Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Drowned Express Train - 1875

Flooding has been a continual problem for railways since their inception. In November 1875 large portions of the country were subject to flooding and the picture above from The Graphic illustrates how this affected the Bristol and Exeter Railway's services - they stopped them dead. Indeed, the article stated that the Great Western Railway was under water to such an extent that the reporter was able to canoe for half  a mile along the line, and that between Oxford and Abingdon passengers were taken off trains at Radley Station, to be conveyed to Oxford by vehicles 'of all descriptions.'[1]

[1] The Graphic (London, England), Saturday, November 27, 1875; Issue 313.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Steam on the Underground in 2012

Next year it will be 150 years since the opening of Britain's first underground railway, the Metropolitan Railway, which began operating on the 10 January 1863 between Paddington and Farringdon Street. Of course, given that electricity was in its infancy at the time the service was operated by steam trains. Therefore, for the anniversary there are [tentative] plans to operate a steam service on the line and you can read more about this at the excellent London Reconnections site.

But these days running steam trains anywhere on the railway network is not an easy task, and magnificent events have to prepared for. Thus, my joy was almost unbridled when the video above appeared on my Twitter feed last night. Using a London and South Western Railway Beattie 'Well' tank, a 'steam test' took place on the Metropolitan Line at 1 am on 26 February. The effects of steam on the modern Metropolitan stock were then tested by running two trains through it, yet, I can't imagine there were any problems. Well, I hope not, as I'm  now very excited about 2013's celebrations.

Monday, 27 February 2012

The Hours Train Drivers Worked - 1892

It is no secret that Victorian railway workers were on duty for considerable lengths of time. In 1892 the government, concerned with the possible implications for safety of long working hours, established a committee to look into the issues and report. The committee took testimony from many railway employees of all grades and because of the serious nature of what was revealed to the public, much of it was reported in the press.

Therefore, when searching for information on the Midland and South Western Junction Railway (M&SWJR), I found that the Manchester Times had reported the length that some of the companies' drivers were on duty for. One, named Evans, had worked in a fortnight one twenty-six hour shift, two twenty-four hour, forty minute ones and one twenty-four hour one. Another, Butler, had in a forty-one hour period been driving trains for thirty-eight hours, and had two spells of twenty-four hours in one week. Lastly, one driver had been on duty for twenty-eight out of twenty-nine hours.[1]

As the article noted, these were extreme cases. But there is no doubt that generally railway companies placed cost before safety by allowing such practices to exist. Indeed, it is unsurprising that in the period many accidents were caused by driver's fatigue and dulled responses.

[1] Manchester Times, Friday, April 22, 1892, Issue 1812.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Waiting Room Weekly Round-Up

This week has certainly been interesting for a number of reasons. On Wednesday I attended a wonderful lecture at the London Canal Museum by Christian Wolmar on the history of the tube, followed by a question and answer session with transport minister, Theresa Villiers. The evening, which was supporting the Westminster Society - a charity that supports people with learning disabilities - gave me a great chance to meet Christian, who so kindly wrote a short piece for my two year anniversary last week. But, the week was tinged with a hint of sadness. As I related on Friday evening, yesterday was my last ever visit to The National Archives as a student. It was certainly the end of an era you could say, but from now on (well, after I finish my PhD) I can research whatever I want at the archive and that fills me with excitement.

So here's what has happened this week:

Monday: The Size of a Railway Company Boards
Tuesday: Selling a Railway Wagon - Advertising in 1905
Wednesday: "The most desperate efforts to avoid the ladies" - Observing Station Activity (1868)
Thursday: Introducing: Ross D. Mangles - A 1840s Railway Director
Friday: The End of and Era - A Last Visit to the Archive of a Finishing PhD Student
Saturday: Lost property on the Railways - A Rule Book 

Don't also forget this week's main Turnip Rail blog post: The Station Refreshment Room after 1870 - Part 1

Also, if you like Turnip Rail, you can 'like' it on Facebook HERE.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Lost property on the Railways - A Rule Book

 If there is something the railways of Britain should be noted for, it is bureaucracy. As a railway historian this is fascinating for me, as the information systems established early in railway history have kept the huge networks of rails, staff and stations operating. Consequently, I have developed an almost compulsive urge for collecting the many rule and instruction books that the railways before 1948 churned out in vast numbers. The scope of my collecting is not limited to companies' main rule books that were issued to every employee on their first day at work, and then taken away on their last. But no, they are so ubiquitous that my collection would be quite dull. Rather, I take great joy in acquiring instructional texts that governed all the other facets of railway work. So, here, I present a few pages of my latest acquisition, a London Midland and Scottish Railway 'Instructions to goods and passenger managers, goods agents, station masters, passenger and parcel agents and others concerned at Stations in England, Wales and Ireland regarding  missing and found goods and coaching traffic, passengers' lost property and money, disposal of salvage' from 1934.

