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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Defining the Early British Station Master

Late Victorian and Edwardian Station Masters are perceived to have been highly respected individuals. They commanded the stations at which they were based, and were pillars of the community; respectable, authoritarian and honourable. However, in the case of station masters before 1870 these attributes are not necessarily applicable. Without established promotional trees, standardised rules and regulations, and with vetting procedures for new employees not being set in stone, Britain’s pioneer station masters were a very mixed bag, to say the least.

Firstly, the term ‘station master’ was not a universal one in the period, although it was certainly around. A London and South Western Railway rule book from 1845 called them ‘station clerks’, and in many cases this is what they were, simply clerks in charge of a station.[1] Indeed, the Great Northern Railway omitted the word ‘station’ altogether, calling officials in these positions ‘clerks-in-charge’ in 1856.[2] Nevertheless, it seems that other railways used ‘clerks-in-charge’ interchangeably with ‘station master’, as shown in the East Lancashire Railway’s 1856 rule book.[3] The most common alternative to ‘station master’ in the period was ‘station agent’, and the London and South Western Railway, after disposing of ‘station clerk’, retained this title right until the 1900 for all except those individuals administering large stations.[4] It was only in the 1860s that ‘station master’ became far more common and part of common parlance.

However, whatever early station masters were called, the individuals filling these posts came to the railways after being occupied in a vast array of other occupations. In my survey of the professions 400 London and North Western Railway workers between 1830 and 1860 had prior to being employed by the railway, thirty-nine of the sample were station masters or ‘agents’. Their previous occupations were diverse, including farmers, journeymen, sailors, civil servants, bookkeepers and porters. Seemingly, most sectors of the mid-Victorian economy were represented amongst the thirty-nine, and it suggests that it would not be wise to pigeonhole early station masters as having one or two types of employment background.[5]

However, it is unsurprising that with men from many backgrounds filling these posts, not all were well behaved. In 1858 George Reeves, Station Master at Lowdham Station on the Midland Railway, pleaded guilty to embezzling the company out of an unspecified amount. In passing sentence the judge stated that he Reeves had been placed in a position of ‘great confidence and trust,’ and while he showed remorse, he was sentenced to six months hard labour.[6] In 1861 the cash held at the London and South Western Railway’s Windsor Station was found to be deficient. While no officials were found to be at fault, it is odd the management would then ‘break up the staff’ throughout the line [7] and remove the Station Master, John Madigan, to Petersfield with a reduction of salary.[8] Lastly, in 1865 at the Usk Quarter Sessions, Alfred Brown, station master at Hengoed Station on the Rhymney Railway, was charged with indecently assaulting Mary Ann Griffiths in a railway carriage.[9]

Of course, the majority of station masters in the period were honourable and did their job satisfactorily. Indeed, most had to have favourable references to be appointed. The Great Northern Railway’s ‘General Instructions and Regulations for the executive department’ stated that ‘experienced clerks’, who I presume were frequently appointed as ‘clerks-in-charge’, were required to have references from their ‘last employer’ and ‘one from each of two housekeepers of an undoubted respectability.’[10] 
Furthermore, after around the mid-1850s it was highly unlikely that an individual would be appointed directly as a station master, as railway companies increasingly preferred these posts to be filled by individuals who had risen through the ranks. Thus, by this time potentially poor station masters were usually weeded out before they reached that post. For example, William Mears was appointed directly as ‘agent’ on the opening of Winchfield Station on the London and South Western Railway in May 1840.[11] Yet his son, Francis, had a longer road into that position. He was appointed as an apprentice clerk at Dorchester 1851, finally becoming ‘agent’ at Dinton fifteen years later in 1866.[12]

Additionally, as the years passed the rules regulating station masters’ work grew in number and were increasingly formalised. The London and South Western Railway’s 1853 rule book dedicated only thirteen pages to instructing station masters,[13] and the East Lancashire Railway provided only eleven in 1856.[14] However, as the complexity of the railway network and density of train movements increased, the regulations for station masters mirrored this by becoming more detailed. For example, in 1858[15] and 1865[16] the London and South Western Railway produced abstracts of ‘instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station agents’, which were forty-two and 102 pages long respectively. This was in addition to the nineteen dense pages of instructions in the company’s general rule book of 1864.[17] Therefore, because of  companies’ tightening regulation of station master's activities, there was less scope for them to misbehave or commit crime. Indeed, from a brief survey of on-line nineteenth century newspapers, the cases where this was so seemingly decline after the 1850s.

