Chronology:    Bargery Number | Main Themes:
1840-49 510 | Train crashes
1850-59 224; | Accidents suffered by individuals
1860-69 201; 491 | The driver as hero
1870-79 282*, 683*, 688*, 691*, 692*, 694* |  
1880-89 033; 097; 369 |  
1890-99 081; 743 |  
1900-09   |  
1910-19 108 |  
Uncertain  253; 465 |  
  * The earliest and latest dates of the item span time periods. The item has been allocated to a time period by the curator. See the relevant item for detail.    


The Songs

This section includes songs and poems about real events and also works of fiction. Perhaps surprisingly, most of the works of fiction (mainly poems) were written by railway workers. The poetry of Alexander_AndersonĀ¹ is a significant element here. bar282, 683, 688, 691, 692, and 694 are all his work.


Historical Background

Well into the 20th century, it was the childhood ambition many small boys to be an engine driver when they grew up. Drivers were the first group of railway servants to join the aristocracy of labour. By 1865 some of them earned more than 40 shillings per week, more than twice the income of most workers [i]. As well as high wages they had continuity of work, an unusual level of security for most workers during the 19th century.

Drivers had to be highly literate at a time when compulsory schooling lasted a mere 5 or 6 years. They had to be self-motivated to gain the level of literacy required to follow the books of regulations and understand the continuous flow of amendments like these issued by the Midland Railway in April 1856.

"some difficulty having arisen in carrying out rule number 64 in the Company's Book of Rules and Regulations, in consequence of misapprehension between drivers and Pointsmen as to which line should, in some cases, be considered the Main line - and which the Branch, the following regulations have been drawn up for the guidance of drivers and pointsmen in the matter, and the particular attention of Drivers is called to the great importance of a strict observance of them.
In order that the Pointsmen may be at all times able to distinguish on which Line a train is coming. Drivers are instructed, on operating at a junction, by any of the lines branching therefrom, to give the same number of whistles they are instructed to do, when approaching the Junction in a contrary direction, and wishing to be turned on that Line.
The Junction Pointsmen have instructions not to lower their semaphores for approaching Trains until the necessary signal has been given, by a Driver, and to report every Train that is stopped in accordance with such instructions.
These Regulations come into operation on 1st May 1856." [ii]


[i] Hobsbawn, Eric. Labouring Men: Studies in the History of Labour (London, Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1964) p280
[ii] Evans A.K.B. and Gough J.V. (Eds) The Impact of Railways on Society in Britain Essays in Honour of Jack Simmons (Ashgate, 2003) p.