Thursday, 12 April 2012

Examinations for New Railway Clerks - 1850s and 60s

By the 1860s if you wanted to be clerk on Britain's railways, and stand a chance of eventually joining the ranks of management, you had to undergo an examination to prove your abilities. However, different railway companies introduced examinations at different times. The first known company to introduce such testing was the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway, who, under the General Manager, Edward Watkin, introduced them in 1854 as part of his management training scheme. The test was designed to train youths who were 'superior by education or birth.'[1] A year later the London and North Western Railway also introduced exams under the guidance of Richard Moon, one of the company's directors.[2] Furthermore, by 1861 all those in line for a clerical situation on the Great Western Railway also had to undertake a short arithmetic test.[3] Lastly, in 1860 the London and South Western Railway introduced exams for new clerks in ‘writing, spelling, copying and common arithmetic.'[4] The precise content of these examinations is unknown. However, I'd love to see one at some point to find out.


[1] Hodgkins, David, The Second Railway King: The Life and Times of Sir Edward Watkin, (Landybie, 2002), p.124
[2] Braine, Peter, The Railway Moon - A Man and his Railway: Sir Richard Moon and the L&NWR, (Taunton, 2010), p.99
[3] Unknown Author, The Hand-Book Guide to Railway Situations, (London, 1961), p.8 
[4] The National Archives, RAIL 411/4, Court of Directors Minute Book, Minute 1191, 2 February 1860

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