Thursday, 28 July 2011
The breweries of Burton benefitted the most from these new transport links. They had expanded their businesses in London, Liverpool and Birmingham in the 1820s and 1830s. Yet, beer prices in these places remained high to cover the costly transportation. The railway altered this situation and in 1871 the Nottinghamshire Guardian stated that ‘Mr Bass,’ the biggest Burton brewer, was ‘assisted greatly by the development of the railway system between 1835 and 1850.’ Burton was afforded a railway link to London in 1839 by the Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway who connected to the London and Birmingham Railway. In Wilson’s opinion this did three things for the Burton brewers.
Firstly, the cost of transporting beer reduced. Prior to the advent of the railways the cost of transporting a ton of beer (about five barrels) to London was around the £3 mark. However, the reduced the cost to around 15s per ton. Indeed, this spurred the Burton brewery partnerships to push the railway companies to drop the price of conveying other supplies they used, such as hops, malt and casks.
The second major effect was that the speed at which beer could be moved also reduced. Thus, where beer moving from Burton to London took three weeks to make the journey in the 1820s, by the 1840s it was taking 12 hours. This increased Burton beers’ availability to the country and consequently the demand for them skyrocketed. Thus, Bass’ home trade quadrupled in the four years after 1839. Furthermore, in 1855 the output of Bass was 145,177 barrels. Yet, as the nation’s rail network had expanded considerably, by 1858 production had doubled. Indeed, this shifted the company’s focus from foreign trade, which had been a major source of revenue before 1839, to internal markets. On the erection of a new Bass brewery in April 1863, The Derby Mercury commented that ‘the demand for Burton Ale was never so great as at the present time, as we are informed that applications have been received for many thousands of barrels of ale which the brewers are unable to supply.’
Lastly, the rail links allowed the beer company to move materials and beers quickly and cheaply from the brewery and maltings to within Burton itself. Thus, overall, Wilson argued that ‘no other town and industry in Victorian Britain demonstrated better the benefit of the railways.’ Indeed, as the Leicester Chronicle stated on the opening of a new Brewery by Allsopp’s and Sons in July 1853, ‘The splendid establishment which this enterprising firm has founded in this place is every way worthy of the magnitude and celebrity of their brewery, while its immediate connection with the system of railways, worked by the London and North Western Railway company, not only affords them an immense advantage in economy of material and transit, but enables them to bring their ales into the London market in the most perfect condition possible.
Commentators were always impressed by the affect that the railways had on Burton, but also the affect that the increase in trade had on the railways. The Licensed Victullers’ Gazette in 1874 stated that ‘something like 120,000 railway trucks [were employed], enough if all placed on a line of railways in a straight line now to reach from London to Liverpool and back again.’ Furthermore, Bass became the world’s largest railway customer. When Bass reached its peak in the late 1890s the company was despatching 600 wagons per day and within a few hours they could be unloaded inside the company’s depots at St Pancras and at the London Docks. Indeed, Burton became a web of ‘intercommunicating lines belonging to the four companies operating in the town.’
Therefore, without the railways Burton ales possibly would never have become as famous as they did.
 Nottinghamshire Guardian, Friday, May 26th 1871, Issue 1316
 The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, April 29th 1863, Issue 6839
 The Leicester Chronicle: or, Commercial and Agricultural Advertiser, Saturday, July 9th 1853, Issue 2224
All information, except where stated, came from Goruvish, T.R. and Wilson, R.G., The British Brewing Industry: 1830-1980, (London, 1994), p.149-151
Sunday, 24 July 2011
The dog ticket was an early invention of the emergent railway industry and the National Archives holds a document that lists dog tickets issued between 1849 and 1854 on the Great Western Railway (GWR). Furthermore, in 1848 the Daily News recorded events from two years earlier in which how dog-tickets were issued was detailed. On the 11th September 1846 a Mr Wallop was returning from a day’s shooting to Gosport. Allegedly, Wallop fired his gun out of the first class carriage window, damaging it and the door. On arrival a railway employee demanded Wallop’s name, which he refused to give. But, the official persisted and demanded to see the dog ticket on which the name of the passenger was usually written. 
