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An account of the lecture by Mr D. Marr esq. of Railtrack held on 13th April 1999, written by John Lunn

This meeting, perhaps predictably, had a rather poor turnout of just 14 members and two guests. However, this miss-titled talk turned into what may be described as something of a feast for anyone interested in the history, both past and in the making, of our railways.  I should point out that not having the benefit of a note book at the meeting, I was unable to record the correct title of the Railtrack archive, or of Mr. Marr’s job in the archive centre at Gillingham (Kent).

Mr. Marr spoke for about forty minutes, during which he gave a brief history of the document centres operated by the pre-nationalisation railways and during the B.R. period.  He also spoke of how they were gradually centralised until with the formation of Railtrack, everything was centred on Gillingham (Kent) in what was to have been the Mid-Kent I.E.C.C. building.

Much of the work carried out by the archive centre involves the filing and research plans, deeds, etc., which show the current and past ownership of what is now Railtrack, L.U.L., etc., property.  Where associated new works (such as the Croydon Tramlink) take place, it enables study of what the relationship with Railtrack property is.

Mr. Marr had brought along a large box of documents, which he had put on display and then invited members to inspect the material and ask questions.  There were many items of interest on display, the oldest of which was dated 1685 and was hand-written in Latin on parchment It included a portrait of King Charles II and referred to land around Charing Cross.  Another document, referring to Charing Cross was written in German and bore three seals of the former Germanic states. T he modern German nation was formed around 1838, so these documents precede this date.   They show that much of the land used for Charing Cross station was formerly a German-owned iron works.

From Waterloo station was an inventory of a pub in York Road.  The content of the pub, purchased by the L.S.W.R., was detailed room by room, from attic to cellar, and accounted for every item in the building, from chamber pots to beer glasses.  As this document was dated 1898, I would assume it was purchased in connection with the station rebuilding, which commenced at that time.

There were also ledgers from the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the Highland and other Scottish railways, which recorded such things as the purchase of rails and locomotives, and deals with local suppliers of material.

The Great Western fans amongst us found documents concerning a Miss Talbot of Port Talbot Apparently the good lady owned land in the area and allowed the Great Western to build sidings - but she also charged the Great Western for every load passing over her land.

There was a goad deal of other material on hand, which covered such things as the Metropolitan Railway, the railway grouping in 1923 and the Croydon Tramlink.

The work of this centre is ongoing, with documents covering works for the Channel Tunnel and the new high-speed route being researched, recorded and filed.