Fires of Prometheus


The outdoor storage area at Leeds Industrial Museum


In early 2019 I was lucky enough to be employed on a 30-day Leeds Museums Project Placement. My challenge was to audit, record and review the collection of industrial railway wagons at Leeds Industrial Museum, Armley Mills, to report on their condition and significance, and to offer suggestions as to the future of the collection.

I found that the museum collection included at least 54 wagons or parts of wagons. Because they had been stored in the open since the 1980s, the wagons were mostly in poor or very poor condition. Only two wagons were visible to museum visitors.

My final report included physical records of all the accessible wagons, along with digital images. It included as much information about their ‘stories’ as could be researched against a background of inadequate, incomplete or absent accession records. It made a number of recommendations as to their future.

My report to Leeds Museums offered a number of options, ranging from the complete disposal of all the wagons to their total retention, along with less drastic options. Some suggestions for the handling and display of any retained wagons were included. I discussed possible reuse of some wagons on the museum’s narrow-gauge railway track, and the possible establishment of a volunteer force.

A small temporary display based on the project was included in a museum event held at the museum in May 2019.

For further information on the detailed content of my report, please contact the museum (

I'd be very happy to carry out similar projects in the future.

A world of wagons

The museum collection
Images of all the wagons I found
Robert Hudson
Most of the museum's wagons were manufactured in Gildersome
The Hudson Archive
An introduction the the museum's archive of Hudson documants
The ubiquitous tipper wagon
Hudson's most famous creation
Gezira: the mysterious “cotton wagon”
A little detective work
Mining: Face to Cage
The exhibition that launched the wagon collection
A clip wagon
An introduction to a common type of haulage
A chock wagon
What were "chocks"?
Coal tubs
An unspectacular workhorse
The corf
A surprise found in the corner of a museum storeroom
A fire wagon
A vital role for a humble wagon
Wagons are often used to remember industries
Narrow-gauge railways were a tool used in the stripping of resources from colonised countries around the world
The Falkland Islands
A strange idea that never materialised
Wagons at war
Wagons played vital roles in times of conflict
The Miniature Mine
A mine in a museum basement
A world of wagons
My display panels
Opportunities for further research
My project only scratched the surface of a rich seam of research