Tuesday, 31 January 2012

An Accident on the Tay Bridge - 1850

I was recently contacted by Eleanor Harris (@eleanormharris) who is doing her PhD thesis identifying all the people listed in the baptism, wedding and funeral registers of Charlotte Chapel, Edinburgh, in the early 1800s. In the course of her research she came across the following story of a railway accident on the Tay Bridge in 1850. In the accident the son of two congregation members, Harriett and Laurence Craigie, was killed. He held the position of the 'manager of passenger traffic' at Perth Station and was in the fateful passenger train crossing the bridge. Eleanor has kindly allowed me to reproduce her transcription of a report of the accident from the Glasgow Herald on 25 January 1850. You can read more about Eleanor's very interesting work at her website.

"On Saturday forenoon a shocking occurrence took place upon the Dundee and Perth Railway... It appears that, after the arrival of a passenger train from Dundee at the company's station in Prince's Street, Perth, upon the south side of the river, Mr Craigie, manager of the passenger traffic, and Major Dreghorn, of St Alban's Cottage, which after depositng their passengers, are generally pushe back across the river to the company's station at Barnhill -- for the purpose of proceeding to the north side of the Tay. After the carriages had cleared the bridge, and were nearing Barnhill, the engine driver found that a goods train was coming upon them in the opposite direction, and immediately reversed the engin. As the curve upon the line, however, is very sharp, and prevents a person seeing far before him, he was too late, and the engine of the goods train ran into one of the passenger carriages, which was smashed to pieces. Mr Craigie, who is supposed to have been looking out at the window to see what was wrong, was so much hurt about the head that he only survived, in an insensible state, till Sunday evening, when he died. Major Dreghorn, although much bruised and cut, is understood not to be dangerously injured. After the collision the engine-driver either leaped or was thrown from the engine, which, with its steam reversed, and freed from all encumbrances by the snapping of the coupling train, rushed away across the railway bridge at a velocity of thirty or forty miles an hour, and dashed through the passenger station in the direction of the general railway terminus, which is about the quarter of a mie distant. Close beside the terminus the Dundee line crosses the main entrance upon the level, and at this place there is a gate upon the road, where a man is in constant attendance... This man, seeing the runaway train approach, had only time to open the half of the gate and escape out of the way, when the engine drove through the other half of it, and ran with tremendous velocity into a goods train, which was standing upon a side line of rails. Here it wrought terrible havoc, smashing the trucks and scattering about the goods and grain, with which the train was loaded in all directions. Yet great as the damage was which it did here, it was a providential circumstance that the goods train was in the way, for had the road been clear, from the way in which the points were placed, the engine would have ran [sic] into a passenger train from Edinburgh, which had drawn up at a wooden platform for the purpose of taking the passengers' tickets. The primary cause of the disaster is said to be that the driver of the goods train either did not see, or did not pay any attention to, a danger signal which was hoisted to warn him against crossing the bridge over the river. This man, it is said, has since absconded. Mr Craigie, who has met such an untimely fate, was a young man -- a son of Laurence Craigie, Esq. of Glendoich [sic], Carse of Gowrie. He was universally esteemed, and his death has caused a very general feeling of regret in the public mind."[1]


[1] "Harriet Wright" in Eleanor Harris, The Episcopal Congregation of Charlotte Chapel Website (online, archive.stjohns- edinburgh.org.uk, 2011)

Monday, 30 January 2012

Desperate Encounter In A Railway Train

When I have finished my PhD I have been considering writing a book called 'The Grim Victorian Railway' (and thoughts on a postcard.) Therefore, for mere interest, I did a bit of looking through 19th century newspapers for evidence of crime, deviance and horror that occurred on the railway network in the period. This article from Trewman's Exeter Flying Post or Plymouth and Cornish Advertiser from 11 May 1848 particularly peaked my interest. It seems that three prisoners were being conveyed by train from Edinburgh to Warwick when they attempted an escape. The convicts overpowered the constable and attempted to push him out of a window. Yet, they were unsuccessful as 'they would have accomplished their purpose but for the smallness of the aperture through which they endeavoured to thrust him.' Eventually, only one of the prisoners got away,the others ending up in the Warwick gaol.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