Therefore, the story of the early Victorian station master is one of a mixed bag of individuals doing a job which was not the same at every location or within every company. However, it is also one where what station masters did quickly became standardised and routine within the promotional and organisational frameworks the railway companies established.


[1] London School of Economics Collection [LSE], HE1 (42) – 439, London and South Western Railway Rules to be observed by Enginemen and Firemen , 1845, p.iii-iv
[2] Author’s Collection, Great Northern Railway, General Instructions and Regulations for the executive department’, p.94
[3] LSE, HC1 (42) -41, Bye-laws, rules and regulations to be observed by the officers and men in the service of the East Lancashire Railway Company, Bury, October, 1854. p.51
[4] The National Archives, RAIL 1135/276,Rules and Regulations General Instructions and Appendices to Working Timetables: General Instructions to Staff, Station Staff, 1908
[5] The National Archives, RAIL 410/1805, Register of waged and salaried staff including station masters, agents, porters, policemen, pointsmen, signalmen, female cleaners, foremen, gatemen, shunters, clerks, breaksmen and lampmen.
[6] Nottinghamshire Guardian, Thursday, January 07, 1858, p. 3
[7] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/217, Special Committee Minute Book, 11 January 1861
[8] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, p.416
[9] The Leeds Mercury, Saturday, January 7, 1865,
[10] Author’s Collection, Great Northern Railway, General Instructions and Regulations for the executive department’, p.94
[11] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, p.340
[12] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, p.305
[13] LSE, HE 3020 – L.84, Rules and Regulations for the guidance of the officers and servants of the London and South Western Railway, 1853, p.16-29m
[14] LSE, HC1 (42) -41, Bye-laws, rules and regulations to be observed by the officers and men in the service of the East Lancashire Railway Company, Bury, October, 1854. p.51-61
[15] TNA, RAIL 1035/269, Abstract of instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station agents &c Previous to 1st May 1858
[16] TNA, RAIL 1035/270, Abstract of instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station agents &c Previous to 1st June 1865
[17] Author’s Collection, Rules and Regulations for the guidance of the officers and servants of the London and South Western Railway, 1 August 1864, p.22-43

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Archives, Artefacts, Amateurs and Academics - A Conference Report

The Conference Centre's 'Sunken Lounge'
To say that my time in Derby on Friday and Saturday was stimulating is a bit of an understatement. For those who don't follow my Twitter feed, on Friday and Saturday I attended the Archives, Artefacts, Amateurs and Academics workshop in Derby, jointly run by the Historical Model Railway Society and Business Archives Council. Firstly, I will hand over to Keith Harcourt, HMRS Academic Liaison Officer and conference co-organiser, who has very kindly provided me with this interesting summary on the origins, purpose and work of the HMRS:


The Historical Model Railway Society was founded in 1950 by historians and modellers concerned at the crude railway models on sale at that time. They set out to collect an archive of original drawings, photographs, working and public timetables plus other ephemera and historically accurate models as well having for reference The George Dow Library of railway books. The Drawings Collection holds over 160,000 historic drawings many of which have been of use in preservation work on Heritage Railways and in a vindication of the original purposes of the Society have been used by Bachmann in their making of current model trains. The photographic collection currently has 47,233 image listed on the website, but that is but the tip of the iceberg.

Significantly each year they also provide small, but often crucial, grants to a few PhD and Masters students who are working on the railways of the British Isles.

Their mission statement is interesting; it notes that the Historical Model Railway Society is an educational charity whose objectives are the study and recording of information concerning railways of the British Isles and the construction, operation, preservation and public exhibition of models depicting those railways.”[1] Simmons and Biddle[2] note that : “ The HMRS is the senior such society in Britain. The interests of individual members are cared for by stewards, each of whom specialises in a railway company or subject, and who act as a clearing house for information between members.” From my experience the Society has a refreshing attitude to railway history believing that it starts from today and trying to reflect that in their collections.

