Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Meet A Railway Luminary, No. 2: Archibald Scott

Archibald Scott was a grandee of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR). He was born in Bell Street, Dundee, in 1821 to Archibald, a tanner, and Ann. The 1841 census shows that in that year he had four brothers and two sisters, and was listed as a clerk. However, it is unknown if this was within a railway company.[1] Nevertheless, he did work for the Edingburgh, Perth and Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow and North British Railway companies before being appointed as Traffic Manager of the L&SWR in 1852 at the  age of thirty-one.[2] The previous holder of the post had left the goods accounts in complete disarray and he immediately set about reforming them, as well as introducing undetermined management changes into the Traffic Department generally.[3]

In the 1860s he was responsible for establishing the Traffic Department's management structures. However, as the years passed he found it increasingly difficult to manage the growing business as he was unwilling to delegate power to subordinates.[4] Indeed, this was despite being made General Manager in 1870.[5] Furthermore, because he was so controlling Scott threw himself into his work, something he could easily do as he never married. In 1884 one proprietor noted that ‘I have known him to attend at your offices when all other people would expect to be, and would be at fireside.’ Furthermore, another comment from an unknown source was that ‘it is said towards Paddington that you must rise very early in the morning to be up to him.’[6]

Despite this, the company's performance declined because of his controlling nature in the 1870s and early 1880s. Indeed, when given 'more general' control of the company in 1881 he began attempting to influence the activities of all the L&SWR's departments in just as much detail as in the Traffic Department. Yet, he was a traffic manager, and had never learnt anything to do with the organisation of the company's engineering sections, for example the Locomotive Department. Indeed, he clashed with the company's Locomotive Superintendent, William Adams. Thus, he eventually failed to gain influence in areas outside his own understanding, and the company's performance continued to decline.[7]

Nevertheless, Scott was a kind and benevolent senior manager and The South Western Gazette stated that he 'was of a sympathetic nature, open handed and ever-ready to give relief of the unfortunate and distressed, and many of the older servants of the S.W.R. company can bear witness to his benevolence.'[8] Indeed, he established within the company such a community spirit that in the national railway strike of 1911 the L&SWR was the only railway whose staff did not come out.[9]

After coming under much pressure from the public because of the L&SWR's poor public services, some of which I related in a Turnip Rail Blog Post, he retired at the end of 1884 at the age of sixty-three.[10] He took up a position on the board, from which he retired in 1902 because of ill-health. It was said that after ending his time as a director he never travelled on a train again.[11] He died on the 6 December1910 at his house in South Bank, Surbiton,[12] and was buried on the 9 December at Kingston Cemetery.[13]

The photo above is the only known image of Scott. The South Western Gazette stated that Scott had a 'an insurmountable objection to having his portrait taken.' However, the image shown is was a snapshot taken by 'a friend' in the days before he retired as a director.[12]


[1] National Archives of Scotland [NAS], Unknown Reference, 1841 Census, Dundee, Forfarsh, p282
[2] South Western Gazette, December 1884, p.4
[3] Williams, R.A. The London and South Western Railway: Volume 1, The Formative Years, (Newton Abbott, 1968), p.219-220
[4] Honestly, read my PhD thesis in October.
[5] Williams, R.A. The London and South Western Railway: Volume 2, Growth and Consolidation, (Newton Abbott, 1973), p.298
[6]Williams, The London and South Western Railway: Volume 2, p298
[7] Again, read my Thesis in October.
[8] South Western Gazette, December 1884, p.4
[9] South Western Gazette, January 1911, p.8
[10] Faulkner J.N. And Williams R.A., The London and South Western Railway in the Twentieth Century, (Newton Abbott, 1988) p.189
[11] South Western Gazette, January 1911, p.8
[12] The Times, Wednesday December 7, p.13
[13]  South Western Gazette, January 1911, p.8

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