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By Charlotte Dennard on

Engineered to perfection: cataloguing the GEC Traction Archives

Charlotte Dennard explains the mammoth task of cataloguing our biggest archive collection—not a job for the faint-hearted!

I am the Project Archivist for the GEC Traction archive collection, based in Search Engine here at the National Railway Museum.  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 museum, with a colossal 1,571 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:

You can find out more about The National Archives Cataloguing Grant Programme here.

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.
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.

3 comments on “Engineered to perfection: cataloguing the GEC Traction Archives

  1. CAN I SEE THE DESIGN Drawings FOR Vincent Raven /Greasily A8 tank 4-6-2 locomotive witch where all losted too the cutters touch , by 1960 only 45 where ever built then rebuilt under Greasily directive witch they proved too be one of the must useful locomotive on the North east coast line I would like support to build a new build A8 GNER 1531 witch would be named William Wilberforce and run on Network rail from Hull too Scarborough and Hull to Sheffield Master Clutter dinning train a new build with up dated modern steam technology a all welded boiler and higher steam pressure and big bore 18×26 from 16×26 higher Tractive effort of 33,000 TE from 24,500 TE better firebox and modern design with ash pan easy maintenance high pressure oiling system and a bio-fuel burning fire and sulfur screen fitted in short a old look with Modern internals some witch are experimental for the environment and the driver and fireman will both have seats and washing and toilet fitted and beverage cupboard paint livery in GNER ultra-marine Blue with red black and gold banding what a beautiful locomotive this would make

  2. I was an apprentice for gec traction preston – 1987 – 1991. Then an electrical tester 1991 – 1999 ish.

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