The Midland Railway crest

Arrow up

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

An antique print view of the River Derwent in Derby with the Silk Mill in the distance, viewed from the Exeter Bridge.

Regular visitors to the site will know that I like to regularly “refresh” the images that illustrate the Silk Mill as home to
the Midland Railway Study Centre.
For a change, I thought I would use an extract from a Midland Railway publicity brochure for the purpose...

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.

Have a “virtual” look around for yourself
and everything you need to know about how to visit and use the Midland Railway Study Centre
Can Be Found Here.

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 bright red Midland Railway signal box name board reading Chaddesden South Junction

We are extremely grateful to the Chaddesden History Group, and Peter Cholerton in particular, for sharing a couple of their research papers relating to an often-overlooked corner of Derby's railway history — Chaddesden Sidings. So much so, we have created a page dedicated to the subject. As well as Peter's papers there are links to some of our own resources including the Midland Railway's detailed land plans of the sidings and surrounding area.

Chaddesden South Junction signal box

This view of Chaddesden South Junction signal box was captured by the late Pat Larkam as part of his extensive research into Midland Railway signalling in support of Derby Museums' famous 7mm model railway — the running of which can be enjoyed as part of the Museum of Making at 11:00 and 14:00 each day.
This Midland Railway “Type 4b” signal box replaced an earlier structure from 24th March 1907 and measured 32'x11"6'x12'. It survived the introduction of Power Signalling in the Derby area from 4th May 1969, but not the eventual closure of Chaddesden Sidings as a marshalling yard and was abolished on 17th July 1977.
Standing on this spot today would be looking straight into the Boots store on the Wyvern Retail Park.


A collection of papers, boxes and ephemera laid out on the Cataloguer's desk in the Midland Railway Study Centre

We are delighted to have acquired a substantial collection of photographs, papers and other ephemera relating to the life, work and times of Sir Henry Fowler, the Midland Railway's last Locomotive Superintendent (then styled “Chief Mechanical Engineer”). Now all sorted and fully catalogued, it is available for reference and here we present some of the highlights of the collection for you to enjoy...

A break-section banner which reads MIDLAND RAILWAY. G. F. 266. - One Bundle of Sacks containing...

“Fills one with amazement...”

Many thousands of articles of the most varied description find their way to the Midland Railway Company's depot at the City Road Wharf, Derby, either as lost, unclaimed, damaged, or salvage property and a glance through the catalogue of the three days sale by the Derby auctioneers, Messrs. J. and W. Heathcote, at their mart, fills one with amazement, for the stock would do credit to any "Universal Provider". The disposal of the goods commenced on Tuesday, and the following list will give an idea of the variety of articles which are to be obtained: Calico, curtains, towels, cutlery, dustbins, stall, timber, nails, screws, rivets, bolts, sauce, Quaker Oats, ironmongery, hardware, waste, flocks, trunks, dress baskets, bags, furniture, linoleum, oilcloth, carpets, rugs, crockery, ornaments, an electric dynamo, yarn, woollen cloths, baths, galvanised, cisterns, tanks, bicycles and accessories, and numerous other items. At Thursday's sale there were offered for auction no fewer than ninety lots of umbrellas in dozens and two dozens, twenty lots of twelve walking sticks each, and seventeen lots of two dozen walking sticks. There were also sixteen lots of six gents' overcoats and any number of mackintoshes, capes &c. An interesting lot was a mahogany four-post bedstead upon which the late Queen Victoria slept at the Midland Hotel, Derby, on the occasion of her visit, on 28th September, 1849. It may be added that Queen Victoria's bedstead caused some spirited bidding, and was eventually knocked down to a buyer who tendered as his name and address, “J- B-, Model Lodging House”.

— The Railway News. May 7th, 1910.

Midland Raiilway header break

Our Catalogue

The on-line catalogue currently contains over 62,500 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.

We have a wide range of 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 break-section banner formed of a crop from the top of MIDLAND RAILWAY DISTANCE DIAGRAM, Book N° 44, Sheet 33, WiGSTON DISTRICT, Seventh Edition - used here as a banner to break up the sections
The Midland Railway War Memorial on Midland Road, Derby. Bearing the names of 2,833 men who made the ultimate sacrifice for King & Country.


“The total number of employees of the Midland Railway Company who went out to take their part in the great fight against aggression was twenty-two thousand nine hundred and forty-one. Of this number, two thousand eight hundred and thirty-three made the supreme sacrifice, and those of us who are living under the freedom purchased at the cost of these lives cannot allow the memory of their devotion to die.”

— Frank Tatlow, General Manager of the Midland Railway
in his letter to the families of those listed on the Company War Memorial.
November 1921.

