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Thursday, 28 April 2011

Royal Trains for three Victorian Royal Weddings

What with all the fervour surrounding the Royal Wedding, I thought that I would look through some 19th century newspapers for evidence of how the Victorian railways played a role in royal weddings of the past.

The first wedding I encountered was Princess Victoria’s (Queen Victoria’s Daughter) marriage to Prince Frederick William of Prussia on the 25th January 1858. This took place at the Chapel Royal in St. James’ Palace. After the Wedding Breakfast at Buckingham Palace, the couple left for Windsor. In 1858 Windsor had two stations owned by two companies, and the couple were carried by the Great Western Railway (GWR) from Paddington Station. Leaving the station at 5pm, they arrived at Windsor at pm and were greeted by dignitaries, fireworks, the firing of a canon and a guard of honour.[1] A few days later the couple travelled back to Paddington, and then by the South Eastern Railway (SER) to Gravesend where they were to depart for Prussia. All through their journey crowds gathered at the stations they passed to cheer them on, and on arrival at Gravesend Station they were greeted by speeches and cheers.[2]

At the same time, many from around the nation wished to celebrate the wedding and excursion trains were provided to London. Indeed, this was a period when the railway industry was just starting to exploit large events for financial gain by running 'specials' to them. Thus, it is known that the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) provided special excursion trains from Southampton to ‘enable sight-seers to witness the preparations for the marriage ceremony.’[3] Other instances of special trains have not, however, been found. Yet, it is plausible that they did exist.

In July 1862 another of Queen Victoria’s daughters, Princess Alice, got married to Prince Louis of Hesse at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. Because of the death of Prince Albert in December 1861, the Royal Family was still in mourning. For this reason the wedding was not common knowledge amongst the public. After the event, the couple travelled from the pier at Gosport to Vauxhall by the L&SWR. ‘So little did the public know about the event’ reported The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, that when the 5pm Southampton to London express train was shunted into a siding to let the royal train pass, the passengers had the strong impression that there had been an accident ahead. Indeed, when informed of the purpose of the stoppage they refused to believe it. Yet, reassurance came when they saw the royal coaches ‘with the visitors at the wedding seated in it, all at mourning.’[4]

Prince Edward, Queen Victoria’s eldest son and the future King Edward III, was married on the 10th March 1863 to Princess Alexandra of Denmark in St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Alexandra had arrived only four days previously at Gravesend and had been conveyed by the SER to the Bricklayers Arms Station. She was then transported Windsor by the GWR from Paddington.[5] After the wedding the couple departed for Southampton via Basingstoke by the GWR. Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported that ‘the passage of the train from Windsor was welcomed at every station through which it passed by a display of flags, words of welcome and floral decorations.’ On arrival at Southampton the royal carriage was detached from the train, and to the sound of cheers six horses pulled it into the docks. It was from here that they took the Royal Yacht to the Isle of Wight and Osborne House.[6]

Unlike the wedding of Princess Alice, Edward’s wedding, like Prince William’s, was celebrated by many around the country. Naturally, some people wanted to visit Windsor and special trains were laid on by the GWR from Paddington. However, the number conveyed is unknown.[7] In addition, festivities were held nation-wide. In Edinburgh bonfires were lit, famous buildings and monuments were illuminated and fireworks were let off. As such, special trains were run to the city from Newcastle, Dundee and Glasgow, with return workings run after the illumination had finished.[8] Thus, special trains were laid on throughout the country to transport individuals to regional events.

Overall, Britain’s railways clearly played a role in broadening the appeal of royal weddings and making royal couples into celebrities in early Victorian Britain. Stations, particularly, were the focal points for the celebrations, as they were the only places where many people could see the royal couples personally. Indeed, in all of these cases, bar that of Princess Alice’s marriage, royals were subject to celebrations at either end of their journeys, as well as at the stations through which they passed. Additionally, railways had the effect of allowing those that lived far away from the weddings to celebrate where the ceremonies were, or at regional festivities. Thus, while not all weddings were located in easily accessible places, like Windsor, the special trains detailed here indicate that there was significant interest in them. Thus, I have to ask, did the railways start the hype around the royal weddings that we have today?

[1] The Essex Standard, and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties, Wednesday, January 27, 1858; Issue 1415
[2] The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, February 6, 1858; Issue 3542
[3] Daily News, Friday, January 22, 1858; Issue 3647
[4] The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, Thursday, July 03, 1862; pg. 4; Issue 2412
[5] Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle etc, Saturday, March 7, 1863; Issue 3309
[6] Jackson's Oxford Journal Saturday, March 14, 1863; Issue 5733
[7] The Sheffield & Rotherham Independent, Wednesday, March 11, 1863; pg. 7; Issue 2626
[8] Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, Sunday, March 8, 1863; Issue 1059

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Rise and Fall of 'Ladies Only' Railway Compartments in the 19th Century

The railways had a considerable effect on the mobility of women, particularly those in the upper and middle classes. Prior to their advent most women were not permitted to travel on their own. If they wished to go anywhere, the social norms of the day demanded that they have accompaniment by their husbands or a male relative to protect them against supposed dangers. Yet, because the railways reduced journey times the perceived risks lone women faced when travelling were adjudged to have diminished. The Quarterly Review stated in 1844 that the railways had brought about ‘the emancipation of the fair sex, and particularly of the middle and higher classes, from the prohibition from travelling at all.'[1]

However, some still felt that women should be isolated when travelling on the railways and by this time a few companies were starting to provide permanent ‘ladies only’ compartments in trains. Nevertheless, the practice was not widespread and it wasn’t until the 1860s that railway companies came under heavy pressure to institute such a provision universally. Indeed, some advocated that that the railways should be legally obliged to provide 'ladies only' accommodation on each train.