How to Leave Railway Employment - 1864

There is a lot of talk about how railway workers in the Victorian period stayed with companies for their entire working lives. Nevertheless, many individuals did leave the service, hence the above rule from an 1864 London and South Western Railway rule book. I have written on the Turnip Rail Blog about how individuals left the L&SWR's employment in the period and found that out of 300 L&SWR staff records, covering surnames beginning A to C (roughly), 69 died (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 incompetence (3.33%). Forty-six (15.33%) of the salaried staff members went astray or were dismissed for infringing the rule book or criminal activity. However, as I mention in the post, this is only a case study on one railway, an more work needs to be done.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Thomas Wenham's Little Brown Book (1856 GNR Rule Book)

Believe it or not, this 1856 Great Northern Railway (GNR) rule book is now my favourite piece of what is called 'Railwayana.' Astoundingly, on a Sunday night, which, allegedly, is the best time to sell anything on ebay, I purchased this gem for a mere £10.00. "Ten pounds" I hear you say...yes, I too was flabbergasted. The item is important to me as it is an example of a rule book before they were standardised across the industry by the Railway Clearing House in 1876. Thus, it tells of a period when railways were far more individual in internal structure, operations and practice. But in addition to this, it also contains rules for railway employees other than the run-of-the-mill railway workers, for example clerks and porters, and also holds information for numerous classes of managers. Thus, it shows a railway company's management structure in the industry's early years. Lastly, it is clear that the book belonged to two individuals, John Wallis and Thomas Wenham, the latter of whom acquired it in 1870 when working as a porter and was promoted to the position of Goods Guard a year later.

A search of the census shows that Thomas Whenham was born in Deeping in Lincolnshire in either 1848 or 1849. In 1871, the year he was in possession of the rule book, he was living in Crown Street in Peterborough, was married to Mary and had one daughter, Jane. Also residing with him were two lodgers; John Snell, an engine cleaner, and Charles P. Amos, a harness maker. I have to say that it is quite an odd feeling to know where Thomas lived and about his family. It makes the rule book, which has his handwriting all over the inside covers, a really tangible part of history, a part of someone's life, an object that has been used and read. It is a feeling I rarely get, as most of what I study in my PhD does not have a very human element. However, this item truly allows me to touch a piece of a Victorian railway worker's life, and that just makes me warm and fuzzy.

N.B. I will be digitising this item soon for distribution.

The Lineage of Railway Managers - Passing on Management Practice

I am always interested in the idea of railway managers having a linage of sorts, whereby one great railway manager trained another. Indeed, I think there one major lineage that runs like a thread through British Railway history that goes is follows:

Captain Mark Huish (1808-1867) - Huish had served with the British army in India and on return became secretary of the newly formed Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock Railway in 1837. In 1841 he became Secretary of the Grand Junction Railway and when it merged with the London and Birmingham and Manchester and Bitmingham Railways to become the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR) in 1846, he was appointed as its General Manager. He kept this post until 1858. Here he pioneered many managerial techniques and was one of the industry's first influential chief executives, exerting considerable control over company policy. Under him was...

Sir Edward Watkin (1819-1901) - Watkin worked with Husih as his assistant. In December 1853 he left the L&NWR to become General Manager of the Manchester Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (MS&LR). Watkin reformed the company's management and reduced its costs. From 1864 to 1894 he was the company's chairman and was largely responsible for its London extension in the 1890s. However, during his career he also became a director of the Great Western and Great Eastern Railways, chairman of the Metropolitan Railway and Managing Director of the South Eastern Railway. However, at the MS&LR, he had under him...

Sir Charles Scotter (1835-1911) - Scotter was rose to the position of Commercial Agent on the MS&LR under Watkin, managing all of the company's shipping traffic through the company's Grimsby Docks. In 1873 he was made the company's goods manager. In 1885 he was appointed as General Manager of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) and reformed the company's management, making it one of the most successful British railway companies of the late 1890s. In 1898 he became a director, and in 1904 its Chairman. Under him was...

Sir Sam Fay (1856-1953) - Fay started his L&SWR career in 1872  and worked as a clerk in the at various stations until being transferred to the Traffic Superintendent's office in 1884. He quickly became Chief Clerk and in 1891 he was made the company's Storekeeper. In 1892 was seconded to the Midland and South West Junction Railway as General Manager and Secretary. Almost bankrupt, he restored the company's solvency, and in 1899 returned to the L&SWR as Superintendent of the Line. In 1901 he became General Manager of the Great Central Railway (Formerly the MS&LR), and did well to keep the poorly performing company 'above water.' He served as deputy on the Railway Executive Committee between 1914 and 1919, organising Britain's Railways for war, and became 'Director of Movement' at the War Office in 1917 and Director-General of Movements and Railways in March 1918.

