The Archive is a not-for-profit online project which provides access to electronic copies of original documents, together with supporting data, which have played a key role in driving and reflecting change on the railways of the United Kingdom, in terms of:
- Railway Law;
- Railway safety;
- Railway economics;
- Railway politics.
The Archive is not a repository for railway ephemera, however interesting it may be. Retaining such information would simultaneously dilute the archive of key documents (making it less navigable), and create an unmanageable workload for the site administrators.
The archive was started in September of 2004, initially as a response to the author's inability to get hold of a portable electronic copy of the Beeching reports. Looking around the web, it became obvious that the availability of railway documents varied widely. Before about 1992, documents were not published electronically and little was available. After this date, most items were available, but were scattered in a variety of locations and formats. Thus the archive was born, to cache all of the key documents electronically in one place.
The Archive is being continuously expanded, driven mainly by contributions from its users. A core of key documents have been identified, and efforts are concentrated on sourcing these. At the same time, we accept other documents as users come forward, providing they meet the criteria for inclusion in the Archive.
The majority of the archive has come from contributors, and we are always glad of suggestions and offers of assistance. If you have a document you think should be on the site, or even if you know of one but don't have it, we would like to hear from you. Please see our contributions page for more details of how you can help.
If it is a document which either drives change on the railway, or reflects it, we want it.
For instance, the Beeching report clearly led to massive change on the railway: so we have it on the archive. Publicity material about the Advanced Passenger Train reflected a change, so we have those documents as well.
If you are not sure, please fill in our email form and get in touch.
The Railways Archive stores all its documents in the Portable Document Format (PDF) because it offers several advantages:
- it makes the site platform independent;
- it allows documents to be culled from a variety of hard and soft sources;
- it gives us complete control of the format and size of the documents;
- it enables the complete document to be presented as one file.
Anyone can view these documents using the free Adobe Reader® software.
We adhere to UK copyright laws, and we ask that our users do too. Please see our copyright policy for a full statement.
Some of our documents are quite large - particularly those older documents which we have been scanned from paper. We optimise these files as best we can - while preserving the readability of the document - but image-generated PDFs are unavoidably larger than their text-generated equivalent.
The size of each document is listed in Megabytes (Mb). Typical download times are as follows;
- 56k dialup connection: 8½ minutes per Mb
- 512k broadband connection: 1 minute per Mb
- 1Mb broadband connection: 30 seconds per Mb
- 8Mb broadband connection: a few seconds per Mb
Please check the download size and be prepared for longer load times on these files. The more recent documents are generally available as published PDF files; these are usually pre-optimised and therefore smaller.
The limit on download speed is generally a function of a number of factors at the user end, rather than being something which we have any influence over. Download speed will depend on the type of connection you have - dial-up, cable or DSL - as well as the amount of traffic on your connection. Connections at work may have artificial limits set on download speed.
As an example, we use a standard ADSL home user package for web browsing, with a theoretical download speed of 512kb/s. We typically see actual download rates of 40kb/s for railways archive files.
The Railways Archive uses a web hosting package with a download bandwidth far in excess of our current traffic levels. If you are having difficulty with download speeds we suggest you contact your Internet Service Provider, who will check the speed of your connection.
Probably not. If you think your ancestor was involved in an accident, bear in mind that in any given year there were hundreds of reportable accidents; these will vary from minor shunting mishaps through to major tragedies. These accident reports concentrate on determining cause, and until very recently the victims were not named in the reports.
If you are interested in detailed railway company records, including staff records, rolling stock details or details about specific locations, you will not find them here. The Archive is more concerned with policy decisions rather than detailed railway ephemera.
There are various places where you can find this type of information. For more details see our research tools page.
We regret that we are unable to reply to emails regarding genealogy enquiries, due to the high workload which we have in compiling the archive.
The site is owned by an individual with an interest in railway history and current rail trends. The site has no affiliation with any company or other organisation.
The Archive seeks to hold a complete database of reported railway accidents and other events within the United Kingdom and Ireland, from the first railway accident records to the present day, together with the accident report for each.
The archive currently has - as far as we can tell - a complete database of accidents which have been reported and investigated by the HMRI or the equivalent safety body, from 1840 to the present day. Many more accidents will have taken place in early days which were not reported, and many more recent accidents were not investigated by HMRI and thus will not be in the archive.
Most of our pre-war accident records are currently limited to date, location and company only. As we obtain each accident report, the record is completed with the accident details.
The Archive aims to record accidents and incidents which affect or change safety systems on the railway. For this reason, we define a railway incident as involving one or more railway vehicles behaving in an unplanned and dangerous manner. An accident occurs when this leads to damage and/or injury.
These incidents and accidents include:
- Collision with another rail vehicle, road vehicle, debris, structure or animal;
- Unauthorised movement, e.g. runaways, signals passed at danger;
- Fires and explosions;
- Train splitting in two;
- Train or part of train outside kinematic envelope;
It is these incidents and accidents which the Archive aims to record. The incident need not have any consequences in terms of death or injury, as long as one of the situations listed above existed.