Advocates for these facilities were spurred on by high profile cases of rudeness, foul language and assaults by men that went to court and which were reported in the press. As an example, The Penny Illustrated Paper printed in 1868 the tale of two women who were repeatedly followed by man, who was ‘dressed as a gentleman,’ from one compartment to another. He apparently acted in an insulting and obtrusive manner. Indeed, when the letter writer left the carriage, leaving her friend with the man, he ‘subjected her to gross insults and annoyances.’[2] Another letter, printed by The Standard in 1864, was from one man whose servant had been assaulted on a train. Alone in a carriage, the three men spoke rudely to her and she went and stood by the window. One of the fellows then tried to pull her to the ground and ‘caught hold of her leg…putting his hands up to her knee.’ They blocked her screams for help by standing by the window, and then pushed her against the side of the carriage violently. They laughed and then got out.[3] Thus, it was these kinds of reports that fuelled demands for women to have separate travelling accommodation.

As such, it is not surprising that when the Metropolitan Railway introduced permanent ‘ladies compartments’ on all their trains in October 1874, many congratulated them on the decision in the press.[4] However, this was an experiment that failed miserably and after a couple of months the Metropolitan had abandoned the practice.

The truth was that ladies compartments were very under used. A report in The York Herald stated that on the Metropolitan ‘it was found that the privilege [of women’s only compartments] was not availed of to an extent to warrant the company in setting aside so much space in each train, and moreover that it was abused.’[5] Indeed, there had been ‘ladies compartments’ on the Stockton to Darlington section of the North Eastern Railway for some time before 1874. However, they were also ‘frequently empty.’[6] Furthermore, when the Board of Trade investigated the whole issue in 1887 it found that the companies would reserve compartments on request, but those that were permanently reserved were very under used.[7] Indeed, this was perhaps even more than the railways would offer in some cases, and the Railway Clearing House rule book of 1884 stated that if requested guards were to ‘select a carriage for [women]… in which other ladies are travelling.’[8] Thus, by the time of the First World War permanent ‘ladies accommodation’ was exceedingly rare as providing it was unremunerative for the railway companies.

Overall, the demands for ‘ladies only’ accommodation were generated from newspaper sensationalism and a misrepresentation of reality. As Jack Simmons commented, the number of cases of women being insulted, robbed or assaulted reported in the papers was ‘insignificant, when looked at against the number of journeys women were making at the time.’[9] Indeed, this seems to have been contemporary thinking amongst some. A reporter for the Newcastle Weekly Courant stated in 1884 that ‘there are women who, believing all that they read in the newspapers is as true as Gospel, think they are in mortal terror when they find themselves alone with a man in the carriage.’ Indeed, his view was that men would rather search a train for a spare seat, rather than sit with an ‘unattended female.’ Apparently, most men thought that ‘it is best to leave female travellers alone, as they are generally well able to take care of themselves.’[10]

Ultimately, the story of the ‘ladies only’ accommodation is one where media hype gave weight to patriarchal views. Between the 1860s and the 1890s individuals holding the view that women should be separated on trains made a lot of noise and put pressure on railway companies to endorse their perspective. However, as women travellers showed by their actions, they did not need the protection. Subsequently, the railways, driven by a financial rationale to fill trains and make profit, responded by not heeding their requests.

[1] Quarterly Review, Volume 74, Issue 147 (1844, June) p.250
[2] Penny Illustrated Paper, Saturday, September 26, 1868; Issue 365
[3] The Standard, Tuesday, September 13, 1864; pg. 3; Issue 12510
[4] The Standard, Thursday, October 15, 1874; pg. 3; Issue 15668
[5] The York Herald, Thursday, December 17, 1874; pg. 3; Issue 5572
[6] The Newcastle Weekly Courant, Friday, October 10, 1884; Issue 10943.
[7] Simmons, Jack, ‘Women’s Emancipation,’ The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, (Oxford, 1997), p.566
[8] South Western Circle Collection [SWC], London and South Western Railway Rule Book, 1884, Rule 242, p.137
[9] Simmons, Jack, The Victorian Railway, (London, 1991), p.334
[10] The Newcastle Weekly Courant, Friday, October 10, 1884; Issue 10943.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

"Careful Now" - The Movement of Gunpowder and Explosives on the Victorian Railway

