You will no doubt have already heard about the latest release from Ancestry.co.uk, the UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963. I was delighted to see that this release included a collection of records originating from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR).
The LBSCR were responsible for my local railway, the Horsham to Shoreham Railway (also known as the Steyning Line). The line was closed in 1966 (before I was born) after Dr. Beeching decided it was surplus to requirements. The LBSCR had long since gone by then, it had been merged with other railway companies to form the Southern Railway in 1923, which in turn became part of British Railways in 1948 following nationalisation. If you want to find out more then the Wikipedia article on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway is pretty comprehensive.
I have spent several hours over the last few days exploring the collection trying to get a feel for what is included and found myself getting totally sucked in. I had intended to create a list all the different pieces in the collection for future reference but that fell completely by the wayside as I turned the pages of the various volumes.
I wasn’t really looking for people to add to my family tree, instead I was just exploring the lists of names, and not so much the names themselves but the positions they held and where they worked. I was taking my own virtual tour of the LBSCR railway network, seeing what made it work, from engine drivers to accountants, from a large London terminus to a small country station.
There are couple pieces in this collection that are really special, the first is described by Ancestry as the “1862-1863 Operating Staff Black Book” (TNA RAIL 414/759) which contains details of fines (and sometimes suspension or dismissal) for various misdemeanours, such as the unfortunate Mr Trapp an Office Porter at London Bridge who was fined two shillings and six pence “For carrying Passengers luggage down the platform to the train it being against orders & having been cautioned on previous occasions not to do it but to attend to the Booking office”.
For me the most interesting piece in the collection is described as “1914-1920 Staff on Active Service” (TNA RAIL 414/791). This is an extremely valuable record of LBSCR employees who served during the First World War, and as such will be of interest to not only family historians, but also military historians. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the amount of information recorded, we all know that many WW1 service records have been destroyed and this volume may well represent one the few surviving records of many men who served.
Each entry not only covers what the men did whilst employed by the railway, it also includes details of their regiment, rank and number and the date they left the railway. The entries also include details of the men’s dependants such as a wife and the number of children they had. Often this will also include the date of their marriage and age and sex of the children.
The most poignant detail however is the bold red underlining of certain names which highlights those who died whilst serving. Many larger railway stations have a memorial to those railway employees that died and this volume may well have been the source of those names. Ancestry probably ought to include this in their military collection if they haven’t done so already.
I look forward to spending many more hours looking through these records and maybe even get around to searching for some of my relations. I know there are several railway connections, but most of those connections relate to those building the railway, rather than operating it, and most of these labourers were employed by contractors and not the railway company themselves.