P.S. I hope to digitise and make available all my rule books when the PhD is over.

Friday, 24 February 2012

The End of and Era - A Last Visit to the Archive of a Finishing PhD Student

It has been a while since I have done any archival work. Given that I am in the sixth year of six of my PhD there is very little research to be done and the necessity of getting my fingers dirty and finding new material is really a thing of the past. Currently, my time is consumed by going over drafts of draft chapters, tweaking what I eventually hope will eventually resemble a thesis.

Nevertheless, a few days ago, while editing to death chapter five on the London and South Western Railway's Directors, I was struck by a bit of hole in my work. If I am honest, this was something that my supervisor, Colin, had pointed out to me three years ago. Yet, true to style I failed to follow his suggestion up and it was only a few nights ago, with the experience of two years extra work behind me, that I realised how much I needed the hole filled. Perhaps I shouldn't detail here what was creating the hole here, it's actually quite a boring subject. All I will say is that like a historical cement mixer, the research required to fill it won't take considerable time and will just sure up a slightly shaky section of the chapter. So, yesterday afternoon I placed my advanced document order and pedalled off this morning, with a slight hangover, to The National Archives [TNA].

I have always loved TNA. My initial forays into research were made there and it was the first place where I truly saw how history was made. After all, anyone can go to the Imperial War Museum and gawk at weaponry, while at TNA you can physically interact with the reasons the weapons exists. You can hold the process, rather than the product.

Yet, time and experience jades a historian. On my first visit to TNA, way back when, I was like a child in a candy shop, fervently, madly, reading all I was shown on my undergraduate dissertation topic, the Battle of Britain, in a state of heightened enjoyment. Currently, the feelings I have when researching are not the same. They are altered and more mature. Being at the archive is old news and handling hundreds of years old documents is run-of-the-mill. Nevertheless, I remain just enthused by the process. The fact that touching paper from the past is no longer exciting has not diminished any happiness I feel when discovering new things and adding to my body of knowledge. Just as long as I am productive, I am more than happy in my 'happy place'; being buried in a document.

So, I arrived, hoping fill the gap in my research in one morning. Nothing ever changes at TNA, in that I always find something has changed. Since my last visit six months ago the following is different:

1) There is now an outer front door;
2) We have to now push the revolving door;
3) There is a new front desk in the foyer;
4) ...which is overshadowed by scaffolding and work is being done on something;
5) They have rearranged the first floor 'greeting area';
6) The cabinet doors in the main reading room are now Red;

I always find the regular alterations at the Archives somewhat unsettling, I am someone who likes things to stay consistent. However, the constant change there, I tell myself, is good. It signifies an that the TNA is an organisation that is constantly thinking, that is trying to improve the experience for those who use it and which actually cares about its users. It shows that for all the history contained within its walls, TNA firmly has an eye on the future.

So, I settled down to work on the documents I had requested. Predictably, given the nature of the information I was extracting, I went at a pace, racing through the four documents I had ordered in advance, plus three more I requested on arrival. Mid-way through these seven I ordered three more, and then gathered the information I required from them at an even quicker rate. Another three were sent for...and then I waited.

I am not complaining at all, but when I started visiting TNA documents arrived in twenty minutes. Yet, after changes a few years back you'll be lucky to get them in half an hour, with forty minutes being the standard - but not at lunch time. Having worked at the Archive for nine months in 2005 I can testify to how hard the staff there work, and I do not blame them at all for me having to wait longer than I used to. Indeed, I think it  brilliant that they run such a slick operation, and the notion of getting documents so quickly - given how many they hold there - still amazes me. Yet, within the lunch hours, when I had to be at work down the road in the near future, the wait was frustrating. The documents winging their way to me would wrap up what I wanted to do, freeing me up to continue work on the chapter.