In 2005 the Society, having fund raised amongst its members for many years, opened its purpose built Museum and Study Centre on the Midland Railway at its Swanwick Junction Museum Site. The building is to full museum standards and a description of it, with directions can be found here: At present the Centre only opens one day per week and on special Midland Railway open days, but as Margaret Garratt, the Secretary of the Society says, “If only we had more volunteers we could do so much more. More people to help would mean that we could open more often and, while the work of cataloguing has to be carefully done, we can teach people how we do it and so speed up the work.”

As the HMRS holds the entire Metropolitan Cammell Engineering Drawing collection as well as the Derby Works Collection (held on behalf of Derby Museums) and many private collections, some of the drawings are of foreign locomotives and rolling stock built in Britain and whilst these are not the prime purpose of the collection, they are carefully archived and listed too. Because the Society has an Academic Liaison Officer who gives papers at international conferences on transport and history of technology topics he is sometimes approached by people from other countries whose locomotives and rolling stock were built in the British Isles. The Society, via links to the Manchester Locomotive Society and the Newcomen Society, made through a delegate to this workshop, has recently been able to help Dr Tatsuhiko Suga, Executive Director of the East Japan Railway Culture Foundation locate the original drawings for Japan Railway Locomotive Number 1, built at the Vulcan Foundry in 1871, and the HMRS are now scouring the HMRS archives for drawings of the four carriages shipped with it which may well have been built by Metropolitan Cammell.


The conference brought together forty-four individuals from a range of organisations that all had one thing in common; they were interested in railways in one shape or another. For example, the meeting was attended by members of the Great Eastern Railway Society, The Railway and Canal Historical Society and The London and North Eastern Railway Society, to name but a few. Furthermore, various individuals from archival institutions attended, such as the National Archives, the Ballast Trust, The National Railway Museum and the Midland Collection Trust. Lastly there were academics such as Terry Gourvish, Kevin Tennent and little old me.

The goal of the workshop was, as the Business Archives Council's Website states, to:

'...prompt an awareness of what these various groups are doing, and to start a dialogue between the enthusiast and academic which may lead to co-operation in preserving and using collections, and furthering our understanding of the past and its relevance to the future.'

I not only believe that the workshop was successful was in starting this dialogue, but the ball has started rolling on something very important.

Perhaps the only high speed point indoors. Craig King, MD of TQ Catalis, (in Orange Jacket) explains to delegates how it works.
Friday started at 2.30 with fascinating tour by Craig King of TQ Catalis, who provide training for signalling engineers in the conference centre. Indeed, where we were staying, The Derby Conference Centre, was originally Britain's first purpose-built training centre for railway staff, and was opened in 1938 by the London Midland and Scottish Railway. Designed by William H. Hamlyn, the art-deco building is now Grade II listed.

Being shown round the TQ Catalis training centre
On the first evening, the keynote speech was given by Professor Peter Stone OBE from the University of Newcastle. Professor Stone does not have any links with railways, but rather is an archaeologist. However, he brought with him considerable experience from a long career building links between academics and amateur organisations. He highlighted that when working towards a goal, individuals from many different interest groups can possess knowledge which, while generated for different purposes, may enrich each other's outlooks. Indeed, the dangers of one group or another taking a dominant role when trying to reach an objective were also underlined, as this may produce outcomes that others are dissatisfied with. This was a perfect start to the workshop, as a tone was set of the need for cooperation and collegial working between all those using and attempting to preserve railway archives.

Dr. Roy Edwards, Tim Proctor, Keith Harcourt and Prof. Peter Stone
Dr. Roy Edwards Speaking
We were then treated to a talk by Tim Proctor who is curator of the National Railway Museum's archive. Tim talked about the way the archive operates, the challenges it faces given its restricted funding, and how it cooperates with organisations and volunteers to help catalogue and manage its collections. Furthermore, he highlighted that some people do not realise that the National Railway Museum's archive exists, and I felt that this was an important point. The question that stuck in my mind was how we disseminate knowledge among those interested in railways, historians from all relevant fields, and the general public, that railway archives exist? I think Tim also was responsible for the biggest laugh of the workshop, pointing out one plan in the NRM's archive from the Wolverton Railway Works for a combined folding writing desk and lavatory.

The only negative point about the Derby Conference Centre was that I had to leave. The food we received that evening was exemplary, the d├ęcor was lovely and the bar comfortable. Therefore, with some delegates overcoming a few drinks from the night before, everyone rose early to catch the coach to Historical Model Railway Society's study centre, located in the grounds of the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley.

