Manchester remembers – RDG exhibition honours the roles played by the railway during World War I

The important role played by the railway and the women who helped keep it running during World War I is told in an exhibition which can be seen by visitors to Manchester Piccadilly station until 11 December.

The railway was vital to the war effort, transporting troops, horses, military equipment and medical supplies to ports around the country. Women were crucial to this, keeping the railway running by filling the skills shortage that emerged when 100,000 railway workers left to fight in the war.

The exhibition has been created by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together the train operators and Network Rail, and contains photos, soldiers’ letters and unique memorabilia commemorating:

  • The 100,000 railway workers who fought in the war and the 20,000 who gave their lives
  • Women’s role – for the first time, women stepped in to work on the railways which were previously a male preserve
  • Railway workers honoured for their bravery.

The city and people of Manchester contributed greatly to the war effort:

  • Just over a third of London and North Western Railway (LNWR) employees (31,744 men, or 34% of their workforce) fought in the war.
  • As a result, the number of women employed by the LNWR increased more than fourfold during the war from 2,123 to 9,154.
  • Manchester businesses supplied 200 tonnes of gunpowder for munitions, 44 locomotives and 900 tons of wire rope for minesweepers to the war effort.

Paul Plummer, Chief Exective of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “As the nation commemorates the centenary of World War I, it’s important we remember the railway’s role sustaining the war effort, without which the nation’s troops, military and medical supplies would not have been effective.”

Phil Hufton, managing director of operations at Network Rail, added: “Without the contribution of women, the railway could not have played such a significant part in the war effort. We owe a great debt to them and to the thousands of railway workers who fought. It is important for us to know their stories and ensure that they are not forgotten. This exhibition, which will be touring the country, has been created by the rail industry as a reminder to us all.” 

Visitors to the exhibition can also support the Everyman Remembered campaign, created by the Royal British Legion in conjunction with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The campaign aims to commemorate every individual felled in World War I and allows visitors to research their ancestors who died in the war, via an interactive screen featured in the exhibition.



Notes to editors

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

Exhibition photographs have been supplied by the National Railway Museum. All relevant historical images accompanying this press release should be credited to the National Railway Museum.

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