London Labour and the London Poor, volume 3

Mayhew, Henry


The Railways.

THE next branch of the transit by land appertains to the conveyance of persons and goods per rail. The railways of the United Kingdom open, in course of construction, or authorised to be constructed, extend over upwards of miles, or times the distance across the Atlantic. The following is the latest return on the subject, in a Report printed by order of the , the last:—

   Miles. Chains. Persons employed. 
 Total length of railway open on June 30, 1849, and persons employed thereon . . . . . . . . . . . 5447 10 3/4 55,968 
 Total length of railway in course of construction on June 30, 1849, and persons employed thereon . . . . . . 1504 20 1/2 103,846 
 Total length of railway neither open nor in course of construction on June 30, 1849 . . . . . . . . . 5132 38 3/4 
 Total length of railway authorised to be used for the conveyance of passengers on June 30, 1849, and the total number of persons employed thereon . . . . . . . . . 12,083 70 159,784 



There are now upwards of miles of railroad open for traffic in the kingdoms, miles having been opened in the course of the half-year following the date of the above return. At that date miles of railroad were open for traffic, irrespective of their several branches. railways, including branches, were authorised to be constructed, but had not been commenced.

The growth of railways was slow, and not gradual. They were unknown as modes of public conveyance before the present century, but roads on a similar principle, irrespective of steam, were in use in the Northumberland and Durham collieries, somewhere about the year . The rails were not made of iron but of wood, and, with a facility previously unknown, a small cart, or a series of small carts, was dragged along them by a pony or a horse, to any given point where the coal had to be deposited. In the lead mines of the North Riding of Yorkshire the same system was adopted, the more rapidly and with the less fatigue, to convey the ore to the mouth of the mine. Some of these "tramways," as they are called, were and are a mile and more in length; and visitors who penetrate into the very bowels of the mine are conveyed along those tramways in carts, drawn generally by a pony, and driven by a boy (who has to duck his head every here and there to avoid collision) into the galleries and open spaces where the miners are at work.

In the year , the Act of Parliament authorising the construction of a railway was passed. This was the Surrey, between Wandsworth and Croydon, miles in length, and constructed at a cost, in round numbers, of In the following years, such Acts were passed, authorising the construction of miles of railway, the cost of which was , or upwards of a-mile. In no such Act was passed. In , Parliament authorised the construction of the Stockton and Darlington; and on that short railway, originated and completed in a great measure through the exertions of the wealthy Quakers of the neighbourhood, and opened on the , steam-power was used as a means of propulsion and locomotion on a railway. It was some little time before this that grave senators and learned journalists laughed to scorn Mr. Stephenson"s assertion, that steam "could be made to do miles an hour on a railway." In the following years, railway bills were passed by the legislature; and among these, in , was the Liverpool and Manchester, which was opened on the —an opening rendered as lamentable as it is memorable by the death of Mr. Huskisson. In , railway bills were passed; in ; twentysix in ; in ; in ; in ; none again till , and then only —the Northampton and Peterborough, which extends along miles, and which cost The mass of the other railways have been constructed, or authorised, and the Acts of Parliament authorising their construction shelved, since the close of . I find no official returns of the dates of the several enactments.

The following statement, in averages of years, shows the amount of the sums which Parliament authorised the various companies to raise from to . Upwards of onehalf of the amount of the aggregate sum expended in - was spent on the Manchester and Liverpool Railway, The cost of the Stockton and Darlington, (), is also included:

 From 1822 to 1825 inclusive £ 451,465 
 " 1826 " 1829 " 816,846 
 " 1830 " 1833 " 2,157,136 
 " 1834 " 1837 " 10,880,431 
 " 1838 " 1841 " 3,614,428 
 " 1842 " 1845 " 20,895,128 

Of these years, presents the era when the rage for railway speculation was most strongly manifested, as in that year the legislature sanctioned the raising, by new railway companies, of no less than more than the imperial taxes levied in the United Kingdom, while in the amount so sanctioned was The total sum to be raised for railway purposes for the last years of the above dates was , with a yearly average of For the years preceding the yearly average was but

The parliamentary expenses attending the incorporation of of the principal railway companies were , or an average per railway of It will be seen from the following table, that the greatest amount thus expended was on the incorporation of the Great Western. On that undertaking an outlay not much short of was incurred, before a foot of sod could be raised by the spade of the "navvy."

