Our sketch of this useful organisation will be brief, inasmuch as the. main object in view is to illustrate to railway servants and others the great advantage of union amongst workmen employed by wealth, powerful, and (by virtue of their composition) inconsiderate corporations. Before addressing ourselves to the main question, a few words by way of preface will not be out of place on the important subject of


n the first place, the wonderful development of the railway system, which only had its birth in 1825, opened up to then rapidly increasing population of the country a new description of employment. The gigantic railway enterprises which followed upon the first proof of the success of Stephenson's invention, and the great outlay of capital thus demanded, necessitated the formation of the corporate monopolies with ramifications as vast, in some instances, as a Department of State, and for that reason far too large for individual creation or individual control. Such undertakings are ever liable, unless carefully administered, to mismanagement and abuse, and it was soon discovered by those employed that remedy for injustice or harsh treatment on the part of those in delegated authority was very hard to obtain. Employment on railways, like appointments in the Civil Service in former years, could only be obtained by favour or patronage, and to some extent this is still the case. The men most favoured by individual directors or shareholders, by political personages, by clergymen, and sometimes by freighters, were the most sure of engagement on a railway, and the most certain of preferment when in the service; that is when preferment was possible. A majority of engine drivers and firemen and also of a great number of those engaged in the more laborious work at the goods stations in large towns, must be excluded from this category. but, in the main, the agricultural and urban working young men conceived railway employment to be a matter of favour and patronage, and this fact has long tended to subvert the minds of railway employees by an exaggerated sense of their dependence. Perhaps the fact that promotion in the service was obtained by favour has increased the sense of dependence amongst railway workmen much more than the fact of their appointment in the first instance being the result of patronage.

Men who enter the service of railway companies have, as a general rule, to begin on the lowest rung of the ladder; they are not appointed as station masters nor inspectors, nor guards, nor engine driver, nor foremen, nor signalmen, when they first join. These appointment are the result of selection after they have served what we might call an apprenticeship. It is true they are numerous, but a majority of employed must always belong to the lower grades of the service. Safety and punctuality alike dem and strict regards for discipline, and these, combined with the system of favour to which we have alluded, and the great wealth of the companies, make the relations of the railway servant to his employer very different from the relations which subsist between employers and workmen in other occupations. Our own opinion is that the best discipline is possible only when the men are actuated by strong sense of self respect. Self respect cannot however be purchased by the system of favour and fear which appears to have controlled the management of railways for many years, but it may be maintained by promotion judiciously bestowed on those who have merit and self respect, having regard always to lengthened service. The feeling of dependence and the need of discipline have made the workmen in the railway service proper lose much of that individuality of character which generally belongs to skilled workmen. This makes it exceedingly difficult to maintain a Railway Servants' Trade Union. It must not be suss posed that because railway servants' work in non productive that railway workmen are not skilled labourers. On the contrary, years of specially training are needed to acquire a thorough knowledge of the detailed working of our rapid transport systems. As our readers know, the engine driver must begin  as a cleaner; after acquiring an acquaintance with the various of a locomotive, he must serve a long apprenticeship as a fireman in order to acquire a knowledge of working of an engine in motion, and the intricate system of signalling, by which the traffic is regulated, and to gain the experience which is necessary to fit a man for the responsibility and the emergencies that continually arise in handling a machine so complex and powerful. The signalman also must acquire a thorough knowledge of the work he has to perform a work requiring great skill and constant watchfulness and presence of mind. In like manner the station manner, the inspector, the guard, the shunter, the checker, and the porter have to be trained to their work before they can become efficient servants, and have further to master the geography of the system upon which they are employed. The platelayer and his assistance have also to learn their trade.

