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Virtual Archive goes live

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The original architectural drawings of the Forth Bridge, Paddington station and other great railway structures have been published for the first time on a new Network Rail virtual archive.

Some of the drawings carry Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s signature. Visitors to the site can chart the history of the railway’s most significant structures and stations including the Forth Bridge, the Tay Bridge, Box Tunnel, and many main line stations.

The archive holds records by most famous railway engineers including Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Robert Stephenson, Joseph Locke and William Henry Barlow.

The website www.networkrail.co.uk/virtualarchive celebrates the heritage of today’s railway infrastructure and provides public access to view a special selection of the Network Rail archive, which holds over five million records.

Says Network Rail’s archivist Vicky Stretch, ‘The history of the railway is fascinating with some of the oldest records dating back to the 1680s and Charing Cross station with Sir Christopher Wren’s signature. The drawings and documents we hold are an absorbing window on understanding the incredibly detailed and beautiful architectural work carried out by some of the world’s greatest engineers, and are still important for engineers working today.

‘We can’t yet showcase anywhere near the five million records we hold but we’ll publish new images and documents all the time and through the ‘ask the archivist’ and blog sections we can share more. We hope this will be a great resource for enthusiasts, historians, architects and students alike.’

The oldest records Network Rail holds are from the deeds collection. This collection charts the history of all the land the railway is built on. A set of deeds from 1684 relating to the land Charing Cross is now built on, bears the signature of Sir Christopher Wren. Land he once owned was sold to the railway in the 19th century.


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