Category Archives: Transport History

Summer projects 2019

Another busy summer has gone by. The weather may not have been perfect, but we’ve certainly made a lot of progress with Special Collections projects which will improve the experience for our users!

Improving accessibility in our reading room

As well as, earlier in the year, installing new windows in the reading room, we’ve also now had the whole reading room area re-lamped. This has improved lighting, making it easier to use our collections for research and improving our accessibility.

Improving access to our collections

Much work has taken place over the summer to make our collections more accessible to a wider range of users.

A new collection, the Carpenter collection of maritime history, was catalogued and is now fully available. You can find out more on the collection’s webpage, search the library catalogue to discover the books and contact us to make an appointment to view any of those items.

Collection descriptions for the Clinker (railway history) and Mowat (railway photographs) collections were added to ArchivesHub, making them discoverable by a much wider audience. We are already seeing an increased number of enquiries as a result of this.

Crystal working on repackaging some of our railway history pamphlets

Railway pamphlets volunteer project

Our summer project volunteer, Crystal, worked on a repackaging project for our extensive collection of railway pamphlets. This involved identifying pamphlets, checking to make sure they had been catalogued, updating locations, repackaging them in melinex sleeves and putting them away in boxes. This represents a big improvement in their storage, as they are now protected from damage caused by poor handling, as well as ensuring they can be more easily found and available to our users. We’ll be recruiting more student volunteers to work on similar projects for the 2019/20 academic year. Do contact us if you are interested in this opportunity.

Website improvements

Our Special Collections webpages have been improved, making it easier to find information about, for instance, requesting copies of material or information about a particular collection.

Events and displays

We’ve also planned a full range of Special Collections events for this academic year. Some old favourites will be returning, such as Colour Our Collections and Elf on a Library Shelf, but there will be some new ones, including Heritage Open Days (September), a new Burnett Archive display (mid-September onwards) and an event to showcase the work our volunteers do (16 October). Find out more about events on our website or join our mailing list to stay in touch.

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International Women’s Day

As part of International Women’s Day today we’re celebrating women’s achievements by launching our new subject guide to women’s history resources. This is aimed particularly at undergraduate students, and offers an easy way in to discover the rich resources about women’s history held in our collections. We’ve featured a couple of highlights below, but do have a look at our guide for more inspiration.

World War I ‘Canary Girl’

Lottie Barker was a ‘canary girl’ in a WWI munitions factory, making shells which turned her skin yellow. Part of the Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, her account includes the description of an explosion in the factory, which killed many of her colleagues. We have more information about her account in this blog post, and many other accounts of women’s work during both WWI and WWII are waiting to be discovered in the Burnett Archive.

Women travelling alone

The Travellers’ Aid Society poster is part of our Transport History Collection, dates from about 100 years ago and features advice to women travelling alone to ensure they able to find safe, respectable accommodation when arriving in a new town. You can find out more about the Travellers’ Aid Society in this blog post. This poster was digitised last year as part of a student volunteer project to digitise our railway posters collection.

Other resources

Do contact us to make an appointment if you would like to see any of these items

Railway pictures and posters

Volunteer

Student volunteer working with the collection

Over the last academic year we’ve been working on a project to digitise our collection of railway pictures and posters. One of our student volunteers created metadata for the collection and took images. These were then entered into our catalogue where they can all be discovered and accessed.

This means that, for the first time, this collection is easily accessible. The collection is rather diverse, including images of railway advertising, both relatively recent and much earlier:

records of achievements in the lives of railway staff, such as this first aid certificate awarded to Frederick Payne:

16 - Certificate of First Aid

First aid certificate

and the Travellers’ Aid Society poster warning to women travelling alone which has featured on this blog before.

6 - Travellers' Aid Society poster

Travellers’ Aid Society poster

To find out more about our collections do have a look on our webpages. Please contact Special Collections to arrange to view any of the above items.

Colour Our Collections

ColouringAs we posted last week, this week is Colour Our Collections week! On the ground floor of the library you’ll find print outs of illustrations from Special Collections to colour in, plus some colouring pencils. We’d love to see the finished results – please tag us on Instagram (BrunelSpecColl) and Twitter (@BrunelSpecColl).

The pictures for colouring are also available from here:

Tunnel

Locomotive

Cartoons 1

Cartoons 2

First passenger hovercraft

55 years ago today the world’s first passenger hovercraft entered service. The very first service ran across the Dee Estuary between Rhyl in North East Wales and Moreton Beach, Merseyside.