After much inspection of the HMRS's model railways at the centre, which were, to say the least, impressive, four more talks were given. The first was by Dr. Valerie Johnson from The National Archives, who talked on the nature of archives. She posited a number of questions, for example what is an archive? Who decides what is important? Can documents be objects? Can objects be documents? Indeed, items of interest that one group may find unimportant, may be vital to another. Therefore, this is where interested communities that have great knowledge of a subject can be useful in shaping what archives hold and how they are treated. Towards the end of her talk, Valerie mentioned a project that TNA had completed cataloguing all 7,328 railway accidents between 1853 and 1975. I had no idea about this project, and neither did a lot of people present. This emphasised another key issue for the workshop. How can researchers and archives holding railway material build links to understand better what each other is doing?
Kevin Tennent and I entering the HMRS Study Center

Following this, Kiara King discussed the work of The Ballast Trust. For those of you who were not aware, the Ballast Trust is an organisations set up in 1987 by William Lind to assist with the rescue, sorting and cataloguing of business archives, particularly technical records, such as shipbuilding, railway and engineering plans, drawings and photographs. This talk highlighted how the trust used volunteers and interns to catalogue the archives they received. Furthermore, Kiara talked on how she had developed procedures for the processing of the collections that flowed through the Trust's hands, as well as the use of social media, such as Flikr and a blog to raise awareness of its work.
Inside the HMRS Study Centre

Paul Garratt speaking to the delegates
Ivor Lewis, deputy-chair of the HMRS, then talked about the challenges faced in archiving documentation created by modern businesses. Almost all are in digital format, with many firms considering these the masters. Therefore, their preservation is a huge issue, especially as the role of 'secretary' within organisations has disappeared and individuals are now expected to manage their own files. According to Ivor, when computers first arrive on the scene, twenty to thirty years ago, document preservation was not greatly considered and the loss of records was seen by some as natural. Currently, while more people are becoming interested in preserving digital records, concerns regarding the histories of companies being lost through the 'delete' button remain. Indeed, in the railway context these concerns will apply to what Train Operating Companies will or will not preserve. He finished by suggesting that currently the archiving of digital records is up to well meaning and enthusiastic employees pursuing the issue.

Our time at the study centre was finished with a talk by Paul Garratt, the Drawing Archivist there. He described how the drawings came to be at the centre, what state they were when they arrived and how they were then sorted and catalogued. Once again, the discussion mentioned how the HMRS had to work with groups to accurately identify what items are within the collection. Furthermore, he also posited questions regarding the future of the collection, for example how the study centre might archive rolling stock plans generated by Computer Aided Design.

Princess Margaret Rose
We then broke for lunch and I headed over to the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust and Museum, which is also on the site. A number of delegates were taken round by the curator, Kate Watts, and we were shown the Trust's museum and workshop. The presence of the trust complements Midland Railway centre perfectly, and it is lovely to see steam locomotives up close.

Delegates being shown around the Midland Railway Study Centre
Derby and the Silk Mill Museum was where the second half of the day was held. Unfortunately, this clearly fascinating museum was mothballed by Derby City Council in April 2011 to save money. This is especially sad as the building was the world's first factory, having been established in 1717. Nevertheless, delegates were lucky enough to have a look around the first floor and we were then given a tour round the Midland Railway Study Centre, which is housed within. Its archive holds a highly impressive collection of Midland Railway documents, more than The National Archives. Consequently, it is a hugely valuable resource for those researching the railway. As part of the tour, we were also given access to the study centre's repository. As many of you are aware, I have an obsession with railway rule books (and I am always open to receiving digitised copies) and immediately on entering I went looking for them. I think torment is the correct word. I opened a cabinet and there, right before me, were boxes of rule and instruction books. I had to be dragged away.

Rodger Shelly, Principal Keeper of Derby Silk Museum speaking
The afternoon's lectures commenced with Roger Shelley, Principal Keeper of the museum, giving us a fascinating talk on what was held within the museum's collection and how it was managed. Given the museum's closure, he mentioned new initiatives to keep the museum engaging with the community. Indeed, it had recently it had improved over 300 Wikipedia articles relating to items within its collection and Derby's history. The case of the Silk Mill Museum posed some interesting questions to the audience about archival organisations' public engagement and how, when faced with financial restrictions, documents and artefacts can be made accessible the public. Furthermore, at the forefront of my mind were concerns as to how cash-strapped archives may treat families and individuals that come to them wishing to deposit collections of railway documents when their resources are limited.

