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By Peter Thorpe on

Time detectives—discovering the history of railway clocks

We get a surprising amount of enquiries about railway clocks. Luckily, we have quite a few records in the archives.

Our vast archive collections are full of amazing and fascinating documents like intricate drawings of famous locomotives by highly skilled draftsmen, letters & notebooks written by iconic engineers, and thousands of stunning railway advertising posters. But you may be surprised to discover that a relatively tiny collection of archive material creates some of the most asked-about archives we hold.

Not a week goes by without us receiving an email asking whether we have any information or history on a former railway company clock. I felt that this was a good time to explain how we can help you find out the history of your railway clock. I’m sure that at the end of March you were busy making sure your clocks were changed to the correct time as they went forward one hour—just imagine the job the railway workers had, as they were responsible for many clocks at each station, depot or works, all of which would need adjusting manually.

Time was essential for the running of the railways, indeed the standardisation of time across the country to Greenwich Mean Time was a direct result of the development of the railways during the 19th century. Before then people operated on local time depending on their distance from the Greenwich Meridian, but operating on local time just wasn’t practical for the railways which ran to a precise timetable so each station and signal box needed to operate to the same standard time.

Railway companies owned tens of thousands of clocks. Each signal box would have one, stations would have clocks in the booking office, on the platform, in the waiting rooms and in the station master’s office. Large stations could have huge numbers of clocks, all of which needed to be kept to time, and of course there were also clocks in offices, railway works and goods depots—time was so vital to the operation of the system. With so many clocks, the companies needed to know where each one was located so that they could ensure they were maintained in good order. So just like all the locomotives and rolling stock, the railway companies numbered and kept records of their clocks!

It would be wonderful if we had detailed and complete records on every clock, but unfortunately that isn’t the case and not all records survive. What records do exist in our archives vary depending on the railway company or BR region they came from. The records we hold tend to fall into three distinct types: clock registers, clock record cards and clock censuses.

Clock registers are numerical lists of each clock in ledgers, and always include the location of the clock but sometimes additional details.

LNER clock register no.2

Above is a page from of one of the clock registers for the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) and its successor regions under British Railways—the Eastern & North Eastern regions. The LNER inherited clocks from many different companies after the railway grouping in 1923, and like just like their locomotives found that they now had multiple locomotives with the same number. So just like they did with the locomotives, they instigated a re-numbering scheme for clocks, and the registers we hold reflect that re-numbering, they don’t have any details of clock numbers prior to the LNER scheme, so if you have a clock with a pre-grouping number it isn’t going to be of help. The LNER registers just record the number, the specific location of the clock, the dial size and other details, and later notes often provide details such as a clock being sold or condemned or in a few cases even stolen.

The page shown lists some of the clocks from York. Most will have long disappeared from their original location, but at least one is still in place, and you may well have walked past it if you have ever visited the National Railway Museum. It is the 6610, a 14-inch double-dial hanging clock located at York Goods Time Office. This stands outside the goods shed that is now our Station Hall and the time office is now the office for the Friends of the National Railway Museum.

And as per the register there is another dial inside the office as well.

LNER Clock register entry for clock 6610
Clock No. 6610 – above the entrance to the FNRM office (previously the time office for York Goods)

We also have some registers for Southern Railway clocks. Southern seem to have taken another approach to their clock re-numbering issue—rather than have a completely new set of numbers, they decided to put prefixes on the existing clock numbers to designate what area they were from.

A page from the Southern registers, in this example for London & South Western (SW) clocks.

These registers provide far more information than their LNER equivalents, they include the maker of the clock, the date of purchase and even the price and have notes of repairs. As can be seen they can also be rather difficult to decipher, especially where alterations have been made!

Detail from Southern clock register entry

We don’t have registers for Great Western Railway or London Midland & Scottish Railway clocks, but we do have another sort of record: Clock record cards.

Examples of LMS clock record cards, one from Manchester Victoria West Junction and another from Horwich.

