Hundreds of railway companies have existed over the last 200 years, with even very recent companies fading into distant memory.
The British railway industry has always been complicated, hundreds of companies were created during the 1800’s, merging into four companies in the 1920’s and then one giant state owned operator in the 1940’s .
The industry has now almost gone full circle, privatisation in the 1990’s resulting in many more companies emerging then disappearing. You can see a wonderful diagram with more dates and details on the National Archives Website.
The National Railway Museum archive contains leaflets, brochures and sometimes organisational records of modern railway companies like the ones pictured above. We want researchers in 200 years time to be able to look at these archives and understand their history.
Our archive volunteers have been working hard for the last year to create railway company biographies for the modern railway industry (or in archival speak ‘authority files‘), these biographies will be attached to catalogue entries and will provide researchers with useful information about our collections. This method of cataloging follows the ‘More Product Less Process’ model, you can read much more about this on Explore York’s Archives blog.
The process can be very challenging , very little is written about some companies meaning this is one of the first times this information has been brought together. We hope our data will be invaluable to anyone looking into the past 30 years of the railway industry.
Archive volunteer Jack says…
“It’s been like trying to untangle a ball of string with lots of different stands, which are all tied together in different ways and keep moving about the closer to untying them you get”
We are currently about a quarter of the way through describing more than 100 different companies. This is one of our many charts used to track our cataloguing, you might notice some of the company names.
We want to know what you think …
Is there anything that we are missing?
Would you do this differently?
Is this a resource you would be interested in using?
Do you have any information that you think will help us?
This is a guest post by Associate Archivist Alison Kay and the National Railway Museum volunteer team.