IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

 

 

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  What I mean by socialism is a condition of society in which there should be neither rich nor poor, neither master nor master’s man, neither idle nor overworked….....

 ........in which all men would be living in equal condition, and would manage their affairs unwastefully

William Morris (1834-1896)

 


 "LONG LIVE THE SPIRIT

OF THE REBEL RAILWAY WORKERS"

 

(This was a slogan that was graffitied on the wall of the Hollingbury abbtoir in the 1970s,

 does anybody of this piece of graffiti?) 

For its time, the LB&SCR was regarded as a good employer. In 1851 it created a benevolent fund for members of its staff who had become incapacitated, and from 1854 operated a savings bank for employees. 

The Daily Telegraph said in 1860 that : “The reason why there are not 10 accidents where we have 1 is the praiseworthy pluck and perseverance of thousands of poor fellows, who, with noble sense of the enormous trust imposed upon them, have not permitted either abuse, tyranny or oppression to impoverish their integrity or honesty.”

 

 BEFORE THE DAYS OF THE RAILWAY TRADE UNIONS


Twelve railway strikes are recorded between 1831 - 1871, most were of fairly short duration and of which seven involved enginemen, and four by porters. The strike of enginemen on the North Eastern Railway in April, 1867 lasted two weeks and was broken by the N.E.R. employing blacklegs recruiting from other railway companies and giving special payments to those grades not joining the strike. 

During the early days of unions sectional unions which were formed were short lived because of the lack of power to combat the methods of the railway company directors.

IN STILL SPIRIT OF OBEDIENCE

Most companies thought it desirable to employ only literate men. Even in the literacy test applicants for employment were required to pass, the attempt was made to install a spirit of obedience. Those seeking employment on the Great Western Railway in 1837 were required to write these words:

‘Zealous strive to excel. Industry is commendable. Perseverance deserves success. Quietude of mind is a treasure.

FINES AND SUSPENSIONS

An elaborate system of fines and suspensions kept the discipline of the railways service as severe as it was in the Army. On the Eastern Counties Railwa, in August 1850, two drivers were fine 2s.6d. each because a cotter pin broke in a drawbar on their train of 56 wagons. The cost of a new counter pin was 3d.

BLACKLISTING AND EVICTIONS

Thousands of railwaymen lived in cottages owned by the companied that employed them. For these, joining a trade union might mean not only the sack and “black-listing” - which precluded similar employment with other companies - but also eviction and ultimate resort to the workhouse, In May 1871, some of the engine drivers who struck work on the London North Western Railway were evicted from their company owned homes in Camden Town.

DISCIPLINE

Discipline was severe and there was an elaborate system of fines for every sort of alleged misdemeanour.

Discipline on the Taff Vale Railway was perhaps the strictest to all. The rules of that company included the warning that

‘not an instance of intoxication, singing, whistling or levity while on duty will be overlooked, and besides being dismissed the the offender will be liable for punishment.'

LONDON BRIGHTON AND SOUTH COAST RAILWAY CIRCULAR 1857

The directors are in principle opposed to combination of any description for the purpose of interfering with the natural course of trade. They think that masters and men should be left in every establishment to settle their differences without foreign interference or dictation. 

 

During the 1860s, Enginemen and Firemen around the country started to realise that they had industrial muscle and by standing together they might be able to resolve various grievances within the many railway companies that made up the increasing size of Britain’s Railways at the time. 

Many of these companies during this period faced industrial unrest with Enginemen and Firemen in their employment who where trying to improve their often appalling working conditions. With Enginemen striking for better working conditions they run the risk of  being sacked and in some cases the Railway Companies when bankrupt as a result of their action. It was not uncommon for Enginemen and Firemen at this time to be expected to work for up to 16 hours a day often for 7 days a week.   

The History of the Brighton Branch of A.S.L.E.F. can be traced back to the formation of The Engine Drivers and Firemen’s United Society established in 1865, and one of the earliest branch’s being located at Brighton.  Its object was to assure friendly society benefits for its member’s. By 1866, the Engine Drivers and Firemen’s United Society  claimed to have a membership of over 10,000 nation wide.

The Engine Drivers and Firemen’s United Society held it first conference in November 1866 and the Brighton delegate was Engineman J. Slater. Engineman J. Slater is pictured No. 58 which is the last man seated on the right hand side.

