You might have guessed from the title that the latest podcast from The National Archives would catch my attention. To many “a journey through the timetables of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway will probably sound incredibly dull, but do give it a chance.
I know I am somewhat biased, because as I mentioned last week the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway was my local railway company, and the talk mainly focuses on stations within Sussex and on routes with which I am familiar. Whilst the location is not particularly critical to the theme of the talk, it was a help because I was able to visualise the routes he was talking about, which is just as well because none of the visual presentation appears to be available on the TNA website.
After an introduction to the history of the railway timetable Dr Wakeford illustrated some of the ways in which data from these historic timetables can be used. I do have several historic railway (and bus) timetables in my collection, but have never carried out any serious study of their contents in the way that Dr Wakeford has.
He used various examples to show how many aspects of rail travel changed over time. From drastically reducing the time taken to travel from A to B and increasing the range of opportunities, to showing how increasing railway traffic would affect those working on the railway.
Of course I couldn’t listen to it without wondering what impact the railway had on my ancestors. It is something I have wondered about many times before, but never really explored. Take for example the TROWER family of Henfield, Sussex. Did the arrival of the railway (the Horsham to Shoreham line briefly mentioned in the podcast) in 1861 increase the mobility of the family? Did the children spread their wings further when it came time to leave home? Did the family seek employment further afield?
It would be interesting to take a closer look at the mobility of successive generations of TROWERs, but that is an awful lot of data to process, fortunately I do have a lot of that data already available, but it would still be a lot of work. Maybe I will add it to my list of things to do.