Thus, given that the dates of the GWR document and the events of Gosport, it could be suggested that companies had started issuing special dog tickets in the late 1840s. Yet, given the lack of research on the early railway, this cannot be confirmed. Secondly, the Daily News report also indicates that the early procedure of writing the names of the owner on the dog ticket. The one thing that was missing from these pieces of evidence is whether dogs travelled in a prescribed manner.
However, special procedures for the conveyance of dogs was definitely in place by the 1850s, and a court case from 1858 detailed that procedures for canine carriage had become rather unpleasant for the animals involved. The case involved a man who was pursuing a claim against the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway for his dog that had escaped in the course of a journey. Ordinarily, it was recalled, dogs were conveyed in ‘dog-boxes’ which throughout the journey were stashed under the seats of second class passenger carriages. Indeed, correspondence from the period indicates that these dog boxes were common.
However, the rules laid down that dogs be carried in this manner were sometimes breeched in this period as the accompanying picture from 1882 in the Illustrated London News evidences. Indeed, a book from 1868 called Romey’s Rambles on Railways, stated that many women, who owned small dogs, hid them ‘under shawls and in hand baskets.’ However, other methods of concealment ‘more erudite are occasionally practiced,’ such as one man who concealed his dog in a carpet bag.
Yet, some railway companies attempted to stamp out the and breeches of the rules. A London and South Western Railway Appendices to the working timetable from 1911 stated that ‘complaints have been made of Passengers being permitted to take dogs with them into carriages to the annoyance and inconvenience of passengers. This is contrary to the Regulations and Guards of Trains and the staff of stations should insist firmly but courteously on the animals being placed in the Guards’ vans. However, interestingly this did not apply to ‘ladies’ lap dogs.’
But this raises an interesting question as to whether the aforementioned ‘dog-boxes’ were still used by this time, as the order does not mention a dog-box was required. This said, a London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Appendices from 1922, suggests that railways may have still used them. It stated that no dog ‘unpacked’ was to be received for transport without a muzzle. Additionally, it also orders that the boxes for dogs, that were to travel in the guards van, were not to be accepted if they were ‘not sufficiently large.’ Furthermore, ‘the labels of dogs must be inspected at all points, and any instructions re watering at any particular point &c, written thereon must be carried out as far as is practicable and consistent with the safe custody of the animal. Thus, while the boxes were still used, it seems that, firstly, the practice of putting the dogs under seats had long since passed by the early twentieth century. But, secondly, the rule implies that the safe, comfortable and humane transit of dogs was a prime concern when they were transported.
This change was due to a shift in the attitudes to animal welfare in the late Victorian period. Amongst other letters that have been found regarding the treatment of dogs on trains, The Times recorded in 1900 that the Kennel Club had sent out a circular to ‘the principal railway companies’ suggesting improvements in the method of conveying dogs. They asked that dogs be placed in boxes, side by side, in guards vans and these new boxes would be available at stations, much in the manner of horse boxes, for an extra fee. After this, the boxes would be disinfected. In the Kennel Club’s opinion many dogs have had to be destroyed due to infections caught while using the old boxes that were too small and dirty. Thus, given the rules cited above, it seems that this suggestion was taken up by some railway companies.
Overall, like most things I blog about, there needs to be research on this area of railway history. However, two things can be noted. Firstly, the dog ticket was established early on in British railway history, and a 1950s example I have testifies to its persistence. But, secondly, the accommodation given to dogs improved, possibly because of welfare concerns and public pressure.------
 The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 631/60, Dog Tickets, 1849-1855
 Daily News, Saturday, March 4, 1848; Issue 552
 The Law Times, Harrison vs. The London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, June 14th 1862, p.468
 Roney, Sir Cusack Patrick, Rambles on Railways, (London, 1868), p.172
 Author’s collection, London and South Western Railway, Appendix to the Book of Rules and Regulations, 1st January 1911, p.150
 Author’s Collection, London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, Appendix to the Working Timetable and to the Book of Rules and Regulations, May 1922, p.142
 The Times, Thursday, May 31st 1900, p.6
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Firstly, the statistics showed the route mileages of the 14 companies. The two largest were the Great Western Railways (GWR), which had 2,366 route miles, and the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR) at 1,801 miles. The smallest companies listed (however, smaller ones did exist in Britain) was the North London Railway (NLR), with only 12 route miles, and the Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) at only 13 route miles.
