes from the report of the bombing of Monkwearmoth Train Station. This particular attack occurred on the night of Saturday 1 April 1916, during a raid of Sunderland by a German Imperial Navy Zeppelin.

“When first built there was a roof over the lines between the main building at Monkwearmouth Station and the Goods Yard on the west side. This roof provided shelter for the passengers waiting for their trains. The Zeppelin rained down high explosive and incendiary bombs on both sides of the River Wear. A casualty of the raid was the roof over the railway lines and was never repaired, being removed completely 12 years later in 1928.”
(twmuseums.org.uk – Monkwearmouth station bombed)

'Terror from the Skies' - the German Zeppelin LZ 18 (L 2), similar to those used in bombing raids on Britain. (Public Domain image – Wikipedia)

‘Terror from the Skies’ – the German Zeppelin LZ 18 (L 2), similar to those used in bombing raids on Britain. (Public Domain image – Wikipedia)

The bravery of those who lived through the attacks, and the courage that some showed in the face of severe danger was well recorded. This local account comes from a report of a Zeppelin attack on York on the night of May 2, 1916. Zeppelins dropped 18 bombs on Dringhouses, before heading for the city Centre. There they bombed Nunthorpe Hall Red Cross Hospital and Nunthorpe Avenue, killing a young girl who lived there. WT Naylor, a bricklayer at York Carriage Works and a member of the North Eastern Railway fire brigade, was awarded a medallion by the NER Centre of the St John’s Ambulance Association for “conspicuous bravery” during one of the Zeppelin raids. Mr Naylor’s son was in the army and had been awarded the Military Medal for bravery at the front. In the words of the Lord Mayor of York, this showed that “the family came from the right stock”. (Source: York Press, November 2013).

If you are interested in finding out more about the names and addresses of local railwaymen and their families in York, have a look on our online database mentioned above, and look out for the upcoming app. Also check out all the great work that is being done with schools, and the project based around the First World War and the Ambulance Train.

Although laws were enforced to keep all unnecessary lights out, there were of course exceptions to the rules. Posters were issued to remind civilians that the use of torches, and even bicycle lamps were forbidden. However Ministers decided that the railways were too important to close down, even temporarily. Goods had to be moved, and it was deemed essential for the station to keep functioning. This would be the sad case in the account from Nottingham in July 1916, when German Zeppelin pilots apparently on route to Sheffield, noticed the lights of Midland station shinning like a beacon, whilst the rest of the town was in total darkness. The raid resulted in the deaths of civilians, including Alfred T Rogers, 44, and his wife Rosanna, 43.

It was obvious from this attack, as well as others, that stricter measures needed to be put in place in order to prevent further casualties. An inquest into the attack concluded the following:

“The jury are of the opinion that the city was exposed to the risk of attack by airship entirely by the action of the railway companies in keeping their premises lighted until after the first bombs had been dropped.”
(Nottingham Post)

Strict rules were put in place in order to protect the general public, as well as those working on the railways during the First World War. The Black-out blinds that were introduced on trains to minimise light were cancelled in April 1917, and a severe measure of complete lights out was put into order during enemy Zeppelin attacks on the railways.

Defence of the Realm Act Poster, National Railway Museum Archive, 1917

Defence of the Realm Act Poster, National Railway Museum Archive, 1917

However, despite the heavy restrictions, and the looming threat of attack from the skies, there was still room for humour and good cheer. An article from the London and North West Railway (L&NWR) Gazette, November 1916, reports this light hearted take on the newly enforced black-out restriction on the railways;

We should not have though that the familiar official notices exhibited in all railway carriages, at the present time, would have afforded a theme for the poet, but the following, the work of an unknown rhymester, was recently found in one of our express trains.

In view of possible attack
On trains upon the railway track
By hostile Aircraft overhead,
The Government has plainly said
“The Blinds of all trains must be drawn
From sunset glow to early dawn.

That no chance ray or spark of light
Shall glimmer through the murky night
Blinds must be drawn completely down
But at a station in a town
The Blinds may sometimes lifted be
In case of great necessity.