Hence we say railway labour in the main entitled to be looked upon as skilled labour, and many of our railway operatives to rank as skilled mechanics or productive operatives. Combined in a single union, and the animated by one sentiment, they would probably be the most powerful body of workmen in the kingdom, and as such would be in a position to demand the fullest consideration of any claims they might make upon their employers. From the evils which have crept into gigantic departments of Government - departments in which appointments were obtained by patronage - railway management has not been entirely free, but while the companies have come to estimate the value of their workmen by the price of labour in the market, they have insisted on all those obligations from their workmen which are required from those who obtain their position through influence. This one reason why, with the increase of traffic, the hours of duty become longer, and the work to be done more onerous. It is only when the sense of actual suffering has occasioned a general feeling of dissatisfaction among their workmen that the inanimate corporations have shown anything like the sense of humanity and consideration so frequently manifested by large individual employers of labour. In such crises public opinion has done something to influence the better nature of railway directors and managers, and the men have benefited thereby to a certain extent. The only effectual influence, however, is that which is constant, not fitful or intermittent, in its operation. A constant agency not only remedies evils, but also prevents a return of the evils against which it is directed

Railway employment, regarded from a numerical standpoint, is second only to one other industry in the United Kingdom. The miners occupy the first position, and the railway service comes next in order with an army of not less than 300,000, of whom about 140,000 are engaged in manipulating the traffic and repairing the roads, whilst the rest occupy places in the offices, factories, and other branches of the service. Here then is a very wide field of employment opened out to the ambitious aspirant for success in life. Napoleon I, once declared that every private soldier carried a marshal's baton in his knapsack, and we have often heard it declared that the ordinary railway porter or general clerk in the employ of a railway company has the opportunity, if he has the ability of eventually becoming the general manager. This idea is carried out to some extent in minor grades of the service. The bright uniform of the guard, the gilded cap of the stationmaster, the high wage of the driver, and the important appointment as inspector, are a strong incentive to the moderate ambitions of the majority who enter on railway life, and induces them to remain in railway employment and to endeavour by effective work to secure promotion. Without dwelling on the importance and responsibility of the higher posts in the service - and there is none more willing than ourselves to pay deference to the ability which characterises the managers and superintendents of railway generally - we wish to affirm that railway employment, when accompanied by good conduct, ought to be one of life long duration, and removed from the uncertainty of more precarious occupations. It should be the ambition of managers to make the service a satisfactory one to those engaged in it; but this has not alway been their policy, and hence it is the we find a great many of the employees have combined as reformers to influence the minds of those charged with the duty of regulating the conditions of employment. This is the raison d'être of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, and we will mow proceed to give a brief account of.


