The Railway Card Project: F surname cards

By Katherine Slay, Archive Assistant, and Graham P, Project Volunteer.

Graham P, one of the volunteers working on the railway employee cards project, listed all the cards where the surname began with the letter ‘F’. He did an extensive analysis of the results, and also picked out some noteworthy entries. Extracts appear below; the longer version of Graham’s analysis has been catalogued as MP 8657.

Of the 2,022 cards:

  • 82% were for men and 18% for women
  • 5% died in service
  • 2% were non-UK nationals

The most common first names for men were William, John, George, Frederick, Robert, Peter, Thomas, David, Charles, James. Those for women were Mary, Elizabeth, Margaret, Eileen, Jean, Susan, Winifred, Doris, Dorothy, Lilian.

Unusual first names for women were Abike, Dorlas, Genoveva, Lavinia, Lurline, Lucia, Rae, Selina, Tolu, Waltrant. Those for men were Baldwin, Barrington, Boswell, Chesterfield, Forrest, Ivanhoe, St Clair, Segue, Theophilus, Walston.

An old black and white image of a steam train at Petworth Station.
The 2.59pm train to Pulborough from Petworth, at Petworth station on 5 February 1955. This was the last passenger train on the branch line. (WSRO Garland N44073)

Length of service ranged from less than a year (31%) to more than 40 years (13%). ‘Less than a year’ could mean ‘never took up employment’ (2 cases) or ‘left work on the same day they started’ (9 cases, including 2 who left at lunchtime).

Whilst the majority of employees had faultless careers, sixty-seven were dismissed for a variety of offences, mainly larceny or (perhaps predictably) failure to turn up for work. Some reasons were slightly more unusual, however, and include:

  • Persistent use of foul and abusive language to a supervisor;
  • Striking a member of the public;
  • Being drunk in charge of a horse box;
  • Repeated indecent exposure – the same train, the same time, four separate occasions;
  • Refusing to remove a cartload of horse manure from a waiting room (one wonders how it got there in the first place!)
  • Being caught ‘with a young lady in a Waiting Room’. He was sent home and ordered to report to the Station Master the next day, instead of which he threw his uniform and staff pass from a passing train. The card records that he is ‘judged to have self-dismissed’.

Fortunately, none of these were common occurrences – each offence was only committed by one employee.

Image of a paragraph from a rule book.
The 1933 Southern Railway Rule Book suggests that throwing your uniform out of a train window could prove an expensive error of judgement! (WSRO Acc 19781)

The F cards brought up some other interesting points and questions.

A woman had a medical examination as part of her recruitment process, the result of which is recorded on the card as ‘Normal’. What would have constituted not being regarded as ‘Normal’?

An Engine Driver was discovered with colour vision problems – he could not differentiate between red and green, something of a problem when looking at signals. The worrying thing is that he had been an Engine Driver for four years before this was discovered!

Steam traction finished on the Southern Region of British Rail in July 1967 (a sad day for those of us old enough to remember). Why then was a man at Southampton Docks still employed (and paid) as a ‘Fireman’ in 1974?

Nellie Felton’s second employee card shows details of pay rises due to her up to January 1941. Ancestry.co.uk confirms her death in June 1930, so I suspect these pay rises were simply added by a clerk who failed to check if she was still working for the Southern Railway.

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


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