Therefore, I have shown how good management practice was passed from manager to manager and disseminated through the industry. Nevertheless, a more detailed study of 'who worked with who' would reveal more such linkages in the industry.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Some Train Punctuality Figures from 1890

Today it was reported that Passenger Focus found in a survey of 30,000 passengers that 81% were satisfied with their trains' punctuality. Indeed, in September last year statistics from Network Rail showed that for the 12 months ending 23 July, 87.5% of trains were on time, down from 89% the year before. 'On time' is defined as trains arriving up to five minutes after the scheduled time on commuter routes, and ten minutes for long-distance services. An interesting comparison are figures from January 1890 when the government collected data on the punctuality of nine companies' trains running into London terminal stations. The proportion of trains arriving under five minutes for the companies was as follows:

Great Eastern: 94.09%
Great Northern (Suburban): 94.26%
Great Western: 78.03%
London and North Western: 66.46%
London and South Western: 76.4%
London, Brighton and South Coast (London Bridge Station): 87.91%
London, Chatham and Dover (Victoria Station): 70.07%
Midland: 66%
South Eastern (Cannon Street Station): 75.76%

Indeed, these results would suggest that there was quite a variation in train punctuality in the period, with some companies performing well and others not so.

Speirs and Pond Station Refreshment Rooms

I'll be publishing a blog post in a few weeks time on Speirs and Pond railway station refreshment rooms. In the 1860s this company began taking over refreshment rooms at major (and some minor) stations. Their first in Britain was at sited at Charing Cross Station on the South Eastern Railway, when it opened in January 1864. While many derided station waiting rooms in the period, those that Spiers and Pond operated were of a much higher quality, providing good food and good service. Thus, by 1925 they were operating 200 nationally.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

PhD snippet: Early management structures - A Bit of Historiography

Wilson and Thomson argued that in the railways' formative years, British railway executives ‘responded poorly’ to the challenges that these new complex organisations presented them with given there were no blueprints for their organisation.[1] Indeed, while Bonavia suggested that the structures of company boards and sub-committees, which deliberated on separate company functions, appeared early on in most railway companies,[2] the structures of management below them did not become established in most companies until the mid-1840s or 1850s.

Wilson and Thomson argued that it was the substantially larger companies that were created out of the mergers of the mid-1840s that forced executives to experiment with management structures, the most noticeable case being that of Captain Mark Huish on the London and North Western Railway (L&NWR).[3] Indeed, Hodgkins describes Sir Edward Watkin’s role in addressing managerial challenges within the L&NWR in the late 1840s and 1850s, such as the ‘advantages and disadvantages of contracting out maintenance’ and building up information systems[4]

[1] Wilson, John F. and Thomson, Andrew, The Making of Modern Management: British Management in Historical Perspective, (Oxford, 2009), p.57
[2] Bonavia, Michael, R. The Organisation of British Railways, (Shepperton, 1971), p.12
[3] Wilson, and Thomson, The Making of Modern Management, p.57
[4] Hodgkins, David, The Second Railway King: The Life and Times of Sir Edward Watkin, (Landybie, 2002), p.71-73

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Meet A Railway Luminary, No. 1: Sam Fay

I have written in numerous places on my main Turnip Rail blog about Sam Fay (here, here and here). Fay was a clerk on the London and South Western Railway between in the 1872 and 1892, moved to be General Manager of the Midland and South West Junction Railway between 1892 and 1898, after winch he returned to the L&SWR to become its Superintendent of the Line between 1899 and 1901. He was then head-hunted to become General Manager of the Great Central Railway. Indeed, Fay was a luminary of the railway world in the 1900s, and eventually served as deputy on the Railway Executive Committee between 1914 and 1919, organising Britain's Railways for war. Indeed, he became 'Director of Movement' at the War Office in 1917, and in March 1918 became Director-General of Movements and Railways. The reason that I have talked about Fay so much, is that I have, from his grandson Bill, a copy of his diary between 1878 and 1881 when he was serving at Kingston-upon-Thames station. So, I just thought I would put up an image of him from 1880s that I have

From the Diary:

"Tuesday 19 March 1878– Mr Osborne [Clerk] had a go in with Mr Pettit [Station Master] as to an increase of screw, which he (Mr. P.) did not think he would get, he also stated that no alteration if clerks was necessary but that Mr O. would go and relieve Roach at Hampton Wick on Wednesday afternoons also every other Sunday; Mr O. thinks he will go in for a shift or see Mr Scott [General Manager], for my own benefit. I should of course like him to go, but should not care for his job as it stands now, however it will no doubt be ruled for the best."

