Home Heritage Video: National Records Centre

Video: National Records Centre

One of York’s most anonymous buildings houses the railway’s engineering memory – an archive of around nine million records dating back to the 17th century, but still expanding to take in documents from the 13,000 or so live projects currently being pushed forward by Network Rail.

All the great engineers are represented – Stephenson (both George and Robert), Locke, Barlow, Brunel – and a number of structures that helped to sharpen the cutting edge, such as the tubular girder bridges on the North Wales coast line. Also here are the title deeds for all the land and properly ever owned by the railway.

But it would be wrong to regard Network Rail’s National Records Centre simply as a historical repository. Understanding how a structure was built and its subsequent evolution can help to explain the development of a defect and inform the design work to effectively remediate it, so the drawings can play a part in the railway’s day-to-day asset management regime.

Ongoing is the challenge of managing vast quantities of digital data that streams into the centre on a daily basis. Whilst not so visual striking as the historical documents – or as irreplaceable – it is equally important in meeting future engineering needs. You can’t put a price on 200 years of deep, accumulated knowledge.

Graeme Bickerdike
Graeme Bickerdikehttp://www.railengineer.co.uk
SPECIALIST AREAS Tunnels and bridges, historic structures and construction techniques, railway safetyGraeme Bickerdike's association with the railway industry goes back to the mid-nineties when he was contracted to produce safety awareness videos and printed materials aimed at the on-track community. This led to him heading a stream of work to improve the way safety rules are communicated and understood - ultimately simplifying them - for which he received the IRSE’s Wing Award for Safety in 2007. In 2005, Graeme launched a website to catalogue and celebrate some of the more notable disused railway structures which still grace Britain’s landscape. Several hundred have since had their history researched and a photographic record captured. A particular focus has been the construction methods adopted by Victorian engineers and contractors; as a result, the site has become a useful resource for those with asset management responsibilities. Graeme has been writing for Rail Engineer for the past ten years, generally looking at civil engineering projects and associated issues. He has a deep appreciation of the difficulties involved in building tunnels and viaducts through the 19th Century, a trait which is often reflected in his stories.

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