The Railway Review, the weekly newspaper of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), is an integral source for my thesis investigating the idea of the ‘railway family’ between 1900 and 1948. The NUR discussed the ‘railway family’ as encompassing all railway workers and used this idea to command the loyalty of railwaymen and their non-working wives and children. My thesis will explore how the railway companies and trade unions maintained and extended the idea of the ‘railway family’ and how successful this idea was for meeting their aims.
The Railway Review published reports from NUR branches and other meetings around the country, which acted as a way to create a ‘community’ of union members. They may never have met each other in person, but members of the union celebrated the achievements of fellow union members, mourned their death and coordinated political activity through the pages of the newspaper. In this way, the idea of the ‘railway family’, as a community of railwaymen drawn together through their shared interests, was communicated through the pages of The Railway Review.
The Railway Women’s Guild, a women’s auxiliary founded in 1900 for the wives and daughters of trade union railwaymen also had a column in The Railway Review, entitled ‘Our Women’s Corner’ through which they could advertise their branch meetings and discuss issues which were important to the Guild and the wider ‘railway family’. Wives and daughters of railwaymen were invited to join the Railway Women’s Guild in order to “lighten your own burdens and the cares of others by practical, sisterly sympathy.” The social element of the Guild was often emphasised in these reports, fulfilling one of the important aims of the Railway Women’s Guild, to provide an arena in which the wives and daughters of railwaymen could socialise together. For example, these women enjoyed an afternoon cup of tea monthly at the Guild branch in Gloucester, as advertised in ‘Our Women’s Corner’. This column was also an important way in which the Railway Women’s Guild could demonstrate the fundraising work they did for the NUR Orphan Fund and the political support they offered the NUR during strikes and labour unrest. The welfare work that the Railway Women’s Guild also undertook demonstrated their support for the wider ‘railway family’, including widows, the sick and the unemployed. Discussions of A Widows Fund appeared in ‘Our Women’s Corner’ from as early as 1900, but the Railway Women’s Guild in Gloucester was the first branch to set up a Fund in 1911.
The Railway Review provides an interesting contrast to the magazines produced by the railway companies particularly in terms of the language used about the idea of the ‘railway family’. This highlights the difference in how the idea of the ‘railway family’ was utilised by the railway companies and the NUR through their publications. Further work on both The Railway Review and the railway company magazines will demonstrate how effective the use of the idea of the ‘railway family’ was in meeting the aims of the different organisations.
Hannah Reeves is a doctoral candidate in history at the Keele University. She is the recipient of AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award for the project entitled “Women and the ‘railway family’, 1900-1948”, which aims to use the idea of the ‘railway family’ as a way to add women and children into the story told at the National Railway Museum. For more information on the Railway Review, please visit the Modern Records Centre homepage or the digital archival exhibition, “Th
The Railway Review ran from 1880 until 1990, by which time it had been renamed Transport Review.
 The Railway Review, 06/04/1906, MSS.127/AS/4/1/13
 The Railway Review, 15/01/1904, MSS.127/AS/4/1/11
 The Railway Review, 27/10/1911, MSS.127/A5/4/1/18