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Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Main Railway Worker's Rule Book, wasn't the only Rule Book

I am weird, I must be. I have developed an unnatural interest in railway company staff rule books. For those of you who have been reading my blog for some while you will have encountered this unnatural interest. So here I am again, writing another blog post on them.

The history of the main company rule book, which every staff member had to carry with him or her, was quite dull after 1871. In that year the Railway Clearing House (RCH) standardised the rule books that were issued by all the companies.[1] Thus, to look at the Great Eastern Railway rule book is to look at the London and North Western Railway rule book as they are all the same. Subsequently, because the rule books were produced by an external body (albeit with company-specific covers on), the railways companies had no way of including in them rules that were specific to their own systems. Thus, after 1871 there was a proliferation of ‘supplementary’ rule books that were issued by companies themselves and were designed to complement the main rule book.

Before 1871 there had been rule books that were issued to railway employees in addition to the main one. A browse through the National Archives Catalogue shows that the London and South Western Railway in 1858 and 1865 issued instruction books to station agents that were a compilation of instructions that had been issued to them ‘from time to time.’[2] The North Eastern Railway published a ‘book of rules for working single lines’ in 1862.[3] The Bristol and Exeter Railway issued a book of rules for members of the Permanent Way Department in 1865.[4] Yet, the nature and number of these supplementary rule books is unknown. Indeed, there seems to have been no fixed relationship between the content of the main and supplementary rule books. It is quite possible this was because ]the companies devised the main rule books themselves, and when they came to produce later editions they simply added the content of the supplementary books (although this is theorising).

What is known is that after 1871 a fixed relationship between rule books, supplementary rule books and instruction books developed. Because the main rule book became a fixed element in railway operation all other rule books worked from it as a governing point. Therefore, all supplementary rule books that were produced were, as far as I am aware, always designed to complement the main one. Thus, the supplementary rule books could be split into two categories, those that were designed to complement and be used in combination with the company’s books of rules and regulations, and the appendices to the working timetable.

Firstly, supplementary rule books were developed for particular types of employee to provide guidance where the main rule book did not cover issues sufficiently. The L&SWR in 1896 and 1902 produced ‘Instructions to Engineering Staff,’[5] ‘Instructions Respecting Station Accounts’ in 1898,[6] ‘Supplementary Instructions as to Fogs and Snowstorms’ in 1908,[7] ‘Instructions for the guidance of Carmen, Van Lads, Horse-Keepers, Horse-Shunters and others concerned’ in 1913 [8] and a book of rules for electrified lines in 1915.[9] Indeed, as M.A.C. Horne has shown, this wasn’t just a practice that was restricted to the L&SWR, and many companies issued supplementary books of rules to address specific issues on their lines that were required to be governed by regulations outside the RCH-approved rule book.[10]

Indeed, this practice continued into the inter-war period and the big four railway companies continued to produce supplementary rule books. The Southern Railway (SR), for example, produced ‘Instructions Applicable to Electrified lines’ in 1925[11] and 1941[12], as well as a selection of special rules for drivers, firemen and guards, in 1935.[13] Furthermore, the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) produced ‘Points for the guidance of Gangers, Sub-Gangers and others concerned in the maintenance of the permanent way,’ in 1925,[14] and in 1937 the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) produced a ‘Book of Instructions in connection with the working of Electric trains on the Central electrified Lines.’[15] I am sure there were more issued by the ‘Big Four’ companies, but these are the ones I have in my collection. Therefore, this suggests that after 1871 there was a short-fall in the rule-book work of the RCH. Evidently, for some reason it did not feel the need to address all areas where instruction was required. This was even the case in areas of railway operation, such as the work of Carmen or that on electrified lines, where there was the possibility of it issuing a rule book that may have covered practice multiple railways companies.