The railways of the Victorian period were, for legal purposes, common carriers. Vital to the country’s trade and industry, they were legally obliged to carry all the goods that individuals brought to stations and yards if they were willing to pay the rates and charges the companies quoted.[1] The only exemption from this rule, as stated in the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act, 1845, was that the companies were under no obligation to ‘carry upon the railway, any aquafortis, oil of vitrol, gunpowder, lucifer matches, or any other goods which in the judgment of the company may be of a dangerous nature.’ If the railway did agree to carry them the consignor had to label them clearly as such, and failure to do so would result in he or she paying a £20 fine to the company.[2]

Despite this, railway companies were initially reluctant to carry such traffics and the London and South Western Railway’s (L&SWR) 1853 rule book stated that ‘no package of gunpowder, Lucifer matches, aquafortis, or other goods of similar combustible material nature can be received under any pretence.,’[3]

However, companies came to realise that refusing this traffic was not good as they could charge more for its conveyance than for other traffics. As a result, the railway companies developed increasingly complex rules for governing the movement of explosives. Furthermore, companies that had military bases within their territories could not really refuse to carry explosives and arms, but at the same time convey the army and navy’s men, horses and equipment. In a way, and although I feature it frequently, the L&SWR is probably one of the best candidates to have its ‘explosives’ procedures examined. Within its territory were Salisbury Plain, Hounslow Barracks and Portsmouth Harbour. Thus, by serving a large number of military bases the company would need to be at the forefront of developing procedures for the conveyance of explosive materials.

From early on in railway history gunpowder was loaded onto a train in a special position. The L&SWR’s 1858 guide for Goods Agents stated that it ‘must not be loaded beside any other goods; but must be given specially in charge to the Guards, or loaded in the powder magazine.’ Furthermore, so railway managers were able to know when Gunpowder was travelling it was only to be conveyed on ‘Mondays and Thursdays’ and before 3 pm.[4] By 1865 these rules, for the general public, were still in place.[5]

However, by then it seems that the L&SWR had come to more formal arrangements with the War Office regarding the supply of explosive materials to the military bases within its region. With the railways becoming more important to the defence of the nation it made sense for the railway and the government to formalise their relationship. Thus, the 1865 ‘instruction to station masters’ showed the expanded range of potentially dangerous items that the L&SWR was conveying for the army. They included ‘tubes, fuzes, signal rockets, port fires, quickmatch, blue, percussion and long lights, powder, rockets, fire-filled shells, gun and small arm cartridges, with percussion caps.’ They were to be conveyed in ‘metallic cylinders’ or by special ‘gunpowder vans,’ which I can only consider were a new addition to the L&SWR rolling stock fleet.[6]

Yet, these rules were created in a period when all the companies specified their own rule books and gave orders to their own employees. But in 1871 all the rule books of Britain’s railway companies were standardised through the Railway Clearing House, and as a result the procedures for the conveyance of gunpowder and explosive materials was formalised nationwide.[7]

Subsequently, the 1884 rule book shows how procedures had proliferated regarding the conveyance of what were now termed ‘explosives.’ Firstly, any vehicle containing ‘explosive matter’ was to have a label with the word ‘explosives’ attached. Secondly, not more than five vehicles with explosives were to be attached to each train. Third, the head guard of the train must be notified of the contents. Fourthly, the vehicles must be placed as far away from the engine, and the guards were prohibited from lighting fires in the break-vans. Fifth, in unloading the explosives they were to be moved from hand-to-hand and not rolled unless cloths, hides or sheets had been laid down. Sixth, each individual engaged in loading was to take the ‘necessary precautions for the prevention of accident by fire or explosion.’ Seventh, at each station that the train stopped the guard in charge was to check on the load and also check the axel boxes to make sure that they were not overheating. Lastly, and most importantly, explosives were not to be conveyed by passenger train.[8] This last rule was particularly interesting as at no point previously was the conveyance of explosives by passenger trains prohibited.

Overall, given the very basic rules of 1858, most aspects of explosives’ movements, from loading, transit and unloading, were covered by rules at the end of the century. Yet, it should be recognised that the development of the rules and procedures for the conveyance of these traffics was indicative of the changing nature of railway procedure throughout the Victorian period. Initially, they had been governed by a limited number of rules that were perceived to protect the trains in which they were carried. Yet, as time passed the procedures became more complex, reflecting the increased concern over their safe movement. Thus, this gradual increasing of the number of rules over time, which was mirrored in changes in procedures governing other aspects of railway operation, was symptomatic of an industry increasingly concerned with safety in an ever-more complex industry.

