Station Buffet | Bridlington


Wartimes on the Railway




Running the Railways
Operating Controls
Central Wagon Control
Special Wagons
Improvement Schemes
"Train 300"
Wartime Traffics
Government Control
Financial Agreement
Ten Years of Progress
Travel Restrictions
London Transport
Staggering of Working Hours
Motive Power
Hotels, Docks and Steamships
Air Raid Precautions
Civil Defence
Ambulance Trains
Air Raid Damage and Rapid Repairs
Railwaymen and Railwaywomen
Salvage and Economy
Awards for Gallantry
Facts and Statistics in Brief


THE BRITISH RAILWAYS have served the nation though peace and war for over a century. They are always on active service. Whilst other forms of transport have come into being and have either become complementary to or co-operative with the railway services, the war has proved the railways to be of supreme strategic importance to the British and Allied Nations' cause.

The extensive improvement schemes they carried out between the wars meant that in September, 1939, they were fully prepared for the great effort which the war has required from them. In peace and war, in defence and in attack, in defeat and in victory, the achievements of the railways have reflected the courage and vision of the men who run them. Railways, and the services they operate, have grown so familiar that they are more often than not taken for granted. Perhaps this is a compliment rather than a slight. How often, in the darkest days and noisiest hours of the blitz, has the familiar clatter of shunted trucks in a nearby goods yard, or the same old chuff-chuff of the local train passing, brought the sound of reality, of normality, to anxious minds. The trains and tracks, bridges and stations, hotels and docks, workshops and steamships of the British railways are an integral part of Britain. The British railways are justly proud of their war record. They have tackled, and are tackling, the biggest job in transport history. However great the pressure - and at times it has been exceedingly great - they have never let the nation down. After three-and-a-half years of war as more facts may be revealed, so the strength and magnitude of their united war effort becomes more and more apparent.

With their devotion to duty, their doggedness and determination in the face of great difficulties, the men and women of the British railways have worthily upheld the tradition of a great service.



Even before the war the railways were working 24 hours out of the 24. In the July and August weeks of 1939 millions of holiday makers were taken by train to the seaside. Before the outbreak of war the great resources of the railways were used for the requirements of a nation going into war. Their first task, the transport of children to places of safety, was carried through with clockwork precision. From then on, under difficulties unparalleled in history, they have continued to meet all demands made upon them. To-day, railways are still working round the clock, and every 24 hours sees them coping with Britain's war traffics on an ever-increasing scale.



Operating controls, developed with great success by the railways to co-ordinate and regulate peacetime traffics, are proving equally successful in moving armies and the munitions of war. Since the war started, operating controls have been extended to meet new needs, so that passengers and goods which are most essential to the war effort have the most rapid transit possible. The system entails the centralisation in control offices of the supervision of traffic working over the many sections of line. Control systems result in the greatest economy in use of locomotives, more punctual running and speedier working of trains, the better loading of trains, and a reduction in light running and empty haulage. Line capacity has been expanded and the duties of trainmen re-arranged, while the use of internal telephones, in addition to making for speed, has resulted in fewer telegrams and a diminution in clerical work.

In wartime the advantages of control systems, developed to a high standard of efficiency in peacetime, have proved of inestimable value. The ability to arrange the working in each area hour by hour according to circumstances has not only enabled the effects of enemy air attacks to be rapidly overcome, but also has given the railways greater flexibility to cope with the great changes which have taken place in the flow of traffics throughout the whole of the country. Through the control organisation, instructions are given promptly for the cancellation of trains in cases of insufficient traffic or for the running of special trains to meet any special demands. In cases of congestion or emergency, arrangements are made to divert traffic by alternative routes to less affected districts. The control systems are also used for the distribution of rolling stock to meet daily requirements, and to ensure that the engines available are used to the best advantage.

These extensive control systems of the British railways are in a measure very similar to modern military organisation, with communications made by extensive telephone circuits and wireless. Signal boxes, station masters, yard masters, inspectors, foremen and locomotive running supervisory staff have at all times ready access to their local Control which guides their work by the wider view possessed of the movements to be made. The District Controls are in turn co-ordinated by the Chief Operating Officer at Headquarters, and on the London Midland & Scottish and London & North Eastern Railways, owing to their geographical layout, there are intermediate Divisional or Area Controls which co-ordinate the District Controls.



In addition to the normal daily operating conferences which take place on each of the railways in districts and divisions and at headquarters, a daily Central Inter-Company Operating Conference is held in order to obtain the best possible use of all available routes and to see that they are used to their utmost capacity. The meeitngs of the Central Operating Conference which take place every morning, including Sundays, are made possible by a special telephone circuit which links up the Chief Operating Officer of each of the four main line railways at his own desk. Immediate decisions are reached involving individual or collective working. Traffics are allocated to the routes calculated to give the best operating conditions, irrespective of all other interests. The primary objective is to ensure that priority movements of passengers and goods are met in full.

This interwoven organisation of railway operating, covering all parts of all the railways, makes possible far-reaching and progressive steps in the conservation of motive power fuel and labour. It enables the needs of the greatly increased services and munitions traffic to be supplied.

Close contacts are maintained between the Chief Operating Officers of the railways and the Movement and Transport Officers of the Service Departments, including the United States Transportation Officers, to meet hour by hour the railway requirements of the fighting forces. Movements are planned and carried through by practical and experienced railways staffs specialising in this work, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of railway ways and means.



160,000 special trains have been run for the conveyance of troops and their equipment since the war began. These troop specials are additional to the hundreds of thousands of trains operated for the movement of passengers, coal, foodstuffs and supplies of every kind.

During air attacks warnings and instructions are transmitted to various key points on the lines, incidents are reported minute by minute, and diversions arranged if needed; ambulance and casualty trains moved into stricken areas, and evacuation trains arranged. The practical knowledge and experience of train working methods, signalling systems, motive power, and staff, and of the physical conditions of each locality, enable the railway operating staffs to make the best possible use of every piece of rolling stock, section of line, ounce of motive power and staff available. In this they are aided by the carefully arranged system of devolution combined with watchful supervision which, on the one hand, discourages the belief that the man on the spot is merely a pawn in the hands of a controlling manipulator, and on the other maintains the closest possible liaison with the Fighting Services and the Government Departments.

There are 900 railway liaison officers with Government Departments whose duties are to regulate traffic movements so as to avoid congestion and wagon detention. These liaison officers work with the Regional Transport Commissioners, Admiralty, Air Ministry, War Office, Ministry of Food, Ministry of Fuel, General Post Office, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Home Security, Scottish Home Department, Ministry of Labour, Ministry of Supply and other Departments.


A measure of the sustained effort of the railways in handling freight traffics is shown by the forwarding of 3,000,000 loaded wagons every month. During the year 1942, loaded wagon forwardings increased by 2,000,000 loaded wagons over the year 1941. It is estimated that 140,000,000 wagon loads of traffic have been despatched by rail since the beginning of the war. The greatest forwardings of loaded wagons were in the middle of June, 1940, following the Dunkirk evacuation. In the middle of October, 1942, however, when the movement of the First Army to North Africa took place, an even greater traffic occurred.


The pooling of railway-owned wagons to reduce the running of empty trains to a minimum was successfully worked in peacetime. In wartime this pooling arrangement has been extended to cover 600,000 privately-owned wagons requisitioned from 4,000 different owners by the Government, thus making complete the pool of railway wagons.

To meet the increased demands for freight rolling stock and to ensure the best distribution of wagons of various sorts wherever they are needed, the railways have established a Central Wagon Control. This control is responsible for the distribution of all the 1,250,000 railway freight vehicles, 408,000 wagon sheets, 219,000 wagon lashing ropes, and 17,318 containers.

Stationmasters and other railway officials keep in close contact with the senders, and the Central Wagon Control, for the supply of the necessary wagons. This work is going on at all hours of the day and night. At stipulated times every day estimates are made of the number of each type of wagon likely to be wanted the following day.


The control of general wagons, vans, sheets and ropes has enabled emergencies to be met with great flexibility, and wagons and containers constructed for special purposes have been allocated to places nearby or hundreds of miles away as required.

The foresight of the railway managements in providing fleets of wagons of special types in peace-time has enabled the railways to convey heavy and awkward loads of war materials such as parts of aircraft, guns, tanks and other war equipment, with a minimum of new wagon construction. Large numbers of out-of-gauge loads have been moved. Many of the consignments which the railways are handling are kept within the loading gauge by special staffs trained to deal with unusual loads, who have shown great initiative and resource in meeting the needs of the Services. The largest railway wagon unit in Britain has 56 wheels and can carry a load of 150 tons.

