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LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 



UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME 

THE READERS' LIBRARY 
50 Volumes Published 

Full list of Tttlet can be had from 
the Publishers 

DUCKWORTH & CO. 
COVENT GARDEN, LONDON 



LIFE IN 
A RAILWAY FACTORY 

BY 

ALFRED WILLIAMS 



AUTHOR OF 
■a WILTSHIRE village' 

'villages of the white horsb' 




LONDON 

DUCKWORTH & CO. 

3 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN, W.G. 



I'lrst fjiblisked 1915 
Published tn the Readers' Library 1920 



Printed in Great Britain 
iy Turnhull 4* Shears, EdinburgK 



351.3 



1 f>» ^ve^-T -c 



">'- 



To My Friend 
ALFRED E. ZIMMERN 



626028 



PREFACE 

My object in penning " Life in a Railway Factory " 
was to take advantage of the opportunities I have had 
as a workman, during twenty-three years' continuous 
service in the sheds, of setting down what I have seen 
and known for the interest and education of others, 
who might Uke to be informed as to what is the actual 
life of the factory, but who have no means of ascertain- 
ing it from the generality of literature published upon 
the matter. 

The book opens with a short survey of several causes 
of labour unrest and suggestions as to its remedy. Then 
follows a brief description of the stamping shed, which 
is the principal scene and theatre of the drama of Ufe 
exhibited in the pages, the central point from which 
our observations were made and where the chief of 
our knowledge and experience was acquired. After a 
glance into the interior we explore the surroundings 
and pay a visit to the rolling mills, and watch the men 
shingling and rolling the iron and forging wheels for 
the locomotives. Continuing our perambulation of the 
yard we encounter the shunters, watchmen, carriage 
finishers, painters, washers-down, and cushion-beaters. 
The old canal claims a moment's attention, then we 
pass on to the ash-wheelers, bricklayers, road-waggon 
builders, and the wheel-turning shed. Leaving them 
behind we come to the " field," where the old broad- 
gauge vehicles were broken up or converted, and pro- 
ceed thence into the din of the frame-building shed and 

vii 



viii LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

study some portion of its life. Next follows an ex- 
ploration of the smithy and a consideration of the 
smith at work and at home, his superior skill and 
characteristics. From our study of the smiths we 
pass to that of the fitters, forgemen, and boilermakers, 
and complete our tour of the premises by visiting the 
foundry and viewing the operations of the moulders. 

The early morning stir in the town and country 
around the sheds, the preparations for work, the manner 
in which the toilers arrive at the factory, and the com- 
position of the crowd are next described, after which 
we enter the stamping shed and witness the initial 
toils of the forgemen and stampers, view the oil furnace 
and admire the prowess of " Ajax " and his companions. 
The drop-hammers and their staff receive proportionate 
attention ; then follows a comparison of forging and 
smithing, a study of several personalities, and an in- 
spection of the plant known as the Yankee Hammers. 
Chapter XI. is a description of the first quarter at the 
forge expressed entirely by means of actual conversa- 
tions, ejaculations, commands, and repartees, overheard 
and faithfully recorded. Following that is a first- 
hand account of how the night shift is worked, giving 
one entire night at the forge and noting the various 
physical phases through which the workman passes 
and indicating the effects produced upon the body by 
the inversion of the natural order of tilings. The 
remainder of the chapters is devoted to the description 
and explanation of a variety of matters, including the 
manner of putting on and discharging hands, methods 
of administration, intimidating and terrorising, the 
interpretation of moods and feeUngs during the passage 
of the day, week and year, hohdays, the effects of cold 
and heat, causes of sickness and accidents, the psycho- 
logy of fat and lean workmen, comedy, tragedy, short 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY ix 

time and overtime, the advantages — or disadvantages 
— of education and intelligence, ending up with a 
review of the industrial situation as it was before the 
war and remarks upon the future outlook. A table 
of wages paid at the works is added as an appendix. 

The site of the factory is the Wiltshire town of 
Swindon. This stands at the extremity of the Upper 
Thames Valley, in the centre of a vast agricultural 
tract, and is seventy-seven miles from London and 
about forty from Bristol. Its population numbers 
approximately fifty thousand, all largely dependent 
upon the railway sheds for subsistence. The inhabit- 
ants generally are a heterogenous people. The majority 
of the works' officials, the clerical staff, journeymen, 
and the highly skilled workers have been imported 
from other industrial centres ; the labourers and the 
less highly trained have been recruited wholesale from 
the villages and hamlets surrounding the town. About 
twelve thousand men, including clerks, are normally 
employed at the factory. A knowledge of the com- 
position of the inhabitants of the town is important, 
otherwise one might be at a loss to account for the 
low rate of wages paid, the lack of spirited effort and 
efficient organisation among the workers, and other 
conditions peculiar to the place. 

The book was never intended to be an expression 
of patriotism or unpatriotism, for it was written before 
the commencement of the European conflict. It 
consequently has nothing directly to do with the war, 
nor with the manufacture of munitions, any more than 
it incidentally discovers the nature of the toils, exertions, 
and sacrifices demanded of those who must slave at 
furnace, miU, steam-hammer, anvil, and lathe pro- 
ducing suppHes for our armies and for those of our 
Allies in the field, it is not a treatise on economics, 



X LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

for I have never studied the science. If I had set out 
with the intention of theoretically slaughtering every 
official responsible for the administration of the factory 
I should have failed signally. I never contemplated 
such a course. Instead I wished to write out my own 
experiences and observations simply, and from my 
own point of view, mistaken or otherwise, without 
fear or favour to any. I have my faiUngs and pre- 
judices. What they are is very well known to me, and 
I have no intention of disavowing them. Whoever 
disagrees with me is fully entitled to his opinion. I 
shall not question his judgment, though I shall not 
easily surrender my own. I am not anxious to quarrel 
with any man ; at the same time I am not disposed to 
be fettered, smothered, gagged or silenced, to cower 
and tremble, or to shrink from uttering what I beheve 
to be the truth in deference to the most formidable 
despot living. 

A. W. 

24ih July 19 15. 

A portion of Chapter XIII. has appeared in the 
English Review. My thanks are due to the Editor 
for his courteous permission to reproduce it in the 
volume. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

PAGE 
LABOUR UNREST ........ I 

CHAPTER II 

THE STAMPING SHOP — GENERAL ENVIRONMENT — THE 

" GOALIES " THE ROLLING MILLS PUDDLING AND 

SHINGLING ACCIDENTS AT THE ROLLS THE SCRAP 

WAGGONS — WASTE ...... 9 

CHAPTER III 

THE SHUNTERS WATCHMEN — DETECTING A THIEF FIRES 

— CARRIAGE FINISHERS PAINTERS WASHERS-DOWN 

CUSHION -BEATERS CHANGES AND INNOVATIONS 

DEPARTMENTAL RELATIONS ..... 25 

CHAPTER IV 

THE OLD CANAL THE ASH-WHEELERS THE BRICKLAYERS 

RIVAL FOREMEN THE ROAD-WAGGON BUILDERS 

THE WHEEL SHED — BOY TURNERS — THE RUBBISH 

HEAP .....•••• 44 

CHAPTER V 

"THE FIELD" " CUTTING-DOWN " — THE FLYING DUTCH- 
MAN THE FRAME SHED — PROMOTION RIVET BOYS 

— THE OVERSEER ....••• 63 

CHAPTER VI 

THE SMITHY — THE SMITH BUILDING THE FIRE GALLERY- 
MEN APPRENTICES THE OLDEST HAND — DEATH OF 

A SMITH— THE SMITH'S ATTITUDE TO HIS MATES — HIS 
GREAT GOOD-NATURE — THE SMITHS' FOREMAN . 83 

Xt 



Jdi LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

CHAPTER VII 



PAGE 



FITTERS THE STEAM-HAMMER SHED FORGEMEN THEIR 

CHARACTERISTICS BOILERMAKERS THE FOUNDRY 

THE BLAST FURNACE — MOULDERS .... lOO 

CHAPTER VIII 

GETTING TO WORK THE AWAKENING IN THE COUNTRY 

STEALING A RIDE THE TOWN STIR THE ARMY OF 

WORKMEN " CHECKING " EARLY COMERS CLERKS 

AND DRAUGHTSMEN FEATURES OF THE STAFF . I20 

CHAPTER IX 

FIRST OPERATIONS IN THE SHED — THE EARLY DIN — ITS 

EFFECT ON THE WORKMEN CHARGING THE HEATS 

THE OIL FURNACE THE " AJAX " HARRY AND 

SAMMY THE " STRAPPIE " HYDRAULIC POWER 

WHEEL-BURSTING ....... I36 

CHAPTER X 

STAMPING — THE DROP-HAMMER STAFF — ALGY AND CECIL — 
PAUL AND " PUMP " — " SMAMER " — BOILERS — A NEAR 
SHAVE ......... 153 

CHAPTER XI 

FORGING AND SMITHING — HYDRAULIC OPERATIONS — 

" BALTIMORE " " BLACK SAM " " STRAWBERRY " 

AND GUSTAVUS THE " FIRE KING " " TUBBY " 

BOLAND — PINNELL OF THE YANKEE PLANT . . 169 

CHAPTER XII 

FIRST QUARTER AT THE FORGE ..... 187 

CHAPTER XIII 

THE NIGHT SHIFT — ARRIVAL IN THE SHED — " FOLLOW- 
ING THE TOOL " — THE FORGEMAN's HASTE AND BUSTLE 

LIGHT AND SHADE SUPPER-TIME CLATTER AND 

CLANG MIDNIGHT WEARINESS THE RELEASE 

HOME TO REST ....... 306 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY xiii 



CHAPTER XIV 



PAGE 



INFERIORITY OF WORK MADE BY THE NIGHT SHIFT ALTER- 
ING THE GAUGES — THE "BLACK LIST" "DOUBLE 

STOPPAGE CHARLIE " " JIMMY USELESS " THE 

HAUNTED FORGE AND COKE HEAP THE OLD VALET 

THE CHECKER AND STOREKEEPER .... 225 

CHAPTER XV 

SICKNESS AND ACCIDENTS THE FACTORY YEAR HOLI- 
DAYS " TRIP " MOODS AND FEELINGS PAY-DAY^ 

LOSING A QUARTER GETTING MARRIED . . . 24I 

CHAPTER XVI 

COLD AND HEAT — MEALS FAT AND LEAN WORKMEN 

WAYS AND MEANS PRANKS ALL FOOLS' DAY NEW 

year's EVE ........ 258 

CHAPTER XVII 

GETTING A START THE NEW HAND TOWN AND COUNTRY 

WORKMEN PROMOTION — DISCHARGING HANDS 

LANGUAGE OF THE SHED EDUCATION THE EDUCATED 

MAN NOT WANTED GREASING THE FORGE . . 274 

CHAPTER XVIII 

SHORT TIME AND OVERTIME " BACK TO THE LANd" 

THE TOWN INFLUENCE CHANGES AT THE WORKS 

GRIEVANCES THE POSITION OF LABOUR ILLS AND 

REMEDIES — THE FUTURE OUTLOOK .... 292 

APPENDIX 

TABLE OF WAGES PAID AT THE WORKS .... 309 



Index . . . . . . . . . .311 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY 
FACTORY 



CHAPTER I 

LABOUR UNREST 

Someone once asked the Greek Thales how he might 
best bear misfortune and he replied — "By seeing your 
enemy in a worse condition than yourself." He would 
have been as near the truth if he had said "friend" 
instead of " enemy." Everyone appears to desire to 
see every other one worse off than himself. He is not 
content with doing well ; he must do better, and if 
his success happens to be at the expense of one less 
fortunate he will be the more highly gratified. This 
lust of dominion and possession dates from the very 
foundation of human society. It is a feature of bar- 
barism, and one that the wisest teaching and the most 
civilising influences at work in the world have failed 
to remove or even very materially to modify. The 
idea behind the Sic vos non vobis of Virgil has always 
been uppermost in the minds of the powerful. This 
it was that doomed the captives of the Greeks and 
Romans to a hfe of wretchedness and misery in the 
mines. This was responsible for the subjugation of 
the English peasants, and their reduction to the order 
of serfs in feudal times. And this is what would en- 
slave the labouring classes in mine, field, and factory 
to-day. It must not be permitted. There is a way 



2 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

to defeat it. That is by law. Not a law made by the 
depredators but by the workers themselves. They 
have the means at their disposal. If they would sum- 
mon up the courage to make use of them they might 
shatter the power of the capitahst at a stroke and free 
themselves from his domination for ever. 

A principal cause of trouble everywhere between the 
employer and the employed is the lack of recognition 
of the worker. I mean this in its broadest sense. I 
do not mean merely that great and powerful combina- 
tions do not want to recognise Trade Unions. We aU 
know that. It is a part of their policy and is dictated 
by pride and the spirit of intolerance. But they make 
a much more serious and fatal mistake. They refuse 
to recognise a man. All kinds of employers are guilty 
of this. The mineowner, the trading syndicate, the 
railway or steamship company, municipal authorities, 
the large and smaU manufacturer, the farmer and shop- 
keeper are equally to blame. If thej^ would recognise 
the man they might be led to a consideration of his 
legitimate needs. They must first admit him to be 
equall}^ a member of the human family and then recog- 
nise that, as such, he has claims as righteous and sacred 
as they. That is where the representative' of capital 
invariably fails. He ^vill not admit that the one under 
his authority has any rights of his own. To him the 
worker is as much a slave as ever he was, only he is 
conscious that his treatment of him must be subject 
to the Umitations imposed by the modern laws of the 
land. And as he flouts the individual so he contemns 
the collective organisations of the men. He is deter- 
mined not to recognise them. He considers tliis to 
be a proof of his strength. In reality it is a badge of 
his weakness. Sooner or later it will prove his undoing. 

I wiU give an illustration. Several years ago, work- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 3 

ing in the same shed as myself, was a grey-headed 
furnaceman. He was not an old man ; he could have 
been no more than fifty. One day he met with a serious 
accident. While attending to his furnace, in a stoop- 
ing position, someone in passing accidentally pushed 
him. This caused him to lose his balance and he slipped 
on the plate and fell head-first into a boshful of boiling 
water underneath the fire hole. His head and shoulders 
were severely scalded, and he was absent on the sick 
list for two months. When he came in again he was 
not allowed to resume work at the furnace but was 
put wheeling out ashes from the smiths' fires. To my 
steam-hammer an oil furnace had recently been attached 
and several managers came daily to experiment with it. 
One morning, while they were present, the ex-furnace- 
man came to wheel away the debris. Then a manager 
turned to me and said — 

" Who's that ? What's he doing here ? " 

I explained who the man was and what he was doing. 

" Pooh! What's the good of that thing! He ought 
to be shifted outside," replied he. 

In a short while afterwards the furnaceman was dis- 
charged. 

There is something even worse than this and much 
more serious in effect. That is a result of too great 
recognition. I am referring to the common fault of 
interfering with and penalising men of superior mental 
and intellectual powers. There is even a certain ad- 
vantage in a man's ability to escape attention. Especi- 
ally if he is of a courageous turn of mind, has views and 
ideas of his own, and is able to influence others. He 
will live the more easy for it. Left to himself he can 
work away quietly, informing the minds and leavening 
the opinions of those round about him. If he can 
escape recognition. But he cannot. He is soon dis- 



4 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

covered, gagged, smothered, or got rid of. The safest 
way to strengthen a flame is to fan it. And if you 
want to intensify a man's dissatisfaction with a thing 
attempt to prevent him by force from giving expres- 
sion to it. That is a sure means of provocation and 
will bear fruit a hundredfold. 

We hear a great deal about the " discontent " of the 
workers, and a degree of censure and reproach is usually 
conveyed with the expression. It is not half general 
enough. The average working man is too content. 
He is often lazily apathetic. Is the mineowner, the 
manufacturer, or the railway magnate content ? Of 
course he is not. Strength is in action. When I hear 
of a man's being satisfied I know that he is done for. 
He might as well be dead. I wish the workers were 
more discontented, though I should in every case like 
to see their discontent rationally expressed and aU 
their efforts intelligently directed. They waste a 
fearful amount of time and energy through irresolution 
and uncertainty of objective. 

The selfishness, cruelty, and arrogance of the capitalist 
and his agents force the workers into rebellion. The 
swaggering pomposity and fantastic ceremony of officials 
fill them \^dth deserving contempt. Their impudence 
is amazing. I have known a foreman of the shed to 
attack a man by reason of the decent clothes he had on 
and forbid him to wear a bowler hat. Not only in the 
workshop but even at home in his private life and deal- 
ings he is under the eye of his employer. His liberty 
is t37rannically restricted. In the town he is not allowed 
to supplement his earnings by any activity except such 
as has the favour of the works' officials. He must not 
keep a coffee-shop or an inn, or be engaged in any 
trading whatever. He may not even sell apples or 
gooseberries. And if he happens to be the spokesman 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 5 

of a labourers' union or to be connected with any other 
independent organisation, woe betide him ! The older 
established association — such as that of the engineers — 
is not interfered with. It is the unprotected unskilled 
workman that must chiefly be terrorised and subjugated. 
The worker is everywhere exploited. The speeding- 
up of late years has been general and insistent. New 
machinery is continually being installed in the sheds. 
This is driven at a high rate and the workman must 
keep pace with it. The toil in many cases is painfully 
exacting. There may be a less amount of violent 
physical exertion required here and there, though much 
more concentration of mind and attention wiU be 
needed. The output, in some instances, has been in- 
creased tenfold. I am not exaggerating when I say 
that the actual exertions of the workman have often 
been doubled or trebled, yet he receives scarcely any- 
thing more in wages. In some cases he does not receive 
as much. He may have obtained a couple of shillings 
more in day wages and at the same time have lost 
double the amount in piecework balance. Occasion- 
ally, when the foreman of the shed has mercilessly cut 
a man's prices, he offers him a sop in the shape of a 
rise of one or two shilhngs. On the hammers under 
my charge during the last ten years the day wages of 
assistants — owing to their being retained on the job 
up to a greater age — had doubled^ and the piecework 
prices had been cut by one half. As a result the gang 
lost about £80 in a year. A mate of mine, whose prices 
had been cut to the lowest fraction, though offered a 
rise, steadily refused it on the ground that he would be 
worse off than before. Though slaving from morning 
till night he could not earn his percentage of profit. 
In many cases where the workman was formerly allowed 
to earn a profit of 33 per cent, on his day wages he is now 



6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

restricted to 25 per cent., and the prices have been 
correspondingly reduced. Even now the foreman is not 
satisfied. He will still contrive to keep the percentage 
earned below the official figure in order to ingratiate 
himself with the managers and to give them the im- 
pression that he is still engaged in paring the prices. 

At the same time, a marvellous lack of real initiative 
is discovered by the factory staff. Things that have 
been so are so, and if any sharp and enterprising work- 
man sees the possibility of improvement anywhere and 
makes a suggestion he is soundly snubbed for his pains. 
In their particular anxiety to exact the last ounce from 
the workman in the matter of labour the managers 
overlook multitudes of important details connected 
with their own administration, but which the workman 
sees as plainly as he does the nose on his face. They 
often spend pounds to effect the saving of a few pence. 
They lavish vast sums on experiments that the most 
ordinary man perceives have no possible chance of 
being successful, or even useful if they should succeed. 
Men's opinions upon a point are rarely soUcited ; if 
offered, they are behttled and rejected. Where an 
opinion is asked for it is usually intended as a bait for 
a trap , the answer is carefully recorded and afterwards 
used to prove something to the other's disadvantage. 

But those ideas which are most valuable, provided 
they are not complex and the simple-minded official 
can readily grasp them — which is not always the case — 
he secretly cherishes and stealthily develops and after- 
wards parades them to his superior with swaggering 
pride as his own inventions. It is thus Mr So-and-so 
becomes a smart man in the eyes of the firm, while, as 
a matter of fact, he is a perfect blockhead and an ignor- 
amus. Meanwhile, the very workman whose idea has 
been purloined and exploited is treated as a danger by 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 7 

the foreman ; henceforth he must be watched and kept 
well in subjection. The cowardly overseer sees in him 
a possible rival, and is fearful for his own credit. This 
is one of the worst ills of the manufacturing life, and 
has crushed many a brave, good spirit, and smothered 
many a rising genius. The disadvantage is twofold. 
There is a loss to manufacture in not being assisted 
with new and bright ideas, and another to the individual, 
who is not only deprived of the fruits of his inventive 
faculty but is systematically punished for the possession 
of an original mind. In a word, officialism at the works 
is continually straining at the gnat and swallowing the 
camel. 