[1] Simmons, Jack, ‘Dangerous Goods,’ The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, (Oxford, 1997), p.124
[2] 1845 c. 20 (Regnal. 8 and 9 Vict), Railways Clauses Consolidation Act 1845, 105
[3] London School of Economics Library [LSE], HE 3020.L L84, London and South Western Railway Rule Book, 1853, Rule 38, p.26
[4] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 1135/269, Abstract of Instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station Agents. etc. 1st May 1858, p.18
[5] TNA, RAIL 1135/270 Abstract of Instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station Agents. etc. 1st June 1865, p.60
[6] TNA, RAIL 1135/270 Abstract of Instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station Agents. etc. 1st June 1865, p.61
[7] Horne, M.A.C. British Railway Rule Books, (Unpublished Paper, 2008), p.26
[8] South Western Circle Collection [SWC], London and South Western Railway Rule Book 1884, rule 258a, p.147-151

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The Widows of Victorian Railwaymen and the Struggle for Survival

The majority of railway employees who died or were killed in the performance of their duties belonged to the ‘waged’ grades, and included porters, engine cleaners, signalmen or platelayers. Predominately, they were paid weekly, had little promotional prospects, almost no job security and, most importantly, low wages. Subsequently, while they and their families were not necessarily poor, many were at the lower end of the Victorian income spectrum.

Given the patriarchal nature of Victorian society, it is, therefore, unsurprising that a husband’s death would have led to hardships for many families and possible destitution. While some husbands would have subscribed to railway company employee’s widows’ and orphans' funds, which would have paid out a small amount to the family each week on his death, large sections of railwaymen did not. Invariably, these families were the hardest hit.

Therefore, railway company committee minute books are filled with references to railwaymen’s widows. On the 10th September 1859, the London and South Western Railway’s (L&SWR) Locomotive Committee book recorded that ‘a fatal accident…occurred to one of the Company's Gas Fitters, named Thornton at Nine Elms, on the 15th June last.’ This had left his widow ‘destitute.’[1] In 1885 John Shilabeer, a goods canvasser at Plymouth, died at the age of 49.[2] His wife wrote to the company for ‘assistance’ given the ‘circumstances in which she and her family are left by the death of her husband.’[3] The South Western Gazette, the company’s staff magazine, reported that ‘he left a widow and two young children (two of which are deformed).’ Indeed, because of his illness before his death the Gazette stated that he had been unable to provide for his family.[4]These were just two mentions of widows and their families amongst many that occurred in the L&SWR’s committee books.

Most of the cases raised at committee level were attached to requests from the wives and children of the deceased who required some assistance and had no other means of support. In the case of the L&SWR there was seemingly no set policy in response to these requests. Thornton’s widow was allowed 5 shillings a week for one year,[5] and in the case of Shilabeer his wife was allowed to continue receiving his wages until the 31st August 1885 (he had died in July).[7] Yet, his friends at Plymouth did also solicit donations from the L&SWR’s staff for the family.[8] However, on-going weekly payments to families were not common on the L&SWR. In most other cases the company granted gratuity of £5 or £10 to the family. However, this was not to support it, but to pay for funeral expenses.

The most fortunate of those who were widowed, but did not have support, were those who were offered jobs on the railways. The positions they received included office cleaner (or charwoman), waiting or refreshment room attendant, carriage lining sewer or brass polisher. Yet, these positions were low paid, and on the L&SWR the lowest wages were around 2 shillings 6 pence per week (£6, 10s per year); but were never more than 20 shillings a week (£52 per year). However, this latter wage was rare, and the majority of women received amounts at the smaller end of the spectrum. Furthermore, their wages were usually lower than newly employed boy apprentices, and the widows were the lowest paid individuals on the Victorian railway network.

Therefore, despite these jobs, it is unsurprising that many continued to suffer on such measly wages. Thus, I believe some women must have seen the disintegration of their families entirely. In an earlier post I related the story of Mary Ramsdale who had lost her husband in an accident in 1862 (Read it HERE). Subsequently, she was appointed by the L&SWR as Waiting Room Assistant at Southampton Station. Yet, she clearly suffered mental health problems, eventually had her family taken away and finished up being committed to a lunatic asylum. I’ll never know whether this was an extreme case, but I doubt that it was unique.

Overall, what can be said of the widows of railwaymen? The stories highlighted here were some of the saddest in railway history amongst many. Of course, not all widows were so unfortunate. If the family had saved or their husbands had joined Widow’s and Orphan’s Funds, then it was quite possible they and their family would have had an acceptable standard of living on being widowed. However, for many others, where perhaps saving was not practicable given the family’s size, the cost of living, or simply because the household income was low, destitution and poverty was a likely outcome if the worst occurred.

[1] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/178, Locomotive Committee Minute Book, Minute No.278, 10th September 1859
[2] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.573
[3] TNA, RAIL 411/255, Traffic Committee Minute Book, Minute No. 491, 5th August 1885
[4] TNA, ZPER 11/4, The South Western Gazette, August 1885, p.6
[5] TNA, RAIL 411/178, Locomotive Committee Minute Book, Minute No.278, 10th September 1859
[6] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.573
[7] TNA, RAIL 411/255, Traffic Committee Minute Book, Minute No. 539, 2nd September 1885
[8] TNA, ZPER 11/4, The South Western Gazette, August 1885, p.6

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Unlocking the Early Railway Manager - Pt 4 - The Ex-Soldier Myth

I have come to a revelation. One of Britain’s most noted railway historians of the last 50 years, Michael R. Bonavia, was just plain wrong in his 1971 book, The organisation of British Railways when he claimed that ex-military men, such as Morrsom and Huish, played a large role in the early railway industry. His theory stated that as ex-officers they were some of the only individuals around at the time that had experience of marshalling large bodies of men in hierarchical organisations, that directors chose them to command their embryonic railway companies.[1]

As I showed in my last blog post on this topic (here), the evidence from the 1848 railway officials directly simply didn’t support this as only 3.54% of railway managers listed had military titles. But one study wouldn’t be enough to disprove an argument. My initial thought when encountering this was that perhaps the 1848 directory was published too late in the industry’s development to adequately reflect the ex-military influence. So I moved to catalogue the 1841 railway officials’ directory in my possession.

