In 2020 and 2021, the Historical Archives Celje and the Town Archives of Ieper issued a digital publication on the occasion of the International Archives Week. The goal was clear. Each participating institution would choose one object related to a common theme. A maximum of one archive per member state of the European Union could participate. Both publications were also printed afterwards in limited edition. In 2020, 11 archives took part on the theme of “the year 1820”. In 2021, the number of participants around the theme of “cycling” increased to 16. The organizers decided to repeat this initiative in 2022.
Due to the Covid pandemic, the European Year of Rail announced by the European Union in 2021 received less attention than it deserved. As a perk, now that in 2022 train travel is once again possible, we decided to take an archival approach to the subject of “trains and railways”. Train museums and train enthusiasts all over Europe have extensive collections of written, printed or photographic railway material. It is less known that archives also keep many similar documents. Each of the 21 participating archives chose a representative piece, which has yielded rich results. The oldest recorded documents date from the 19th century, when the railways became a mode of transport par excellence. Other archival records show that throughout the 20th century, trains remained fascinating object for travellers.
The brochure contains photos and drawings of locomotives, trains and station buildings. More administrative documents such as the announcement of reduced train fares or a legal report of a train accident are also discussed. References to international train connections, past and present, such as the Orient Express or the Südbahn, show that trains were and are an excellent means of connecting European states. The interior view of a military train or the mention of the strategic Krakow-Lviv line makes us realize that trains also play an important role in times of crisis. A 19th century announcement for the subscription of shares in a railway company is a reference to the perennial debate as to whether railways should be funded by the public or private sector.
Design drawings for the construction of railway lines and a train depot or a photo of a train viaduct show the technically advanced character of railways. An engine driver in his locomotive, workmen in a train repair shop and an honorary diploma for a station porter are models for all railway men and women who have been taking travellers safely to their destination since 1825. Finally, a train ticket shows what the railways were and are ultimately intended for: the transport of persons and goods.
Compilers of the publication, Borut Batagelj (Celje) and Rik Opsommer (Ieper), hope that the train brochure will improve international connections between various European archives, preferably at high speed. It remains for us to thank all our European colleagues for their kind cooperation in this modest initiative.
The brochure of “Railways” can be accessed here.
Have a great moments!