What means are to be adopted in order to do away 
with the anomaly ? One of the first things to do would 
be to recognise the individual. We want a better 
understanding and a new feehng altogether. The worker 
does not need a profusion of sentiment ; he claims 
justice. He is wilHng to give and take. He knows that 
enormous profits are made out of his efforts and it is 
but natural that he should demand to receive a fair 
amount of remuneration and equitable conditions. My 
companion of the next steam-hammer, by means of 
a new process, in one week saved the railway company 
£20 in the execution of a single order. He had to work 
doubly hard to do it but he received not a penny extra 
himself. The piecework system as it stands is grossly 
unfair. All the profits accrue to one side and when the 
worker demands what is, after all, an insignificant 
participation in them he is described as being unreason- 
able and discontented. Where day wages have risen 
all round on piecework jobs the prices should be increased 
in proportion, otherwise the workman is simply paying 
himself for his additional efforts out of his own pocket. 

Better wages and shorter hours are desired in every 



8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

sphere of labour and especially in factories. The worker 
is not greatly concerned as to whether he is employed 
by the State or by a syndicate as long as he obtains 
justice. It is no more trouble for ParUament to formu- 
late a law for a private concern than for a Government 
department. Forty-eight hours a week is long enough 
for any man to work. I would have the factory week 
completed in five turns. There is no need of the half- 
day Saturdays. It is a waste of time. It is expensive 
for the employers and unprofitable for the men. They 
can neither work nor play. If forty-eight hours were 
divided out into five turns the expense of steaming 
for the half-turn on Saturday would be saved. The 
amount of work produced would not fall very far below 
that made at present, and the men would be better 
satisfied. They would at least be able to have a clear 
rest and come to work fresh and fit on the Monday. 
I would even go further and suggest forty-five hours — 
that is, five turns of nine hours each — as a working 
week for factories in the future. This is not so im- 
possible nor yet as unreasonable as it may appear. 
The proposal will doubtless strike some as being amaz- 
ing. Nevertheless, I recommend it to them for their 
leisurely consideration. By aiming high we shall hit 
something. But there are obstacles to remove and 
difficulties to overcome. 



CHAPTER II 

THE STAMPING SHOP — GENERAL ENVIRONMENT — ^THE 
" GOALIES " — THE ROLLING MILLS — PUDDLING AND 
SHINGLING — ACCIDENTS AT THE ROLLS — THE SCRAP 
WAGGONS — WASTE 

The Stamping Shop is square, or nearly so, each lateral 
corresponding to a cardinal point of the compass — 
north, south, east, and west, the whole comprising about 
an acre and a quarter. That is not an extensive build- 
ing for a railway manufactory. There are some shops 
with an area of not less than five, six, and even seven 
acres — a prodigious size ! They are used for purposes 
of construction, for carriages, waggons, locomotives, 
and also for repairs. The premises used for purely 
manufacturing purposes, such as those I am now speak- 
ing of, are generally much smaller in extent. 

The workshop is modern in structure and has not 
stood for more than fifteen years. Before that time 
the work proceeded on a much smaller scale, and was 
carried on in a shed built almost entirely of wood and 
corrugated iron — a dark, wretched place, without Ught 
or ventilation, save for the broken windows and rents 
in the low, depressed roof. With the development of 
the industry and general expansion of trade this became 
altogether inadequate to cope with the requirements 
of the other sheds, and a move had to be made to 
larger and more commodious premises. Thereupon a 
site was chosen and a new shop erected about a quarter 
of a mile distant. The walls of this are of brick, built 

8 



10 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

with " piers " and " panels," thirty feet high, soHd, 
massive, and substantial, with no pretence to show of 
any kind. The roof is constructed in bays running 
north and south, according to the disposition of the 
long walls, and presents a serrated appearance, like the 
teeth of a huge saw. Of these bays the slopes towards 
sunrise are filled in with stout panes of glass ; the 
opposite sides are of strong boards covered with slates, 
the whole supported by massive sectional principals 
and a network of stout iron girders. 

The roof is studded with hundreds of wooden ventil- 
ators intended to carry off the smoke and fumes from 
the forges. Above them tower numerous furnace stacks 
and chimneys from the boilers, with the exhaust pipes 
of the engines and steam-hammers. Towards summer, 
when the days lengthen and the sun pours down inter- 
minable volumes of light and heat from a cloudless sky, 
or when the air without is charged with electricity and 
the thunder bellows and rolls over the hills and downs 
to the south, and the forked lightning flashes reveal 
every corner of the dark smithy so that the heat becomes 
almost unbearable, a large quantity of the glass is re- 
moved to aid ventilation ; the heat, assisted by the 
ground current, rises and escapes through the roof. 
But when the rain comes and the heavy showers, driven 
at an angle by the wind, beat furiously through upon 
the half-naked workmen beneath, even this is not an 
unmixed blessing. Or when the sun shoots his hot 
arrows down through the openings upon the toilers at 
the steam-hammers and forges, as he always does twice 
during the morning — once before breakfast, and again 
at about eleven o'clock — it is productive of increased 
discomfort ; the sweat flows faster and the work flags. 
This does not last long, however. Southward goes the 
sun, and shade succeeds. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY ii 

The eastern and western ends of the shed are ahnost 
half taken up with large sliding doors, that reach as 
high as to the roof. These rest on wheels which are 
superimposed upon iron rails, so that a child might 
push them backwards and forwards. Through several 
of the doors rails are laid to permit of engines and 
waggons entering with loads of material — iron and steel 
for the furnaces — and also for conveying away the 
manufactures. A narrow bogie line runs round the 
shed and is used for transferring materials from one 
part to another and to the various hydraulic presses 
and forges. Here and there are fixed small turn-tables 
to enable the bogies to negotiate the angles and move 
from track to track. 

Southward the shed faces a yard of about ten acres 
in extent. This is bounded on every side by other 
workshops and premises, all built of the same dingy 
materials — brick, slate, and iron — blackened with smoke, 
dust, and steam, surmounted with tall cliimneys, in- 
numerable ventilators, and poles for the telephone 
wires, which effectually block out all perspective. To 
view it from the interior is like looking around the inner 
walls of a fortress. There is no escape for the eye ; 
nothing but bricks and mortar, iron and steel, smoke 
and steam arising. It is ugly ; and the sense of confine- 
ment within the prison-like walls of the factory renders 
it still more dismal to those who have any thought of 
the hills and fields beyond. Only in summer does it 
assume a brighter aspect. Then the sun scalds down 
on the network of rails and ashen ground with deadly 
intensity ; the atmosphere quivers and trembles ; the 
fine dust burns under your feet, and the steel tracks 
glitter under the blinding rays. The clouds of dazzling 
steam from the engines are no longer visible — the air 
being too hot to admit of condensation — and the black 



12 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

smoke from the furnaces and boilers hangs in the air, 
Ufeless and motionless, like a pall, for hours and hours 
together. 

But when the summer is over, when the majesty of 
July and August is past and gone and golden September 
gives place to rainy October, or, most of all, when dull, 
gloomy November covers the skies with its impenetrable 
veil of drab cloud and mist day after day and week after 
week, with scarcely an hour of sunshine, the utter dis- 
malness and ugliness of the place are appalling. Then 
there is not a vestige of colour. The sky, roofs, walls, 
the engines moving to and fro, the rolling stock, the 
stacks of plates and ingots of iron and steel, the sleepers 
for the rails, the ground beneath — everything is dark, 
sombre, and repeUant. Not a glint upon the steel hues ! 
Not a refraction of hght from the slates on the roof! 
Everything is dingy, dirty, and drab. And drab is 
the mind of the toiler all this time, drab as the skies 
above and the walls beneath. Doomed to the confine- 
ment from which there is no escape, he accepts the con- 
dition and is swallowed up in his environment. 

There is one point, and only one, a few paces west of 
the shed, from which an inspiriting view may be had. 
There, on a fine day, from between two towering walls, 
in the little distance, blue almost as the sky and yet 
distinct and well-defined, may be seen a great part of 
Liddington HiU, crowned with the castelhim, the scene 
of many a lively contest in prehistoric days, and the holy 
of holies of Richard Jefferies, who spent days and nights 
there trying to fathom the supreme mystery that has 
baffled so many great and ardent souls. When the 
sky is clear and the air free from mist and haze — especi- 
ally as it appears sometimes in the summer months, 
under a southern wind, or before or after rain — so dis- 
tinct does the sloping line of the hill show, with its 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 13 

broad front towards you, that you may even perceive 
the common features and details of it. Then you may 
plainly view the disposition of the stone walls running 
from top to base, with the white chalk-pits gleaming 
like snow in the distance, and tell the outer wall of the 
entrenchment. In short, you might imagine yourself 
to be standing within the mound and looking out over 
the magnificent valley — north, east, and west ; towards 
Bristol, over Cirencester, and beyond Witney and 
Oxford. But in the winter even this is denied. Then 
the dark lowering clouds sweep along the downs and 
shut them out of view, or grey mist fills the intervening 
valley, or the rain, falling in torrents or driving in the 
furious south-west gale, hides it completely ; or if it 
is at all visible under the cold sky, it seems so far 
removed and the distance so intensified as to lose all 
resemblance to a liill and to look hke a dim blue cloud 
faintly seen on the horizon, and which is no more than 
a suggestion, a shape phantasmal. 

Everywhere about the yard is evidence of industry 
and activity ; there all is suggestive of toil, labour, and 
power. On the right, stretching for a quarter of a 
mile, are hundreds upon hundreds of wheels, tyres, and 
axles for carriages and waggons, in every phase and 
degree of fitness ; some fresh from the rolling mills — 
from Sheftield and Scotland — some turned and fitted 
in the lathe, huge jointless tyres newly unladen waiting 
to take their turn in the operation of fitting them to 
the wheels, and others finished, wheels, tyres, and axle 
compact, dipped in tar — except the journals — to prevent 
them from rusting, and all ready to be placed under- 
neath the waggons. There are wheels of solid steel, 
wheels with spokes, and wheels of oak, teak, and even 
of paper composition, of many sorts and sizes, for 
smooth-running carriages. One would think there were 



14 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

enough of them to stock the whole railway system, but 
a few weeks of steady consumption would thin them 
down, and the yard would soon be bare and empty if 
fresh consignments were not every day arriving. 

In front of the wheels, in rows and lines, are the huge 
cast-iron blocks and dies used for punching and pressing 
by the hydraulic machines. They are of all shapes and 
dimensions^ puzzhng to the eye of the stranger, but 
easily identified by those who are accustomed to use 
them, and who have been acquainted with them perhaps 
from boyhood. There are sets for " jogghng " and 
" up-setting," and others for shaping and levelling. In 
the midst of them stands a stout, three-legged machine 
called a " sheer legs." To this is attached strong pulley 
blocks for lifting the sets from the ground — many of 
them weigh considerably more than a ton ; afterwards 
a stout bogie is run underneath and the blocks are 
lowered and so carried off to the field of operations. 

Many an accident has happened in the conveyance 
of blocks and dies to and from their destination ; many 
a bruised foot or broken limb has resulted from a lack 
of carefulness and attention on the part of the workmen. 
The slightest disregard may lead to injury. The bogie 
may shp, or the block slide, and woe be to the individual 
who chances to be in the way of the falling mass. Un- 
assuming, and even valueless as this collection of dies 
may appear to the uninitiated, it is reaUy worth a huge 
sum, for manufacturing tools are of a very expensive 
character. 

Close on the left is a long line of waggons laden with 
coal fresh from the Welsh pits, and near by is a large 
bunk into which it is emptied to allow of the speedy 
return of the vehicles — an important item in railway 
administration. Here the dark and grimy coal heavers, 
with faces as black as the mineral they are handhng, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 15 

grunt and sweat, their eyes obtaining peculiar promin- 
ence from being inset in a ground of ebony, and their 
teeth gHstening pearly white through the blackened 
lips, appearing the more remarkable if they should smile 
at you. For even they will brighten up sometimes. 
Hard and laborious as their toil is, they will now and 
then relax into pleasantry and relieve the tedium of 
work with a snatch of song and hilarity. 

The coalies are not highly paid. Their day wages 
are eighteen shillings or a pound a week, but, as all the 
work of the shed is done at the piece rate^ they are 
enabled to earn a few shillings above that sum. The 
dullest men — those whose misfortune it is to have 
missed the right education, or those who are naturally 
slow and awkward — are usually selected for coal- 
heaving. Very often, however, shrewd and capable, 
smart and intelligent men, who might be more profit- 
ably employed than in shovelling coal from the truck 
to the bunk or wheel-barrow, are put at the task. Per- 
haps this is the result of carelessness on the part of the 
overseer, or it may be dearth of hands, and very likely 
it is intentional. The man is out of favour and has been 
clapped there as a punishment. 

Near the coal station stand piles upon piles of iron 
and steel, in plates, bars, and ingots, some six and some 
ten feet high, in large square stacks, and the long bars 
disposed between uprights to keep them together and 
separate those of different lengths and sizes. The chief 
part of this comes in from " abroad," that is, from the 
midlands and the north of England, for very little iron 
ore is now manufactured on the premises. A small 
amount of pig iron is imported and worked up at the 
local rolling mills, but the greater part of the metal is 
purchased of the big firms and dealers away from the 
town. 



i6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

The chief occupation of the factory roUing mills now 
is to receive the iron scrap from the various workshops, 
such as clippings, shearings, punchings, and drillings, 
with all the old iron proceeding from the breaking up 
of worn-out engines and vehicles. This is first of all 
reduced to convenient shape and then set up in " piles " 
on thin pieces of wood to enable of its being placed in 
the furnace on the peels used for the purpose. In the 
making of piles the flat pieces of metal are placed 
around the outside, leaving a hollow within, which is 
filled up with punchings and drillings, old rivets, nuts, 
bolts, and other similar scrap. The pile is set in the 
furnace and heated, when it coalesces into a mass ; 
afterwards it is brought out to the heavy steam-hammer 
and beaten into rough bars or slabs, several feet in 
length. This process is called " shingling." When 
the iron has become fairly soUd and of convenient 
length, the bars, still spluttering and fizzing — for they 
have not been under the hammer for more than two 
or three minutes — are hurried off to the rolls. There 
they are received by the men in charge, who stand 
stripped to the waist, with tongs in hand, and dexter- 
ously guide the rough ingots into the ponderous rollers 
that revolve at speeds suited to the size and weight of 
the bars, and always with a loud clanking noise. 

As soon as the bar is rolled through — already drawn 
out to two or three times its original length — the roUs 
stop and instantly revolve in the other direction. The 
bar is again guided into the channel of the rollers and 
emerges on the other side, longer and smoother. This 
process is continued four or five times until the bars 
are finished ; then other small roUers in the floor are 
set in motion and the bars travel along the ground to 
the steam saws, where they are cut up into the lengths 
required. There they are loaded on iron bogies and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 17 

carried off, or rolled along as before to the weighing 
machines ; everything is paid for according to the 
weight of the finished material. 

Punchings and drillings are also treated by the pro- 
cess known as " puddling." In this case, the furnaces 
will have a cavity in the floor, into which the small 
scrap material is shovelled or tipped. The door is 
now made fast and the heat applied, which must not 
be too fierce, however, or the whole mass would soon 
be burned and spoiled. When the drillings and chip- 
pings have cohered, the puddler, by an aperture through 
the iron door, inserts a steel bar, curved at the end, and 
prises the lump and turns it over and over. This is 
called " balling up." By and by, when the iron is 
thoroughly heated and fairly consistent, it is brought 
to the " shingler," who soon gives it shape and solidity. 
At the first few blows a terrific shower of sparks shoots 
around, which travel for a great distance, burning 
ever3^hing they meet. To protect themselves against 
this the shinglers wear heavy iron jackboots, reaching 
above the knees, with an iron veil over their eyes and 
faces. As the steam-hammer block upon which the 
pounding is done is only a few inches above the floor 
level and the sparks and splinters fly out with the pre- 
cision of shot from a gun barrel, the danger is confined 
to a space within two feet of the floor. 

When the heats come from the puddling furnaces 
they look soft and spongy and soon become dull on 
the outer parts, so that a stranger might think them 
not sufficiently hot to beat up, but after the first hght 
blow or two he will find himself mistaken. First of all 
the huge hammer — able to strike a blow equal to a 
hundred tons pressure — is merely allowed to squeeze 
the mass, without beating it. Then it rises gently and 
travels up and down, scarcely touching the metal. 
6 



i8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Gradually the blows fall harder and harder until the 
piece is fully consistent ; then it is rapidly drawn away 
to the rolls. Very rarely are the hammers required to 
expend their full powers upon the melting slabs, unless 
they happen to be of steel, which is very hard, even 
when whitehot. Then the blows fall terrific. The 
steam spouts, roars, and hisses ; the chains jingle and 
the ground under your feet shakes as though in an 
earthquake. 

When a better quality of iron is required the punch- 
ings, bolts, and rivets are placed in a large drum wluch 
is afterwards set in motion and continues to revolve for 
several hours. By this means all the rust, paint, and 
dirt are removed from the metal, and when it is taken 
from the cylinder it shines like silver. Special regard 
is had for this in the furnaces. Care is taken to save it 
from over-heating and waste, and when it finally 
emerges from the rolls it is set apart by itself and 
labelled for its superior quality. 

Various prices, ranging from 15s. to 50s. a ton, are 
paid for shinghng and forging. These depend upon the 
weight of the piece and the degree of finish required. 
The shingler is clever and expert, and he is not highly 
paid at the works, considering his usefulness, for he is 
a great manufacturer. Thousands of tons of metal 
must pass through his hands in the course of a year, 
and the work is very hot and laborious. By the age of 
fifty the shinglers and forgemen are usually worn out 
and superseded at the forge. When they can no longer 
perform their duties at the steam-hammer they are 
removed from the manufacturing circle and presented 
with a broom, shovel, and wheel-barrow. Their wages 
are cut down to that of a common labourer, and thus 
they spend their few remaining years of service. At an 
early age they drop off altogether, and their places are 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 19 

filled by others who have gone through the same 
experience. 

The running of the iron from the furnace to the steam- 
hammer and back again to the rolls is chiefly performed 
by boys and young men. The majority of these come 
from the villages round about, for the town lads, as a 
rule, are much too wideawake for the business ; the 
work is too hard for them. Living close to the factory 
they know by report which shops to avoid, and if, by 
misadventure, they happen to get a start in such a 
place they are very quickly out of it. Accordingly the 
more laborious work usually falls upon those who dwell 
wdthout the town. It is the same with the men. Those 
who Hve in the borough nearly always obtain the easier 
berths ; John and George do the heavy hfting and heaving. 

Accidents are frequent at the rolling mills. Burns 
are of common occurrence, and they are sometimes very 
serious and occasionally fatal. Great care is requisite 
in moving about amid so much fire and heated material, 
for everything — the floors, principals, rollers, the bogie 
handles, tools and all — is very hot. Some of the carrying 
is done with a kind of wheel-barrow that requires a 
special balance. The least obstruction will upset it, 
and a little awkwardness on the part of the workman is 
sufficient to bring the weltering burden down to the 
ground. Not long ago, as a youth was drawing a large, 
whitehot pile from the furnace to the steam-hammer, 
he slipped on the iron floor and fell at full length on 
his back upon the ground. As he fell the bogie in- 
clined forward and the huge pile shd down and lodged 
on his stomach, inflicting frightful injuries. He was 
quickly rescued from his tortuous position, but there 
was no hope of recovery from such an accident, and he 
died a day or two afterwards. He, too, was of the 
neighbouring village. 



20 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

You can always tell these young men of the steam- 
hammer or rolling mills, whenever you meet them. 
They are usually lank and thin and their faces are ghastly 
white. Their nostrils are distended ; black and blue 
rings encircle their eyes Their gait is careless and 
shuffling, and their dress, on a holiday, is a curious 
mixture of the rural and urban styles. On week-days 
they are as black as sweeps, and the blacker they are 
the better, in their opinion, for they take pride in parading 
the badge of their profession and are not ashamed of 
it as are their workmates who dwell in the town. 

I have said that formerly much more iron was manu- 
factured on the premises than is the case at this time. 
Then the steam-hammer shed, in which nothing but 
forging is done, was a flourishing place. All the wheels 
for the engines and waggons, together with piston 
rods, driving gear, axles, and cranks, were made there. 
These are obtained elsewhere now, some in England 
and Scotland, and other parts from abroad. Steel has 
superseded iron in a great degree, too, being harder, 
tougher, stronger and cheaper. The combined skill of 
the chemist and scientist has simplified the manufacture 
of it, and it is to be obtained in large quantities. But 
steel rusts much more quickly than iron, and does not 
last nearly as long in exposed positions on the vehicles. 