This directory listed the officials of 26 of Britain’s railways, which between them employed 84 men in 96 senior management positions. Naturally, this sample left out some the country’s railways. Yet, given the small size of the industry at the time, the 26 constituted a good sample of industry’s management class. Of the 84 managers, only 2 (2.38%) were listed as having military titles. These were Colonel Landman of the London and Greenwich Railway, and Captain William S. Moorsom, of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway. Both were employed by the company in an engineering capacity.

Although, the sample vexed me as I knew that in 1841 Captain Mark Huish, who would later become the first General Manager of the London and North Western Railway, was Secretary of the Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway at the time.[2] Therefore, I was worried that many railways were left out and the contribution of some military men may have been overlooked. But this was a minor concern. Overall, this research backed up the evidence from the 1848 directory that military men did not play a major role in railway management in the early railway industry.

Finally, I looked at the 1847 directory. This would be even more helpful at confirming the extent to which ex-officers were involved in the industry, as it detailed far more information about companies’ management class than the other directories. They only listed those individuals who were the top managers within the railways, such as the engineers or secretaries. Yet, the 1847 directory showed, particularly within the larger companies, the names of individuals serving in other senior management capacities, such as Locomotive Superintendents, Accountants and Treasurers. Thus, it would allay my fear that I was missing in the other samples military officials who had not taken up positions at the very head of companies, but which were fulfilling senior administrative roles.

The 1847 railway official’s directory contained the names of 167 individuals who were serving 82 railways in 219 positions. Of these only 3 were military men (1.80%). These were Captain Moosom, working as engineer for the Southampton and Dorchester Railway, Captain Huish, working as General Manager for the L&NWR, and Captain F.A. Griffiths, who was Secretary of the Southampton and Dorchester Railway. Thus, while this differs from the percentage of military men listed in the 1848 directory (3.54%), which probably reveals that the 1847 directory wasn’t as accurate or as wide-ranging as I initially thought, overall it confirms the minimal involvement of ex-military men in the management of the early railway industry.

Thus, over the three samples I have been able to show, without a shadow of doubt, that the notion that military men were the driving force in early railway management is erroneous. Indeed, while some military men may have not listed their titles in the directories and may have been missed, this is an almost insignificant fact against the tiny percentage of individuals that did list their titles. Indeed, there is nothing here to suggest that ex-military officers had a central role at all. Furthermore, it seems that this myth, as it now can rightfully be called, may have originated from the legend of one Captain Mark Huish. He was an innovator in railway management, while being notorious for his hard-headedness, and thus he looms large in the history of the early railways.[3] But, consider this: he was the only ex-military man who went down in history, but if they were truly prolific in the industry, wouldn’t we have heard of more?

[1] Bonavia, Michael, The Organisation of British Railways, (Shpperton, 1971) p.9-26
[3] Gourvish, Terry, Mark Huish and the London and North Western Railway, (Newton Abbott, 1972), p.255-267

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Philanthropy of Railway Companies - 1910

One of things that I've noticed when going through the minute books of the London and South Western Railway was the large number of donations the company made to charitable causes, especially in the 1880s, 1890s and early twentieth century. However, it was also noted that the railway companies, for unknown reasons, refused many requests to contribute to organisations on many occasions. Yet, this was all I saw of the charitable activities of railway companies in the period. Therefore, imagine my surprise when found in the House of Commons Parliamentary Papers a report detailing all the charitable donations that British railway companies made in 1910.

In that year the railway companies of England, Wales and Scotland (I have excluded Ireland) earned £116,240,054 and cost £72,170,459 to operate.[1] In the same year, the industry donated a mere £14,068 4s 0d to external organisations, the large proportion of which were of a religious or charitable nature. This constituted a measly 0.000195% of the industry’s entire operating costs for 1910. Thus, the railways of Britain, while in large part seeing to the needs of their own workers though housing, pensions, training and healthcare schemes, were miserly when giving to those beyond their organisational borders.

Reflecting the paternal activities of the railway companies, the majority of their donations were to ‘Hospitals, Infirmaries and Dispensaries,’ which totalled £6,690 15s 6d. Combined with the donations to other ‘medical’ organisations listed amongst the recipients, ‘Convalescent Homes and Nursing Associations’ (£424, 5s 0d) and ‘Ambulance, medical, surgical aid, and truss societies’ (£308 1s 0d), the total that the railway companies gave to these types of bodies was £7,423 1s 0d, or 52.76% of the overall total. The fact that medical organisations were the largest beneficiaries of what little charity the railways provided, is indicative of the fact that they relied on them to support their own workers who fell sick or who were disabled in the course of their employment. Therefore, propping up medical organisations through donations was extension of the railways’ own internal paternalistic activities.