But when the train goes again
From looking out you must refrain,
For heavy penalties ensue
To him who lets a ray creep through”
Be sure you’re at the platform quite
Before attempting to alight.

(London and North Western Railway Gazette Volume 5, November 1916.)

Another light hearted story to come out of the Zeppelin raids comes again from the London and North West Railway Gazette. After a Zeppelin was brought down by Anti-Aircraft Defences in Essex in September 1915, members of the company were able to utilise the aluminium portions of the air craft for manufacturing articles such as toasting forks, pipe racks, ‘iron’ crosses, and other souvenirs.

These articles were sold for the War Seal Foundation (London and North West Railway section), which aimed at providing cheerful homes for London and North Western railway men who were disabled in the war.

It ends with this tantalising sentence:

“Several interesting girder portions will also be available for exhibition.”
(L&NW Railway Gazette, Dec 1916 – vol 6. P347/8)

Our own Warehouse holds a piece connected to a downed Zeppelin. Within our fantastic collection of over 1,000 objects, spanning 300 years of railway history, an interesting item can always be found.

A T-shaped Carriage key stored in our Warehouse (C7; DU1), which was made from the aluminium taken from the wreckage of a German Zeppelin brought down during World War One at Potters Bar.

A T-shaped Carriage key stored in our Warehouse (C7; DU1), which was made from the aluminium taken from the wreckage of a German Zeppelin brought down during World War One at Potters Bar.

Posted in Museum news

Bogies, Bulbs and Babies: Enter-train-ing images from the GEC archive

This blog was written by Danika Willis and Ben Cudbertson, the project volunteers.

The GEC Traction archive contains many quirky and unusual adverts. Here are just a few of our favourites, selected for the humour, vivid colours and graphics.

Metrovick’s Cosmos Lamps’, Metropolitan Vickers Gazette, 1937. NRM Ref: ALS2/55/C/9

Metrovick’s Cosmos Lamps’, Metropolitan Vickers Gazette, 1937.
NRM Ref: ALS2/55/C/9

 

'Electrodes for Every Purpose’, Metropolitan Vickers Gazette, 1937. NRM Ref: ALS2/55/C/9

‘Electrodes for Every Purpose’, Metropolitan Vickers Gazette, 1937.
NRM Ref: ALS2/55/C/9

Brecknell-Willis pantograph advert. NRMRef: ALS2/95/E/5

Brecknell-Willis pantograph advert.
NRMRef: ALS2/95/E/5

The best answer is Brush Bagnall’, Diesel Railway Traction Gazette, 1952. NRM Ref: ALS2/95/D/7

The best answer is Brush Bagnall’, Diesel Railway Traction Gazette, 1952.
NRM Ref: ALS2/95/D/7

Not all Bogies have wheels’, Diesel Railway Traction Gazette, 1952. NRM Ref: ALS2/95/D/7

Not all Bogies have wheels’, Diesel Railway Traction Gazette, 1952.
NRM Ref: ALS2/95/D/7

Vulcan Foundry produced ‘Matilda’ tanks and over 500 ‘Austerity’ locomotives for use during World War Two, Metropolitan-Vickers Gazette. C. 1940s. NRM Ref: ALS2/95/C/7

Vulcan Foundry produced ‘Matilda’ tanks and over 500 ‘Austerity’ locomotives for use during World War Two, Metropolitan-Vickers Gazette. C. 1940s.
NRM Ref: ALS2/95/C/7

InterCity’s final journey souvenir train pun menu, 16th April 1988. NRM Ref: ALS2/97/A/5

InterCity’s final journey souvenir train pun menu, 16th April 1988.
NRM Ref: ALS2/97/A/5

Electric Traction Equipment, English Electric Company Publication, No. M42B. NRM Ref: ALS2/95/E/3

Electric Traction Equipment’, English Electric Company Publication, No. M42B.
NRM Ref: ALS2/95/E/3

The GEC collection is not yet available to the public, however if you would like to find out more information please contact Search Engine or the GEC Project Archivist.

Posted in Research and archive