Sadly, fate did not work in my favour, and just as I was leaving the computer screen displayed those familiar words: 'document has arrived in the 1st floor reading room.' In my head I exclaimed 'darn', and shuffled off to work, vowing to return and finish off my research in my precious lunch break tomorrow. But my frustration did not end there. Because of a foolish error when saving my work, the most important part of it, the bit that will fill most of the hole, was absent from my hard drive. Therefore, it is another thing I will have to do in my hour of frantic research tomorrow.

Tomorrow, Saturday 25 February 2012, will almost certainly be the last day that I am at TNA researching for a qualification I am striving towards. That fills me with sadness. No doubt I will go back, and I hope that for a short time after my PhD to set up home there and research whatever I want - for my own enjoyment. But when I cross the threshold out of TNA tomorrow it will truly be the end of an era. Thank you TNA, you certainly have been a beloved friend and a trusted companion through my BA, MA and my PhD.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Introducing: Ross D. Mangles - A 1840s Railway Director

I won't bore you with all the details, but currently I am using my spare time to establish whether certain individuals in the 1840s sat on more than one railway company's board, and, therefore, created a link between the businesses. This isn't an easy task, and involves transcribing the names of all railway company directors in 1848 from a directory. It is an understatement to say it is time-consuming.

So far, one director has stood out - Ross D. Mangles. In my work I have come across some famous directors from the period, such as George Carr Glyn. But I had never heard of Mangles. This said, I am sure I have encountered a relative of his, Charles Mangles, one of the directors of the London and South Western Railway, the company on which I am doing my PhD. In 1848 Ross on the following companies' boards:

Aylesbury Railway
Buckinghamshire Railway
Dunstable, and London and Birmingham Railway
East and West Docks and Birmingham Junction
London and North Western Railway

Central to Mangles' directorships was his position on the board of the London and North Western Railway, Britain's largest and most influential company at this time. Indeed, all the other companies listed were much smaller, but had links with the L&NWR through feeding into its business in some way. Therefore, it is very likley that he was on their boards to influence their policy in the L&NWR's favour.

Ultimately, this why determining the links that were established between railway companies via their directorates is important. Viewing railway companies in the Victorian period in isolation is erroneous, as informal bonds with neighbouring ones influenced corporate policies, such as take-overs, mergers, operations and train services. Thus, while the boundary of one company may seemingly end at its railhead, its influence through its directors may go even further.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

"The most desperate efforts to avoid the ladies" - Observing Station Activity (1868)

When browsing copies of Charles Dickens' magazine, All The Year Round, I came across this fascinating piece from 1868 which not only commented on the ever-present hustle and bustle at railway stations, but also on the entertainment one could have through the simple act of observing it:

"There is certainly no more lively, bustling, animated and animating scene than the terminus of a railway on the departure of an express train. It does one good even to be an on-looker; and I can imagine that a man who has few opportunities to travel, might give himself a pleasant excitement every day, by visiting the nearest terminus to witness the excitement of others. In this ingenious manner I have enjoyed some delights of travelling, without the weariness of a journey, an without the paying a fare. It would be difficult to describe what it is that renders the scene so invigorating. There seems to be a sort of animal magnetism at work. Everyone is excited though there is no particular cause for excitement. There are plenty of carriages, there are full five minutes to spare, and yet every individual on the platform is in an intense hurry-passing and repassing, darting at the book-stall, plunging into the refreshment-room, peeping into the carriages, glancing at the clock, asking questions of the guards (who are passing up and down with their hands slyly formed into money boxes), giving directions to porters, shaking hands with friends over and over again, and, if addicted to tobacco, making the most desperate efforts to avoid the ladies."[1]


[1] Unknown Author (Charles Dickens ed.) 'Railway Thoughts', All The Year Round, 4 January 1868, p.81

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Selling a Railway Wagon - Advertising in 1905

These adverts were taken from a 1905  'Bradshaw's Railway Manual, Shareholder's Guide, and Official Directory'. It is a bit of an anomaly in British railway history that before 1914 most railway companies built the vast majority their own locomotives and carriages, yet private contractors throughout supplied a significant proportion of their wagon stock. Thus, these adverts show that wagon manufacturing companies actively tried to alert the railways to their wares, indicating that an active trade and market was in existence.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Size of a Railway Company Boards

The number of directors that Victorian railway companies had varied from company to company. The factors determining the size of boards were dependent on a range of factors, including the intensity of the company's operations, the area it served and the external interests represented at board level. 

