Non-motoring > Historical railway employment Miscellaneous
Thread Author: Stuu Replies: 22

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
Anyone know much about the history of railways?

I have an ancestor who's movements Im trying to make sense of.

Born Ireland in 1820's, then appears in 1840's in Northampton working as a 'railway engineer'.

Somewhere between 1851 and 1861 he moves to Limehouse, London with occupations of both engine fitter and railway engineer. He also got to retire which suggests that his job was well paid as few working class men seemed to be able to retire as such and in retirement he called himself a retired mechanical engineer.

Anyone know of any historic railway based reasons for such moves? They seem to be big location changes so surely for work based reasons one would imagine.

Im writing a small book for my dad about his descendants for xmas and I wanted to include any historical reasons that he may have moved about so much in his field of work.

 Historical railway employment - WillDeBeest
I'm writing a small book for my dad about his descendants...

Wouldn't that be you?
 Historical railway employment - Stuu
Your right, ancestors. Well spotted.
 Historical railway employment - Ted

I did a university course in railway history. I have a collection of books on the subject.....about 150 now.

Your man was probably of a higher rank than just a labourer or similar to be moved about.
Perhaps he was involved in the design or construction of locomotives as assistant to the locomotive superintendent ( later Chief Mechanical Engineer, Stanier, Gresley, etc ). In the early days railway companies produced their locos in various sites on the network or bought them in from private builders. Engineers tended to move about with promotions, there could well have been a locomotive builder in Limehouse. Men were often recommended by their bosses to other companies seeking skills.

Have you a name for him ? ( daft question ! ) I'll also have a look in the London volume of The History of the Railways of Britain to see what relevance Limehouse had.


 Historical railway employment - Bromptonaut
Bit of history of Northampton station here:

The old Bridge Street line/station are pre 1850. The current 'Castle' station site is a bit later and was only expanded in the late C19.

EDIT Misread your post Stu. Thought he was building lines whereas it looks more like engines!!
Last edited by: Bromptonaut on Tue 11 Dec 12 at 23:14
 Historical railway employment - Stuu
>>Have you a name for him? <<

James King, born 1824. Retired some time before 1891, died 1903.
 Historical railway employment - Zero
Ok, well it seems like he was working at Wolverton Railway Works

Loco building stopped there in 1861 (moved to Crewe)

So he could then have moved to the Stratford Works for the Great Eastern Railway which was in the process of expanding

Your dates fit for first Locos built at Stratford.

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
Very interesting, exactly what I was hoping for.

Any clues why a Northern Irish lad would end up a railway engineer in England in the 1840's?

I know he was living in what is now Narrow Street by the Limehouse Docks and later on near Bartlett Park.
Last edited by: FoR on Tue 11 Dec 12 at 23:40
 Historical railway employment - Zero
Yeah, kind of.

His father could have ben a Navi, building the railway lines ( the dates for his father fit this), so he would have migrated to railway centres, and there is a chance his son got indentured into one of the railway works as an apprentice, or worked his way up from tea boy.

Or father could have been a shipbuilder in the Northern Ireland ship yards, and migrated to the english railway works, getting son a job later

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
One perhaps odd fact - I dont know much about James' father other than he was from Bushmills, County Antrim, but I do know that his brother followed him from Ireland and became a tailor and moved to London when his brother did and continued in that trade, so certainly something drew these two men from a small irish village but they didnt both become involved in the railways.
 Historical railway employment - Ted

The North London Railway had a locomotive works at Bow. Their Chief Engineer from 1854 was William Adams, later of the Great Eastern Railway ( Stratford Works ) and finally of the London & South Western Rly.

I wonder if he knew or worked with your man...they shared the same lifespan almost exactly.

Interesting to research this sort of thing although often no result ensues. Me ole mam's family had a not so distant ancestor who was CME of a major railway at the beginning of the 20th century. He was William Pickersgill and designed locos for the Caledonian Railway of in the WCML from London to Glasgow.... taking over at Carlisle.

There are two CMEs buried in our local cemetery, Sacre and Hoy. Although Hoy was in charge of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Rly's locos ( The 5th biggest English company ), very little is known about him and only one grainy photo exists. So you can imagine the difficulty in researching staff who were possibly less senior.

