The Midland Railway crest

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Midland Railway

Study Centre

is a partnership between
The Midland Railway Society
(incorporating The Roy F Burrows Collection)
Derby Museums

Welcome to the Midland Railway Study Centre
part of the Museum of Making at Derby's Silk Mill

The Silk Mill frontage in the summer. Yellow flowers in the foreground.

Housed within the Derby Silk Mill, itself a World Heritage Site, and a part of the Museum of Making, 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 lasting impact on social history.

The Midland Railway Study Centre is home to the incomparable Roy F Burrows Midland Collection, over 2,500 objects from which are freely accessible within the Assemblage.

The Museum of Making opened to the public in 2021 following the building's multi-million pound renovation and a ground-breaking reimagining of what a museum looks like. You can make a booking to use the Midland Railway Study Centre: read more here.

For a look at the new Study Centre
please visit our updates page

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 very soon.

A Colourful Painting of a Midland Railway Express Passenger Train in a Rural Setting
Detailed drawing showing the interior fixtures and fittings of a Midland Railway third class compartment

Researching Your Local Railway Station

Looking for a new project?

A man sitting at a desk in the Midland Railway Study Centre reading room and looking at a document

We are commonly asked asked how someone might begin to find out more about their local railway station — whether for personal interest or as part of more structured research. This led to the creation of our new Researching Your Local Railway Station page, with some suggestions about what points might be addressed and where to turn for answers. The list is far from exhaustive and some suggestions may not apply to all stations (it doesn't actually have to be your “local” station of course!). If nothing else we hope it inspires and we look forward to helping you.

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The new Study Centre leaflet

We are delighted to announce that our new leaflet is now available.

It has been designed to compliment Derby Museum's house style while retaining its own “look & feel” to reflect the co-production nature of the Midland Railway Study Centre.

The A5 bi-fold document introduces the Study Centre and the history of the Roy F Burrows Midland Collection, as well as providing a brief introduction to the Midland Railway itself. Of course its primary role is to point people toward our resources... such as this web site!

If you'd like a look yourself, it can be downloaded as a PDF by clicking on the image to the right, or you can pick up a copy in the Museum of Making.

New for 2022
The Midland Railway Assemblage Trails

A general view of The Assemblage in The Museum of Making.

Everything in The Assemblage of the Museum of Making has a story to tell. Some objects perhaps have more to say than others and so we have developed these self-guided trails to help you discover more about some of what we consider to be the most interesting Midland Railway objects.

Needless to say, you don't actually have to be at the Museum of Making to enjoy them, but we do think the best way to appreciate what you're looking at is to visit in person, so we have tried to make these trails smartphone friendly.

There are currently two trails; one intended to be a little more light hearted and may be more suited to family groups. The other is pitched more toward those who might be looking for something a little deeper.

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Our Catalogue

The on-line catalogue currently contains over 60,500 entries, with more & more gaining thumbnail illustrations. Meanwhile the number of links to high resolution downloads has passed the 1,275 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.

A diagram showing the line from Settle Junction to Carlisle with the severe gradients associated with this strectch of railway

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.

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

A bit of a spat..

. A 'hand written memo: From Oakenshaw
            To Skipton
            February 19th 1901
            Charlesworth Axle Box.
            As you do not appear to be taking the slightest trouble in the matter I have sent the articles to Methley. If this is not the correct station your original idea of sending the articles here when you do no know where else to send them will be brought under manager's notice.

The Victorian railway is said to have had a bureaucracy second only to the civil service. Frankly, with the myriad of passengers and goods of near-infinite variety moving around the network, all to be accounted for and revenue collected (or compensated when things went wrong), I think the railway's army of clerks would have run rings round their government counterparts. Here's an example of when things didn't go quite right, and indeed got rather terse. Click or tap the image for a larger version.

Collections Revealed: Midland Railway

Making collections accessible from anywhere.

The Study Centre co-ordinator, Dave Harris, holds a brass figure 0 which he talks about in the linked video

Earlier this year the Study Centre Co-ordinator was dragged kicking & screaming in front of a camera to talk about some of his favourite objects from the collection which are available on the Museum of Making's Assemblage.

Thanks to some good editing, most of the fumbled lines and indecisive stuttering have been consigned to the cutting room floor and the end result is something he can just bear to watch. We hope that you will be equally entertained by what the Museum have managed to create and will invest five minutes of your time...

The top half of an old clock face with 'Midland Railway' featured prominently

A quick little addition to the site; extracted from Appendix No. 20 of 1899 - a list of Up and Down lines of the Midland Railway.

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

              Midland Railway.
              Derby, June 1st, 1874.
              General Order No. 284.
              DEAR SIR,
              Complaints are frequently made by Passengers of the
              annoyance to which they are subjected by persons smoking in
              Carriages not set apart for Smokers, and refusing to desist
              when requested to do so.
              This evil is aggravated by Porters and others placing
              ordinary Passengers, and very often ladies, in Smoking
              Compartments, in consequence of which Smokers seeing those
              compartments occupied, get into any others that may be
              empty at the time.
              I have, therefore, to call your attention to General
              Orders Nos. 110 and 222 relating to this subject, and to
              request that you will give such instructions to your Staff as
              will ensure their provisions being carried out.
              In no case must Passengers be placed in Smoking
              Compartments without their being apprised of the purpose
              for which they are set apart, and whenever attention is drawn
              to persons Smoking in Non-Smoking C'ompartments, they
              must be requested to desist, or to remove to the compartment
              set apart for their accommodation, and, if they decline to do
              the one or the other, their name and addresses must be taken,
              and the matter reported to me and to the Superintendent of
              the Line.
              Be good enough to have this order read to the whole
              of your Staff, and, at the same time, intimate to them that
              if any instance should come under notice of indifference
              being shown to complaints of parties Smoking in Non-Smoking
              Compartments, such cases will be severely dealt with.
              Keep this Order, affix it in your Order Book, and acknowledge receipt
              of it on annexed form.
              JAMES ALLPORT,
              General Manager.

Social commentary from 1874!

A drawing dated 30DEC1920 titled Proposed Water Supply for Codnor Park Station

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.
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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...

To try and keep the Home Page reasonably under control, some of the older stories and features have been moved to our Older News page. Here you'll find details of activities and stories from the recent (and not so recent) past, including old updates on the Silk Mill’s transformation into the Museum of Making.

Signature of Samuel Waite Johnson

Site last updated: Saturday, 30 July 2022