Separate Workings: Exploring Hidden Histories by Examining the Racially Biased Policies in the Transport Systems of South Africa and the Display of a South African Railways Locomotive at the Riverside Museum, Glasgow
Some topics are rarely found in museum displays. Some histories are hidden or not deemed worthy of display. Yet these histories are important, and should be examined by museum professionals.
In 2007, Glasgow Museums purchased a Glasgow-built steam locomotive that had been exported to South Africa in 1945. This locomotive was to be a centrepiece of the new Riverside Museum, highlighting Glasgow’s global legacy of heavy engineering. It is also a symbol of the oppression of the apartheid-era policies in South Africa. Operation and usage of the railways was dictated by this policy. Skilled jobs were reserved for whites, while separate carriages, waiting rooms and even platforms were mandated for the different race groups. Although the apartheid policy dictated almost all aspects of railway operations, the topic is hardly, if ever, mentioned in railway histories or museum displays related to South Africa.