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Saturday, 24 December 2011

"An EXTRA TRAIN will leave Shoreditch" - Trains on Christmas Day before 1900

Last year around this time, I showed how Christmas was celebrated on the London and South Western Railway before 1900 (HERE). However, one thing stuck in my mind, namely, that the railways still operated on Christmas Day. Therefore, this year I conducted a bit of research to discover more about these services. Unsurprisingly, I found that the increasing importance of Christmas throughout the nineteenth century affected how many trains were run on Christmas Day.

In the 1830s and early 1840s it seems that the railway companies did not make any special arrangements for Christmas Day and ran regular weekday services. An advert printed on 22 December 1837 for the Grand Junction Railway’s forthcoming services between Birmingham and the Liverpool and Manchester Railway contained not one word about the coming festivities.[1] Indeed, adverts printed in the week before Christmas for trains on the London and Greenwich Railway[2] and  the Great Western Railway (GWR) in 1838,[3], as well as on the Birmingham and Derby Railway in 1839[4], also mention no special passenger train arrangements on Christmas Day. Furthermore, an Eastern Counties Railway advert from the 22 December 1843 clearly announced that ‘On Christmas day the trains will run the same as on week days.’[5] Lastly, shown on the left is an example a Great Western Railway advert published on 19 December 1840 which has no mention of Christmas.[6]

The reason that trains continued to run as normal on Christmas Day in this period was, I presume, because it was only significantly observed by the upper and middle classes and for many people it simply a normal day. Nevertheless, 1843 was a year when the increasing popularity of Christmas amongst all the population was becoming evident. In that year the first Christmas card appeared [7] and on the 17 December Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published, a text which helped to revive interest in forgotten Christmas traditions [8].

Therefore, around this time railway companies began offering special rates to passengers in the festive period. In 1844 the Preston and Wyre Railway offered, in bold capital letters, ‘CHRISTMAS CHEAP TRAINS’. Between Christmas Day and New Year passengers travelling by the 8.30 am train from Preston to any station on the company’s network could return with the same ticket by any train. Furthermore, on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day anyone booking to Preston on either of the two morning trains, could also return the same day on the same ticket.[9] In 1845 the GWR reduced the cost of all return tickets by a third on Christmas Day.[10] Lastly, the Midland Railway allowed passengers who purchased first or second class day tickets between the 24th and 26th December to return on any of those days or on the 27th and 28th.[11] Consequently, throughout the Victorian period offers of this nature were provided by most companies in the festive season.

However, the GWR’s 1845 advert included words which indicated that further changes in Christmas services were afoot. The reduced fares were allowed, ‘reckoning Christmas Day as a Sunday.’ [12] Indeed, while in the GWR’s case they offered the special Sunday fares on Christmas day, seemingly it wasn’t long until many companies began running Sunday timetables on that day also. Evidence has been found of this being advertised by the London and South Western Railway in 1846,[13] the GWR in 1849,[14] the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1854[15] and the Chester and Birkenhead Railway in 1857. Indeed, by the 1860s the running of Sunday services on Christmas Day seemed to be the norm across the railway industry.

However, unlike at present, Sunday timetables were not simply a slightly reduced version of the weekday one and the number of trains running was small compared with the rest of the week. The Chester and Birkenhead’s December 1857 timetable shows ten up and eleven down trains between Liverpool and Chester on a weekday. However, only four up and three down were provided on a Sunday. The GWR’s timetable for services between London and Chester shows five up and six down on a weekday, but only one each way on a Sunday.[16] Furthermore, as Sunday trains were not greatly profitable, railway managers gradually reduced the number of lines that had them as the nineteenth century progressed. Thus, in 1847 only 2.6% of Britain’s railway network had no Sunday services, yet by 1861 the figure was 5.7%, in 1871 it was 18.9% and by 1887 it was 20.1%.[17] Only in Scotland did religious feeling play a role in stopping Sunday services, and by 1914 over 60% of the network had no trains.[18]

