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Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Working Out Costs in the Early Railway

The way that early railway managers controlled cost is a bit of an enigma to us. We know to a good extent how this was done after the 1870, however, when the practice of cost and management accounting started, why it started and how the statistics that early cost accounting techniques generated were applied, is a bit of an unknown quantity in railway (and business) history.

Indeed, the only real research that has been done on this area was undertaken by Terry Gourvish in the 1970s when he looked at Captain Mark Huish’s management of the London and North Western Railway Between 1846 and 1858.[1] The only failure of this excellent study is that it focussed on a man who was a unique innovator in railway management practice. Yet, Gourvish didn’t study the cost accounting techniques of the majority of railways. Furthermore, the innovative techniques, such as the ton and passenger mile statistics which worked out the cost of moving one ton of goods or one passenger one mile, were abandoned by the L&NWR after Huish was forced out of the company.[2] Therefore, there is a research vacuum that needs to be filled.

In my studies of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) I have determined that the origins of cost accounting within the company are to be found in the Locomotive Department. The expenditure of the department represented an area of company operations were costs were determined by the performance of drivers, the quality of the coal and the efficiency of the locomotives themselves. Thus, it was only natural that with so many variables that the genesis of the L&SWR’s cost accounting could be found there.

Yet, in my studies I have also found that the company compared the performance of its locomotive stock with that of other companies frequently. Indeed, by the 1860s I am aware that this was a regularly undertaken exercise.[3] The implication is, therefore, that not only was the Locomotive Department where cost accounting developed on the L&SWR, but it was where it was to be found in the elsewhere emergent industry.

Notably, the first case of comparison mentioned in the L&SWR Locomotive Committee minute book came on the 24th April 1840 at the Locomotive Committee, only a year and a half after the L&SWR had started operating. This was comparison of the costs of the L&SWR’s motive power with that of the London and Birmingham (L&BR) and Grand Junction Railways (GJR).[4] The letter, which informed the committee of this information, came from Edward Bury, the Locomotive Superintendent of the London and Birmingham Railway since 1838.[5] What was contained in the letter is unknown, however, it is most likely to been the cost of locomotive operation per train mile.

Therefore, this first comparison allows a number of conclusions to be made about early railways’ cost and management accounting. Firstly, statistical measurement of locomotive operating performance would have to be the same on different railway companies for informative comparisons to be made between them. Therefore, this reveals that the L&B, GJR and L&SWR, were collecting the same sorts of information relating to locomotive operation.

However, when this process of statistical uniformity amongst railway companies began is unknown. In Bury’s letter to Joseph Woods he stated that the results presented were from the ‘half year ending December 1839.’[6] This either means that the origin of the L&SWR formulation of cost accounting can be found in universal norms that were widely known when it started operating, or, it was part of an industry-wide formulation process, whereby different locomotive department chiefs collaborated to lay down a particular set of performance measures. Whatever the answer is, it is clear that these standards developed very quickly within the industry.


[1] Gourvish, Terry, Mark Huish and the London and North Western Railway, (Newton Abbott, 1972)

[2] Gourvish, Mark Huish and the London and North Western Railway, p.255-267

[3] TNA, RAIL 411/469 Locomotives, boilers, rolling stock, etc: correspondence, 1868-1878, half yearly report of costs in the locomotive, carriage and wagon department, November 11th 1871, p.280

[4]The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 412/4, Locomotive Engine, Locomotive Way and Works, Locomotive Power, and Traffic Police and Goods committees, 24th April 1840

[5] Marshall, John, A Biographical Dictionary of Railway Engineers, (Newton Abbot, 1878), p.46-47

[6] TNA, RAIL 412/4, Locomotive Engine, Locomotive Way and Works, Locomotive Power, and Traffic Police and Goods committees, 24th April 1840

[7] TNA, RAIL 411/469 Locomotives, boilers, rolling stock, etc: correspondence, 1868-1878, half yearly report of costs in the locomotive, carriage and wagon department, November 11th 1871, p.280

Saturday, 26 March 2011

"Tailing in" - Perilous Early Railway Practice

I am always constantly astounded by some of the operating procedures that occurred in the early railways. Indeed, on many occasions I worry that the railway managers, rather than serving the public, were in fact trying to secretly get them injured, maimed and killed through instituting procedures that were highly dangerous. The most baffling of these was the practice of ‘tailing-in’ passenger carriages or, as we would know it today, ‘fly shunting’. This practice, which would probably scare the majority of us, was very common at terminal stations the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR), as well as on other railways.

My first encounter with the practice came on reading a Board of Trade report on an accident that occurred at Hampton Court station in 1855. This gave a good description of ‘tailing in.’ A train would stop at a ticket platform outside the station where the passengers would have their tickets checked. At the same time the locomotive would be detached and driven on a little way. A rope, of about 16 yards in length, would then be hitched to the front carriage and the rear of locomotive, while a porter stood on the front of the first carriage. The train would then begin to pull away and as the rope became tight the carriages would pick up speed. The train would proceed down one road and a set of points would then be changed. Just before the critical moment, the porter on the carriage would unhook them and the carriages and, driven by their own inertia, they would glide into the station.

Or that was the theory. In the case in question the porter had not acted in time, or perhaps had some trouble in detaching the rope. Either way, the train dragged the one carriage it was hauling from the rails. The Board of Trade official criticised the practice. He could not see why carriages could not be detached just outside the station and pushed into it. Furthermore, he stated that if this method of shunting was to be continued it was desirable that some better way of detaching the rope be found, rather than relying on a porter. Lastly, he stated that there was no written procedure laid down by the management or the station agent. [1]

For all the failings of the practice, it did continue on until the 1868 at most L&SWR terminal stations. On the 9th of June 1868 at Windsor station, a train was being roped in, and as the procedure was about to finish, the carriages violently hit the buffers.[2] In this case the driver had pulled the train, consisting of eight carriages, at too fast a speed. The result was that three passengers were hurt, two of whom were travelling in the rear carriage. Overall, the accident report called tailing-in ‘dangerous and objectionable.’ Furthermore, it must be remembered that in this period, trains did not have the sprung buffers that ours have today, and as such 3 individuals were injured. [3]Thus, on the 19th June the L&SWR forbade the activity across its network.[4]

‘Tailing in’ was a product of a railway industry that was developing. Almost alien to our eyes, it represented the very ad hoc origins of some early railway practices, in that early railway managers were groping forward, unsure and constantly learning the best ways to manage services, technology and operations. Yet, as the industry developed, the L&SWR’s management did not feel it necessary to change what had been proven to be an evidently a poor and dangerous procedure, and this was presumably for cost reasons. Therefore, it was only after the accident at Windsor that the practice was halted, the L&SWR’s hand being forced by the Board of Trade.