 Birmingham and Gloucester . . £ 22,618 
 Bristol and Gloucester . . . 25,589 
 Bristol and Exeter . . . . 18,592 
 Eastern Counties . . . . 39,171 
 Great Western . . . . . 89,197 
 Great North of England . . . 20,526 
 Grand Junction . . . . 22,757 
 Glasgow, Paisley, and Greenock . 23,481 
 London and Birmingham . . . 72,868 
 London and South-Western . . 41,467 
 Manchester and Leeds . . . 49,166 
 Midland Counties . . . . 28,776 
 North Midland . . . . . 41,349 
 Northern and Eastern . . . 74,166 
 Sheffield, Ashton, and Manchester . 31,473 
 South-Eastern . . . . . 82,292 

It must be borne in mind that these large sums were all for parliamentary expenses alone, and were merely the disbursements of


the railway proprietors, whose applications to Parliament were successful. Probably as large an amount was expended in opposition to the several bills, and in the fruitless advocacy of rival companies. Thus above a million and a-quarter of pounds sterling was spent as a preliminary outlay.

Of the railway lines, the construction of the Great Western, miles in length, was the most costly, entailing an expenditure of nearly millions; the London and Birmingham, miles, cost ; the South- Eastern, miles, ; the Manchester and Leeds, miles, ; the Eastern Counties, miles, ; the Glasgow, Paisley, Kilmarnock, and Ayr, miles, ; an amount which was exceeded by the outlay on only the miles of the London and , opened, which cost I ought to mention, that the lengths in miles are those of the portions opened to the public in the respective lines, and authorised by parliamentary enactments. "Junctions," "continuations," and the blending of companies, have been subsequent measures, entailing, of course, proportionate outlay. The length of line of the Great Western, for instance, with its immediate branches, opened on the , was miles; that of the South--Eastern, miles; and that of the Eastern Counties, miles. It is stated in Mr. Knight"s "British Almanac" for the current year, that the "London and North-Western is almost the only company which has maintained in the same dividend even as in the preceding year, viz. per cent. The Great Western, the Midland, the Lancashire and Yorkshire, the York and Newcastle, the York and North Midland, the Eastern Counties, the South--Eastern, the South-Western, Brighton, the Manchester and Lincolnshire, all have suffered a decided diminution of dividend. These great companies, whose works up to the present time have cost over millions sterling, have on an average declared for the half year ending in the summer of , a dividend on the regular non-guaranteed shares of between and per cent per annum. The remaining companies, about in number, can hardly have reached an average of per cent per annum in the same half year."

The following Table gives the latest returns of railway traffic from . Previous to that date no such returns were published in parliamentary papers:—

     Length open on June 30 in each year. Total Number of Passengers. Total Receipts from Passengers. Receipts from Goods, Cattle, Parcels, Mails, &c. TOTAL RECEIPTS. 
 Year ending Miles.   £ s. d. £ s. d. £ s. d. 
 June 30, 1845 2343 33,791,253 3,976,341 0 0 2,233,373 0 0 6,209,714 0 0 
 " 1846 2765 43,790,983 4,725,215 11 8 1/2 2,840,353 16 6 1/4 7,565,569 8 2 3/4 
 " 1847 3603 51,352,163 5,148,002 5 0 1/2 3,362,883 19 6 3/4 1,510,886 4 7 1/4 
 " 1848 4478 57,965,070 5,720,382 9 1 3/4 4,213,169 14 5 1/2 9,933,552 3 7 1/4 
 " 1849 5447 60,398,159 6,105,975 7 7 3/4 5,094,025 18 11 11,200,901 6 6 3/4 

This official table shows a conveyance for the year ending , of passengers. It may be as well to mention that every distinct trip is reckoned. Thus a gentleman travelling from and returning to Greenwich daily, figures in the return as passengers. Of the number of individuals who travel in the United Kingdom I have no information. Thousands of the labouring classes travel very rarely, perhaps not more than once on some holiday trip in the course of a twelvemonth. But assuming every to travel, and the population to be millions, then we have railway trips made by every man, woman, and child in the kingdom every year.