The first hovercraft was invented and patented by Christopher Cockerell in 1952, although several other inventors before this had experimented with technology along similar lines. The Patent Office was initially unsure whether to class the new invention as an aircraft or a boat, and the hovercraft seemed like a sci-fi dream come true when it first appeared. In 1959 one crossed the English Channel to huge enthusiasm from the public. Sir Christopher was knighted for services to engineering in 1969.

The crossing of the Dee Estuary was revolutionary, as previously the journey, by road, had taken more than two hours. The new hovercraft passenger service was scheduled to make 12 trips per day, taking 30 minutes per trip, at a cost of £2 for a return ticket. The hovercraft involved, a Vickers VA3, weighed 12 tons, and was run by British United Airways.


Unfortunately it soon ran into problems, despite launching in the summer, weather problems meant it only operated for 19 days out of a scheduled 54, and rarely managed the proposed 12 trips a day. Eventually disaster struck and the engines failed halfway through the journey. Passengers were taken off and attempts made to moor the hovercraft, but it broke free and drifted out to sea, eventually smashing into the promenade wall at Rhyl.

If you want to find out more about the invention of hovercraft, design, construction and their impact on passenger transport then our Transport History Collection is the place to look!


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

50 objects 46: register of parcels going through Padstow station

Everyday administrative records can give valuable insights into aspects of life in the past, and often become more interesting with age. This book is a register kept as part of the standard records at Padstow station in Cornwall, from 1921 to 1952.

This station, the terminus at the western end of the North Cornwall Railway, was opened by the London and South Western Railway in 1899. As railway companies changed and merged the station changed ownership, and when it closed in 1967 it was owned by British Railways. The station was served by the Atlantic Coast Express, which ran direct from London Waterloo.

As the port at Padstow sent out a great deal of fish, the station had a separate fish loading platform. This was closed in 1950s as the trade in fish declined. This website gives more details on the freight trains, including the dedicated fish service running to Nine Elms.

The register’s full title is “L. & S. W. Ry – Register of traffic forwarded or received unentered account to follow: [blank] station”, and each page comes with instructions and ready-labelled columns to complete. This was a standard printed LSWR book issued to their stations. “Padstow” has been filled in on some pages of this one.

padstowbig

The register keeps note of parcels or goods being sent by train for which there is some anomaly or for which a payment is due. The information filled in by hand or stamp for each individual transaction varies in detail and legibility, and the precise directions are not always followed, but the entries as a whole give snapshots over a thirty-year period of the range of goods being sent, the stations to and from which they were sent, and the costs involved.

Many of the entries are for fish or other foodstuffs, but there is also an entry for a corpse, sent in December 1940 to Stepps in North Lanarkshire: perhaps a fallen soldier? Kept in the pages for 1940 is a loose memo, written in pencil and dated 20th September 1940, concerning a delayed delivery and noting that “during the current emergency” (that is, during World War Two, owing to the disruption to rail services) the special charges for fish sent to London Waterloo would also apply to fish sent to Paddington.

fishnote1

 

50 Objects 44: Chris Wookey’s railway photographs

Chris Wookey was born in 1957 and was a student at Brunel University from 1975 to 1979, graduating with an honours degree in applied biochemistry. He went on to teach chemistry at a school in Walton-on-Thames until his untimely death in 1989.

Chis entered fully into student life, a writer for the student newsletter Le Nurb under the pen name “Big K”, an active member of the Christian Union, and captain of a five-a-side football team. His other great interest was railways, and his football team was named “Locomotive Brunel”. He was chairman for two years of the Brunel University Railway Society, and was a keen railway photographer.

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King’s Lynn station

 

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Brundall signal box

 

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Brundall Gardens station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1989 Chris Wookey’s railway photographs and notes were given to Brunel University Library by his widow and parents, to form a lasting memorial. The collection comprises photographs of British railway stations and signal boxes, mainly from the 1970s, and research notes with diagrams of railway routes. It provides a unique record of operations and the lineside scenes at this time.

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Diagram from Wookey’s research notes

Chris Wookey was a meticulous and knowledgeable worker, and his photographs are very clearly labelled and referenced. There are hard copy finding aids to this material: for more information please contact us.

Readers wanting to learn more about his activities while at Brunel should consult the University Archives, which may have relevant documents.