At this conference a motion was passed to petition each of the Railway companies for a number of improvements to Drivers and Firemen’s working conditions.

The Engine Drivers' and Firemen's United Society was founded in 1865 and claimed a membership of over 10,000 by 1866 when they made initial demands for a 10 hour day and payment of overtime as well as an increase in pay. With the esatblishment of the ASRS in 1872, there was some dilution of membership but the ASRS was regarded as too conciliatory and eventually the demand for a more militant and focused union led to the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen which was formed in Leeds in February 1880. 

A maximum of a 10 hour day.

Payment for overtime with time and a half for Sunday working.

Daily limits of 150 miles for mainline trains and 120 miles on local trains 

An immediate increase in basic levels of pay. 

 

 The First Conference of Locomotive Workers, November 1866.

 The Engine Driver's and Fireman's United Society.

  

 Brighton Engineman J. Slater is pictured No. 58, which is the last man seated on the right hand side.

 A number of the biggest railway companies conceded some or all of these conditions rather than have a costly dispute. This was such the case on the London Brighton & South Coast Railway, were a little known strike took place in March 1867. 



For an account of the 1867 Enginemen’s strike, please click on the Icon

 

 

 

 On the 26th November 1871 a group of railwaymen held a meeting in Leeds, they made the decision which resulted in the establishment of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.

Within the next two weeks, further meetings in London enthusiastically endoursed the launching of the new Society such as that at the Winchester Arms, 63 Southwark Street, London.

"A meeting will be held at the Winchester Arms, 63 Southwark Street, on Sunday December 3rd (1871) to further the objects of securing ten hours for a day's labour, payment for Sunday duty and weekly payment of wages. Chair to be taken at 6 o'clock. Please inform mates and solicit them to attend. "

Printed on tiny slips of paper four inches by two inches, in order not to attract the attention of the employers, this was the message passed between railwaymen that led to the forming of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants.

Despite the justified caution of the founders (there was an early proposal for a secret sign and password for the union) the union found a substantial support from railway workers and even "progressive" Member of Parliament such as Michael Thomas Bass (Derby) and his agent Charles Bassett Vincent who helped and encouraged railway to organise and fund the influential "Railway Service Gazzette" forerunner of the " Railway Gazzette"

By 1872 the Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Society had been amalgamated with other Friendly societies and become apart the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants to protest to parliament over the excessive hours Railway workers were expected to endure. However as this Society was made up of all grades of railway workers it became very ineffective in achieving any improvements and its membership very quickly decreased.

 

 


A COLLISION AT FORD STATION

4th MAY 1867

Adapted from the B.o. T. Report

by C.S. Hutchinson Capt. R.E. Major

On the 4th May, 1867, a passenger train from Littlehampton to Ford ran into a train of empty carriages standing in a siding at the Ford Station of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, on which occasion six passengers and the guard of the train were injured; no bones were broken, but the injuries consisted of cuts and severe shakes.

Ford is a junction station on the line from Brighton to Portsmouth, the Mid-Sussex line entering it from the north, and the Littlehampton line from the south.

There is a signal box at the junction of the three lines; to the westward of this a wooden bridge over the Arun, and then a station signal-box close to the east end of the platform. The down or south platform is double-faced, and the siding on its southern face is continued to the westward till it rejoins the main line 400 or 500 yards from the platform. The trains from Littlehampton to Ford usually draw up to the platform on this siding, and itis customary to use the western portion of the siding for empty trains. On the evening in question a six-wheeledengine and tender attached to s train of empty carriages was standing on this siding, the engine being at the east end of the train, and about 250 yards from the station signal-box, or 120 yards from the west end of the platform, which is 130 yards long.

The passenger train from Littlehampton to Ford consisted of a six-wheeled engine (with 5 ft. 6 in. drivingwheels) and tender, a third-clam carriage, second-class carriage, a first-class carriage, and break van, Provided with ordinary break power, coupled in the order stated. The guard states that the train left Littlehampton at 6.40 p.m. on the 4th May, and that they proceeded at a rather faster rate than usual up to the bridge over the Arun, the signals being all right for them to enter the station ; but that the speed from this point, instead of being gradually reduced as is usual, did not slacken till the station box was reached, when, afterrunning for about 20 yards at a reduced rate, the train again shot ahead, and maintained its increased rate of speed until it ran into the engine of the empty train on the siding.