Formerly all wheels were made of wrought iron and 
a great part of the work was done by hand. First of 
all the sections were made under the steam-hammer, 
in "T " pieces and boss ends, and shut in the middle. 
These were for the spokes. Then the " T " ends were in- 
curved and joined together all round till the rim of the 
wheel was finished. After that, there remained to 
form the centre and make the " boss " sohd and com- 
pact. As the boss sections were made to fit together 
in the middle, they only required to be heated and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 21 

welded. Accordingly they were placed on an open 
forge, built round with damp coal-dust to contain and 
concentrate the heat, the boss being exactly over the 
centre of the fire. Another forge, close at hand, con- 
tained a large round iron washer, similarly placed, to 
which was attached an iron bar for lifting it from the 
fire. Both heats were prepared simultaneously. Then 
the wheel, lifted by a crane, was quickly removed from 
the forge, turned upside down and placed on the steam- 
hammer block. The washer was brought out at once 
and clapped on smartly^ and down came the heavy 
monkey. Half-a-dozen blows were sufficient to make 
the weld. Then it was removed from the steam- 
hammer and laid on an iron table and the smiths set 
about it with their tools to finish it off, three or four 
men striking alternately on one " flatter " or " fuller," 
\vith perfect rhythm and precision, the chief smith 
directing operations and working with the rest. 

Those were the palmy days for the smithy. Wages 
were high and the prices good, and the work made was 
solid and strong. Now all wheels are manufactured 
of cast steel and with Uttle hand labour. The molten 
metal is simply poured into moulds, allowed to cool and 
afterwards annealed in special furnaces. One can easily 
imagine the immense amount of labour saved in the 
operation, though the wheels are not as elastic and 
durable. 

Situated near the piles of new material are the scrap 
bunks. These are old waggons that have served their 
turn on the railway and, instead of being broken up, 
have been lifted bodily from the sets of wheels and de- 
posited on the ground as receptacles for the large 
quantities of scrap made in the workshop. What miles 
these old waggons have gone ! What storm and stress 
they have endured ! What burdens they have borne ! 



22 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

East and west, north and south, over hills and bridges, 
through valleys, past miles upon miles of cornfields and 
meadows, green and gold, red and brown by turn, in 
rain and snow, winter frost and summer sunshine, by 
day and night, year after year together. 

These waggons, if they could speak, would tell you 
they have visited every station and town on the system. 
They have crossed the Thames, the Severn, the Kennet, 
the Upper and Lower Avon, the Wye, the Dee, the 
Towy, the Parrot and the Tamar, times out of number. 
They have gone through dark tunnels, over dizzy via- 
ducts, past cathedral cities and quaint old market- 
towns, villages, and hamlets, sleeping and waking, at 
all hours of the day and night, drawn on, and on, and 
on by the tireless iron steeds, piled up with all sorts of 
goods and commodities for the use of man — stones to 
build him houses, iron to strengthen them, corn to feed 
him and his family, and materials to clothe them. 
They would tell you of many lovely woods and forests 
through which they have journeyed, and seaside towns, 
with the strong blue ocean in view, sometimes running 
perilously near the beach, at others hidden in deep 
cuttings, where the banks are blue with violets, and 
yellow with the pale gold of the cowslip, followed by 
the endless array of the ox-eyes, toadflax, and sweet 
wild mignonette. And they would teU j'ou of long, 
dark, winter nights, when the tempest howled madly 
through the trees and bridges and sang shrilly in the 
telegraph wires ; when the rain fell in a deluge from the 
inky sky, or the sleet and snow drove in blinding clouds 
and was piled upon the weatherproof tarpaulins. Or 
again they would relate of running smoothly on summer 
nights under the pale southern moon, or when the stars 
glittered in the frosty heavens, or dense fog, so trouble- 
some and dangerous to the ever-watchful and valiant 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 23 

old driver, shut everything out of view, signals and all, 
so that their very whereabouts were only known and 
identified by paying close attention to the loud, shot- 
Uke explosions of the detonators placed along the line 
by the fogmen. 

Now all these things are at an end. They have run 
their race, and grown old in the service. They have 
fulfilled their period of usefulness on the line and, like 
old veterans returned from the war, they have come 
back to their native town to end their days. Being 
fairly sound of constitution and having escaped the 
shocks of collision and accident, they were adjudged 
too solid to be broken up yet, so, as a last use, they were 
placed here to receive the punchings and trimmings 
from the shears and presses, and ingloriously waste 
away in their old age, exposed to all the inclemencies 
and caprices of the weather. 

The scrap, made daily, soon amounts to hundreds 
of tons. It is of all shapes and sizes. There is plate 
from an eighth of an inch to an inch and a half thick 
from the presses, ends and trimmings of rods and bars 
from the shears and steam-hammers, burs from the 
stamping plant and scrag ends from the forgings. In 
addition to this there are scores of tons of old iron and 
steel, brought from all over the system to be cut up at 
the hydraulic shears — sole-bars of waggons, stanchions 
and " diagonals," " T "-iron plates, and hundreds of old 
draw-bars and buffers. The iron and steel are carefuUy 
observed and kept separate and huge piles soon accumu- 
late, far more than the waggons can hold. The iron 
refuse is by and by passed on to the rolling mills, while 
the steel scrap awaits a purchaser. No attempt is 
made to utilise that on the premises. There are secrets 
in the manufacture of steel which are never betrayed 
to outsiders, and it would be a waste of time and money 



24 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

for the local furnacemen and forgers to attempt to do 
anything with it. However carefully the furnaceman 
tends it in the fire he cannot get it to cohere well in the 
piles, and if it is at all over-heated it bursts and scatters 
in all directions, brittle and glassy, as soon as the steam- 
hammer touches it with a gentle blow. 

There is, at the same time, enormous waste in the 
matter of scrap iron and steel, which intelligent 
supervision would certainly lessen. Material that might 
economically be used in the workshop is indiscriminately 
passed out with the rubbish and sold away at a cheap 
rate — at a fraction of its real value. Tons of metal — 
good solid iron, often of the highest quality — which 
might be used for forging and stamping, are rejected 
and scrapped because it would take a trifle longer to 
handle. Other large scrap material might be slabbed 
and used without sending it to the mill, and thus large 
profits would accrue to the shed ; for the rolling mills 
people wiU only purchase, theoretically, at trade prices, 
that is, at about two pounds a ton for scrap iron. 



CHAPTER III 

THE SHUNTERS — WATCHMEN — DETECTING A THIEF — FIRES 
— CARRIAGE FINISHERS — PAINTERS — " WASHERS- 
DOWN " — CUSHION-BEATERS — CHANGES AND IN- 
NOVATIONS — DEPARTMENTAL RELATIONS 

A SHORT way off in the yard, in a small space clear of 
the confusing network of Hnes that cross and recross 
here and there, running in every direction and connect- 
ing the various workshops together, are two old railway 
coaches dispossessed of their wheels and lodged upon 
baulks of timber let into the ground. Like the old 
scrap waggons, they have had their day in active service, 
and, coming home in fairly good condition, though 
antiquated in style and useless for passenger traffic, 
have yet been found convenient as occasional store- 
houses and shelters. They are now used as cabins, one 
for the shunters, who conduct their operations round 
about, and the other for watchmen, and they are fitted 
with stoves for warming the men's food, and for drying 
their clothes in wet weather. The roofs and windows 
are intact, and some of the original seats still remain. 
These are of bare wood and are not padded and up- 
holstered in the comfortable and luxurious style now 
required and expected by the railway traveller. 

These old carriages are at this time very rarely met 
with and are nearly extinct. For years after they dis- 
appeared from the general traffic — superseded by more 
commodious and comfortable vehicles — the best of 
them were kept stored up in sheds and yards in out-of- 

25 



26 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the-way places to await the time of trippers and ex- 
cursionists. Then they were regularly hauled out to 
accommodate the multitude. The windows were hastily 
wiped over and the interiors dusted out ; they were 
ready to receive the people. Goods engines of the old 
type were brought up to draw them along. The trippers 
squeezed themselves inside, and, with the shrieking of 
steam whistles and hooters and the playing of con- 
certinas and melodions, the trains started off and went 
jolting and jogging away to their destinations. At the 
end of the tripping season the coaches were again stored 
away in the yards and sidings, until they became too 
crazy and dangerous to run on the main line, when 
they were either utilised for storehouses and shelters, 
or broken up. The refuse wood from the destruction 
of old worn-out rolling stock is sawn up and used for 
lighting the fires in the furnaces and boilers, and is dis- 
tributed throughout the system. A large quantity is 
also sold to the workmen, who use it both for firing and 
for the construction of outhouses. 

The shunters of the yard are a hard-working body of 
men, and they are exposed to many dangers. The hours 
are long and they must cover many miles during the 
day by running up and down the lines. It is their 
duty to transfer the carriages and waggons from road 
to road and from one workshop to another, to dispose 
of the old ones brought in for repairs, to lead out the 
new, and distribute the various stores — iron and steel, 
coal, coke, and timber — at several points. Whatever 
the weather may be they must be up and doing, or the 
traffic in the yard would soon be in utter confusion. 
Rain or snow, cold or heat, sunshine or cloud, July 
glow or December fog and gloom are all one to them. 
The busy swarm of workmen comes and goes, the furnaces 
spout their dense black clouds of smoke into the heavens ; 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 27 

the dazzling steam, shot out from the engines and 
steam-hammers, leaps up in an ascending pillar, the 
rapid wheels spin round in the roof or under the wall, 
and the endless toil goes on, all which must be catered 
for by the shunters. 

Great care must be taken to prevent the sidings from 
becoming blocked by crossing a wrong point. Where 
two or more engines are operating over a complex siding 
this ma}' easily be done, and a delay of several hours 
will be the result. If an inexperienced shunter, mis- 
taking the number of his points, shifts his waggons on 
to the wrong track and, not perceiving his error, at 
once proceeds to carry out several other manoeuvres, 
he may shut in the engines so completely and confusedly 
that he will want all his wits about him to extricate 
them again ; it will be hke a mathematical problem. 
Happily for the shunter's credit, this is not a common 
occurrence. 

Strong, healthy men are selected for the shunter's 
trade, to carry the pole and whistle. By working in 
the open air, exposed to all kinds of weather, they 
become hardy and seasoned and present a far different 
appearance from that of those who are shut up within 
the walls of the workshop, amid the smoke and fumes. 
Instead of becoming lean with the constant running 
to and fro, they seem to thrive on the exercise, and many 
of them assume substantial proportions. Their faces 
are bronzed with the sun and wind, and they are a picture 
of health — strong, stalwart, and of good physique. The 
shunters are not under as many restrictions as are the 
factory workers proper, i.e., those within the sheds. 
It is their privilege to smoke while on duty, or, at any 
rate, in the intervals on the premises, an indulgence 
which is strictly forbidden to all other employees. 
They remain always about the yard and never go 



28 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

beyond the bounds prescribed for them, so that they 
really belong to the factory. 

The other cabin is used by the watchmen as an out- 
shelter — a kind of half-way refuge. Their headquarter 
is at the main entrance, where there are always one or 
two on duty to check the coming in and going out of 
the workmen, to keep out intruders and to prevent any 
from passing out before the regulation hour. They 
also act in the quality of police to protect the property 
of the railway company, patrol the shops and yards, 
and keep a sharp look-out for loiterers and any who 
should attempt to smoke or read a newspaper on 
the sly. 

Every workshop and building is provided with certain 
clock-like instruments called " tell-tales," which are 
fixed in manj^ corners and angles, and at frequent inter- 
vals along the high board fence that encloses the factory 
grounds. The watchman appointed for the round is 
furnished with a key that fits the instrument. It is 
his duty to visit each of these every hour, or every two 
hours, according to the time-table given him by his 
chief. When he comes to the tell-tale he inserts the 
key and, after turning it round, withdraws it. This 
leaves a record of his visit and certifies that he has gone 
his round regularly. At intervals, unknown to the 
watchman, the tell-tales are removed and privately 
examined, in order to see that everything is correct, 
and if there has been any neglect of duty the offender 
is sought out and punished. Occasionally it transpires 
that there has been wholesale tampering with the in- 
struments in order to escape going the rounds. The 
watchmen, Hke all others at the works, agreed for the 
time, finally come to loggerheads and play the tell- 
tale themselves. Someone or other informs of his 
mate, this one retaUates and the scheme is laid bare. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 29 

Forthwith the whole staff of watchmen are summoned 
to appear before the works' manager, and are punished 
in various ways. Something new and strange is 
adopted ; the men's time and rounds are altered, and 
they patrol their beats the laughing-stock of the work- 
men whom it is their duty to observe and supervise. 

The watchmen, as a class, are surly and over-ofhcious. 
Perhaps they were chosen for some qualities they were 
thought to possess, fitting them for the duties expected 
of them ; they are not popular with the workmen. The 
fact of their being placed in a supervisory position and 
of being exempt from manual work induces them to 
have a higher opinion of themselves than the actual cir- 
cumstances warrant. They consider themselves above the 
average at the works and cultivate the pseudo-genteel, 

Wlien a new watchman is made it is noised abroad 
throughout the department ; his size, description, and 
all else that is known of him are passed around the sheds 
for the benefit of the masses. Developments are antici- 
pated and the results eagerly awaited. Elated at his 
promotion and great in his own conceit the newly 
initiated one, before he is well-known and identified by 
the workmen, slips to and fro in the sheds, eager for 
surprise captures. Immediately before the hooter 
sounds for the men's release at meal times he is to be 
found suddenly opening doors and popping on the scene. 
If any of the workmen should happen to have on their 
coats, or to have gathered near the door ready to rush 
out, they scatter like wood-pigeons when a hawk has 
darted in the midst of them. This forms the subject 
of a report to the shop foreman or to the manager. 
Dire threats as to the consequences of loitering are 
launched at the workmen ; a few youths are suspended 
and forced to take a rest, and so the matter is settled. 

The watchman, however, is not forgotten or forgiven 



30 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

by the men. Some nickname or other is coined for him 
on the spot. Perhaps he is hooted for a sneak and teased 
in various ways, the boys especially enjojdng a joke at 
his expense. They set traps for him, and after racing 
about the yard and dodging between the waggons and 
coaches, suddenly decamp and make for the tunnels 
or entrances. Once a nickname becomes attached to 
a watchman it seldom leaves him. One has borne the 
title of " Long Bill " for a number of j^ears ; another is 
honoured with the appellation of " Powerful " ; this 
one is " Flat-foot," that is " Rubber-heel," and another 
has earned for himself the ridiculous title of " Chesty." 

Theft is sometimes practised by the workmen, though 
it is much more rarely committed now than it was 
formerly. Some of the schemes adopted for getting 
the stolen materials outside the works have been quite 
artistic, and others were ridiculously open and daring. 
Years ago loads of timber and other valuables were 
regularly smuggled out in the middle of the night, and 
especially on Saturday nights. They were piled upon 
big trucks and bogies and got past the entrances wdth 
the watchman's consent and connivance. Probably he 
received a bribe for his silence — a quart of ale at the 
club, or a share of the stolen goods. On at least one 
occasion a brazen-faced fellow wheeled out a new 
wheel-barrow, unchallenged, amid the crowd at a dinner- 
time and was never suspected. At other times wheel- 
barrows and other tools have mysteriously disappeared 
in the night, as though they had been swallowed up by 
an earthquake. They were quietly lifted over the fence 
and received into the neighbouring field and so got 
safely away. 

Sometimes a workman will spHt on his mate whom 
he knows to be in the habit of purloining things from 
the shed. Perhaps it is a little firewood or a few screws 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 31 

or nails that were picked up in the yard. Going privately 
to the watchman he acquaints him of the fact, and at 
dinner-time, or night, a stand is made at the entrance, 
and the culprit seized and searched. This invariably 
means dismissal, however small the amount of the theft 
may be. Somehow or other, though, the informer is dis- 
covered and for ever afterwards he is branded as a 
sneak and shunned by his fellows. There is no forgive- 
ness for this kind of thing among the workmen. Honesty 
or not honesty, he is never tolerated but is looked upon 
with the utmost disgust and contempt. 

Occasionally, if you should stand at the entrance as 
the workmen are leaving, you might see an abject-look- 
ing individual, with drawn features, making his way 
painfully through the tunnel, Hmping, or dragging a 
leg behind him. The casual observer would jump to 
the conclusion that the man had met with an accident, 
or that he was naturally lame or a cripple. But very 
Hkely, if the truth were known, he has a staff of wood, 
or a rod of iron, four feet long, concealed in the leg of his 
trousers and reaching up to the breast, and that is what 
makes him walk with such great difficulty. Another 
plan is to bend a rod of iron in the shape of a hoop and 
so fix it around the waist, or to pack the contraband 
next to the skin, under the armpits and around the 
stomach. This very often leads to detection. The 
watchman on duty at the entrance has his suspicions 
aroused by the shape of the man. Accordingly he steps 
out, calls him aside and feels the part, and the culprit 
is discovered. 

It sometimes happens that a watchman gets on the 
track of an innocent workman and makes himself 
appear ridiculous, for he is sure to be noticed by the 
crowd and heartily jeered at for his interference. Not 
long ago a young workman, on his way out from the 



32 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

shed one morning after night duty, was challenged and 
stopped and required to disclose the contents of his 
dinner-basket, which, to the watchman's eye, seemed 
unusually heavy. The young man, who was an en- 
thusiastic Christian, smilingly compUed and, opening 
his basket, took out a big Bible, and presented it to his 
challenger. That was more than the watchman had 
bargained for^ and he immediately shuffled off in con- 
siderable confusion. A few nights ago a surly watch- 
man stopped me and curtly demanded to know what I 
was carrying " in the parcel under my arm." It was 
merely my daily newspaper. 

It is not the rank and file alone that are guilty of 
taking things that do not belong to them. Some of 
the principals of the staff have been notoriously to blame 
in this respect, as is well-known at the works, though 
their misdeeds are invariably screened and condoned. 
If one of the managers has stolen materials worth 
hundreds of pounds he is reprimanded and allowed to 
continue at his post, or at most, he is asked to resign 
and is afterwards awarded a pension ; but if the work- 
man has purloined an article of a few pence in value he 
is dismissed and prosecuted. This is no general state- 
ment but a plain matter of fact. 

Further over the yard, towards one of the sheds that 
form the boundary on this side, stands a large water- 
closet, one of many about the factory, built to meet 
the requirements of about five hundred workmen. 
These buildings are of a uniform type and are disagree- 
able places, lacking in sanitary arrangements. There 
is not the shghtest approach to privacy of any kind, 
no consideration whatever for those who happen to be 
imbued with a sense of modesty or refinement of feeling. 
The convenience consists of a long double row of seats, 
situate back to back, partly divided by brick walls, the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 33 

whole constructed above a large pit that contains a 
foot of water which is changed once or twice a day. The 
seats themselves are merely an iron rail built upon 
brickwork, and there is no protection. Several times, I 
have known men to overbalance and faU into the pit. 
Everything is bold, daring, and unnatural. On entering, 
the naked persons of the men bitting may plainly be 
seen, and the stench is overpowering. The whole con- 
cern is gross and objectionable, filthy, disgusting, and 
degrading. No one that is chaste and modest could 
bear to expose himself, sitting there with no more 
decency than obtains among herds of cattle shut up 
in the winter pen. Consequently, there are many who, 
though hard pressed by the exigences of nature, never 
use the place. As a result they contract irregularities 
and complaints of the stomach that remain with them 
aU their lives, and that might easily prove fatal to them. 
Perhaps this barbarous relic of insanitation may in time 
be superseded by some system a little more moral and 
more compatible with human sensibility and refinement. 

Near this spot, in the open air, are stored hundreds 
of gallons of oil, spirits and other liquids of a highly in- 
flammable nature, used for mixing paints for the 
carriages and waggons, together with chemicals em- 
plo3'ed in the rapid cleansing of the exteriors of vehicles 
that come in for repairs and washing-down. The rules 
of the factory strictly forbid the storing of any of these 
liquids within the workshops and outhouses. This 
precaution is taken in order to prevent damage by fire 
in case of an outbreak and to render the flames more 
easy of control by the firemen. 

At every short distance there is a connection with the 
water-main and a length of hose always fit and ready 
for any emergency. The works has its own fire-engine 
— a powerful motor and pumps — and if by chance a call 

c 



34 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

is made the men are speedily on the spot. Here and 
there around the sheds are deep pits, walled up and 
covered with cast-iron tops, to contain water for the 
fire-engines, for they cannot well draw clear off the main. 
To these pits, in the afternoon or evening, the engines 
and firemen occasionally come for practice. Immedi- 
ately the wells are filled from the main, the hose is 
coupled up, and a perfect deluge is rained over every- 
thing in the vicinity, as though a fire were really in 
progress. After half an hour's lusty exertion with the 
hose and the scaling of walls and roofs, the firemen stow 
their apparatus and the motor rushes off down the 
yard quickly out of sight. 