Monday, 23 January 2012

Images of the London and Greenwhich Railway in 1836

I've been doing a piece on the London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) for the Londoner's Diary site, which is exploring the diaries of Anthony Evans from the 1830s. I'd really recommend the site as it is a truly fascinating look back in time. In the course of my work I have come across two images of the L&GR that were recorded in the press at the time (both are clickable). The L&GR, which ran between London Bridge and London Street in Greenwich, was the first railway to have a terminus in London and be completely elevated. It opened to Deptford on 14 December 1836, with much ceremony, and the entire route was opened on 24 December 1838. Thus, because the railway was unique at the time it garnered a lot of media attention.

My more detailed article on the Londoner's Diary site will be coming very soon.

Saving a Historical Railway Document for the Public

In the last few days I have been involved in saving a railway document for the  historians. What is shown is a ledger from the Cockermouth, Keswick and Penrith Railway from 1861, which contains a wealth of information on the railway's early years. The 290 pages detail 'a complete record of all the capital raised by share issues, recording up to nine calls, and it's expenditure, on everything from legal and parliamentary expenses, through to purchase of land, engagement of contractors, purchase of rails, rail chairs etc, erection of stations, signals and signal boxes, and all of the subsequent improvements, enlargements additions, etc.' This, therefore, was an invaluable item for railway historians.

There was one snag, when I found it, it was being sold on ebay. I lose count of the times I get sad when railway documents are sold on ebay and go into private collections, never to be seen again. Indeed, I too am guilty of buying such items.

Simply put, many items should be in archives, accessible to all who want to discover about our railway past. However, this document was different from most. Most documents that are sold on ebay were, at some point, in the possession of indvidiuals when they were printed; for example rule books, waybills, timetables etc., and as such there are many of them. However, this was something that was entirely unique, a confidential document generated by a railway company's management. So I sprung into action, emailing and tweeting at anyone who may have known of a way this this document could be purchased and placed in an archive. I got lucky. Grahame Boyes from the Railway and Canal Historical Society contacted the Cumbrian Railways Association, who successfully bid for the item. It cost them the large sum of £255, however, the seller kindly promised to donate 20 per cent of the fee back to the association. So, very happily, at some point in the future this valuable piece of railway history will be appearing in a Cumbrian Record Office.

The listing can be found here.

London Bridge Station Hotel 1861

This engraving from the Illustrated London News is of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway's 'Terminus Hotel', which was situated next to London Bridge Station and opened in 1861. However, it was not successful, being on the south side of the river, and was turned into offices for the company in 1892.

The Railway Company Postcard

The early 20th century saw an increase in the amount of promotional material British railway companies produced. One form this took was the postcard, packs of  which could be purchased from vending machines at stations. Indeed, between 1899 and 1903 eight companies produced them. All those shown were sold by the London and North Western Railway and have images of the company's trains and rolling stock. However, in addition to this, the packs contained images of resorts and districts the railways served, the ships they owned and their buildings. Thus, before 1914 the London and North Western apparently sold over 11 million cards. However, this craze quickly waned and after World War One the railway companies produced very few.[1] (All pictures are clickable)
[1] Simmons, Jack, 'Postcards', The Oxford Companion to British Railway History, (Oxford, 1997), p.390

The Genesis of High Speed 2

With High Speed 2 being given the going ahead, I thought I would see if I could find when the policy started to germinate within government. After a bit of digging, I found a BBC report from 13 December 2005 that detailed a study by the Institute of Civil Engineers named "The Missing Link." This advocated a high speed line between London and Scotland with trains travelling at speeds of up to 215 miles per hour. While The Independent reported in December 2006 that hopes for such a line were dashed after a report by the former Chief Executive of British Airways, Sir Rod Eddington, clearly the idea remained floating around in government.