For example, the Great Western (GWR) and London and South Western Railways (L&SWR) had very different board sizes between the 1830s and 1915. In 1834 the GWR board had fifteen directors. However, the number fluctuated between sixteen and twenty-eight until 1878, when it stabilised at nineteen until 1922.[1] Yet, the L&SWR stabilised its smaller board size earlier in its history. It started with fifteen members in 1833, but consistently had twelve from 1860 onwards. Thus, the L&SWR had fewer men sit on its board up until 1915. Between 1834 and 1915 seventy-seven  men were L&SWR directors,[2] whereas for the GWR the total was 128.[3] Why the boards were different sizes is not entirely clear. However, it is suspected this was because the companies served different geographical areas, the GWR's being larger, and there were more vested interests involved in the GWR that had to be accommodated.


[1] Channon, Geoffrey, Railways in Britain and the United States 1830-1940, p.165
[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 1110/281, 283 and 284, London and South Western Railway Reports and Accounts 1831-1922
[3] Channon, Railways in Britain and the United States , p.180

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Waiting Room Weekly Round-Up


Well, what a week for the Turnip Rail Blog it has been. On Tuesday I celebrated its two-year anniversary and to mark this auspicious occasion I invited three railway writers who I admire hugely, Keith Harcourt, Terry Gourvish and Christian Wolmar, to do guest posts. Keith wrote on the London, Midland and Scottish Railway's publicity and propaganda amongst its staff, Terry provided some thoughts on the modern railway industry's fare structures, and Christian discussed what those making current rail policy could learn from history. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank them once again for their excellent contributions. Furthermore, I added my own piece on my favourite blog posts of the year.

However, on this occasion I also have to thank all those who read Turnip Rail and make it what it is. Year two has been highly successful because you read my blog and with your support I'm hoping my third will be even better. So now on with the Waiting Room round-up.


Monday: PhD Snippet - Early Railway Directors
Tuesday: A Royal Train Flyer - 1898
Wednesday: "How London Created The Tube" - A Talk with Christian Wolmar and Theresa Villiers
Thursday: Retaining 'good' Clerks at the Cost of Innovation
Friday: "Motor Car will be shorty received" - An Interesting 'Urgent Train Message'
Saturday: Early Images of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway - 1833

Also check out this week's main Turnip Rail Post - 'The Railway Company do not want it.' - The L&SWR's Purchase of the Southampton Docks

Turnip Rail's Requests

I am always open to submissions for the 'Waiting Room', so if you have an interesting short piece of railway history you want to submit, a railway-related talk you want to promote or a railway organisation you want to highlight, please get in touch at

If you want to 'Like' TurnipRail on Facebook, you can 'Like' it HERE.

Furthermore, for a book I am writing on Victorian railway travel I am still asking for scans of images, documents and ephemera related to aspects of railway travel in the 1800 . While I have the required photos and documents for it, I was hoping that my lovely Turnip Rail followers may have some really interesting pieces I could use. I cannot provide payment, however, I will give full credit for every image published. There are some stipulations regarding the images; you will have to own the copyright personally and provide me (and Shire Books) permission to reproduce them. Also, the resolution has to be 300 dpi and they must be 16 cm wide. Anything will be very gratefully received (please use the email above).

Friday, 17 February 2012

Early Images of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway - 1833

One of my prized possessions is an article from The Penny Magazine of April 1833 on the Liverpool and Manchester Railway (L&MR). Opening only two and a half years before the piece was published, the L&MR had the distinction of being the world's first intercity railway. Thus, the article gives an insight into how those living in the 1830s perceived the early railways. Given the article is eight pages long, a full description of its contents would require a very lengthy post. So, all I will do here is reproduce, in all their glory, the five images that accompanied the text.

"Motor Car will be shorty received" - An Interesting 'Urgent Train Message'

I have a number of these London and South Western Railway 'Urgent Train Messages' in my document collections. These originally were sent on trains between stations throughout the period. Those in my possession all originate from 1911 and 1912 and, as this was an era when telephones were common, the UTMs do not seem to convey anything of importance. The topics covered include unpaid charges for transported items, lost property and shipping arrangements. Probably the most interesting is one sent from Bishops Waltham to Eastleigh Station on 2 November 1911 concerning the shipment of a 'motor car' (shown). It reads:

"Motor Car will be shorty received at yours from London consigned F.S. Moss Esq, Eastleigh. Immediately it arrives will you please wire "Hales" Winters Hill, Bishops Waltham and deduct the charges. Ack."

