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Exploring literary materials and songs that celebrate and document the stories of railway workers

Wednesday 27 November 2019, 2.00PM to 16:00

Speaker(s): Dr Oli Betts and Professor Kirstie Blair

Following on from the launch of our new online course [ ] on the nineteenth century railway worker, course leaders Dr Oli Betts and Professor Kirstie Blair will be talking in more detail about the literary materials and songs that celebrate and document worker stories, what commenters thought about them and how they might add to our understanding of the different types of railway worker – navvy, clerk, driver and signaller. It will also be a great opportunity to discuss railway worker history with prominent academics in the field and help shape the direction of any future collaboration.

The IRS Seminar is free and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Evening Star Theatre

Admission: Free

IRS Seminar 20 June

Thursday 20 June 2019, 2.00PM to 16:00

Speaker(s): Dr Robert Demaine, John Liffen and William Godfrey

Our next Institute of Railway Studies seminar features an eclectic range of speakers.

Dr Robert Demaine, one of our archive volunteers, will be talking about a new archive acquisition—Jeremiah Head's diary. Jeremiah was an engineer for Robert Stephenson and his diary offers a colourful insight into early railway projects and social interactions with Stephenson, Edward Pease and others.

Our second speaker is John Liffen, the Science Museum's Curator Emeritus of Technology and Transport. John will be looking at the history of Rocket from its inaccurate appearance after a poorly managed restoration in 1862 and display in the Patent Office Museum, through to Michael Satow's working copy for the National Railway Museum in 1979.

Our final speaker is William Godfrey, Senior Lecturer in Media, Design and Technology at the University of Bradford. William will be talking about machine anthropomorphism in popular culture and children's media looking at Thomas the Tank Engine, Ivor the Engine and the work of authors such as Rudyard Kipling, Virginia Lee Burton and others who give human qualities and attributes to railway locomotives and other machines.

Refreshments will be provided.

Please register here for free tickets.

Location: NRM Duchess of Hamilton

Admission: Free

Mobility of Things: Pasts, Presents, and Futures: 17/18 December 2018

Monday 17 December 2018, 9.00AM

Questions of mobility and transport studies, historical and contemporary, are in a state of flux. How traditional transport history, for example, may be combined with the growing significance of mobility studies, or how the static landscape of movement (the roads and rails, stations and airports) relate to mobility itself are the source of much exciting research. The movement of people, or restrictions on that movement, is a topic of much contemporary debate; yet equally important notions of the circulation, transport, and mobility of objects, ideas, and cultures remain underrepresented. Furthermore, how museums and galleries, as well as researchers and writers, might capture and record that movement, and explain to broader audiences, continues to pose a challenge.

This two-day conference hosted by the National Railway Museum in York (UK) aims to bring together scholars from a wide variety of fields working on issues of mobility and movement in the modern world. The aim is to create a truly interactive conference where speakers and audiences can exchange ideas, build relationships, and debate the differing contexts of moving objects, peoples, and ideas. Applications addressing the theme of "movement of things" in past, present, or future contexts are welcome.

Submissions can be either for 20 minute papers OR for 5 minute "think pieces"

Think Pieces (150 word proposals)
With the aim of stimulating debate and discussion the organisers particularly encourage submissions for small think pieces on the following subjects:

  • Diasporas
  • Movement and Design
  • Big Data, Visualisation and Mobilities (mapping/plotting/researching/etc)
  • Representing Movement in Museums.

Conference Papers (300 word proposals)

  • The organisers also welcome proposals for more traditional 20-minute conference papers (or panels) addressing the conference themes more broadly. Some ideas of topics that could be covered:
  • Colonial/Post-Colonial/Global Movement
  • The material history of movement and mobility
  • The Mobility of Things in film, television, literature, and drama.
  • Cultural and Social reactions to movements and mobilities.
  • Telling the stories of object mobilities in Museums and Galleries
  • Future imaginings or cultural legacies of the movement of things past and future.
  • The materiality of movement.
  • The political, economic, or metaphysical contexts of such mobilities.

Proposals and Queries can be sent to the Organisers at

CFP DEADLINE - 31st October 2018

Location: National Railway Museum

IRS Seminar Series: 22 November 2018

Thursday 22 November 2018, 2.00PM to 16:00

Speaker(s): Dr Nicola Kirkby and Professor Richard Dennis

The broad theme of the seminar will be on the "Railways, Culture, and Society in late 19th and early 20th century Britain." We are delighted to have two speakers confirmed for the event.

Dr Nicola Kirkby recently completed a PhD on the intersections between railway infrastructure and literature in the Victorian period, with a particular focus on Paddington Station. She has held an Archival Fellowship at the Huntington Library in California, looking at the papers of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the watercolour sketches of George Stephenson, and is interested in how science and technology is integrated into daily life.

Professor Richard Dennis was first Lecturer, then Reader, and finally Professor of Geography at University College London from 1974 until his recent retirement. He has written numerous books and articles on society, place, and culture in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and has, in recent years, been very interested in the impact of both over and underground railways on modern London.

As usual refreshments will be served and there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion during what promises to be a fascinating event.

The seminar is free on a first come first served basis. No ticket required.

Location: Evening Star lecture theatre at the National Railway Museum

Admission: Free

Railway Heritage and History: A Workshop

Friday 11 May 2018, 1.00PM to 17:00

Speaker(s): Various speakers

Please join us for an afternoon workshop showcasing the latest research in history and heritage by UK and international scholars based at the Institute of Railway studies, a long-standing collaboration between the University of York and the National Railway Museum, and doctoral students currently working on collaborative research with the Museum.
There will be a variety of papers about railwayman’s literature, identity, domesticity, carriage interiors, authenticity of built heritage, and Portuguese railways, and a concluding round table discussion about whether there is a gap between railway history and heritage that needs to be bridged.