With complete interchangeability between railway-owned and privately-owned wagons, 100,000 privately-owned wagons are being used weekly for back loading with suitable traffics instead of being returned empty to the collieries. Empty wagons of all types are sent to the nearest points where they are required to be loaded, and wherever possible are coupled-up to avoid shunting and are routed to avoid passing through intermediate marshalling yards. The saving in empty haulage and shunting has been great. During 1942, the loaded wagon miles, compared with the corresponding pre-war period, increased by 29 per cent., but there was a decrease of 7 per cent. in the empty wagon miles.


The war has brought about a situation in which, while the volume of traffic continues to grow, the supply of new equipment to handle it is not available. As the tempo of war quickens, the vital importance of getting the last ounce out of every unit of available transport equipment becomes more and more urgent. Co-operation and good teamwork are the keynotes of efficient transport services, and in the tasks of clearing, loading and releasing railway vehicles these factors are of paramount importance. While there are difficulties, including the provision of adequate labour, much is being achieved by quicker turnround campaigns addressed to all those who use goods train transport of any kind.

To assist in solving this ever-present problem, goods depots are kept open later on Saturdays and are opened on Sundays, wherever necessary, so that traders may unload or load wagons. Special railway staffs are employed for the specific purpose of reviewing circumstances where wagons are not discharged promptly, with the object of reorganising unloading facilities to ensure the maximum turnround.

The transport and regulation of traffic for Government Departments follows an agreed procedure and remedial measures are taken where accumulations of traffics arise and where wagons are not discharged promptly. Under this procedure, any wagons which are not cleared within twenty-four hours are reported to the Railway Transport Officers of the Service Departments. Similar action is taken where delays to cartage equipment occur. These arrangements have been extended to cover United States Army traffic.


The growth of war production; the shipment to overseas battle-grounds of 80 per cent. of Britain's output of war supplies; the dispersal of industry throughout the country and other causes have considerably affected the flows of railway traffics.

To meet changes in routes, to provide more direct services for war traffics, and to enable country depots and yards to deal expeditiously with the vastly increased freights due to the establishment of new factories and aerodromes, the Government have assisted the railways in providing extra facilities. These wartime improvement works are in the main in the nature of adjustments. The works include additional train controls and telephone facilities, passing loops and extensions to marshalling yards and sidings, additional signalling appliances, the strengthening of bridges and the enlargement of accommodation for locomotives. Each of these schemes has been evolved by the railways' Operating and Engineering Departments, and despite difficulties in obtaining the necessary labour and materials, the works have been carried through with noteworthy despatch. A scheme for quadrupling the line on a section was estimated to take 30 months. It was completed in 12 months. A section of route which carried little or no coal before the war now carries 4,000,000 tons per annum, requiring 160 trains weekly.

New telephone facilities have involved the installation of many miles of wires and cables, thousands of telegraph poles, and scores of signal boxes. Additional breakdown cranes capable of running on any of the railways, and mobile cranes to further facilitate the rapid handling of traffic at goods yards have been obtained. Seven hundred jobs of this kind involving an expenditure of £9 millions have been authorised and completed.


As our own and our Allies' armies grow, the number of trains required for troops and equipment increases and will go on increasing. Many of these trains have to be run at short notice. Each train that runs on the railway, over and above those shown in the timetable, is given a reporting number, which it carries on the front of the engine. This is the story of one such train - No. 300.

Intimation is received at Traffic Headquarters, by despatch rider or by telephone, that 27 officers, 390 other ranks, together with 10 tons of equipment, must be moved from Campten to Blueport, and that the train must reach its destination by 6.0 a.m. on the day after to-morrow. The journey will take the train over portions of line belonging to three of the four main line railways. The railway on whose territory the train starts is known as the "initiating" company; that company will be father, mother and nursemaid to the train until all the arrangements have been made and the train is handed over to the next railway to deal with. The railway on whose line the destination station is located is known as the "receiving" company. Though Troop Special No. 300 will not be allocated her number for some hours yet, the railway traffic operating experts get busy the moment the request is received. Before she can receive her reporting number, before she really exists as a train, much has to be done. No. 300, in the course of her journey through Britain, will be handed over from one company to another at specified junctions at specified times. First move, then, is for the initiating company to find out from the two other railways over whose lines she will travel at what time they want No. 300 at these specified junctions, in order that she may reach Blueport at 6.0 a.m. on the following day. Having received this information, the work of plotting the "path" of No. 300 can begin. The plotting is not yet done in detail, but enough is prepared to settle the key points and times of the journey. For train No. 300, where the arrival time is of major importance, the run is worked out backwards and, actually, the starting time will be the last thing to be determined. The journey is a long one, and the troops will need food en route, so that halts must be planned at places where facilities are available. The unit can now be told, via the military transport authorities, that No. 300 will leave Campten at 12.10 hrs., that halts for refreshments will be made at 16.00 hrs. and 20.00 hrs., and that the train will reach Blueport at 06.00 hrs. next day. At this stage, arrangements can be made in detail for the running, and as many hours as possible prior to the actual running of the train, all these details will be confirmed in circulars, known as special train notices. By these circulars, control offices, station masters and signalmen on the line of route will be advised of the arrangements for running the train so far as it affects them. Only a very few railway operating officials will know the true character of the train and its destination. To the majority of the staff concerned with her running, she will be just one of hundreds of special trains passing along the lcoal railway tracks every day. They may not know if she is carrying troops, let alone what unit they belong to. The railways are, for operating purposes, divided into areas, and the special train notice is divided accordingly. Only details of that part of the journey, with which a particular area is concerned, is issued to that area. Each area will know that it receiveds a special train, bearing the number 300, at one point on its boundary, and that it is responsible for seeing that it is handed over to the next area on the route at a certain place and time. These Special Notices will contain detailed timings for the train throughout each section of its journey. "Passing" times as well as stopping times will be shown. The time at which the train runs and the route which it takes has to be plotted with the utmost care to avoid interference with other traffics which are also vital to the war effort. As an example, it might be quite wrong to let a troop train run over a portion of line during the time it is heavily occupied with workmen's trains and so result in thousands of workmen being late for their work. Even that, however, might be required. There are very few sections of line that are not well occupied with vital traffic, so that some interference happens and ordinary trains are cancelled, but the reason is not explained and cannot be explained to aggrieved passengers possibly a hundred miles away from the route of No. 300. The special notice will include such instructions as:-

4.0 p.m. Freight train, Carlisle to Birmingham to follow from Carlisle.
4.55 p.m. Passenger train, Carnforth to Leeds, to follow from Hellifield.
7.20 p.m. Passenger train, Leeds to Cudworth to travel slow line.
11.15 p.m. Mail train from Derby to run slow line.

These variations to other services are known as "consequential alterations." They mean that the trains will be running out of their normal course. Special No. 300 is due to pass Carnforth at about the same time as the 4.55 p.m. passenger train, Carnforth to Leeds, so the instruction is issued that No. 300 must have precedence over the passenger train and that the latter must follow on. The passenger train will probably be late, but No. 300 must get through. The 7.20 p.m. passenger train from Leeds has to travel on the slow line as far as Cudworth. No. 300 will be occupying the fast lines. When the 7.20 p.m. reaches Cudworth she will have to slow down to cross over from the slow line, back on to the fast, and more minutes will be lost. Contact will be made between the station master at Campten and the local military authorities and agreement reached that the baggage and equipment shall be at the loading dock at a definite hour and that the troops shall be marshalled on the platform so that no delay occurs in entraining. But the empty vans in which the baggage and equipment can be loaded must be brought from many miles away, and placed in the loading dock, and the empty train, composed of so many 1st class seats and so many 3rd class seats, must be at Campten station ready for entraining. Engines and crews for the empty and loaded journeys must be provided.

The Special Notice lays all these arrangements down in clear, concise and unmistakable black type:-
Class 5 engine, driver, fireman, to be provided by "X".
Guard to be provided by "W".
One 1st class and ten 3rd class coaches with brake at each end to be provided by "Z".
Two large vans to be in position Campten Horse Dock 10.0 a.m. to load baggage.
Empty train to leave "Z" at 11.25 a.m., arrive Campten at 11.40 a.m.
Loaded train to leave Campten at 12.10 p.m. The train will stop at Carlisle from 4.0 p.m. to 4.20 p.m. and Sheffield from 8.0 p.m. to 8.20 p.m. for refreshments.
Stop at Skipton for engine to take water and at Leeds to change engines and crew.

