The Railway Collection, as a special collection, was created after a large bequest was received from the estate of the late Roger Burdett Wilson. Burdett Wilson was a local railway enthusiast and author. His books include Go Great Western: History of Great Western Railway Publicity published in 1987.
The bequest was made up of books, magazine titles, photographs, plans, timetables and assorted ephemera mainly relating to The Great Western Railway. Notable periodical titles include a complete set of the Great Western Railway Magazine.
Many of the items in the collection are unique or very difficult to find elsewhere. These include correspondence, signal box diagrams, architectural drawings and the Hayden Diaries. The Hayden diaries are the work and social diaries of a father and son who worked at the Swindon Locomotive works. The correspondence includes original letters written by George Bradshaw, who created the first railway timetables. These letters were sent by him to railway companies asking for permission to include them in his timetable. The library has a incomplete collection of Bradshaw’s timetables including some very early examples.
The GWR Collection
This is the largest collection in the Midlands. It includes maps, minutes, correspondence, plans, personal journals, timetables, circulars, instruction books and architectural drawings relating to the Great Western Railway.
A Brief History of The GWR
The Great Western Railway (GWR) was founded in 1833 and ran its first trains in 1838. The company ran trains that linked London with the south-west, west of England, most of Wales and the Midlands. The lines were engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The GWR earned the nicknames “God’s Wonderful Railway “and the “Great Way Round”. It was well known as a holiday line and many people started and ended their holidays on a GWR train.
The Great Western Railway was finally wound up at the end of 1947 when all train companies became nationalised and it was then incorporated into the Western Region of British Railways.