I'm not sure about the words in red, so please feel fee to make suggestions.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Retaining 'good' Clerks at the Cost of Innovation

I am always interested in why railway management in the late nineteenth century stagnated in terms of ideas. It should be remembered, that in the period the vast majority of companies' influential managers came from the clerical staff and from within the Traffic Department. Indeed, by the turn of the century, most senior managers had joined the companies as junior clerks in the 1870s and 1880s, had very fixed career paths and felt it was their right to advance up the promotional ladder. This meant that there were few new ideas coming into railway management as those below in the hierarchy simply filled the place of those who had left above them.

Yesterday, through the library, I acquired a copy of Michael Heller's new book London Clerical Workers 1880-1914. Heller quoted a memorandum from a Great Western Railway (GWR) manager, A.W. Solten, that explained why the company preferred new clerks and  managers to come from inside the company, rather than from externals sources; something they were considering but eventually dropped as an idea:

"Hitherto the practice has been to draw from the general staff to fill such positions, the men who, by their ability, zeal and assiduity, have singled themselves out for promotion outside the ordinary routine, and to whom the knowledge that the prizes of the service are open to all, has been an incentive to cultivate the good qualities they posses.
         The successful management and administration of a railway depend very largely on the zealous and capable discharge, by a contented staff, of duties, some of mere detail and routine, others involving in a greater or lesser degree the exercise of thought and judgement. To introduce into the service, however delicately, the mere suspicion that the chief positions are likley to be monopolized by a favoured few individuals, thereby arresting the natural flow of promotion through the service, would I feel convinced, causing a feeling of discontent which would operate to the detriment of the Company by reason of the removal to excel, which under existing circumstances tends to their benefit; and would also lead to the better men, who might leave the service for appointments outside such as would not otherwise attract them."

Therefore, Heller argued that the GWR was reluctant hire managers and clerks from outside the company because it would tie the individuals into it, mean low labour turnover and would motivate staff to improve themselves to advance up the hierarchy.[1] Yet, in a managerial sense, these things contributed to managerial innovation drying up within the late Victorian Railway, as the new managerial 'blood' simply replicated the practices of those who had gone before.


[1] The National Archives, RAIL 258/400, Letter of A.W. Solten to G.K. Mills, 11 November 1900, in Heller, Michael, London Clerical Workers, 1880-1914, (London, 2011) p,52

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

"How London Created The Tube" - A Talk with Christian Wolmar and Theresa Villiers

Wednesday 22nd February, 7pm-9pm
Where: London Canal Museum, 12-13 New Wharf Road , London N1 9RT
Tickets: £10 or £5 for concessions.
Speaker: Christian Wolmar (Transport Commentator and Writer)

This talk illustrated with over 50 images will focus on celebrating the fantastic achievement of the Underground’s pioneers who created a transport system that was not only unique in the world but also was vital in creating the London we know today. The development of the Tube was a great engineering achievement, but also responsible for stimulating the development of London as a city. The Tube allowed people to traverse the city in a way which would be impossible by any form of surface transport, and became a global icon of the city, in terms of its roundel ‘logo’, map design, station architecture, and also for its transport model, which in the 1930s became envied and studied around the world. After the war, London Transport changed the demography of the capital by recruiting directly in the Caribbean and Africa for cheap labour to run the Tube and buses at a time of full employment among the native population. Taken together, it is no exaggeration to say that the Underground helped build the London we know today.

Open question & answer session: Will the Tube make or break London?

·         Theresa Villiers MP (Minister of State for Transport) will be present to take questions from the audience.

Londoners seem to have a love-hate relationship with the tube - it is able to infuriate and enchant them in equal measure. To visitors it is both iconic and perplexing. Currently it is undergoing massive change with a hugely ambitious investment and renewal programme. At the same time it faces significant challenges – a burgeoning London population, rising demand and prices, combative industrial relations and the small matter of the 2012 Olympics. Will the renewal succeed and will the challenges be overcome? Is the tube going to get better or worse over the next decade? Will it still be of importance to London’s future, or should we all start getting on our bikes now?