Though fires at the works are not of common occur- 
rence, there is now and then an outbreak, and sometimes 
one of serious dimensions. They are generally the 
result of great carelessness, or the want of ordinary 
attention on the part of a workman or official. Perhaps 
a naked light is left burning somewhere or other, or a 
portion of cotton-waste is smouldering away unobserved. 
The roof may become ignited through contact with 
the hot chimney ; and very often the cause of the out- 
break is not ascertained at all. In several cases in- 
cendiarism has been suggested as the cause of a fire, 
but, notwithstanding all the efforts of the works' de- 
tectives to fix the guilt, proof of the crime has never 
been brought home to any individual. When fires do 
happen they nearly always originate in the night. One 
reason of this is that, with so many workmen on the 
scene, during the day, the first sign of an outbreak 
would be immediately detected and dealt with before 
it could become dangerous. But at night it would 
develop rapidly and obtain a good hold on the premises 
before being discovered by the watchmen. 

\^^hen it is kno\vn in the works that a fire is raging 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 35 

round about — if it should happen to be at night — the 
few workmen employed, without waiting for instructions 
from the overseers, throw down their tools and rush off 
to the scene of the accident. They are impelled to do 
this, in the first place, by the strong natural desire every 
man has to be of service in times of danger ; secondly, 
by reason of the intense excitement which the cry of 
" Fire ! " always produces in the most phlegmatic in- 
dividual, and, last of all — if either of the two causes 
before-named are wanting — by a natural and uncon- 
trollable curiosity and fascination for the smoke and 
flames. It is usually the first of these three causes that 
impels the workmen to throw down their tools and run 
to help the men with the fire-engines. At such times 
as these nothing is held sacred. Doors and windows 
are forced open or smashed in, bolts and bars are 
wrenched from their sockets, offices and storehouses 
are entered ; the most private recesses are made public. 
All thoughts of the midnight meal are set aside and 
there is no returning to the worksheds until morning 
brings a fresh supply of hands accompanied by the 
day officials. 

Not many years ago the station buildings took fire, 
shortly after midnight, and most of the men on night 
duty in the department nearest the scene flocked out 
to help the station staff and the firemen. By and by 
the refreshment rooms were involved and there was a 
wholesale removal of the viands and liquors. Under 
such circumstances, drinking was naturally indulged 
in, and more than one — ofhcials, as well as the rank and 
file — who came out to help returned the worse for 
liquor. Such adventures as these live long in the 
memory of the workmen : it is not often they have the 
opportunity of taking a drink at the company's expense. 

Some time after the station fire a much more serious 



36 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

outbreak occurred in an extensive shed used for the con- 
struction and storing of carriages. There were in the 
place sufficient vehicles to compose twenty trains, and 
the most of them were brand new, representing alto- 
gether a huge sum of money. When the watchman 
passed through on his rounds at midnight everything 
appeared safe ; the place was dark, silent, and deserted. 
Half an hour afterwards a workman employed in a shed 
some distance away saw a dull glow above the roof and 
thought at first it was the moon rising. A few minutes 
afterwards flames leapt into sight and discovered a 
fire of some magnitude. 

Quickly the signal was given, and every available 
man rushed on the scene. The centre of the shed was 
like a raging furnace. The roof was on fire and the 
flames leapt from coach to coach with great rapidity. 
These, from their slightness of construction and from 
their being thickly coated with paint and varnish, 
caught fire like matchwood and burned furiously, while 
large sections of the roof fell in. Every now and then, 
as a coach became consumed down to the framework, the 
gas cyhnders underneath burst with a terrific report, 
like that of a piece of heavy artillery. The shattered 
iron and steel flew in all directions and increased the 
danger to the firemen. Hundreds of people of the 
neighbourhood, roused with the repeated shocks, left 
their beds and ran out of doors to ascertain the cause of 
the explosions. Some thought it was an earthquake 
and others feared it was the boilers exploding. Many 
volunteered to help, but their offers were refused, and 
a strong cordon of pohce was drawn around the shed 
to keep out all intruders. So fierce was the heat within | 
that the steel tyres of the wheels were buckled and bent, 
the rails were warped and twisted into fantastic shapes 
and the heavy iron girders of the roof were wrecked. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 37 

The frames of the burnt coaches were reduced to a pile 
of debris and were totally unrecognisable. The damage 
to rolling stock and to the premises amounted to many 
thousands of pounds, yet the fire was all over in two 
or three hours. As to its origin, that remained a 
mystery, and completely baffled the detectives. Ex- 
amination of the tell-tales proved that the watchman 
had gone his round all right, and though many experi- 
ments were made the cause of the outbreak remained 
inexplicable. 

A great part of the repairs to carriages — such as 
washing-down, smudging, and especially the cleaning 
and re- fitting of interiors — is done out of doors in the 
yard when the weather permits, for it would be im- 
possible to contain all the vehicles in the sheds. The 
whole of this work, even to the most trivial detail, is 
now done at the piece rate. Experienced examiners 
decide the amount of repairs to be executed, and the 
prices are fixed according to their recommendation. 
It is generally a matter of luck to the workman whether 
the repair job pays or not. Very often the carrying 
out of repairs takes a much longer time than had been 
anticipated. The renewing of one part often necessitates 
the remodelling of another, or the fitting up of the new 
piece may prove to be a very tedious process. In this 
case the workman may lose money on the job, though, 
on the other hand, he may have finished altogether 
earlier than he expected. It would be very nearly 
impossible to have a perfect equation in the matter of 
repair prices, and this is recognised by all, masters and 
men, too, at the factory. The workman is commonly 
told by his chief that " what he loses on the swings he 
must pick up on the roundabouts," i.e., what he loses 
on one job he must gain on another, and this axiom is 
universally accepted, at least by all those who do repairs. 



38 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

On new work the labour is uniform and there is no need 
and no excuse for inequaUty of prices. 

Great consternation fell upon the carriage finishers, 
painters, and pattern-makers, several years ago, when 
it became known that piece rates were to be substituted 
for the old day-work system, especially as the change 
was to be introduced at a very slack time. It was looked 
upon as a catastrophe by the workmen, and such it 
very nearly proved to be. Many journeymen were 
discharged, some were transferred to other grades of 
work — that is, those who were willing to suffer reduc- 
tion rather than to be thrown quite out of employment 
— and the whole department was put on short time, 
working only two or three days a week, while some of 
the men were shut out for weeks at a stretch. Several 
who protested against the change were dismissed, and 
others — workmen of the highest skill and of long con- 
nection with the company — had their wages mercilessly 
cut down for daring to interpose their opinion. The 
pace was forced and quickened by degrees to the utter- 
most and then the new prices were fixed, the managers 
themselves attending and timing operations and super- 
vising the prices. Feehng among the workmen ran 
high, but there was no help for the situation and it had 
to be accepted. Few of the men belonged to a trade 
union, or they might have opposed the terms and made 
a better bargain ; as it was they were completely at 
the mercy of the managers and foremen. 

The carriage finishers and upholsterers are a class in 
themselves, differing, by the very nature of their craft, 
from all others at the factory. As great care and clean- 
liness are required for their work, they are expected 
to be spruce and clean in their dress and appearance. 
This, together with the fact that the finisher may have 
served an apprenticeship in a high-class establishment 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 39 

and one far more genteel than a railway department 
can hope to be, tends to create in him a sense of refine- 
ment higher than is usually found in those who follow 
rougher and more laborious occupations. His cloth 
suit, hnen collar, spotless white apron, clean shaven 
face, hair carefully combed, and bowler hat are subjects 
of comment by the grimy toilers of other sheds. His 
dwelling is situated in the cleanest part of the town and 
corresponds uith his personal appearance. In the 
evening he prosecutes his craft at home and manu- 
factures furniture and decorations for himself and 
family, or earns money by doing it for others. Very 
often the whole contents of his parlour and kitchen — 
mth the exception of iron and other ware — were made 
by his hands, so, since his wages are above the ordinary, 
provided he is steady and temperate^ he may be reason- 
ably comfortable and well-to-do. 

The painters are not quite as fortunate as are their 
comrades the finishers. Their work, though in some 
respects of a high order and important, is at the same 
time less artistic than is that of the cabinetmakers and 
upholsterers. It is also much more wearisome and 
unhealthy, and the wages are not as high. Very often, 
too, work for them is extremely scarce, especially during 
the summer and autumn months, when every available 
coach is required in traffic for the busy season, and they 
are consequently often on short time. Their busiest 
periods are the interval between autumn and Christmas 
and the time between the New Year and Easter. The 
style of colouring and ornamentation for the carriages 
has changed considerably of recent years and there is 
now not nearly as much labour and pains expended 
upon the vehicles as in times past. The brighter colours 
have been quite eUminated and have given place to 
chocolates and browns, while the frames and ends of 



40 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the carriages are painted black. The arms of the com- 
pany, together with figures, letters, initials^ and other 
designs, so conspicuous to the eye of the traveller, are 
affixed by means of transfers and therefore are not 
dependent upon the skill of the painters. 

The washing-down of the coaches is done by labourers, 
some of whom live in the town and others in the villages 
round about. Little skill is required for this, and the 
operation is very dull and monotonous. The men are 
supplied with long-handled brushes, soaps, and sponges, 
hot and cold water and chemical preparations. Large 
gangs of them are continually employed in removing the 
accretions of dust and filth acquired by the coaches in 
their mad career over the railway line, through tunnels 
and cuttings, smoky towns and cities. Sometimes the 
vehicles are completely smothered with grease and mud 
thrown up by the sleepers in bad weather, and every 
particle of this must be removed before the painter can 
apply his brush to renovate the exterior. 

The washers-down are generally raw j^ouths and many 
of them are of the shifty type — the kind that will not 
settle anywhere for long together. The drabness of 
their employment forces them to seek some means of 
breaking the monotony of it, and they often indulge in 
noise and horseplay, singing and shouting at the top 
of their voices and slopping the water over each other. 
This brings them into trouble with the officials, and 
occasions them to take many a forced holiday, but they 
do not care about that, and when they arrive back upon 
the scene they practise their old games as boldly as 
before. Having no trade, and receiving but a scant 
amount in wages, they do not feel to be bound down 
hand and foot to the employment, and even if they 
should be discharged altogether they will not have lost 
very much. Their youthfulness, too, renders them 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 41 

buoyant and independent ; all the world is open to 
them if they decide to hand in their notices. 

The cushion-beaters, formerly weU known about the 
yard, have quite disappeared now. At whatever time 
you were outside the shed, in fine weather, you might 
have heard their rods beating on the cushions in perfect 
rhythm and order. They were taken from the coaches 
and laid upon stools in the open air, and the beater held 
a rod, usually of hazel, in each hand. With them he 
alternately smote the cushion, keeping up the effort for 
a long time, until every particle of dust was removed 
and blown away. His dexterity in the use of the rods 
and the ability to prolong the operation were a source of 
great interest to the youths ; all the small boys of the 
shed stole out at intervals to see him at work. Now 
the dust is removed from the cushions and paddings by 
means of a vacuum arrangement. This is in the form 
of a tube, with an aperture several inches in diameter 
and having strong suctional powers created by the ex- 
haust steam from the engine in the shed. It is passed 
to and fro over the surface of the cushion, and the dust 
is thereby extracted and received into the apparatus. 
So strong is the suction within that it will sometimes 
draw the buttons from the upholstering if they are loose 
or frayed. The quantity of dust extracted from one 
carriage often amounts to a pound in weight. 

Old customs and systems die hard at the works and, 
whatever their own opinion of the matter may be, the 
officials are not considered by the workmen to be of a 
very progressive type. Many of the methods employed, 
both in manufacture and administration, are extremely 
old-fashioned and antiquated ; an idea has to be old 
and hoary before it stands a chance of being admitted 
and adopted here. Small private firms are usually a 
long way ahead of railway companies in the matter of 



42 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

methods and processes, and they pay better wages into 
the bargain. They have to face competition and to 
cater for the markets, while railway companies, being 
both the producers and consumers of their wares, can 
afford to choose their own way of manufacturing them. 
In addition to this, the heads of small firms usually 
have an interest in the concern whereas the managers 
of railway works are otherwise placed ; it makes no 
difference to them what they spend or waste^ and they 
are always able to cover up their shortcomings. Their 
prodigality and mismanagement would ruin a hundred 
small firms in as many months, though the outside world 
knows little or nothing about it. But if the officials 
creep they urge the rank and file along at a good rate 
and make a pretence of being smart and business-like. 
The fact of a workman being engaged prosecuting a 
worn-out method for the production of an article does 
not make the task lighter or more congenial for him, 
rather the opposite. Real improvement in manufacture 
not onty expedites production, but also simpUfies the 
toil to the workman, and the newer methods are the 
better, generally speaking. 

In everything, then, except in smart management 
and supervision, railway sheds now resemble contract 
premises. Piecework prices are cut to the lowest 
possible point ; it is all push, drive, and hustle. No 
attempt is made to regulate the amount of work to be 
done, and short time is frequent and often of long dura- 
tion. This is not arranged as it was formerly, when the 
whole department, or none at all, was closed down. 
Now even a solitary shed, a portion of it, or a mere gang 
is closed or suspended if there is a slackness at any 
point. Consequently, one part of the works is often 
running at break-neck speed, while another is working 
but three or four days a week and the men are in a half- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 43 

starved condition. In one shed fresh hands are being 
put on, while from others they are being discharged 
wholesale. Transfers from one shop to another are 
seldom made, and never from department to depart- 
ment. One would think that the various divisions of 
the works were owned by separate firms, or people of 
different nationalities, such formidable barriers appear 
to exist between them. 

The chiefs of the departments are usually more or 
less rivals and are often at loggerheads, each one try- 
ing to outdo the other in some particular direction and 
to bring himself into the notice of the directors. The 
same, with a little modification, may be said of the fore- 
men of the several divisions, while the workmen are 
about indifferent in this respect. For them, all beyond 
their own sheds, except a few personal friends or re- 
lations, are total strangers. Though they may have 
been employed at the works for half a century, they 
have never gone beyond the boundary of their own 
department, and perhaps not as far as that, foi trespass- 
ing from shed to shed is strictly forbidden and sharply 
punished where detected. Thus, the workman's sphere 
is very narrow and Hmited. There is no freedom ; 
nothing but the same coming and going, the still mono- 
tonous journey to and fro and the old hours, month 
after months and year after year. It is no wonder that 
the factory workmen come to lead a dull existence and 
to lose interest in all life beyond their own smoky walls 
and dwelhngs. It would be a matter for surprise if the 
reverse condition prevailed. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE OLD CANAL — THE ASH- WHEELERS — THE BRICK- 
LAYERS — RIVAL FOREMEN — THE ROAD-WAGGON 
BUILDERS — THE WHEEL SHED — BOY TURNERS — 
THE RUBBISH HEAP. 

West of the workshop the yard is bounded by a canal 
that formerly connected the railway town with the 
ancient borough town of Cricklade, eight miles distant. 
But things are different now from what they were at 
the time the cutting was made, for great changes have 
taken place during the last half century in all matters 
pertaining to transport. Then the long barges, drawn 
by horses, mules^ and donkeys, and laden with corn, 
stone, coal, timber, gravel, and other materials, pro- 
ceeded regularly by day and night, up and down the 
canal to their destinations — north to Gloucester, west 
to Bristol, east to Abingdon, and thence to far-off 
London. At that time, instead of being filled with 
mud, weeds, and refuse, and overgrown with masses of 
rank vegetation — grasses, flags, water-parsnip, and a 
score of other aquatic plants — the channel was bioad 
and free, and full of clear, hmpid water. The cattle 
came to drink in the meadows ; there the clouds were 
mirrored, floating in fields of azure. The fish leapt and 
played in the sunshine, making innumerable rings on 
the surface, and the swallows skimmed swiftly along, 
dipping now and then to snatch up a sweet mouthful 
to carry home to their young in the nest under the eaves 
of the neighbouring cottage or shed. 

44 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 45 

Occasionally, too, a steamboat passed through the 
locks out beyond the town and proceeded on its way to 
the Thames or Avon. The dredger plied up and down 
to prevent the accumulation of mud and refuse, and the 
towpaths and bridges were kept in good repair. The 
railway had not everything its own way then. The 
fever of haste had not taken hold of every part of the 
community, and a few, at least, could await the arrival 
of the barges and so save a considerable sum in the con- 
veyance of their goods. But now all that is changed. 
Goods must be loaded, whirled rapidly away and de- 
livered in a few hours, for no one can wait. The pace 
of the freight trains has been increased almost to 
express speed. Every possible means that could be 
thought of have been devised to facilitate transport, and 
the barges have disappeared from this neighbourhood. 
Here and there at the wharves may still be seen a few 
rotten old hulks, falhng to pieces and embedded in the 
mud ; the bridges are shattered and dilapidated and 
the lock gates are broken. The towpaths are over- 
grown with bushes and become almost impassable, and 
the channel is blocked up. 

The only person who benefits by the change is the 
botanist. He, from time to time, may be seen busily 
engaged in grappling for rare specimens of weeds and 
grasses, or the less learned student of wild flowers comes 
to gather what treasures he may from the wilderness : 
the beautiful flowering rush, golden iris, graceful water 
plantain, arrowhead, water violet, figwort, skull-cap, 
gipsy wort, and celery-leaved crowfoot. Formerly, too, 
the works derived a considerable quantity of water 
through the canal, but that has long ceased to be. 
There is no water at hand now, and supplies have had 
to be sought for among the Cotswold Hills, at a great 
distance from the town. The engines at the old pump- 



46 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

ing station, near the canal path, once so famiUar a 
feature to travellers that way, are silent now and will 
be heard there no more. They, too, have become a 
thing of the past. 

The factory premises extend along both banks of the 
canal and are protected on the far side by a high wall, 
while that part nearest the workshop is open to the 
water's edge. On this side, first of all, is a high plat- 
form, called the stage, which is used to load the ashes 
and refuse, slag and clinkers from the furnaces and 
forges. This refuse is wheeled out twice daily — at six 
in the morning and again in the evening after the 
furnaces have been clinkered — by labourers, upon 
whom the duty devolves. To remove the clinker 
properly and economically from the grate of the furnace 
the fire must have been damped for a short while. This 
allows the whitehot coals to cHng together underneath, 
and they form a kind of arch above the bars. When 
this has been accomplished the furnaceman inserts a 
strong steel bar at the bottom, resting it upon the 
" bridge," and, with a heavy sledge, breaks the clinker, 
working along from side to side. That is in a compact 
layer or mass, often six or eight inches deep, consider- 
ably thicker in the corners, and it is very tough while 
it is hot. After it has been thoroughly broken up, 
several of the fire bars are removed together, beginning 
at one side, and the heavy clinker drops through, 
spluttering and hissing, into the deep boshes of water 
disposed underneath. If the fire has not been suffi- 
ciently damped it is loose and hollow, and as soon as 
the bars are removed the white-hot coals rush tlirough 
into the water, raising clouds of hot, Winding dust and 
dense volumes of steam. 

Immediately the furnaceman, warned of the fall, 
springs backwards and escapes from the pit, or, if he 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 47 

is tardy in his movements, he is caught in the hot vapour 
and scalded severely. Sometimes the fall is very sudden 
and he has no time to escape. Then his face and arms 
take the full force of the rushing steam and he is cer- 
tain to receive painful injuries. When the operation of 
chnkering is over the men bring their wheel-barrows 
and, with the aid of long-handled shovels, remove the 
refuse from the pits and run it outside and upon the 
stage. This is hot work, whenever it is performed ; 
the men are always sure of a wet shirt at the task. 
Whatever the weather may be, wet or fine, frost or 
snow, they come to it stripped to the waist and quickly 
run their wheel-barrows to and fro. If the rain should 
pelt in torrents it makes httle or no difference to them, 
they still go on with their work, half-naked and bare- 
headed. Hardy and strong as they may be, this is 
bound to affect their health, sooner or later. It is 
not an uncommon thing to find one or other of them 
breaking down at an early age, a physical wreck, unfit 
for further service. 

