Objects in Focus

Our object in focus for February 2018 is a North Eastern Railway Staff Magazine 1916.

This bound volume brings together the staff magazines published monthly in 1916. They feature articles on new engineering advances, new rolling stock and travel pieces on railways abroad.

NER 1916 Thumb NER 1916 2 Thumb

During the First World War, the magazines also included information about employees serving in the war. ‘N.E.R Men on Active Service’ featured letters from employees and details of medals won. Men who became Commissioned Officers were mentioned and of course, there was a Roll of Honour for those killed in action.

In 2014, Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum was awarded money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to collate archival material relating to the North Eastern Railway employees who served during the First World War. The project saw twelve volunteers create an online database invaluable to family historians. If you would like to search the database, please follow the link given below:

North East Railways in World War One

The North Eastern Railway Staff Magazines are available to the public through the Ken Hoole Study Centre.

Our object in focus for January 2018 is a British Railways poster ‘All the fun of the fare’.

All The Fun Of The Fare Small

The poster advertises discounts that can be obtained using a family railcard. The poster was on display at Bank Top, Darlington Railway Station.

Our poster collection is currently being catalogued by volunteers and transferred to a new plan chest funded by the Museums Development North East’s small grants fund. The new plan chest will allow better access to the collection for staff and researchers. As part of the project there will also be an exhibition beginning in May that will highlight the best posters in our collection.

Our object in focus for December 2017 is an Official Programme & Sports Catalogue for the 1925 Railway Centenary Celebrations

Railway Centenary Celebrations Programme Front Cover Railway Centenary Celebrations Programme Inside

The catalogue details events taking place in Stockton-On-Tees to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1925.There were historic tableaux showing scenes such as the laying of the first rail and the banquet at Stockton Town Hall at the end of the first railway journey from Brusselton to Stockton. There were also swimming and boating events, costume parades and a variety of sports taking place in the High Street.

The main event of the 1925 celebrations was a centenary procession of old and modern locomotives and rolling stock that represented a century of development. Locomotion No.1 and Derwent were among those locomotives involved. Other events included exhibitions of railway objects, banquets, musical entertainment and a children’s sports day.

The programme is accessible to the public through the Ken Hoole Study Centre.

Our Object in Focus for November 2017 is a block instrument from Geneva signal box

Geneva Signal Box

Accidents on the railways in the 19th Century led to increasing regulation and state intervention.

Following the Armagh Collision 12 June 1889, more regulations came into force. The Armagh collision in Ulster, Ireland occurred when an excursion train attempted to climb a steep incline. It failed and the decision was made to divide the train in two. The front half was taken up the incline but the rear portion was not secured sufficiently and it ran back down the line colliding with another train. 80 people were killed and 260 were injured. Around one third were children.

The Regulation Act brought in soon after required railway companies to provide continuous brakes on all trains and adopt a Block System of signalling.

These instruments were used by signalmen to communicate if sections of railway line were clear and safe for trains to travel through, or if they had to wait for the line to become clear. Telegraph lines would change the indicators on block instruments further up the line.

This block instrument was used at Geneva signal box in Darlington.

London & North Eastern Railway Ice Cream Dish

Our object in focus for October 2017 is a London & North Eastern Railway ice cream dish.


Before restaurant cars, the only form of refreshment available was in station refreshment rooms. In the early years of the railways these had terrible reputations because of famous authors such as Charles Dickens and the railway sandwich was widely ridiculed by passengers. The first full Pullman service ran in June 1874 between St. Pancras and Bradford and railway companies soon added restaurant cars to their services.

Collections staff are currently researching a new exhibition which will explore railway catering, to be displayed in March 2017. Watch this space for more information!

Stockton and Darlington Railway Ticket

Our object in focus for September 2017 is a railway ticket from the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company.


The ticket is an early example dating to 1861. It shows that Mr Wilson travelled from Shildon to Redcar on ‘company business’ on 10 August 1861.

Before Thomas Edmondson introduced a standardised ticket including a pre-printed serial number, details on early railway tickets were handwritten.  A pre-printed serial number saved time for the booking office staff and prevented forgeries. It was up to each railway company to adopt the Edmondson ticket but after the Railway Clearing House was established in 1842 it became an unofficial requirement of membership.

The ticket is available to view via the Ken Hoole Study Centre

Sir Vincent Raven’s Travel Valet Bag

Our object in focus for July 2017 is a recent donation to the museum’s collection.

Valet Bag

Sir Vincent Raven became Chief Mechanical Engineer of the North Eastern Railway (N.E.R.) in 1910 after beginning his career as an apprentice engineer in 1876 in Gateshead. His locomotive designs combined the latest innovations and N.E.R. traditions.