Along the whole of the route of Troop Special No. 300 - Campten to Blueport - a hundred pairs of eyes will read the Special Notice - and act upon it. The Special Train Notice says: "Class 5 engine, driver, fireman, to be provided by 'X'". Let us digress for a moment and see what lies behind this cryptic phrase. "X" represents the Motive Power Depot which will provide the engine and crew. "Class 5" indicates the power factor required. Engines, to-day, are worked all round the clock, few have been built since the war started and some have disappeared for other war work abroad. Considerable re-arrangement of engine power, involving consultations with neighbouring depots, may be necessary to provide the engine for No. 300 and to cover other similar special requirements. But a Class 5 engine will be provided. A driver and fireman will be warned for the trip. They must be men who "know the road"; that is, men who have regularly worked over the route No. 300 will take and have thereby gained knowledge of the position of signals, gradients and the like. They will report to the depot an hour before their engine is due "off the shed" to prepare her for the run. The driver will be handed, and sign for, a copy of the Special Notice. For a run of the length of the one No. 300 will make, four engines will be necessary over four sections, and the procedure will be the same for each of the four. No. 300 is ready to start on its journey. From 12.10 p.m. until 6.0 a.m. the next morning, when it reaches its destination at Blueport, No. 300 will be under constant supervision. It will be signalled from signal-box to signal-box by a distinctive bell code. Regular reports will be made of the progress of No. 300 to each district control office through whose territory it passes. Any variation in the running is thus made immediately apparent and remedial steps taken. Finally, No. 300 arrives at Blueport; the troops are detrained; the baggage vans are shunted into a "dock" and unloaded - one of thousands of such movements taking place on British Railways has been successfully completed.

In the course of her journey across Britain, No. 300 may have caused delay to half a dozen passenger trains, despite the most skilful plotting by traffic control staffs - but the Navy, the Army, or the Air Force has got there - not too little and not too late - but in force, and on time.



Ever since the mobilisation of the Fighting Forces for war, right up to the present moment, the railways have been moving troops and their equipment by special trains by day and by night. As our fighting services expand so the demands on rail transport become more and more exacting. Within the space of eight days, after the evacuation from Dunkirk, 620 trains carrying 300,000 troops were run without prior knowledge of their arrival from seven ports in the South-east of England: 2,000 carriages drawn from each of the railways were formed into a pool, and the whole of the operating movements were directed almost entirely by telephone. At the busiest time 100 trains were worked to various parts of the country within 24 hours. Despite heavy air raids and difficult weather, trains for troop movements have been smoothly carried through. Training, manoeuvres and redistribution of rapidly growing armies swelled the number of trains required, which by the end of 1941 had more than doubled per month compared with pre-Dunkirk days. The arrival of the American Expeditionary Forces with their equipment and supplies, first in Northern Ireland and later in Britain, added to these movements by rail, and by the summer of 1942 special trains for troops and supplies were running at the rate of 5,000 per month over and above the ordinary services and traffics. The railways carried the first British Expeditionary Force to its ports of embarkation. It carried the men who went to Norway; it carried men and equipment to the ports of embarkation for the Middle and Far East, and more recently still, the First Army on its way to North Africa. According to the Secretary of State for War this movement meant the transport of 185,000 men, 20,000 vehicles and 220,000 tons of stores involving the running of 440 special troop trains, 680 special freight trains, and 15,000 railway wagons by ordinary goods services from billets and depots to ports.

One hundred and sixty thousand special trains have been operated by the British railways for the movement of troops and equipment since the outbreak of war to February, 1943.


By far the largest part of the burden of war production falls on the railways.

The materials to build the new war factories, the raw materials to make the munitions of war, the men and women who fashion them as well as the finished products, have all to be carried on the railways.

Loads ranging from the heaviest naval guns and tanks to the lightest rifles and pieces of equipment are rolling along the railways. Aircraft, petrol and fuels; ammunition, bombs, mines, shells and foodstuffs, the list is endless.

Heavy consignments are continually being carried to British shipyards, helping them to achieve new records in building and repairing merchantment and warships.

Vast tonnages of high explosives have been handled through the railways' freight services, and thanks to the precautions taken and the methods employed, thousands upon thousands of tons of dangerous goods have been safely conveyed.

In addition to railway equipment sent abroad at the beginning of the war, one hundred and forty-three powerful British railway freight locomotives, specially equipped for service overseas, with tenders and the necessary spare parts have been despatched. 1,600 steel-framed 12-ton wagons were built and sent overseas in double-quick time. By working day and night shifts, the 1,800 parts required to complete each wagon were fitted together at the railway assembling works so that a new wagon was turned out every 37 minutes.



Railways have assisted in the construction of the new factories. Bricks and building supplies were conveyed as fast as they could be absorbed. Sidings were laid into fields, signal boxes built, new factory stations erected and services arranged both inside and outside the factory areas. Some of the factories are served by main lines, others, some miles from the nearest towns, are linked by specially built spur lines. The breaking-up of industry into dispersed units for strategic reasons means that instead of carrying materials, goods, and workers in bulk into large centres, the railways have had to cater for smaller consignments to many additional destinations. Often the raw materials required by the factories are heavy while the products are light. This means that the wagons which bring the raw materials to the factories are not suitable to distribute the finished product, so that the demand on transport is a double one.

Seven thousand additional trains are being run every week to convey workers to and from Government factories. At one factory alone nearly a quarter of a million train journeys are made by workers in over 400 trains every week. At another factory 200,000 people travel by over 350 trains.

Millions of people also work at privately-owned factories on war work. These are carried by the railways' ordinary train services, augmented as necessary. During 1942, 400 million passenger journeys were made by the holders of Workmen's Tickets, an increase over 1941 of 75 millions.

Special train services for war factories are arranged with local Consultative Committees set up by the Regional Transport Committees. The Consultative Committees consist of representatives of the factory managements, of the workers and of transport organisations. Times are furnished to the railway officers of the shifts which are being worked, and the trains run are to meet variations in the factory working arrangements. Train services are often provided seven days a week, the Sunday services being as frequent as those on weekdays.



The zoning of supplies, district by district, to make each area of the country as self-supporting as possible, has meant the re-arrangement of hundreds of freight services. The increase of home-grown foodstuffs, with millions of acres of land under cultivation, is resulting in increasing demands for railway transport. Fertilisers, seed potatoes, sugar beet, tractors and farming equipment, as well as land workers, have been catered for, frequently by special trains.

Cross-country movements and needlessly long hauls of freight traffics have been considerably reduced. The Ministry of Food zoning schemes provide that in each "sector" wholesalers and depots distributing groceries draw supplies of bulk commodities such as butter, margarine, and sugar from the nearest port or primary sources of supply.

Big demands have been made upon the railways for the movement of food supplies for the Fighting Forces. The requirements of large camps, and factory canteens, as well as civilian needs, have been met, and every assistance has been given to implement the food and clothing distribution plans of various Government Departments. Railway liaison officers work at the Ministry of Food regulating traffic movements to avoid congestion and the undue detention of wagons and vans.



Heavy tonnages of coal are being carried from the collieries. Large quantities of coal formerly moved by coastwise vessels from North-east Coast ports are being carried by rail. Between 75 per cent. and 80 per cent. of the output of saleable coal totalling 4,000,000 tons weekly is carried by the railways.

To assist the movement of coal, complete trainloads known as "block" trains are run from the collieries. The collieries greatly assist by labelling coal wagons in proper order so that loaded wagons can be detached from the trains at various stations en route, with a minimum of shunting. To make the running of block coal trains possible over long distances it has been necessary to suspend a number of passenger trains.


When the Government, on September 1st, 1939, took control of the Main Line Railways, London Transport and other railways, by the issue of an Order under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939, on behalf of the Minister of Transport, the activities of the railways were immediately transferred from peacetime to wartime conditions.

