The Railway and Canal Historical Society was founded in the United Kingdom in 1954 to bring together all those interested in the history of transport, with particular reference to railways and waterways in Britain, its main objects being to promote historical research and to raise the standard of published history.
As the activities of the society increased, a more formal structure was needed, and it registered with Companies House on 14 November 1967 as a private company limited by guarantee with no share capital.
Railway and Canal Historical Society (United Kingdom)
|ISO 4||J. Railw. Canal Hist. Soc.|
The Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society, containing the results of original research, has been produced regularly since 1955. The Society also has a book publishing programme, publishing titles such as A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers (now out of print) and aims to raise publishing standards by rewarding excellence. This has been achieved since 2004 by an annual awards ceremony, in which authors of leading works in the areas of railways, canals and transport are recognised. Winners receive a certificate, a silver cup, and a small cash award, which is funded by a trust set up by David St John Thomas, one half of the David and Charles publishing company.
The Society has regional groups which organise meetings and trips to places of interest, and special interest groups organised nationally.
The Tracking Railways Archives Project (TRAP) is a special interest group of the society. Their aim is to locate and document sources for research in the historical study of railways. It operated for several years as an association of railway societies and became part of the Railway and Canal Historical Society in 2008. Its web site lists archives which contain railway material that might otherwise escape notice.
The National Railway Museum have cited the society as one of the "bodies that shaped railway preservation and historical study," and it has been described as "the premier British society for scholarly transport research" by the bookseller Robert Humm in an interview for The Bookseller magazine.
The Society is now the guardian of the monumental work by George Ottley. His bibliography of British railway history was first published in 1966 by Her Majesty's Stationery Office (HMSO). A supplement was published in 1988, also be HMSO, and ten years later, a second supplement, running to 17,000 entries, was published jointly by the Society and the National Railway Museum. They became guardians of the work after Ottley's death in 2006.
- Cook, R. A. (1979). "The Society – the first twenty-five years". Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society. 25: 43–50.
- Boyes, Grahame (1994). "The Society, 1979-94". Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society. 31: 296–305.
- Gwatkin, Geoff (2004). "The Society, 1995-2004". Journal of the Railway and Canal Historical Society. 34: 508–13, 695.
- Markham, Sheila (April 2009). Interview with Robert Humm. The Bookseller. Archived from the original on 2 February 2013.
- Marshall, John (1978). Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers. David and Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-7489-4.