There are no data from which to deduce a precisely accurate calculation of the number of miles travelled by the passengers who availed themselves of railway facilities in the year cited. Official lists show that seventyeight railways comprise the extent of mileage given, but these railways vary in extent. The shortest of them open for the conveyance of passengers is the Belfast and County Down, which is only miles chains in length, and the number of passengers travelling on it . The Midland and the London and North-Western, on the other hand, are respectively and miles in length, and their complement of passengers is respectively and . The average length of the railways is miles, but as the stream of travel flows more from intermediate station to station along the course of the line, than from extremity to the other, it may be


reasonable to compute that each individual passenger has travelled - of the entire distance, or miles—a calculation confirmed by the amount paid by each individual, which is something short of , or rather more than per mile.

Thus we may conclude that each passenger has journeyed miles, and that the grand aggregate of travel by all the railway passengers of the kingdom will be miles, or nearly times the distance between the earth and the sun every year.

The Government returns present some curious results. The passengers by the secondclass carriages have been more numerous every year than those by any other class, and for the year last returned were more than times the number of those who indulged in the comforts of -class vehicles. Notwithstanding nearly new miles of railway were opened for the public transit and traffic between -, still the number of firstclass passengers decreased no fewer than and odd, while those who resorted to the humbler accommodation of the class increased upwards of . The numerical majority of the -class passengers over the was:—

 Year ending June, 1845 .. 8,851,662 
 " " 1846 .. 10,770,712 
 " " 1847 .. 12,126,574 
 " " 1848 .. 14,499,730 
 " " 1849 .. 16,313,760 

These figures afford some criterion as to the class or character of the travelling millions who are the supporters of the railways.

The official table presents another curious characteristic. The originators of railways, prior to the era of the opening of the Manchester and Liverpool, depended for their dividends far more upon the profits they might receive in the capacity of common carriers, upon the conveyance of manufactured goods, minerals, or merchandise, than upon the transit of passengers. It was the property in canals and in heavy carriage that would be depreciated, it was believed, rather than that in the stage-coaches. Even on the Manchester and Liverpool, the projectors did not expect to realise more than a-year by the conveyance of passengers. The result shows the fallacy of these computations, as the receipts for passengers for the year ending , exceeded the receipts from "cattle, goods, parcels, and mails," by In districts, however, which are at once agricultural and mineral, the amount realised from passengers falls short of that derived from other sources. instances will suffice to show this: The Stockton and Darlington is in immediate connexion with the district where the famous short-horn cattle were bred by Mr. Collins, and where they are still bred in high perfection by eminent agriculturists. It is in connexion, moreover, with the coal and leadmining districts of South Durham and North Yorkshire, the produce being conveyed to Stockton to be shipped. For the last year, the receipts from passengers were and odd, while for the conveyance of cattle, coal, &c., no less than was paid. From their passengers the Taff Vale, including the Aberdale Railway Company, derived, for the same period, in round numbers, an increase of , and from their "goods" conveyance, In neither instance did the passengers pay - as much as the "goods."

I now present the reader with "summaries" from returns made to Parliament. The relates to the number and description of persons employed on railways in the United Kingdom, and the to the number and character of railway accidents.

Concerning the individuals employed upon the railways, the Table on the opposite page contains the latest official information.

Of the railways in full operation, the London and North-Western employs the greatest number of persons, in its long and branching extent of miles, chains, with stations. The total number employed is , and they are thus classified:—

 Secretaries or managers . . . 8 
 Engineers . . . . . . 5 
 Superintendents . . . . . 40 
 Storekeepers . . . . . . 8 
 Accountants or cashiers . . . 4 
 Inspectors or timekeepers . . . 83 
 Draughtsmen . . . . . 11 
 Clerks . . . . . . . 775 
 Foremen . . . . . . 130 
 Engine-drivers . . . . . 334 
 Assistant-drivers or firemen . . . 318 
 Guards or breaksmen . . . . 207 
 Artificers . . . . . . 1891 
 Switchmen . . . . . . 363 
 Gatekeepers . . . . . . 76 
 Policemen or watchmen . . . 241 
 Porters or messengers . . . . 1456 
 Platelayers . . . . . . 14 
 Labourers . . . . . . 30 

On the Midland there were employed persons; on the Lancashire and Yorkshire, ; Great Western, ; Eastern Counties, ; Caledonian, ; York, Newcastle, and Berwick, ; London and South-Western, ; London, Brighton, and South-Coast, ; York and North Midland, ; North British, ; and South--Eastern, . Thus the leading companies retain permanently in their service men, supplying the means of maintenance, (reckoning that a family of is supported by each man employed) to individuals. Pursuing the same calculation, as men were employed on all the railways "open and unopen," we may conclude that indi-


