Britain's Railways in Wartime

BookBritain's Railways in Wartime

Britain's Railways in Wartime

Historic England

2018

November 15th, 2018

£50.00

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In the long and absorbing history of Britain’s railways and the men and women who have worked on them, the most challenging years were those of the two world wars. Neither of these wars could have been won without the railways. Transportation of everything that was grown, made or mined, as well as soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians was largely the task of the railways.

Yet the contribution of railways, and railway men and women in wartime has often been overlooked. This book pays tribute to the way the railways and their staff responded to the demand that they do more with fewer resources. They were called upon to cope with the extraordinary change in the character and volume of passenger and goods traffic, to endure dangerously long hours, and to overcome fear. Small wayside stations could be transformed into a frenzy of activity by the location of a camp or supply depot on its doorstep. Disruption through bomb damage could turn the shift of locomotive crew or guard into an indefinite wait for relief.

The railway companies built many and various memorials to honour their fallen workers – these monuments, created and designed by high-calibre sculptors and architects, are included within the book’s gazetteer.

The book inevitably includes many statistics as well as dates, but it is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the railway’s contribution to the wars without them. The focus is on the railways of Britain, but sketches of the overseas theatres give some idea of the work of railway construction and operating companies, which were largely made up of railwaymen.


In the long and absorbing history of Britain’s railways and the men and women who have worked on them, the most challenging years were those of the two world wars. Neither of these wars could have been won without the railways. Transportation of everything that was grown, made or mined, as well as soldiers, sailors, airmen and civilians was largely the task of the railways. Yet the contribution of railways, and railway men and women in wartime has often been overlooked. This book pays tribute to the way the railways and their staff responded to the demand that they do more with fewer resources. They were called upon to cope with the extraordinary change in the character and volume of passenger and goods traffic, to endure dangerously long hours, and to overcome fear. Small wayside stations could be transformed into a frenzy of activity by the location of a camp or supply depot on its doorstep. Disruption through bomb damage could turn the shift of locomotive crew or guard into an indefinite wait for relief. The railway companies built many and various memorials to honour their fallen workers – these monuments, created and designed by high-calibre sculptors and architects, are included within the book’s gazetteer. The book inevitably includes many statistics as well as dates, but it is impossible to comprehend the magnitude of the railway’s contribution to the wars without them. The focus is on the railways of Britain, but sketches of the overseas theatres give some idea of the work of railway construction and operating companies, which were largely made up of railwaymen.

  • In the long and absorbing history of Britain's railways, the most challenging years were those of the two World Wars, when they were needed the most. 
  • Pays tribute to the ways in which railway workers faced an extraordinary change in the character and volume of passenger and goods traffic, dangerously long hours, the fear of moving in and through war zones. 
  • Features a gazetteer of the monuments and memorials created to honour fallen railway workers.

Author Information

Anthony Lambert has written or contributed to many books on railway history and travel. He is a trustee of two railway museums, a judge for the National Railway Heritage Awards and lectures on railway history.