Preston has been recognised for its wartime contribution in a new book by train enthusiast Michael Williams – Steaming to Victory: How Britain’s railways won the war ( published by Preface Publishing).
Michael tells the story of the people who fought the war, not with guns, but with elbow grease and determination. The story of the British railways and the extraordinary men and women who kept them running from 1939 to 1945. A story that has hitherto been largely overlooked.
The book, to be published on 16 May, contains Micheal’s original research using material from UCLan’s extensive archives and over a hundred new personal interviews looking at war time life on the railway which mobilised troops, transported munitions, evacuated children from cities and kept vital food supplies moving where other forms of transport failed.
Michael Williams, who also wrote ‘On the Slow Train’, is the Senior Lecturer and Head of Media Ethics in the School of Journalism and Digital Communication at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan). He said: “Preston was at the heart of the effort during World War Two. Volunteers in the buffet at Preston Station served 12 million cups of tea to troops passing through on the key route between London and Scotland.”
Michael added: “I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the UCLan library for helping me research key unpublished material about the war and its impact on the North West. Thankfully such institutions like that at UCLan are here to deploy modern resources to use the past to tell us about our future.”
Railwaymen and women performed outstanding acts of heroism. Nearly 400 workers were killed at their posts and another 2,400 injured in the line of duty. Another 3,500 railwaymen and women died in action.
During both the First and Second World Wars hundreds of women working 12-hour shifts served over 3 million men between 1915 and 1919. 12 million cups of tea were served between 1939 and 1945. The station a major north-south route for troops. There is a commemorative plaque covering World War Two in the waiting room on platforms 3 and 4.