Records of transport can reveal a wealth of fascinating material useful to the local or community historian, from documents relating to the landowners affected by proposed routes to records of the people who built, worked and travelled on the transport systems crossing the country.
Britain’s first passenger and goods railway opened in the 1820s, with the network expanding rapidly throughout the 19th century. Trains could carry passengers and goods much faster than the canal system, and many canal companies amalgamated with, or turned themselves into, railway companies as the canals were superseded by increasingly fast locomotives.
The main historical series of records for railways operating in Staffordshire (as for other counties) are held at the National Archives at Kew or at the National Railway Museum in York. The main business records of the railway companies are often deposited at the National Archives, whilst plans, drawings and surveys are deposited with the National Railway Museum.
Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service does not, therefore, hold the principal series of railway records for the county. However, there are the deposited plans for proposed railway routes held in the papers of the county Quarter Sessions (now held at Staffordshire Record Office), along with miscellaneous legal records relating to the construction of lines among family papers and solicitors collections.
There are also some business records of local firms who manufactured railway locomotives, rolling stock or equipment, and occasional records of former railway companies which have not been deposited with the national repositories. Family collections may contain odd pieces of ephemera, such as excursion leaflets or posters, whilst trade directories can also provide basic information about local railways, including the name of the local stationmaster.
Additionally, there are the deposited collections of private enthusiasts, such as the Jack Hollick Collection and the Basil Jeuda Collection, both of which relate to railways in the north of the county and which are today held at Stoke on Trent City Archives. These contain miscellaneous material, including photographs, maps and timetables.
A free detailed guide to the Archive Service's holdings of railway records is available in PDF format from the Guides to Sources page on this website (Guide to Sources No. 8: Transport Records).