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The Railway Drawings Microfilm Collection

Information on a project funded in 2004 through the Full Disclosure programme

The Railway Drawings Microfilm Collection is a key resource for drawings of Britain's classic steam locomotives, a vital part of our industrial heritage. It includes microfilms of drawings of iconic locomotives including Mallard, Flying Scotsman and Evening Star. It is the first port of call for publishers, researchers, modellers and enthusiasts seeking drawings. Yet there is no public access to catalogues of these crucial records. The inaccurate paper lists have been converted to spreadsheets, but without editing or data cleansing, so their inconsistencies have been reproduced. The spreadsheets are searched by NRM staff in response to enquiries and reproduction orders, placing an extra burden on a stretched service, and denying users the facility to search themselves.

This 3-stage project will give on-line access to a database of the microfilmed drawings, do away with the need for search requests, and allow on-line ordering of copies. It will also provide a future migration path for making images of the drawings available on-line.

Stage One:
The spreadsheets will be checked against the microfilmed images, ensuring that the data for each drawing is accurate, and that popular search terms (such as locomotive class) are standardised. Additional fields will be added to ensure that the record for each drawing conforms to the Dublin Core. This will be carried out by specially appointed project staff with the required expert knowledge, supervised by NRM Knowledge & Collections staff, to ensure editing to the highest standard.

Stage Two:
NMSI IT staff will migrate the spreadsheets into a database, mapping the columns to the fields, and creating one entry for each drawing. The search facility will be simple, using terms comprehensible to lay and expert users, such as date, locomotive class or railway company. The database will be compatible with the NMSI's NOF-funded on-line resource Ingenious, allowing future migration for on-line image access. As the records will conform to the Dublin Core, they will be compatible with E-GIF.

Stage Three:
The database will go live initially on the NRM's website. Researchers will be able to search for drawings, and order copies on-line. For the first time details of the microfilms will be directly available to enthusiasts, preservation societies, modellers and authors. This will revolutionise access to the drawings of some of the world's most famous railway vehicles.

Future Developments:
This will be a valuable pilot project for future on-line access to the NRM's extensive archive collections. Mounting the database on Ingenious will allow links to on-line images, archival material, text resources, and museum data. The project will be a vital trial for on-line access to catalogues of the original drawings collections.

This project complements previous NRM on-line projects including the Tracking Railway Archives Project (TRAP) and online access to the Doncaster Works archive catalogue via Access 2 Archives. It underlines the NRM's commitment to making its holdings more accessible, to promote greater use of the documentary evidence of our railway heritage. With Full Disclosure's assistance, a further step will be taken towards making that heritage accessible on-line.

Lead Institution: The National Railway Museum

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