Railway Structures

2-4 April 2005

The contribution of the railway to the process of industrialisation is recognised as being substantial, even if it is not always appreciated how substantial it was. Railway construction, for instance, gave rise to a huge increase in the demand for bricks, while the reduction in transport costs enabled the shift of dairying from the vicinity of towns to the wetter western parts of Britain. Fish from Grimsby and Hull resulted in that essential element in the British landscape, the fish and chip shop.

The railway made a major contribution to urbanisation by bringing food from distant farms and consumer goods from distant factories, and by making it possible for people to travel longer distances to work. Yet, despite all this, the railway is popularly associated with locomotives, which, though interesting, are in truth only one aspect of a sophisticated system, one which was and is constantly changing. Trackwork, wagons, carriages, stations, tunnels, bridges, level crossings, warehouses, signal boxes and signalling systems, workshops, engine and carriage sheds, and even railway hotels were all essential components of the railway.

It is with this broad canvas in mind that this conference was devoted to railway structures to allow the airing of areas often crowded out by the locomotive lobby. The wide range of topics included hydraulic power, signalling, architecture and warehouses, while members’ contributions broadened the scope still further.

A visit to the Telford Horsehay Steam Railway was included.

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