To but tickets please click HERE

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

A Royal Train Flyer - 1898

This timetable was issued at stations along the route of a train carrying Queen Victoria from Windsor to Portsmouth Harbour on 10 March 1898. Indeed, the purpose of these flyers was so that individuals living close to the line knew when the royal train was passing and turn out to see it.

Monday, 13 February 2012

PhD Snippet - Early Railway Directors

Bonavia argued the railway industry's early years that the boards of companies were formed from local individuals who had ‘a financial interest in better transport’. Indeed, he related how the formation of the Great Western Railway (GWR) was through a committee of Bristol-based businessmen representing various local bodies, such as the ‘Bristol Corporation, the Society of Merchant Venturers, the Bristol Dock Company, The Bristol Dock Company and the Bristol and Gloucestershire Railway.’ [1] Casson argued that these committees formed the basis of the early boards of directors, but those chosen for them were more likely to have some ‘practical business experience.’[2] Furthermore, Pollins stated that the directors of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway were ‘all important Liverpool and Manchester merchants, traders and civic figures.’[3]

I wrote a post on this topic in October 2010. - Commerce and Finance in Railway Promotion - To Bristol and Southampton we go!

[1] Bonavia, Michael, R. The Organisation of British Railways, (Shepperton, 1971), p.10-11
[2] Casson, The world’s first railway system, p.284
[3] Pollins, Harold ‘The Finances of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway’, The Economic History Review, New Series D (1952), p.90

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Waiting Room Weekly Round-Up

Whether you believe it or not, and I certainly don't, on Tuesday it will be two years of 'Turnip Rail'. Because this is such a magnificent event I thought I would celebrate it with some interesting guest posts from some interesting guest posters. But today is not the anniversary, so they won't go up until then. This is more like an advance warning, just so you can keep your eye out on Tuesday!

Now on with the Waiting Room Round-Up for this week:

Monday: Suffragette Attack on a Railway Carriage - Teddington, 1913
Tuesday: Meet A Railway Luminary, No. 2: Archibald Scott
Wednesday: The False Memory of a Railway Clerk
Thursday: A [Very] Short History of Shorthand on the Victorian Railway
Friday: Images of the Great Eastern Railway Steam Laundry - 1912
Saturday: ABC Timetable for the Great Central Railway - 1907 

I am also putting out a plea for scanned images of aspects of passenger travel on the nineteenth century railway (stations, carriages etc.), as well as scans of documents and ephemera related to the subject. The reason is that currently I am writing a book on Victorian railway travel for the lovely people at Shire Publishing. While I have enough photos and documents for the book, I was hoping that to find some really original ones. While I cannot pay, I'll give full credit for every photo published. However, there are some stipulations for the scans; you will have to own the copyright and give me (and Shire) permission to use the images; they also have to be 300 dpi  and be 16 cm wide. So if you have anything, please email, they will be very gratefully received.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

ABC Timetable for the Great Central Railway - 1907

The ABC guide was the main competitor for Bradshaw, the more famous publisher of railway Timetables. Started in 1853, ABC guides listed services to and from London and also provided fare information, something that the Bradshaws did not. Indeed, in the 1850s for a short while Bradshaw tried to compete and provided the cost of journeys. Yet, this was abandoned when the increasing number of services nationally reduced the space within the guides. Therefore, ABC guides were successful, even if they were unable to tell travellers how to get from Bath to Glasgow.

This ABC Guide for the Great Central Railway in August 1907 is interesting as it contains 'AN ORIGINAL TALE TOLD IN THE TRAIN', which was presumably something for passengers to read while on their journeys. Yet, the story cannot have taken them long to get through as the 'tale' in this timetable, which was entitled 'The Visiting Card', only ran for four pages.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Images of the Great Eastern Railway Steam Laundry - 1912

These pictures from the Great Eastern Railway Magazine of March 1912 show the Great Eastern Railway's steam laundry at the Colchester. It was built in 1888 to serve the companies' hotels, but by 1912 it was also cleaning the laundry of refreshment rooms, steamships and the guard's and enginemen's dormitories. Since 1893 it had been under the charge of Mr John Bell, and in 1912 was employing fifty-nine girls and twelve men. Over the years the number of items it washed increased as the GER's business expanded; from 949,030 in 1890, to 3,473,121 in 1911.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