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
>>So you can imagine the difficulty in researching staff who were possibly less senior.<<

Depends what you want to know - finding people on census is pretty easy and mapping out their family etc, even probate records now if they had any money when they died. Employment histories are more tricky as it depends on teh field they worked in but I love learning about the social history behind the names and dates.
 Historical railway employment - Manatee
That was fairly pioneering stuff. London to Birmingham was early in railway terms wasn't it? Opened in 1838, only 9 years after the Stockton and Darlington?

And James would only have been 20/21 in the mid 1940s - so unlikely to be an experienced "railway engineer" - but not many could have been could they? He must have been in on the ground floor of a new industry. Maybe he left Ireland during or after the potato famine of 1845, or did he come earlier, possibly with his Dad as you suggest? Was he here for the 1941 census which would preclude that?

Were the shipyards actually going then on an industrial scale?

Certainly his career mapped on to the era of railway expansion so it's possible he grew with it and did well.

Wolverton wasn't Northampton; but I suppose he could get back and forth by train. Looking up the history of Wolverton, the railway had built 200 houses there by 1844.

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
>>Maybe he left Ireland during or after the potato famine of 1845...Was he here for the 1941 census which would preclude that?<<

I think you may have hit the Ireland to England nail on the head there, would explain his brother coming too. Neither James nor his brother where here in 1841 no.
 Historical railway employment - Armel Coussine
>> His father could have ben a Navi, building the railway lines

The term 'navvy' was originally applied to labourers, many of them Irish, who built the 'navigation canals' from which the word is derived. The railways came later and the term came to be used for any manual labourer working on, er, great works involving shifting a lot of earth and ballast, the railways for example. Later still it could be used to describe any pick-and-shovel worker.

I reckon Stu's ancestor can't have been a navvy though. They didn't call labourers engineers in those days although I understand they do now. Job title inflation...
 Historical railway employment - Zero
>> Very interesting, exactly what I was hoping for.
>> Any clues why a Northern Irish lad would end up a railway engineer in England
>> in the 1840's?
>> I know he was living in what is now Narrow Street by the Limehouse Docks
>> and later on near Bartlett Park.

There is a modern link to this, the Olympic stadium and park is built on the land that was the Stratford Loco Works.
 Historical railway employment - Stuu
Actually I can say for certain that he moved from Northampton between Apr 1851 and Mar 1852 so something in that period may be relevant.

Looking at Stratford, it seems they were building first locomotives in 1851 so it is a rather perfect explanation for why he would move at that time.
Last edited by: FoR on Wed 12 Dec 12 at 00:01
 Historical railway employment - Ted

I forgot to mention there...Adams was born in Limehouse in 1823....for what it's worth.

Probably nothing.

 Historical railway employment - Ted

Northampton was a London & North Western ( London & Birmingham ) Ry stronghold, being on the WCML...which they owned.
There is a link to the East End, though. The LNWR wanted to get a foothold on the Thames and cream off some of the lucrative shipping traffic. So, in 1846, the East & West India Dock & Birmingham Junction Railway was incorporated ( later renamed The North London Ry. )

A branch of this company ran from the Bow area down to West India Dock, close to Limehouse and Stepney which both had stations on the Great Eastern Line from Fenchurch Street

Although there are 8 pages devoted to the NLR in my book, there is no mention of any personalities involved. There's a good chance that yer man moved from Northampton in connection with the building of the dock lines. Although nominally independent, the NLR was largely owned and financed by the LNWR to feed goods traffic into the main line at Hampstead Junction and thence northwards.

I agree that the census is a good place to look but the very minimum job description is given.
There seems to be no record of burial places for most people. I've been trying to find a grave for my Great Grandma. The 1881 census throws up 3 women all with the same name, slightly different ages and all described as ' fustian cutters ' . My family were farmers. The parish church of the small village was built long after she died and the village cemetery was turned into a childrens playground in the 60s.

A bit of a ' dead ' end there.

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
If you want to give me some details to work on Ted Im more than happy to have a go, Im pretty good at finding things in the records, been doing it ten years, I have access to 4 different research sites which usually find someone if they exist. London is pretty easy compared to the rest of the country but parish records are often online now.
 Historical railway employment - Ted

Thanks for that Stu. My mail address is on my profile. Perhaps you could email me yours so I can send you some details.

 Historical railway employment - Stuu
>>Perhaps you could email me yours <<

 Historical railway employment - madf
If you find you are related to Brunel, Watt or Stephenson.. please let us know...
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