This topic was touched on by the next speaker, John Miles. John is Chairman of  the Midland Collection Trust, which supervises a collection of 39,000 Midland Railway documents and artefacts which constitute the majority of those held in the Midland Railway Study Centre. These were formerly owned by Roy Burrows, and John spoke very informatively on how the trust to manage the collection was established, how it had been catalogued, and how it is currently maintained. John's most interesting anecdote was that in the gallery of Midland Railway items on the Trust's website, the most looked at were the chamber pots from the company's hotels. Ultimately, this talk focussed the audience's mind on the fact that many collections of railway items are in the hands of private collectors. Indeed, as many who have read some of my earlier posts will know, this is a matter that concerns me greatly. What happens to these collections when their owners pass on? How can we be sure they will be saved when their families, through no fault of their own, have no knowledge of their value? Lastly, how do we disseminate amongst the general public knowledge of where collections of railway artefacts and documents can be deposited?
Grahame Boyes of the Railway and Canal Historical Society Speaking

Grahame Boyes and Keith Fenwick from the Railway and Canal Historical Society then demonstrated the 'Transport Archive Register' (formerly the Tracking Railway Archives Project). This is a database of where archival material from railways and canals is stored around the country, and was begun in the early 2000s to complement other archival databases, such as the now defunct Access 2 Archives and the National Register of Archives. Researchers can search the database by railway or canal company, subject, industry, county, country or people, and then will be provided a link to the relevant web page. I was struck by the fact that if the railway community are going to come together to preserve and promote railway archives, then tools such as this, which are added to by the community, are going to be vital. We need hubs whereby information on railway archives can be found and pooled. Indeed, this may take the form of a website, yet there also may be a need for a central organising committee that can marshal such efforts.

The last talk of the day was given by Joan Unwin, archivist at the Company of Cultlers in Hallamshire. This company was established in 1624 to maintain the quality of Sheffield manufactured cutlery and steel products. She spoke of one particular accession into its archive of 1400 razors and the issues surrounding this, including the evident safety concerns regarding the storage of these potentially dangerous items. While donations of paper archives are trouble enough for archivists, the talk highlighted the what problems there are when archives take into stock physical items. In the context of railways this is potentially a huge problem, given that they were, and are, producers of items of all sorts. Indeed, the talk challenged the audience to think about what railway archives actually need to acquire, and whether every physical item needs to be kept.
Roy Edwards and Keith Harcourt leading the round-table.

The workshop ended with a round-table discussion where many of the ideas and questions highlighted in the two days were thrown around. While nothing concrete was decided on there and then, I think we have started a very large ball rolling. I am certain that in the next coming months the energy and enthusiasm that the speakers and delegates showed towards railway archives will produce many new ideas and initiatives to aid their promotion, use and preservation. 

I am looking forward to playing a large part in this and working with the many of the new friends I have made this weekend. Indeed, there is much work to be done; for myself, and a whole community of amateurs and academics who love the railways. I want to finish off by saying a big thank you to the two organisers of the workshop, Keith Harcourt and Roy Edwards, for putting on such a wonderful event - it was truly fantastic and at the end of Saturday night, I was not happy to be leaving! 

Many thanks to Keith Harcourt for many of the photos.


[1] The Executive of the HMRS. Carried on page 2 of every copy of the Society’s Journal.
[2] Simmons, J. & Biddle, G The Oxford Companion to Railway History. Oxford University Press, Oxford (1997) Page 205)

Sunday, 8 April 2012

'Titanic' and the London and South Western Railway - An Intimate Relationship

The London and South Western Railway had an intimate relationship with Titanic, the ship having sailed from the company’s Southampton Docks. However, the association goes deeper than just a doomed ship sailing from a south coast port that happened to be owned by a railway company. Rather, from its inception, Titanic had been destined to sail from Southampton.

