Our newest Archivist, Carol Walden, tells us about her choice for March’s Document of the Month.
The Great Eastern Railway (GER) staff magazines provide a wealth of material for a researcher (A10298). We hold an incomplete run of bound issues of the magazine that were issued monthly between 1911 and 1926. They were compiled in-house and the first edition says that it was ‘devoted to the interests of the many thousands of people directly concerned in the welfare of the GER’ and was only possible with the assurances of support from all grades of staff. The focus ‘was on the interests of all, from shareholder and director to the humblest person in their employ’ as well as for the public at home and overseas. The aim was ‘to knit the loose connecting strands of casual intercourse into a closer net of continuous communication; to strengthen the bond of friendship and promote a feeling of unity throughout the service’.
They cover the geographical area traversed by the company so not only encompass Essex, but also London, Suffolk and Norfolk locations. They include obituaries and notices of retirements and marriages of staff and ex-staff which can give the family historian extra information about their relatives. The ‘Woman’s Page’ affords an insight into expected female behaviours, fashion and diets. The magazines are packed with gardening and railway modelling tips; news from clubs and societies; book, magazine and play reviews; updates on new office machinery; educational articles which include places of interest in the GER area and information about the freight being transported; detailed descriptions of engines and rolling stock for the ‘inexpert’; photographs of male and female staff members; local, national and international news stories.
During the First World War the content was expanded to incorporate regular features, such as ‘War and the Railway’, ‘Toll for the Brave’ which have a photograph and short biography of the fallen, ‘Roll of Honour’ a photographic record of staff members who had joined up and stories of local interest from those at home.
The October 1918 issue, which is currently displayed in the Searchroom, includes a report of a ‘keenly fought’ sporting event organised by the GER Athletic Association between the Stratford and Temple Mills Chief Mechanical Engineer’s Departments at Romford.
The Great Eastern Railway (GER) Society have an extensive collection of records which they are listing and can be accessed at ERO. They cover GER’s predecessors and successors as well as other lines within the GER geographical area and include plans, maps and drawings of tracks, buildings, rolling stock and vehicles; timetables; books and periodicals; staff rule and instruction books.
The Society holds a full set of the staff magazines and they have been scanned and copies are available to buy through their website where they also offer a paid search service for those who wish to see if the magazines hold references to family members (more information here – opens as a PDF).
Staff publications in general can be an invaluable resource to expand our understanding of individuals and working practices. At ERO we hold magazines that cover a variety of dates that include a number of railway companies as well as Harlow Development Corporation, Railtrack and Marconi Installation Design Office.
The October 1918 issue of the GER staff magazine will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout March 2016.