[1] TNA, RAIL 1053/53, Railway Department report on accidents for 1855. (Described at item level), report on accident at Hampton Court Station, 14th December 1855

[2] Williams, R.A., The London and South Western Railway, Volume 2: Growth and Consolidation, (Newton Abbott, 1973), p.47

[3] House of Commons Parliamentary Papers [HCPP], 1867-68 [3959-V] Reports of the inspecting officers of the Railway Department to the Board of Trade, upon certain accidents which have occurred on railways during the months of April, May, June, and July 1868. (Part third.)

[4] Williams, The London and South Western Railway, Volume 2, p.47

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lets get this straight, by the 1990s British Rail was very efficient!

On Monday I watched the despatches program that everyone is talking about that criticised the modern railway network ('Journeys From Hell', Channel 4, 21 March 2011). Boy, did I get frustrated. I wasn’t particularly concerned with the lack of decent analysis, nor with the dominance of subjective opinions. No, as a historian of the railways I got annoyed with the words of Steven Norris, one of the architects of British Rail’s (BR) privatisation in the early 1990s. In his view, BR was an inefficient and lazy organisation that did not give the taxpayer ‘value for money.’ Furthermore, he asserted that privatization was the only way to solve its internal problems. While I acknowledge British Rail did have a long history of inefficiency, what annoyed me was that this opinion flies in the face of all the evidence. By the 1990s BR was, by all reasonable measures, one of the most efficient railways in Europe. This post is about bursting Steven’s annoying little bubble. All figures are taken from the highly detailed official history of British Rail by Terry Gourvish.

Firstly, a bit of background is required. From 1982 onwards the government shrunk BR’s budgets. In 1982 central and local government funded BR to the tune of £1330.8 million (constant at 1989/90 prices). By 1986/87 this had shrunk to £950.8 million, and by 1989/90 the total funding was £568.8 million.[1] This reduction forced BR to become more customer focussed and led to a massive reorganisation of the company, named ‘sectorisation.’ Most importantly, it forced BR to become a more efficient organisation.

If we consider that Britain's railways since the 1940s had never made overall profit, and consequently always required a subsidy from government to fund their operations, the level of loss that BR incurred in the 1980s and 90s would be indicative of the performance of the business. The central principal for BR operations under sectorisation was that the profitable parts of the business, such as Intercity, would actually reduce the burden on the taxpayer as they would mitigate losses incurred by other sectors that were loss-making, such as Regional Railways. The table below shows the profit and loss of BR's different operational sectors in certain years, as well as its overall total.
Source: Gourvish, Terry, British Rail 1974-97: From Integration to Privatisation, (Oxford, 2004), p.476-479

As shown, in 1982 Intercity, Railfreight and Network South East were all poor performers, with only Railfreight making a slight profit. However, all three became far more profitable by 1993/4, whether it be through cost control, greater efficiency, growing their trade, better public service or increasing their fares. Only BR’s Parcels service and Freightliner, the latter of which was a relatively new part of the business, did not improve their performance by 1993/4. Furthermore, Provincial and Regional Railways, which ran local and county lines and were  cross-subsidised by the other BR sectors, also became more efficient by 1993/4. Overall, the result was that by 1993/4 the BR's burden on the taxpayer was £724 million less than in 1982, which constituted a reduction of 73.21 per cent.

Additionally, most elements of BR’s costs reduced in the period. As an example I will look at maintenance costs, which declined significantly.

Source: Gourvish, Terry, British Rail 1974-97: From Integration to Privatisation, (Oxford, 2004), p.207

The table above indicates that between 1983 and 1989/90 BR’s maintenance costs dropped by 19 index points. However, the cost per train mile, which essentially relates BR's overall expense to the amount of work done by the organisation, fell significantly by 24 index points. While some of this reduction could be down to changes in the price of materials, there is no doubt that some, if not most, could be attributed to better cost control, improved operational practices and better project management.

But how did BR's efficiency compare with that of other European operators? The table below shows the number of kilometres BR’s trains ran per member of staff in the period, against the average for the fourteen 'Community of European Railways' members (excluding BR).
Source: Gourvish, Terry, British Rail 1974-97: From Integration to Privatisation, (Oxford, 2004), p.292

Evidently, per staff member BR’s trains went further than those of European operators. This was despite, in some cases, the British railway network being of a higher density than in many countries and requiring greater maintenance, more administration and having greater intensity of train movements. This means that BR was more productive per staff member than the European operators and British taxpayers were getting better ‘value for money’ from its operations. 

Lastly, because of efficiencies, the level of support that BR recieved from government also reduced over the period. The table below indexes the funding of British railways against three major European operators between 1975 and 1991.Source: Gourvish, Terry, British Rail 1974-97: From Integration to Privatisation, (Oxford, 2004), p.292

While the funding of French and Italian governments' funding of their railways increased over period (Italy  by a substantial amount) the German and British Governments reduced theirs. However, BR's superior performance is shown by the fact that the German government’s funding of Deutsche Bahn rose in the late 1970s, falling off in the early 1980s; whereas BR’s funding was reduced overall, reaching its lowest level in 1989. Indeed, of the four operators above, BR had had the least success in securing government funding over the period. Thus, this data indicates that BR was, at the point it was privatised, highly efficient in compared to European railways.

Therefore, Terry Gourvish’s figures have shown that in the 1980s and first half of the 1990s BR improved the profitability and performance of its business, reducing the burden on the taxpayer. By the mid-1990s it was one of the most efficient railway operators in Europe, if not the most efficient. Of course, I have only scratched the surface of what actually went on within BR after 1980, and its story in the period was not one of unabated progress. Yet, this data shows that claims by Steven Norris (and others) that BR was inefficient in the 1990s are just plain wrong. Indeed, if privatisation hadn't happened there is no telling how efficient or productive Britain's railways may have become after 1997.