The ash-wheelers belong to the same class as the coahes 
and are sometimes identical with them. They are 
usually some of the strongest men in the shed, new 
hands, perhaps, who have not yet earned for themselves 
an installation into the ranks of the regular machine 
staff. Sometimes, however, they have proved them- 
selves smart with the shovel and wheel-barrow and have 
been considered too serviceable to shift to other employ- 
ment, for, as it is well known that " the wiUing horse 
must draw double," so the workman who is wilhng to 
perform a hard duty without mumuring and complaint 
is always imposed upon and forced to do extra. The 
natural fool or the systematic skulker is pitied and 
respected. Once his general conduct is understood he 
is taken for what he is worth, and no more is expected 



4S LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

of him. In time he is rewarded. He may come to be 
a checker, a clerk, or an inspector ; while the sterHng 
fellow, the hard worker, the " sticker," as he is called, 
may stop and work himself to death hke a slave. Thus, 
deserving men, because they have proved themselves 
adepts at the work, have been kept on the ash-barrows 
for ten or twelve years, sweating their hves away for 
the sum of eighteen shillings a week. Several, however, 
disgusted with the business, have left the shed and gone 
back to work on the farms, in the pure surroundings of 
the fields and villages. This branch of work has recently 
been overhauled and estimated at the piece rate, and 
the wages somewhat improved, though the amount of 
work to each man has been almost doubled. The refuse 
and clinker from the furnaces are transported to various 
parts and used for filhng up hollows, and for the making 
of banks and beds of yards and sidings. 

Beyond the stage, lodged on the ground, are two old 
iron vans that were formerly used in the goods traffic. 
They have no windows or hghts of any kind, merely a 
double door opening outwardly. These are the cabins 
and stores of the bricklayers, and they contain cement, 
fireclay, and firebricks for the furnaces and forges. A 
permanent staff of bricklayers is kept in each depart- 
ment at the works to carry out whatever repairs are 
necessary from time to time and to see to the construc- 
tion and renovation of the furnaces. If there is any 
building on a large scale required, such as a new shed, 
stores, or offices, extra hands are put on from the town 
and afterwards discharged when the work is done. This 
procedure gives the officials an opportunity of selecting 
the best men, so that it often happens that new hands, 
temporarily engaged, become fixtures if they have 
shown exceptional skill at their trade and are otherwise 
suitable. In that case some of the old hands must go, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 49 

and it needs not to be said that such an opportunity 
is welcomed by the foreman, as it provides him with 
an excuse for removing undesirables without being too 
much blamed himself. 

The bricklayers are a distinct class and do not mingle 
well with the other men at the works. Their having 
to do with bricks and mortar, instead of with iron and 
steel, seems to exclude them from the general hive, and 
the fact of their being dressed in canvas suits and over- 
alls, and smeared with cement and fireclay, instead of 
being blackened with soot and oil, tends to emphasise 
the distinction. As with the rest of the staff, they are 
recruited from all parts of the country, and some of them 
have served a rural apprenticeship. In shrewdness and 
intelligence they do not rank with the machinists ; that 
is to say, they may be smart at their trade, but they 
do not discover extraordinary faculties beyond that. 
Perhaps the nature of their toil has something to do 
with it, for that is at best a dull and uninspiring vocation. 
There is no magic required in the setting together of 
bricks and mortar, and little exertion of the intellect 
is needed in patching up old walls and buildings. They 
are nevertheless very jealous of their craft, such as it is, 
and deeply resent any intrusion into their ranks other 
than by the gates of the usual apprenticeship. Occa- 
sionally it happens that a bricklayer's labourer, who 
has been for many years in attendance on his mate, 
shows an aptitude for the work, so that the foreman, 
in a busy period, is induced to equip him with the trowel. 
In that case he at once becomes the subject of sneering 
criticism ; whatever work he does is condemned, and he 
is hated and shunned by his old mates and companions. 
The foreman, too, takes advantage of his position and 
pays him less than the trade rate of wages, so that, after 
all, he is really made to feel that he is not a journeyman. 
D 



50 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Very often, when there is no building to be done, the 
bricklayers must turn their hands to other work, such 
as nawying, whitewashing, painting, and so on, aU 
which falls under their particular department. Armed 
with pick and shovel, oi pot and brush, they must dig 
foundations and drains, or scale the walls and roof and 
cleanse or decorate the shed. This is always productive 
of much grumbling and sarcastic comment, but it is 
better than being suspended. On the whole the brick- 
layers have a fairly comfortable billet at the works and 
they are not subject to frequent loss of time through 
wet weather and other accidents, as are their fellows 
of the town, though they do not receive as much in 
wages. 

It is astonishing what a prodigious amount of work 
the labourers will get through in a short time, and 
apparently with little exertion, when they are digging 
out drains and foundations for new furnaces, steam- 
hammers, or other machinery. These foundations are 
generally huge pits, twelve or fifteen feet deep and double 
the size square. Stripped to the waist in the heat of 
the workshop, and armed with the heavy graft tool, 
with a stout iron plate fixed underneath their right 
foot, they will dig for hours without resting and yet 
seem to be always fresh and vigorous. Occasionally, 
as they throw up the solid clay, some workman of the 
shed will steal along to examine the fossil remains, 
pebbles, and flints, that were embedded in the earth, 
and slip back to his place at the steam-hammer, pre- 
serving some relic or other for future examination. 
The sturdy labourer, however, keeps digging out the 
clay and hurling it up to the light. He knows nothing 
of geological data, theories and opinions, and cares not 
to inquire. He is there to dig the pit and not to trouble 
himself about the nature of soils and deposits, and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 51 

though you should talk to him ever so learnedly of 
old time submersions, accretions, and formations, he 
only answers you with a blank stare or an unsympa- 
thetic grin. His private opinion is that you are some- 
thing of a lunatic. 

There is one among the bricklayers' labourers that is 
remarkable. This is the silent man, generally known 
as Herbert. The story goes that Herbert was once in 
love and thought to take a wife. But the course of 
true love did not run smooth in his case, and, in the end, 
the young lady jilted Herbert. That is according to the 
story. It may or may not have been true ; perhaps 
Herbert could tell, but he is not at all communicative. 
Whatever the circumstances were, they made a profound 
impression upon Herbert's mind and he has never been 
the same man since. Now he does not speak to any 
except his near workmate, and only then to answer 
the most necessary questions. It is useless for an out- 
sider to attempt to make him speak ; he ignores all 
your attentions. To cause him to smile would be akin 
to working a miracle. The set features never relax. 
The eyes are vacant and expressionless, the mouth is 
firm and stern, and the whole countenance rigid. 

Yet Herbert is a fine-looking man. His features are 
regular — almost classic — his face is bronzed with work- 
ing out of doors, and he is a picture of health. In 
height he is medium. His shoulders are broad and 
square, his arms strong and muscular, and he has the 
endurance of an ox. Would you tire Herbert ? That 
is impossible. Whatever labour you set him to do he 
performs it without a murmur. He does the work of 
three ordinary men. Must he dig ? He will dig, dig, 
dig, and throw up the huge spits of heavy clay as high as 
his head, one might say for ever. Must he wheel away 
the debris ? He will pile up the wheel-barrow till it is 



52 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

ready to break down under the weight, and trundle it 
off and up to the stage without the sHghtest exertion 
and be back again in a breath. He will lift enormous 
weights and strike tremendous blows with the sledge. 
He is tireless in his use of the pick and shovel ; in fact, 
whatever you set Herbert to do he accomplishes it all 
in about a fifth of the time ordinarily required for the 
purpose. He is the butt of his masters and of his work- 
mates. Whatever uncommonly laborious task there 
is to be done Herbert is the man to do it, and the more 
he does the more he must do, though he does not know 
it, or if he does, he shows no indication of the knowledge. 
Now and again the foreman stands by and watches him 
approvingly, and this stimulates him to fresh efforts. 
He revels in the work and, whatever he thinks about it 
all, he is still silent and inexpHcable. 

This sort of thing is all right from the point of view 
of the foreman, but it is very inconvenient and unfair 
to the other labourers who are sane in their minds and 
mortal in their bodies, for everything they do is adjudged 
according to the standard of this indefatigable Hercules. 
The overseer, used to seeing him slaving endlessly, thinks 
light of the others' efforts, and imagines that they are not 
doing their share of the toil, so uneven is the compari- 
son of their labours. In reality, such a man as Herbert 
is a danger and an enemy of his kind, though as he is 
quite unconscious of his conduct and does it all with 
the best intentions he must be forgiven. Such a one 
is more to be pitied than blamed. 

The foremen of the bricklayers are not bricklayers 
themselves, and never have been, but were selected 
apparently without any consideration of their specific 
abilities. This one was a shunter, another was a car- 
penter, a third was a waggon-builder, and so on. Per- 
haps So-and-so and So-and-so went to school together, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 53 

or worked formerly in the same shed ; or consanguinity 
is the cause, for blood is thicker than water in the 
factory, as elsewhere. Accordingly, it often comes about 
that the most fitting person to take the responsible posi- 
tion is thrust aside at the last moment for an utter 
stranger, one who has no knowledge whatever of the work 
he is to supervise. With a certain amount of " push- 
fulness/' however, and an extraordinary confidence in 
himself and his abilities, the new man is able to make a 
pretence of knowledge and, somehow or other, the work 
proceeds. Very often it would go on for months just 
as well without the foreman to interfere, and in many 
cases even better, for it is the chargemen and gangers 
who have the actual control of operations and who possess 
the real and intimate knowledge of the work. 

Should an aspirant to the post of foreman through 
his own merits be set aside for a stranger — as is some- 
times the case — there is bound to be jealousy existing 
between the two for ever afterwards, which now and 
again breaks out into heated scenes and may result in 
brawls and dismissals. Of the workmen, some will 
take the one side, and some the other ; they are mutu- 
ally distrustful, and have recourse to whispering and 
tale-telling. If it has been proved that one workman 
is guilty of getting another his discharge by any unfair 
means he is not forgiven by his mates. The dismissed 
man, in such a case, will frequently wait for his informer 
outside the gates, and will not be satisfied until he has 
given him a good thrashing. Perhaps he will walk 
boldly in through the entrance with the other men and 
take him unaware at his work and punish him on the 
spot. It is superfluous to say that this is not tolerated 
by the officials, and anyone who is so bold as to do it 
must be prepared to stand the consequences and appear 
at the Borough PoHce Court. 



54 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Now and again a foreman, who has been guilty of some 
underhanded action, is taken to task by the exasperated 
victim and treated to a Httle surprise combat of fisti- 
cuffs. Perhaps the foreman is a sneak or a bully, or 
both, and has carried his tyrannical behaviour too far 
for human endurance ; or private jealousy may have 
impelled him to some cowardly turn or other, and the 
workman, driven to desperation, takes the law into his 
own hands and gives him a thrashing. This — provided 
the reprisal was merited — will be a source of huge dehght 
to the other men in the shed, and everyone will rejoice 
to see the offender " taken down a notch," as they say ; 
but if it was merely an exhibition of unwarrantable 
temper on the workman's part, the overseer will be 
commiserated with and defended. Whether right or 
wrong the pugnacious one is dismissed. His services 
are no longer required at the shed ; he must seek occu- 
pation elsewhere. 

Running along for some distance near the canal is 
a shed in which the road-waggons are made — troUies, 
vanSj and cars for use in the goods yards and stations 
about the line — and inside this, and parallel with it, 
is the wheel shop, where the wheels, tyres, and axles 
are turned and fitted up for the waggons and carriages. 
Besides the making of new work in the first-named of 
these sheds, there is always a considerable amount of 
repairs to be carried out. A great part of this is done 
outside, in fine weather, in order to give increased room 
within doors. 

The road-waggon builders are of a sturdy type. 
Many of them are inclined to be old-fashioned and primi- 
tive in their methods, and they are solid in character. 
This is accounted for by the fact that the greater part 
of the older hands received their initial training in small 
yards, in little country towns and villages, where they 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 55 

worked among farmers and rustics. The work they 
did there was necessarily very sohd and strong — such 
as heavy carts and waggons for the farms — and every- 
thing had to be done by hand, slowly and laboriously 
perhaps, but efficiently and well. This taught them 
the practical side of their trade, as how to be self-suffic- 
ing and independent of machinery, which are the most 
valuable features of a good apprenticeship and are of 
great service to the workman in after years. By and 
by, when the time came for them to leave the scene of 
their apprentice days — for few masters will pay the 
journeyman's rate of wages to any who, at the end of 
their term, have not gone further afield for new experi- 
ence — they shifted out for themselves. Some went one 
way and some another. This one went to London, 
that one to Bristol, and others came to the railway town. 
Whatever peculiarities of workmanship they acquired 
in their youth they brought with thehi and practised 
in their new sphere, and so the individual style is main- 
tained in spite of totally different methods and processes. 
At the present time — in large factories, at any rate — 
there is machinery for everything, and this is highly 
destructive of the purely personal faculty in manufacture. 
But in the case of the road-waggon builder, though a 
great many, or perhaps all, of the parts have been shaped 
for him by steam power, there yet remains the fitting 
up and building of the vehicle, which is reasonably a 
task requiring considerable care and skill. The iron 
frame of the locomotive or railway waggon may be 
clapped together quite easily, for there is no very elabor- 
ate fitting or joining to be done. Good strong rivets 
are the chief things required there. The wooden bodies 
of the vans and cars, however, must be fitted and built 
with the nicest precision and finish, or the materials 
would shrink away and the parts would gape open, or 



56 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

fall to pieces. Thus, the road-waggon builder, as weU 
as the carriage body-maker, must be a craftsman of 
the first order, and while some journeymen may be at 
liberty to sacrifice their dearly gained experience and 
individual characteristics in the face of newer methods 
and improved mechanical processes, it is well for him 
to hold fast to what he has found useful and good in 
the past. 

The workmen of every shed have their own particular 
tone and style collectively as well as individually ;• 
different trades and atmospheres apparently producing 
different characteristics and temperaments. Accord- 
ingly, the men of one shed are well-known for one 
quahty, while those of another are noted for something 
quite different. These are famed for steadiness, civilitj^, 
and correct behaviour ; those for noise, rudeness, horse- 
play, and even ruffianism. The men of some sheds are 
remarkable for their extreme docihty and their almost 
childish obedience to the slightest and most insignificant 
rules of the factory, counting every official as a thing 
superhuman and nearly to be worshipped. Others are 
notorious for ideas quite the reverse of this, for riotous 
conduct \\dthin and without the shed, an utter contempt 
of the laws of the factory, for thieving, fighting, and 
other propensities. These characteristics are deter- 
mined as much by the kind of work done in the sheds 
and the quality of the overseer, as by the men's own 
nature and temperament. Most foremen are exces- 
sively autocratic and severe with their men, denying 
them the slightest privilege or relaxation of the iron 
laws of the factory. Others are of a wheedling, pseudo- 
fatherly type, who, by a combination of professed 
paternal regard and a cunning manipulation of the 
reins, contrive to make everything they do appear just 
and reasonable and so hold their men in complete sub- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 57 

jection. Some foremen, again, are of the ceremonious 
order, who, from pure vanity, will insist upon the com- 
plete observance of the most trivial detail and drive 
their workmen half-way to distraction. A few, on the 
other hand, are generous and humane. They hold the 
reins slack, and, mthout the knowledge of their chiefs, 
grant a few small privileges and are rewarded with the 
confidence of the workmen and a willingness to labour 
on their part amounting to enthusiasm. For, as the 
horse that is tightly breeched draws none too well, 
neither do those men work best who are rigidly kept 
down under the iron rod of the overseer. DiscipHne 
there is bound to be, as everyone knows, but there is 
no excuse for treating a man as though he were a wild 
beast, or an infant just out of the cradle. Whatever 
dissatisfaction exists about the works is chiefly owing 
to the behaviour of the officials, for they force the work- 
men into rebellion. If the directors of the company are 
anxious for the welfare of their staff — as they profess to 
be — let them instruct their managers and foremen to 
show themselves a Httle more tolerant and kindly dis- 
posed to the men in the sheds. Actions speak louder 
than words, and kindness shown to workmen is never 
forgotten. 

The wheel shop is a large building, containing many 
rows of lathes for the wheels, tyres, and axles, which 
are nearly all tended by boys. The Hues of shafting 
stretch in the roof, up and down from end to end of the 
place, and the pulleys whirl round almost noiselessly- 
overhead. Everything is spotlessly clean, for there 
are no furnaces belching out their smoke, dust, c?md 
flames. The temperature is low and the shed, eve/n in 
the hottest part of the summer, is cool in comparison 
with the other premises round about. In the 'vvinter 
it is heated with steam from the boilers and the exhaust 



58 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

from the shop engines. This prevents the boys from 
catching cold. The heavy steel axles and tjnres are 
exceedingly chill in the winter, especially in frosty 
weather. 

The boys come from all psirts, from town and country 
alike, immediately after leaving school, and go straight 
to the lathes. There are labourers to fix the wheels 
and tyres in the machines, and the boys attend to the 
tools, working carefully to the gauges provided. Coming 
to the work at a time when their minds are in a receptive 
state, they soon master the principal parts of the busi- 
ness and before long become highly skilled and pro- 
ficient. Their wages are no more than five or six 
shilhngs a week for a start, with yearly rises of one or 
two shillings until they reach a pound or twenty-two 
shillings. Upon arriving at this stage — unless work 
is plentiful — they are usually removed from the lathe 
and set labouring, or otherwise transferred or discharged 
as too expensive for the work. Sometimes, after this, 
they migrate to other towns and earn double or treble 
the wages they received before, for good wheel- and 
axle-turners are in constant demand and a clever work- 
man may be sure of securing a high rate of remuneration. 

The boys are an interesting group, and one that is 
well worthy of consideration. They are of all sorts 
and sizes, of many grades and walks in life. There 
is the country labourer's lad, who formerly worked on 
the land amid the horses and cattle ; the town labourer's 
lad, who has been errand-boy or who sold newspapers 
on the street corner ; the small shopkeeper's lad, the 
fitter's lad, tall and pale, in clean blue overalls, and the 
enginedriver's lad, fresh from school, whose one ambition 
is to emulate his father and, hke him, drive an engine, 
only one that is two or three times as big and powerful. 
There iire tall and short boys, boys fat and lean, pale and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 59 

robust-looking, ragged and well-kept, with sad and 
merry faces. And what pranks they play with one 
another, and would play, if they were not curbed and 
checked with the ever watchful eye of the shop foreman ! 
They are always ready for some game or other — foot- 
ball, hide-and-seek, or " ierky " — at any time of the 
day, and whatever they do, it does not seem to tire them 
down ; they are still fresh and active, cheerful and 
vivacious. 

Many of them begin the day well with running 
regularly to work, perhaps for two or three miles. At 
five minutes past six in the morning they commence 
at the lathe, and when breakfast- time comes they 
scamper off, food in hand, and play about the yard, 
or in the recreation field beyond. From nine till one 
their labour is continuous ; there they stand, bound as 
with chains to the machines they serve, for ever watch- 
ful, so as not to spoil the cut and waste the axle, which 
would mean an enforced holiday for them. When one 
o'clock comes, smothered with oil and with faces like 
those of sweeps — often blackened purposely to give 
themselves the appearance of having perspired much — 
they race off as before, and play recklessly until it is 
time to return to the shed. And after the day's work 
is finished and they go home in the evening, they wash 
away the grime and oil and play about the streets and 
lanes till bed-time, utterly indifferent to the wearisome 
occupation awaiting them on the morrow. Their sleep 
is sound and sweet, for their hearts are happy and light. 
Of the cares of life they know nothing ; the future is 
full of hope for them ;' all the world is before them. 
Their chief concern is for the holidays. All these are 
anticipated and awaited with great joy and eagerness ; 
it is by this alone that they discover the extreme tedium 
of the daily drudgery of the workshop. 



6o LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

The boys' foreman is an experienced official, shrewd, 
keen, and very severe ; a good judge of character, 
cautious, and careful, civil enough, but unbending in 
a decision, a very good formative agent, one who will 
exercise a healthy restraint upon the intractables and 
encourage the timid, but who exploits them all for the 
good of the firm. His keen eyes and sound judgment 
enable him to at once sum up a lad's capabilities. He 
takes the youth and sets him where he will show to the 
best advantage, instructs him on many of the crucial 
points, advises him as to the best means of getting on, 
and very often furnishes him with hints of a personal 
nature which — whatever the lad may think of them at 
the time — ^bear fruit in after hfe. If the youngster 
is inclined to be wild and incorrigible he tries his best 
to reform him, and gives him sound advice. He has 
also been known to administer a corrective cuff in the 
ear and a vigorous boot in the posterior, but he usually 
succeeds in bringing out the good points and suppress- 
ing, if not entirely eradicating, the bad. 