A [Very] Short History of Shorthand on the Victorian Railway

Before the 1890s the most extra training railway clerks could undertake, above what was required for their posts, was in shorthand. On the Manchester Sheffield and & Lincolnshire Railway in 1854 the General Manager, Sir Edward Watkin, employed the brother of Isaac Pitman (the inventor of shorthand) to run classes for a small number of clerks.[1] Thereafter, its teaching was gradually adopted by other railways companies and became a standard skill for the vast majority of railways' clerical staff by the turn of the century. Indeed, in 1910 shorthand was mandatory skill for all new junior clerks on the London and North Western Railway.[3]  Yet, even at the end of the century some companies remained behind the times. As late as 1891 the London and South Western Railway's staff magazine, The South Western Gazette, was still imploring juniors to attend classes.[4] Indeed, to my knowledge the company never made it mandatory. 

I wrote a longer history of shorthand on the railway (that may need updating with new information) on my main Turnip Rail Blog in October 2010 here.


[1] Hodgkins, David, The Second Railway King: The Life and Times of Sir Edward Watkin, (Landybie, 2002)
[2]Pitman, Isaac, The Phonographic Railway Phrase Book:  An adaptation of Phonography to the Requirements of Railway Business and Correspondence, (London, 1889), p.1
[3] Pratt, Edwin A., A History of Inland Communication and Transportation in England, (London,1912), p.42
[4] South Western Gazette, Nov 1891, p.3

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

The False Memory of a Railway Clerk

As a historian one of the perils of the profession is that I have too often come across individuals or groups of individuals who consider memories a more useful source of historical information than the material found in archives. Yet, my philosophy is that  recollections from memory should only be used as a guide when starting research, and then only to supplement archival material. This seems quite harsh, but I have come across too many instances where memories have been plain wrong to change my opinion, and personally I would rather not take the risk of being in error when writing.

The stark reality of the inaccuracy of memory was brought home to me today when examining the personal recollections of William Buckmaster, a London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) clerk between 1875 and 1925 (when it was the Southern Railway). Buckmaster recalled that 'I joined the 1875 as a junior clerk at my "home" station when I was 11 years 7 months of age.'[1] Unfortunately, Buckmaster's memory was in error. According to his staff record, which was written at the time, he did indeed join the company in October1875 at Fareham Station as a Junior Goods Clerk. Yet, this was at the the age of fifteen.[2]  But this wasn't the only problem I found in his writings. Later, in the book he said that after seven years he 'applied for and obtained a transfer to a busy goods depot.'[3] Yet, his staff record again proves him wrong and it was after six years, in November 1881, that he moved to be goods clerk to Reading.[4]

Thus, while I would accept that many of the stories Buckmaster recalled have some truth in them, either in part or in their entirety, the actual dates he recalls and the finer details of his book are open to questioning. Therefore, while I do believe that recollections are the historian's friend, they're just not the best man at the wedding.


[1] Buckmaster, William, Railway Reminiscences, (Unknown, 1937), p.1
[2] The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/497, Clerical staff character book Weekly Paid Clerks, p.54
[3] Buckmaster, Railway Reminiscences, p.3
[4]  TNA, RAIL 411/497, Clerical staff character book Weekly Paid Clerks, p.54

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

Monday, 6 February 2012

Suffragette Attack on a Railway Carriage - Teddington, 1913

This image from the London and South Western Railway's staff magazine, The South Western Gazette, is of a carriage that was attacked by Suffragettes on 26 April 1913. The train, the 9.15 pm from London Waterloo to Teddington, had been shunted into a siding between Hampton Wick and Teddington Stations when, at around 3 am, it was set on fire. A local policeman, Fairfax, saw the flames and raised the alarm. While the local fire brigade was able to to put out the fire without considerable damage being done, three second class compartments were completely burnt out which others being affected. Indeed, the Gazette commented that 'no doubt the total destruction of the entire train was the ambition of the ghouls who perpetrate these senseless crimes.'

Clearly, the attack had been prepared. On board the train was found a large number of partially burnt candles, four cans of petroleum, three of which had been emptied, a basket containing cotton wool and 'packages of literature dealing with the women's suffrage movement.' Furthermore, clippings of recent 'suffrage outrages' were found, as well as postcards addressed to the Rt. Dis-Hon. McDinna Kenna and Rt Dis-Hon H.H. Asquith, both of which had 'various phrases that were far from complimentary.' Lastly, 'women's footprints' were found in Fairfax Road, from where the Suffragettes had entered the siding by 'removing a paling from a fence nearly six foot high.'