If you would like to read more about BR's business, I would really recommend Terry Gourvish's book. 

[1] Gourvish, Terry, British Rail 1974-97: From Integration to Privatisation, (Oxford, 2004), p.455-456

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Making a Mess of a Station - Extending Waterloo Station in 1878 and 1885

Waterloo handled 86,397,666 passengers in financial year 2009/10, making it Britain’s busiest railway station.[1] Yet, Waterloo has always been one of Britain’s busiest stations. The structures that make up the current Waterloo Station complex were the product of the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) rebuilding of the station to cope with the massive increase in passenger traffic after 1890. Yet, the station that stood before the current incarnation looked very different. It was a mess, actually consisting of three stations with three nick-names.

Waterloo Bridge Station, as it should be more accurately known, was built because in 1839 the LSWR's main line did not reach London, its first terminus being at Nine Elms. Yet, the LSWR was determined to strike reach the city, and in 1848 the company opened their new line to Waterloo Bridge. As Colin Chivers and Philip Wood have commented, this new station was never intended to be a terminus, nor the great station that it became. Indicative of this, an original plan (which I cannot reproduce) shows that 3 of the 6 lines went through the station and into the back wall, so as to allow easy extension to the city or Southwark.[2] Yet, the hoped-for extension did not happen and Waterloo quickly became the point on which all LSWR operations were focussed. The first major alteration to the station came in 1860 when four more platforms were built on its north side, bringing the total to 8.[3] Through various alterations this number had risen to 12 by 1878.

After 1870 the number of passengers that the company carried on its line, particularly on its suburban routes, began to increase rapidly. In 1870 the LSWR conveyed 13,387,357 passengers, in 1875 this had risen to 20,998,310 and by 1880 30,294,406 people travelled with the company. This was an overall increase of 126.29%.[4] I have commented in an earlier blog post that this put a strain on the company’s services and about the many complaints were directed against the management as a result (Found Here). But, with such an unexpected rise in the level of traffic it is unsurprising that the management of the LSWR was caught unawares. Thus, in 1874 the LSWR's directors decided to act. While an aspect of their plan was to add an extra line between Clapham Junction and Surbiton,[5] they predominantly focussed on the bottle-neck at Waterloo Station. Here many trains were kept waiting outside the station as there were insufficient platforms for the ever-increasing number that were scheduled to cope with the rising traffic.

However, without an accurate way of predicting how traffic would grow, the extension of Waterloo Station from 1874 onwards was a very ad hoc affair, that reflected that the LSWR managers were simply reacting to the business environment and had no way of knowing what the future would bring. In 1874 the company submitted in its bill of that year a plan to ‘widen and improve’ Waterloo station on the south side.[6] Opened in December 1878, the new ‘South’ station was entirely self-contained, having its own booking office and taxi yard. Crucially, it added a further two platforms to the Waterloo complex.[7]

Continued traffic growth in the 1870s meant that soon after these new platforms opened the extra capacity it provided was deemed insufficient to cope with ever-rising train movements. Thus, in 1881 the company submitted a further bill to parliament for another extension of the station on its north side.[8] Opened in stages in 1885, this new ‘North’ station added a further six platforms to the station, bringing the overall total to 18.[9] This was also technically a separate station and had its own booking office and taxi yard

This was how the station would remain until 1902 (see map - showing 1895). The ‘North’ Station served the Windsor and Reading Lines, the ‘Central’ station served the West of England Main Lines, and the ‘South’ station served the Hampton Court, Kingston and Leatherhead lines.[10] Amongst the public the nickname of  the ‘south’ station was ‘Cyprus,’ after the British annexation of 1878, and the north station became ‘Khartoum,’ after the Sudan campaign of 1885.[11]

The result was that after the adaptations of the original station in 1878 and 1885 passengers were left with a confusing three-part station. Subsequently, when Jerome K. Jerome wrote his book Three Men in a Boat in 1889 the following was said of the station:- “We got to Waterloo at eleven, and asked where the eleven-five started from. Of course nobody knew; nobody at Waterloo ever does know where a train is going to start from, or where a train when it does start is going to, or anything about it. The porter who took our things thought it would go from number two platform, while another porter, with whom he discussed the question, had heard a rumour that it would go from number one. The station-master, on the other hand, was convinced it would start from the local.”[12]
Furthermore, the LSWR itself did not help to decipher the Waterloo complex for its passengers as the 18 platforms had only 10 platform numbers.[13]
In sum, in 1878 and 1885 the LSWR's management reduced the pressure of traffic on its infrastructure by expanding Waterloo Station. But while they had to do something to solve the problem of accommodating passenger traffic growth, the management could not predict how this would change in the future. Thus, If they had built too much capacity into the station this may have caused unnecessary expense if traffic growth had fallen off. The result was that the station was added to in a piecemeal manner; making Waterloo increasingly confusing for travellers. It would only be a complete rebuild of Waterloo in the early twentieth century that would unravel the mess that the extensions of the nineteenth had caused.
[1] Clinnick, Richard, ‘From Britain’s busiest…to the quietest, Rail Magazine (March 9-March 22 2011) Issue 665, p68-69
[2] Chives, Colin and Wood, Philip, Waterloo Station circa 1900: South Western Circle Monograph No.3, (Catford, 2006), p.2-3
[3] Chives and Wood, Waterloo Station circa 1900, p.4
[4] Board of Trade, Railway Returns
[5] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/247, Traffic Committee Minute Book, Minute No. 724, 17th October 1878
[6] House of Commons Parliamentary Papers [HCPP] 1874 (14) Railway, &c. bills. Report of the Board of Trade upon the railway, canal, tramway, gas, and water bills of session 1874, p.15
[7] Chives and Wood, Waterloo Station circa 1900, p.9
[8] HCPP, 1881 (67) Railway, &c. bills. Return to an order of the Honourable the House of Commons, dated 7 February 1881;--for copy of report by the Board of Trade upon all the railway, canal, tramway, gas, and water bills of session 1881.
[9] Chives and Wood, Waterloo Station circa 1900, p.9
[10] TNA, RAIL 411/255, Traffic Committee Minute Book, Minute No. 911, 18th August 1886
[11] Faulkner, J.N. and Williams, R.A., The LSWR in the Twentieth Century, (Newton Abbot, 1988), p7-8
[12] Jerome, Jerome H. Three Men in a Boat, (London, 1889)
[13] Faulkner and WilliamsThe LSWR in the Twentieth Century, p7

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.