Before reaching the bridge the guard states that he applied his break, and kept it hard on until the collision occurred; and this statement is corroborated by other testimony. He was unable to communicate with the driver, from the absence of any means of doing so. The driver of the engine of the train of empty carriages stated that be happened to be standing at the east end of the platform when the Littlehampton train passed. From the rate at which the train was going (which he estimated at from 18 to 20 miles an hour) he felt sure a collision would occur, and followed the train as quickly as possible. On reaching the engines he found h i own had been knocked back about 40 feet ; and he observed that the break blocks of the tender of the engine from Littlehampton were of as f as the screw would admit, giving him the impression that the handle had been turned the wrong way. This driver's fireman was standing on the main line opposite to his engine when the collision occurred; he also estimated the speed of the Littlehampton train at from 18 to 20 miles an hour, and observed that the break blocks of the tender were right away from the wheels.

I was unable to examine the driver and fireman of the train from Littlehampton, as the former had absconded, and the latter was in gaol, awaiting his trial. From the evidence it appeared that they were both perfectly sober on the evening in question ; that they knew the line well, having run over it nearly 50 times since the lst of April ; that the driver had served & such on different lines for l9 ½ years and the fireman for two years, though they had joined the Brighton Company's service only on the 1st of April ; that the only excuse the driver made was that he could not shut off steam, from his regulator not working; which statement was proved to be false by the locomotive foremen at Littlehampton, who found the regulator working perfectly, shortly after the collision. Both driver and fireman had a copy of the Company's rules, which state that the speed on pawing the bridge over the Arun must not exceed 15 miles an hour.

I think, therefore, there can be no doubt but that the collision was caused by inattention to their duties on the part of the driver and fireman, and that on suddenly finding themselves entering the station at too high a speed they lost their presence of mind, and neglected to me the ordinary means of reducing speed by reversing theengine and applying the tender break.

It seems very objectionable that any trains should be permitted to leave s station without communication between guard and drivel; and it is quite possible that the present collision might have been avoided had such communication existed in this instance.

* Enginemen's depot not known

 


 STORIES FROM THE SHOVEL

extracted from RTCS book on locomotives of the LBSCR


THE LOCO WITH A MIND OF IT'S OWN

 

On the 29th May, 1867 when Driver Marley (New Cross?) was unable to close the regulator of a 'Craven Standard Passenger 2-4-0 loco' No. 185  as it run into Brighton station with the 8.0 a.m. down express. Despite a full application of the tender brake, and assistance from the guard, the speed could not be reduced below 20 to 25 m.p.h. Fortunately, this train was booked to call at the ticket platform before running on to the terminus, which gave just sufficient time and distance for both crew members to force the regulator closed, and then reverse the engine and apply steam. The buffers were hit, but only at a walking pace and no serious injuries were suffered. Subsequently the driver, fireman and guards were fined for ‘running into the Brighton ticket platform dangerously and at too high a speed’, the regulator on No. 185 having been found in good order.

Driver Marley, however was not satisfied, and found on other occasions that the regulator failed to close completely as well as at times opening slightly on its own. Complaining of this eccentricity, he was not believed and no thorough investigation was made until there came the day when No.185 had to be moved on New Cross shed by the Staff. The regulator opened with ease and then stuck. Moving quite smartly the engine bumped into a line of coke wagons and propelled them towards the foremen’s office, from whence this gentleman appeared at high speed, warned by much shouting that all was not well. He just managed to leap clear before the coke wagons and the gently puffing loco enveloped the area. Halted by the debris, the culprit’s regulator was closed. The offending item was removed forthwith, and since nothing could still be found amiss a new one was fitted with apparent success, since no further mentioned appears in the accident reports. One hopes that those fined received a full pardon and their money back. 

 

 

 Accident at Victoria on 5th October 1867

Extract and adapted from railway report

By F.H. Rich

Lieut. Col. R.E.

A train, consisting of an engine and tender, a guard’s break van, a third class, a second class, two first class, and two third class, coupled in the order given, left South Croydon station for London at its proper time, 6.17 p.m., on the 5th instant. A guard was travelling in the front van, and a second guard in the third-class carriage, at the tail of the train.