The Railway Executive Committee appointed by the Minister to be his agents for the purpose of giving directions under the Order has been in regular session. Shortly after the formation of the Ministry of War Transport in 1941 the two positions of Chairman of the Railway Executive Committee and Controller of Railways at the Ministry were amalgamated. This brought the Railway Executive Committee and the Ministry of War Transport closer together, as the Controller of Railways being the Chairman of the Railway Executive Committee is able to interpret the Minister's policy through the Railway Executive Committee, and to place before the Minister and his officers the views and advice of the Railway Managements. As a further step to facilitate and strengthen consultations between the Railway Executive Committee and the Ministry of War Transport, the Controller of Railways holds frequent conferences at the Ministry attended by members of the Railway Executive Committee and the Minister or Parliamentary Secretary and their officers concerned. The railways taken control of were:- 1. Southern Railway.
2. Great Western Railway.
3. London Midland & Scottish Railway.
4. London & North Eastern Railway.
5. London Passenger Transport Board.
6. Any Joint Committee of any two or more of the above.
7. East Kent Light Railway.
8. Kent and East Sussex Light Railway.
9. King's Lynn Docks and Railway.
10. Mersey Railway.
11. Shropshire and Montgomeryshire Light Railway. The Railway Executive Committee consists of:-

Sir Alan G. Anderson, G.B.E. (Chairman)
Sir James Milne, K.C.V.O., C.S.I.
Sir William V. Wood
Mr. C. H. Newton.
Mr. E. J. Missenden, O.B.E.
The Rt. Hon. Lord Ashfield, P.C.
Mr. G. Cole Deacon (Secretary)

Any direction in writing signed by any two members of the Committee or any member and Secretary of the Committee to be valid exercise of the authority given to the Committee. The Control Order continues in force until it is revoked or amended by writing under the hand of the Minister of War Transport or of the Secretary or Deputy Secretary or any Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of War Transport.

The Railway Executive Committee is assisted by Committees of railway officers and other advisers.


The financial arrangements between the Government, the Main Line railways and the London Passenger Transport Board arising out of the control exercised by the Minister of War Transport are as follows:-

(a) From December 31st, 1940, fixed annual payments are made to the four Main Line railways and London Transport.

Great Western Railway ...................... £-6,670,603
London & North Eastern Railway........ £10,136,355
London Midland & Scottish Railway..... £14,749,698
Southern Railway .............................. £-6,607,639
London Passenger Transport Board... £-6,607,639


The net revenues of the undertakings accrue to the Government except that from investments in transport undertakings not operated by the railways, and from railways in Ireland.

(b) The cost of restoring war damage is not to be charged to the net revenue accruing to the Government. A new scheme is to be introduced by the Government in relation to war damage suffered by public utility undertakings. The contributions falling upon the controlled undertakings under this scheme will be borne by them out of their own resources.

(c) Under the provisions of the control agreement maintenance charges (including renewals) are standardised on the basis on an average pre-war charge adjusted for variations in assets and in price levels.

(d) Government control is to be continued for a minimum period of one year after cessation of hostilities and, before control comes to an end, time is to be given for the operation of any statutory machinery governing the level of charges.

The annual payment of £43,000,000 is substantially less than the "standard revenues" of the four Main Line railways and London Transport (£56,900,000).


The financial importance of the railway industry in Great Britain can be gauged from the capital expenditure of the Great Western, London & North Eastern, London Midland & Scottish and Southern Railways, and London Passenger Transport Board, which in the aggregate amounts to £1,300,000,000.



Railway capital has never been remunerated at a high level. In 1913 - one of the best years - the net revenue was only 4.4 per cent. of the Capital Receipts; for 1942 the percentage was 3.6.



Large scale improvements were made to the railways' undertakings prior to the war. Between 1928 and 1938 the Main Line railways and London Transport spent £120,100,000 on Capital Account on additional works and on improvements effected in connection with the replacement of assets. In the same time works no longer required were demolished or abandoned and £16,800,000 was written out of Capital Account.

Between 1928 and 1938, £194,500,000 was also expended upon improvements out of revenue.

The main items of this outlay of £314,600,000 were the renewal and improvements of the permanent way, the modernisation of passenger and goods stations and equipment, improved methods of signalling, reorganisation of workshops and of railway and road motive power depots, renewal and improvement of locomotives, carriages, wagons, containers and road vehicles, renewals of and additions to electric railway rolling stock, substitution of trolley buses for trams, renewal of steamships, electrification, extension and improvement of docks, new and improved marshalling yards, extensions of traffic control systems, and enlargement of power stations. The effect of this large outlay in a period of depression in the railway industry has been materially to improve the facilities for wartime requirements and to assist in the reduction of working costs.


The total number of railway stockholders is 955,000, but if the numbers of persons interested in the holdings of railway stocks in the names of Insurance Companies, Building and Friendly Societies, etc., were added, this would be very much increased. The capital invested in the railways is thus held to a large extent by or on behalf of small investors.



During war-time the Main Line railways and London Transport are regarded as one, and operated as one unit to the best advantage.

The railways conform to directions and instructions issued on behalf of the Ministry of War Transport. These include traffics declared by the Government to be essential; the requisitioning of privately-owned wagons; the addressing of merchandise, the working of long-distance passenger trains at holiday times, etc.

Many Statutory Rules and Orders totalling between 1,000 and 2,000 each year, issued by the Government, also apply to the railways' undertakings in the same way as other private businesses, and arrangements are made to alter and adapt the widespread activities and extensive equipment to conform to the provisions of these emergency laws which affect such diverse subjects as fuel and salvage, civil defence, rubber tyres, and lighting in the black-out.


During the decade immediately prior to the war the privately-owned Main Line railways and London Transport expended £314,600,000 upon improvements despite several years of trade depression. Britain's railways held the proud reputation of being the best in the world.

Millions of pounds were spent upon new locomotives and trains, electrification schemes, improved permanent way for high speed services, new docks and steamships, new power houses, marshalling yards and warehouses, and the modernisation of stations, hotels and locomotive depots.

The fact that immediately prior to the outbreak of war the railways were at the peak of their efficiency was not an accident, and one of the effects of this large outlay has been the capability of the railways to cope with the vast war traffics passing by rail.When the war came, they could not, like factories, increase their effort by introducing additional shift working, nor was it possible to increase the railways' plant to any material extent. Since the war certain track and other improvements have been carried out to assist in working the new flows of traffic, but these additions are small in relation to the whole of the systems. The fact that the railways were built and maintained by various separate private enterprises to meet actual or anticipated traffics provided this country with many alternative routes. This would not have been the position had there been a concentrated system without alternatives and without a variety of stations in large cities and towns. The widespread network of the railways with 37,000 miles of running lines, making with the many sidings a total track of 51,000 miles, has proved its value.


It can be fairly claimed that the British railways, under private ownership and managed by private enterprise, were able to place at the disposal of the country at the outbreak of war an organisation which, fully equipped and perfected by long-term research and development, enabled them to meet the full impact of the transport needs of a nation at war. The decisions taken by the far-sighted managements to maintain lines and carry out improvements despite unregulated competition by other forms of transport, and periods of trade depression, have enabled the British railways to carry the heaviest burdens ever demanded from any transport undertakings at a time of critical national emergency unknown in the history of this or any other country.

Britain is thronged with troops, many of them from the United Nations seeing this country for the first time. Their experience of austerity travel and crowded trains should not be taken as representative of peace-time conditions.

From the public point of view the railways introduced many enterprising ideas prior to the war. Each year travel programmes became more and more atractive, and the railways believe that they had, by a progressive system of improvement, gained the confidence of the trading and travelling public.

Travel by passenger train was, in the pre-war years, quick, cheap and comfortable. A progressive policy of acceleration gave to Britain the fastest, as well as the most intensive, train service in the world. Over 100 express trains were scheduled to run at start-to-stop speeds of a mile a minute and over. The record for the world's maximum speed for steam traction is held by the Pacific locomotive "Mallard" which, on July 3rd, 1938, attained 125 m.p.h.

Penny-a-mile tickets, introduced in 1934, were a great success, while the range of other cheap tickets for both individual and party travel was continually being expanded. It was possible to travel by specified excursion trains for as little as a penny for three miles. The variety of cheap tickets was such, that practically all travellers could find something to meet their requirements.

Between 1928 and 1938, £100,000,000 was spent by the Main Line railways on rolling stock. The number of sleeping cars was increased from 154 to 380; restaurant cars from 525 to 895, and the number of meals served on trains increased from 6,700,000 to 8,050,000. Electric cooking and refrigeration were introduced and kitchen cars were capable of serving over 200 meals at a sitting. The trains of the immediate pre-war years represent the last word in travel comfort and luxury. Among them the "Cheltenham Flyer" of the G.W.R., "The Coronation" of the L.N.E.R., the "Coronation Scot" of the L.M.S. and the "Golden Arrow" of the Southern Railway stand out as supreme examples of a degree of travel luxury unsurpassed anywhere in the world. The Southern Railway, already the owners of the world's largest electrified railway system, widely extended the mileage of line worked by electric traction.

The railways' comprehensive freight services included 678 regular express freight trains each 24 hours, giving next-day delivery of goods to places as far apart as 300 miles. Fleets of special wagons were provided on a large scale, the use of containers was extended and low temperature services, as well as road-rail tank vehicles for the bulk conveyance of liquids, were adopted to meet trade requirements.