[1] Horne, M.A.C. British Railway Rule Books, (Unpublished Paper, 2008), p.26

[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

[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

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Infringing The Rule Book - Causes of Dismissal on the Victorian Railway

In my PhD research I have focussed on how individuals’ became London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) clerks through the sitting of an exam and a period of probation. This is important to my PhD because if they passed these they could, if they wished, follow a career path into management. What I have never looked at, because it is irrelevant to my study, is how individuals left the service.

For my own personal interest I have investigated how 300 clerks and salaried staff members left the L&SWR’s employment between 1860 and 1914. Although, given the staff records I have images of, the majority of the cases occurred between 1860 and 1885. For the most part what I have found isn’t blog material, being quite dull. Out of 300 L&SWR staff records covering surnames beginning A to C (roughly), 69 died on the job (23.00%), 97 resigned (32.33%), 51 were superannuated (25.33%) 2 had unknown exits (0.66%) and 10 lost their jobs for unknown reasons or just incompetence (3.33%). However, what are very juicy are the 46 (15.33%) clerks and salaried staff members that went astray or were dismissed for either an infringement against the rule book or, as in a few cases, criminal activity.

The 1884 L&SWR rule book made the consequences of infringements against its contents very clear; ‘The company reserve the right to punish and servant, by immediate dismissal, fine, or suspension from duty, for intoxication, disobedience of orders, negligence, or misconduct, or for being absent from duty without leave; they also reserve the right to deduct from the pay of their servants, and retain the sums which may be imposed as fines, and to withhold their wages during the time of their suspension, or absence from duty from any cause.’[1] Thus, 46 clerks and salaried staff members fell foul of the rule book.

The greatest sin that an individual could commit against the company involved the money clerks handled daily. 16 of the 46 (34.78%) of the offenders were either ‘deficient in accounts’ or ‘short in their cash.’ Consider the case of S. Bedford. He had joined the company as a telegraph clerk in 1867 at the tender age of 16. He had started at Salisbury Station, however, in October 1879 he was working in the booking office at Waterloo on £90 a year. For some reason, Bedford was found to be ‘short in his cash’ by £6. Whether this was because of simple error or the fact that he had been surreptitiously stealing from the company is unknown, however, I would suggest that the former was the case. In many of the dismissal cases where the clerk was at fault, rather than engaging in knowing criminal activity, the individual would be ‘called upon to resign.’ This would allow the company to punish the individual, but also would allow him to avoid having a black mark on his character. In a way, it was an honourable dismissal, borne of the fact that the company recognised the individuals, who in many cases had provided good service in the past, had simply made a costly mistake. Therefore, that fact that this happened in Bedford’s case suggests that he had got his monies out of order, rather than he was stealing from the L&SWR.[2]

But, there were other cases of monetary irregularities that were more serious than simple errors, and 13 other individuals were (28.26%) dismissed for such reasons. Well, I say dismissed, as two, J.G. Batchelor at Portsmouth,[3] and William Clement, who was working in the Steam Packet Department at Southampton,[4] both absconded in 1870 and 1867 respectively. It is highly likely that they stole some money as their records did not say ‘absent without leave.’

The case of E. Agnew is one where his dismissal was almost certainly the result of his criminal activity. Agnew had been working for the company since October 1874, when he had started at the age of 16 ½ at Bournemouth Station as a Junior Clerk. His record shows that he was habitually in trouble, and between January 1876 and April 1884 he was fined on 6 separate occasions. For example: April 1876, fined 2/6 for inattention to telegrams; Oct 1878, fined 5/-+ cautioned for re-issuing tickets improperly; Jan 1884, fined £1 for attempting to retain a sovereign which he picked up from the floor belonging to another clerk’s cash. Things reached crescendo when in April 1886, while working at Waterloo, he was dismissed for embezzling £28 15/- from the company.[5] This was an ignominious end to a bad career.

However, the money stolen by Agnew pales in comparison with that lost by F. Benning who had had on the surface of things a successful career. Starting as an Apprentice Clerk at Southampton in 1862, he had moved up the ranks and pay-scales rapidly. After a spell at the Nine Elms Goods Department, had returned to Southampton to the Dock Office in 1873, and in 1877 was on the large salary of £175 per year. Yet, in December of 1878 it was found that he was ‘short in his cash’ by an impressive £520. Indeed, such was the debt that I suspect that he had kept many accounting errors hidden for years. [6]

Overall, given the nature of the clerks’ work, it is unsurprising that the majority of infringements against the rule book, just under two thirds (28 out of 46), were to do with money. Yet, this does leave 18 other cases. Some are quite boring. Four individuals were ‘absent without leave’ (8.70%) and 2 (4.35%) were dismissed for ‘neglect of duty.’ This said, the remainder are quite interesting.

One of the most serious infringements that any railway employee could committee against the rule book was drinking on duty, and 4 (8.70%) clerks and salaried staff members were dismissed for this reason. E. Brown had joined the L&SWR in 1855 at the age of 32 as a signalman at Clapham Common Station (no longer open). He had been made the Agent at Sutton Bingham Station in June 1860 and was moved to Whimple Station in 1874 on £90 a year. It seems that Brown’s life, for some reason, must have taken a turn for the worse. Between late 1874 and April 1876 he was fined 4 times by the company for being ‘absent without leave,’ (20/-) ‘carelessness’ (20/-), allowing passengers to travel without tickets (20/-) and for holding the last train to Portsmouth (5/-). Finally, in 1876 was found drunk at Sidmouth Station and was dismissed shortly after.[7] The latest dismissal case I saw was that of A. Bowron. Bowron had joined the company at the age of 16 ½ in May 1875 as a Junior Clerk at Twickenham. Yet, after 38 years of unimpressive, but relatively trouble-free service, he was ‘called upon to resign’ for ‘intemperate habits’ in May 1913 at the age of 54 ½.[8]

