The Midland RailwayStudy Centre


Midland Railway

Study Centre

is a partnership between
The Midland Railway Society
which incorporates The Roy F Burrows Collection
Derby Museums

The Study Centre remains unavailable for visits
until we return to the Silk Mill.
We will, however, continue to try and assist
with email enquiries during the move back.

Part of the Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill, itself a World Heritage Site, the Midland Railway Study Centre is the largest publicly accessible collection of primary research material and ephemera relating to the Midland Railway, its constituent companies and its enduring legacy on social history.

Wording from a publicity leaflet: The Midland Line combines the advantages of a through direct route between Liverpool and London ; Liverpool and Bath and Bristol, and West of England; and Liverpool and Scotland, and traverses the most beautiful Rural Districts of England. Many of the most interesting Historic and Romantic Castles, and Stately Homes, Abbeys, Cathedrals, etc., are on this route. The Express Trains are formed of the Best and Most Comfortable Coaching Stock to be found in Europe, and are accompanied by through guards, etc. The Midland Line is worked throughout on the absolute Block System.

This site will help you find details about the Study Centre’s collections and how to access them. With an expanding range of on-line resources, it also provides a pathway for finding information relating to the Midland Railway, its activities and its people.

Please have a look around the site and if you think we can help, do get in touch. We hope to see you at the Study Centre as soon as circumstances permit.

Silk Mill News

Interior view of the new Reading Room under construction

With social distancing measures in place, the builders recommenced work on the Silk Mill from July and are now beginning to catch up. This was the view inside the new Study Centre reading room awaiting the installation of stairs and a dumbwaiter to connect to the storage area below. The desks will be either side of the room to make maximum use of the pitch of the roof. Although the planned re-opening of the Museum of Making for September has obviously been postponed, all is looking good for the event to now take place in the spring.

We are now back at work at our temporary site, catching up on outstanding enquiries and cataloguing work, with the move of the collection back into the Silk Mill due to take place before the end of the year.

You may be interested to know that the gothic script “Midland Railway” used in the titles above is derived from a drawing office stencil held in the MRSC collection. It is Item Number: 77-11873 if you want to have a look at the original.

Official Postcards of the Midland Railway

The Midland Railway Society is delighted to publish as a free download a booklet titled The Official Postcards of the Midland Railway .

Cover of the Midland Railway Society pdf publication 'Offical Postcards of the Mdiland Raiway'

This 40 page, well illustrated, work traces the general history of the postcard and moves on to follow the evolution of Midland official cards from 1896 through to the grouping. It deals in detail with the early map cards, the very attractive sets of cards featuring views in Midland territory, cards promoting the company’s new steamer services from Heysham and those featuring the company’s hotels. A section is dedicated to the tricky subject of overprints on card backs to make them suitable for correspondence from the various departments of the Midland Railway.

To find out more and download a copy, please visit this page.

Work Restarted

Two of our hard working volunteers sitting at a desk -- BEFOFRE LOCKDOWN --  entering catalogue details into a computer with a selection newly acquired 
		Midland Railway documents in the foreground

As lockdown restrictions have eased, and with strict social distancing measures in place (this photo will not be possible now!) our Thursday Gang has returned to work. As we prepare for the move back to the Silk Mill, the immediate focus is on catching up with enquires and the backlog of cataloguing which has built up since March.

Here is one of the obscure but fascinating pieces of paper being catalogued in this batch. Mr. Greatorex is now fit to return to work in 1914. True human interest!

A copy of the Midland Railway Friendly Society 'Declaring off' one Mr. Greatorex as fit to return to work in 1914
An oval cast brass plaque with maroon background which reads 'Midland Ry Co. -  Makers  -  Derby, 1889.'

Our Catalogue

The on-line catalogue currently contains 59,483 entries, with more & more gaining thumbnail illustrations. Meanwhile the number of links to high resolution downloads has passed the 1,200 mark — and continues to grow.

There are also a wide range of downloadable resources
which you can access from this web site at any time

During our sojourn at the Temporary Site to allow the builders to do their work at the Silk Mill, access to our physical collection is unavoidably reduced. We have therefore detailed the many and varied downloadable resources which allow you to research Midland Railway history without the need to actually visit us. These can all be accessed on our...

