Railways at War 'WW2'

During WW2, railway employees were considered to be important enough to ensure that the transport would keep running that they were placed into the "Reserved Occupation" category which meant that they would not get called up for Military service. To identify this fact, they were each issued with a brass & enamel oval lapel badge similar to the one shown here. Each of the badges of the four Railway Companies were similar in shape, but each Company had their own initials underneath the blue enamel strip (LMS in this case) and a different locomotive above. Each badge had a serial number stamped on the back which was registered at headquarters so that the owner could be identified. 


During the war the railways were heavily relied on to carry materials to build new war factories, the materials to make munitions, troops and all their heavy equipment ranging from the heaviest naval guns and tanks to the lightest rifles and pieces of equipment rolled along the railways. Aircraft, petrol and fuels; ammunition, bombs, mines, shells and foodstuffs, the list is endless.
Vast tonnages of high explosives were carried on the railways’ freight services, thousands on thousands of tons of dangerous goods were safely conveyed.

Several thousand additional trains were run every week to convey workers to and from Government and privately owned factories.  During 1942, 400 million passenger journeys were made by the holders of Workmen’s Tickets.

Amongst the heaviest freight trains were “block” coal trains worked by the L.M.S. from Midland collieries to the South.
Locomotives of the British railways attained huge mileages, 100,000 miles being frequently run between general repairs. On the G.W.R. freight engines recorded 1,500 miles between Mondays and Fridays, and L.M.S. diesel locomotives work 144 hours continually every week. Express passenger locomotives which before the war worked exclusively on passenger trains were being used for the haulage of war goods trains. The stock of locomotives became more of a standard design and engines were being used over much wider areas, resulting in a much smaller variety of spare parts, less time required for fitting them, and less manufacture. Strenuous efforts were made to speed up repairs to railway locomotives and to keep as many in traffic as long as possible without overhaul.

Spread throughout Britain there were twice as many railway women as railway men. They were without 102,984 of their colleagues released to join H.M. Forces; 90,000 trained as Home Guards and 170,000 fully trained in Civil Defence. The Railways were among the first to form their own L.D.V. (Home Guard) units; hundreds of thousands of railway men volunteered.
Amongst the units of the Army almost exclusively manned by trained personnel drawn from the railways were the Dock Groups, Movement Control units, and Railway Construction Companies of the Royal Engineers.
Before the war the railways employed 26,000 women, mainly in the clerical grades, as shorthand typists, machine telegraph and telephone operators, and in smaller numbers as carriage cleaners, waiting-room attendants, cooks and mess-room attendants, crossing keepers and office cleaners.
Since the outbreak of the war women were trained and employed in many other trades as men were released to the Forces. Their employment was under a national scheme, and, by agreement with the trade unions, women employed on manual work formerly done by a man were, after an agreed period, paid the standard rate of the man replaced.
At passenger and goods stations women handled parcels and merchandise. They checked and weighed goods and acted as porters, signalmen and lamp men and “man” the horses and delivery vans and acted as stablemen. Women also did the work of booking and enquiry clerks and announce, by loud speaker, the arrival and departure of trains and other notices to passengers. Women also acted as ticket collectors and cleaners on the London tubes.
In the engine sheds and docks the work is usually heavy. Women were employed as loaders and porters and on engines as oilers, greasers and firelighters. They helped in the maintenance of the permanent way, and in the workshops they did useful work in most trades and were able to undertake skilled work as core-makers, coppersmiths, concrete mixers, turners, welders, etc.

The British railway woman adapted herself quickly to new surroundings and work which was very different from her pre-war occupation and she took her share of night work. Often her husband was in the Forces, and she showed a marked devotion to duty, sometimes in difficult circumstances during and after enemy air activity. She did her turn of duty and went home to the cares of a house and children. She made a vitally important contribution to the war effort.


 The zoning of supplies, district by district, to make each area of the country as self-supporting as possible, meant the re-arrangement of hundreds of freight services. The increase of home-grown foodstuffs, with millions of acres of land under cultivation, resulted in increasing demands for railway transport. Fertilisers, seed potatoes, sugar beet, tractors and farming equipment, as well as land workers, were catered for, frequently by special trains.
Meanwhile, owing to the shortage of cups and glasses for refreshments at stations, amounting to 5,000,000 cups, passengers were advised to carry their own drinking utensils!!!

Other changes to the railways was to take away the status of  'going to the seaside by train' and all posters were taken down. Place names were painted out on stations so if they enemy did invade it would lessen the chance of them knowing where they were. Stations and signal boxes were made blast proof by putting tape on the windows and air raid shelters were provided but not for staff, they were to stay in their positions as the trains still ran during air raids but at a maximum of 30 mph.  If a stretch of track or building was damaged or destroyed by bombing, work would start immediately to repair or replace the damage as the railways were in fully operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

                                                                                      Coventry Cathedral heavily bombed in WW2