These provide locations, dial size and sometimes additional details such as maker and notes of repairs on the back, but not always as can be seen in the Horwich example pictured. We don’t have a complete set of these cards and there are many gaps, so if you are looking for information on an LMS clock, we might not always have the record you want.

We have a similar set of cards for the GWR, although it would appear that the majority of the clocks that we hold cards for were scrapped, so are not often not of of much help for people looking for a record of their old Great Western clock.

Examples of GWR record cards

The final type of record we hold are clock census records. We have a series of returns for a census carried out by British Railway London Midland Region in 1969. These consist of sheets returned by each station or depot. Below is one of the sheets for Carlisle Citadel station, a large station that had many clocks, this is just one of a number of sheets for the station. The information includes the manufacturer where known, and also whether the clock is “surplus to requirements”. As these records are organised by location, it isn’t really possible to find a location just by knowing the number, you would have to search through all the sheets!

BR(LMR) clock census return for Carlisle, January 1969

If you would like to delve into these records to try to find the history of your old railway clock you can make an appointment in Search Engine, our library and archive centre.

61 comments on “Time detectives—discovering the history of railway clocks

  1. Hi Peter,a very good day to you.
    I’m David from Malaysia. I owned a LNER clock number 4658,dial size = 12″.
    I’m really keen on the background information on this particular clock? Any idea how? Please advice. Thank you.

    David Teo.

    1. Hi David, The entry in the LNER clock register for 4658 has slightly defeated us on this occasion. It was at “Hull, West” the next bit we haven’t been able to decipher then “No.4 room”. It also confirms it had a 12″ dial. Unfortunately the chap who made the entry had a habit of making a flamboyant flourish at the start of every word, and in the case he has abbreviated the description, which doesn’t help with working out what it means! If anyone else does want us to check out an entry for a clock it is best to contact us through our Search Engine email address –
      Kind regards,

    2. Hello,

      I am trying to find out some details about my LMS clock. It had a brass plate on the side saying “L.M.S. 11767”

      I hope you can help.



  2. Hi Peter

    Perhaps the finest example of a “Joyce” Railway Clock is to be found in the repositioned ornate clock tower which stands outside of Holyhead Station…dated 1880 and opened 17th June 1880 by HRH Prince of Wales….later to be King Edward VII. Travelling back and over from Ireland to UK since the early 1950s it was well known to me. My most recent encounter was Sunday 9th June when returning to Ireland having visited England. I took a lovely photo of it as it looked to be recently decorated and it looked stunning.

    Paul Browne

    1. Hi Paul,
      The Joyce clock at Holyhead is indeed a fantastic clock. Another ornate example is the one above the concourse at Liverpool Lime Street. We have numerous Joyce clocks within our collection, none quite as ornate as those!

    2. I have owned a British time recorder clock for around 40 years. It has a brass plate on the front.
      LMS R.B.K 2-10 I would be grateful if you could find some information on its location.

  3. Hi Peter. I own the station clock from Aldebough. I travelled on the last public train with my authorisation to collect the clock for which I paid the pricely sum of £2.00. Inside it states it was repaired at Stratford early in 1920. Clock has the number 3126

    1. Hi Terry,

      Yes, the register does indeed record it as being in the Booking Hall at Aldeburgh, it’s nice to know so many clocks survived and are still providing pleasure (and the time!) to their latest owners.

  4. Hello Peter,
    I have a LNER 16inch clock dial no. 10916. Do you please have any information on this? Any help would be appreciated.

    1. Hi Julie, 10916 is recorded in the register as being at Doncaster Loco Works, in the New Erecting Shop. “New” in this case actually means 1891 when the new shop was built to accommodate the larger locomotives that were being planned, the previous 1853 shop being unable to cope. The building is still in railway use.
      Best wishes

      1. Hi Peter, is am trying to find some information about a BR SW John Walker clock No 5237.
        Would like to know the locations of this clocks history please.

    2. Hello Peter,
      I inherited a12”LMS 316 dial drop clock no 12316.
      Can you provide an information about its previous life.

