The Railway Card Project: C, D and E surname cards – Rising through the ranks

By Katherine Slay, Archives Assistant

In our latest blog post, Katherine Slay gives brief stories of three employees of railway companies in the south-east of England, drawing on the information on their railway employee cards.

Edwin Charles Cox was born in 1868, and joined the Operating Department of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway in 1881, aged 13 ½. His career is a real rags to riches tale. His first job was ‘letter carrier’ at London Bridge, for which he was paid 10 shillings a week. Just eighteen months later he was the Station Master’s Clerk, and his pay had increased to 15 shillings a week. By the start of 1887 he was Superintendent’s Clerk and his pay was £52 a year.

Black and white photograph of Edwin Charles Fox in profile.
Edwin Charles Cox, by Lafayette. Half-plate nitrate negative, 8 February 1928. National Portrait Gallery x42328

From this point onwards his career, and pay, continued on an upward trajectory. 1902 saw him in the post of Chief Clerk, on £225. Twelve years later he was Superintendent of Line at London Bridge, on £1,000. His pay continued to rise, and when he was appointed Chief Operating Superintendent at Waterloo (Southern Railway) he was paid £3,500. His final position was Traffic Manager in 1930, for which he received £5,000. He retired, aged 68, in 1936.

An obituary from The Times (11 December 1958) attached to the back of his employment card notes that, in addition to his other roles, Edwin Cox was ‘one of the four men who devised and carried out the electrification and modernisation of the Southern Railway in the 1920s and 1930s under the leadership of Sir Herbert Walker.’ This was a major undertaking and Cox’s involvement goes to show how important a figure he had become.

Alfred Dunstan Cook’s career is another example of someone who rose from a relatively lowly position to one of significant influence. Cook was born in 1888, and joined the Treasurer’s Department of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway in 1902, aged 14. His first job was ‘junior clerk’ in the Parcels Manager’s Department, for which he was paid £26 a year. Four years later he was in the Cashier’s Department at London Bridge, on £50 a year. He was abroad on active service 1917-1919, ending up as a Captain in the Royal Engineers. He became Chief Cashier at Waterloo in 1932 on £900, and finally Treasurer in 1948, retiring in 1951 on £1775 a year.

Example image of a coronation medal which has a red and blue ribbon and silver medal with Elizabeth II's portrait on it.

Thomas Frederick Ellis began work at Kings Cross as a Police Detective in 1921, ending his career in 1953 as Acting Superintendent. The back of his card notes that he was awarded the Coronation Medal in 1953: a total of 129,051 medals went to members of the armed forces, government ministers, public servants and the police. Also noted on the card are commendations on his arrests between 1928 and 1940. These were frequently for larceny [theft of personal goods], but also included gaming and betting, apprehending a man for indecent behaviour, and the arrest of card sharpers [card players who made a living by cheating at card games].

Image: The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal celebrated the coronation of the Queen on 2 June 1953.

Watch this space for more stories from our Railway Card project over the coming months.

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