The railways operated the largest household removal organisation in this country, a cash-on-delivery system scheme was introduced, warehousing and the entire distribution of traders' goods was undertaken. Country lorry services linked rural districts with railway stations, and assistance was given to firms wishing to establish factories or to acquire sites or construct private sidings.

High-capacity wagons were developed, with the result that 45,000 railway-owned vehicles with capacities of 20 tons and over were in service compared with 25,000 ten years previously.

Developments in railway signalling, such as the widespread use of electrical, colour light and power installations; scientific shunting at modernised marshalling yards; the welding of rails; and the introduction of labour-saving appliances for all kinds of purposes, were also subjects of close study.

The war has temporarily diverted the energies of the railway managements and technical staffs to the united task of achieving Victory, but given the equipment and materials which will be needed, and the co-operation of the public and the Government, the British railways will be ready to take up their tasks in rebuilding their trains and tracks which will again place Britain in the forefront of the railways of the New World.


The principle adopted for transport in wartime is that the needs of the war must come first. This means that absolute priority has to be given to Service movements and then to workers so that they can travel to and from the factories. The movements of men, materials and munitions during recent months have presented the biggest transport problem since the war began. It was estimated that at least 250 more trains a day than last winter were needed, in addition to 1,000 extra trains a day for the transport of industrial war workers. The increasing diversion of passenger traffic from road to rail to save fuel and rubber has resulted in additional passenger travel by train.

Various steps have been taken to increase passenger carrying capacity and to discourage other than essential passenger travel. Seven hundred restaurant cars have been withdrawn, the number remaining being 74. The running of additional trains during the summer months and at Easter, Whitsuntide, August Bank Holiday and Christmas was limited, and the whole of the sleeping-car accommodation on certain heavily loaded trains was taken over by the Ministry of War Transport and limited so that the first call on sleeping berths is for passengers travelling on urgent Government business. Drastic travel restrictions, including the withdrawal of cheap day tickets and tickets for various kinds of pleasure travel, and also the Green Line Coach services in the London area, became effective from September, 1942. The possibility of introducing a travel permit system was examined and rejected on the grounds of complexity, the claims it would make on man-power, and the inconvenience and delay it would cause to those who must travel on necessary business. Despite official warnings and widespread publicity of the railways' slogan, "Is your journey really necessary?", passenger traffics have been very heavy. Before the war passenger journeys represented 20,000 million miles of travel, and freight traffic 17,000 million ton miles, apart from livestock and the huge quantity of parcels, milk, mails and luggage carried by passenger train. In 1942 passenger traffic increased, compared with pre-war conditions, by a further 10,000 million passenger miles, and freight traffic by a further 7,000 million ton miles.

Estimates of the traffic requirements for 1943 show that greatly increased demands will be made on the railways. At Easter, 1943, owing to the pressure of war traffic, restrictions were placed on travel similar to those at Easter, 1942. In a recent month 10,750,000 train journeys were made by members of H.M. Forces and their dependants. Many carriages which lack the comfort of those built in modern years have had to be pressed into service. Locomotives which used to pull fast passenger trains are now hauling troop trains and war freights. Several hundred passenger train vehicles are being converted into ambulance trains for use overseas. Every piece of railway equipment is doing double duty.


Although the London Passenger Transport area is only 1/45th of the area of Great Britain, it contains one-fifth of the population of this country. 4,368,000,000 passenger journeys were made in a year at the outbreak of the war by the trains, buses and coaches, trams and trolleybuses of the London Passenger Transport Board and London suburban trains of the Main Line Railways.

The London Passenger Transport Board's railways, buses and coaches, trams and trolleybuses ran 579,271,000 miles along 3,093 miles of routes, and carried 3,782,098,000 passengers in the year 1938-39. 3,703 railway carriages, 6,389 buses and coaches, 1,316 trams and 1,411 trolleybuses with a total seating capacity of 672,836, were in service, the total number of railway stations being 181, lifts 100, escalators 153, garages 82, and tram and trolleybus depots 31.

The London Transport organisation employs a staff of 73,684, including 7,500 women bus, tram and trolleybus conductors; the total salaries and wages bill of the Board for the year 1942 was £19,902,000.


Economy in rubber and fuel has been achieved by a reduction of vehicles and routes so as to provide for essential traffic only, and the withdrawal of the Green Line Coach services which saved 11,500,000 miles per annum, and the mid-day parking of buses and trolleybuses in Central London has saved 2,000,000 miles per annum.

Over 5,000 stopping places have been abolished, re-sited or introduced, 360 queue shelters erected, and standard new-type buses put into service.



Seventy-nine Underground Stations on the London tube railways have been made available to accommodate 75,000 air raid shelterers, or 100,000 in emergency. During the raids of 1940-41 up to 160,000 people were accommodated at one time; bunks for 22,800 people are provided. Reservation tickets are issued to shelterers for numbered bunk and floor space positions. London Transport, acting as agents for the Ministry of Food, provides a night refreshment service: 124 canteen points were installed in six weeks, food being delivered to the stations by specially reserved trains. Eleven tons of food were distributed nightly during the raid periods. Medical-aid posts have been installed at all shelter stations, under the control authorities, medical officers and trained nurses.

Eight deep-level shelters have been constructed by London Transport engineers for the Government at several points in the London area. These straight lengths of tube tunnel are to be used wholly as public shelters when necessary.

Shelter accommodation for 20,000 people has also been provided at the Southern Main Line London termini.


Schemes for the staggering of working hours to provide more even movements of people to and from factories and offices are meeting with success.

In the winter of 1941-42, under the auspices of the London and South-Eastern Regional Board, 47 local group committees were set up, each consisting of representatives of employers, labour and transport undertakings. These committees have discussed traffic movements peculiar to each area and road and rail services have been co-ordinated to the advantage of over 500,000 workers. The hours of work of only 95,000 of these employees have been altered, generally by no more than 15 minutes. The improvement of travelling conditions which has been brought about by the staggering of working hours is indicated by the following example:-Of 121,250 employees who a year ago arrived at 7.30 a.m., 30,400 fewer now arrive at this time; similarly, of 156,500 passengers who arrived at 8.0 a.m., 52,000 now arrive earlier or later, thereby travelling in better conditions and to the greater convenience of those who still commence work at 8 a.m.

The principle of staggering the arrival and leaving times is also being applied to Government offices, large business establishments and schools which begin work between 8.30 a.m. and 9.30 a.m. During the winter, with fewer hours of daylight, business traffic tends to be concentrated into shorter periods, causing acute morning and evening "peaks" of traffics. The spreading of these peaks over as long a time as possible is the most important single factor which can contribute to a solution of the rush-hour transport problem.


Twenty thousand British railway steam locomotives are the mainstay in moving wartime traffics. Electric trains, diesel shunting engines and railcars are also in service.

Although demands for more and more motive power goes on unceasingly, few new engines have been built because materials and men are needed for guns, munitions and tanks. Magnificent haulage feats have been achieved by British railway locomotives. The well-known "School" class engines of the Southern Railway are regularly hauling 16 and 17 bogie carriages instead of the peace-time load of 11 carriages. L.N.E.R. East Coast main line passenger trains have increased in weight from 500 to 700 tons; the streamlined Pacific locomotive "Mallard" recovered eight minutes lost while hauling an express weighing 711 tons, and a mixed traffic locomotive brought 1,300 passengers from Peterborough to King's Cross in a train of 26 vehicles weighing 800 tons. Amongst the heaviest freight trains run are "block" coal trains worked by the L.M.S. from Midland collieries to the South. These are hauled by Garratt locomotives with 86 13-ton wagons which, together with the brake van, exceed 1,400 tons. Iron ore trains weighing as much as 1,700 tons are hauled by two L.N.E.R. locomotives of medium size. G.W.R. locomotives of the 2-8-0 type are also hauling heavy loads such as 49 20-ton wagons of coal between Swindon and London, the gross weights including the brake van being 1,490 tons.

Locomotives of the British railways are attaining huge mileages, 100,000 miles being frequently run between general repairs. On the G.W.R. freight engines record 1,500 miles between Mondays and Fridays, and L.M.S. diesel locomotives work 144 hours continuously every week. Express passenger locomotives which prior to the war worked exclusively on passenger trains are being used for the haulage of war goods trains. The stock of locomotives is now of more standard design and engines are being used over much wider areas, resulting in a much smaller variety of spare parts, less time required for fitting them, and less manufacture. Strenuous efforts are being made to speed up repairs to railway locomotives and to keep as many in traffic as long as possible without overhaul.