Designed by Drew & Sons of Piccadilly Circus, the valet bag was presented to Sir Vincent Raven on his appointment as Chief Mechanical Engineer. The leather valet bag contains sixteen monogrammed bottles, brushes, tweezers, corkscrew and even a carriage key.

The valet bag has been donated in memory of the donor’s father Derek Vincent Mountain O.B.E. (1925-2017). It will soon be on display at Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum.

Yorkshire Coast Poster

The nationalisation of the Railways in 1948 saw the end of the ‘Big Four’ railway companies and a unification of working. The separate companies had very different styles and tastes in terms of railway advertising. This remained unchanged after nationalisation as each region targeted a specific audience and promoted tourist attractions in their locality. New styles were introduced including adding humour and cartoons but posters such as the Yorkshire Coast show some styles remained unchanged. Traditional landscapes remained an important part of railway advertising and invoked a sense of tradition and history.

Yorkcoast 499X395

The poster is currently on display in the museum café. The café is open every Wednesday 12pm - 2pm and on event days. 

Register of Enginemen and Firemen Darlington

Head of Steam – Darlington Railway Museum has thirty five registers of enginemen and fireman in the Ken Hoole Study Centre. An invaluable source of information for family historians, they detail the working life of the men who worked on the footplate for the North Eastern Railway Company.

Basic biographical information is given such as date of birth, place of work and the date they commenced employment with the company. Information not easily found elsewhere is also noted. This includes results of eyesight tests and what they were paid.

The most interesting information however comes under the heading ‘Particulars of Fines and Reprimands : Of Rewards and Particulars’. It is in this section that we discover more about the day to day experience of a railwayman. For example Thomas Graham was born in September 1854 and began working for the company in April 1867 as a greaser. He became a fireman in 1874 and a driver in 1889. In the reprimands and rewards section we discover that he was cautioned in May 1907 for ‘slow running between Bowesfield Junction and Stillington Junction’.  Ten years later in March 1917 he was given a cash bonus after discovering a wagon was on fire and ‘taking steps to have it extinguished’.

Register Of Enginemen And Firemen Darlington

The registers are accessible to the public through the Ken Hoole Study Centre.

Willow the Elephant

Crested china or souvenir ware grew in popularity at the beginning of the 20th century as the railway network expanded and the working classes could travel more freely and had an increasing disposable income. The china was bought as souvenirs and taken home as a memento of a holiday or day trip. Local landmarks and buildings were popular as were ancient objects and figures of local heroes. During the First World War, military themes became popular with battleships, aircraft and tanks being produced. The craze of crested china ended with the Great Depression in the 1930s.

This elephant was produced by Willow China between 1907 and 1925. Willow China began as Willow Art in 1905. Souvenir ware was one of Willow Art’s leading lines and its popularity helped to establish the company. Souvenir ware was being heavily produced by 1914 and the war was kind to the company as they could manufacture cheap souvenirs usually supplied by the German china industry. Their speciality was brightly coloured buildings and in 1925 the firm was taken over by Harold Taylor Robinson and renamed Willow Potteries ltd. The Willow mark was not used after 1930.

The museum has the largest collection of Darlington crested china in the country. It includes all of the major producers such as Goss, Arcadian, Carlton and Gemma China. 

Willow The Elephant 500X308

 North Eastern Railway Clothing Regulations 1905

The North Eastern Railway Company formed in 1854 and employed thousands of staff from Berwick to Hull. The Clothing Regulations of 1905 set out uniform supplied to all grades in the Company and the specifications of the uniform including material and colour.  All uniform was supplied at the Company’s expense unless clothing was lost through ‘carelessness’. Employees had to keep the uniform in the same condition it was given in and clean on all occasions, ‘metal buttons and embroidery are to be kept bright’.

Hats Small Policeman Small Station Master Small

Most grades such as Station Masters, Porter Guards and ticket Collectors were given a suit, cap and overcoat. Others such as Shunters and Dock Porters were also given waterproofs and leggings.

There are some exceptions to the rules such as W. Robson who worked at Bridlington. Being a lavatory attendant he was entitled to a new suit and cap every year and a new overcoat every three years but instead he was supplied with a passenger guard’s uniform. This meant he was also entitled to an extra pair of trousers every year and a new waterproof every year. 

The NER Clothing Regulations is part of the Ken Hoole Collection. You can access the collection via the Ken Hoole Study Centre. For more information please visit the Ken Hoole Study Centre page.