Exhibition charting the railway’s role in World War I arrives at Liverpool Lime Street station

An exhibition telling the story of the vital role Britain’s railway and its staff played in World War I is on show at Liverpool Lime Street station.

The free exhibition uses original photographs, documents and historical facts to bring to life the achievements of the railway in helping to transport hundreds of thousands of troops and thousands of tonnes of equipment.

Produced by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and the owners of Britain’s passenger and freight train operators, it also tells the story of the women who kept the railway running when large numbers of men left to fight, sowing the seeds of social change in the process.

After war was declared at 11pm on 4 August 1914, rail helped Britain’s armed forces to mobilise. The fast movement of troops from across the country, including cities such as Liverpool, to the docks at Southampton was crucial.

Within the first few weeks of war, troop trains arrived at Southampton every 12 minutes for 14 hours a day. By the end of August trains had transported:

  • Around 118,000 army personnel;
  • 37,000 horses;
  • 314 guns;
  • 1,800 bicycles, and
  • Over 4,500 tonnes of baggage

The city of Liverpool was crucial in the war effort, and is particularly recognised for the local pals battalions. When Lord Kitchener issued the first call to arms for 100,000 vitally needed volunteers in 1914, Lord Derby was the first to test an idea that men would be more willing to join up if they could serve with people they already knew.

Within months over 5,000 men had signed up to the Liverpool Pals Battalions. This prompted other towns across the country to form similar units of volunteers.

A memorial to the Liverpool Pals who lost their lives in the war was unveiled at Lime Street station earlier this year.

Michael Roberts, director general of the Rail Delivery Group, said: “As the country continues to commemorate World War One, the exhibition marks the important contribution made by the railway during the conflict which also saw men from across the region depart Liverpool by train to travel to the front line.

“The pictures and words in the exhibition, which has been touring some of Britain’s biggest stations since August, also tells the story of how women kept the railway running when so many men left for war, meaning vital supplies were still able to reach our troops in France.”

Paul Spiers, station manager at Liverpool Lime Street, said: “When Britain declared war against Germany in 1914, it was the railway that enabled the rapid mobilisation of British forces and their equipment to France. Rail played a crucial role in the war effort and not just through transportation – stations were places to advertise vital information and feed and welcome home troops on leave or those who were brought back injured.

“It is also important that the bravery and efforts of people from different parts of the country are remembered and local history is preserved. Over 120,000 people from Liverpool enlisted to fight in World War I and we are pleased to help tell their story as well as highlight the role of the railway in the region to a new generation of rail staff and passengers alike."

The exhibition will remain at Liverpool Lime Street station until Monday 29 November.


Notes to editors

The exhibition is produced by the Rail Delivery Group, which brings together Network Rail and the owners of Britain’s passenger and freight train operators. 

With special thanks to the National Railway Museum for supplying exhibition photography. All relevant historical images accompanying this press release should be credited to National Railway Museum.

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