Therefore, because the Sunday timetables operating on Christmas Day would have been unable to convey all who wanted to travel in the festive season, especially given its increasing popularity, from the 1850s the railways ran extra services in the three or four days before the 25 December. Indeed, this seems to have become an industry norm. An issue of The Standard from 22 December 1863 shows the following railways were advertising additional services in this period:

Crystal Palace
Great Eastern
Great Western
London and North Western
London and South Western
London, Brighton and South Coast
London, Chatham and Dover
North London
South Eastern[19]

Special trains on Christmas Day have been hard to find before the 1860s, and thereafter they were few in number in each year. An Eastern Counties’ Railway advert from 1844 stated that on Christmas day ‘an EXTRA TRAIN will leave Shoreditch Station to Brentwood at a Quarter before Ten o’clock A.M. calling at all the intermediate stations.’[20] However, this seems an anomaly for the period.

After 1860, special Christmas Day services provided were seemingly operating on long-distance routes only. In 1860 the South Eastern Railway put on a special train between London and Canterbury at 8.30am, returning in the evening. The Eastern Counties Railway ran a special train to Norwich leaving at 9.50 am. [21] In 1890 the London and South Western Railway put on a special train at 8.50am for Basingstoke, Salisbury and Exeter, as well as another for Southampton, Portsmouth, Salisbury Bournemouth and Lymington. Both trains called at principal intermediate stations along the way. In the same year the ‘London and North Western Railway’s timetable had ‘several important additions’[22] and in 1895 the company ran a special train from Euston at 6.15 am stopping at all major stations between there and Glasgow.[23] Lastly, In 1899 the South Eastern Railway offered ‘several extra trains.’[24] Ultimately, the total number special Christmas Day trains each year is unknown, however, it is clear they were not numerous.

Overall, during the Victorian period the number of trains railway companies provided on Christmas Day diminished. Immediately after the industry’s birth companies ran full weekday timetables on 25 December. However, in the 1840s sparse Sunday timetables were adopted, which themselves provided a diminishing number of services as the decades passed.  Thus, this adoption of Sunday timetables began the long decline of the Christmas Day passenger train, the last of which was run in 1981.[25]


[1] Liverpool Mercury etc, Friday, December 22, 1837
[2] The Examiner, Sunday, December 23, 1838
[3] The Morning Chronicle, Saturday, December 22, 1838
[4] The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, December 18, 1839
[5] The Essex Standard, and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties, Friday, December 22, 1843
[6] The Bristol Mercury, Saturday, December 19, 1840
[9] The Preston Chronicle etc, Saturday, December 21, 1844
[10] The Morning Chronicle, Monday, December 22, 1845
[11] The Derby Mercury, Wednesday, December 23, 1846
[12] The Morning Chronicle, Monday, December 22, 1845
[13] Hampshire Advertiser & Salisbury Guardian, Saturday, December 05, 1846, pg.1
[14] John Bull, Saturday, December 08, 1849, p. 765, Issue 1,513
[15] The Morning Chronicle, Tuesday, December 12, 1854, Issue 27445
[16] Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser, and Cheshire, Shropshire, Flintshire, and North Wales Register, Saturday, December 12, 1857, Issue 202
[17] Simmons, Jack, The Victorian Railway, (London, 1991), p.286
[18] Simmons, Jack, ‘Sunday Services’, The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, (Oxford, 1997), p.486
[19] The Standard, Tuesday, December 22, 1863, pg. 1, Issue 12282
[20] The Essex Standard, and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties, Friday, December 22, 1843
[21] The Standard, Saturday, December 22, 1860, p.1
[22] The County Gentleman- Sporting Gazette, Agricultural Journal, and The Man about Town, Saturday, December 13, 1890, pg. 1759
[23] Speaker, No.12 (1895, December 21), p.682
[24] Outlook, Vol. 4, No.98 (1899, December 16), p.633
[25] The Times, Thursday, Dec 16, 1982, pg. 26, Issue 61416