The train passed the Hole-in-the-Wall signal station at the entrance to Victoria station at slow speed, about 7.10 p.m., and on passing through the facing points at Eccleston Bridge, which is just inside the Hole-in-the-Wall signal box, the engine and tender kept the rails that lead up to the Brighton main line platform; the guard’s van next to the tender got its two hind wheels off the rails; the third and second-class carriages next behind the guard’s van got completely off the rails, and the rest of the coaches in the train kept to the rail that lead up to the local or Crystal Palace platform.

The entrance to the L.B.S.C. section of Victoria station is controlled by a signalman stationed in the Hole-in-the-Wall junction box, and by two pointsmen stationed under Eccleston Bridge, which is about 50 yards nearer to the platforms.

The Hole-in-the-Wall signal box

The pointsmen work in connexion with the man at Hole-in-the-Wall. They signal to him when the platforms are clear for trains to enter the station, and they receive permission from him to let trains pass out.

The points and signals at the Hole-in-the-Wall, with the exception of the dummy or shunting signal, are arranged on the locking principle; but those at the Eccleston Bridge stations are not.

When the South Croydon train arrived at the entrance to Victoria station the signal at the Hole-in-the-Wall and at the Eccleston Bridge stations were all right for the train to pass to its proper destinatio0n, which was to the local or Crystal Palace platform. On passing through Eccleston Bridge Points the front part of the train took the road for the Brighton trains, and the hind part of the train followed its proper road, as before described.

Charles Fuller, the pointsmen at Eccleston Bridge, states that he set the points for the road which leads up toCrystal Palace platform, previous to lowering the signals some minutes before the South Croydon train arrived, and that he did not move them again. He endeavours to account for the accident, by saying that an engine passed out from the arrival platform for the Brighton trains without his knowledge, and that this engine, by forcing its way through the points, stained them and left them partly open for the South Croydon train.

The driver and fireman of this latter engine stated that distinctly and decidedly that they got the signal from Fuller to pass his station, and they are borne out by the signalman at the Hole-in-the-Wall, who also states that he allowed the said engine to come out after having received leave to do so from a man at Eccleston Bridge.

There appears to me therefore but little doubt that Fuller omitted to set the points for the South Croydon train to proceed to its proper destination, to the Palace platform, and that in the surprise of seeing the engine of the South Croydon train taking the wrong road he became confused, and moved the points while the train was passing over them, thereby causing the accident.

The arrangement of the points and signal at the entrance to Victoria station is being altered, in connection with the Battersea new lines, and I understand that the points and signals will be locked when the new arrangements are completed.

It is most desirable that all the points and signals should be arranged on the locking principle, and thus prevents such mistakes as will occur, with the best men, when they are locked.

 

CLICK ON ICON FOR FULL B.O.T. REPORT

 

  Pouparts Junction near 

Clapham Junction, London

19th February 1868

Extracted and adapted from the report by

H.W. Tyler Captain

 

Rescue workers surround an overturned engine after a railway accident on the London, Brighton & south Coast Railway at Pouparts Junction near Clapham Junction, London, 19th February 1868.

 Original Publication: Illustrated London News - pub. 1868 

 

On the 19th February, 1868 a accident occurred at Poupart’s Junction, this junction, between the high level line from the Victoria station and that which was in use previously to its construction, is about half a mile to the north of the Clapham Junction station. The high level line was constructed at great expense, partly to avoid th sharp curve at the Stewarts Lane Junction, and it joins what was the previous main line of the West End and Crystal Palace Railway, on a curve of which the radius varies from 22.72 50 21.21 chains. This curves passes over a portion of embankment about 20 feet high and 93 yards long, between the junction and a viaduct to the north of it. One the south of the junction the line is  straight, passing by a bridge over the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, and then over a further portion of embankment south of that bridge. The gradient falls 1 in 159 from the northward to a crossing 33 years north of the cabin, which forms part of the junction, and then rises 1 in 190 towards the south.

The 8.58 a.m. passenger train from Victoria to London Bridge, started from the former station at 8.59 on the day in question, consisting, in the following order, of an engine and tender, a third class (break), a third class, a second class, a composite, three first class, two second class, a composite, three firs class, two second class, a third class and a third class (break) carriages. It travelled without stopping, and in due course, until it approached the Pouparts Junction at a speed of about 20 miles an hour. As it rounded the curve above described on the north of that junction, the leading wheels of the engine dropped off the rails to the right, on the outside of the curve, 33 yards to the south of the viaduct, and 60 yards not of the junction cabin. The engine ran along in this condition to the crossing, 33 years from the point at which the wheel first mounted, and 27 yards north of the junction cabin. The right wheels were thrown over to the left of the rails, and as they passed through the junction they strained the points and bent the connecting rods. After crossing the bridge over the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, and tearing up the permanent way, more less in its course, the engine turned to the left, 80 yards south of the junction, and ran down the embankment. It fell on its left side at the bottom of the slope, with its wheel partly in the air. The tender followed it, remaining on its wheels on the side of the slope. The leading break carriage came to a stand behind it, at right angles to the line, also on its wheels, on the side of the slope; and the remaining vehicles stood in their proper order on the embankment, but off the rails.

