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A Brief History of The Society Archives

The first, and biggest, donation consisted mainly of several thousand signalling plans and signalling diagrams from the Southern Railway (SR) and its constituents, plus related material such as the instructions issued to signalmen at each box. Since that time numerous deposits of varying sizes have been made.

The Archive subsequently took charge of a direct deposit of former British Rail (BR) material that was not designated for preservation as public records. The deposit was sanctioned by the BR Record Officer - yes, this post still existed at the time. Of course, much of the contents of the archive originated from BR or its successors in one way or another, some of it being saved from the bin when it became out of date.

The majority of the deposits still come from our members, some deceased and some seeking to rationalise their collections and place important historical material at the disposal of members in general. An important condition of acceptance is that the Society is at liberty to dispose of duplicates, or items deemed not relevant to signalling & operation, normally by sale to members or transfer to some more relevant body.

Our archive largely complements the collections of the The National Archives (TNA) (previously called the Public Record Office (PRO)) and National Railway Museum (NRM), which do not have the resources to accumulate or catalogue all the minutiae of details of every signalling installation in the UK, let alone equipment supplied for export by British firms. The TNA, for example, has inherited some Classes of such detailed material, although it does not seem to have a policy of acquiring more. The question of a rational division of records between all the interested parties is one which is frequently discussed by the Archive Manager and other committee members, although at present it is not entirely clear how much can be done in this respect. The SRS hopes to engage in dialogue with the Railway Heritage Committee (Records Sub-Committee) with this object in mind, and also to make things as easy as possible for researchers and other users. A first step might be unified indexes to classes/types of records, inclusive of all known repositories, and some progress had been made to this end.

The greater part of the archive material is neatly boxed and shelved and largely listed in our archive catalogue.


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