The LSWR purchased the failing Southampton Dock Company in 1892 and set about expanding the port to make the best use of its new acquisition. Between 1892 and 1910 the company spent a total of £3,063,644 on what was dryly referred to in its accounts as ‘New Plant, Graving Docks, Warehouses and Various Improvements.’[1] This included new graving docks in 1895 and 1905, and new quays in 1898.[2] Consequently, the investment had the effect the LSWR’s directors expected; it grew the port's trade. In 1892 421,611 tons had passed through the docks and, given most of this was carried by the LSWR, it constituted 15.41 per cent of the company’s goods traffic. However, with increasing numbers of steamship lines serving Southampton, the tonnage of goods passing through the docks grew to 1,113,132 by 1908,  44.38 per cent of the LSWR’s freight traffic.[3]

Adriatic approaching Southampton
Indeed, by 1908 twenty-one companies were sailing from Southampton, including the Union-Castle Line, Royal Mail Steam Packet services, the American Line and, not unexpectedly, the White Star Line.[4] The White Star Line began its association with Southampton in June 1907 when its New York express service transferred there from Liverpool. On the 5 June that year, a day Railway Magazine labelled the docks’ ‘Red-Letter Day’, the White Star steamer Adriatic inaugurated the weekly service.[5] Months later, the company was claiming the move had been an ‘immediate success’, and on both inward and outward journeys  it was refusing customers.[6]

Therefore, the White Star Line’s decision to move its services to Southampton could be perceived as a rational one based on its assessment of where it could garner the most trade. Yet, on the LSWR’s June 1907 ‘report and statement of accounts’ there appeared the name of a new director; The Right Hon. Lord Pirrie,[7] who immediately joined the company’s ‘Docks and Marine’ Committee.[8]  Pirrie can be easily describe as a ‘shipping magnate’, and when appointed to the LSWR’s board he was a director of twelve other companies, nine of which were associated with sea-bound trade and commerce. Amongst these was his position as chairman of Harland and Wolff, who built the Titanic and its sister ships, and his directorship of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co, or White Star Line as it was more commonly known.[8]

Therefore, it is not surprising that the White Star Line transferred to Southampton; nor that in April 1907 Harland and Wolff opened a repairing depot at the docks to service White Star Line ships (amongst others).[9] However, the accommodation of Pirrie’s shipping interests by the LSWR did not stop there. In October 1907 the company began work on a new sixteen acre dock which, at the White Star Line’s request, was to be known as the ‘White Star Dock’ (although other companies could use it). This was opened in early 1911 and on 14 June that year Titanic’s sister ship, Olympic, sailed from there. Furthermore, when the LSWR found out about plans for Olympic and Titanic, it extended its Trafalgar Dry Dock to accommodate them..[10]

It shouldn’t be assumed that the LSWR acting as an arm of the White Star Line by spending so much capital on the docks for it. The investments were mutually beneficial for both businesses, and both greatly profited. Indeed, Pirrie’s presence on the LSWR board was not to control its policies in his favour; rather, he acted as a bridge between it and the White Star Line (and Harland and Wolff) so their strategies were coordinated. Thus, Pirrie, the White Star Line and the LSWR should collectively held responsible for bringing Titanic to Southampton.

On the morning of 10 April 1912, the day Titanic sailed, two special boat trains are known to have left the LSWR’s Waterloo terminus bound for the doomed vessel. Second and third class passengers, as well as the first class passengers’ maids and valets, travelled on a 7.30 am train; arriving dock-side two hours later. Later, 202 First class passengers departed Waterloo at 9.45am, arriving at 11.30 am, only thirty minutes before the ship sailed.[11]

Therefore, the links between the LSWR and Titanic ran deep, and when the ship foundered on the 15 April it is no surprise the railways' board minuted the following:

‘Wreck of the White Star Liner TitanicThe Chairman mentioned that, under his instructions, a letter of sympathy had been sent to Messrs. Ismay, Imrie & Co. with reference to the terrible disaster that had recently befell the Titanic and upon his motion it was resolved: “That a donation of £500 be given for the relief of the sufferers and divided equally between the Mansion House fund which is being raised on the behalf of the relatives of those persons, whether crew or passengers, who lost their lives in this sad calamity and the Mayor or Southampton’s fund for the relatives of the crew.”[12]