Whenever he walks up or down the shed the boys fix 
their attention more firmly upon their machines, for 
they feel his keen, penetrating eyes upon them, and they 
know that nothing ever escapes his notice. If there is 
a slackness at any point the word is passed rapidly on — 

" Look out, here's J y coming," and the overseer 

is sometimes amused with the various expedients re- 
sorted to in order to deceive him and cover up the 
juvenile shortcomings. As to wages, prices, and systems, 
they are not altogether his fault. It he could suit 
himself he might possibly be willing to pay more, but 
he is always being pressed by the staff to reduce prices 
and expenses, and, like the other foremen, he is not 
prepared to offer effective resistance. Being an official 
of long standing, however, he is secure in his place, and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 6i 

has no occasion to betray his hands to the firm, as is too 
often the case with young foremen, who wish to secure 
personal notice and advantage. That is one of the most 
damning features of all, and is becoming more and 
more a practice at the works. One young "under- 
strapper " I knew is in the habit of standing over the 
boys at the lathe, watch in hand, for four hours without 
once moving, and, by his manner and language, com- 
pelling them to run at an excessive rate so as to cut their 
prices. Without doubt he is deserving of the birch 
rod, though the managers, who allow it, are the more 
to blame. 

A short way from the canal, north of the road- waggon 
shed, is the rubbish heap, at which most of the old 
wood refuse and lumber, with hundreds of tons of saw- 
dust, are brought to be burned. At one time all this 
was consumed in the boiler furnaces, but since the 
amount of refuse has enormously increased it has been 
found expedient to transport some part of it there and 
so do away with it. One small furnace is used for the 
purpose, and by far the greater part of it, especially 
the sawdust, is burned in big heaps upon the ground. 
This is a slovenly, as well as a dangerous method, and 
the inconvenience resulting to the men in the sheds is 
considerable. If the wind is in the west the dense 
clouds of smoke sweep along the ground and are blown 
straight in through the open doors upon the stampers, 
and are a source of extreme discomfort and disgust. 
There is always plenty of smother in the shed, arising 
from the oil furnaces, without receiving any addition 
from outside. Once the workshop is filled with the 
bluish vapour it takes hours to disperse, for, though 
there are doors all round and hundreds of ventilators 
on the roof, they do not carry off the nuisance. Very 
often the smoke will travel from end to end of the shed, 



62 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

like a current of water, but just as it reaches the door- 
way and you think it is going to pass outside, it suddenly 
whirls round Hke a wheel and traverses the whole length 
of the place, and so on, over and over again. 

If the wind is in the north, then the road-waggon 
builders must suffer the persecuting clouds of smoke 
and be tormented with smarting and burning eyes at 
work ; and if it should blow from over the town, across 
the rolling downs from the south, the smother is carried 
high over the fence and sweeps along the recreation 
field to the discomfort of small boys and lovers, or of 
whoever happens to be passing that way. If the nuis- 
ance arose from any other quarter complaints might 
be made and steps taken towards the mitigation of it. 
As it is, no one, not even a member of the local bodies 
and the Corporation, summons up the courage to make 
a protest, for everyone bows down before the company's 
officials and representatives in the railway town and 
fears to raise objections to anything that may be done 
by the people at the works. 



CHAPTER V 

" THE FIELD " — " CUTTING - DOWN " — THE FLYING 
DUTCHMAN — THE FRAME SHED — PROMOTION — 

RIVET BOYS — THE OVERSEER 

On the north the factory yard is bounded by a high board 
fence that runs along close behind the shed and divides 
the premises from the recreation grounds, which are 
chiefly the haunt of juveniles during the summer months 
and the resort of football players and athletes in the 
winter. Here also the small children come after school 
and wander about the field among the buttercups, or 
sit down amid the long grass in the sunshine, or swing 
round the Maypole, under the very shadow of the black 
walls, with only a thin fence to separate them from the 
busy factory. The ground beneath their feet shakes 
with the ponderous blows of the steam-hammers ; the 
white clouds of steam from the exhaust pipes shoot high 
into the air. Dense volumes of blackest smoke tower 
out of the chimneys, whirling round and round and over 
and over, or roll lazily away in a long line out beyond 
the town and fade into the distance. 

The fence stretches away to the east for a quarter of 
a mile from the shed and then turns again at right 
angles and continues the boundary on that side as far 
as to the entrance by the railway. About half-way 
across are several large shops and premises used for Hft- 
ing, fitting, and storing the carriages ; beyond them is 
a wide, open space commonly known as " the field." 
As a matter of fact, the whole area of the yard was leally 



64 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

a series of fields until quite recently. Fifteen years ago, 
although the space was enclosed, you might have walked 
among the hedgerows and have been in the midst of 
rustic surroundings. Numerous rabbits infested the 
place and retained their burrows till long after the steel 
rails were laid along the ground. Hares, too, continued 
to frequent the yard until the rapid extension of the 
premises and the clearing away of the grass and bushes 
deprived them of cover. It was a common thing to 
see them and the rabbits shooting in and out among the 
old wheels and tyres that had been removed from the 
condemned vehicles. 

If you should follow the fence along for a short dis- 
tance you might even now soon forget the factory and 
imagine yourself to be far away in some remote village 
corner, surrounded with fresh green foliage and drink- 
ing in the sweet breath of the open fields. One would 
not conceive that in the very factory grounds, within 
sight of the hot, smoky workshops, and but a stone's 
throw from some of them, it would be possible to enjoy 
the charm of rusticity, and to revel unseen in a pro- 
fusion of flowers that would be sought for in vain in 
many parts about the countryside. Yet such is the 
pleasure to be derived from a visit to this little frequented 
spot. The fence, to the end, runs parallel with the re- 
creation ground alongside a hedgerow that once parted 
the two fields when the whole was in the occupation of 
the people at the old farmhouse that has now dis- 
appeared. In the hedgerow, with their trunks close 
against the board partition, still in their prime and in 
strong contrast to the black smoky walls and roofs of 
the sheds opposite, stand half-a-dozen stately elms that 
stretch their huge limbs far over the yard and throw a 
deep shadow on the ground beneath. At this spot the 
field gradually declines and, as the inner yard has been 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 65 

made up to a level with the railway beyond, when you 
approach the angle you find yourself out of sight, with 
the raised platform of cinders on the one hand and, on 
the other, the high wooden fence and thick elms. 

At the corner the steel tracks have had to make a 
long curve, and this has left the ground there free to 
bring forth whatever it will. Here, also, the trees are 
thickest, and, within the fence, a small portion of the 
original site still remains. A streamlet— perhaps the 
last drain of a once considerable brook — enters from the 
recreation ground underneath the boards and is con- 
ducted along, now within its natural banks and now 
through broken iron pipes, into the corner, where it is 
finally swallowed up in a gully and lost to view. Stoop- 
ing over it, as though to protect it from further injury 
and insult, are several clumps of hawthorn and the 
remains of an old hedge of wych elm. Standing on 
the railway track of the bank are some frames of carriages 
that were burnt out at the recent big fire. Near them 
are several crazy old waggons and vans, that look as if 
they had stood in the same place for half a century and 
add still further to the quiet of the scene. 

It is alongside the fence, and especially about the 
corner, that the wild flowers bloom. Prominent over 
all is the rosebay. This extends in a belt nearly right 
along the fence, and chmbs up the ash bank and runs 
for a considerable distance among the metals, growing 
and thriving high among the iron wheels and frames of 
the carriages and reveUing in the soft ashes and cinders 
of the track. Side by side with this, and blooming 
contemporary with it, are the dehcate toadflax, bright 
golden ragwort, wild mignonette, yellow melilot, ox-eye 
daisies, mayweed, small willow-herb, meadow-sweet, 
ladies' bedstraw, tansy, yarrow, and cinquefoil. The 
wild rose blooms to perfection and the bank is richly 



66 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

draped with a vigorous growth of dewberry, laden with 
blossoms and fruit. 

Beside the streamlet in the corner is a patch of cats'- 
tails, as high as to the knees, and a magnificent mass 
of butter-bur. The deliciously scented flowers of this 
are long since gone by, but the leaves have grown to 
an extraordinary size. They testify to the presence of 
the stream, for the butter-bur is seldom found but in 
close proximity to water. Here also are to be found 
the greater willow-herb with its large sweet pink blossoms 
and highly-scented leaves, the pale yellow colt's-foot, 
medick, purple woody night-shade, hedge stachys, 
spear plume thistles, hogweed and garlick mustard, 
with many other plants, flowering and otherwise, that 
have been imported with the baUast and have now 
taken possession of the space between the hues and 
the fence. 

The shade of the trees and beauty of the flowers and 
plants are dehghtful in the summer when the sun looks 
down from a clear, cloudless sky upon the steel rails and 
dry ashes of the yard, which attract and contain the 
heat in a remarkable degree, making it painful even to 
walk there in the hottest part of the day. Then the 
cool shade of the trees is thrice welcome, especially after 
the stifling heat of the workshop, the overpowering 
fumes of the oil furnaces and the blazing metal just 
left behind ; for it is impossible for any but workmen 
to enjoy the pleasant retreat. No outsider ever gains 
admittance here, and though you should often pace 
underneath the trees in the recreation ground you would 
never dream of what the interior is like. Nor do even 
workmen — at least, not more than one or two, and tliis 
at rare intervals in the meal-hours — often come here, 
for if they did they would be noticed by the watchmen 
and ordered away. Their presence here, even during 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 67 

meal-hours, would be construed as prejudicial to the 
interests of the company. They would be suspected 
of theft, or of some other evil intention, or would at 
least be looked upon as trespassers and reported to the 
managers. In times gone by men and youths have 
been known to escape from the factory during working 
hours and while they were booked at their machines, by 
chmbing over the fence, and this has made the officials 
cautious and severe in deaUng with trespassers. It 
would not be a difficult matter, even now — and 
especially in the winter afternoons and evenings — to 
climb over the top of the fence and decamp. 

This part of the factory yard is by far the most whole- 
some of the works' premises. There is plenty of room 
and hght, and happy were they who, in the years ago, 
were told off for service in the field, breaking up the old 
waggons, sorting out the timber, and running the wheels 
from one place to another. At the time the old broad- 
gauge system of vehicles was converted to the four-foot 
scale, large gangs in the yard were regularly employed 
in cutting-down ; that is, reducing the waggons to the 
new shape. First of all the wood-work was removed ; 
then both sides of the iron frame — a foot each side — 
were cut completely away. Two new " sole-bars " 
were affixed, and the whole frame was riveted up again. 
The wheels, also, were taken out and the axles shortened 
and re-fitted. The carpenters now replaced the floors 
and sides and all was fit for traffic again. The loco- 
motives, on the other hand, were condemned. The 
boilers and machinery were built on too great a scale 
to be fitted to the narrow-gauge frames. They were 
accordingly lifted out and the boilers distributed all 
over the system, while the frames were cut up for scrap 
and new ones built in place of them. 

The old type of broad-gauge engine has never been 



68 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

beaten for speed on the line. By reason of its occupy- 
ing a greater space over the wheels and axles the run- 
ning was more even, and there was not so much rocking 
of the coaches. The broad-gauge Flying Dutchman 
express was noted for its magnificent speed and stately 
carriage, and for many years after the abolition of the 
system stories of almost incredible runs were current 
at the works. One old driver, very proud of his 
machine, was said to have sworn to the officials that he 
would bring his engine and train from London to the 
railway town, a distance of seventy-seven miles, in an 
hour, dead time, with perfect safety, and he was only 
prevented from accomplishing the feat by the strong 
stand made by the officials, who threatened him with 
instant dismissal if he should exceed the Hmit of speed 
prescribed in the time-tables. 

At the same time, it is well known that the official 
time-table was often ignored, and stirring tales might 
be told of fi}'ing journeys performed in defiance of 
all written injunctions and authority. The signalmen 
knew of these feats and were often astounded at them, 
but they are only human, and they often did that they 
ought not to have done in order to shield the driver. 
The passengers, too, are always delighted to find them- 
selves being whirled along at a high rate. There is an 
intoxication in it not to be resisted, and when they leave 
the train at the journey's end, after an extraordinary 
run, they invariably go and inspect the engine and admire 
the brave fellow who has rushed them over the country 
at such an exciting speed. 

When the broad-gauge was converted great numbers 
of men from all quarters were put on at the works. 
Every viUage and hamlet for miles around sent in its 
unemployed, and many of the farms were quite deserted. 
These were engaged in " cutting-down " or in breaking 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 69 

up the waggons and engines — little skill being necessary 
for that operation — and when, after several years, the 
system was quite reduced and slackness followed the 
busy period, the greater part of them were discharged 
and were again distributed over the countryside round 
about. It is impossible to go into any village within 
a radius of eight or ten miles of the railway town without 
finding at least one or two men who were employed on 
" the old broad-gauge," as they still call it. After their 
discharge the majority, by degrees, settled down to 
farm life. Many, however, continued out of work for 
a long time, and some are numbered among the 
" casuals " to this day. 

The only tools, besides hammers, required by the 
cutters-down, were cold sets to cut off the heads of the 
rivets and bolts, and punches to force the stems and 
stays out of the holes. They were held by hazel rods, 
that were suppHed in bundles from the stores for the 
purpose. To bind them round the steel tools they 
were first of all heated in the middle over the fire. 
Then the cutter-out took hold of one end, and his mate 
held the other, and the two together gave the wand 
several twists round. After that the rod was wound 
twice about the set or punch and the two ends were 
tied together with strong twine. This gave a good 
grip on the tool, which would not be obtained with' the 
use of an iron rod. The repeated blows on the set from 
the sledge would soon jar the iron rod loose and cause 
it to snap off, while the hazel rod grips it firmly and 
springs with it under the blow. 

Formerly all the repair riveting was done by hand. 
When the hot rivet was inserted in the hole the " holder- 
up " kept it in position, either with the " dolly " or 
with a heavy square-headed sledge. Then the riveters 
knocked down the head of the rivet with long-nosed 



70 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

hammers, striking alternately in rapid succession and 
making the neighbourhood resound with the blows. 
Afterwards the chief mate held the " snap " upon it 
and his mate phed the sledge until the new head was 
perfectly round and smooth. The " snap " is a portion 
of steel bar, about ten inches long and toughly tem- 
pered, with a die, the shape of the rivet head required, 
infixed at one end. Now, however, pneumatic riveting 
machines are used out of doors. These, being small 
and compact, can be employed anywhere and with 
much fewer hands than were required by the old method. 
The air is supplied from accumulators into which it is 
forced by the engine in the shed, and it is conducted in 
pipes all round the factor3^ yards. 

The repair gangs are an off-shoot of the frame shed 
that is situated at a distance of nearly half a mile from 
the field. There the steel frames for the waggons and 
carriages and all iron-topped vehicles, such as ballast 
trucks, brake and bulhon vans, refrigerators and others 
are constructed. That is essentially the shop of hard 
work, heavy lifting and noise terrific. The din is quite 
inconceivable. First of all is the machinery. On this 
side are rows of drills, saws, slotting and planing 
machines ; on that are the punches and shears, screech- 
ing and grinding, snapping and groaning with the terrible 
labour imposed upon them. The long hnes of shafting 
and wheels whirl incessantly overhead, the cogs clatter, 
the belts flap on the rapidly spinning pulleys, and the 
blast from the fan roars loudly underground. All this, 
however, is nearly drowned with the noise of the hammer- 
ing. Hundreds of blows are being struck, on " tops " 
and "bottoms," steel rails and iron rails, sole-bars and 
headstocks, middles, diagonals, stanchions, knees, straps 
and girders. Every part of the frame is being subjected 
to the same treatment — riveted, straightened, levelled, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY Jt 

Of sqilafed, most unmercifully used. Every tone and 
degree of sound is emitted, according to the various 
qualities and thicknesses of the metal — sharps and fiats, 
alto, treble and bass. There is the sharp clear tone of 
the highly-tempered steel in the tools used ; the solid 
and defiant ring of the sole-bar or headstock, strong and 
firm under the hammer of the " puUer-up," the dull, 
flat sound of the floor plates, the loud hollow noise of 
the " covered goods " sides and ends, and the deep 
heavy boom of the roofs of the vans. Everyone seems 
to be striking as hard and as quickly as he is able. All 
the blows fall at once, and yet everything is in a jumble 
and tangle, loud, vicious, violent, confused and chaotic 
— a veritable pandemonium. And then, to crown the 
whole, there are the pneumatic tools, the chipping and 
riveting machines. It is dreadful ; it is overpowering ; 
it is unearthly ; but it has to be borne, day after day 
and year after year. 

Yet even the frame shed must yield to the boiler shop 
in the matter of concentrated noise. The din produced 
by the pneumatic machines in cutting out the many 
hundreds of rivets and stays inside a boiler is quite 
appalling. There is nothing to be compared with it. 
The heaviest artillery is feeble considered with it ; 
thunder is a mere echo. What is more, the noise of 
neither of these is continuous, while the operation with- 
in the boiler lasts for a week or more. The boiler, in 
a great degree, contains the sound, so that even if you 
were a short distance away, though the noise there would 
be very great, you could have no idea of the intensity 
of the sound within. Words could not express it ; 
language fails to give an adequate idea of the terrible 
detonation and the staggering effect produced upon 
whosoever will venture to thrust his head within the 
aperture of the boiler fire-box. Do you hear anything ? 



72 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

You hear nothing. Sound is swallowed up in sound. 
You are a hundred times deaf. You are transfixed ; 
your every sense is paralysed. In a moment you seem 
to be encompassed with an unspeakable silence — a 
deathUke vacuity of sound altogether. Though you 
shout at the top of your voice you hear nothing — 
nothing at all. You are deaf and dumb, and stupefied. 
You look at the operator ; there he sits, stands or stoops. 
You see his movements and the apparatus in his hands, 
but everything is absolutely noiseless to you. It is Uke 
a dumb show, a dream, a phantasm. So, for a httle 
while after you withdraw your head from the boiler, 
you can hear nothing. You do not know whether you 
are upon your head or your heels, which is the floor and 
which is the roof. The ground rises rapidly underneath 
you and you seem to be going up, up, up, you know not 
where. Then, after a httle while, when ^-ou have re- 
moved from the immediate vicinity of the boiler, you feel 
to come to earth again. Your senses rush upon you and 
you are suddenly made aware of the terrific noise you 
have encountered. Even now, it will be some time before 
the facult}^ of hearing is properly restored ; the fearful 
noise rings in your ears for hours and days afterwards. 

And what of the men who have to perform the work ? 
It is said that they are used to it. That is plainly 
begging the question. They have to do it, whether they 
are used to it or not. It is useless for them to com- 
plain ; into the boiler they must go, and face the music, 
for good or ill. All the men very soon become more or 
less deaf, and it is inconceivable but that other ailments 
must necessarily follow. The complete nervous S3^stem 
must in time be shattered, or seriously impaired, and the 
individual become something of a wi'eck. This is one 
of the many ills resulting from progress in machinery 
and modern manufacturing appUances, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 73 

The personnel of the frame shed is individual and 
distinct in a very marked degree. Most of the men 
seem to have been chosen for their great strength and 
fine physique, or to have developed these qualities after 
their admission to the work. The very nature of the 
toil tends to produce strong limbs and brawny muscles. 
It is certain that continual exercise of the upper parts 
of the body by such means as the lifting of heavy sub- 
stances tends to improve the chest and shoulders, and 
many of those who are engaged in lifting and carrjdng 
the plates and sole-bars are very stout and square in 
this respect. There is a number of " heavy weights," 
and a few positive giants among them, though the 
majority of the men are conspicuous, not so much by 
their bulk, as by their squareness of limb and muscularity. 
A proof of the strength of the frame shed men may be 
seen in the success of their tug-of-war teams. Wherever 
they have competed — and they have gone throughout 
the entire south of England — they have invariably 
beaten their opponents and carried off the trophies. 

There was formerly a workman, an ex-Hussar, named 
Bryan, in the shed, who could perform extraordinary 
feats of strength. He was nearly seven feet in height 
and he was very erect. His arms and limbs were solid 
and strong ; he was a veritable Hercules, and his 
shoulders must have been as broad as those of Atlas, 
who is fabled to have borne the world on his back. 
It was striking to see liim lift the heavy headstocks, 
that weighed two hundredweights and a quarter, with 
perfect ease and carry them about on his shoulder — a 
task that usually required the powers of two of the 
strongest men. This he continued to do for many years, 
not out of bravado, but because he knew it was within 
his natural powers to perform. Notwithstanding his 
tremendous normal strength, however, he was subject 



74 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

to attacks of ague, and you might have seen him some- 
times stretched out upon the ground quite helpless, groan- 
ing and foaming at the mouth. If he had been work- 
ing in the shed recently, since the passing of the new 
Factory Acts, he would have been promptly discharged, 
for no one is kept at the works now who is subject to 
any infirmity that might incapacitate him in the shed 
among the machinery. Later on, when work got 
slack, Bryan was turned adrift from the factory, a 
broken and a ruined man. All his past services to the 
firm were forgotten , he was cast off like an old shoe. 
However valuable and extraordinary a man may have 
proved himself to be at his work, it counts for Httle or 
nothing with the foremen and managers ; the least 
thing puts him out of favour and he must go. 