   Secretaries and Managers. Treasurers. Engineers. Superintendents. Storekeepers. Accountants and Cashiers. Inspectors and Timekeepers. Station Masters. Draughtsmen. Clerks. Foremen. Engine Drivers. Assistant Engine Drivers and Firemen. Guardsmen and Breaksmen. Switchmen. Gatekeepers. Policemen or Watchmen. Porters and Messengers. Platelayers. Artificers. Labourers. Miscellaneous employment. TOTAL. 
 Total number of persons employed upon railways open for traffic on the 30th June, 1849 ........ 156 32 107 314 120 138 490 1300 103 4021 709 1839 1871 1631 1540 1361 1508 8238 5508 10,809 14,829 144 55,968 
 Total number of persons employed upon railways not open for traffic on the 30th June, 1849 ........ 142 7 269 419 182 144 821 -- 153 421 1421 -- -- -- -- -- 481 118 -- 16,144 83,052 42 103,816 
 Total number and description of persons employed on all railways (open and unopen) authorised to be used for the conveyance of passengers .......... 298 39 376 733 302 282 1311 1300 256 4442 2130 1839 1871 1631 1540 1361 1989 8356 5508 26,953 97,081 186 159,784 


viduals were dependent, more or less, upon railway traffic for their subsistence.

The other summary to which I have alluded is derived from a return which the ordered to be printed on the last. It is relative to the railway accidents that occurred in the United Kingdom during the half-year ending the , and supplies the following analysis:—

 "54 passengers injured from causes beyond their own control. 
 11 passengers killed and 10 injured, owing to their own misconduct or want of caution. 
 2 servants of companies or of contractors killed, and 3 injured, from causes beyond their own control. 
 62 servants of companies or of contractors killed, and 37 injured, owing to their own misconduct or want of caution. 
 28 trespassers and other persons, neither passengers nor servants of the company, killed, and 7 injured, by improperly crossing or standing on the railway. 
 1 child killed and 1 injured, by an engine running off the rails and entering a house. 
 2 suicide. 

Total, killed and injured.

The total number of passengers conveyed during the half-year amounted to ."

The greatest number of accidents was on the Lancashire and Yorkshire: passengers were conveyed in the term specified, and individuals were killed and injured. On the York, Newcastle, and Berwick, were killed and injured, passengers having been conveyed. On the Midland, having been the number of passengers, persons were killed and injured. On the Great Western, conveying passengers, individuals were killed and injured. On the London and , with passengers, there was man killed and injured. The London and Greenwich supplied the means of locomotion to persons, and none were killed and none were injured. These deaths on the railway, for the half-year cited above, are in the proportion of to to , or person killed to every ; and the killed include suicides and the deaths of trespassers and others. The total number of persons who suffered from accidents was , which is in the proportion of accident to every persons travelling; and when the injuries arising from this mode of conveyance are contrasted with the loss of life by shipwreck, which, as before stated, amounts to in every individuals, the comparative safety of railway over marine travelling must appear most extraordinary. Mr. Porter"s calculation as to the number of stage-coach travellers (which I cite under that head) shows that my estimates are far from extravagant.

This object is in collection Temporal Permanent URL
Component ID:
To Cite:
DCA Citation Guide    EndNote
Detailed Rights
View all images in this book
 Title Page
Chapter I: The Destroyers of Vermin
Our Street Folk - Street Exhibitors
Chapter III: - Street Musicians
Chapter IV: - Street Vocalists
Chapter V: - Street Artists
Chapter VI: - Exhibitors of Trained Animals
Chapter VII: Skilled and Unskilled Labour - Garret-Masters
Chapter VIII: - The Coal-Heavers
Chapter IX: - Ballast-Men
Chapter X: - Lumpers
Chapter XI: Account of the Casual Labourers
 Chapter XII: Cheap Lodging-Houses
Chapter XIII: On the Transit of Great Britain and the Metropolis
Chapter XIV: London Watermen, Lightermen, and Steamboat-Men
Chapter XV: London Omnibus Drivers and Conductors
Chapter XVI: Character of Cabdrivers
Chapter XVII: Carmen and Porters
Chapter XVIII: London Vagrants
 Chapter XIX: Meeting of Ticket-of-Leave Men