    3. Hello Peter.
      I have just become the proud owner of a MR/LMS 12″ drop case clock, made by Mann of Gloucester…about 1870.
      The LMS brass plate shows the clock number to be 11015.
      I am advised that the clock ended its days at Gloucester Eastgate Station…..would LOVE to have confirmation of this fact, if possible……living in Gloucester all my life!
      Regards Peter Berry, Gloucester.

  5. Dear Peter, i have a Joyce railway clock, 12 inch,LMS, numbered 2418. I realise that many of LMS records are missing, but any help or suggestions you could give me would be very much appreciated. The clock goes so well, & iwonder daily where it was stationed.Thank you. Kind regards. Peter.

    1. Peter
      I recently purchased an SER long case railway clock with 11792 stamped on the fusee mechanism with the SER logo is there any way of tracking down where this is from?

    2. Hi, I have an 18” dial John Walker SR clock number 336 SE. Is there anything you can tell me about this clock please? I believe it’s final location before being taken down was Stewart’s Lane Loco shed.

  6. Hi Peter I own a 8 “ dial BR(NE) railway clock serial number 3497. Set in a mahogany drop box case and I wondered if you had any records on it or where it was last hung.

  7. Hi. My father has a John Walker wall clock. The address on the dial (68 Cornhill & 230 Regent St) seem to suggest that it was made circa 1880, but it is also marked LONDON 3964 which I take to be a railways serial number. Do you have any records for this clock. Many thanks. Richard.

    1. I understand that the world’s first railway clock to be one which stood on a building of the “down” platform of Shildon railway station in its earlier incarnation.

      it is unfortunate therefore that history was not kinder, and the clock was not preserved in situ. Does the NRM have any further details of the history of this timepiece ?

  8. Hi Peter,

    I’ve recently restored an LMS 12″ dial office clock and wondered if you held any records of it. On the dial are the letters LMS and on the side of the case is the number 2405 on a small enamel plate. I reckon it’s circa 1930s. Any idea where it was located?

    Best rgds


  9. Hi I have a clock br m 23653 would you hold any information on this one? I think it’s possibly 1940’s/1950’s in date.
    Many thanks

    1. It seems to me that the history of most of the clocks is sketchy at best. I myself have just acquired a Gledhill Brook fusee clocking in time recorder clock. It came from a man who bought it in an auction in 2016 in Runcorn. It’s been in storage since then. It came with the manual , a working drawing and quite a number of British rail clock cards, some with names and trades such as welder, machinist, etc. The clocks serial number is 23105 which dates it to circa June 1927 on the tag below the face it says PRO no RBA. 8-21 IF anyone has any idea as to where the clock was hung that would be great. On the drawing there are several stamps one appears to say L.M.& S with the name of the company from Wolverton dated 1944. It also says on the drawing please return to shop 59

  10. Hi Peter,

    I have a clock which says BR 4001 which I believe is a signal box clock in North London possibly Finsbury Park / Harringay area. Do you have anymore information on it?


  11. Hi i have a small mantle clock that has L M R 17648 on the face do you have any record or history of this many thanks Eddie

  12. Hi Peter,
    I have a clock that was placed in my care when my Grandfather died about thirty years ago. He worked on the railway and lived in the Signalman’s house at Foggathorpe station in the 60’s and 70’s
    Having read this article I would be very pleased to know the origin of the clock.
    On the face it has : BR (NE) and the number 4969.
    Do you have any record of this clock please ?
    Kind Regards

  13. Hello Peter,
    I was given a railway clock as a wedding present in 1981.
    It has its brass LMS plaque, number 12745, and I understand it might be possible to trace which station it came from.

    It’s a standard 12″ hanging clock made by John Smith & Sons, Midland Clock Works, Queen Street, Derby. It is in oak, has three doors, and still runs well.

    I’d be most grateful if you could let me have any information you can about it.

    With thanks,

  14. Hi Peter My brother-in-law has just passed away and has a LNER mahogany cased wall clock numbered 15678.Iwas wondering if you could give any information you can about it. Many thanks.Frank.

