Railwayana


Particular portions of our collection, such as certain book series, postcards and GWR jigsaws, are dealt with in great depth and can be seen by following the appropriate item under the 'MEMORABILIA' menu tab. These pages serve as an introduction to those items in our collection which fall within the broader 'Railwayana' category. By means of an introduction, this particular page illustrates those miscellaneous items which we found difficult to place under any other heading.

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Miscellaneous items


Square carriage door key

Carriage door key

One item which would always be available at a station, or to a guard on the train, would be a carriage door key. We are not sure where our example comes from, but similar items would have been in use with all railway companies right up to the present day. Whilst doors are no longer manually locked, except perhaps on heritage lines, square holes can still be seen on ventilators or access panels and cupboards aboard trains, and this is the thing you need to unlock them. Ticket clippers would sometimes have a square end to one of their handles to serve the same purpose eliminating the need to carry an extra item.





Shunter's pole

This is a piece of equipment which once would have been seen in use everywhere shunting was taking place. Rolling stock used to be coupled together with either three link, Instanter, or screw link couplings, but whichever was the case the end link of a coupling had to be lifted onto, or off, the coupling hook on the next vehicle (or engine). This was dangerous and arduous work as it took place in all weathers, sometimes in poor light and usually with moving rolling stock. Our example of the business end of a shunter's pole, marked as being made by Handypick Ltd. of Sheffield, was kindly donated by a visitor to the station who had kept it in his shed for many years. The long wooden pole had been cut off, but a photograph of one in use was featured on the cover of both the March 1941 and July 1947 editions of the Great Western Railway Magazine. As seen in those photographs, the couplings are very heavy and a definite skill was required to handle them.

A larger image and the magazine covers can be seen by clicking or tapping the thumbnail image.





GWR Police truncheonClick or tap to see a gallery of larger images GWR Police truncheonsClick or tap to see a gallery of larger images
Some other examples
Great Western Railway Magazine, July 1931

Police truncheon

The early operation of the railway was overseen by the Railway Police whose constables were responsible for a particular 'beat'. As well as undertaking what we would think of as normal police duties, they were also responsible for ensuring the safe operation of the railway which included the controlling of rail traffic and operating the signals. They had to ensure there was a suitable time delay between trains entering each section of track and thus, hopefully, avoid a collision. There was however no reliable way in which they could be warned if a train had broken down, was simply running slowly, or of any other threat to safety, and this inevitably lead to some bad accidents. Signal boxes as we would now recognise them only started to appear in the early 1870s when the fixed block method of controlling the flow of rail traffic was adopted and technology became available to allow for the remote control of signals and telegraphic communication was developed. Signalmen became responsible for the operational aspects of the railway, with the railway police becoming responsible for law and order along the railway.

GWR Police truncheonsClick or tap to see a gallery of larger images
Some other examples
Great Western Railway Magazine, July 1931

Most of the early railway police constables carried an elaborately painted wood truncheon and we are fortunate to have a fine example of these rare items in our collection. Probably dating from the 1860s it is decorated with the Royal Crown and the initials GWR for the railway company. Larger images can be viewed by clicking or tapping either thumbnail image.

There were many changes in the way that the railway police were organised over the years with the various constabularies eventually becoming the nucleus of today's British Transport Police. You can read a detailed history of this specialised force on the British Transport Police website.



GWR telegraph wire insulator

GWR telegraph wire insulator

Once a common sightFour telegraph poles at Culham, one with many wires!

Culham station in 1904
From a postcard published by Leach's Printers of Abingdon circa 1904
Author's collection
alongside every railway line were rows of poles carrying overhead wires between signal boxes, stations and other locations. Modern technology means that cabling can now be laid in trackside conduits and the railway's overhead lines have all but disappeared. To maintain electrical insulation, each individual wire would be attached to a porcelain insulator mounted on cross bars at the top of the post and we have three different examples in our collection kindly given to us by a signalling engineer who had found them beside local railway lines during the course of his work. All are similar with one bearing no markings, the rare one shown here marked G.W.R., and one marked BR(W). Apparently these insulators would have been stood upside down to be fired, thus accounting for the unglazed top. We have been told that as well as white insulators there were red ones used for critical circuits and brown ones for power transmission.



Brown overhead electrical supply insulator

Electrical supply insulator

Looking at old photographs, it can be seen that at one time the various station buildings at Culham were connected to an electricity supply by means of overhead wires. Two brown porcelain insulatorsClick or tap to see a photograph of these two insultors with some remnants of cable attached are still mounted in their metal bracket at the Oxford end of the Old Ticket Office, and we feel that they could have been part of the power supply to the Parcels Office which once stood on the platform a few feet away. We came across this brown insulator in some waste ground near the footbridge where an oil store and a platform shelter once stood. This may well be one of the insulators which supported the wiring to one of those buildings and, being fairly small, was missed when the demolition rubbish was cleared years ago. Whilst there is no makers name, there is a logoSouvenir ticket showing a hand clasping a large insulator with sparks flying out of the top. This is surrounded by the words 'Made in England' with the date 1950 across the centre.