The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants was not the first combination for protection purposes attempted amongst railway employees. It is, however, the only enduring and successful one. The constantly increasing traffic of our railways was not kept pace with by directors and managers, who sought to carry it on with inefficient accommodation, rolling stock, and staffs. From 1866 to 1870 the increased business of railway companies was enormous, and the inadequacy of the accommodation provided and the staffs employed evidenced themselves in frequent delays, serious accidents, and excessive overwork of the men. Little or no regard was paid to the rights of the men to rest and recreation. The one thing insisted on was that, at whatever cost in health and comfort to the workmen the traffic should be accelerated to the utmost, and this at the least possible outlay. At this period railway employment may be well be described as a system of white slavery. The oppression endured by the men and the sense of degradation which their treatment gave rise to, culminated in the gravest dissatisfaction that has ever marked the relations of railway companies to their servants. So far back as 1865 there were evident symptoms of the men's sense of oppression, and the feeling which prevailed amongst them found expression in attempts to form separate societies in the traffic and locomotive departments. The two societies then formed collapsed - one in consequence of timidity on part of the men, and coercion by the companies; the other because of confidence brought about by the injudicious strike amongst the engine drivers and firemen on the North Eastern, in 1876. The failure of these societies had the effect of causing the men to temporarily feel their position to be a helpless oe; nut the success attending the combination of skilled artisans in 1870 and 1871, in increasing wages and reducing the hours of labour, inspired railwaymen with fresh hope. August 1871 all classes of railway servants sent memorials to their directors for concessions. A few of these memorial were partially acceded to, but the great majority were unnoticed - were, in fact, treated with contempt. This led to numerous meetings being held by the men to discuss their grievances. A controversy between Mr. Bass, M.P. for Derby, and Mr. Price, M.P., the then chairman of the Midland Company, having special reference to the hours of duty of engine drivers and others on that line, called public attention to the oppressive condition of railway employment. The press, too, generously espoused the case for the men, while the public at large were aroused to a sense of indignation on learning that the directors of railway companies imposed upon their servants conditions alike to public safety and to the morality and health of the men. Encouraged by the action of the Press, and further stimulated to combination by Mr. C.B. Vincent, then employed specially as an agent by Mr. Bass, the men began to form themselves into associations in various parts of the country. The most definite was that established in London, on the 27th Nov. 1871, under the title of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, and of which Mr. Vincent was president and Mr. Chapman secretary. Rules were drawn yp and registered on March 2nd, 1872, under the Trades Union Act of the previous year. Branches were established in many parts of London, and also in the provinces, where Mr. Vincent, the president; Mr. John Graham, then a signalman at Derby; Mr. Harford, a guard at Barnsley; Mr. Whitehead, a fireman at Leeds; Mr. Cordwell, a foreman at Longsightedness's; Mr. Weston, an engineman of Glasgow, and many other servants who had encourage of their convictions, worked hard to stimulate the men to imitate the example of the engineers and other trades who had combined for their own protection. At nearly all the important stations in the kingdom branches of the new society  were  established. There were, however, considerable difference of opinion between the men of London and those in the provinces with respect to the form of government of the society and the nature of the benefits to be assured to members. This dispute threatened at period to divide the country into separate societies, and thus prevent the general union among them which all the best friends of the railway servants were anxious they posses. Under the kindly influence of Mr. Bass, M.P.; Mr. Samuel Morley, M.P.; Mr. Douglas Straight, M.P.; Mr. Thomas Brassey, M.P.; and aided by Dr. Baxter Langley, means were devised by which the provincial and metropolitan members could meet together to decide upon a common platform for one society. Accordingly, on June 25th, 1872, a delegate meeting took place at the Sussex Hotel, Bouverie Street, London, at which a general code of rules was agreed to, constitution framed, and the whole of the sectional societies blended into one amalgamated association. The decision of this large delegate meeting was favourably regarded eveywhere. The society receiving constant additions of branches and members, embracing within it many small separate societies began its career with every prospect of becoming a powerful union. Mr. Bass, M.P., was unanimously chosen the patron, in gratitude for the great and many services he had rendered to the cause of railway servants, whose claims to consideration he had so successfully championed; Dr. Baxter Langley was elected the president, Mr. G. Chapman the general secretary, and Mr. John Graham as the organising secretary. The government of the union was vested in the metropolitan branches, and consisted of an executive of twenty one members, whilst the various branches had provided for them a defined constitution, with powers to enable the whole to work in harmony as one united organisation.


The results. of the agitation of 1871-2, and of the formation of the society, were of the most gratifying description. Concession after concession in hours or wages followed. The hours of enginemen and firemen were on some lines reduced from twelve to ten per day; on others their wages were increased, regular promotion ensued, and payment for overtime and Sunday work satisfactorily amended. Passenger guards received increased wages of from 1s. to 4s. per week, together with more moderate hours of duty. Goods guards on many chief lines obtained sixty hours in lieu of eight four hours as the limit to the regular week's work, and were assured just payment for overtime. In their case, Sunday ceased to be a part of the ordinary week, and their rates of wages were increased. Signalmen came in for a great concession in regard to wages, hours of duty, and Sunday work. The passenger and goods staff received increased wages of 1s. to 3s. per week, latter also enjoying lessened hours of labour. Shunters were most considerately treated in the re-arrangement of their terms of hiring, while, carmen, platelayers, clerks, and, in fact every grade shared some advantage from the agitation and the improved financial position of the railways.

Sunday duty ceased with some to be a part of the regular week's duty, while in nearly every grade more regard was paid by the companies to the men's right to share in the national day of rest.