The men of the frame shed are of a cosmopolitan order, 
though to a less extent than is the case in some depart- 
ments. The work being for the most part rough and 
requiring no very great skill, there has consequently 
been no need of apprenticeships, though there are a 
few who have served their time as waggon-builders or 
boiler-smiths. They are not recognised as journeymen 
here, however, and so must take their chance with the 
rank and file. Promotion is supposed to be made 
according to merit, but there are favourites everywhere 
who will somehow or other prevail. The normal order 
of promotion is from labourer to " puller-up," from 
puller-up to riveter, and thence to the position of charge- 
man. Here he must be content to stop, for foremen 
are only made about once or twice in a generation, and 
when the odds on any man for the post are high, surprise 
and disappointment always follow. The first is usually 
relegated to the rear, and the least expected of all is 
brought forward to fill the coveted position. It may 
be design, or it may be judgment, and perhaps it is 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 75 

neither. It very often looks as though the matter 
had been decided by the toss of a coin, or the drawing 
of lots, and that the lot had fallen upon the least quahfied, 
but there is no questioning the decision. The old and 
tried chargeman, who knows the scale and dimensions 
of everything that has been built or that is likely to be 
built in the shed in his lifetime, must stand aside for 
the raw youth who has not left school many months, 
but who, by some mysterious means or other, has 
managed to secure the favour and indulgence of his 
foreman, or other superior. Perhaps he is reckoned 
good at arithmetic, or can scratch out a rough drawing, 
though more than hkely his father was gardener to 
someone, or cleaned the foreman's boots and did odd 
jobs in the scullery after factory hours. 

Another reason for the selection of young and com- 
paratively unknown men for the post of foreman is 
that they will have a smaller circle of personal mates 
in the shed, and, consequently, a less amount of human 
kindness and sympathy in them. That is to say, they 
will be able to cut and slash the piecework prices with 
less compunction, and so the better serve the interests 
of the company. The young aspirant, moreover, will 
be at the very foot of the ladder, hot and impetuous, 
while the elder one will have passed the season of 
senseless and unscrupulous ambition. 

A feature of the frame shed is the rivet boy. It is 
his duty to hot the rivets in the forge for his mates and 
to perform sundry other small offices, such as fetching 
water from the tap in the shed, or holding a nail bag in 
front of the rivet head which is being cut away, in order 
to keep it from flying and causing injury to any of the 
workmen. The forges for hotting the rivets are fixtures 
and are suppHed with air through pipes laid beneath 
the ground from the fan under the wall. Several boys 



76 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

usually work from one fire, and there is often a scramble 
for the most advantageous position in the coals. An 
iron plate is used to facihtate the heating. This has 
been perforated with holes at the punch to allow its 
receiving as many rivets as are required. It is then 
placed over the whitehot coke in the forge and the rivets 
inserted. Each boy has a certain number of holes 
allotted to him and he must not trespass on liis mates' 
territory. 

It sometimes happens that one of the boys proves to 
be a bully and a terror and plays ducks and drakes 
with the rights and privileges of the others. This is 
always a matter of great concern to the juveniles, and 
they will not be satisfied till the tyrant has been humbled 
and punished. They have many minor differences and 
quarrels among themselves, and challenges to fight are 
frequent. Honour looms big in the eyes of the rivet 
boys, and they are quick to resent a taunt or affront and 
to wipe off all aspersions. Perhaps a sneer has been 
levelled at one by reason of his name, his father's occu- 
pation, or the name of the street or locahty in which 
he hves. With true pluck the matter is taken up. 
An hour and a place for the meeting are fixed : it is 
generaUy— " Meet me in the Rec at dinner-time." 
There they accordingly assemble wdth their mates and 
supporters and fight the matter out. It is usually a 
rough-and-tumble proceeding, but they do not desist 
till one or the other has been worsted and honour satis- 
fied. Moie than once it has happened that they have 
been so intent on the match they have lost count of 
the time and have all — a dozen or more — got locked out 
for the afternoon. This requires some explanation, and 
the next day the whole circumstance has to be related. 
Here the boys' fathers might interfere and administer 
a sound CO! recti ve lesson to each one of them. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 77 

Getting locked out is also verj^ often the result of 
over-staying at football, which is regularly practised 
by the youngsters in the recreation field all the year 
round. The boys club together and buy a ball and race 
out to play every dinner-time. There, for three-quarters 
of an hour, they exert themselves to the utmost and are 
forced to run back to the shed at the top of their speed, 
often returning in an exhausted condition, A spell of 
five minutes puts them right, however, and they go on 
with their work as though they had enjoyed an infinite 
period of refreshment. In the evening they race home 
to tea and afterwards go out again while it is daylight, 
never seeming too tired for sport and play. 

Many queer nicknames, such as "Bodger," "Snowball," 
"Granny," "Chucky," and "Nanty Pecker," are in vogue 
among the boys. These become fixtures and remain 
with them for many years. It must not be thought 
that all the rivet boys submit to become permanent 
hands in the shed. A good many of them, as soon as 
they are sufficiently old and big, go to the recruiting 
sergeant and try to enhst. Some enter the Army and 
others the Navy ; some go this way and some that. 
Very often boys who spent their early days at rivet- 
hotting in the shed and enter the Service, return in 
after years to obtain another start in the old quarters, 
and grow old amid the scenes of their boyhood. Some 
never return at all, but die, either in battle, of sickness, 
or other accident. More than one, too, has gone the 
wrong way in fife and ended in suicide. 

The boys are much given to reading cheap literature 
of the " dreadful " type, and they revel in the deeds of 
Buffalo Bill, Deadwood Dick, and other well-known 
heroes of fiction. Sometimes a boy, unknown to his 
parents, actually possesses a firearm — a pistol or re- 
volver — and, with a group of companions, scours the 



78 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

countryside round about in search of " game." Once, 
at least, mischief was done in the shape of bursting open 
a letter-box with bullets, and at another time a poor 
calf received a bullet-shot through the hedgerow. This 
last-named deed, however, was purely accidental. 
Great fear fell upon the juveniles after this untoward 
experience and the pistol was forthwith cast into the 
canal. At another time a careless lad shot himself 
through the hand with a pistol and inflicted a dangerous 
wound. 

A great change has come over the frame shed during 
the last twelve years. The old foreman has gone ; a 
great many of the old hands have disappeared also, 
and the methods of work have been revolutionised. 
The prices have been cut again and again ; a different 
spirit prevails ever^^where ; it is no longer as it used 
to be. Considerable liberty and many small privileges 
were allowed to the men by the governing staff in those 
days, and the foreman, if he felt disposed, could do 
much to make them comfortable and satisfied. Then 
the overseer was practically master of his shed and 
could make his own terms with the workmen, though it 
is only fair to remember that under those conditions he 
was sometimes inclined to be summary and despotic. 

The old foreman of the frame shed was an excellent 
example of this kind of overseer. As an engineer he 
was clever, intelligent, sharp-sighted, and energetic. 
In addition to this he was a good judge of character, 
a natural leader of men., and one strongly sympathetic. 
If he was in want of new hands he needed not to ask 
a dozen ridiculous questions, or to stand upon any kind 
of ceremony ; he came, saw, and decided at once. One 
glance was sufficient for him ; he had summed the man 
up in an instant. In the shed he was free, easy and 
spontaneous, praising and blaming in the same breath. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 79 

At one moment he was livid with passion ; the next he 
was kind, concihative, and condescending. His temper 
was hot and fiery. When he frowned at you his ex- 
pression was as black as a thunder-cloud, but you knew 
that everything would soon be well again. His be- 
haviour was at least open and genuine, and whatever 
his attitude to his superiors might have been, he was 
free from dissimulation with the workmen. Nothing 
escaped his attention in the shed. As he walked his 
eagle eye comprehended aU, If a stanchion or girder 
was in the least out of square he perceived it, and it 
had to be put right immediately. 

He never made himself too cheap and common with 
the workmen, but held himself in such a relation to them 
that he could always command respect. He often 
came to the shed late and left early, but there was then 
no rigid law compelling the foreman to be for ever at 
his post, and the work usually proceeded the same. 
He was an inventor himself, and he was always ready 
to encourage independent thought and action among 
his workmen. He recognised merit and rewarded it. 
He was not jealous of his workmen's brains, and he was 
at all times willing to consider an opinion and to act 
upon it if it seemed preferable to his own. He was a 
mixture of the fatherly ruler and the despot, but he 
was very proud of Ms men and he lauded them up to 
the skies to outsiders, whenever an opportunity presented 
itself. There was nothing they could not make, and 
make well, according to him. If he blamed them to 
themselves he stoutly defended them against others, and 
he would not have dreamed of selUng and betraying 
them to the management, as is commonly done at this 
time. 

Of the boys he was extremely fond, and especially 
of such as were well-behaved and attentive, however 



8o LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

ragged and rough their dress might be, and he often 
stood and talked to them with his hand on their shoulder, 
or gave them pennies or marbles. But if he saw one 
of the " terribles " bullying a younger lad he ran up 
to him and gave him a sound cuff, or a vigorous kick. 
Under his foremanship work was plentiful and wages 
were high. The shed was nearly always on overtime, 
and money flowed Uke water. The men bore the strain 
of the overtime complacently. They worked without 
fear'and turned out a hundred, or a hundred and twenty 
waggon frames a week. Those were prosperous days 
for the frame shed and many a one saved a little pile 
from his earnings. 

Together with all this, however, the foreman dis- 
covered some remarkable characteristics and he was 
possessed of the most amazing effrontery. If strangers 
connected with other firms came in to inspect the plant 
and process and to know the prices of things, he hood- 
winked them in every possible manner and told them 
astounding fables. He would take up an article in 
his hand, describe it with pride, and tell them it was 
made for a fifth of what it actually cost to produce. If 
the manager came through and any awkward questions 
were asked, he skilfully turned the point aside and 
motioned secretly to the men to support him if they 
should be consulted. He hated all interference and 
would not stand patronage even from his superiors, 
and where argument failed clever manoeuvring saved the 
situation. 

Whatever he saw in the shape of machinery he coveted 
for his own shed. More than once he was known actually 
to purloin a machine from the neighbour foreman's shop 
in the night and transfer it to his own premises. Once 
a very large driUing machine, new from the maker and 
labelled to another department at the works, came into 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 8i 

the yard by mistake, but it never reached its proper 
destination. Calling a gang of men, he removed the 
drill from the truck, caused a foundation to be made 
for it, fixed it up in a corner half out of sight, and had 
it working the next morning. A hue and cry was 
raised up and down and around the yard for the missing 
machine, but it was not discovered till a long time after- 
wards. It still stands in the shed, a proof of one of the 
most brazen and impudent thefts possible. 

At another time three large drop-hammers were 
shunted near the shed, and on seeing them he quickly 
had them unloaded, but he was not successful in retaining 
them. On being discovered he made profuse apologies 
for his " mistake " and there the matter ended. At 
last he fell into the disfavour of someone and defiantly 
handed in his resignation. Now everything proceeds 
upon formally approved hues, though many a one 
wishes the old foreman were still in his place, grumbhng 
and scolding, and pushing things forward as in the 
days ago. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE SMITHY — THE SMITH — BUILDING THE FIRE — GALLERY 
MEN — APPRENTICES — THE OLDEST HAND — DEATH OF 
A SMITH — ^THE SMITH's ATTITUDE TO HIS MATES — 
HIS GREAT GOOD-NATURE — THE SMITHS' FOREMAN 

Adjoining the frame - building shed is the waggon 
smithy, where the thousand and one details for brake 
systems for the carriages and waggons, and other articles 
and uses are manufactured. Here, also, all kinds of 
repairs are executed, and a great number of tools of 
every description made for the permanent way men 
and for other workshops round about. It is said that 
the forge is the longest in England, and this is probably 
correct. It is shghtly under two hundred yards in 
length, and it contains one hundred fires. These are 
built at equal distances, on each side of the shed, with 
crowns like large bee-hives, and the chimneys are joined 
in with the walls. Every fire is supphed with a bosh- 
ful of water in which to cool the various tools, and there 
is also a tap and a rubber pipe for damping the coals. 

Behind the forge is a recess for the coke, which is 
crushed by machines outside and wheeled in ready 
for use. Above this is a rack for the tongs and tools, 
of which the smith possesses a considerable number. 
They are of all sorts and sizes, capable of holding and 
shaping every conceivable article. Of tongs there are 
flat-bits, hoUow-bits, and claws large and small, with 
sets and " set-tools," " fullers," flatters, punches, 
" jogglers," and many others with no specific title but 

82 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 83 

conveniently named by the brawny fellow who uses 
them. Standing in one corner, or soaking in the water 
of the bosh, are large and small sledges and one or two 
wooden maUets. Every fire has its sieve or " riddle," 
as it is called, for sifting the coke before it is put in the 
forge, for every particle of dust must be removed from 
the fuel so as to obtain a clear, bright heat. If there 
is welding to be done the coke will have to be broken up 
small — about the size of a walnut — with the mallet, in 
order to concentrate the heat, and to aUowof the iron being 
easily moved in the fire and well-covered with the fuel. 
The task of making up the fire falls upon the smith's 
mate or striker. Perhaps, if the piece of work is of 
big dimensions, two fires are needed ; if it is small or 
moderate-sized, one will be sufficient. It is the mate's 
duty to get everything ready for the smith. First of 
all the clinker is removed and the dust taken out from 
the centre of the fire with an iron shovel. The live 
coals are now raked to the middle and the blast appUed. 
When this is performed the fresh coke is " riddled " up, 
and carefully distributed in the forge. Every smith is 
very particular as to the shape of Ms fire. In general 
disposition it will be high at the back with the corners — 
right and left — well filled, rather fuU in front and even 
in the centre. If the weather is hot and the coke dry 
it may receive a good watering — once before the smith 
begins his heat, and several times during the operation. 
A good smith will be sparing of water, however, for too 
much of it makes the fke burn too fiercely in the centre, 
contracts the area of heat and causes the iron to be 
dirty and slimy. The harder the coke, the better it is, 
and the more briUiant the heat will be. Soft coke is 
soon consumed and completely reduced to dust, while 
good, hard coke wiU last a considerable time in the fire. 
It must not be assumed that the smith is idle while 



84 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

his mates are employed in renovating the forge. He is 
busy preparing his tools and taking dimensions of the 
job to be made, and pondering on the best means of 
doing it. For this he usually has a large board whitened 
with chalk, upon which he sketches out the article and 
by means of which he determines the best method of 
forming his bends and angles. He may not be much of 
an artist, but in his rude way he will make a very com- 
mendable drawing of his job and will thus be enabled 
to determine beforehand exactly what to do to effect it, 
just the time to begin his tapers and angles, the direction 
of the bend, and the tools for doing it. He never leaves 
the method undetermined till he has his iron on the 
anvil, but takes pains to have everything settled and 
every phase of the operation well in view before he 
begins it. It is the inferior or the unintelligent workman 
alone that heats his iron and trusts to a chance idea to 
complete the job. 

Meanwhile the cloth cap has been removed from the 
head, and the waistcoat and braces hung up behind the 
forge. The long leathern apron is produced from the 
wooden tool-chest and tied around the waist, or fastened 
with the belt, about three inches of the top of the trousers 
being often turned down outside. The smith's trousers 
are usuaUy of blue serge, and they are made very loose 
and baggy, so as to allow of much stooping. The 
strikers more frequently use aprons made of canvas or 
of old thin refuse leather that has been stripped from 
the worn-out carriages and horse-boxes and consigned 
to the scrap-heap. While the finishing touches are 
being put to the forge the burly smith takes his can 
and goes to the tap for a drink of water. Arrived there 
he fills the vessel, removes the quid of tobacco from his 
cheek — a great many smiths chew tobacco — raises the 
can to his hps, rinses out his mouth once or twice and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 85 

spouts the water out again to a great distance. Then 
he takes a long drink, fills the can again and carries it 
back to the forge, where he hands it to his mates, or 
sets it down for future refreshment. 

By this time the iron wiU have been placed in the 
forge and the blast appHed by the strikers. The sets 
also will have been ground, the shafts of the hammers 
examined and the wedges tightened. The floor, too, 
wiU be cleanly swept round about, for the smith is most 
particular in the matter of neatness and will not have 
loose ashes and cinders, or other rubbish, lying under 
his feet. A light, square table, sometimes of wood and 
sometimes of iron plate, is set by the anvil, and of a 
height with it, to contain the tools. A handful of birch, 
bound together after the manner of a little besom, is 
placed conveniently upon the table. This is used for 
brushing the heat when it comes from the coals, and for 
removing the dust and scale from the anvil. As the 
blast rushes through the pipe from underground and 
into the forge it roars loudly, sounding in the coke Hke 
a strong wind among trees. Long, yellow flames rise 
and leap high up the chimney, and the air around is 
filled with clouds of dust and sulphur fumes from the 
burning coke. As the heat of the fire increases this 
diminishes ; in a short time the gaseous properties are 
entirely consumed and there is no smell of any kind. 

Our smith is a perfect giant in stature. In height 
he is well over six feet, solid and erect, with tremendous 
shoulders and limbs. His head is massive and square, 
with broad deep forehead and bushy brows. His grey 
eyes, frank and fearless, are rather deeply inset. The 
nose is Roman and slightly crooked ; the mouth, with 
thick Ups a Httle relaxed, is pleasant and kind. He 
has a heavy, bronze moustache, a clean shaven chin and 
plump, ruddy cheeks. The whole countenance, is 



86 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

square, and exhibits the marks of good-nature and 
honest character. His ponderous arms are hard and 
brown, full of rigid bone and muscle, and his hands are 
large and horny with continual holding of the tongs and 
hammer. His breast is remarkably broad and hairy — 
his woollen shirt is always thrown open at work ; he has 
hips and belly like an ox, legs like those of an elephant, 
and large flat feet, and he weighs more than eighteen 
stone. When he walks his motion is rather slow and 
deliberate. He goes heavy on his soles, and his shoulders 
rise and fall alternately at every step he takes. 

He is at all times steady and cool, and he seems never 
to be in a hurry. At the anvil he gives one the same 
impression, so that a stranger might even think him to 
be sluggish and dilatory, but he is in everything sure and 
unerring, never too soon or too late. Every action is 
well-timed ; nothing is either over- or under- done. 
He performs all his heats with a minimum amount of 
labour. Where a nervous or spasmodical person would 
require forty or fifty blows to shape a piece of metal 
he will accomplish it with about twenty-five. His 
masterly eye and calculating brain are ever watchful 
and alert. He understands the effect of every blow 
given, and while the less experienced smith is still en- 
gaged with his piece nearly black-hot, his is finished, com- 
plete, with the metal still yellow or bright red. He moves 
always at the same pace, and his work is of a uniformly 
superlative character. When strangers are about, watch- 
ing him at his weld, he makes no difference whatever in 
his usual methods of procedure, but behaves just as coolly 
and deliberately and takes no notice of any man. 

Some smiths and forgemen, on the other hand, hate 
to be watched at work by strangers — " foreigners," as 
they call them — and very quickly give evidence of their 
dislike and irritation. They will every now and then 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 87 

dart an angry look at the visitors, and, after using the 
tools, throw them down roughly, muttering under their 
breath and telling the strangers to " clear off," though 
not sufficiently loud to be heard. By and by the un- 
offending strikers will come in for a castigation ; what- 
ever kind of blow they strike it will be wrong for their 
mate. At last he shuts off the blast from the forge, and, 
laying down his hammer, turns his back towards the 
" interlopers," and waits till they have passed on up 
the shed. After their departure he resumes his labour 
and quickly makes up for the lost time. 