The engine was not so much damaged as might have been expected. The funnel, feed pipes, and draw bar were broken, as well as the tank and two springs of the tender, and the hook of the draw bat behind the tender. The total damage to the engine and tender. The total damage to the engine and tender is estimated at 60/., and to the carriages at 40/.

The whole distance, from the paint at which the leading wheel of the engine first mounted the rail to the spot where it lay, was only 200 yards. The engine driver notice nothing unusual until he felt a “twist” when the engine dropped off to the right of the rails, and the the crossing turned the wheels over to the left of them. While the engine rolled about subsequently, and as it rn down the bank, he kept hold of the regulator handle and the spring balance, and as it turned over he let go and fell upon the hedge at the bottom of the slope. He was severely shaken and much pricked in the hedge. As he approached the spot where the engine first left the rails he notice some platelayers at work here.

The fireman also noticed a gang of platelayers standing by the line as he approached the Poupart’s Junction, and felt the engine “give a jump” as he passed them. As the engine ran down the slope of the embankment and fell over he was thrown across the hand rail with his feet against the fire box; and was shaken.

The guard, who rode in the leading break carriage next behind the tender, was standing app and looking at the engine when the accident occurred. He “the fore part of the engine begin to jump,” and noticed all that followed. He suffered, as well as the the guard in the hind van, from the effects of the shock; but out of about 30 passengers who were travelling in the different carriages three only have as yet complained of injury.

The engine, No. 40,was a six wheeled engine, built by Messrs Sharp, Stewart, and Co., of Manchester. The leading wheels, coupled together, 5ft 6ins. in diameter. Te wheel base measured 6ft 6ins., between the driving and trailing wheels. The flanges of the leading wheels were rather thin, but the tyres had recently been turned up, with shoulders under the flanges, and had only been running after that operation for four days.

I heard of this accident on my way from Hampton court to London, and was put down on the spot an hour and twenty minutes after it occurred, through the courtesy of the officers of the London and South Western company, from the train in which I was travelling. A mark was then plainly visible on the outer rail of the curve above referred to, where the right leading wheel of the engine had passed over it. After procuring a spirit level, I found the super elevation of the outer rail of that curve, measured at short intervals from the viaduct north of the junction varied from 5 1/8ins. to 1 1/6ins., where the engine wheel mounted, and 1 5/8 ins. where it dropped off to the right of the outer rail.

The understanding between the inspector of this portion of the permanent way and the foreman platelayer appears to have been that the outer rail should be kept 3 ins. higher than the inner rail on this curve, running down to 2 ins. at the crossing, and nothing at the bridge south of the junction; and there can be no doubt that if 3 ins. had been regularly maintained from the viaduct to the spot where the engine wheel mounted the accident would not have occurred. The platelayers began to lift the inner rail of the curve at 8.30 a.m., rather more than half an hour before the accident, and working by the eye only they lifted it too much. There had been for some tine a gradual subsidence of the embankment on the inside of the curve; and, the foreman platelayer was no doubt induced to raise the inner rail more than he would otherwise have done in order to allow for such subsidence. But he did so to an imprudent extent, and the accident was the natural result of the unequal and unsafe condition of the curve as shown by the measurement above recorded.

Looking to the position of this curve and the difficulty of maintaining a sufficient super elevation of the outer rail at the rear junction crossing, I have recommended, as a useful precaution, and with a view to the prevention of any accident to this description for the future, that a check rail should be added north of the junction; and I have further recommended that printed rules should be issued for guidance of the platelayers in regard to the maintenance of the various curves on the line. I am happy to report, in conclusion, that the engineer of the Company is prepared at once to carry these recommendations into effect.


*The L.B.S.C.R. began place check rails not only at Pouparts Junction, but also on similar curves at other parts of the line.

 

 

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