The remaining cases of dismissal are probably the most interesting. J. Bailey, the station agent at Wareham of 6 years, was dismissed in June 1865 for ‘sending false telegrams.’ What was in these telegrams is unknown, but it suggests some sort of fraud was going on.[9] In April 1873 a new Junior Clerk at Clapham Junction who had only been in the job a month, A.E. Bothams, was reported for ‘using improper language to a passenger.’ Thus, this was the quickest exit from L&SWR employment in my study. [10] My favourite cause of dismissal was that of A.J. Calcott. In 1872 he had joined the company at Netley Station, and by 1881 he was working at Waterloo. On June 22 he was reported for ‘having females in his office and incivility to passengers.’ How he sneaked these ‘females’ into the office at such a busy station is unknown. However, it is interesting that the L&SWR authorities on his record stated that they were ‘females’ rather than just strangers, revealing that the management’s patriarchal view of the workplace. [11]

Over the entire sample there were only 8 cases (17.39%) where the dismissal was for causes that I would classify as ‘criminal.’ They were as follows:-

1. H. Coward - Dec 1865 -Registration Examiners Office, Waterloo - Absent without leave, monies not accounted for (£1.17s.6d). [12]
2. R. Blake - March 1866 - Audit Office, Southampton - Charged out monies on goods in excess of what had been actually paid out by him.[13]
3. J.F. Blann - Oct 1872 - Tisbury Station - Defficient in cash and made overcharges on parcels and kept the money.[14]
4. G.T. Cooksey - Dec 1876 - Surbiton Station - Improperly cashed cheques for a party having no business in connection with the company.[15]
5. J. Brownston - June 1878 - Aldershot Goods Station - Concerned with the destruction of books.[16]
6. F. Burt - Aug 1880 - Walton Station - Short in Cash and Absconded (to be prosecuted when captured.).[17]
7. J. Benbow - Aug 1881 - Timber Yard, Nine Elms - Irregularities in reciept from timber contractors.[18]
8. E. Agnew - April 1886 - Waterloo Station - Embezzlement (£28.15s.0d).[19]

What is interesting is that in only one case, that of F.Burt, was there any mention of criminal proceedings being brought against an ex-clerk. Furthermore, if I take into consideration the 38 other cases of dismissal, this remains the only one where the possibility of criminal proceedings was mentioned, even when the sums of money lost through error was huge. Of course, I have no evidence that in criminal action wasn't brought on these occasions, and that might just be an omission from the staff record books. However, although more study needs to be done, the fact that it is rarely mentioned does (tentatively) suggest that the company very much saw discipline as an internal matter and not concerning outside authorities except in exceptional circumstances.

Indeed, given the prestige attached to clerical work on the railways, the potential benefits that a career could bring, the sense of railway employment making you part of a unique 'family' and the fact that dismissal could mean destitution for many, it is highly possible that by the 1860s there was a sense that the L&SWR punished their own in the ways they saw fit and that its systems of punishment were all that was required in the majority of cases. Additionally, this would juxtapose well against the fact that the L&SWR (as well as other companies) in this period were also looking after their staff in increasingly diverse ways through the introduction of pension schemes, health checks and staff training. Thus, framed in these terms, there is the possibility that from the 1860s the railways may have been developing into self-contained communities that had their own social rules and where, increasingly, paternalism over and punishment of employees was seen as primarily the job of the company and not the state. Yet, to confirm this theory will require more research.

I would love to do more work on the topic of railway company discipline. However, I do not have the time. Yet from this evidence it is clear that most of 46 clerical or salaried staff members were simply dismissed for infringing the very strict rules of the Victorian railway workplace, whereas those who were dismissed because they knowingly wanted to steal from the railway was small. Hopefully, if I do get the time, I can expand my sample to include all the L&SWR clerks, but that would be a massive task.
[1] South Western Circle Collection [SWC], 1884 L&SWR Rule Book, Rule 15, Page 10
[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.773
[3] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.49
[4] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.83
[5] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.906
[6] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.54
[7] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.31
[8] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.965
[9] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.39
[10] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.688
[11] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.129
[12] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.101
[13] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.46
[14] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.588
[15] TNA, RAIL 411/491, Clerical staff character book No. 1, 1838 - 1877, p.57
[16] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.964
[17] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.876
[18] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.818
[19] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.906

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Love, Leisure and Rowing - The Pleasures of a Railway Clerk in Kingston in 1878

As the last blog post that I wrote on the diary of Sam Fay generated so much interest, I thought I’d just do a general piece about it as it is not a something that could be published (at only 47 pages long). However, it is probably one of the few examples of a personal diary from the late Victorian period that is just a record of everyday events. Apart from one important set of entries pertaining to a major event in the history of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR), the contents to the author must have been quite mundane. Yet, for the social historian it is a fascinating insight into the lives of individuals who, like you and I, were just trying to go about their lives.

But first, a little bit about Sam Fay, one of Britain’s great railwaymen. He was born in Hamble-le-rice in Hampshire in 1856 to Joshua Fay, a farmer. He went to Blenheim House School in Fareham, and because his farther had contacts within the L&SWR’s Audit Office, joined the company as a junior clerk at Itchen Abbas station in 1872. After moving around various stations in 1876 he was posted to Kingston, and after some time there he was moved into the Traffic Superintendent’s office in 1884 as second clerk. Soon he was promoted to Chief Clerk and was eventually removed to the Storekeeper’s Department, becoming the Storekeepers Assistant in 1891.[2] He resigned a year later take up the post of General Manager on the ailing Midland and South Western Junction Railway. After turning the company around, was appointed the L&SWR’s Superintendent of the Line in 1899, staying only three years before becoming General Manager of the Great Central Railway (GCR) in 1901. He retired from the post in 1922. In his time at the GCR, he had also been deputy of the Railway Executive Committee (REC), that run Britain’s Railways in World War One, and in 1917 was appointed Director of Movements for the War Office.[3] For more information, read the Wikipedia page, however, for now, let us go back to 1878 when Fay was working at Kingston.