Monday, 19 December 2011

"Christmas fare from the provinces" - Euston Station and the Distribution of Festive Goods in the 1840s

Given that in the nineteenth century the railways were the main way of transporting anything long distances, it is unsurprising that the festive season was their busiest period of the year. Indeed, the railways carried everything the people of Britain needed for their Christmas festivities, not to mention the people themselves. For this reason some newspapers seemed obsessed with what traffic was carried, how it was carried and its volume, and their reports provide an insight into the level of activity occurring on Britain’s railways in the week before Christmas Day. Receiving particular attention in the late 1840s and early 1850s was the delivery arrangements at the Euston terminus of Britain’s largest railway company, the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR).

The Morning Post of Monday 26 December 1848 reported that ‘yesterday [Christmas Day] and during Sunday, the termini of the various metropolitan termini presented an unusual scene of bustle and activity in consequence of the extraordinary influx of Christmas fare from the provinces.’ The Post stated that the volume of incoming traffic at Euston was so large that on the arrival platform a temporary tarpaulin shed had been constructed in to which goods were unloaded before distribution. It was eighteen feet high and fifty foot long, and at one point before Christmas it had been full. Nevertheless, because the distribution system worked perfectly confusion was avoided.[1]

A year later, the Daily News printed a more detailed account of the distribution arrangements at Euston between the 22 December and the morning of the twenty-fifth. The General Manager of the company, Captain Mark Huish, and Mr Brooks, the company’s Traffic Superintendent,[2] had made special arrangements with the company’s delivery agents, Messrs Chaplain and Horne, to expedite the deliveries as quickly as possible. Once again, there was a tent on the arrival platform. However, in 1849 it was larger than a year before, being twenty foot high and sixty foot long. From the Daily News' article we also learn that it was lit by gas lamps to allow unloading operations to continue at night.

Trains arrived day and night alongside the tent and their contents of ‘barrels of oysters, baskets of fish, fruit game and other Christmas presents’  were unloaded into the tent by fifty or sixty porters. The loads were then handed to the Chaplain and Horne's agents who, with the help of ‘sorters’, arranged the parcels into large compartments on the station wall. These compartments were each labelled with the districts of London that the consignments were being sent to. Some of which were as follows: ‘the City, Strand, Squares over the water, Islington, East End, Finsbury, West-end, Kingsland, Clerkenwell.’

At each compartment two and three omnibuses stood being loaded with parcels and packages being checked by the L&NWR’s clerks. They were loaded carefully and securely, and that efficient loading was achieved not just by ‘laying the packages across,’ but also by ‘suspending turkeys and pigs outside.’ Some were estimated to hold 200 packages and were so piled up that they were as the second floors of houses. Thus, the paper commented that on leaving the station they ‘attracted no small attention.’ Overall, there were thirty or forty omnibuses and when all were filled to capacity they departed ‘without delay.’

Of course, with so many goods passing through this may have offered an opportunity to criminals to pilfer, and to prevent such loss the company’s policemen were present the entire time.

The operation was highly efficient. On Sunday 23 December the majority of the trains carrying mail and goods for London began arriving at 4.30am, and by 9am all their contents had been despatched into the city. However, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mornings it took until 10am to clear the incoming traffic.[3] Further evidence of efficiency was recorded in 1853 when only two consignments out of 40,000 were found to have lost their labels.[4] But, additionally, the effectiveness of the operation is so impressive when considering the number of parcels and packages entering Euston Station in the three days up to and including the morning of Christmas Day. The estimates reported were as follows:-

1848 - 12,000 [5]
1849 - 15,000 [6]
1850 - 10,000 [7]
1851 - Inward and Outward: 40,000 (figures for the week before Christmas) [8]
1852 - 12,000
1853 - 12,500 [9]
1864 - 17,000 [10]

Clearly, with just the use of paper and ink, the L&NWR organised the unloading and delivery of consignments with a speed and efficiency that puts some modern delivery services to shame. Ultimately, this enabled London’s residents to have a very, merry Christmas.

