Railroad History for Ukraine

30 March 2022 16:00 - 22:00

Railway History for Ukraine

On 30 March 2022 from 4 pm to 10 pm, railway historians will livesteam #railwayhistoryforUkraine. 

There’s no charge to watch, and throughout the live stream, we’ll be inviting you to donate to our JustGiving page, with all funds being passed to the British Red Cross Society’s DEC Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal.

Schedule of Talks

16:00 BST
Chris Phillips

Supplying the frontline: Lessons from the Battle of the Somme, 1916

This presentation will focus upon one of the core components of successful battlefield operations, and one that has been thrown into sharp relief by reports emerging from the ongoing war in Ukraine: military logistics. The presentation will illustrate the importance of supply and transportation for the modern army by looking at events in the summer of 1916, when the British Expeditionary Force grappled with the challenges of sustaining its largest military operation in history.


16:30 BST
Aparajita Mukhopadhyay

Railways and Progress: Then and Now

This presentation will focus on railways and the enduring promise of progress (the economic variant with social implications). Focusing on how the idea of progress has underpinned railway development in British India in the 19th century and in contemporary Britain , the paper will explore the gaps between rhetoric of progress and growth and realities of access to railways. 

17:00 BST
Tim Dunn

How Ladybird books explained Britain’s modern transport

A gloriously non-academic roam through some of the most loved and most influential children’s books of the mid-late 20th Century. How did these little books tackle complex subjects like railways, cars and aeroplanes? At a time of great technological change, how was modernity portrayed? There’s more to the tomes than might first meet the eye: Tim Dunn hopes you’ll seek out your old copies and read them again.


17:30 BST
Sophie Vohra & Oli Betts

Railways, Wars, Borders and Hope: Hidden Gems in the National Railway Museum

In this talk, Sophie and Oli take us through some of the National Railway Museum’s unexpected delights – some of which are hidden in plain sight, but others need a little more digging to discover. We’ll see the eclectic range of material and items that has come to form part of this significant national – and international – collection.


18:00 BST
Jacqui Kirk

A spotlight on UK Railway Company Staff Magazines

Often overlooked by those searching for ancestors who worked for the railway companies, staff magazines record the milestones of employees’ lives such as retirement or war enlistment.  However they offer much more than that both to the dedicated researcher and the casual browser –  they give an insight into the things thought to be of interest to the company’s employees.  From Women’s Pages to War Photographs they contain a fascinating mixture of sporting and social activities, fund-raising and philanthropy, railway news and innovation in all spheres.  They are a fascinating snapshot of the world of the railway employee. Using online examples from issues of the recently digitised London & North Western Gazette Jacqui on behalf of the London & North Western Railway Society will introduce you to the world of the railway company staff magazine.


18:30 BST
Gordon Dudman

The Victorian Stationmaster: gentleman crook

The lives of others are frequently more interesting than we might expect – and Victorian railway staff are no exception! Using railway staff records and census records to plot railway careers, Gordon will focus on a few case studies that ended in ignominy. That includes Charles Bond, who became Station Clerk at Eastbourne aged 28 but was dismissed (aged 37) for cash irregularities (involving several thousand pounds) in December 1870. From there he went on to run a coal and wine merchants business from a house about half-a-mile from Eastbourne station!



19:00 BST
Mike Esbester

Safety First! Everyday accidents on Britain’s railways

In this talk, Mike will think about some of dangers to which railway staff were exposed – and what happened when things went wrong. He’ll draw from the volunteer work being done on the ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project to bring out some examples, as well as looking at some of the frankly surprising things tried to prevent accidents and improve safety in the 20th century.



19:30 BST
Simone Gigliotti

Relief on the Rails: Tracking the mobilisation of Europe’s railway network to evacuate Ukraine’s victims of war

The story of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is being written on the rails – at overground and underground stations, platforms, and on trains. This talk takes us into those confronting and all too ubiquitous spaces of motion and silent waiting. It scopes the mobilisation of Europe’s railway network to provide relief trains and free passage for Ukraine’s refugees and analyses the resultingly traumatic “station stories” of refugees in Kyiv, Lviv, Przemyśl, and Berlin. Historical parallels to other instances of mass displacement by rail are recalled and analysed in relation to the building of humanitarian rail, if not ideological, bridges from Germany to Poland and Ukraine.


20:00 BST
David Turner

Differing perspectives on best-kept station competitions, 1880-1939 – corporation, staff and passengers

This paper will look at the best-kept stations competitions British railways ran between the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century, illuminating how they had different meanings and purposes for different stakeholders. It describes why the railway companies ran them, staff members’ different levels of engagement with them, and the impact they had on the general public. Generally not given great attention by railway historians, the competitions provide an insight into the varied ways in which the railway industry was understood in the period. 


20:30 BST
Rob Dale

“Arbiters of Memory”: Trains, Photographs, and the Propaganda Cult of the Great Patriotic War 

In this presentation Rob Dale explores the photographs taken in the summer of 1945 of the demobilisation of the Red Army, and the centrality of trains, locomotives, and railway stations in these images.  It looks at how these images were constructed, and how this propaganda shaped the memory of demobilisation at the time, but how these visual languages have been used and abused in contemporary Russia.

21:00 BST
Francesca Elliot

A Model or a “Real Thing”? The case for Stephenson’s Rocket as a remnant model

Stephenson’s famous Rocket locomotive is now in the Science Museum Group collection, where it has been repeatedly displayed as an authentic original, with a focus on its early triumph in the 1829 Rainhill Trials.  This focus obscures the fact that many parts of Rocket today are in fact replicas, based on sometimes-tenuous ideas of how Rocket originally looked. Rocket can therefore be considered a remnant model – a model made using some original parts of the subject it is modelling. Thinking of Rocket as a model helps us to consider all stages of its life, not just its iconic early years.


21:00 BST
Erin Beeston

Heroes, animals, and engines: eclectic displays of railway history in interwar Britain

In the 1920s and 1930s, railway history was ambitiously displayed through exhibitions and pageantry. Britain was the location of some of the earliest steam-powered public railways, most notably the 1825 Stockton and Darlington Railway and the 1830 Liverpool and Manchester Railway. By the twentieth century, railway celebrations – including the centenaries of these lines – were held on an unprecedented scale, capturing urban audiences with the pomp of world fairs. We will encounter troublesome elephants, miscellaneous dinosaurs, imperial attitudes and heroes of technology on this whistle-stop tour of railway history on display in interwar Britain.