Weekly payments of wages were substituted for fortnightly ones; more clothing was given; engine drivers and others exposed to the weather were supplied with the protection of greatcoats for the first time. holidays, varying from three days to six days per annum, were promised to the traffic men as a right. Where arbitrary and overbearing attitudes had been assumed by officers, they deemed it wise to moderate their tone. Greater courtesy and regard were shown by the en, and their goodwill and loyalty sought for by conciliatory and kind treatment on the part of all officers. The greater independence of the men, and their improved position accruing from the agitation and the establishment of the society, weee manifested in a variety of ways, and it would have been well for them had they had the prudence to retain all the great advantages then gained by continued unwavering loyalty to the to the union.

nor should we omit to notice that the subjects of accidents and of the want to improvements in the construction and management of railways, were brought prominently to the front in consequence of the publicity given to railway matters during the agitation and eventually led to many of the important reforms and remedies of abuses which have marked subsequent years. The movement for compensation to railway servants for injuries naturally claimed attention, and the society never ceased in its efforts for an amendment of an unjust law, till the  Employers' Liability Act of 1880 which pressed so heavily on railway servants and the their families.



The objects of the society founded in November 1871, as set forth in the rules, were defined as follows:-

"To promote a good and fair understanding between the employers and employed; to prevent strikes; to protect its members; to secure ten hours as the standard for a fair day's labour, and eight hours for overtime, with payment for Sunday duty; to assist in arbitration grant temporary aid to its members during inquiries by the Executive; to assist emigration and to found a Superannuation Fund for old or disabled members."

At the representative delegate meeting in June 1872, this somewhat ambitions programme was much modified, and the objects of the Amalgamated Society declared to be:-

"The improvement of the general condition of all classes of railway employees, temporary assistance when thrown out of employment through causes over which they have no control legal assistance when necessary, and to provide a superannuation allowance to old or disabled members. All sick, accidental, and death benefits to be left to the discretion of branches to adopt and provide for as they may choose."

The comprehensive character of the society was declared in a further rule adopted, which set forth that those eligible for membership should be "Any person who may be in any way connected with any railway in Great Britain." The payments of members were fixed at an entrance fee of one shillings (afterwards to be two shillings), and a weekly subscription or contribution of three pence. No restriction was made as to and at the time of administration. The financial benefits offered were as follows:-

When out of employment 10s. per week for ten weeks, and 5s. per week for a further then weeks (legal assistance to any amount that may be necessary in cases sanctioned by the society); 5s. per week to members disabled by accident after fifty two weeks' membership; and also the same allowance to those members over fifty, who were incapacitated by reason of old age, after five years' membership to those who joined in 1872, and ten years' membership to those who joined on and after January 1st, 1878. It was understood that strikes were not to be engaged in under any circumstances. Probably the greatest value of the society at this time was felt to be its activity as an organisation constantly engaged in pleading the righted of its members, exposing abuses in railway management, and promoting every good work connection with railway industrial life. Its superannuation benefits were originally intended for those totally incapable of earning a livelihood; but as time wore on disablement of any kind was considered sufficient to entitle members to allowance, and the solvency of the society's position was thus imperilled. Although the contributions were fixed at threepence per week the early rule made it incumbent upon members to subscribe such further sums further sums as were necessary for the management of the branches.

As already stated, the government of the society was first vested in an Executive Committee, consisting of a president, vice president, and twenty one members, elected by the branches in the London district, and meeting at 25, Finsbury Place, E.C., then the head offices of the society. The government of the society, the duties of organisation, the decision of appeals, and general arrangements for furthering the work of the society, devolved upon this body. Each branch of the society had a constitution and by it had the right to appoint his own chairman, secretary, trustees, and committee, and to control the investment of its own funds, subject to the conditions laid down in the rules. The branches conducted their own business subject to a controlling supervision the part of the governing body. The only funds then centralised were those required for the general management.

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