Read last year's Christmas post HERE


[1] The Morning Post, Tuesday, December 26, 1848
[2] Interestingly, no trace of a ‘Mr Brooks’ can be found in Terry Gourvish’s book Mark Huish and the London and North Western Railway, (Leicester, 1972)
[3] Daily News, Wednesday, December 26, 1849, Issue 1119
[4] The Standard, Saturday, December 27, 1851, p.1
[5] The Morning Post, Tuesday, December 26, 1848
[6] Daily News, Wednesday, December 26, 1849, Issue 1119
[7] The Era, Sunday, December 29, 1850
[8] The Standard, Saturday, December 27, 1851, p.1
[9] The Essex Standard, and General Advertiser for the Eastern Counties, Wednesday, December 28, 1853
[10] Jackson's Oxford Journal, Saturday, January 9, 1864

Monday, 12 December 2011

The York Tap - A peice of railway heritage restored

As some of you may be aware, last week I went on a short holiday to York. I love York so much. It is a place where there is great things to do, plenty of pubs and, of course, the National Railway Museum. However, this visit was enhanced by a recent addition to this wonderful city, namely, the York Tap. For those of you unfamiliar with the Tap, this is a new pub which opened on the 16 November at the station. Situated next to the platform, this establishment boasts 32 taps on the bar and somewhere between 80 and 100 bottled beers. Indeed, possessing such a range of beer puts it solidly in my top three drinking establishments in York (and believe me, this is a constant battle in my head) and it will not surprise anyone that during my three day visit, I popped into the Tap twice.

For most of the last quarter of a century the building which houses the Tap was home to the ‘York Model Railway,’ a small, much overlooked, attraction. Yet, in early 2011 it decided to move to a site in Lincolnshire and it was at this point that Pivovar, owner of the Euston and Sheffield Taps, as well as Pivni in York city centre, moved in. The decision by East Coast, the Train Operating Company that manages York Station, to allow Pivovar to inhabit the building was important for railway heritage. The building is Grade II listed and as such special care had to be taken with it. Indeed, the process of renovating and revealing the neglected interior cost £250,000, including a contribution of £75,000 from the Railway Heritage Trust.[1]

This money was clearly worth it, and entering the building is a bit like going back in time. Never, in all my drinking days have I experience a pub which satisfies two of my loves: railway history and good ale. Thus, after my visits I began thinking about the history of the Tap building and was resolved to investigate. Much to my surprise, after only a short period of digging I found an article in The British Architect describing the building’s construction and interior.

The building that the Tap uses was originally opened in February 1907 by the North Eastern Railway (NER) as the station’s tea room. It seems that around the same time the NER may have been in the process of expanding tea rooms facilities at its large stations, as the article on the York establishment was accompanied by another describing a new tea room at Hull (now a Pumpkin CafĂ©). Indeed, the Hull and York tea rooms, as well as their interiors and furniture, were both designed in an art-nouveau style by Mr W. Bell F.R.I.B.A., the company’s architect.

The British Architect indicates that many of the features of the tea room have been restored in the Tap. The floor space was 2,500 square feet and, like at present, there were two doors, one facing the city and another opening onto the station platform. These two entrances were situated so that ‘the ordinary public, as well as passengers, may use the room.’ The only difference was that the room originally possessed ‘draught-proof’ revolving doors, whereas currently the Tap has regular ones.

