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Railway Collections

Water Street
Entrance into Manchester, from Thomas Talbot Bury's Coloured Views on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1831)

2,600 items.

E. Kenneth Brown (1879–1958) combined a successful career as a London solicitor – he co-founded the Kenneth Brown, Baker, Baker partnership – with a life-long interest in railways. He was an authority on railway history and for several years served as President of the Railway Club.1

Brown amassed a major library relating to railways, which he bequeathed to the John Rylands Library. It comprises over 1,300 volumes, including 220 bound maps, 280 volumes of periodicals, 225 pamphlets and 600 monographs.

There is much material here to interest the social historian, the engineer, the cartographer and the student of publishing history.

The earliest work is J.T. Desaguliers’ A Course of Experimental Philosophy (1734–44), probably the first ‘railway’ book, since it contains a description of the wooden railway constructed at Prior Park, Bath, by Ralph Allen to carry stone from quarry to riverside.

As well as numerous nineteenth-century Parliamentary Acts and plans, the collection is rich in the reports of civil engineers such as Robert Stephenson, Edward L. Stephens, Nicholas Wood, Sir John Hawkshaw and Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

There is much pictorial material including John Cooke Bourne’s History of the Great Western Railway (1846), Thomas Talbot Bury’s Views on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (1831), and Thomas Fairbairn’s Britannia and Conway Tubular Bridges (1849).

Periodicals include the Railway Magazine from 1837, a full set of the modern Railway Magazine from 1897, the Railway Record from 1852 and the Railway Times from 1839.

There are also issues of Bradshaws Railway Guides, and a set of Bradshaw’s Shareholder’s Guides from 1848 to 1911.

Since the arrival of the Kenneth Brown collection in 1959, the Library has acquired a number of other railway collections, under the guidance of several historians within the University, notably Professor W.H. Chaloner.

In 1998 Michael Robbins CBE, former Managing Director (Railways) of London Transport and transport historian, donated to the Library his important collection of over 1,000 volumes relating to all aspects of railways in Britain and around the world, and to the history of London.2

The material ranges from a copy of Francis Whishaw’s The Railways of Great Britain and Ireland Practically Described and Illustrated (1840) through to the popular ‘railfan’ books of the 1990s. It captures the expansion in railway publishing from the 1960s onwards, continuing on from the historic collection of Kenneth Brown. Also included are many files of correspondence and press cuttings, which have yet to be catalogued.

The collection of the late Graham Moss, a former member of Library staff, comprises some 280 volumes, including many rare early works.

The Library also holds a collection of early Edmondson railway tickets, and ephemera relating to the tickets and machines patented by Lancaster-born Thomas Edmondson (1792–1851).

Finally, the George Miller and Eric Dyckhoff collections contain ephemera such as postcards, leaflets, timetables and magazines relating to railways and steamships.

1Obituary of Kenneth Brown in The Times, 4 June 1958, p. 13

2Obituary of Michael Robbins in The Times, 3 January 2003, p. 32.

Finding aids

  • Printed collections recorded in .
  • See also note on the Kenneth Brown collection in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 41 (1958–59), pp. 277–9.
  • Online list of the Edmondson collection; handlist of the George Miller collection.
  • See also John P. Tuck, ‘Some Sources for the History of Popular Culture in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, vol. 71, no. 2 (1989), pp. 168–71.


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Using the reading room in the Main Library