However, interestingly, the NLR generated the most gross revenue per route mile on the list, and for each one the company made £665. This was followed by the Metropolitan Railway, whose every rout mile earned it £566, and then the MDR, which earned £548. However the two largest railways in the country, the GWR and the L&NWR only earned £52 and £92 per route mile respectively. Indeed, the GWR was the worst performing company in this respect, an honour it shared with the London and South Western Railway, who also earned £52 per route mile.
The reason for the NLR, MDR and Metropolitan’s tracks earned the most revenue was that these companies served the London district. The Metropolitan and MDR in March 1885 seemingly did not carry any freight traffic, yet, served the densely populated areas of central, South West and North West London. Thus, over their small networks they hauled vast numbers of passengers commuting to and from work daily. The same can be said of the NLR, however, they were also graced with considerable through freight traffic going from the north of the country to the south. It should also be noted that these three railways also ran some services over other companies’ lines. Thus, their revenue per route mile may have been inflated, and if the revenue they earned per route mile they operated was calculated, the figures may have been lower.
This said, these figures would have been still high in comparison with the worst earners per route mile. The North Eastern Railway earned £50 per route mile,* whereas the L&SWR and GWR only earned £52 per route mile. Indeed, all three companies had lines that covered sparsely populated areas. Indeed the same could be said of the Great Eastern Railway (GER), which earned £62 per mile, and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR), which made £61* per mile.
There could, therefore, be an argument that main line railways which principally carried passenger traffic generally earned less per route mile. Four Railways fell into this category. 73.72% of the London, Chatham and Dover’s (LC&DR) revenue came from passenger traffic, as did 66.78% of the LB&SCR’s , 64.16% of the South Eastern’s (SER) and 61.77% of the L&SWR’s. Yet there is considerable variance between how much they earned per route mile, which were £103, (which was calculated erroneously by the individual compiling the statistics - many thanks Jeremy for pointing this out) £61, £73* and £52 respectively. Therefore, the two railways that served South East London and Kent, the SER and LC&DR, benefited from serving commuter areas and densely populated countryside. Indeed, the LC&DR earned the second highest gross revenue per route mile of the companies listed.
Similarly, there is variance in the gross revenue earned per route mile amongst the railways that made most of their money from goods traffic. The MS&LR earned 78.045% of its revenue from goods traffic, the MR’s proportion was 76.51%, the North Eastern Railway (NER) earned 70.73%, the L&NWR generated 67.71% and the Great Northern Railway’s (GNR) proportion was 67.31%. Nevertheless, of the five the NER generated the lowest amount per route mile, earning only £50*, whereas the MR earned £106. Thus, having large proportions of freight traffic did not necessarily equate to companies naturally earning more revenue per route mile. However, the total revenue per route mile of these ‘freight-dominated’ companies was £82, whereas for the four ‘passenger’ companies it was only £64.
This is an obvious thing to state really, but this evidence shows that the revenue earning capacity of each company per route mile was dependent on how densely populated or industrialised the area they served was. Indeed, clearly, what they hauled was less of a factor. Consequently, it would be interesting to see whether different management techniques, styles and structures within railway companies developed dependent the different population and industry densities they served.
Additional Note 24/07/2011: As has been pointed out by Jeremy (and many thanks), the gross revenue earning potential is not necessarily the same as profitability. Thus, for this to be determined, more information on the companies' costs and traffic levels has to be found. Victorians, as I have repeatedly discovered, sometimes showed to the public very basic ways of measuring of the revenue earning power of their companies. Thus, this is simply one example where the full information is not present. As I have the Board of trade returns for 1886, this may be a project in the future.