The second types of supplementary rule book were collections of instructions that were only applicable to a particular part of a company’s operations. Thus, they could not be produced by the RCH. These collections of rules became very quickly defined as ‘Appendices to the Working Timetable and Book of Rules and Regulations,’ and they started to be issued on some railways in the 1870, but became standard by the 1890s. For example, the South Eastern & Chatham Appendix of 1922 contains information on such things as:

1) Battersea Pier Junction, Special Instructions at

2) Carriages, Windows Broken by Passengers

3) Destination Boards, Cleaning Of

4) Exceptionally Heavy Loads to L&NWR

5) Faversham, Slipping of Carriages At

6) General Instructions relating to Goods Traffic

7) Hand Signal, Shunting By [11]

Of course, I have only listed seven of the topics covered, however, the book itself is 284 pages long with a contents running to 18 pages. Indeed, such was the increasing number of company specific rules contained within these books, that when the industry’s 100+ railways were merged by government into four private companies, the Appendices became massive tomes, containing vast amounts of information on the special rules each company had. The LMS, ‘Sectional Appendix to the Working Timetable (Midland Division)’ from 1937 was 288 pages long,[12] The Southern Railway ‘General, Central-Eastern and Western Appendices to the Working Timetable,’ from 1934, was 484 pages long. Lastly, the Great Western Railway ‘General Appendix to the Rule Book’ from 1936 was 344 pages long.

Therefore, the history of the British railway rule book before World War Two was not one of uniformity. While the main rule book that was possessed by every British railwaymen after 1871 was always created, devised and sent out from the RCH, its failure to cover every aspect of railway operation precipitated the proliferation of other rule books that were necessary for instructing railway companies’ employees in safe and efficient operation.

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[1] Horne, M.A.C. British Railway Rule Books, (Unpublished Paper, 2008), p.26 http://www.metadyne.co.uk/pdf_files/RULE_MAIN_V4.pdf

[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 1135/270, Abstract of Instructions which have from time to time been issued to the Station Agents. etc., 1865

[3] TNA, RAIL 527/953, Rules for Working Single Lines, 1855-1862

[4] TNA, RAIL 1134/21, Appendix to rules. Permanent way dept, 1865

[5] Eric Penn Collection [EPC], Instructions to Engineering Staff, 1896 and Author’s Collection, Instructions to Engineering Staff, 1902

[6] TNA, RAIL 1135/276, ‘Instructions Respecting Station Accounts,’ 1898

[7] TNA, RAIL 1135/279, ‘Supplementary Instructions as to Fogs and Snowstorms,’ 1908

[8] TNA, RAIL 1135/280, ‘Instructions for the guidance of Carmen, Van Lads, Horse-Keepers, Horse-Shunters and others concerned,’ 1913

[9] South Western Circle Collection [SWC], ‘Instructions applicable to the Electrified Lines,’ 1915

[10] Horne, M.A.C. British Railway Rule Books, (Unpublished Paper, 2008), p.30 http://www.metadyne.co.uk/pdf_files/RULE_MAIN_V4.pdf

[11] Author’s Collection, Southern Railway ‘Instructions Applicable to the Electrified Lines,’ 1925

[12] Author’s Collection, Southern Railway ‘Instructions Applicable to the Electrified Lines,’ 1941

[13] Author’s Collection, Southern Railway ‘Instructions for Drivers, Firemen and Guards, 1935

[14] Author’s Collection, London and North Eastern Railway, ‘Points for the guidance of Gangers, Sub-Gangers and others concerned in the maintenance of the permanent way,’ 1925

[15] Author’s Collection, London Midland and Scottish Railway, Book of Instructions in connection with the working of Electric trains on the Central electrified Lines,’ 1937

[16] Author’s Collection, South Eastern and Chatham Railway, Appendices to the Working Timetable and Book of Rules and Regulations, 1922

[17] Author’s Collection, London, Midland and Scottish Railway, Sectional Appendix to the Working Timetable (Midland Division), 1937

[18] Author’s Collection, Southern Railway ‘General, Central-Eastern and Western Appendices to the Working Timetable’ from 1934

[19] Author’s Collection, Great Western Railway ‘General Appendix to the Rule Book,’ 1935

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