This article presents an ethnographic analysis of representations of the past in a key public sector - the Spanish railways. This sector has undergone a series of fundamental transformations in the recent past, primary among which has been opening the previously state-controlled monopoly up to competition. As part of a broader investigation of historical memory and its constitutive effects, I analyse railway historiography and museum displays as ethnographic objects. This analysis reveals the inner workings of forms of historical representation that, I argue, marginalize labour as a social and political actor. These forms of representation have been instrumental for pushing through a set of transformations that take the appearance of an inevitable process of modernization.