MR Crest

The Midland Railway Study Centre will be closing temporarily from SEPTEMBER

As detailed below, major building work will be taking place at the Silk Mill during 2018 & 2019 necessitating our decant to a temporary site. We anticipate being having a skeleton service back up and running by March 2018, and will be moving back into the Silk Mill in late 2019.

The Midland Railway Study Centre
is a collaboration formed by


Housed within Derby’s 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.

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 soon.

The Silk Mill at Derby, viewed from Cathedral Green

The Silk Mill, home to the Midland Railway Study Centre.
The place has returned to normal after successfully hosting the "Weeping Window" installation during July.

Midland Railway Timetable Finding Aid

As a project resulting from our Partners in Excellence collaboration with the National Railway Museum we are delighted to announce the availability of a Finding Aid for Midland Railway Timetables. This document details all known examples of Public and Working Timetables held by ourselves, the NRM and the National Archives at Kew. Thanks to the work of David Geldard in particular, we hope this will be a really useful guide for researchers.


Second batch of Carriage & Wagon drawings for modellers

Building on the collection of plans we released in April (as announced below), we have now posted a further 16 high resolution scans of popular Carriage & Wagon drawings for modellers (or anyone else who is interested!) to download.


The Countdown has begun...

In 2018 major building works, taking approximately 18 months, will begin at Derby's Silk Mill. This will be a complete refurbishment of the fabric of the World Heritage Site, repairing many years of enforced neglect, removing asbestos, installing new floors & environmental controls and generally making the building fit to house a 21st century museum. Before this work begins the building has to be emptied. Completely. Everything from the model railway, the huge Buckton crane, the RB211 jet engine and the entirety of Derby Museum's extensive collections. And us. All will be temporarily rehoused.

While we are in our temporary home we will have access to all our documents and so will be able to offer a service of some form. The exact details of this are still being worked out. However, during the period of “the Decant” from the Silk Mill, everything will be in packing cases and completely inaccessible.

The implication of this is such that from late September 2017, for up to six months, the Midland Railway Study Centre will be completely closed — both to visitors and, for all practical purposes, to on-line enquiries. In the latter case we will continue to do what we can, utilising resources which are already digitised, but this will be only a small amount of what is normally available to us.

If you are considering any Midland Railway related research in the coming months or into 2018, now is the time to do it!

To facilitate this we are making study appointments available every Wednesday up to the point we have to close. The exact closure date is still uncertain, but is likely to be late September. As usual we have to insist on prior appointments for visiting to ensure we have volunteers available to help you — please don't just turn up. Contact details are at the bottom of each page on this site.

The logistics of the Decant will undoubtedly be very labour intensive. If you fancy helping out, either in the short term for us in the Midland Railway Study Centre or, even better, throughout the process of emptying the whole of the building, please get in touch. You will be made very, very welcome!

The MR Estate Agent Plan Collection

We are delighted to announce the realisation of a long-held desire to make the catalogue for the Estate Agent plan collection available. The finding-aid for this very important collection of mainly rolled plans is a notable omission from our on-line catalogue due to it being paper based. Using the sequence of the Midland Railway Chronology by John Gough and his team for its structure, each sheet describes the nature and scope of a particular plan. Despite its necessarily low-tech nature, it is a system which works well, though its major shortcoming is that — until now — it has required being present in the Study Centre to use it. Now, however, the index sheets have been scanned as a series of PDFs with each file representing a section of main line or branch.


Carriage & Wagon drawings for modellers

Our Carriage & Wagon collection comprises many hundreds of drawings created by the Midland Railway's draughtsmen at the Company's Litchurch Lane works here in Derby. These drawings are invariably works of art in their own right and are not only of complete vehicles but many components too. When BREL took over the Works in the 1970s they inherited what appeared to be a drawing of every type of vehicle produced at the Works since it opened in 1875. Luckily for us, they had the foresight to contact Derby Museum when they wanted to create some space, rather than have a bonfire!

Since then this collection has been carefully sorted and catalogued. However, modellers and others who wanted to utilise this invaluable resource have been poorly served in that getting a quality copy of one of these drawings has always been a technological challenge.

Many hundreds of rolled plans in racking.

One of the many benefits being realised from the Midland Railway Society's investment in a wide format scanner last year is the ability to make elements of our collections much more widely available. Given that providing resources for model makers has always been an important part of our activities, we are delighted to make a new area of this web site available especially for modellers.

We have scanned a series of what we consider to be some of the more popular drawings from our Carriage & Wagon collection available for download. Whilst this is primarily aimed at modellers, we are sure many other will find the drawings interesting. The only restriction on downloading them is no commercial reproduction and kindly attribute the source to the Midland Railway Study Centre.


An oval cast brass plaque with maroon background which reads 'Midland Ry Co. -  Makers  -  Derby, 1889.'

Operating the Midland Railway

A new Reference Paper (Item No. 30140), written by Garth Ponsonby, has been added to the Study Centre's collection and a copy can be downloaded as a 2.9Mb PDF.

Having its origin in his Presidential Address delivered to the Midland Railway Society’s AGM in 2010, this 34 page illustrated text details how the Midland Railway planned and organised its train service. The text covers how instructions were issued and controlled, and how those aspects changed over the life of the company. It contains an in-depth exploration of how working timetables were arranged and, indeed, created before moving on to discussing Appendices to the working timetable and the scope and administration of the various Notices to staff. The paper concludes with a brief look at the purpose and implementation of the Control Offices.

Older News...

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

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.

Understanding Staff Records

Glynn Waite has very kindly shared a paper he has written which guides researchers around the many & varied potential pitfalls which exist within the National Archives’ “RAIL491” series of Midland Railway staff records. Drawing on his vast experience, Glynn provides illustrated examples which explain the often mysterious shorthand that the Company’s clerks used, and lead the reader through the records. With particular emphasis on the Coaching Department, he gives a comprehensive overview of the scope of the records, and just as importantly, highlights the gaps which exist. This is sure to be an extremely useful resource for family historians searching for details of their ancestor’s career on the Midland Railway.

Two men study a large plan in the Midland Railway Study Centre A collection of railway artefacts including a signal box lever frame, a bench labelled 'Tamworth High Level', signal box name boards on the walls

Site last updated: 16:54 Wednesday, 16 August 2017