  15. My father received a clock from British rail in 1986 for 35 years service but the clock does not work now, where would I get it repaired

  16. Hello Peter, my father passed away a few years ago and left me two railway clocks. I wondered if you could tell me anything about them. One is a John Walker, 1, South Molton St, London, serial number 127 S.W. and the other one has nothing on the face (my father had it repainted unfortunately but the numbers were barely visible beforehand) but engraved on the movement is G&B, SE&CRy and the case, pendulum and case door are all numbered 412. I would love to know where they hung, if possible. Thank you.

  17. Hi, I have a very large station clock, aprox 1 metre across, double sided, which my late father was told was from Glasgow Central station. He bought it in the 80’s at a railway auction at Glasgow central. It was made by Gent of Leicester. Is this something you might have any information about? It would be great to find out the history of it. I have tried searching the internet for pictures but they all show the main clock, which is still there.

  18. Hi Peter
    I wonder if you can help me with register info for my clock. It is BR-WR 4781. I have owned it for nearly 50 years, having purchased it from BR at Collctor’s Corner.
    I have been to the museum in York many times over the years and my friend Simon works there as an engineer. I would have liked to come and research this myself but now is not a good time.
    Thanks. Gary

  19. Hello Peter,
    I have a 16inch railway clock No 14104. Could you give me any background please

  20. Hello I have a L & N.W. Railway Company Clock which is also signed W WRAY BIRMINGHAM. It has the number 1428. Would you by any chance have any information on where this clock was located.

  21. Hi Peter
    I have an L.N.E.R. clock numbered 11967. Is there any way of finding out which station it is from?
    Thank you

  22. I recently purchased a 12inch diameter Fusee Timepiece Dial Station Clock.
    It’s hot on the clock dial. L.M.S.R
    Bottom right of the clock case is a screwed on tag that says L.M.S.R
    serial number 6072.
    I’d love to know where it was stationed during its life on the Railway Network.

  23. Could you help me please I have a BR(E) station masters clock registered number 12439 – would you know what station this was from ?

  24. Hi Peter
    Can you help identify this round dial clock, it has a label inside British Rail metal label BR (M) 19945 or 9945, possibly from Carlisle to settle line

  25. Hi I have a railway clock, the movement is stamped with-
    F.W.Elliott Ltd, England
    Up Right Arrow sign
    What is this Upright Arrow sign stands for? And the no 5000/31?

  26. We have a GWR wall clock, 12” dial, numbered 540. Is there any way of finding out where it spent its working life please? Is it likely to have been made by Kays Ltd of Worcester? We would be very grateful for any information.

  27. Hi. We have a GWR 12” dial mahogany cased drop dial trunk fusee clock. It has a badge on the font which says GWR 540. Do you have any idea which station it might have come from please.

  28. Thank you for all your questions, it is great to see there are so many people interested in railway clocks, it is a fascinating subject. As mentioned towards the end of the post and in a previous reply, if you have a question about a clock please do get in touch with Search Engine, our library and archive centre – email and we will try to help. Unfortunately I’m not able to monitor the comments on this blog on a regular basis.

    Between March and September our team didn’t have any any access to collections due to the Covid situation, so it would not have been possible to answer your questions over the spring and summer period , but we are now working on our backlog and have responded to multiple clock queries in recent weeks. The good news is that we are also reopening to the public on Thursday 5th November, so you can also book to come and look at our archives again if you want view the original records. See our website for details:

    1. Hello Peter
      We have recently brought a B.R.-W. Wall Clock
      With a brass plate on the side GWR 182
      Hope you can help in the history of this clock
      Yours PhilipWells

  29. Hello, hope you can help me?
    I am the proud owner of a MR 12″ dropcase clock, with a LMS brass plate 11015.
    It was made by Mann of Gloucester around 1870/80….but Would LOVE to find out if it was ever used at Gloucester Eastgate station?
    Many thanks for any assistance you can give me.
    Regards Peter Berry Gloucester.

