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Railway Ancestors

Sue Johnston - talk about the show

Railway Ancestors

Postby Melvyn Harrison » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:56 am

Would I be correct in thinking that in the 19th century railway employees started from a basic boy cleaner and went up the ranks from there.

My great grandfather seems to have started out in 1895 as a Goods Guard and progressed in 1901 to a Railway Guard, 1903 - 1904 as a Ticket Collector all for the South east & Chatham Railway Co. In 1907 he has suddenly become a Master Builder, in 1911 a Laundry Worker, and from 1913 - 1932 a lorry driver. I can find no evidence of him working for that railway company (or any other) at the National Archives.

I have two photographs of him in what I think purports to be a fake railway uniform (there are no logo engravings on the buttons) and in fact no evidence in the photographs at all of railway employment. They do both however very clearly and prominently show a Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants fob. I am really wondering if the railway 'employment is fake. If all this is not strange enough - it actually gets worse. I have a bank book of his that shows that he gave to his brother-in-law (or one of his family) over £236,000 (in modern day value). There is no way that he could ever have come into that sort of money coming as he did from a rural farming background in Kent and his wife's family from builders in Streatham, London. He lived in twelve different farms / cottages / houses between 1872 - 1932.

Any ideas about any of this mans strange past would be very welcolme indeed.
Melvyn Harrison
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RE: Railway Ancestors

Postby RichardCrane » Tue Mar 03, 2009 8:36 pm

Melvyn Harrison,
When the individual railway companies were formed, they built and operated their own locomotives, rolling stock and staff. The South East and Chatham Railway was in charge of the south-eastern end of England with the docks at Dover and Folkstone. Your great grandfather was probably one of the earliest guards working on the railways as the directors of the earlier railways were only interested in making money, rather than safety. Your great grandfather would be responsible for all the passengers on the train when working with the commuter trains, and for all the cargo and goods wagons on the freight trains.
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Railway Ancestors

Postby Melvyn Harrison » Wed Mar 04, 2009 6:00 pm

Thanks for that Richard.

I have now had it confirmed by a railway historian at the Society of Genealogists that the 'uniform' that my great-grandfather is seen wearing in the two photographs is fake. I must admit that I half expected that response - how often do you seen railway employees with unengraved brushed chrome buttons and no identifiable marks or badges on the 'uniform' or 'cap'. I am am no railway historian and even I know that victorian / Edwardian railway companies badged everything. The only badge that he is wearing and [u]very[/u] obviously so is a fob of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.

I really cannot imagine that an ex farmers boy and coalman between birth (1872) and 1891 can suddenly become a train guard in 1895 without any obvious prior employment as a railway station cleaner or baggage handler. Surely in those days being a guard was a privileged position to be attained through hard work and promotion rather than going to the Job Centre and applying for the position as I am sure happens these days.

While living at Dover he joined up as a Freemason and seconded two other men also supposedly railway ticket collectors / clerks as Freemasons (and unusually very quickly after joining). I find it rather strange that these two men are ticket collectors / clerks and at one time my great-grandfather has two photographs taken of him and his wife in which he is obviously purporting to be a railway employee, and 1903-1904 was also purporting to be a railway ticket collector and seems to have acquired over £4,000 (£236,000+ in 2009 value) to give away to his brother-in-law between 1905 and 1907. A ticketing fraud on the railway? If it was a fraud how would it have been carried out so successfully and why have I found no obvious record of it. A family mystery indeed. Any ideas very welcome.
Melvyn Harrison
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Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby jeva » Tue Sep 15, 2009 7:00 pm

My ggg.grandfather was also a steam engine driver. This magazine article started my search
'A.J. Dawson came from an old engineering family, with a grandfather who was a
co-worker with George Stephenson on his 'Rocket' steam engine, A.J. Dawson
spent some years with the Hillman Motor Company rising to works manager and
where he designed the 1913 Hillman Nine. In June 1918 he left to set up the
Dawson Company to produce his own car the 11-12 hp Dawson, a well-designed and
high quality car launched in 1919.'
I have not found evidence of the Stevenson connection but have discovered Abraham worked on the first Paris Lyon line c1840, and was back in London by the 1851 census as a Mechanic.
1860 Their at the start of the Templecombe railway .
1861 he was in Shrewsbury - Railway engine driver
1871 in Wolverhampton - engine driver.
I have more facts but would love to know more about his work in France.
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Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby sarahcook212 » Wed Dec 30, 2009 9:34 pm


I've just attempted my first visit to the National Archives in Kew and found the experience frustrating and unfruitful. I suppose it could be expected given the amount of records they hold and being a novice. Unfortunately it's disapointing when it involves a 4 hr journey. Feeling a little deflated, I found this discussion board and wondered (or maybe more hoped) if you might be able to help.

I was wondering if you might be able to help me be a little more successful or give me a more focused direction for research. We had an idea of dates, events and railway companies but found the ordering process cumbersome and utterly random as the contents of records and the dates they covered were not clear from titles or descriptions and also collections could not be complete and full. With limited time it's not really surprising that we didn't find anything. As not all records are there I was wondering if you know of any archives, publications or experts or societies who might be able to help.

I am trying to trace records for my great grandfather who worked on the railways for his whole life. We are still trying to confirm if we have researched the correct person pre-1911 as he moved up to Sheffiled and Chesterfield as a young man and little is know of his life before this.

