THE BRITISH OVERSEAS RAILWAYS HISTORICAL TRUST
 
A UK Registered Educational Charity

PROJECTS

There are a number of specific projects within our general remit which the Trust supports and wishes to promote.
With the exception of the library proposal, which is mainstream to the Trust's activities, these are projects which we recommend should be (or are already being) undertaken by somebody, but not necessarily by the Trust.

They are:


THE COMBINED RAILWAY SOCIETIES' LIBRARY

This project was inspired by the Combined Engineering Societies' Library in New York and by the problem of adequate space for our library and archive collection. Why not have a combined railway societies library, probably in the southeast, somewhere were access is good? It is being developed by Professor Paddy Farrell within the context of a general review of a future home for BORHT and its activities, as we have outgrown the expensive accomodation which we occupy in Greenwich.

The general idea is that there is a potential saving of scale if a number of societies were to join together to acquire a library building. Collections would be kept separate (unlike New York), but share overheads such as staff and copying equipment. We are aware that there are a number of railway societies in the London area without adequate facilities for their libraries and archive storage. Such an arrangement would benefit researchers as they would have the resources of several collections available at one location. The details remain to be worked out.

Anybody and/or society interested in developing this idea should email Prof Farrell at paddy.farrell@virgin.net


THE PRESERVATION OF A BRITISH BUILT WAGON-LITS CAR

MCW, BRC&W and Leeds Forge were major suppliers of cars to the Compagnie Internationale des Wagon-Lits et des Grands Express Européens. There are four Wagon-Lits cars preserved in Britain, but none of these are British built. At present there are a number of British built Wagon-Lits cars in Europe looking for a good home. Details are to be found in the CIWL Preservation List published by Pullman Car Services - Archive, email pullmancarservices@yahoo.co.uk.

The most important of these to preserve here would be a Leeds Forge Car because they were of a landmark design in the development of steel coach structures.

CIWL cars survive in various states from the following UK built batches.
Car NoMakeCar NoMake
1263-1296Metro3466-3495Metro
2641-2674Leeds4001-4015Birmingham
2852-2881Birmingham4016-4030Metro
3361-3380Metro4066-4080Leeds
3391-3405Metro4091-4110Birmingham
3416-3455Birmingham4111-4130Metro

NOTE that the owners of CIWL are disposing of the remaining rail assets. There was an auction of memorabilia by Christie's on 27 September in Paris viewing on 23, 24 and 25 September 2011. See Christies calendar.


COLD WAR RAILCAR

PRESERVATION OF THE C-IN-C BAOR'S COMMAND TRAIN

A feature of most British Military Campaigns from the Sudan to the Second World War has been the C-in-C's Command Train. Such trains reached their peak with General Haig's 14 coach HQ train for use in France in the First World War. The only such train to have survived is the last of such trains, the twin railcar unit of the C-in-C BAOR, which is in need of a good home.

The BAOR two car unit in its final form was built for the British Army to their requirements by Talbot in 1955 using extensively modified parts from old pre-war German railcars, which had been in service with BAOR since 1953. This unit is powered by a 1937 MAN diesel engine with Voith twin torque converter drive and has been often used by Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. It was withdrawn from service in 1976 and sold to the late Mr De Lille of Maldegem in Belgium in 1978. It is now in poor condition, although not completely beyond restoration to working order. At present (late 2015) the railcar is being prepared for movement to the UK. BOAC Railcar Set in 1981
The unit in De Lille's yard in 1981. Photo © Kevin Hoggett

A leaflet on this unit is available to download here. A 12 page report on its probable history and its present condition is available from the Trust's registered office.


THE STUDY OF BRITISH MILITARY RAILWAYS OVERSEAS

The use by the British of railways to transport and supply the army in the field is a much neglected subject. The earliest proposal for a British military railway was probably that which was contained in Wellington's memorandum of 1819 on the defence of Canada. Actual railways have been used extensively by the British Army overseas from the Crimea, where the railway was decisive in the siege of Sevastapol, until post-war Germany, see list below. However, there are only a few books on a few specific railways and no general history, other than what can be gleaned from the Royal Engineers Corps History, which is more concerned with organisational than technical matters.

With the demise of the Army Transport Museum at Beverley, there is no focus for research in this field. The only specialist group is the World War 2 Railway Study Group, which is small and its members are largely interested in the period from the late 1930ís to the 1950ís. The Royal Engineers Museum and Library at Chatham have some railway material.

Julian Rainbow has offered to coordinate research in this field, which we define as the construction and/or operation of railways for the field army either by the Royal Engineers or contractors under army supervision in overseas theatres of operations. This research will include the contribution of Dominion and Colonial Forces where appropriate.

The following railways are known to have been built and/or operated by the Sappers or contractors working under military control:-

Many Sapper officers who were posted to India, in particular, spent their entire careers in the Public Works Department and worked on railways. Many of these men rose to high rank and became Inspecting Officers of Railways or Agents for the various Indian Railways. Other Sapper officers spent much of their career involved in military railway operations and subsequently rose to high rank. These men are little known and a study of their careers is worthwhile.


AFRICAN ROLLING STOCK RESEARCH

Sue Lawrence is undertaking a massive project to document the details and history of African rolling stock while the necessary information is still available. For each class of wagon or coach she is preparing a set of diagrams showing the main dimensions and a history of build dates, fleet numbers, withdrawal dates, modifications and rebuilds. Mostly the diagrams are coloured and show all of the different liveries carried by members of the class. Rhodesia Railways stock is the first subject of research, but Sue has started on some other railways. She is always interested to hear from anybody who has drawings, diagram books etc., which will assist her research. Sue Lawrence

Sample Sue Lawrence Coach Drg.

A (low resolution) sample of Sue Lawrence's drawings. This is one of a set of four showing later liveries and internal layout of this type of coach

It has been agreed that BORHT will become the custodian of this work and will publish it on CD's. We are about to review progress, to determine whether there is a suitable selection finished to start publishing the CD's.


RAILWAY UNIFORM BUTTONS

Britain used to export many things and these included buttons for uniforms. We have seen buttons made for SAR by Firmin of London from 1916 to 1925 and by Smith and Wright Ltd of Birmingham from 1926 to 1961 (the latter type has a monogram of the letters SARS) (dates as given by dealer and not yet verified) and also for the Burma Railway by Buttons Ltd of Birmingham. Is anybody researching the export of railway buttons?


BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF CIVIL ENGINEERS

This item is included mainly for information. It is an ongoing, long term project of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Members of BORHT are assisting in identifying engineers to include and by writing some of the Biographies. Volume one to 1830 and Volume two 1830 to 1890 have been published and Volume three is in preparation. Volume 3 will include biographies of engineers who were mainly active professionally from 1890 to c. 1920 plus any omissions from and substantive corrections to Volumes 1 and 2.


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