Despite shortages of labour and materials the railways have built new types of locomotives. Stream-lined Pacific locomotives known as the Merchant Navy class, for fast passenger and goods trains, and "Q.1" type freight locomotives for freight trains, have been introduced by the Southern Railway; new 4-6-0 mixed traffic locomotives, the first of which is named "Springbok" to commemorate the visit of General Smuts to this country, have been produced by the L.N.E.R., and by converting obsolete freight tender engines to modern eight-coupled shunting tank locomotives the same railway is saving 900 tons of steel; 2-8-0 freight tender locomotives have been placed into service by the L.M.S.

To achieve an even greater utilisation of motive power British railway locomotives are being exchanged between the railways. Enginemen have been transferred temporarily from one railway to another and firemen are working alongside drivers from other railways. Repair staffs and spare parts for locomotives have been exchanged, and coal supplies are also obtained jointly.


The following Table shows the comparative dimensions of the largest and most powerful express passenger and heavy freight locomotives of each of the railways.



G.W.R. "King George V" .......... 4-6-0 - 135 tons

L.N.E.R. "Cock o' the North" ... 2-8-2 - 165 tons

L.M.S. "Duchess" .................... 4-6-2 - 164 tons

S.R. "Merchant Navy" ............. 4-6-2 - 142 tons


G.W.R. 2884 ........................... 2-8-0 - 116 tons

L.N.E.R. .................................. 2-8-0+0-8-2 - 175 tons

L.M.S. ..................................... 2-6-6-2 - 155 tons

S.R. Q.1 ................................. 0-6-0 - 51 tons


To maintain the railway tracks in first-class order requires several millions of sleepers, over a million and a half cubic yards of ballast, and several hundreds of thousands of tons of steel rails annually. The standard length of a rail is 60 feet, but 90 and 120-feet lengths have been laid. Welded rail lengths have been experimentally introduced. The weight of rail per yard on main lines is 95 lbs., and the weight of a standard chair is 46 lbs. Widespread experiments have been carried out in the use of concrete sleepers owing to the difficulty of obtaining timber, and to save shipping space, whilst sleepers made from woods not previously used to any extent in this country are being utilised.


War-time requirements causing traffics to flow in bulk along routes which prior to the war dealt with comparatively small traffics have been assisted by the ingenuity shown in adapting the signalling systems to increase the capacities of lines, junctions and running loops.

The developments of electrical signalling are one of the most outstanding of modern inventions which have been adopted by the railways. Electrical power, in addition to sending messages, has been adopted to save time and labour by setting points at considerable distances, and the widespread use of colour light signals has proved of great value in keeping traffic moving in all kinds of weather. The use of train describer apparatus, by which detailed information of approaching trains is given to signalmen, and the extended use of telephones for railway-operating messages have proved of value. Carrier telephony is used to increase the capacity of the lineside wires, and teleprinters and radio apparatus are also being employed for rapid communication.


The British railways own fifty-three hotels, seventeen of which have been requisitioned by the Government. Refreshment, dining and tea-rooms are also provided at the principal stations. In peace-time restaurant and buffet cars are run on long-distance trains.

Railway hotels and refreshment rooms have met exceptionally heavy demands since the beginning of the war, and many refreshment rooms have kept open continuously. The difficulties which beset all catering establishments are common to the railways, and since May, 1942, when restaurant car services were considerably reduced, greater strain than ever has been placed upon the resources of the refreshment rooms and the catering staffs. The needs of the public have, nevertheless, been well met despite rationing complications. The few restaurant car services still running have received exceptional patronage and are definitely meeting a great need amongst long-distance passengers.

Owing to the shortage of cups and glasses for refreshments at stations, amounting to 5,000,000 cups, passengers are advised to carry their own drinking utensils.


The British railways are extensive owners of docks, harbours and wharves; their accommodation includes the world's largest graving dock at Southampton. Railway docks, harbours and wharves are situated at 76 places, the total length of quays being 501,402 feet (95 miles).

The equipment of the docks includes the latest mechanical appliances for direct loading and unloading from rail to vessel, and vice versa. New quayside cranes, a 50-ton floating crane, and a modern floating grain elevator have been introduced together with the latest type of warehouse equipment such as roller conveyors, electric trolleys, etc., which combine to ensure the most rapid turn-round of vessels.

To cope with increased intake at certain ports and to assist further the quick turn-round of shipping, large inland sorting depots equipped with extensive warehouse and siding accommodation have been provided. Cold storage capacity has been extended to provide for the great quantity of refrigerated meat and dairy produce now dealt with, and special provision has been made for the storage of grain.

The expeditious handling and despatch of considerable lease-lend cargoes, and large quantities of stores for the American Army have been favourably commented upon by the Government Departments concerned.

One shipment of special interest which has passed through railway docks consisted of a submarine cable 72 miles long, entirely in one piece. For conveyance by rail to the ship's side ten tube wagons were used.



At the outbreak of war the British Railways' fleet of steamships totalled 130, with an aggregate gross tonnage of 176,145. These vessels formed the principal links with the Continent, Eire and Northern Ireland, Channel Islands, Western Isle of Scotland, Isle of Wight, etc.

Many of these vessels have been chartered to the Government and their captains and crews have volunteered for war service. Some of them have been lost by enemy action, whilst others refitted and camouflaged out of all recognition are playing their part on active war service. The remainder of the railway vessels continue to maintain the services on some of the peacetime routes.


The air raid precautions and fire-fighting organisations of the British railways have been extended, developed and kept up to date: 170,000 railway employees have received full training in A.R.P. duties.

In addition to the issue to the staffs of steel helmets, civilian duty respirators and protective clothing against gas, 2,000 fire-prevention schemes on railway premises have been organised. Shelters are provided and 47 specially equipped cleansing vans, which can be moved to any station or depot where there are no facilities for decontamination, or where existing arrangements are inadequate, have been located at convenient places for immediate use in the event of gas attacks. Each of these vans is provided with an air-lock leading to an undressing room, bins for contaminated clothing, and a zinc-lined bathroom with hot and cold showers. A third section is equipped as a dressing-room with lockers with fresh clothing. The vans are also completely blacked out and have blast-protected windows. Mobile fire-fighting engines and trains are stationed at key points. One of these trains has six locomotive tenders holding 15,000 gallons of water. It has several 20 h.p. petrol motor pumps which deliver water at a pressure of 60 lbs. to the square inch. Fires on the roofs of buildings several stories high can be thus successfully fought. The amount of water carried will enable the pumps to operate for two and a half hours. Another type of fire train has a coach for the accommodation of a crew of eight firemen and a covered carriage truck specially adapted for carrying two light trailer pumps with full accessories such as hose, stirrup pumps, water buckets, fire extinguishers, etc. The trailer pumps have a delivery of 150 gallons per minute.

Shunting locomotives which work in sidings and marshalling yards have also been fitted with pumps on their tenders. They carry lengths of hose which can be rapidly brought into action at places which would be difficult of access by motor trailers and fire brigades. Auxiliary water supplies have been made available by the construction of dams holding up to 100,000 gallons of water at suitable points.


Traffic control and key offices have been duplicated in special buildings which are bomb-proof except against a direct hit, and telegraph offices and signal boxes have been reinforced and protected. Shelters have been improved for railway staffs under the provisions of the Civil Defence Act, 1939. To reduce the danger from falling glass, large quantities have been removed from station roofs.

Emergency instructions for passengers are displayed at the stations. In all workshops, too, shelters have been built which enable employees to continue at work until danger is imminent.

During air raids all branches of the railway services operate, as nearly as possible, normally. Both passenger and freight trains continue to run at their normal speeds in daylight irrespective of air raid warnings, and at speeds not exceeding 30 miles an hour during black-out "alerts". Trainmen and signalmen remain at their posts and tickets are issued at the booking offices during air raid warnings. All other staff continue at work during air raids until danger is imminent in the immediate vicinity of the places at which they are working, and work is resumed again as soon as the immediate danger is past.


The British railways have completed a number of Ambulance Trains for use both at home and overseas. Trains have also been provided for the evacuation of civilian casualties from first aid or clearing stations to hospitals.

The Ambulance Trains are fully equipped with furnished cars for travelling staffs of nurses and doctors; kitchens and wards for stretcher, sitting-up and mental cases, and cars are also provided for infectious cases and for travelling pharmacies. The Casualty Evacuation Trains are electrically lighted, steam heated, and are fitted with bell communication and numerous other devices adopted by co-operation with medical authorities to ensure the comfort of patients.