The building's design was originally governed by the position of the pre-existing roof columns and spandrils. Indeed, these were incorporated into the tea room, with fretwork added to the columns to hide the fact that they were part of the station’s main structure. Furthermore, the joy with the current interior is that the colours are very similar to those adopted in 1907. The walls were ‘finished in crimson,’ the ceiling was cream and the woodwork was white. The furniture and counter were executed in ‘dark mahogany,’ and the floor, which remains to this day, was a mosaic with an ornamental border. The only significant departures in the Tap from the 1907 features is that the counter and furniture are in different positions and are of a different design, and there is an absence of floor rugs (as shown in the pictures). Nevertheless, what has been accomplished when sitting in the Tap today is a wonderful sense of history and nostalgia.
Lastly, a nod should go to those who created the structure in 1907. The contractors for its building were Messrs Blackett and Son of Greencroft East, Darlington, and the instillation of the mosaic's terrazzo paving was entrusted to Messrs Diespeker of 60 Holborn Viaduct, London.[2]

Overall, what has been restored at the York Tap is not just the fact that the building is again quenching the thirsts of passengers. By the early twentieth century, class distinctions in station waiting and refreshment rooms had been mostly abandoned across the railway industry and, thus, the NER created a facility worthy of both first and third class passengers. Therefore, what Pivovar have recreated within the York Tap is an example of the railway refreshment room’s last stage of development before the First World War, a period when passenger travel was at its most comfortable. Indeed, for this act of preserving railway history (combined with providing copious amounts of beer), I cannot heap on them enough praise.

Visit the York Tap’s website HERE

[2] The British Architect, 27 February 1907, p.127

Monday, 5 December 2011

Female clerk's pay in the 1910s on the London and South Western Railway (verses male clerk's)

There is no doubt that before 1914, on average, railwaywomen earned less than their male colleagues. However, the wage gap between the genders is difficult to determine accurately because there were only a few jobs that both women and men did and where direct comparisons can be made. One was clerical work, which by 1914 was increasingly being opened up to women. I have talked in three posts about the first sixteen female clerks that were employed at the London and North Western Railway’s Birmingham Goods Depot from 1874. One post looked at wages the women were paid, finding that until their eighth year they received the same amount as men (here), after which their pay rises stopped. Nevertheless, I have not looked at the amount female clerks were paid in the 1910s, when they were becoming commonplace in the offices Britain’s railways.

Between 1870 and 1900 the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) is known to have employed nineteen women as telegraph clerks across its network. However, these appointments were made in isolation from each other and were not part of an established policy. Indeed, the women usually received their positions because station masters requested that their daughters be found a job before they were married. It was only in March 1914, on the arrival of a new General Manager, Herbert Ashcombe Walker, that the company formalised the ‘conditions of service’ for new female clerks. This laid out what qualifications they were required to have, as well as their wages.[1] Therefore, because a formal policy was established, female and male clerks’ pay can be compared. Furthermore, it should also be noted that male clerks’ scales were revised in 1911.[2]

However, the comparison isn’t a direct one for a number of reasons. Firstly, it should be stressed that male and female clerks were paid differently, in that most men were paid monthly, while all women received their wages weekly (and, therefore, could be fired more easily). Furthermore, the document describing the female clerks wages does not specify exactly when increases should occur, nor by how much. Therefore, this information has had to be gleaned from staff records. All it does specify are that the maximum rate for London based clerks was 28 shillings per week (£72 16s/year), while for those in the country it was 26 shillings (£67 12s/year).[3] London wages covered stations including ‘Waterloo, Vauxhall, Nine Elms [goods depot], Queen's Road, Clapham Junction, Kensington and Receiving offices in London.’[4] For the purposes of this post I will only be looking at the wages of the women based in London.

In addition, male clerks’ salaries were increased automatically each year, whereas the records indicate that the female clerks’ wages were raised at different points and by different amounts, presumably based on their individual abilities. This said, most women were guaranteed increases each year. Thus, Florence Emily Elliott, who joined as a telephone operator at Waterloo in July 1914, earned ten shillings a week for a year before increasing to fourteen.[5] Whereas Lilian E Teuten, who joined the company in the same capacity in April 1915, only stayed on the lowest rate for three months before advancing to twelve shillings.[6] Consequently, because the female clerks’ wages were not strictly standardised, I averaged the wages that twenty clerks were on at different points in their employment to ascertain the rapidity of their wage increases. However, some of the twenty left the service in the seven years and, thus, the number of wages being averaged for the later years of service diminished (See the table on the left). Lastly, in early 1920 the L&SWR significantly revised the rates female clerks were paid, and consequently good data to make a comparison with male clerks’ salaries is only available for their first seven years of their employment.