  30. Hi peter I have a B.R. Clock with the numbers 11578 on . I’d love to know where it originally came from I gave £250 for it 25years ago and it works perfectly.
    I wonder if you can help?
    Many Thanks

  31. Hi Peter
    I have a clock which I bought from BR York in 1965 when the disposals were dealt with by a super guy called Mr Burn who had an office within the HQ building now the Cedar Court. The clock was made in 1885 for the Hull and Barnsley by B Cooke and Son of Hull and has H and B number 27. It had an LNER number, but I don’t know it. However they did tell me it was recovered from Upton near Barnsley only a week or so before I got it. Can you give me any info on this clock please? Regds Digby Lovel

  32. Hello,

    I’m trying to find the date of a railway clock (ticket office I believe) given to me by my uncle many years ago. He used to work at Eastleigh Railway Station in the 70’s.
    I cannot find a facility here to upload a photo but the face of the clock shows it was made for BR (S) by John Walker, 1, South Molton and has the numbers at the face bottom of: London 3140 SW. It is a mahoganay case with an 8″ face with hinged glass. Any information on this clock I’d be grateful to receive. My uncle died 15 years ago.
    Thank you.

  33. Hi there
    I have been handed down through the family a station clock painted B.R (L.M) and the number 1512 on the dial, (plus Joyce, Whitchurch but presume this is the clockmaker).

    Could somebody kindly tell me what B.R (L.M) 1512 stands for please, and where the clock might have originated from (ie what station or signal box)?
    Many thanks

  34. Could you please let me have any information on a Southern Railway Clock with the number 953 screwed on th case ?

  35. Hello.
    I have a LYR clock with the dial signed John Agar, 808, Bury – is there any information you can give me on this clock please?

  36. I have an English fusee dial clock which has written on the dial,BR(E) number14236 can you give me ant information please.

  37. Hi I have a BR Clock number 11578 , I believe this was a clock from Sheringham signal box unfortunately at sometime the face has been brush painted, and if is the one from the signal box I would like to get the face restored.
    Regards Jeremy.

  38. Hi Team
    I have a wall clock from GWR – Number 555 could you give some information on this rather special time piece ? Thank you

  39. Hello, my Mother has a beautiful LNER clock numbered 4646. Are you able to provide me with any information/history about this clock?

    Many thanks


  40. Hello Peter
    I have a LB&SCR longcase clock number 283B. It was purchased from BR in December 1972 for £5. It was made by Richard Webster of Cornhill, London in 1865 and sold to the LB&SCR for £4-19-6 (I think). It had been at Christs Hospital station since 1902, but I would love to know where it was before that.
    I would be grateful for that and any other information.
    Many thanks
    Best regards
    Bob Clarke

  41. Hello. Have recently acquired a 8″ BR-W clock BR-W 4249. Would love to know of any history or if not, your ideas of where it may have been located. Do not hold much hope as you say you do not have gw records but thanks anyway.

  42. Hi Guys,
    Can you assist me please with any know service history for the following clocks recently added to my personal collection:
    MRCo 12inch round head – No. LMS 12000
    BR(E) 12inch drop dial – No. 2597
    BR 8inch round head 9809

    Your help and insight will be greatly appreciated

    Thank you and kind regards


  43. Hi there I recently purchased the long since closed railway station at longhirst.
    I would be keen to know details of railway clocks which once adorned the station and to there whereabouts for possible purchase in the future
    I hope to restore the station it’s former glory as time and money permits

  44. Hi I have a beautiful large 18 inch dial clock marked JNo Walker 68 CORNHILL & 230 REGENT ST LONDON # 4219. Can you supply any information on this. Thanks: Jim

  45. Hi, I have an LMS 8″ wooden case clock. It carries the number 17131. Is there any chance, please, you could tell me anything about its history ?

  46. Hi, I have a railway clock made by John Walker which has the initials S.I.R. on it. Can you tell me what that stands for? Thanks in advance.

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