The GERS Collection
One of the Society's major achievements is the establishment of its Historical Collection of Records. Over the years this has grown to become the most comprehensive public archive of material relevant to the Great Eastern Railway, and it ranks in importance against the collections of the National Railway Museum at York, and The National Archives at Kew.
The Collection mirrors the areas of interest of the Society itself, and thus comprises material relevant not only to the Great Eastern Railway, but also to its predecessors and successors to the present day. The joint, minor and other associated lines in the GER's geographical area are also catered for, including the London, Tilbury & Southend Railway, plus the North London Railway east of Dalston Junction, and the London Underground Central Line east of Stratford. The only exception is the Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway, which is already catered for by its own historical societies.
The vast bulk of the GERS Collection consists of archive material in the form of documents, books, timetables and operating notices, maps, plans, drawings, photographs and so on, and these are now housed and available for inspection at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford, Essex.
Scope and Coverage
The archive part of the GERS Collection presently comprises collections of maps, timetables and drawings. There are several tens of thousands of individual items available for inspection. Some of the highlights of the Collection include:
- Several thousand copies of official plans, maps and drawings relating to railway sites in the GER area - track plans, station and building plans etc. from the Railtrack/Network Rail archives, which the GERS assisted in cataloguing. They cover the period from the very beginning of railways in East Anglia up to the present time.
- The Dupen Collection of some 9500 official GER drawings of locomotive, carriage, wagon and road vehicle details, from the mid-1800s to 1963. These drawings form the residue from the Stratford Works Drawing Office, after selection had been made for the National Collection, now at the NRM. They were rescued immediately prior to their incineration by the late Peter Dupen.
- The Kingstone Collection of Official Signalling Plans for signalboxes in the GER area. These comprise some 1600 drawings of signalling layouts, locking tables etc.
- A wide range of public and working timetables for all periods up to the present.
- Copies of virtually all of the books and periodicals that have been published dealing with the GER and associated lines during the 20th Century, and many from the 1800s as well.
- A wide range of staff rule and instruction books from all periods.
There is material on almost any subject that you care to mention. In the field of railway study - be it historical or modelling - there are resources for those researching company histories, accounts and legal matters. Locomotives, carriages and wagons are covered, as are road vehicles and ships. There is plenty of material on train working, timetables, publicity and so on. There is a great deal of interest for those studying the working of goods traffic. Railway safety, signalling and telegraphs, accidents and so on are well catered for. Civil Engineering, architecture and permanent way are also comprehensively covered, as are also staff welfare, recreation, employment conditions and trade union representation. In a wider context, the archive is also a mine of information for the general study of social and economic history, industrial archaeology, and so on.
Access to the Collection
The Collection catalogue is now available from this website for download to your PC, free of charge. Click here. It is also available from GERS Sales as a CD-ROM disk, priced £5.00 (plus p&p). Once you have purchased a copy, it can be returned and exchanged for later editions of the catalogue as they are released, at a reduced price.
The GERS Collection is available for inspection at the Essex Record Office in Chelmsford - click here for details of access, opening times etc. If you wish to access the GERS Collection at the ERO, you are strongly recommended to read the pdf Introduction (163 KB) first to understand how to order documents.
The GERS Collection has been built up almost entirely of material donated or bequeathed by members and others, who have been keen to see that the material that they have collected themselves continues to be looked after, and of interest and use to others. The Society has never actively sought items to 'fill gaps' in the Collection, and we have been most fortunate that the Collection is nevertheless comprehensive in its scope. On rare occasions the Society has purchased material for the Collection when it has become aware of a unique item being offered for sale. Funds for such purchases are limited: The Society believes that the income derived from members' subscriptions should be used to produce the Great Eastern Journal and Great Eastern News, and to provide two main members' meetings per year. Any money spent on the Collection is derived from the sale of surplus material, and most of this is normally utilised for conservation work.
If you have an item of GER or related interest which you would like to donate to the Society for its Collection please contact us via the website, or write to The Archivist, L.D. Brooks, 33 Brookfield Avenue, Walthamstow, London E17 9EP. In fairness, we should point out that - for obvious space reasons - we are unable to accept items that duplicate those that we already hold, unless they are in better condition. In these cases we will be pleased to advise on alternative museums and collections. The identity of all donors is noted in the catalogue in the form that you wish, but we will also respect anonymity, if so desired.