The Gallery holds the most extensive collection of portraits in the world. Search over 215,000 works, 150,000 of which are illustrated from the 16th Century to the present day.

Advanced Collection search

Search the Collection

Sir Ralf Billing Emerson

(1897-1965), Railway manager

Sitter in 1 portrait

Tell us More

 Like voting
is closed

Thanks for Liking

Please Like other favourites!
If they inspire you please support our work.

Make a donation Close

List Thumbnail

Sir Ralf Billing Emerson, by Walter Bird - NPG x167397

Sir Ralf Billing Emerson

by Walter Bird
bromide print, 1957
NPG x167397

Tell us more back to top

Can you tell us more about this person? Spotted an error, information that is missing (a sitter’s life dates, occupation or family relationships, or a date of portrait for example) or do you know anything that we don't know? If you have information to share please complete the form below.

If you require information from us, please use our Archive enquiry service. You can buy a print of most illustrated portraits. Select the portrait of interest to you, then look out for a Buy a Print button. Prices start at £6 for unframed prints, £25 for framed prints. If you wish to license an image, please use our Rights and Images service.

Please note that we cannot provide valuations.

We digitise over 8,000 portraits a year and we cannot guarantee being able to digitise images that are not already scheduled.

Dylan Bates

27 February 2018, 13:17

"COLONEL SIR RALF BILLING EMERSON, C.I.E., O.B.E., who was born on 3 July, 1897, died on 30 January, 1965.
Educated privately and at Bradfield College. He joined the Royal Flying Corps during World War I and served in France from 1915-1917, when he was sent to the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He received a commission in the Royal Engineers in 1918, and after completing a short course at Chatham, joined the North Russian Expeditionary Force, with which he served for a year. In 1920 he was posted to India, where he joined the 2nd (QVO) Madras Sappers and Miners, took part in the operations in Kurdistan in 1923, and was mentioned in despatches. A period spent completing his training at Chatham and his studies at Cambridge University was followed by his return to India in 1926, when he joined the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. The pattern of his whole career was to revolve round military-cum-civil engineering, and railways were his life. He remained for the next twelve years with the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, becoming General Manager in 1939.
During World War II he served as G.S.O.1 with the Directorate of Movements and Transportation in the United Kingdom, Middle East, Sicily and Italy, and was mentioned in despatches. In 1944 he was released from military service to resume his work as General Manager of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, and two years later was appointed Chief Commissioner of Railways to the Indian Government. In 1947 he attended the International Railway Congress at Lucerne and the same year retired from the Railways Board, becoming a year later a Director of Dowsett Holdings and Deputy Chairman of their operating companies. In 1953 he was appointed Chairman Designate and General Manager to Nigerian Railways and became Chairman and General Manager in 1955. In 1960, with the approach of independence, it was decided to appoint a Nigerian to this position.
Sir Ralf was the Author of a Paper presented to the Institution, ‘A project for extending the Nigerian Railway into Bornu Province’.
Awarded the O.B.E. in 1943 and made C.I.E. in 1946, he was knighted in 1956. In 1964 he was made a Companion of the Order of the Federation of Nigeria. He was a member of the Institute of Transport.
Elected a Member in 1956, he was awarded the George Stephenson Medal in 1960.
He is survived by his widow, Lady Emerson."

What can you tell us?close

There are occasions when we are unsure of the identity of a sitter or artist, their life dates, occupation or have not recorded their family relationships. Sometimes we have not recorded the date of a portrait. Do you have specialist knowledge or a particular interest about any aspect of the portrait or sitter or artist that you can share with us? We would welcome any information that adds to and enhances our information and understanding about a particular portrait, sitter or artist.


How do you know this? Please could you let us know your source of information.

* Permission to publish (Privacy information)
Privacy Informationclose

The National Portrait Gallery will NOT use your information to contact you or store for any other purpose than to investigate or display your contribution. By ticking permission to publish you are indicating your agreement for your contribution to be shown on this collection item page. Please note your email address will not be displayed on the page nor will it be used for any marketing material or promotion of any kind.

Please ensure your comments are relevant and appropriate. Your contributions must be polite and with no intention of causing trouble. All contributions are moderated.

Your Emailclose

Contributions are moderated. We'll need your email address so that we can follow up on the information provided and contact you to let you know when your contribution has been published.


Our channel

View a wide collection of video content on our YouTube channel from past projects to our latest films.

Sit back and watch

Artist and sitter interviews

Get insights into creating portraiture from BP Portrait Award 2020 artists and their sitters.

Explore behind the scenes

Sleeping Awake

Watch our film created to say ‘goodbye’ to the Gallery before we closed for our major transformation project.

Hear our story