Fay was in love. Frances Ann Farbrother, or ‘Trottie’ as Fay called her, being the object of his affections. He wrote on the Sunday 10th January that ‘I seem to love her more and more, not so passionately perhaps, but with a purer, holier love than of yore.’[4] Evidently, by 1878, Frances was part of Fay’s fantasies about the future; ‘in sober moments,’ he commented ‘my thoughts plan out my future, they make me chief clerk at some good station with my darling Trottie, in charge of a small country station and eventually of a large one – “man proposes but God disposes.”’[5]

They had been courting for some time, and by May they were engaged. However, this was seemingly behind his family’s back. A diary entry about a potential visit to his family in Hampshire, states that he had sent a letter to his father asking whether he was allowed to bring Frances with him. He wrote, ‘he [father] does not know Trottie and I are engaged, the result will be a row.’[6] It is clear that there was something amiss in Victorian society against engagements occurring without the family being aware. His father wrote back that Trottie was welcome to visit and stay as long as she wished. Indeed, his mother ‘will also be delighted to meet my friend.’ Evidently, until it was official in the eyes of the family, a friend was all Frances would be.[7] Ultimately, Fay’s fears about the secrecy of his engagement seem to be unfounded, and it is clear that Frances was soon absorbed as part of the family. When the visit finally came in early June ‘Trottie got on first rate with all of them.’[8]

Sport was one of Fay’s great loves. I have written in this blog about football amongst railwaymen, however, it seems that Fay was a regular player of an early version Rugby Football. On the 16th January he played against the Clarendon Club at Kingston, who ‘got one try the best of us.’ Indeed, Fay was ‘ducedly knocked about, a good kick in the shins, a bloody nose and various knocks and ugly tumbles.’[9]On the 16th March he played against Kings College and ‘beat them by one goal and a try.’[10] Yet, ‘Football,’ as he called was not as important to Fay as rowing, a love affair that was started on 20th March when he was elected a member of Kingston rowing club.[11] Once elected, this seemingly consumed his free time, ‘Trottie doesn’t like this rowing business because it keeps me away from her rather late.’[12] However, rowing was seemingly done by most of the clerical staff at the station, including Osborne, a fellow Clerk,[13] and Mr Petit, the Station Agent.[14] Thus, it may have been a social norm that members of the salaried staff at Kingston joined the rowing club. Once rowing, Fay competed in regattas against his fellows at the club,[15] as well as against teams from others.[16] In the winter, when things were more sedate, ice skating was the order of the day. And on Christmas Day Fay and Walter, Frances’ brother, went skating in Bushy Park.[17]

Entertainment beyond sport did not seem to be a great part of Fay’s life, probably because of the lack of theatres or music halls in Kingston at the time. On the 12th February did Fay and Frances go to the ‘Drill Hall,’[18] whatever that was. However, London seemed to be where Fay went to be entertained. In August he went with someone called John for some ‘music’ in London, after which he had some ‘lager beer and a glass of good wine at a House on the Strand where they keep it on draught.’[19] Two days later, he visited the Criterion Theatre, with John and Walter, and saw ‘Pink Dominos,’ which he ‘enjoyed very much.’[20] This was followed by a tip with Frances to the Alhambra Theatre which he did not find so agreeable.[21] In mid-November the fair came to Kingston and on the evening of the 13th Fay strolled around with his fellow clerk, Osborne. It seems this caused a disagreement with Frances who wished to go. In his diary Fay commented that he did not take her because ‘I do not consider it a proper place for females to go.’[22] What it was about the fair that led Fay to this conclusion is unknown. However, what this entry does reflect is the trend that shines through in the diary, that Frances’ social life was very much tied to that of Fay’s and that she had little say in her social activities. Thus, the diary reveals the patriarchal nature of Victorian society and the social positions that men and women were expected to take at the time.

Socialising with others, whether it was with Frances, Fay’s friends, fellow club-members or relatives, was a big part of his life. It is clear that he did a lot of walking with people, ‘went for a walk round Surbiton with Trottie in the afternoon to Ham Church.’[23] Indeed, it seems a lot of this ‘walking’ took place in the local area and included Ham, Surbiton, and the local tourist attraction of Hampton Court. ‘For a walk with Trottie to Hampton Court in the afternoon, got caught in a snow storm, it also blew a hurricane and as we came over Bushy Park it nearly blew us off our legs.’[24] In October Fay ‘went up to Uncles in the evening sung a few hymns, smoked a cigar or two done a glass of whisky and home to bed.’[25]

However, aside from these leisurely activities there were parties to attend. In May Mrs Gardiner of the Adelaide Inn in Teddington (a pub I have frequented many a time) got married to Mr Craddock, a grocer from Kingston market place. Fay rather annoyed Frances by having several dances at the reception with ‘Miss Tilbury, Miss Hall, Miss Louie Gardiner and Miss Dawn.’ Indeed, it seems that she was most annoyed by Fay ‘doing a step with young Gardiner.’ However, things were soon smoothed over as they ‘had a stroll around the garden with the Old Lady [Frances] about midnight.’[26] In late October it was the rowing club dinner hosted by the Mayor of Kingston and the menu was quite special; ‘turbot and oyster sauce, then stewed eels, turkey and sausages, a leg of fowl, a half a partridge, then some hare, jelly, cheese and celery, finishing with desert; a bottle of Hock, 2 quart bottles of pale ale, 2 bottles of champagne between the four of us.’ Indeed this was accompanied by some ‘speeches and songs’ to what Fay called a very ‘select party.’[27] Celebration, of major events or just parties, was clearly a part of the social life of a railway clerk.

I think sometimes we are quick to see the Victorians, especially what would be termed ‘respectable individuals,’ as being very stoic and boring. While from the diary it is clear that Sam Fay worked very hard at his job, it is also evident that he had a very rich life in Kingston engaging in sport, entertainment, tourism, leisure and love. Indeed, I have not included everything that Fay did in 1878 as this would double the length of this post. Overall, Fay never seemed to complain about his life and remained positive about what was in his future. In many ways, Sam Fay was just like you or I, trying to get on in the world, trying to be happy and having a good time as he went.


