Institute of Railway Studies Working papers in railway studies, number
eight British railway research - the first hundred years
Text by Sam Wise; edited by A. O. Gilchrist and with a biographical note by E. S. Burdon
The whole document is available online at several locations. This is a very brief precis based on Alastair Gilchrist's Preface.
Following his retirement, Sam Wise undertook a labour of love: the writing of the history of railway research in Britain. Unhappily he did not live to complete his self-appointed task. However, Sid Burdon, his professional colleague and a family friend, recovered the surviving typescript and word-processor discs, and these show that Sam had largely completed his work to 1960, and was drafting the chapter that brought the story to about 1964. In preparing this material for publication Gilchrist tried to preserve all of Sam' s finished, or nearly finished, text as the earlier period was well researched and reliable; it also benefited from information and advice from colleagues no longer alive. The later sections have the colour and authority of a narrative written at first hand.
In editing the text Gilchrist made a large number of small corrections of the sort that Sam himself would have found necessary: removing duplications, clarifying constructions and making links. This included reversing the sequence of the original Chapters 4 and 5. In Chapter 2 Gilchrist added a few paragraphs to record the continuity of research effort, mainly in chemistry, on the Great Western and London and North Eastern Railways; thanks to Eric Henley's advice, more detail is possible in the LNER case. Then in later chapters Gilchrist supplied the text describing the LMS Physics Section that was missing from Chapter 8, being helped in this by Leslie Thyer, Roy Bickerstaffe and Douglas Wright. From Chapter 10 onwards Gilchrist added several paragraphs to strengthen the description of activities in subjects other than Engineering. Gilchrist also clarified the organisational background, a task which was made much easier for me by the availability of Gourvish's British Railways 1948-1973. Chapter 13 was basically Gilchrist's own composition, but includes substantial elements from "rough notes" left by Sam, for example relating to the Western Region's Soil Mechanics Laboratory, the strengthening of project control in the Engineering Division and the opening of the new Engineering Laboratories. Finally a Postscript by Gilchrist summarised the situation already described and sketched very briefly the subsequent history of British Railways Research Department up to its sale under the Privatisation initiative in 1996.
Gilchrist checked numerous facts throughout the text against primary sources held in Derby, at the BRE Record Centre in Paddington, at the Public Record Office in Kew and at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and was aided by many helpful telephone conversations with colleagues. Sam did not leave a record of his sources; however Gilchrist added an Appendix listing relevant documents that Gilchrist was aware of and used in checking the text. When certain of his ground, Gilchrist altered the text accordingly. Of course some errors may remain, but hopefully few. Derby, January 2000.