Religious organisations received the next largest amount of charity from the railway companies. ‘Church funds’ and ‘missions’ received £1,698 3s 0d overall (12.07%). As has been stated in earlier blog posts (here and here), early on different railway companies had varying approaches to religion, ranging from indifference to active encouragement. The fact that different attitudes were still present by 1910 is shown by the different proportional amounts that companies gave to such organisations. The London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) gave £100 5s 0d, or 9.17% of its overall total, to religious organisations, while the Great Western Railway (GWR) gave £125, or 9.89%. Yet the Lancashire and Yorkshire (L&YR), North Eastern (NER) and Great Central Railways (GCR) gave nothing, while the London and North Western Railway gave £822 1s 8d to churches and their attendant organisations, 31.22% of their overall total. Given that most donations were decided on by the companies’ directors, the varying contributory amounts given to religious bodies clearly related to the different levels of religiosity existing within company board rooms.

The early twentieth century was also a period when railway companies were starting to provide opportunities for their employees to train externally; opening up opportunities for them to gain further experience and possible promotion. To this end the railway companies donated £1,110 18s 0d (7.89%) to educational institutions. Looming large amongst the recipients was the London School of Economics (LSE), which at the time was training London based clerks in the art of railway management. You can read more about the courses in some of my earlier blog posts (here, and here). The five railways who sent clerks to the LSE in 1910 were the L&SWR, GWR, GCR, NER and Metropolitan Railway. Additionally, £1,278 14s 0d (9.09%) was spent on ‘Mechanic’s, Seamen’s and Fishermen’s Institutes.’ However, the majority of this total was constituted by the London and North Western Railway giving £1,087 10s 0d to the Crewe Mechanics’ Institute where it sponsored training 42 for individuals. Yet, as shown, the railways that were giving to educational institutes to varying degrees. This is indicative of the fact that the idea that railway employees could advance themselves and boost their careers through work-based education was only starting to permeate the industry.[2]

Overall, I do not have space to discuss all the donations that railway companies made in 1910 and have only mentioned the most prominent recipients here. However, what this post has shown is that the donations that company boards made could represent the state of the industry at the time, the beliefs and ideas of directors, and the environment in which the companies operated. Thus, more research needs to be done on this forgotten area of railway history to see how much we can learn about the attitudes of directors and managers. But then, I think I have lost count now of the areas I keep flagging for further research.

[1] Railway Returns 1910
[2] House of Commons Parliamentary Papers [HCPP], 1911 (266) Railway companies (charitable and other contributions, 1910). Return to an order of the Honourable the House of Commons, dated 10 August 1911;--for, return "showing in detail the amounts contributed by the railway companies of the United Kingdom, during the year 1910, to institutions and associations of various character, not directly controlled by the companies, and not for the exclusive benefit of the companies' servants."

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Unlocking the Early Railway Manager - Pt 3 - Three Engineers (again) and Some Soldiers

This is the third part of the ‘Turnip Rail Project’ that I hope will determine the nature of early railway manager. For those of you who are unaware of the process I am undertaking, I will, on my blog, be doing some new and original research. Simply put, our knowledge of early railway managers is minimal. There are some historians who have made broad statements about their backgrounds and work, however, more actual statistical research needs to be done. If you would like more information please see the first Blog post in the series (here) and the follow-up (here) where I presented my first findings and preliminary thoughts.

Principally, the 1848 Railway Officials Directory showed that three engineers, Joseph Locke, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Robert Stephenson, dominated the engineering activities in the early British railway industry. However, my good friend Kevin was good enough to point out that many of these engineers may have been appointed for ornamental reasons so as to lend integrity to the company and allow them to attract potential investment.

I thought I would look a bit further into this. I found that of the 51 companies that had Locke, Brunel and Stephenson involved, in only 23 cases was their engineering role shared with one or more other engineer. Thus, the possibility of their appointments having ‘ornamental’ status was increased in these cases.

This left 28 of the cases where Locke, Brunel and Stephenson were the sole engineer listed, and while the actual day-to-day engineering of these lines may have been under the charge of men in their employ, the whole of the engineering side of their businesses would have been under their ultimate control. The 28 lines on which they had charge of engineering totalled 1396.16 miles, or 33.17% of the 4208.85 miles that the three men were involved with in some way. The 28 concerns were mostly small or medium sized railways, and the only large one was the Great Western Railway over which Brunel had complete control of its engineering affairs. Thus, as they were only engineers involved their appointments were more than just being ‘ornamental.’

Conversely, the 23 companies that had multiple engineers, but were under the three men’s partial charge, constituted 2812.6875 miles, or 66.82% of the total. Indeed, in many of these cases the railways were some of the largest concerns in the land, such as the London and North Western, London and South Western, Midland, York, Newcastle and Berwick and South Eastern Railways. Thus, it could be argued that the sheer size of the companies meant that the work involved in engineering was simply beyond the scope of one engineer.

