2014

Exhibition charting the railway’s role in World War I arrives at Leeds station

A new exhibition telling the story of the vital role Britain’s railway and its staff played in World War I is set to arrive at Leeds station on Monday 22 September.

The free exhibition uses original photographs, documents and historical facts to bring to life the achievements of the railway in helping to transport hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tonnes of equipment.

Produced by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and rail operators, it also tells the story of the women who kept the network running while men were fighting on the front line, sowing the seed of social change in the process.

After war was declared at 11pm on 4 August 1914, rail helped move troops from across Britain to London. In the first few weeks of war, trains helped mobilise:

  • around 118,000 army personnel;
  • 37,000 horses;
  • 314 guns;
  • 5,200 vehicles;
  • 1,800 bicycles, and
  • over 4,500 tons of baggage.

The city of Leeds was crucial in the war effort:

  • More than 80,000 men from Leeds enlisted.
  • The first 80 wounded men arrived at the Leeds Midland railway station after the Battle of the Marne in September 1914.
  • Leeds was the biggest manufacturer of ammunition in World War I.

The exhibition will remain on Leeds station’s north concourse until Tuesday 28 October. 

Michael Roberts, Director General of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “As the country commemorates World War One, this exhibition marks the important contribution made by the railway during the conflict which also saw thousands of men from across Yorkshire depart Leeds by train to travel to the front.

“The pictures and words in the exhibition touring some of Britain’s biggest stations help tell the story of labour shortages that threatened vital supplies getting to the front line and how women kept the railway running.”

Warrick Dent, Area Director for Network Rail, said: "When Britain declared war against Germany in 1914, it was the railway that enabled the rapid mobilisation of British forces and their equipment to France. From that point on, rail played a crucial role in the war effort, not just through transportation; stations were places to advertise vital information and feed and welcome home troops on leave or those brought back injured.

“It is also important that the bravery and efforts of people from different parts of the country are remembered and local history is preserved. Over 80,000 people from Leeds enlisted to fight in the First World War and we are pleased to help tell their story, and the railway in Yorkshire.

"As Britain commemorates the centenary of the start of the war, there are so many stories but we wanted to make sure that those railway workers who fought abroad and worked at home were remembered and their story told to a new generation of rail staff and passengers alike."

ENDS

Notes to editors

The exhibition is produced by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and rail operators. 

Thanks to the National Railway Museum for supplying exhibition photography.

Exhibition forward schedule until the end of 2014:

  • 22 September to 28 October - Leeds station
  • 29 October to 5 November - London Victoria station
  • 10 to 29 November - Liverpool Lime Street station

Leeds station is the second busiest station outside London with 101,000 passengers a day.

There are five train operators at Leeds: Northern Rail, First TransPennine, East Coast, Cross Country and East Midlands Trains. Leeds station operates 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Leeds City station is an historical combination of the former Leeds New station and Leeds Wellington station. The former was jointly owned by North East Railway and the London North West Railway and opened in 1869. The latter was a Leeds and Bradford Railway station and opened in 1846.

Queen’s Hotel was opened by the Midland Railway in 1863 and extended in 1867 and 1898. It was rebuilt by the London Midland and Scottish Railway in 1937.

The two were combined on 2 May 1938 by the then owners, the London North East Railway and the London Midland and Scottish Railway.

The station was completely rebuilt in 1967.

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