The movement of these trains is arranged by the railways whenever required in co-operation with the Government Departments concerned. For security reasons strict secrecy is maintained regarding special workings and other arrangements for the smooth transport of the sick and wounded by these hospitals on wheels. AIR RAID DAMAGE AND RAPID REPAIRS

Railway trains, stations and tracks which are objectives for enemy air raiders have suffered damage, but the restoration of communications is everywhere rapidly carried out. As fast as the enemy puts down his high explosives or incendiaries or shoots up engines and trains, railway engineers tackle the job of making repairs. Numerous instances of repairs effected in a remarkably short time have been recorded. Amongst the achievements of the railways' rapid repair organisations are the renewal of main line tracks within a few hours and the restoration of damaged bridges in a day. Railway engineers have designed standard bridge spans and other repair materials, and additional steam breakdown cranes stand ready to be used on any route whenver required by day or night.

A signal box of 68 levers destroyed by a direct hit was replaced by a new box next day, including a new mechanical interlocking frame, and within two weeks all the points and main line signals at a busy station were again in operation, the signal and telegraph staff being housed in dormitory vans near the site, food being supplied whilst the work was in progress. In another instance a signal box was repaired within 17½ hours, 3,000 signal wires were repaired in one week, and 600 electric cables in eight days. At one town bombs hit a station building, severed four through lines and damaged a train. Almost before the noise of the explosions and falling masonry had ceased, working was resumed. "Shuttle" services of buses were arranged within 15 minutes; newspapers, mails, milk, fish and other perishable traffics were diverted, and engineers were hard at work clearing the debris to restore the tracks. The damaged train was removed in a few hours, and within 24 hours a load of steel plates for shipment was delivered without delaying a ship, passenger train services being resumed within 48 hours after the raid. On another occasion a brick retaining wall demolished by a bomb fell into a cutting, blocking main lines. One line was restored in five hours, another four hours later. Within five days the cutting line was freed, a crater was filled and 55 yards of wall reconstructed. During a night attack bombs damaged a station, signal box and tracks. Repair gangs working through the darkness restored three of the four sets of rails, allowing traffic to be worked in 5¾ hours after the incident.

A daylight raid in the rush hour damaged the booking-hall, platforms and track of a sub-surface station. Rapid first-aid repairs enabled trains to run again after nine hours and the station was reopened within 30 hours, complete with ticket offices. At a London terminal station a bomb damaged the track between two platforms, the blast lifting an electric train on to the platform. All lines into and out of the station were blocked, but such speed was made with repairs that normal conditions prevailed the following day.


Spread throughout Britain there are 544,715 railwaymen and 105,703 railwaywomen. They are without 102,984 of their colleagues released to join H.M. Forces; 90,000 are trained as Home Guards and 170,000 are fully trained in Civil Defence. The Railways were among the first to form their own L.D.V. (Home Guard) units; hundreds of thousands of railwaymen volunteered.

Amongst the units of the Army almost exclusively manned by trained personnel drawn from the railways are the Docks Groups, Movement Control units, and Railway Construction Companies of the Royal Engineers. Before the war the railways employed 26,000 women, mainly in the clerical grades, as shorthand typists, machine telegraph and telephone operators, and in smaller numbers as carriage cleaners, waiting-room attendants, cooks and mess-room attendants, crossing keepers and office cleaners. Since the outbreak of the war women have been trained and employed in many other trades as men have been released to the Forces. Their employment has been under a national scheme, and, by agreement with the trade unions, women employed on manual work formerly done by a man are, after an agreed period, paid the standard rate of the man replaced. At passenger and goods stations women now handle parcels and merchandise. They check and weigh goods and act as porters, signalmen and lampmen and "man" the horses and delivery vans and act as stablemen. Women also do the work of booing and enquiry clerks and announce, by loud speaker, the arrival and departure of trains and other notices to passengers. Women also act as ticket collectors and cleaners on the London tubes. In the engine sheds and docks the work is usually heavy. Women are employed as loaders and porters and on engines as oilers, greasers and firelighters. They assist in the maintenance of the permanent way, and in the workshops they do useful work in most trades and have been able to undertake skilled work as core-makers, coppersmiths, concrete mixers, turners, welders, etc.

The British railwaywoman has adapted herself quickly to new surroundings and work which is very different from her pre-war occupation, and she has taken her share of night work. In many cases her husband is in the Forces, and she has shown a marked devotion to duty, sometimes in difficult circumstances during and after enemy air activity. She does her turn of duty and goes home to the cares of a house and children. She is making a vitally important contribution to the war effort.


The British railways, which in normal times put into the channels of commerce a large proportion of the scrap materials used, have been in the forefront of the national efforts to reclaim salvage and effect economies for war production.

The reclamation of all usable material and scrap has been achieved by scouring the railway systems. Redundant hydraulic pumping machinery, branch lines, sidings, bridges, stations, engine sheds, chimneys, turntables, cranes, weighing machines, etc., have been demolished to recover scrap metals and usable materials. New depots have been set up for reconditioning switches and crossings, reconditioning sleepers, fishplates, bolts and nuts, as well as signalling equipment. Wagon timbers are repaired, and charcoal for use in the heat treatment of steel is produced from small pieces of hardwood. Old carriage upholstery is converted into bags, used steel files are re-cut, used oil is cleaned, 70 per cent. being recovered. The recovered materials are worth several million pounds annually and are of appreciable value to the national war effort. Extensive salvage campaigns have been carried out and economies introduced which are saving many thousands of tons of paper and cardboard. Not a ticket, envelope or paper fastener is being overlooked in the enthusiastic hunt which has been organised at every station, garage, depot, workshop and office. Every possible form of salvage which can be turned to good use is collected: 1,000 tons of tickets were salvaged during 1942. Salvage officers and leaders have been appointed to intensify the collection. Publicity schemes help to keep interest aroused, and two of the railways have made their own railway salvage films which are being shown by mobile cinemas throughout their systems. Collecting vans call at stations and depots within a certain radius at regular intervals to collect salvage, and local initiative is encouraged in a variety of ways. Posters at stations remind travellers to drop their waste paper in salvage bins. By co-operation between the railways and the Directorate of Salvage and Recovery, Ministry of Supply, a pamphlet with the title "The Salvage Guide" has been distributed to the railway staffs who are responsible for railway salvage. Ways in which still further salvage may be collected are outlined, and the importance of saving every scrap of usable material is reiterated. Waste paper, scrap metals, rags, old clothing and sacking, rope, string, rubber, broken box-wood, bottles, straw, food waste and bones are urgently needed.

Amongst the notes for general guidance to the staff are the recovery of lead clips from fog-signals, the use of buttons and badges from old uniforms, the collection of every kind of rubber scrap which will go to make new tyres, pilots' dinghies, gas masks, etc., the gathering of all broken boxes and similar pieces of wood suitable for making new boxes, and straw which can be re-used if dry and put to agricultural use if wet.


The "battle of the lines" in Britain has witnessed many acts of courage and gallantry. Groping through the blackout of four winters; battling against the worst weather in living memory; rapidly restoring communications with the knowledge that railways are military objectives; fighting fires in ammunition trains, docks, sidings and warehouses; standing up to machine-gunning and high explosives, railwaymen and women (many of whom were untrained under fire) have shown exemplary devotion to duty and heroism of a high order in their constant concern for the safety of the travelling public and for the safety of vital equipment and supplies.

The following honours have been awarded: George Cross, 1; George Medal, 28; British Empire Medal, 72; and in addition, 124 railwaymen received commendations and recognition in other ways. The number of railwaymen in H.M. Forces who have lost their lives is 1,354, and staff casualties through enemy action are 333 killed and 1,777 injured. The damage which has occurred might have been so much more harmful had it not been for the vigilant courage of the railwaymen. This courage, combined as it is with resource and improvisation, is a result of a tradition of service practised in peacetime and perfected in war. So much railway work requires quick thought and decision. The shunter, the signalman, the platelayer, have all been taught by experience and training to keep the traffic moving by every means possible. The best machines sometimes fail, and it is this continual watch with quick resourceful remedies so necessary in war, which are the fundamental training of a railwayman. Their courage has been rewarded, and to date nearly 200 have been officially recognised. But for every one recognised there are scores who have unquestionably helped in the face of physical danger to clear "the lines behind the lines" as if it were a part of their daily duties.

Shunter Tunna's action in putting out fires in trucks loaded with explosives for which he was awarded the George Cross, is shared in spirit by so many of his colleagues whose courage and watchfulness unfailingly keep the wheels of war turning.


Air Raid Precautions: Equipment includes fire-fighting engines and trains, motor petrol pumps and decontamination vans: 170,000 railwaymen are trained in A.R.P. work.

Air Raid Repairs: Repairs to the track have been completed generally within twelve hours; 3,000 signal wires in one week and 600 electric cables eight days.

