Monday, 23 January 2012

Saving a Historical Railway Document for the Public

In the last few days I have been involved in saving a railway document for the  historians. What is shown is a ledger from the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway from 1861, which contains a wealth of information on the railway's early years. The 290 pages detail 'a complete record of all the capital raised by share issues, recording up to nine calls, and it's expenditure, on everything from legal and parliamentary expenses, through to purchase of land, engagement of contractors, purchase of rails, rail chairs etc, erection of stations, signals and signal boxes, and all of the subsequent improvements, enlargements additions, etc.' This, therefore, was an invaluable item for railway historians.

There was one snag, when I found it, it was being sold on ebay. I lose count of the times I get sad when railway documents are sold on ebay and go into private collections, never to be seen again. Indeed, I too am guilty of buying such items.

Simply put, many items should be in archives, accessible to all who want to discover about our railway past. However, this document was different from most. Most documents that are sold on ebay were, at some point, in the possession of indvidiuals when they were printed; for example rule books, waybills, timetables etc., and as such there are many of them. However, this was something that was entirely unique, a confidential document generated by a railway company's management. So I sprung into action, emailing and tweeting at anyone who may have known of a way this this document could be purchased and placed in an archive. I got lucky. Grahame Boyes from the Railway and Canal Historical Society contacted the Cumbrian Railways Association, who successfully bid for the item. It cost them the large sum of £255, however, the seller kindly promised to donate 20 per cent of the fee back to the association. So, very happily, at some point in the future this valuable piece of railway history will be appearing in a Cumbrian Record Office.

The listing can be found here.

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