This said, only six of the 23 railway companies were over 100 miles long, leaving 15 railways that were short in length but with multiple engineers engaged on them. The total length of these 15 railways was 679.58 miles (16.15%). Subsequently, these companies were the best candidates for being railways where the involvement of one of the engineering luminaries was for the purposes of attracting investors. Lastly, in only five cases, all of which involved Stephenson, was there any hint of him taking an ‘ornamental’ position as he adopted the title of ‘Consulting Engineer.’

Thus, there seems to be three tiers of these engineers’ involvement in the companies. Firstly, there were those companies where they had sole control, and while they may have been originally appointed for ‘ornamental’ reasons to attract investors, they had practical responsibilities. Secondly, there were cases where they did share control of engineering within a company with another individual, but the size of the company may have precluded sole control being possible given their other commitments. Indeed, these companies were some of the largest and, therefore, were most unlikely to have appointed them for ornamental reasons as the companies didn’t need that type of support to gain investment. Lastly, there were a handful of companies where they were most likely appointed for ornamental reasons because they shared the engineering title within small railway companies that possibly didn’t need two engineers. Therefore, the proportion of engineering appointments of these three engineers that were purely ornamental was seemingly small.

I also want to talk about the ‘military’ aspect of management. One of the principal claims by railway historians has been that ex-military officers were brought in to manage the early railways as they were some of the few individuals who had experience at administering large bodies of men. As stated in the last blog, the the 130 in the sample had 322 management posts. These were held by 226 individuals. If I am to believe Bonavia’s assessment of the senior management within the early railways, military men should feature prominently among the senior managers, especially in the administrative positions.

Unfortunately for Bonavia the evidence doesn’t support his argument. In the 1848 sample only 8 of the 226 (3.54%) men involved in managing Britain’s railways were listed as having a military title. Of these, seven were ex-army captains and one had been a member of the Royal Navy. Of the eight, three, Jee, McClean and Moorsom, were engineers; four, Badham, Hartnoll, O’Brien and Charlewood, were secretaries; and one, Mark Huish, was ‘manager.’ Of course, there may have been more military men within the 226 listed managers that didn’t cite their military titles, so there may have been more that I am missing. Furthermore, there may have been more ex-military men employed further down in the companies’ hierarchies that were not shown as the directory covered only senior managers. Yet, on this information alone it could be tentatively said that, amongst the senior managers of Britain’s railways in 1848, the number of military men was smaller far than Bonavia supposed. In reality I have been a bit bold with this statement. But, hopefully, the level of involvement by ex-military men may become clearer when I look at the other railway official’s directories from 1841 and 1847.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Unlocking the Early Railway Manager (The Turnip Rail Project) - Part 2 - Three Engineers

So this is the first part of my ‘Turnip Rail Project’ to actually feature research. I have had one of my friends describe it as a ‘research Time Team.’ If last weeks’ Time Team is anything to go by I certainly hope not; they found very little. For those who didn’t read my previous blog post, this is a project that I will present as I go that will determine the nature of the early British railway company managers. I will, therefore, include all my preliminary thoughts, mistakes and ideas. Primarily I will focus on the railway manager in the 1840s using three ‘railway officials’ directories from 1841, 1847 and 1848. If you want a bit more background, have a look at my last blog post here.

Anyway, in my time off over the last few days, away from my PhD and work, I have been ploughing through and processing the information contained in the 1848 directory of railway company officials. Yes, I am really that wild. I have also been watching Deadwood at the same time, so at least I can say that I have been doing something enjoyable (although Deadwood is pretty grim). Despite this distraction it has been a laborious task. But, the fruits at the end were most interesting.

I chose to start on the 1848 directory simply because it contained more information than the other two, and would reflect the state of British railway administration at a time when railways were in their ‘teenage’ years. In total I have collected data from 130 individual railways that were listed in the directory. For each, I have catalogued the number of officials in each railway, the number of posts listed, the names of the individuals and their positions. I have also noted the mileage of each railway, and in total the 130 railways operated 7117.55 miles of line in 1848. Originally I had calculated that there were 45,000 miles, but it is a wonder what a missing decimal point can do to my calculations.

Firstly, I will look at the sample of the managers’ post holdings. In total, 130 railways had 322 senior managerial posts according to the directory. Of these, 178 (55.28%) post were engineering roles (Engineer, Consulting Engineer, Assistant Engineer, Resident Engineer). Of course, I didn’t think straight at first, and for a very short while fell into the trap of thinking that this was 178 individual engineers. However, after playing around with Excel, I revised the stats. There were in fact 92 individuals, taking 177 positions on 123 railways. This meant that for some unknown reason 7 railways did not employ an engineer or did not list one. This may need a bit of looking into.