[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.711


[4] Bill Fay Collection [BFC], Sam Fay Diary, 10th January 1878

[5] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 11th March 1878

[6] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 16th May 1878

[7] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 22nd May 1878

[8] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 7th June 1878

[9] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 16th January 1878

[10] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 16th March 1878

[11] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 20th March 1878

[12] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 7th May 1878

[13] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 12th June 1878

[14] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 4th April 1879

[15] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 3rd July 1878

[16] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 1st August 1878

[17] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 25th December 1878

[18] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 12th March 1878

[19] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 27th August 1878

[20] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 29th August 1878

[21] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 28th October 1878

[22] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 13th November 1878

[23] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 10th January 1878

[24] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 24th March 1878

[25] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 6th October 1878

[26] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 13th May 1878

[27] BFC, Sam Fay Diary, 30th October 1878

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Victorian Railway Employees Complaining About Victorian Railway Employees

Having been employed in a number of different workplaces over the years, the one constant that I have encountered is that those individuals that I work with will, invariably, talk about their colleagues. This is part of the natural ebb and flow of the office, factory or anywhere else where Homo sapiens toil. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the Victorian railway employer did the same, complaining about other employees’ behind their backs. Evidence of this day to day activity is hard to find, however, the diary of Sam Fay (shown), which records his life as a clerk on the London and South Western Railway at Kingston Station between 1878 and 1881, details the many occasions when railway workers got irritated by their co-workers. Furthermore, on reviewing the diary, it has brought home to me that in some respects that the people of the 19th century were just like us.

While I presume complaints were made by railway employees against their direct superiors, the senior management seem to come in for a rough time in the diary. On the 5th of April 1878 Fay took a stroll to Teddington Station to see the staff there.[1] Shortly before changes had occurred in the Telegraph Department and it's head, Mr Blake, had been replaced by a newcomer Mr Goldstone. Clearly, Blake had run his department in quite a relaxed manner. On arrival Fay had a ‘jaw’ with Goddard, a fellow clerk who was of a similar seniority to him having been with the company the same amount of time.[2] Goddard stated that the clerks were giving Mr Goldstone a bad name. Apparently, he was ‘too sharp to please them and has no favourites like old Blake had.’ Yet, even though Fay had heard the complaints of Goddard, Fay’s assessment of the situation was that Goldstone was the ‘right man in the right place.’[3] Clearly, he did not agree with his colleague’s assessment.

Indeed, at the same point Fay’s career was advancing and was becoming General Manager of the North and South West Junction Railway, in 1892,[4] Goddard was still at Teddington, and was reprimanded for being ‘short in his cash’ to the tune of £36 4s 2d. As a result, he was moved from the station to the Nine Elms Goods Depot.[5] Perhaps, Goddard’s issue in 1878 was that he was no longer the favourite of his superior, an arrangement which previously had hid his own mediocre performance under Blake. Indeed, this factor may have held his career back in later years as Fay’s advanced.

Mr Jacomb had been the L&SWR’s Chief Resident Engineer since 1870, and his remit covered the maintenance of the line and buildings.[6] But, working in a different department to the Kingston Station staff, who were in the Traffic Department, he would have had his own agenda regarding just when and where repairs and alterations were required. Thus, when the Station Agent at Kingston, Petit, stopped Jacomb’s men doing what Fay (and presumably Petit) thought was ‘a lot of unnecessary work,’ the Chief Engineer complained about him. The result was an inter-departmental controversy, for which Fay had to write ‘down three sheets of foolscap to Mr Scott about the affair.’[7] Clearly, inter-departmental resentment and complaining was alive and well.

Yet, it wasn’t only superiors that were in the firing line, and Fay had a run in with one of his colleagues in May 1878. The W.H. Smith bookstall at Kingston was staffed by a man named Compton. Whether this meant that he was employed by the L&SWR or Smiths is unknown. Presumably to save on his own costs, on the 6th of May, Compton travelled with four persons from Waterloo to Kingston using used tickets he had obtained from the Kingston booking office.[8] Fay, and a fellow Clerk, Osborne, who has been working at the station since 1875,[9] reported this to Mr Pettit. Petit, naturally took action and forced Compton to pay the fares. Fay recorded that Compton thought ‘it a very shabby action on our part, he has circulated a yarn of his own about the town saying nothing of the crew and tickets he had with him, we shall not, I presume, be on speaking terms for some time over it.’[10] Of course, I am only getting Fay’s side of the story on this. However, it is unlikely that this would be the sort of thing that he would make up.

Also, there is a case of Fay simply not liking someone. On Monday 17th January 1881 he wrote in his diary that he had heard that Wright, who was based at Fulwell, was about to be dismissed. Presumably through nosiness, Fay wrote to the General Manager’s office to ascertain if this was true.[11] Goffe, one of the General Manager’s clerks,[12] wrote back stating that this was not the case. Fay for some reason thought this was unfortunate. The reason he disliked Wright is unknown. However, given that it is known that Fay was a stickler for good management and efficiency, I suspect it was because he perceived Wright to be inefficient.

While Fay did, on occasion, praise his colleagues, the majority of the comments on the quality of others’ work were negative. Thus, these case studies show that while the setting is very different to any modern workplace, the Victorian railway worker had the same complaints about the actions and efficiency of fellow workers as many of us do today.


[1] Bill Fay Collection [BFC], Sam Fay’s Diary, 5th April 1878.

[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.254

[3] BFC, Sam Fay’s Diary, 5th April 1878.

[4] TNA, ZPER 11/22, South Western Gazette, March 1905, p.9

[5] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.254

[6] TNA, ZPER 11/6, South Western Gazette, June 1887, p.90-91

[7] BFC, Sam Fay’s Diary, 28th May 1878

[8] BFC, Sam Fay’s Diary, 6th May 1878.

[9] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.456

[10] BFC, Sam Fay’s Diary, 6th May 1878.

[11] BFC, Sam Fay’s Diary, 17th January 1881

[12] TNA, RAIL 411/492, Clerical staff character book No. 2, 1838 – 1919, p.234

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

English Shareholders, Scottish Passengers and Stopping Trains for God in 1846

Interestingly, the running of trains on Sunday in England and Wales was more common in the industry’s formative years. Indeed, Simmons stated that in 1887 20.1% of the nation’s railways were closed to passengers on Sunday, yet in 1847 this figure had only been 2.6%.[1] In 1847, the Board of Trade requested that every railway company in Britain submit a return detailing the number of Sunday trains that they ran. The result was that the 55 British railway companies (not including Irish companies) ran 530 scheduled services on ‘the Sabbath.’