Resources page

There you will find pointers to the various corners of this site which will help you find your subject of interest.

Extract from the MR Distance Diagram for Derby (click for the 2.1Mb full file)

To see which parts of the country were served by the Midland Railway, please click this thumbnail to view a system map from 1914.

Thumbnail fo the MR System map 1914

Extracted from a series of random notes by the late George Dow (Item No. RFB00998):

During a lengthy discussion among a cosmopolitan gathering in Paris shortly after World War I the question was posed what is most characteristic of the English people? Various suggestions were proffered.... 'Punch', a London policeman, a public schoolboy and finally, a Midland third-class dining car, which was accepted by all!

The Midland Railway was about much more than trains

This drawing was prepared by the Midland Railway's Carriage & Wagon Department just before the First World War to illustrate the myriad types of hand-drawn barrows and trollies they were manufacturing. The uses to which these vehicles were put were many & varied, perfectly illustrating the wide variety of functions which a railway company undertook.

Clicking the above image will download a 4.2Mb scanned Jpeg of the drawing which we hope you will find fascinating. It is one of more than 1,200 items which can now be downloaded from our on-line catalogue. If you haven't looked at it lately, we hope you will find the catalogue worthwhile browsing and that you'll find plenty of interest.

Some things never change. Lest it be thought the Midland Railway was free from criticism, this extract is from “Original manuscript notes by R E Charlewood, being a contemporary review of the Midland Railway timetable of July 1905 with suggestions for possible improvements” (Item No. RFB01026) :

Saturday August 12th.
“Main line very unpunctual as number of up trains 40, 50 or 60 late at Bedford. West trains equally bad at Birmingham. Hopeless confusion prevailed. Many were delayed and there were a lot of returning Volunteer excursion trains from Salisbury Plain and M'head. Regular traffic and excursions were heavy but much of the delay was due to Bad Working.”

A collection of about two dozen rectangular luggage labels with the names of a wide variety of station names. Many are coloured purple, others are cream.

The Midland Railway staff of Ashchurch Junction

Ashchurch Junction from the south

We are absolutely delighted to host the fruits of painstaking research conducted by Brian Harringman, which details the men and women who were employed by the Midland Railway at Ashchurch in Gloucestershire. Using a wide variety of both genealogical sources and railway documents, Brian has built up a comprehensive record, not only of the individuals concerns, but also of scope and nature of the work they were engaged in. Ashchurch was a significant location for the Midland Railway, not only as a junction, but as the site of one of the Company's most important Provender Stores. Even if you don't have a direct interest in the Ashchurch area, Brian's research provides an invaluable insight into working methods typical of rural railway stations in the late 19th and early-to-mid 20th centuries. Like all research, this project can never be declared "finished", but it has clearly long reached the stage that it is deserving of sharing.

Item No. RFB20628 - The lines into London from Hendon southwards... (click for the 5.9Mb full file)

Are you researching a Midland Railway related subject?
Are you looking for an outlet for your work?

The Midland Railway Society's Journal is always on the lookout for new material and would be delighted to publish your work. You don't have to be a Midland Railway Society member (though we'd like it if you became one!)

Of course there is always that feeling that "it's not quite finished" or otherwise not ready for public show. That's a natural worry, and even if it is true, think of the benefits of publishing an excerpt of your work or showcasing a particular aspect of your research. The benefit of exposure to a wide audience of knowledgeable Midland Railway Society members can be very significant in terms of new information or material you receive by way of feedback. That said, it is important not to feel intimidated — MRS members are without fail a friendly bunch!

If you have anything which you would like us to consider for publication in the Journal, please contact the Study Centre Coordinator at the details at the bottom of the page.

A signal box diagram for Selly Oak Station

Older News...

Our News page has details of activities and stories from the recent past, including updates on the Silk Mill’s transformation into the Derby Silk Mill Museum of Making.

Signature of Samuel Waite Johnson

Site last updated: Monday, 19 October 2020