Furthermore, the figures were calculated incorrectly in a number of cases, and where a figure is marked with a * it is the correct figure, rather than what was printed in the text at the time.
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Repeating 'facts' Frequently does not make them 'History' - Potential Errors in Railway Historical Writing
Railway literature can be split into three different categories. Firstly, there are the ‘books with pictures,’ which have very little detail and simply exist for the pure pleasure of looking at the photographs of trains. Secondly, there are narrative histories, which may focus on a particular line, company or locomotive designer. Indeed, R.A. Williams’ three part history of the London and South Western Railway simply recounts what happened, when it happened. There isn’t any reference to the railway’s political, social, cultural or technical environment, nor is there detailed analysis. Personally, for me, these narrative histories are exceedingly dull.
Lastly, and leaving aside academic work that is done, there are the analytical railway histories for the general reader. Recently, we have seen Christian Wolmar write a number of books of this ilk, notably Fire and Steam. However, Christian follows in a fine tradition of individuals who have written about railways in a way whereby anyone who was interested in history, rather than railways, can enjoy the topic. Indeed, the most notable author was the late, great, Jack Simmons. However, I do sometimes have to ask questions of the facts found in this class of authors’ texts.
One of the accepted facts of the early British railway history was that military men dominated the management of the railway companies. This is a 'truth' that has been reprinted again and again, and those analytical histories of the railways have, presumably because the authors used earlier books, repeated it very frequently. Yet, this accepted fact is simply not true. In four blog posts in April (Found here, here, here and here) I showed by using three directories of railway officials from 1841, 1847 and 1848 that less than 4% of early railway managers had military titles. Thus, the supposed truth, so frequently repeated, was destroyed.
But naturally, this got me thinking. In my blog posts I frequently use facts that I see repeated in more than one railway history book. But what if those facts’ have only become accepted because they have been repeatedly regurgitated in the railway historiography?
For example, recently I found the origin of one highly repeated fact (the details which escape me now) in a Victorian history of the railway industry. Yet, the Victorian book itself was far from academic, was more anecdotal than those that had used its information and on other areas of detail I found it simply to be wrong. Furthermore, the opinions, books and letters of authors, for example Dickens and Trollope, have been used many times to describe aspects of railway travel. Indeed, I myself have used these author’s opinions before. But surely these authors had higher standards than the average traveller and this was reflected in their opinions. (Note: If I have to use Mugby Junction one more time I may scream).
Indeed, it has become clear to me that Dickens harboured resentment for station refreshment rooms after having had a bad experience in the 1850s. Now, that isn’t to say there were not bad refreshment rooms, but the narrative on the subject has been shaped by his, and others,’ negative opinions of them. However, no one asks about the good refreshment rooms. Neither do the query the fact that most criticisms of them comes from before 1870, with little being found after this date. Why doesn’t that fact ever get a mention?
Overall, my point is that in the railway literature there are facts which, despite being false, have been regurgitated so often that they have become established as ‘truth’ because no one has questioned them. For this reason, individuals writing railway history articles or books must be careful when repeating things found in other books. Indeed, until more serious and in-depth research has been done on the 19th century railway, the validity of many established 'facts' will simply not be known.
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
Dickens’ primary concern was the idea that knowledge was so crucial to the safe working of the railway and he believed that this aspect of the railways needed improving. Thus, Dickens’ magazine All Year Round featured an article on the highly advance signalling system at Victoria Station and particularly a signal box that was referred to as the ‘hole in the wall.’ Furthermore, his collection of short stories from 1866, Mugby Junction, featured a story called the Signalman, where a ‘disturbed and isolated’ signalman was killed by a train after seeing a ghoul who had warned him previously about two other deaths (see my last blog post HERE). Thus, the story addressed the idea information systems failing and causing accidents.