However, within this sample there was a very distinct difference in practice between Scottish railway companies and those located south of the border. Of the 55 railway companies in the sample 38 were based in England and Wales (69%). However, these companies ran 514 of the Sunday trains listed (97%), leaving only 16 trains operating in Scotland. It could be argued that this was because many of the Scottish railway companies were smaller in size. Indeed, the Scottish companies that did run Sunday trains were amongst the largest in the country. For example, the North British railway company ran 6 trains. Yet, with such a small number of trains running, comparative to the size of the network, it can only be concluded that there was some unique reason for the difference in operating levels on Sundays in Scotland.[2]

The case of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway (E&GR), listed on parliamentary papers as running 4 mail trains only on Sunday, is an interesting case that perhaps reveals why in many cases trains were not run. When the line was opened in February 1842 the company immediately put on morning and evening trains on Sunday. These conveyed 1000s of passengers each day but were scheduled to avoid the hours when worship was undertaken.[3]

Yet, this policy, which was seemingly an unusual occurrence amongst the Scottish railway companies, soon displeased the shareholders of the company. Indeed, at the first shareholder’s meeting of the company after the line had opened on the 24th February 1842, much of it was consumed by debate over the Sunday trains. Indeed, the chairman, Mr Leadbetter, stated that he had received 203 memorials against the running of trains on that day from reverends, church groups and private individuals.[4] Yet, for all their campaigning, the memorialists failed to change company policy on this occasion. Subsequently, at every meeting of the proprietors of the E&GR thereafter, those against Sunday trains proposed motions to stop them.

All of these motions failed. However, in 1846 the shareholders of the company took a different approach. The English shareholders forced out the directors of the company and replaced them with some of their number who approved of shutting the railway on Sundays.[5] As had become usual, at the January 1846 meeting one of the shareholders, Sir Andrew Agnew, proposed a motion: “That no work be done on this railway on the Lord’s Day according to the Fourth Commandment of the moral law.” This was supported after memorials were presented by many individuals, including a Mr Blackadder who presented two from the Scottish Observance Committee and the Free Church of Scotland.[6] Once again the vote failed.

However, between then and August E&GR shareholders opposed to Sabbath running mobilised. At a meeting at a company’s headquarters on August 24th, the holders of 2000 shares met to discuss the management and direction of the company. While there were many issues to deal with, such as failed amalgamation attempts with other companies and the profitability of the company, Sunday running was a key issue. The events of the meeting were summed up in the words of the Daily News after the event. The English shareholders had ‘crossed the border in person [having previously voted by proxy], attacked the directors in their city of Glasgow, overthrown the old dynasty and installed themselves on the vacant throne.’

To the dismay of the Daily News the first act of the new directors was not to improve the company’s operation, but to stop Sunday trains.[7] This, clearly had a detrimental effect on the company’s profits. In Parliament in 1849 Joseph Locke, the noted railway engineer and at that point M.P. for Honiton, stated that the ‘New directors came in… [and] closed the railway on Sunday. And thus the Sabbath party, though a small fraction of the entire proprietary, succeeded in their object, and those who obtained power had managed to reduce the dividends below what they were before.’[8]

Furthermore, the stopping of Sunday trains was against the wishes of the travelling public. The Liverpool Mercury reported that many of the people who used them ‘consider it the “unkindest cut of all” and that the public were ‘resolved to resist the resolution’ that ordered the trains to be abandoned. Indeed, it was stated by the paper that the Sunday running was of worth, in that it brought many individuals to church and that the trains’ use was not for recreation but the promotion of religious activity.[9] Indeed, in February 1847, the Earl of Lincoln presented a petition to the House of Commons from the people of Linlithgow against the ceasing of Sunday running.[10]But, this did not succeed, and the E&G had train-free Sundays for decades after.

The interesting thing about this case is that it was the English proprietors, who could use Sunday trains in their own country, who stopped them in Scotland. The reason for this hypocrisy was alluded to in the Railway Chronicle of January 1847. Discussing the E&GR case it stated that ‘the English public demands Sunday trains, the Scotch rejects them.’ Indeed, it suggested that the halting of Sunday trains was because of the fact that Scotland was ‘pre-eminently a religious nation.’[11] Indeed, the fact that this was a factor in the English delegation of E&GR shareholder’s decision was reinforced by a letter from them to the rest of the proprietors in March 1847.[12]

Therefore, this was a case of stereotyping combined with religious fervour, which had almost universally negative effect. A few very vocal and religiously active English shareholders forced on the Scottish travelling public a change which they thought they wanted. Yet, clearly the shareholders held a view of the Scottish passenger’s religiosity that wasn’t in line with reality, as the stoppage of Sunday trains was against the actual wishes of the E&GR customers. Furthermore, these shareholders allowed their religious fervour to override any considerations about the profitability and performance of the company, stopping the Sunday trains which were profitable. Indeed, it is quite possible that the English shareholders’ actions may even been borne of some frustration amongst the shareholders at not being able to change the state of Sunday trains in England and Wales.


[1] Simmons, Jack, The Victorian Railway, (London, 1991), p.286

[2] House of Commons Parliamentary Papers [HCCP] 1847 (167) Railways. Copy of all regulations of every railway company on the subject to travelling on Sunday.

[3] Hansard, HC Deb 25 April 1849 vol 104 cc831-48,

[4] Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, February 24, 1842; Issue 19053

[5] Liverpool Mercury, Friday, October 30, 1846; Issue 1852

[6] Caledonian Mercury, Thursday, February 26, 1846; Issue 19549

[7] Daily News, Wednesday, October 28, 1846; Issue 129

[8] Hansard, HC Deb 25 April 1849 vol 104 cc831-48,

[9] Liverpool Mercury, Friday, October 30, 1846; Issue 1852

[10] Dundee Courier, Tuesday, February 23, 1847; pg.1

[11]The Railway Chronicle, reprinted in, The Bury and Norwich Post, and East Anglian , Wednesday, January 13, 1847; Issue 3368

[12] Glasgow Herald, Monday, March 1, 1847; Issue 4600.

[13] Simmons, The Victorian Railway, p.287

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