All aboard! Introducing the Southern England Railway Employee Cards project

WSO staff sorting employee cards into alphabetical order

One of the larger gifts to the Record Office in recent years has been from the British Railways Board in Derby. This comprises the personnel cards of all employees in its Southern Region. In the days before computers, cards were the way to store details of all the men and women who worked on the railways. Across the top of the card are the employee’s name, nationality (if not British), date of birth, and date of starting employment. The main part of the card records each job, its location, and the pay. Long-standing employees who had many different jobs may have two or more cards.

The boxes of employee cards in the strongroom

Although the cards were originally stored alphabetically, in multiple drawers, they arrived at the Record Office in boxes, tied up in bundles. They were no longer in order, and had to be sorted. Taking advantage of being closed to the public on Mondays, staff set to and started the sorting. A volunteer is now continuing this task.

Every Tuesday a team of six Record Office volunteers is engaged in extracting information from the cards. In order to keep the project within reasonable limits, it has been decided to record the employee’s first job only, and the location of that job.

It is planned that, as the cards of surnames starting with each letter of the alphabet are completed, these records will become available through the Record Office’s online catalogue. However, there are obviously issues around privacy. It has therefore been decided that information other than the name will not be publicly available until 100 years after the employee’s birth.

Katherine Slay, Archives Assistant

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