Where to find railway records

Records relating to today’s railway infrastructure are not just held by Network Rail. 

The railway has always created large quantities of records and over the years they have also been deposited in archives and museums across the country.  This is a guide to where you can find railway records so you can put your railway research on the right track.

The National Archives hold the main business records of English and Welsh railway companies nationalised in 1947, as well as railway records up to railway privatisation in the 1990s. 

The National Records of Scotland hold records relating to the development of the railways in Scotland. These include the main business records of Scottish railway companies nationalised in 1947 as well as records of British Railways Board, British Railways (Scottish Region) and the privatised railway in Scotland.  They also hold private papers and photographic archives relating to the railway in Scotland. 

The National Railway Museum hold various archive collections relating to the history of railway civil engineering and signalling. They hold major collections of railway photography, posters and artwork. They also hold copies of railway operating publications such as working and public timetables, rule books and sectional appendices.

The Parliamentary Archives holds records relating to the development of the railway infrastructure in Britain, including Acts of Parliament, deposited railway plans and other associated documentation such as books of reference, lists of property owners, occupiers and estimates.  They also hold committee evidence relating to the construction of railways.

The Institution of Civil Engineers holds various archive collections relating to the history of railway civil engineering as well as papers relating to prominent railway engineers.

The British Film Institute holds the collection of official British Transport Films, as well as film from railway companies and amateur enthusiasts.

Heritage railways, groups and societies sometimes hold records of interest relating to their railway company interest or area of research. The National Railway Museum maintains a directory of railway groups and societies.

Did you know …?

Railway staff records from 1833 to 1956 at The National Archives are available to search online through ancestry.co.uk