For almost a century, from its inception in the years immediately after World War I, the Aerofilms company recorded the changing face of England from the air. At the start of the era, the railway was still the predominant form of transport, with a network of main, secondary and branch lines that stretched to virtually every corner of the realm. As the 20th century progressed, however, this dominance declined as the private motorcar and the lorry increasingly became the preferred mode of transport.
The early railway builders — such as the London & Birmingham — had invested much in creating impressive stations for this new and revolutionary form of transport and, during the 19th century, many of the country’s leading architects undertook commissions on behalf of the burgeoning railway industry. After World War II, however, many of these buildings were were swept away.
The Aerofilms collection provides a unique vantage point to explore the country’s railway heritage. It is only from the air that it is possible to appreciate fully how much the railway came to dominate the landscape; even in relatively small country towns, the railway station with its platforms and goods yard was significant. Add to this the construction of tunnels and viaducts, and the railway can be said to have shaped much of the landscape of modern England.
Drawing upon some 150 images from the collection, Peter Waller explores various aspects of England’s unique railway heritage: from the major stations in cities like Birmingham to the humble goods yard and signal box.