[1] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 1110/283 and RAIL 1110/284, London & South Western Railway – Reports and Accounts
[2] Faulkner, J.N. and Williams, R.A., The LSWR in the Twentieth Century, (Newton Abbot, 1988), p.142
[3] Railway Magazine, April 1909, p.402-406
[4] Railway Magazine, April 1909, p.403
[5] Railway Magazine, March 1909, p.297
[6] The Times, Monday 26 August 1907, p.4
[7] TNA, RAIL 1110/284, London & South Western Railway – Reports and Accounts, Half year ending June 1907
[8] South Western Gazette, June 1918, p.80
[9] Directory of Directors, (London, 1907)
[10] Faulkner, and Williams, the LSWR in the Twentieth Century, p.144
[11] Bevan, Mike and Chivers, Colin ‘The Titanic Centenary’, South Western Circular, 15 (April 2012), p.470
[12] TNA, RAIL 411/39, Court of Directors Minute Book, 19 April 1912

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Hours Victorian Railway Clerks Worked - 1856

Being employed on the Victorian railway would always mean long hours, as with most other jobs of the period. Kingsford argued that ‘in the early years [of the railways] hours of work were extremely long and left a bare minimum for sleep. There was no regular provision for Sunday relief or for holidays and the working week was normally a seven day one.’[1] Amongst the railway staff records on, I came across a file that provided insight into clerks and station master’s working day on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1856. This contained questionnaires where they were asked a range of questions, including how long in each day they toiled.[2]

Kingsford commented on this file in passing (although he said erroneously that all the returns were filled in by Station Masters), and argued that the seventy-six individuals in it worked an average of fourteen hours a day.[3] I have not sampled every man’s hours of work, and have only surveyed the first  twenty-five returns, but I can confidently say that this is a generalisation that hides considerable nuance and variance in each individual’s employment circumstances. Nevertheless, the average number of hours worked by the men in my sample came out at thirteen hours, thirty-five minutes; close to Kingsford’s calculation.

The individual who worked the shortest hours was Mr Brabrook, a clerk at New Cross Station, who most days worked a mere eight and a half hours. However, he did work for ten hours forty-five minutes some weeks. The individual who had the longest working day was Mr Beacon, a clerk at Bridlington Station, who reported that he was at the station for sixteen hours, twenty-five minutes per day - from 7.30am to 11.55pm. Thus, if I estimate he daily had thirty minutes off for lunch, this would mean his working week was 112 hours, 25 minutes long.

While Kingsford worked out the number of hours the men were on duty was fourteen hours, it seems that the length of time people were on duty varied considerably amongst the twenty-five men I looked at. The results are as follows:

Clearly, the majority of those in the sample were working between fourteen and fifteen hours. Yet, nine were working less than that amount, while eight were working more. There are two possible explanations for this variation. Firstly, it is quite conceivable that people worked more hours because they were higher in the organisation, and, therefore, had greater responsibility. Alternatively, because some individuals were at remote locations, they may have had fewer colleagues to cover them and allow them time off.

Firstly, I decided to examine the theory that those who were higher in the organisation worked longer hours. Broadly speaking there were three ‘ranks’ of employees represented amongst the twenty-five, junior managers (superintendents), supervisory posts (Station Masters or Foremen) and General Clerks (including one junior). The average number of hours worked for each group of employees was as follows:-

While the sample size is small, and we have to be wary about making any firm conclusions from these figures, what this table would suggest is that individuals’ working hours were on average shorter before they went into supervisory posts. Yet, on being promoted to a junior managerial position their hours improved.

But what about the idea that those individuals employed in the country worked longer days? Indeed, this was postulated by Kingsford. The results were that the thirteen country workers in the sample were on duty for an average of 14.01 hours per day, whereas for the twelve in the town it was 12.96 hours. Therefore, this tentatively confirms the theory. Lastly, I wanted to look at the two sets of statistics in combination, to see whether all ranks worked more hours at country stations.

The results really show why I need to expand the sample size to all seventy-six individuals in the file. However, while no firm conclusions can be made regarding the supervisors or Junior Managers, clearly, general clerks in the country worked more hours than their counterparts in the town.

Overall, while there are problems with this brief survey given my sample size, it has presented some interesting questions to be tackled in the future.


[1] Kingsford, P.W., Victorian Railwaymen, (London, 1970), p.115
[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 414/767, Traffic staff histories based on questionnaire and relating to staff appointed 1836-1854
[3] Kingsford, Victorian Railwaymen, p.117
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