Allotments: Railway lineside allotments total 82,588 and cover 4,282 acres.

Altitudes: See Permanent Way.

Amalgamation: On January 1st, 1923, 123 separate British Railway Companies were amalgamated and absorbed into the present four Group Companies, namely the L.M.S., the L.N.E.R., the G.W.R. and the S.R.

Awards forGallantry: The George Medal has been awarded to 28 railwaymen. One man has been decorated with the George Cross, 72 have received the British Empire Medal and 124 commendations and recognition in other ways.

Brakes: An express train of 12/13 coaches travelling at 60 m.p.h. can be brought to a stand in approximately 360 yards. The vacuum automatic brake is used on most steam trains and the Westinghouse compressed air brake on electric trains.

Bridges: The longest bridge in Great Britain is the Tay Bridge, opened June 13th, 1887. (Total length, 11,652 ft. 10 ins. - nearly 2¼ miles.)

Capital: The capital invested in the railways, Britain's largest private undertaking, is £1,300,000,000.

Carriages: See Rolling Stock.

Compensation: Payments fixed by agreement at £43,000,000 are made annually by the Government.

Control by Government: Government control was ordered on September 1st, 1939, under the Emergency Powers (Defence) Act, 1939 - Order No. 1197. The Main Line Railways, London Transport and several minor railways have been taken over by the State. They are under the control of the Minister of War Transport who appointed the Railway Executive Committee to be his agents for the purpose of giving orders. The railways' management and staffs are carrying on their duties subject to the direction and orders of the Government.

Dining Cars: See Rolling Stock.

Docks: British railways are extensive dock owners, having docks, harbours and wharves at 76 places. Total length of quays is 95 miles. The world's largest graving dock is at the Southampton Docks of the Southern Railway.

Electrification: The Southern Railway possesses the world's largest suburban electric train system, radiating south-west, south and south-east from London. In North London a number of electric suburban lines are operated by the L.M.S., who also own electric lines in the Morecambe, Liverpool and Manchester areas, one in the latter being jointly owned with the L.N.E.R. The L.N.E.R. possesses electric suburban lines north and south of Tyneside and, in conjunction with London Transport, has electrified certain suburban lines in north-west London. Further electrification of L.N.E.R. London suburban lines, either independently or in conjunction with London Transport and the G.W.R., and of the Manchester-Sheffield main line, has had to be suspended owing to the war. The total mileage of electrified line (single track, including sidings) is 2,408 miles, which includes the 445 miles of track operated by London Transport. Total route miles electrified is 968 miles.

Engines: See Locomotives.

Home Guard: See Staff.

Horses: The number of horses owned by the British railways is 10,000.

Hotels: The British railways own 53 hotels.

Junctions: The world's busiest junction is Clapham Junction (Southern Railway) with 2,500 trains in 24 hours.

Locomotives: The total number of locomotives possessed by the British railways is 19,624. L.N.E.R. Stream-lined Pacific locomotive "Mallard" holds the world's speed record for steam traction of 125 m.p.h., attained July 3rd, 1938.
The most powerful locomotive in Great Britain is the L.N.E.R. Beyer Garratt No. 2395, with a 2-8-0--0-8-2 wheel arrangement.

Longest Non-stop Run: Performed prior to the war by the "Flying Scotsman" expresses of the L.N.E.R., which in summer ran non-stop the distance of 392½ miles between London and Edinburgh in both directions. The inaugural run took place on May 1st, 1928. World's longest distance non-stop run in war-time - 243¾ miles, L.M.S. 9.30 p.m. express Glasgow-Crewe.

Mails: The British railways annually convey 25 million mail bags.

Parcels Traffic: The British railways forward 90½ million parcels every year.

Permanent Way: Number of sleepers to one mile of track - 2,112. Dimensions of a sleeper - 8 ft. 6 in. by 10 in. x 5 in.
Weight - 17 to a ton. Standard length of B.H. rail - 60 ft., weight - 95 lbs. per yard. Amount of ballast normally used annually - 1,700,000 cubic yards. Total mileage, single track, including sidings (miles) - 50,958. Total route mileage (miles) - 19,273.
Electrified: Route 968 miles. Track 2,408 miles. The longest stretches of straight track in Great Britain are the 18 miles of line between Selby and Hull and the 16 miles Boston-Grimsby line between Grimsby and Burgh-le-Marsh on the L.N.E.R.
The Southern Railway main line to Dover is nearly straight for 24 miles between Tonbridge and Ashford; 10½ miles as far as Staplehurst, is dead straight. Then to Ashford the direction is straight for 13½ miles with a slight deviation at Headcorn.
The highest point reached by rail in Great Britain is at Druimuachdar Summit, L.M.S., between Dalnaspidal and Dalwhinnie, 1484 ft. above sea level. (This ignores the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which at the summit is 3,540 ft. above sea level.)

Platforms: See Stations.

Restaurant Cars: See Rolling Stock.

Road Vehicles: The British railways own and operate 35,000 horse and motor road vehicles.

Rolling Stock: At the outbreak of war there were 45,838 passenger carriages with a total seating capacity of 2,655,000 seats and 18,224 passenger brake vans, parcel and mail vans, horse and carriage trucks, etc. Total - 64,062.The first sleeping car to be introduced in Great Britain was on the former North British Railway in 1873.
The largest wagon unit in Great Britain is the 150-ton trolley wagon set owned by the L.N.E.R. It is carried on 56 wheels.
Total number of railway wagons in service is 1,250,000.First dining car introduced on former G.N.R. between London and Leeds on November 1st, 1879.
Meals served on restaurant cars in peace-time totalled 8,000,000 annually.

Signal Boxes: There are 10,300 signal boxes on the British railways.

Sleeping Cars: See Rolling Stock.

Speed Records: See Locomotives.

Staff: Total employed by Main Line railways and London Transport = 656,498 - Number of women employed = 105,703 - Number of men enrolled in Home Guard = 90,000 - Number of staff trained in Civil Defence duties = 170,000.
In addition to the above 100,000 men are serving with H.M. Forces.
The total wages bill of the above staff is £174,569,000.

Stations and Halts: Number of passenger stations - 7,000. Of these, 200 have been constructed specially for workmen in war factories. Largest passenger station in Great Britain - Waterloo (S.R.), 24½ acres. First London main line station - Euston, opened July 20th, 1837. Smallest passenger station - Blackwell Mill, Derbyshire (L.M.S.). Longest passenger station platform in Great Britain - Manchester (Victoria and Exchange) L.M.S., 2,194 ft. Liverpool Street, L.N.E.R., handles the busiest steam operated suburban service in the world. Number of goods stations - 6,900. World's largest covered goods station - Bristol Temple Meads (G.W.R.).

Steamships: The number of steamships owned by the British Railways at the outbreak of war was 130.

Stockholders: British railways stockholders total 955,000.

Streamlined Trains: The first streamlined locomotive and train in Great Britain was the "Silver Jubilee" of the L.N.E.R., which commenced operation both ways between Newcastle and London on September 30th, 1935.

Track: See Permanent Way.

Tunnels: The longest tunnel on the British Main Line railways is the Severn (G.W.R.), 4 miles, 628 yards.
The longest tunnel underground in the world is on the London Transport system between East Finchley and Morden via the Bank, a distance of 17¼ miles.The first tunnel in Great Britain is that under Tyler Hill on the Canterbury and Whitstable Line (now S.R.), opened on May 3rd, 1830.

Wages: See Staff.

Wagons: See Rolling Stock.

Weather (Abnormal): Four hundred snow ploughs are in service; patrol trains are run on exposed sections of lines; 1,400 electrical point heaters have been installed in the London area. In January, 1940, 1,500 miles of lines were blocked by ice and snow.

Workmen'sTrains: Seven thousand special trains are operated each week to and from Government factories.

Water Troughs: There are 141 water troughs on British railways.

Any of the facts and figures given in this book may be quoted with or without acknowledgement Passed for publication by the Censor

From: Facts About British Railways In Wartime. London : British Railways Press Office, 1943 : 64p : ill ; 23cm. Printed by The Baynard Press.

The text above is reproduced from a booklet published in 1943 by The British Railways Press Office, London. It contained 64 pages, each 226 mm x 175 mm (slightly larger than A5), and was priced at One Shilling (five pence in today's currency). There were several illustrations, mostly black and white photographs. Scans of the photographs will be added to this site in due course.

A similar booklet was published in 1944, British Railways In Peace And War. In 1945, a third booklet came out, "It Can Now Be Revealed" - More About British Railways In Peace And War.


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