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Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Guest Post by Keith Harcourt - TurnipRail's 2 Year Anniversary

For today's two year anniversary of TurnipRail, I asked a number of people who I hugely respect to write short pieces for the Blog. Many thanks to Keith Harcourt, Academic Liaison Officer for the Historical Model Railway Society, for the first post. I've known Keith for only a short while, however, in this period I have come to truly admire his commitment to spreading academic research on the railways. Indeed, only recently he started his own excellent blog 'The Railway Servant', which I really recommend you check out. I am sure you will find Keith's post as fascinating as I did, so, over to him:

I am delighted to be able to write in support of the second anniversary of Turniprail.  Some figures in railway history have introduced new ways of communicating for a variety of reasons and I shall instance one here.  What David has done is to introduce us a 21st century way of spreading our research and that seems to me to be very important.

Pic 1) LMS Film Poster For Staff Notice Boards

When the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) was formed in 1923, it was an amalgam of individual companies each with their separate working practices, management traditions and machinery.  Mr E. J. H Lemon, Vice-President from January 1932, had seen the strain that a lack of cohesion in the workforce had put on the LMS. On November 21st, 1933, he wrote to the President, Lord Stamp, “Whilst our publicity for public purposes has developed in step more or less with modern conditions, I am afraid that publicity or propaganda for staff purposes has not kept pace with the times. This has been forcibly brought home to me by the reception which has been given to the ‘Royal Scot’ film presentations at various centres recently, e.g. at Crewe the enthusiasm of the railwaymen was simply astonishing. It seems to me, therefore, that we shall have to pursue a policy which will awaken the interest of and develop the esprit de corps of our staff… we must let them see what the railway means in all its workings.”[1]

From this small beginning a yearly programme of film showings, mainly in hired halls or suitable railway premises developed. Posters (Pic 1) were distributed and as Lemon had observed at Crewe the films were very popular. However, with such a huge route mileage as that of the LMS there were still places where films needed to be shown, but because of their remoteness and lack of facilities this was difficult. Undeterred, in 1936, Lemon obtained agreement for the conversion of old sleeping carriages into mobile cinemas. (Pic 2)

Pic 2) The Interior of the first cinema coach
The use of film on the LMS was not solely confined to the development of staff morale however. H.G. Smith, Lemon’s secretary from 1932 to his departure from the railway in 1942, recorded in a diary of “The Achievements of Mr Lemon” [2] (which can now be consulted at the Archive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers), that the film medium was to be used: “…to instruct the staff in the correct method of carrying out their work”.  The mobile units were deemed especially useful in this regard.

When the LMS School of Transport in Derby opened in 1938 it had a specially designed Lecture Theatre with a proper projection suite and in the development of the curriculum film was specifically mentioned as a medium of instruction. (Pic. 3)

Pic 3) The LMS School of Transport Lecture Theatre as it was on opening
For film in the 1930s, substitute the Internet, YouTube and Blogs. David, with Lemon and others, has shown us that in order to develop ideas, learn from each other and promulgate archival research, we need to use the most modern communications media available.  Happy Second Birthday to Turniprail and as the LMS announcer might have said, “Long may it continue to prosper.,”


[1]Lemon, E.J.H. “LMS Film Propaganda” Memorandum to the President. 21st November, 1933. The Lemon Papers held in the Archive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
[2] Smith, H.G. “The Achievements of Mr Lemon”. The Lemon Papers held in the Archive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Picture Sources:

1) Author's Collection
2) Railway Gazette
3) Railway Gazette

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