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British Transport Commission: Railway Executive


Records of the Railway Executive of the British Transport Commission: records for the Western Region 1946-1967 and for the London-Midland Region 1948.



Reference code


Access Status

These records are available immediately for research

Administrative /​ Biographical history

On 1 January 1948 the four mainline railways, the London and North Eastern Railway, the London, Midland & Scottish Railway, the Great Western Railway and the Southern Railway, along with most of the smaller railway undertakings were vested in the newly formed British Transport Commission. The Railway Executive of the Commission took control of the management, operation and maintenace of the railways and became employers of all railway staff. The executive was divided into six regions each controlled by a Chief Regional Officer, London's railways being passed to a separate executive - the London Transport Executive. The new regions were the Eastern Region based at Liverpool Street Station, London, the London Midland Region based at Euston Station, London, the North Eastern Region based at York, the Scottish Region based at Glasgow, the Southern Region based at Waterloo Station, London and the Western Region based at Paddington Station, London. Following World War II the infrastructure and rolling stock of the railway was generally very poor and the Railway Executive was charged with bringing the railways back to efficient operation. Initially due to a lack of funding this was achieved using standardised steam locomotive and rolling stock designs. In 1955 a Nationwide Railway Modernisation programme was proposed which entailed spending £1.2bn over 15 years on replacing steam traction with diesel and modernising rolling stock and freight handling. The programme did not go well with mismanagement of budgets, poorly designed new rolling stock and equipment and the requirement for new safety measures meaning that eventually £1.5bn was spent. For a short period of time some canals passed into the Railway Executive's ownership, these were soon handed over to the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive. The Transport Act of 1953 reorganised the British Transport Commission and the Railway Executive became the Railways Division. By the early 1960s the railways were in a poor financial position and when the British Transport Commission was abolished in 1962, the Railway Division became the British Railways Board with a remit by the government to reduce costs.

System of arrangement

The Waterways Archive holds records for the Western and London-Midland regions. The fonds has therefore been divided into two subfonds as this is how the records would have originally been kept. The subfonds for the Western Region is further broken down into a subsubfonds for the Chief Engineer's Office Parliamentary Section and four series for each of the canals for which records are held. Within each series the records have been arranged chronologically as there are not enough to be able to ascertain an original order.