The event is free, including a refreshment break, but we ask that you register your interest by signing up at the Eventbrite page here. 

Location: Duchess of Hamilton Suite, National Railway Museum

Admission: Free

IRS Seminar Series

Thursday 20 July 2017, 2.00PM to 16:00

Speaker(s): Dr David Turner and Sophie Vohra

This free public event is an excellent way to hear about new railway research as well as to ask questions and network with those with similar interests. Speaking, we have Dr David Turner and current PhD student Sophie Vohra.

David is Associate Lecturer at the University of York’s Centre for Lifelong Learning and runs the Postgraduate diploma in Railway Studies. His talk will be on Damage, delay and disappearance - sending beer by rail before 1914.

Sophie is a University of York and National Railway Museum Collaborative Doctoral Award student, who is researching Railways and Commemoration for her PhD. Sophie’s talk will highlight her research findings to date.

The seminar looks to be an interesting session with two rarely discussed topics on the agenda. If you would like to attend please book your free ticket here.

Location: Duchess of Hamilton suite, National Railway Museum

Admission: Free

Institute for Railways Studies Seminar Series: 9 March 2017

Thursday 9 March 2017, 2.00PM to 16:00

Speaker(s): Dr Stephan Tetzlaff and Mark Lambert

Our speakers will be

Dr Stephan Tetzlaff, who will be giving a talk on: “Competition, Coordination and Control: Road and Rail Transport Between Government Institutions and Commercial Actors in Interwar India (c. 1920-1939)”

Stefan Tetzlaff is a historian who specializes in the social and economic history of modern South Asia and its connection with the world. He currently holds a postdoctoral fellowship at the German Historical Institute in London. Before this, Stefan trained in history, area studies and political science in Berlin and New Delhi, and completed a PhD in Mediaeval and Modern History in Göttingen in 2015. The central themes of Stefan’s PhD and postdoctoral research till date have been the large-scale emergence of motorized road transport in rural and small town India in the interwar period and the development of an indigenous automotive industry since the 1940s on the background of specific local, regional and transnational developments.

Mark Lambert, will be basing his talk on his current PhD research which is looking at: 'The designation and display of British railway heritage in the post-war decades'. Primarily his talk will focus on the decision-making processes which led to the preservation of locomotives in what was to become the National Collection, between 1948 and 1962. His research has come from the archives of the Science Museum Group as well as at The National Archives.

Mark is doing his PhD at the University of Nottingham’s School of Geography.  

As usual, the IRS seminar is free. 

Please note the seminar’s change of location which, previously, have been held at the NRM:

Location: The King’s Manor, the University of York’s city centre premises, Lecture Theatre K/133: please note the seminar’s change of location which, previously, have been held at the NRM.

Admission: Free

Institute of Railway Studies Seminar, 17th November

Thursday 17 November 2016, 2.00PM to 4.00pm

Speaker(s): Anthony Coulls, Dr Oli Betts and Richard Taylor

The next IRS seminar will feature talks from our Senior Curator of Rail Transport and Technology, Anthony Coulls on the Fletcher Jennings locomotive industry at Lowca; NRM Research Fellow, Dr Oli Betts will be looking at the culture of railway drawing office employees through the lens of GWR staff scrapbook, the Enginorum, which is held in the NRM archives and guest speaker, Richard Taylor, will be discussing the research behind his recent book on Edward Johnston and his typeface and roundel that became ubiquitous with London Underground.

 The IRS seminar is free but ticketed - to get your ticket, please register at this following link:

Location: National Railway Museum, Mallard Suite

Admission: Free

IRS Seminar

Wednesday 15 June 2016, 2.00PM to 16:00

Speaker(s): Anne Mallory and Alison Kay

The speakers will be former IRS student Anne Mallery who will be talking about her research. Anne is exploring the relationship between women, railway and religion in the late nineteenth century looking at the work of women in the Railway Mission and how they found ways to break through male dominated railway culture to take religion to the vast numbers of men employed in the railway industry of late Victorian Britain.

The second speaker will be our Associate Archivist Alison Kay, who will be talking about the research she has done to underpin the museum's forthcoming Ambulance Train exhibition, due to open in July. Here Alison will talk about some of the stories and people involved with the transportation of the sick and wounded by ambulance train in the First World War.

The event is free, but is ticketed:  

Location: NRM's Mallard suite

Admission: Free

New Uses for Old Railways Conference

Tuesday 21 June 2016, 9.00AM to 17:00

Speaker(s): Various

The Interuniversity Centre for the History of Science and Technology (University NOVA of Lisbon), the Centre for Innovation, Technology and Public Policy (University of Lisbon), and the Institute of Railway Studies (University of York) are organising a workshop on the theme of 'new uses for old railways'.

The objective of this workshop is to debate how railroads in different contexts and countries were less and less used over time until they were eventually shutdown. But, instead of just being abandoned, they were brought back to life with new uses, either as part of heritage programs or with different purposes, providing for different needs. In some cases they even paved the way for reverse engineering studies, a new and promising field of research. A new book about this issue will also be launched at the event (and digital copies provided to the attendants). 

Further info and tickets available here:

Location: NRM's Duchess of Hamilton suite

Admission: £55 (includes lunch, refreshments, two digital books and three documentaries)