Engineered to perfection: the GEC Traction Archives cataloguing project

This post is written by our Project Archivist Charlotte Burgess, who is currently cataloguing the museum’s GEC traction archives.

I am the Project Archivist for the GEC Traction archive collection, based in Search Engine.  The project began in February this year and finishes September 2016 and is funded by The National Archives Cataloguing Grants Programme 2014.  The collection is the largest at the National Railway Museum with a colossal 1571 boxes as well as four filing cabinets filled with microfilm and glass negatives!

This is only a third of the collection!  (All boxes without white labels belong to the GEC Traction archive)

This is only a third of the collection! (All boxes without white labels belong to the GEC Traction archive)

So far I have completed an archive survey detailing where each box is located and researched the complicated history of the General Electric Company (GEC) and its subsidiary company, GEC Traction.  I am currently getting to the bottom of the corporate structure – which, as you can see from the above mind map –  is supremely complicated!  For example,  so far I have identified 89 subsidiary companies.

Initial mind map for the GEC and GEC Traction organisational structure. Wow.

Initial mind map for the GEC and GEC Traction organisational structure. Wow.

However, I have the help of six ex-GEC Traction employees acting as expert advisers throughout the project and also two project volunteers, to help with the sorting and repackaging of the collection.

The project volunteers, Danika and James

The project volunteers, Danika and James

The GEC Traction archive is the only major archive collection in the country to cover railway manufacturing and the export industry in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the records in the collection date back to the early 20th century from the GEC’s predecessor companies and is made up of a wide range of record types. These include engineering drawings, microfilm, technical manuals, publicity brochures, order books, photographs, drawing registers and project files for projects such as the Channel Tunnel and the Docklands Light Railway.  A very diverse collection!

I’ll keep you updated of progress over the next year or so, but can you help?! Did you work for GEC or GEC Traction? Do you have any information you would like to share with us? You can follow me on Twitter for insights as I go along and drop me a line there – @GEC_Archivist or via email.

(If you’re interested in browsing any related GEC archives in the meantime, these links will be useful:

An interesting find: Associated Electrical Industries (AEI) electrically converted a Mini-Traveller in 1966. Here it is shown in a promotional shot under Brunel’s Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol.

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About Dan Clarkson

Dan is Web Manager for the National Railway Museum.
This entry was posted in Railway History, Research and archive and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Engineered to perfection: the GEC Traction Archives cataloguing project

  1. Billy Brookes says:

    What an interesting project! Not necessarily the GEC part but the idea of working with the archives and re-discovering all these things, as a photography student I find the photographs and microfilm especially interesting.

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