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Thursday, 23 September 2010

More on Parcels Costing - Eureka - An Answer From the Old S&D

I posited some weeks ago that by using a process of elimination, the document-deprived railway historian could use the files of more than one jointly owned railway to determine whether an operating procedure or management technique originated within one of the larger owning companies. This is possible because many of these joint railways had conferences constituted by the owning company’s officers to coordinate company operations. In the files of the larger companies who owned the joint railway, usually only the minutes of the board and board committees have survived. Thus, the officers’ conference minutes are records of the sort of decisions taken at lower levels within the joint companies that cannot usually be found within the files of the owning companies. Thus, we can be more certain in the case of joint companies of actual operational procedure, where at times these details are unavailable in the larger companies.

But, using the more readily available details of operational procedure found within multiple joint railways, can help determine operational procedures in the larger companies. It goes like this: Joint companies operating procedures will always be amalgams of the procedures used by the companies owning them. However, there will exist within the joint railways two types of operational practice. The first type of operating practices will be those common to all the owning railway companies. So, if all the owner companies get their employees to stand on one leg at 11 am each day and shout “wibble,” this will almost certainly be present within the procedures on the joint railway. However, there will also be aspects of operation that were only undertaken by a number of the railway companies that owned the joint railway. Subsequently, if an operations practice is found within the committee or conference minutes of a joint railway, that isn’t found in the main files of, say, ‘Company A,’ then either it was in line with the practice of ‘Company A’ but the evidence has not survived to show that, or, it was a practice introduced by one of the other co-owning companies and was not something ‘Company A’ did within its own operation.

But there is a way to determine which of these statements was true. This would be to look at the files of another railway company that ‘Company A’ jointly owned, followed by a comparison of the two joint railways’ operating procedures. Preferably, the second joint company would be a concern that ‘Company A’ co-owned with another company that was not involved in the other jointly owned railway. If the procedure found in the first jointly owned company is found in the files of the second, then it increases the likelihood that it did originate from the practice of ‘Company A.’ But, if it was not found in the files of the second jointly owned company, then it is more realistic to believe that it did not originate from ‘Company A.’ Thus, the presence of the procedure in the first joint company was result of it either being a local response to a problem, or that it originated from one of the other owning companies. Through this course it is, therefore, a way to determine from where procedure came. Phew…I hope you understood that.

It is with this in mind that I had some progress while at the archive today. I have written before about how the London and South Western Railway’s (L&SWR) two main jointly-owned concerns were the West London Extension Railway (WLER), which was co-owned with the London and North Western (L&NWR), Great Western (GWR) and London Brighton and South Coast Railways (LB&SCR), and the Somerset and Dorset Joint Railway (S&DJR), which they owned with the Midland Railway (MR). I have found within the WLER Officers Committee minutes evidence that it worked out in detail the costs of its cartage and delivery services from its stations, and that it altered its service based on the results of this costing. I have to confess that I was quite surprised to find this, as detailed costing of the cartage and delivery services was something I’d never seen on any other railway; certainly I hadn’t seen it on the L&SWR. However, when I initially found evidence of this costing on the WLER there was no evidence to say within the L&SWR files (or elsewhere) that it didn’t originate from practice on the L&SWR. This was because lvast swathes of its company’s files had been lost, including the Officers Committee Minute books (and if you find them, let me know).

However, while at the archive earlier I thought I’d use the method above to see if I could come closer to the answer as to whether the costing on the WLER came from the L&SWR. Thus, I dipped into the files of the S&DJR to see if parcels and delivery costing turned up in its officers’ committee minute book. Alas, in 6 years of officers’ committee minutes between 1875 and 1881 it was not found. Therefore, parcels and Delivery costing was not a common practice on the WLER and the S&DJR, and thus, it is unlikely that it was undertaken within the operations of their common owner, the L&SWR. Subsequently, this increases by a large degree the chances that the delivery costing found on the WLER was either introduced to that railway by one of the L&SWR’s co-owners, or that it was a local response to circumstances surrounding the WLER. I may be wrong, of course, but the chances are very high.

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