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By Ruth Leach on

From the photo collection: unexpected finds

Discover some of the unexpected surprises in our fantastic photography collection.

One of my favourite parts of my job is image research. We’re lucky to have a fantastic photographic collection here at the National Railway Museum, and you can see thousands of examples on our website. Through we can also see the collections held by our sister museums, the National Media Museum in Bradford and the Science Museum in London.

Because of the way our images are catalogued, you can always guarantee that a search for one thing will bring you some entirely unexpected results. Here are a couple of my favourites:

While searching for images of King George V, I came across this fantastic image of elephants being unloaded at the King George V dock in London. My favourite part is the caption: ‘The animals had a rough voyage, having been given repeated doses of brandy to help them on their way.’ I’m not sure how much brandy you need to sedate an elephant, but I’m guessing it’s more than a nip.

Elephants at King George V Dock
Unloading the elephant ship, 20-March 1947 © Planet News / SSPL.

I can’t remember how I stumbled across this image of the Glynne Arms in Himley, Staffordshire. Unsurprisingly, the pub was better known as ‘The Crooked House’. This image is from the Great Western Railway’s official image collection, and was probably taken for use in their brochures advertising holiday travel. (If you fancy stopping by for a pint, the pub is still in operation).

Glynne Arms
The Glynne Arms, known as The Crooked House, Himley, Staffordshire. October 1930 © National Railway Museum / SSPL.

Finally, when looking for images of a range of railway jobs I found this chap, who’s holding some alarm signal chain, presumably before it was fitted to the carriage behind him. I love the small insight into the working world of the railways that the official company collections can give us – and I also think that he looks as bemused as I was when I came across the image!

Railway worker with alarm chain
Railway worker with alarm signal chain © National Railway Museum / SSPL.

2 comments on “From the photo collection: unexpected finds

  1. One of my favourite books now unfortunately lost was during the 150th celebrations of the GWR. it was official photographs one of which was a bird who had died whilst flying into a lamp. the quality of he mage and subject were highly memorable. Have you got it?
    Also a medieval farm building used as a railway wagon repair workshop!

    1. Hi Julian, sorry for the delay in replying. The book is Thro’ the lens, a pictorial tribute to the official work of the GWR photographers, by Colin (C W) Judge, which was jointly published by Railprint and the Oxford Publishing Company in 1985.

      It does include a photograph of a partridge killed when it flew into a lamp, but the medieval farm building used as a wagon repair shop was actually a deconsecrated church in Cardiff, used for motor vehicle repair.

      We have a copy in the library and it’s also available from Amazon at reasonable prices, see:

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