The figures suggest that for much of the seven years female clerks on average earned more than the men, as indicated in the graph below. This shows the average yearly rates that female clerks were on at any given point, as well as the male scale. Indeed, while the women started on a yearly rate that was £4 less than the men, it was only after half a year that the women’s’ average surpassed it. Indeed, of the nineteen female clerks still employed after a year of service, fourteen were earning more than the men’s standard rate of £35 per year. In the third year of service the average rate the women were being paid slowed and male clerks began earning more than the women’s average per year, five years after appointment.

Furthermore, the difference between the wages male and female clerks were on at points across the period is shown better in the graph below. Indeed, the average wage that the women were on passed those of the men after half a years’ service. It reached its peak at two and three-quarter years’ service, when the average yearly rate that sixteen female clerks were on was £12 4s more than the men’s set rate of £40 per year. Thereafter, the difference fell and from the women’s’ fifth year onwards the average rate they were earning was less than the men’s standard salary of £70.  

Lastly, I want to look at the total earnings that male and female clerks earned over the first seven years of their employment. The table below shows the standard raise that male clerks received each year, as well as the average rate that female clerks were on at the same points. The table shows that over the seven year period, female clerks, on average, earned £8 4s more than their male counterparts.

Ultimately, these figures show that the L&SWR’s female clerical workers in the 1910s did not earn less in their first seven years employment than their male colleagues. Rather, they actually were paid a little more. Additionally, combined with research I have done on female clerks working for the London and North Western Railway in the 1870s, which also showed male and female clerks’ wages were comparable, it tentatively suggests that the railway industry’s female clerical workers before the inter-war years were in the first years of their employment paid just as well as the men. However, this clearly requires further investigation given I have only studied two companies.

However, more importantly, it should be remembered that this research does not alter the fact that the women’s wages were capped at 28 shillings (£72 16s) and they could not gain promotion beyond the position of supervisor. Furthermore, in the L&SWR’s case very few women stayed in employment long enough to earn the maximum rate, as even in the First World War they were barred from serving while married. Of the twenty women sampled, only three women ever received the 28 shillings a week stated in the 1914 ‘conditions of service’.

(NB: Some did go on to earn higher wages when the L&SWR revised the scales in 1920. Yet these were high in comparison with the earlier scales, given the inflation of wartime, and for this reason they have not been included in the sample.)


I will be doing two talks on 20 December and 17 January at 6.30 pm at Kew Public Library on Victorian Railwaywomen, looking at who they were, where they worked in the industry and their pay and status.  Refreshments will be provided, all for a mere £1. If you would like to attend, call the library to book a place on 020 8734 3352 (Opening Times: Tues - 10-1, 2-6; Wed 2-6; Fri 2-6; Sat 10-1, 2-6) or email  


[1] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/275, Traffic Officer’s Conference, 27 March 1918, p.113 and Appendix A, p.18
[2] Hampshire Record Office [HRO], 104A02/A3/13, London and South Western Railway minutes extracts: Carriage Department, marked number 13 on spine, Jul 1910-Jul 1914, circular Revised Scale of Salaries for Clerical Staff, 20 November 1911
[3] TNA, RAIL 411/275, Traffic Officer’s Conference, 27 March 1918, Appendix A, p.18
[4] HRO, 104A02/A3/13, London and South Western Railway minutes extracts: Carriage Department, marked number 13 on spine, Jul 1910-Jul 1914, circular Revised Scale of Salaries for Clerical Staff, 20 November 1911
[5] TNA, RAIL 411/506, Clerical register - Female staff 1915 – 1924, p.5
[6] TNA, RAIL 411/506, Clerical register - Female staff 1915 – 1924, p.7
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