For enthusiasts, researchers and modellers of the Great Eastern Railway


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These photographs were taken by staff in the Locomotive, Carriage & Wagon Department Drawing Office at Stratford Works at various dates between about 1900 and 1953. When the Works closed at the end of 1963 the negatives, principally on glass plates, were sent to Doncaster. In the late 1960s they were transferred to the British Transport Museum, Clapham, becoming part of the National Collection and with the establishment of the National Railway Museum they were finally moved to York.

Subject Matter

The majority of the images are of subjects in and around Stratford Works and Temple Mills Wagon Works but some are of other places on the GER system. Most relate to matters which were the responsibility of the Locomotive Department. The range of subjects includes locomotives, carriages, wagons, road vehicles, workshop machinery and plant and war damage.

The Register and Negative Numbering

The hand written photographic register exists at the NRM but has several limitations; the descriptions are very terse and many lack a date.   The register lists negatives SX101 to SX2638; SX refers to Stratford Works and is a convention adopted by the LNER. The first 1211 negatives are not listed in date order and an examination of the dates which are recorded for numerical groups suggests that the register was prepared during 1930.


          SX 101 to 221                       1928, 27 and 29  

          SX 222 to 238                       1920 to 1924

          SX 241 to 306                       all GER period?

          SX 398 to 404                       1929

          SX 405 to 416                       1902 to 1920

          SX 524 to 688                       1930

          SX 689 to 814                       mostly GER period

          SX 815 to 1210                     mostly GER period but some in 1926

          SX 1211 onwards                 October 1930 onwards in chronological order.

This suggestion is reinforced by the existence at the National Archives, Kew, of six albums of photographs originating from Stratford Works under RAIL 227/431 to 436. They contain many prints from the Stratford Collection but none have the SX reference in the lower right hand corner, suggesting that the numbers were added to the negatives at a later date.

The Photographers

The 'taken by' column is not consistently used, particularly for GER period images. Only two initials appear in this column, CH and IWR. CH is certainly Charles Harding who, according to staff records at Kew (RAIL/227/544) was born on 28 January 1873 and entered GER service on 1 September 1888. He became a temporary draughtsman in the Supplemental Drawing Office (SDO) at Stratford on 11 May 1894, moving to the main drawing office on 11 December 1896. On 1 July 1930 he was promoted to Chief Carriage & Wagon Draughtsman retiring 28 January 1938, aged 65. His last recorded photograph was taken in June 1936. Harding is credited with a number of photographs in the GER Magazine which are represented in the Stratford Collection.

IWR did much work from 1911 until at least 1944. On 13 October 1944 photograph SX2317 was taken by 'WR' of Mr Roberts at a drawing office presentation. WR is also credited with three photographs taken a few days earlier at another presentation and thus IWR may well be Mr Roberts, a different person to WR. This print has not yet been seen and no further details are yet known of Mr Roberts’s career.

General Comments

In many ways the collection is an odd one since there appears to be no logic or continuity in the subjects covered. It does not represent a continuous record either of the output of the Works, the Works itself or of the plant it contained. Locomotive coverage is erratic and few of the rolling stock photographs depict new vehicles. Some photographs had publicity value, for example carriage interiors, others were purely for record such as machinery delivered to the Works during the 1930's, possibly for insurance or valuation purposes.

The GER Magazine included many photographs, mainly by Harding, to illustrate articles, including a progression of images showing how Mansell carriage wheels were manufactured. Some were taken for other departments to record accidents or as evidence for impending court cases. The Magazine features several photographs taken by A. Woolford, who was employed in the Civil Engineer's Department. He was a FRGS but none of his work appears in the SX Collection. Many photographs by A. Hestor, of Clapton, presumably a commercial photographer, appear in the GERM, implying that other departments employed Hestor as a photographer. Harding was thus not regarded as a Company photographer his work being generally restricted to the Locomotive Department. Again none of Hestor's images appear in the Stratford Collection.

Process of Listing

At a meeting held early in 1996 between Paul Goldsmith and Dieter Hopkin, then Head of Library & Archive Collections, to discuss ways in which the knowledge and expertise of Society members could be used to assist the NRM in listing their photographic and drawing collections it was agreed that in view of the uninformative nature of the register the Society would provide captions for this collection.

A large quantity of cyano prints taken from the photographic plates exist at the NRM and the first step was to obtain photo copies of these for circulation among Society members. Our member Peter Savage from Hull produced a set of prints during 1996 and Paul grouped the prints into broad subjects. Prints were circulated at the end of 1996 to numerous members, whose help is acknowledged below. The resulting captions attempt to summarise the content and provide a guide date where this is lacking, using other evidence where appropriate. Some images were used in the GER Magazine and these are referred to where they occur. The process of generating captions took until early 1999 and John Watling collated the results and supplied a provisional listing to the NRM at the end of 1999.

This data base was prepared in July 2002 in anticipation that access would be available to the 350 or so plates for which prints do not exist. This has not been possible so far and in view of the current building and extension work at the NRM in connection with the Search Engine project access is not likely until at least 2008.


Thanks are due to the following GER Society members who supplied information from which the captions have been prepared:

David Bayes, Nigel Bowdidge, Eric Fry, John Gardner, Les Hammond, Stan Hinbest, Graham Kenworthy, J.S. King, Brian McCarthy, Gordon Maslin, Chris Moss, R. Riisnaes, Jerzy Swieszkowski, Dave Taylor, Frank Voisey, John Watling, Dennis West, D. Williams, Brian Wilson and R.P. Wright.

Protocol used for Listing

1. For the purpose of ordering prints the negative numbers must be prefixed SX, quoted as necessary in the description but not recorded here in the negative number column.

2. The first line of the description repeats verbatim the entry in the negative register. If this is all that appears it means that a print has not been examined. If it is marked as Subject Unknown this means the plate exists but no entry appears in the register.

3. The second line onwards of text is descriptive, sometimes contradicting the register entry where this is known to be wrong.

4. Dates are quoted from the negative register where given, otherwise they are noted as undated, sometimes followed by a suggested date expressed as c. for circa.

5. Graham Kenworthy has checked all the plates and those missing are noted NEGATIVE MISSING. Captions appear for some of these entries from prints in private collections.

6. Some numbers in the series are missing from the register and these have been noted.

7. The majority of the captions have been prepared from photocopies which lack the clarity of a photographic print and thus some detail might have been missed. 

John Watling May 2006