Post 1911...
(Just before 1911 he could have been working at a railway station in Hasland near Chesterfield).

We know that in 1911 he was living in Attercliffe (Sheffield) and working as a Railway Porter. We can't be sure which company he worked for at this point

1914 ... he married and was working on the railways as a foreman shunter still based in Attercliffe.

June 16th 1915 he 'rendered first aid' at Attercliffe for a boy who fell into a river near the station and we have an official letter awarding him 3 guineas for the service. A newspaper report described him as a foreman shunter. His employers are the Great Central Railway.

October 1929 he died from injuries in an accident at the yard with coal waggons. He is still described as a foreman with so many family stories there is a rumour that he had just been offered a promotion. His death certificate lists the London and North Eastern Railway as his employers.

Pre 1911....
We have found a possible person who could have been my great grandfather as a young boy/man. He lived in Wootton St Lawrence, Hampshire in 1901 the census seems to show him as somthing like a railway lorries lad. According to a couple of websites I have found the line through this town was the London and South Western Railway. Another nearby line he could have worked at seems to be part of the Great Western Railway.

We would like to find out:
If/where/how to access his staff records for his employment on the railways.
What potential records there could be of the accidents as there was nothing at Kew.
We are also interested to know why he might not have gone to war. We saw from the records we looked at today that the railway companies did seems to keep records of what happened to their employees at war or in the least if they left to go to war.

If you could offer some help to a complete novice I would be very grateful. We do have quite a lot of information its just a question of trying to find historical records and sources.

My grandmother never knew her father as she was born 2 yrs before his fatel accident. It would be nice to find some real information about him.

Many thanks and apologies this is an extremely long post,

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Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby daisynook » Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:33 pm

My grandfather was a Wheeltapper and Fogger in Manchester after the FWWar 1920s when my mother was growing up. Where can I look for information on him?
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Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby Jeff Adams » Tue Jan 19, 2010 10:21 pm

As a newcomer to WDYTYA, I have been browsing through the forum pages (fascinating stuff!) and have come across your 2008 posts regarding Sue Johnston's ancestors' railway connections. I remember the programme and, being a bit of a railway nut (steam age!) myself, was intrigued by the family stories regarding the involvement of 'Flying Scotsman'.
Since it became apparent that Sue johnston's grand parents worked on the Midland Railway and LMSR at Carlisle I have often wondered if her family had confused Scotsman with LMS no.6100 'Royal Scot' which would have been thrashing up and down the west coast line through Carlisle at about that time.
What do you think?
On another matter, I too have a railway ancestor and there is a bit of a mystery about him as well upon which I would appreciate some opinion.
My great grandfather, James Adams, was born into a family of brick and tile makers in the Potteries in 1854. According to the 1871 census, he was working in Stoke as a railway clerk. Some time soon after, he must have moved to Derby as, in June, 1873 he married my great grandmother at St Werbergh's church there. On December 31st, 1873 (!) she gave birth to my grandfather, also called James.
Now here comes my query - according to grandfather's birth certificate, he was born in the village of Snarestone in Leicester. At the time, a new station had been opened to serve the village (Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway worked jointly by the LNWR and MR, later LMS) so I assume that great grandfather James worked there. But what intrigues me is that grandfather James's birth certificate gives 'Occupation of father - stationmaster' !
Great grandfather James was 19 years old at the time and this seems a very young age to have achieved the auspicious heights of stationmaster even at a pretty quiet wayside station. Would this have been possible or had James senior got ideas above his station? (Sorry!)
Jeff Adams
Jeff Adams
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Location: Warwickshire

Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby clare_bear » Thu Jan 28, 2010 2:07 pm

My great, great grandfather, JOSEPH PAYNE (born 1855, Dorset) worked on the railways. Family legend suggests he worked his way up from a porter to station master, but I've found no evidence of these lofty heights yet!

Here's what I know:
1881 census - Railway Porter, Newton, Basingstoke
1891 census - Railway Porter, living in the porter's house at Daggen's Road Station, Alderholt, Cranborne. He now has 3 sons and a daughter (my great gran).
1901 census - signalman at Beaulieu Road Station
1911 census - signalman at Beaulieu Road Station

When his youngest son Bert died on the 1st day of the battle of the Somme in 1916, Joseph was listed as being 'of Hurn Station'. The family legend suggests he was maybe Station Master here.....but I'm not convinced!

I'm not sure where to go from here, but I'm fascinated with this family at the moment! Any ideas...?

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Location: Oxfordshire

Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby Burgjoh » Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:53 am

My Dad is adamant that his great uncle George Allen drove the Flying Scotman. All I know about George is from the censuses. 1851 age 1 Brixton, Lambert, Surry. In 1881 he lived at 28 Carrol Rd St Pancras and is a Railway Engine Driver. And in 1891 he lives at 98 Mansfield Rd St Pancras still a RED.
I record most of this information on WeRelate. As I can only use the internet from Australia any help would be appreciated.
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Re: Railway Ancestors

Postby ksouthall » Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:23 am

Yesterday I was able to find several railway service records relating to my great-great-grandfather on Ancestry. There were Staff Registers produced at the end of 1871, 1881 and 1891, plus details of he pay rises he received throughout most of his career as an engine driver. He retired in 1900 so did not appear in the 1901 Staff Register.
I don't know if the whole railway network is online yet or not but it may be worth a look if you have railway ancestors.
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