ELECTRIC RAILWAY MUSEUM
by Ann Evans
Photos: Rob Tysall of Tysall’s Photography
For years it looked like a dumping ground for old railway carriages. Anyone driving past what is now the Electric Railway Museum in Baginton just outside Coventry, would spot the odd derelict railway carriage or locomotive but very little else.
The site was originally the Coventry Steam Railway Centre which had been started in 1986 by a small group of enthusiasts who were trying to preserve Hudswell Clarke 0-6-0 tank loco number 1857. Over the next few years they added various other items including the Little Bowden Junction Midland Railway Signal Box.
However in 2008 things really started to move when various groups of people interested in Electric Traction Preservation came together and the Electric Railway Museum Limited was formed as a registered charity.
Since then the collection has grown tremendously as these dedicated enthusiasts work to promote the heritage of all electric trains in the UK. And as you wander between the rows of carriages and power units that were once the most modern of their time, there’s a real sense of nostalgia and atmosphere, and you can’t help but feel glad that a group of people have taken it upon themselves to try and preserve these early electric trains.
The museum is run wholly by a band of around 40 volunteers. Many of them still work on the railways, some have worked on the actual units now being preserved. Other members have careers ranging from IT to teaching and there are even some young enthusiasts who are still at school.
There are high hopes and plenty of fervent aims and ambitions for the Electric Railway Museum. All those involved are committed to electric railways and proud of their long history which is rich in its technical innovation as well as the impact it’s had on society. They feel too that unlike steam trains which are widely preserved, the early days of electric railways has been overlooked. So much so that there are very few carriages, power cars and multiple units remaining. The majority at the museum are the last of their kind.
One volunteer said, “Here on site, we have just about got most of the electric vehicles that still exist. Most of these that you see here are the last examples of their kind. Unlike steam, nobody bothered to try and preserve the old electric trains and I think it’s important to preserve at least one of everything ever made.”
If you get the chance to visit the museum enjoy the array of electric locomotives and multiple units which include the Clacton Class 309s, the Wirral Class 503 and the 2-EPB unit complete with street art livery by Warwickshire-based artist, Rumah. The street art painted on carriages depicts the history of electric railways, and in some cases records the individual history of the particular unit it’s painted on.
Within the Electric Railway Museum there is now also an actual museum sited within a Class 309, which shows the progress of electricity within the railways which started with Robert Davidson (1804-1894), a Scottish inventor who built the first known electric locomotive in 1837. Walking further down the train visitors will come to the cafe where they can relax and enjoy a cuppa and a bite to eat – and just daydream about taking a train ride down to the coast.
Two of the museum’s newest acquisitions include historic Electrical Multiple Units (EMUs) Classes 307 and 308 which are both the last of their kind and are currently undergoing restoration at the museum.
Another interesting vehicle is the record-breaking Advanced Passenger Train Prototype (APT-T) non-driving power car, number 49006 which is on loan from the National Railway Museum. It was at the time the fastest train in England which ran from Glasgow to London and broke the record travelling at 162.5 mph.
As for the buildings on the site, there’s the Welford and Kilworth Station, built in the 1870s by the London and North Western Railway. It was one of the stations closed in Dr Richard Beeching’s cuts. When the chairman of the British Transport Commission’s axe fell in the 1960s some 2,128 stations closed and more than 67,000 British Rail jobs were lost. The Welford and Kilworth Station was actually closed on 6/6/66. In the 1980s it was rescued and brought to the Coventry Steam Railway Centre.
The other structure on the site is the Little Bowden Junction Midland Railway Type 2B Signal Box which is thought to have been built around 1851. Back in the 1980s enthusiasts at the time had it chainsawed horizontally in half and brought to the site by lorry where it was later reassembled.
Today, with electricity being the the dominant form of rail travel, enthusiasts believe its only right that the history and origins of the electric railway are preserved for future generations to see and understand. The Electric Railway Museum are trying hard to do just that. If you would like to help in any way, they would love to hear from you.
Further details at: http://www.electricrailwaymuseum.co.uk/