While some railway workers were on duty in the area, and hopes of catching the perpetrators was initially high, at the time of the article being published on the 1 June no one had been caught or charged.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

This Week in Turnip Rail's Waiting Room - Weekly Round-up

Hello! This is the weekly round-up of everything that has been in 'Turnip Rail's Waiting Room' over the last seven days.

Monday - Desperate Encounter In A Railway Train
Tuesday - An Accident on the Tay Bridge - 1850 - Thanks for sharing Eleanor Harris! (@eleanormharris)
Wednesday - A Very Bad Railway Clerk, Mr Agnew
Thursday - 'Supremely Ignorant' - LSE Management Courses and Clerical Experience
Friday - The First Pages of Railway Company Staff Magazines
Saturday - The York Station Tea Room in 1907 (Now the York Tap)

Also, don't forget about this week's main 'Turnip Rail' Blog Post - "In No Way Were the Children Stinted" - The London and South Western Railway Orphanage - Part 2 

Also, I'd really recommend my friend Keith Harcourt's (@keithharcourt) new railway history blog 'The Railway Servant'. His latest post is on the history of freight on Britain's railways.

Lastly, I just want to say that if anyone has anything they want to share, please do. I always welcome interesting submissions for the Waiting Room.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The York Station Tea Room in 1907 (Now the York Tap)

The York Tap is probably one of my favourite pubs in the world. Situated on the platform at York Station, the building originally the opened as the station's tea rooms in November 1907. I wrote a  piece about the 'Tap' on the main Turnip Rail Blog late last year after my first visit, but I thought I would just share again the photos that I found of the building on opening.

Friday, 3 February 2012

The First Pages of Railway Company Staff Magazines

I thought I'd just share some of the first pages of railway company staff magazines before World War One. The first shown is the original railway company staff magazine, the London and South Western Railway's South Western Gazette from June 1881. This is followed by The Great Western Railway Magazine and Temperance Union Recorder from November 1888. After this is The Great Central Railway Journal, from July 1905, and lastly is The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, published in January 1911. Unfortunately, I don't have an image of the final railway company staff magazine established before 1914, The London and North Western Railway Gazette, which began in 1912 (I think)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

'Supremely Ignorant' - LSE Management Courses and Clerical Experience

I am interested in all areas of railway history from the pre-World War One period. Indeed, as my PhD covers so many of them, I have research questions consistently popping out of my head. One of my areas of interest is management training from the 1890s onwards. Indeed, from 1904 the London School of Economics operated a Railway Department to train future traffic managers, predominantly clerks, as the employment structure of companies meant that the vast majority of senior executives had only had working experiences on one promotional tree, and within one department. This was explained in 1911 by one of the LSE's lecturers, Mr W. Stephenson:-

'Students come from a variety of departments and offices. In many cases their knowledge of railway work is confined strictly to the limits of work done in their own departments, and often to only a small section of such work. Of the rest of the work of the railway they are supremely ignorant.'[1]

A small section of my PhD is about whether these courses actually improved management quality for the London and South Western Railway before 1914.


[1] London School of Economics Archive [LSE], Minutes, 14/2/1, 1904-1911, Memorandum by Mr Stephenson to the Advisory Committee on Railway Subjects, 13th February 1911

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

A Very Bad Railway Clerk, Mr Agnew

I always find looking at railway staff records weirdly interesting. Not because of the career paths individuals took, but because of the things that railway workers did wrong. I suppose I just like a bit of deviance in my life. I was having a look at some London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) clerical staff records and I found the interesting case of Mr Agnew. Agnew joined the L&SWR in October 1874 at the age of  sixteen as a Junior Clerk at Bournemouth. Yet, after eleven and a half years of employment, at the age of twenty-seven, he was dismissed. Throughout his short career with the company he committed a number of minor offences, such as delaying telegrams and re-issuing tickets improperly. Thus, for each occasion of rule-breaking he was fined a small amount. However, in his later years his offences got worse, and in January 1884 he was fined £1 by the company for picking up and attempting to keep a sovereign which had fallen from another clerk's cash. Then, in April 1886, he was finally dismissed for attempting to embezzle the company out of £28 15/-.

Clearly, not all railway workers had a 'job for life' if they got up to such antics.