The Archive does not generally record details of the following events, as the safety of trains is not generally put at risk, and recording of such events would lead to a dilution of the archive and attendant increase in resource requirements;
- Railway workers struck by railway vehicles;
- Railway staff industrial injuries;
- Pedestrian members of the public struck by trains;
Accidents involving fatalities and/or injuries to railway staff and/or the public may be recorded in exceptional circumstances where railway safety is significantly affected or called into question; e.g. where level crossing design is changed as a result of a fatality.
Regrettably, it is inevitable that during the life of the Archive, new incidents and accidents will take place that need to be recorded and published. Recording of initial data will be made not less than 24 hours after the accident takes place. Recording of data will be limited to:
- Latitude/Longitude - only if the location is clear from two different trusted news sources;
- Train Operating Company or Companies involved;
- Results - only if the course of events is clear from two different trusted news sources;
- Number of fatalities and injuries - only if the numbers are clear from two different trusted news sources, and the nature of the accident means the numbers are highly unlikely to change.
The remaining data will be recorded based on the official published report. Previously recorded data will be checked for accuracy against the official published accident report. Where an official report is not expected, a trusted source will be used where available.
Railway accidents are tragic events in every sense of the word. They elicit strong feelings among the general public, and cause enormous distress for those members of the public and staff involved in the accident, and their families. For this reason the Archive strives at all times to avoid causing offence to those individuals - while maintaining its primary purpose, which is to record the facts associated with an accident so that lessons may be learned and future accidents avoided. In particular, the Archive shall:
- Refrain from publishing opinion about an accident, as opposed to fact as determined by the official report, unless that opinion is contained in a document originally published by others;
- Refrain from allocating blame for an accident;
- Respond to individuals involved in an accident, or members of their family, who contact the Archive, with sensitivity and tact.
Our 19th century accident records come from a kind contributor who spent many hours in the early 1990s compiling data from the Board of Trade accident return volumes. We took this data, digitised it, and added it to the archive.
Our 20th century records come from another contributor who carried out a similar exercise using the HMRI accident archive.
We believe our archive to be largely accurate, but it is inevitable that mistakes will creep into such a large data set. If you are aware of any such inaccuracies, please contact us.
The Archive is seeking to hold a copy of all legislation affecting railways, in its original form, i.e. as passed without changes due to subsequent legislation.
Users wishing to see legislation including amendments from subsequent legislation should visit the UK Statute Law Database at www.statutelaw.gov.uk.
There is no physical archive. We get our material from a number of individuals and organisations, who scan their material and send us the resulting files. Think of it as an electronic library, not a real one.
The following information is given for guidance only and may not be current. Prior to reproduction of any Crown material you should check current legislation.
Crown copyright in published literary works expires 50 years after publication.
The standard terms for Crown copyright in unpublished literary works are for 125 years from creation or to the end of the year 2039, whichever is later. Those terms apply to all Crown literary works created before but still unpublished on 1 August 1989 (no matter how long ago they were created) and thereafter to any that remain unpublished for the first 75 years after their creation.
Some Crown public records are subject to a waiver. The guidance on this waiver gives a general description of public records. The statutory definitions are contained in the Public Records Act (Northern Ireland) 1923, the Public Records (Scotland) Act 1937, the Public Records Act 1958 and the Government of Wales Act 2006. The most comprehensive definition appears in schedule 1 of the 1958 Act.
Public records are preserved in The National Archives, the National Archives of Scotland, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and some 250 places of deposit of public records around England and Wales. Where Crown copyright unpublished works are preserved among public records in one of these institutions, the waiver applies. The terms of the waiver require the person reproducing the document to acknowledge the source (the name of the record office holding the original document) and to give the original document reference.
Where the document copyright has not expired and not subject to the waiver, an OPSI click-use license will be required for reproduction of the document. This license is can be applied for online here and does not cost anything.
If, like us, you feel that these laws - which govern your use of material which UK taxpayers have funded - are unnecessarily complex and restrictive, you have our sympathy. Join the Free Our Data campaign and try to change things.
We get an email with this question every so often, and 100% of the time (to date) it turns out to be a problem at the user's end. 90% of the time it is an out of date or corrupt installation of Adobe Reader or whichever PDF reader you are using.
If you are having this problem please update or reinstall your PDF reader software. Also check you are using a modern browser and that it is also up to date. If it is still causing a problem then please get in touch.
It is not in our gift to give permission for reuse of any third party material, whether documents or images, which may be present on our site. This is because we are not the rights holder for any of the material. We have gained permission to reproduce the material wherever possible; but this does not mean we have the legal power to pass that permission on to you.
If you are looking to to reuse images, please note that we are not an image library. We do not hold high resolution images and we are not the rights holder for those images which we do have.
If you wish to reproduce or reuse material from our site, you will need to contact the rights holder direct.
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