The Database of Railway Photography was assembled by picture researcher John Knight over a 20-year period to 2021. The scope is to catalogue every published railway photograph taken in southern and western England, south of the Great Western mainline. The database is presented as-is; any errors and omissions will remain uncorrected and new books will not be added.

The database records 172,495 photographs. The camera position has been identified geographically for 94% of them, and additional notes are presented about photographers, dates, conditions, details of the trains recorded, and the like.

6,427 books have been analysed. Only those photographs from the target area are catalogued, and other graphics, such as maps and diagrams, are out of scope. Some photographs are re-used in several books and have generally been matched up. Most books are out of print, but a link is provided to where second-hand editions are being advertised.

John Knight has put the data into the public domain.


The RCTS presentation of the data is both map-based and table-based. There are multiple tabs to support different styles of exploration.

The online map has several base layers available. By default, historical Ordnance Survey maps from the 1-inch series are used, because these display most of the original railway network. Alternative contemporary, historical and satellite layers can be selected from the control top-right.

There are reference points (green dots) at higher zoom levels and individual camera positions (yellow dots) after zooming to level 13 and beyond. Some locations, such as Nine Elms and Eastleigh, were heavily photographed, whereas a few reference locations may be unrecorded at all.

The other tabs are all table-based. The main features are:


Geographical searches are likely to be the most common pathway. The Position ID for each yellow dot should be used to filter the Photograph->Books and Photograph->Trains tabs.

Searching for individual locomotives or classes: use the Photograph->Trains and Classes tabs respectively. A photograph may contain multiple locos and trains, each of which is separately recorded.

Historical maps

The National Library of Scotland is the main custodian for Ordnance Survey and other historical maps. The online map layers are provided to the RCTS free-of-charge under a "fair use" policy. The 1-inch map allows unlimited accesses but accesses to the the 1:25,000, 1:10,560 and 1:1,056 layers may be restricted within a given month if these layers get too many visits.

Camera positions were originally captured using OS National Grid (1936) coordinates with a precision of 100 metres. Modern mapping would permit more precise geo-location but the additional data is not available.


John Knight: I would like to thank my local public libraries in Hampshire, Surrey & Berkshire for assistance. I especially thank the Staff of Winchester Discovery Centre who in pre-pandemic times permitted me to borrow extensively from the County’s railway collection of some 8000 books in their basement archive.

RCTS statement

The database and map services are provided by Matthew Shaw, a Society trustee, on a best endeavours basis. They are available free-of-charge to the public, not limited to Society members. The Society welcomes feedback about enhancing the presentation but cannot enter into any discussions about applying updates to the core data.

Email contact: webmaster (with an "at" symbol)