The document I used is held in The National Archives under RAIL 410/1805 and is a staff record book listing London and North Western Railway (L&NWR) employees from the Operating, Traffic and Coaching Departments (to be hereon known as the Traffic Department) between 1837 and 1871. The information I have used were the individuals’ ‘last employment previous to entering the company’s service,’ the date they joined the company, their age on joining and the position they received. For speed of data collection other pieces of information, such as their names, locations, or who recommended them, have been left out of my research.
Before anything else is said, it is important to note how the results are spread across the decades.
It should be remembered that the data relates to Traffic Department employees and does not include railway workers from other departments, for example the Engineering or Locomotive Departments. Indeed, it seems that a large numbers of individuals worked for railways before entering the Traffic Department. However, analysis reveals some interesting things about how the department sourced labour. Sixty-eight department employees, or 17.25% of the entire sample, had come from railways’ secondary labour market and had undertaken jobs that had low job security, pay and poor promotional prospects. However, of these, forty-nine (72.06%) had come from the ‘Permanent Way Department’ (4) or had been a platelayers (45).
What this was suggests is that the L&NWR’s Traffic Department drew heavily on its own Permanent Way staff for employees in the period. Nevertheless, the proportion of staff moving from the Permanent Way Department to Traffic changed with time. Between 1837 and 1839 4.55% workers made the move, however, this osmosis reached its height between 1850 and 1854, when 25 of the 112 in the sample transferred (22.32%). Nevertheless, the proportion dropped thereafter, and in 1860 only one person (1.96%), John Lycett, a Police Constable at Rugeley Station, had been employed in the Permanent Way Department before starting with Traffic. The proportions are shown below.
Thus, the L&NWR’s Traffic Department increasingly drew on staff previously employed the Permanent Way Department in the 1840s and early 1850s. Presumably, this was driven by two factors. Firstly, the core of the L&NWR’s network began to be completed in the late 1840s, meaning that the number of staff the engineering establishment required diminished. However, concurrently, the business of the line was increasing, meaning that the Traffic Department required staff. Therefore, they were happy to employ those ex-Permanent Way men who were put out of the job.
Furthermore, from the late-1850s the number of transfers declined. Given what is known about employment in the later railway industry, it seems that by this period the department which individuals joined were usually the ones they stayed with throughout their career. Thus, the low number of transfers from Permanent Way Department to the Traffic in the late-1850s and 1860 reflects that these employment patterns were becoming established. Indeed, on the L&NWR at least, it would suggest that the idea of sons following fathers into the industry began in the late 1850s.
However, while transference out of the Permanent Way Department would have been a step-up for some railway workers, in the majority of cases their new posts were still manual one. The distribution of the posts Permanent Way staff went into after their transfers is shown below.
Thus, what has been learned is that the L&NWR’s traffic department employed large numbers of ex-Permanent Way Department employees, that these individuals usually transferred from low-paid manual jobs into low-paid manual positions in the Traffic Department, and that by the late 1850s, because employment patterns were becoming more established, these moves became less common. Indeed, this would suggest that as the railway industry became more mature, the opportunity for upward mobility declined as people were tied to the department with which they started.
In the next post I will look at the other individuals in the sample who came to the L&NWR’s Traffic Department from outside the railway.