The Midland RailwayStudy Centre

The Midland Railway Study Centre is operated as a partnership between The Midland Railway Society (which incorporates The Roy F Burrows Collection) and Derby Museums.

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.

RFB31673 - Booklet titled Midland Railway of England and subtitled The Picturesque Route in the Old Country. 40pp paper cover depicting an elegantly dressed couple with a suitcase suggesting they are experienced travellers. Copiously illustrated guide to the attractions served by the Midland as well as a wide range of information aimed at the trans-Atlantic traveller. Seems to have been published by Frank Presbrey Co., 16 John Street, New York, U.S.A.

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.

(...for a little bit longer)

While the building work continues at the Silk Mill the Midland Railway Study Centre is currently operating from a Temporary Site in Derby.

A space in the eaves of the Silk Mill with the ceiling angled to a central steel beam. Bare wood and unfinished. The brick wall of the west elevation of the Silk Mill is seen at the end.

Glimpsed through the newly created doorway, we are looking into the space which will soon be the reading room of the new Study Centre. This photograph was taken by Steve Huson on a recent “hard hat tour”. The stairs down to the store room will be sited at the far end and a dumbwaiter is to be provided to transport boxes to the upper level. Each side of the space will be lined with workspaces making best use of the height of the central circulation space.

The long process of moving back into the Silk Mill has already started. Because of this it is unlikely we will be able to accommodate any visitors to the Temporary Site for very much longer. We will be severely limited in how we can operate as the collection is moved back. There is currently no news on when we will be able to accept visitors into the new site but it is likely to be deep into 2020. If you have research which you need the resources of the Midland Railway Study Centre, there may be quite a long wait, unfortunately.

Last minute appointments to visit us for research purposes are available on Tuesdays or Wednesdays up to Christmas. There will be increasing limitations on what we are able to produce as elements of our collection are packed and/or stored off site. Therefore it is essential that potential visitors check our on-line catalogue and pre-order documents where indicated. For those unable to visit us in person, we are happy to try and assist via email. See more about this in our How We Can Help page.

The temporary Midland Railway Study Centre reading room

We also remain deeply involved in planning for the opening of the Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill in September 2020, and our project update page will be regularly updated.

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.

Extract from the MR Distance Diagram for Derby

The Midland Railway was about much more than trains

A diagram showing a myriad of different types of barrows and trollies

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.

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!

Our Catalogue

The on-line catalogue currently contains 57,364 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.

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.”

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
A signal box diagram for Selly Oak Station

Silk Mill News

The Silk Mill surrounded by the construction compound

We were privileged to be able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Silk Mill refurbishment work in mid-January. As you will see here, the principal contractors for the building work, Speller Metcalfe have got to the point where the building has been completely stripped back to its raw structure, ready for the refit to begin in earnest. The project is on track for the Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill to open its brand new Civic Hall and wonderful new space in Summer 2020.

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.

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

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: 17:46 Friday, 6 December 2019.