What is interesting is that while many Engineers only took assignments with one company, possibly indicating local relationships with the railway builders, personal connections with directors and individuals coming in from other industries to try their hand at railway building, a good number served multiple concerns. Three of the individuals on the list are names that have gone down in railway history. In 1848 Robert Stephenson (shown) was serving 26 railway companies, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Joseph Locke were both working with 13.

It is unlikely that they were directly involved all the time, and it is clear that on many of the companies that they worked on they received help. For example, Robert Stephenson was co-engineer with William Baker on the Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stour Valley Railway, as well as J.E. Errington on the Lancaster and Carslisle Railway. Stephenson was also co-engineer on the London and North Western Railway with Joseph Locke. Lastly, Isambard Kingdom Brunel had a staggering seven Assistant Engineers on the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth Railway. However, this was a unique example. In the majority of cases railways had only one or two engineers. Furthermore, the two engineers occasionally took the separate roles of ‘Resident Engineer,’ who was employed by the company, and ‘Consulting Engineer,’ who was called in when required. However, I admit that this was the arrangement on the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) and it may have been different elsewhere.

Going back to the ‘big 3 engineers,’ (Brunel, Locke and Stephenson) I feel that the evidence does suggest that railway engineering in this country in 1848 was controlled by them. 51 of Britain’s railways had the 3 individuals involved. Simply based on the number of companies in existence, this put 28.81% of companies under their ultimate or shared engineering control. Yet, the engineers served many of the largest railway companies at the time, such as the London and North Western Railway, the London and South Western Railway, the Great Western Railway, the Midland Railway, the Eastern Counties Railway, the South Eastern Railway, the South Wales Railway and the York, Newcastle and Berwick. Thus, if mileage is taken into account, the three engineers were heading up engineering activities on 4208.85 miles of Britain’s railways, or 59.13%. Quite simply, this is a staggering amount of influence on the emergent railway industry.

Of course my brain is now buzzing with ideas about the influences that these relationships had on technology, more specifically the development of broad verses narrow gauge railways. After all, it wouldn’t be hard for the narrow gauge ideas of Locke and Stephenson, who engineered 3186.76 miles of Britain’s railways between them (44.77%) in 1848, to dominate when Brunel, who favoured broad gauge, only engineered 1022.08 miles (14.36%).

Yet, this isn't the overall purpose of the project. Hopefully in my next blog I’ll detail some of the findings and thinkings about the rest of the individuals in the survey. I'd be very interested to know whether the other engineers that weren't working with the luminaries had any links to them and what their backgrounds were. Also what about the other individuals listed? They were predominantly secretaries and their backgrounds were may be hard to get at. Also in the sample there were few managerial titles that we see in later railways such as 'Locomotive Superintendent' or 'Traffic Manager' and it'd be interesting to see if there was a correlation between the size of the railway and where these titles appear in the directory...anyway, I'll leave my musings for another time.

Pleas keep using the hash-tag - #TurnipRailProject - if you tweet about it!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Unlocking the Early Railway Manager - A Project to Follow

One of the main areas of research that has yet to be covered by railway and business historians is the nature of the early British railway manager. Of course, some historians have commented on this topic before, however, few have done any real in-depth research on it. Bonavia in his 1971 book on the organisation of British railways gave little time to how railways were managed before 1923. Subsequently, he only gave broad statements as to who became the first senior managers in British railway companies. In his estimation ex-military officers were prominent in railway management after lines had opened, as they had experience at coordinating and marshalling large bodies of men. Also heavily involved were the ‘secretaries’ of companies, although, he did not comment on their backgrounds. Lastly, involved were the engineers, men such as Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Joseph Locke and William Cubitt, who, while they built the railways, they also played a role in the administration of them. [1]

Overall, Bonavia’s history did not give a full picture of railway management within early British railways (which I classify as being before 1860) and there remains a large gap of knowledge amongst historians. I acknowledge that all three groups of individuals, the ex-military men, the engineers and the secretaries, all played a role, but to what extent did individuals from each of these actually get involved in the industry? Which group dominated? Therefore, what is needed is a statistical survey of the management class in the formative years of the British railway industry

In the next few posts I hope to answer a these questions. But I start from a position of not knowing the answer. I sit here with no conclusions and with a blank canvas to fill. I do, however, have on my desktop three directories of railway officials in pdf format from 1841, 1847 and 1848. In the next few weeks I will be researching them and my findings, as they come, will be posted on the blog. But this will be an on-going process that I hope you follow and as such I will not hold back from posting my thoughts, erroneous conclusions, premature ideas and mistakes as the research moves forward. I will also detail my research processes and how they change (which they predictably will). Hopefully, this will make for interesting, and entertaining reading.

I will first be looking at the 1848 directory as it seems to have a lot more information in it on early railway managers from a larger number of railways than the other directories. It was also created at a point where the railways are just starting to come into their own as an industry. Thus, it would provide information on managers when the industry was starting to demand large numbers of men to administer the railways. So, on with the show, I’ll report back soon.

P.S. Oh, I will be using a hash-tag as the research goes on - #TurnipRailProject - Please use it!!

[1] Bonavia, Michael, The Organisation of British Railways, (Shpperton, 1971) p.9-26

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