A break-section banner formed of a colourful painting of a Midland Railway Express Passenger Train in a Rural Setting

Wellingborough Accident of 1898

The plan of the site of a railway accident at Wellingborough which happened on 2nd October 1898

For no other reason that we had occasion to scan this document recently and thought it deserved sharing, here is the detailed plan that accompanied the report by Board of Trade inspector, Lt. Col. Yorke, into the terrible accident at Wellingborough on 2nd October 1898. The original is in our collection, but we're happy to plug the fantastic The Railways Archive web site as a source of the report if you wish to read it.

Very briefly, a heavy barrow somehow ran off the platform into the path of an oncoming Down Express. Despite a heroic attempt to move it off the line, the engine of the Express was derailed on contact with the barrow, resulting in the loss of seven lives including both men on the footplate of the Express. The tragedy led to a change in the way station platforms are configured which remains the case today.

Ref: RFB01380

Detailed drawing showing the interior fixtures and fittings of a Midland Railway third class compartment
An edited copy of a Midland Railway cast iron sign, altered to read Midland Railway Notice and used as a eye-catcher

Do you come here often?

If you do, you are obviously interested in some aspect of the Midland Railway and are getting some benefit from what we have to offer here — or so we sincerely hope! None of this would be possible without the Midland Railway Society and the Midland Railway Society cannot survive without members ...who are people just like you. As well as supporting the Midland Railway Study Centre (and gaining access to some really useful exclusive resources for MRS Members), membership connects you with a wide ranging community of knowledgable, friendly and helpful like-minded souls. All for the incredibly reasonable annual subscription of £20. This also includes; the Journal (three per year), Newsletter (quarterly) and now our newly introduced twice-yearly publication Modelling The Midland. Then there are the informative and convivial meetings, visits to places of historical Midland Railway interest and access to our well stocked bookstall.

With all that, what are you waiting for?
Click the copy of our leaflet below
to download a membership form and send it back to us. Easy.

Midland Railway Society membership leaflet: The Midland Railway was an amalgamation of the North Midland, Midland Counties, and Birmingham & Derby Junction Railways incorporated on 10th May 1844. It became one of the most influential of the pre-grouping railways with access to many parts of Britain, not just on its own tracks but also through joint lines and working arrangements, and had a presence in places as far apart as Stranraer, Bournemouth, Yarmouth, and Swansea. It also had important interests in the north of Ireland, with links via its own port and steamer services as well as other joint concerns, and even had a 30% stake in the Forth Bridge. In 1921 was second only to the Great, Western Railway in terms of its route mileage. Among its many impressive works were: the acclaimed station at St. Pancras and the adjacent Midland Grand Hotel; the picturesque lines which ran between Settle and Carlisle as well as through the Peak District; the extensive sidings for freight traffic at Toton and Brent; and its many viaducts and tunnels including the second longest tunnel in Britain at Totley. The locomotives of the Midland were second to none with such masters of engineering as Matthew Kirtley and the inspired Samuel Waite Johnson adding flair and elegance to their designs, whilst its rolling stock was the envy of all. The Midland led the way in improving standards of travel when, in 1875, it abolished Second Class facilities, reduced the level of First Class fares, and provided upholstered seats for Third Class passengers - a move which other companies were eventually forced to follow. At about the same time it also introduced the prestigious Pullman Car to the railways of Britain. As the company's literature tells us, the Midland was indeed 'The Best Way'.
A break-section banner formed by the decorative heading of a Midland Railway Share Certificate

Midland Railway System Map

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 break-section banner which reads MIDLAND RAILWAY. Engineers Department Skipton April 25th 1906

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 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.

A very long diagram detailing the track layout from Hendon to St. Pancras

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.

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)

Midland Railway Distance Diagrams

A large ledger with a map sheet showing part of the Midland Railway network on the right, with inset on the left, a gilt inscribed cover reading MIDLAND RAILWAY. DIAGRAMS. COPY NO 92

Inspired in part by our acquisition of the John McInnes Millar portfolio, we have added a resource on the site detailing the history and availability of the Midland Railway Distance Diagrams. If you are a Midland Railway Society member, make sure you are logged-on through the Member's Area to be able to view additional content.

Fence header break

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.

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

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

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

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.

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 signal box diagram for Selly Oak Station

Older News...

To try and keep the Home Page reasonably under control, the older stories and features get 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

This web site is dedicated to the Memory of Roy Burrows, David Geldard and all others associated with the Midland Railway Society and the Midland Railway Study Centre whom we have lost.

Site last updated: Monday, 15 July 2024