David St. John Thomas of David and Charles the publishers, had a vision. A keen railway enthusiast himself, he wanted to set up a railway related collection for researchers in Newton Abbot. Not only was his business based in Newton Abbot, but the town owed much to the introduction of the railways. Newton Abbot still has a main line station and was the site of a large locomotive shed, engine repair shed and carriage/wagon works. It is probably fair to say that at its height the majority of people in the town were employed on railway business. He felt this made it an ideal place for the Collection.
Talks began between interested parties and in 1991, with help from Devon Libraries, the Railway Studies Collection was opened in a room at Newton Abbot Library. This was only available on two days per week and locked away the rest of the time. In 1992 a Friends’ group was formed to support the Collection by fundraising, volunteering and giving specialist advice. David St. John Thomas became the President, a post he held until 2014.
The Collection grew rapidly thanks to several bequests and the support of our Friends group, Soon it was overflowing into other rooms in the building. Recently the refurbishment of the main library provided us with a lovely large space and we are now able to keep all the books together for public use at any time while the timetables, periodicals and photographs are stored in a rolling stack on the same floor.