Some smiths, again, though extremely nervous under 
the eye of a stranger, do not object to being watched, 
while others positively Hke the attention. Such as 
these are always anxious, under the circumstances, to 
impress the stranger with their great skill and dexterity 
in the use of tools and in twisting and turning the iron 
about on the anvil. They are the " gallery men." As 
soon as visitors appear afar off they begin to prepare 
for an exhibition. The blast is steadied down, or shut 
off, and the fire is cooled round. The tools are all most 
conveniently disposed upon the anvil or table, and every- 
thing is made ready for a " lightning " weld. The 
strikers are as well agreed as the smith, and brace them- 
selves up for an extra special effort. They wait till 
the visitors are nearly opposite them and certain of 
viewing the operation. Then on goes the blast, roaring 
loudly in the firebox, while the smith, with the perspira- 
tion streaming down his brow and cheeks, turns his heat 
over and over in the forge and glances quickly across 
to take care that he is ready at the right moment. The 
visitors notice the unusual activity of the men at the 
fire and stand still, waiting to see the heat. This is the 
signal for the iron to leave the coals. With exaggerated 
celerity the sections of metal are withdrawn from the 



88 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

forge and brought to the anvil. The fused parts are 
clapped smartly together, the striker throws down his 
tongs viciously, grips his hammer and, following the 
directions of his mate, rains a shower of blows on the 
spluttering iron. The sparks whizz out, and reach the 
visitors, singeing the dresses of the ladies — if there 
happen to be any among them — and causing them to 
cry out and step backwards a few paces, while the anvil 
rings merrily under the blows. Now the smith lays 
down his own hammer quickly and takes up the steel 
tool for finishing and squaring the heat. His mate 
follows, striking rapidly, at all angles, heavy and light, 
light and heavy, according to what is required, though 
the smith utters not a word during the process, for the 
whole routine is known by heart. Over and over the 
piece is jerked on the anvil — a fine flourish being given 
to each movement — until it is finished. Upon its com- 
pletion the smith hands it to the striker, who receives 
it dexterously and places it on the ground, or in the 
pile, the pair of them looking several times at the visitors 
as much as to ask them if they do not think the job well 
and quickly done, and begging a compliment. The 
visitors usually accord them an admiring glance in 
recognition of their prowess and pass on up the forge. 

The gallery men are smart and quick by nature, and 
are fairly sure of being successful in " exhibition " 
work. The slightest blunder would spoil the whole 
act and make them appear ridiculous, consequently 
none but those who are really skilful ever attempt the 
business. The average smith, however, and especially 
the one we have in view, never breaks his rule or goes 
out of his way to obhge visitors, but continues at a 
steady, uniform rate. The workman who is showy 
and energetic before visitors is often remiss when they 
have gone by ; it is the continual plodder that gets 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 89 

through the most work in the long run. The visitor, 
moreover, if he is gifted with an ordinary amount of 
insight and commonsense, may easily recognise the 
superior workman and discriminate between the genuine 
and the superficial effort. Occasionally, when strangers 
pass through, after such a performance as I have de- 
scribed, the striker, more in jest than in earnest, throws 
his cap at the feet of the visitors, suggesting that a 
tip would be welcomed. It is but fair to say that the 
hint is seldom or never taken. 

Though the striker, or inside mate, must perform 
the task of preparing the fire for the smith, he is no 
longer responsible for it. Henceforth the smith takes 
it under his care, and only hands it over to his mate 
when the heat is finished and a stop has to be made to 
renew the forge. If the job upon which he is engaged 
is of any dimensions and two fires are needed, that will 
make it increasingly hard for the strikers. The heaviest 
work is naturally more usually assigned to the strongest 
men, though the rule of adaptability also holds here 
and the various jobs are given to those who have proved 
themselves to be the most efficient at them. Of the 
smiths, some are famed for their skill in one direction, 
and some for their ability in another. This job requires 
strength, that speed and cleverness, and another needs 
a combination of all those qualities and is difficult to 
do at any time. Occasionally it transpires that an 
inferior smith has been kept at one class of work for 
such a long time that he gets out of touch with the other 
jobs in the shed, and would shape awkwardly if he were 
suddenly called upon to undertake something new and 
unusual to him. This is a mistake not often committed 
by the foreman, however. He periodically changes 
and interchanges the work and so gets the smiths 
accustomed to many and miscellaneous toils. 



90 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

The skilled and clever smith wiU be at home any- 
where and everywhere. He will do anything, anyhow, 
and by any method you please, for he is a complete 
master of the trade. He will make all kinds of tools 
with the utmost ease and simplicity. He will also forge 
chains, wheels, joints, and levers, work in iron or steel, 
in " T " stuff, or angle iron ; every conceivable shape and 
form of work is subject to his operation. If you put him 
at the steam-hammer he is still at home ; he will forge 
out an ingot or bloom with the best man on the ground. 

All the lightest work falls upon the young apprentices 
and the very old men, who are too feeble to undertake 
heavy and trying tasks, but are yet far too valuable to 
be dispensed with altogether. The apprentices perform 
such work as simple setting and bending, the making 
of bolts and eyes, rings and hnks for chains and so on. 
They usually come to the work at the age of sixteen, 
and stay for five or six years, when they voluntarily 
hand in their notices and migrate to other towns. 
There they are received as improvers, or as journeymen, 
and are forthwith paid the trade rate of wages. This 
varies considerably in many localities, and it is to be 
noted that railway sheds almost always provide the very 
lowest wages. Since the work is constant and sure, 
however, and is not subject to the many fluctuations of 
the contract shop, the stability of employment is counted 
a certain compensation for lower wages, and the majority 
of smiths accept the conditions philosophically. 

The young apprentices are strong and sturdy, and in- 
variably of a sound constitution ; one never sees a sickly- 
looking youth taking up the occupation of smithing. 
This accounts for the fine physique and often big propor- 
tions of the senior smith ; the reason being that the youths 
chosen were hardy and suitable, and showed signs of 
physical development. The sons of smiths usually 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 91 

choose the trade of their fathers and follow in their foot- 
steps. There is consequently often a hereditary quality 
in the workman ; they have been a family of smiths for 
generations. 

The smiths, provided they are strong and healthy, 
are usually retained at the forge till they have reached 
the age of seventy when, under the present rule, they 
are required to leave. Even this is a kind of con- 
cession to them, for, generally speaking, the other 
workmen are turned off long before they reach such an 
advanced age. The smith's usefulness, even in his age, 
is the cause of this ; though feeble, he is still able to 
do good work and to help with his knowledge and ex- 
perience. He is usually employed at tool-making, or 
at other hght occupations. His poor old hand, almost 
as hard as iron, shakes with the weight of the hammer ; 
his head trembles visibly, and his legs totter beneath 
him. He comes in early in the morning, in order to 
avoid the crush. He brings his meals with him and eats 
them in the forge, and he is the last going out at night. 
In his decline he is forced to live near the works — only 
a street or so from the entrance — and even then it takes 
him a long time to hobble to and fro. In the evening 
and at week-ends he usually stays at home to rest, or 
he may possibly look in to see a friend, or to take a 
mug of ale at the neighbouring inn. 

It is a sad day for him when he receives intelligence 
of his discharge. Feeble as he is become, he has a real 
affection for the smithy, and is never so happy as when 
he is at his forge and anvil. As long as he can drag 
himself backwards and forwaids, see the old faces, and 
snuff the breath of the fires, he is content. His health, 
too, which has been maintained by the constant exercise 
of his trade, is passable while he can do a little work. 
When he is forced to lie idle, and to forego his regular habit 



92 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

of early rising and the exertion of his muscles with the 
hammer, that suffers as a matter of course. His joints 
forthwith become stiff and set ; his httle store of strength, 
instead of increasing with the change, wastes and declines. 
In a very short while he is dead, and his old bones 
are haled away to the cemetery on top of the hill. A 
number of his mates and fellow-smiths follow him to 
the grave and witness the last rites, not for the sake of 
formalit5^ but out of pure friendship and respect. His 
name is certain to live long in the annals of the smithy. 
The oldest hand in the forge at the present time is 
aged sixty-eight, though there were recently several 
above this age who have now been placed on the retired 
list or superannuated by their societies. He has led 
a hard Ufe, and affords a verj'' good example of the aver- 
age type of smith. He was apprenticed at Cheltenham 
and made a journeyman at Gloucester. From that 
city he passed on to Worcester, and went thence to 
Birmingham, working for about a year at each place. 
Afterwards he migrated to Sheffield — the home of 
furnaces and forges — and shifted thence in turn to 
Liverpool, Lancaster, Rotherham, Durham, and several 
other manufacturing centres, setthng finally in the 
railway town. He has brought up a big family and seen 
them all established in life. Of his sons several are 
smiths ; one is in America, one in Africa, and one at 
home in England. He has saved enough money to 
buy his house, and he has a few pounds besides, so that 
he has no fear of being reduced to want. He has w^orked 
hard and lived well, and he has always drunk his glass 
of ale. He is associated with several bodies and com- 
mittees, and he has presented a bed to the local hospital 
out of his earnings, with the natural condition that 
smiths have the first claim upon it. Though his hand 
is a little unsteady with continual use of the tools, he 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 93 

can still manage a fair day's work. He is very proud 
of his trade and takes great delight in telling you of 
his travels and adventures. Every summer he passes 
the examination of old smiths made by the works' 
manager to see that they are fit for duty, and he still 
looks forward to years of activity at the forge. 

Nearly all the smiths live in the town and within 
easy reach of their work. A few only of their number 
have had a rustic apprenticeship. The great majority 
of those in the shed have learnt the rudiments of their 
trade in factories, and have migrated from place to 
place. By living in the midst of large towns and cities, 
they have become almost indifferent to surroundings 
and are able to make themselves happy and comfortable 
in the most crowded and uncongenial situations. For 
the beauties of external nature they care but little ; 
they appear to be wholly wrapt up in and concerned 
with their own vocation. They nearly all belong to 
unions and organisations, and are the most independent 
of men, though they do not make a great parade of the 
fact. Their independence is born of self-confidence — 
the knowledge of their own usefulnesss and worth, and 
the strength of their position. If they should choose 
to leave one place they are certain of getting employ- 
ment elsewhere, for a good smith is never out of work 
for long together. Other trades suffer considerably 
through slackness of employment, but there is a con- 
stant demand for smiths and hammermen. The fact 
is that fewer smiths and forgemen are made, in pro- 
portion to their numbers, than is the case with some 
other trades. The work is hard and laborious, and the 
life must be one of toil and sacrifice. 

Although some smiths drink an enormous quantity 
of cold water at the forge there are others who seldom 
taste a drop of the liquid. If you ask them the reason 



94 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

why, they will teU you that it is not a wise plan to di'ink 
much cold water at work. They say that it causes 
cramp in the stomach, colds, rash, and itching of the 
skin, and add that it makes them sweat very much more 
than they would otherwise do. The more you drink, 
they say, the more you want to drink, and it is but a 
habit acquired. If you care to use yourself to it you 
may work in the greatest heat and feel very few ill 
effects from it if you are abstemious in the taking of 
liquids. At the same time, the majority of smiths do 
drink water, and that copiously, and seem to thrive 
well upon it. Such as do this, and are fat and weU, 
when spoken to upon the matter, always smile broadly 
and tell you it is the result of having a contented mind 
and of drinking plenty of cold water. 

It is certain that those who drink most perspire most, 
but that does not appear to hurt them in the least, and 
you often hear it said by a workman who is not addicted 
to perspiring freely that he feels very " stuffy " and con- 
gested and that he should be better if he could sweat 
more. A delightful feehng is experienced after a good 
sweating at work. Every nerve and tissue seems to 
be aglow with intensest hfe ; the blood courses through 
the body and hmbs freely and vigorously, and produces 
a sense of unspeakable physical pleasure. Sweating 
as the result of physical exercise has a powerful effect 
upon the mind, as well as upon the body ; it clears the 
vision and invigorates the brain, and is a perfect medicine 
for many ailments, both mental and physical. If many 
of the languid and indolent, who never do any work or 
indulge in sturdy exercise, were suddenly to rouse them- 
selves up and do sufficient physical labour, either for 
themselves or for someone else, to procure a good sweat- 
ing at least twice a week, they would feel immeasurably 
better for it. Life would have a new meaning for them. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 95 

They would eat better, rest better, and sleep better. 
They would feel fresher and stronger, altogether more 
active and vigorous, more sympathetic and satisfied. 
Though he is, as a rule, quite unaware of it, the work- 
man derives considerably more physical pleasure from 
Ufe than do those persons, mistakenly envied, who do 
nothing, for everything has a relish to him, while to the 
others all is flat and insipid. Truly work is the salt of 
hfe, and physical work at that, though there is a most 
passionate desire in many quarters to be well rid of it. 

The majority of the smiths, even though they do not 
drink much cold water in the forge, are fond of a glass 
of ale ; there are very few teetotalers among them. 
No one would wish to imply by this that they are 
" wettish customers." The very nature of their work 
makes them thirsty, and though they constrain their 
appetites while they are at the fires, nevertheless when 
they come to the town they feel bound to go in some- 
where or other and " wet the whistle," as they term it. 
After a hot turn in the shed the foaming ale goes down 
with a dehcious rehsh and the smith feels that he is 
entitled to enjoy that pleasure, considering how hard 
he has toiled all day in the heat and dust. There is 
also the evening paper to be read, after which follows 
a chat with his mate, and all the hard toil is for the 
moment forgotten. Rested and refreshed, the man of 
the forge goes home to his wife and children and par- 
takes of a good tea, feeling very fit and on excellent 
terms with himself and others. 

It is rather remarkable that smiths do not smoke 
very much tobacco. In the use of the weed they are 
very moderate, though the strikers and mates easily 
make up for the deficiency. Every day, after having 
their meals in the smithy, they walk out into the town 
or stand under the bridge to " have a draw " and read 



96 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the morning newspaper, returning leisurely about ten 
minutes before it is time to start work again. 

To his mates and strikers, while at the forge, the smith 
is rather quiet and reserved, often speaking very little 
and seldom discussing with them matters apart from 
the work. This is not out of any undue feeling of pride 
in himself or unsociableness, but because he is full of 
his work, and disinchned to talk much. Neither is he 
given to the discussing of pohtical and social problems 
and continually seeking an opportunity for holding an 
argument with this or that one. It is characteristic of 
him to view everything calmly and soberly ; he is 
imbued with the genuine philosophical temperament. 
It is a certain and invariable rule that the one who has 
the most ready tongue and is always ripe for an argu- 
ment is not the most energetic and proficient at his em- 
ployment. If such a one as this should desire to entangle 
the sturdy smith in a cobweb of discussion he is bluntly 
and unceremoniously told to " clear out," for he has no 
time to listen to such ' ' stuff. " Off the premises, however, 
he is friendly and indulgent to his mates and strikers. 
When he meets them in the town he stops and speaks to 
them and invites them to have a glass of ale at his expense. 

The religious beliefs of the smiths are not as well- 
known as are those of some classes of workmen, for they 
are not in the habit of discovering themselves to out- 
siders. Though he who has his forge in the village, 
under the old elm or spreading chestnut, may go regularly 
to church, there is no evidence to prove that those who 
dwell in the town imitate him in that respect. Their 
Sundays appear to be spent chiefly at home in rest and 
quietness, in company with their wives and families. 
A few, plainly and simply dressed — for the smith 
heartily hates all foppishness and superficial ornament — 
may be seen in the evening walking out towards the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 97 

fields. The majority, however, stay indoors and re- 
cuperate for the coming week's work, or merely go to 
see their friends who live a few streets away. But if 
they do not go to church or chapel they are far from 
being deficient in charitableness and true piety. They 
merely aim to live the best life they can and to do good 
wherever possible. Their reUgion is one of kindness to 
all ; they are at once large-hearted and broad-minded, 
honest, just, and hberal. Their sympathy for their 
fellows arises largely from the fact that they are well 
acquainted with hard toil ; they know what it is to 
work and sweat, to be hot and thirsty, beaten and 
tired. Theirs is no gentlemanly occupation, such as 
is that of some other journeymen ; not merely the 
theoretical exercise of a craft, but one that requires good, 
solid exertion, such as brings out all that is best in a man. 

A proof of their utter good-nature and kindness to 
their fellows may be seen in the fact of their having, for 
the last twenty years, made a voluntary weekly offering 
of a halfpenny per man to the local Cottage Hospital. 
This is taken once a fortnight, the condition being that 
it must be unsolicited and a straight gift. In twenty 
years the sum collected has amounted to over two 
hundred pounds. This is quite independent of the 
annual collections made for charities, in which the smiths 
again always head the fist by a large margin. There 
is no other example at the works of such spontaneous 
good-nature, and this will show, more than any words, the 
true characteristics of the brawny men at the forges. 

The smiths' foreman is the very personification of 
his class, and is a highly interesting study. He is of 
great stature— he is over six feet in height— with broad, 
square shoulders and large Umbs ; fleshy, but not cor- 
pulent. His forehead is wide and steep ; he has bushy 
brows, iron grey hair and beard, and red cheeks. His 
G 



98 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

eyes are frank and honest ; liis voice deep and gruff, but 
not unkind ; and when he speaks to you he looks you fuU 
in the face. His whole figure is striking ; he towers above 
the majority of his workmen. His weight, as he tells 
you himself, with a mixture of pride and modesty and 
the suspicion of a smile, is nineteen stone six. After this 
he hastens to inform you that he is not the heaviest at 
his house, for his good wife turns the scale at twenty- 
two stone. He has been once married and is the father 
of a large family — nineteen in all — twelve of whom are 
yet living. His age is well over sixty, and he will soon have 
to retire from the forge, though he is still hale and hearty, 
fond of a glass of good beer, and, as he frequently and 
forcibly tells you, he is " a great eater of beef." 

As for scholarship and culture, he makes no claim to 
either, for he never had the opportunity of much educa- 
tion, though he is a famous smith, and is gifted with the 
rare faculty of getting his men into a good hiunour and 
keeping them there. He is on good terms with all his 
staff ; is jealous of their interests, open and honest in 
his dealings with them, and he has the satisfaction of 
being respected in return. He is one of the old school, 
of a type that is nearly extinct now ; a bold defender 
of the rights of smiths, a hard and fast believer in the 
hand-made article. Naturally, for him, he is suspicious 
of all modern macliinery that tends to do away with the 
trade of the smithy, and he swears by the most un- 
breakable oaths that whatever is done by the newer 
systems of forging and stamping he is able to equal it 
on the anvil, both as regards strength and cheapness. 
When the managers recently attempted to bring about 
sweeping reductions in the prices throughout the smithy 
he opposed them at ever)^ point, swore that he was 
master in liis own shed, and that no one but he should 
be allowed to fix prices. " When I am gone you can 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 99 

do just whatever you like, but I'm going to have a say 
in things as long as I'm about here," said he. On the 
managers insisting to cut the prices, he unceremoniously 
took off his coat, and, turning up his shirt-sleeves, 
presented the representative with a pair of tongs and 
a hammer and challenged him to have a trial at the 
game himself. " Here's my fire, guvnor, and there's 
j^ourn. Come on with you and let's see what you can 
do, and if you can make it at your price I'll give in to 
you, but you'll never do it in the world." Only one 
or two prices fell in the whole shed. The managers 
abstained from further interference and since that time 
the smiths have been but very little molested. 

No one could walk through the forge and observe 
the splendid physique and bearing of the smiths, their 
skill and dexterity with the tools at the fires and anvil, 
without a feeling of pride and genuine admiration for 
them. They are a fine body of men, and their frankness 
and good-nature, their freedom from ostentation, and 
general straightforwardness impress one even more 
than do their physical quahties, and help to fix them 
more deeply and truly in his regard and esteem. They 
are not little and petty ; they are not spiteful and 
malicious. They are not jealous of each other's skill 
and position ; they are no tale-bearers. They seldom 
quarrel about poUtics or religion, or hold any other con- 
troversy in the shed or out of it. Their attitude to 
each other is fair and unquestionable ; they are natural 
and spontaneous, very free and generous. If proof is 
needed of this you have but to come into the smithy 
and see for yourselves. You will find it written in their 
faces in unmistakable characters. You will discover 
it in a greater degree if you converse with them. You 
will be completely satisfied as to their genuineness and 
quite convinced of the justice of these observations. 



CHAPTER VII 

FITTERS — THE STEAM-HAMMER SHOP — FORGEMEN — THEIR 
CHARACTERISTICS — BOILERMAKERS — THE FOUNDRY — 
THE BLAST FURNACE — MOULDERS 

There are two large fitting sheds at the works — for 
engine- and carriage-fitting. They differ in several 
respects but are on the whole consimilar, both in the 
nature of the work done and in the composition and in- 
dividuality of the staffs employed. The duties of the 
fitters are very well indicated by their denominative : 
they prepare and fit together all the machinery parts for 
the locomotives and carriages as well as the steam-brake 
details and other apparatus of a complicated nature. 
The sheds also serve as centres for supplying the other 
shops with their small staffs of fitters who superintend 
repairs to the local machinery, attend to the steam- 
hammers, fix new shafting, and so on. 

The fitting sheds are large buildings and are packed! 
with machinery of every conceivable shape and kind. \ 
Within them are lathes large and small, machines for ' 
slotting, shaping and drilling, drills for boring round 
and square holes, punches and shears, hydraulic tackle, 
and various other curious apphances almost incapable 
of description. There are hundreds of j^ards of steel 
shafting, pulleys and wheels innumerable, and miles of 
beltage. The space between the roof and the floor 
seems to be entirely occupied with swiftly-revolving 
wheels and belts. To view the interior is like peering 
into a dense forest where all is tangled and confused 

100 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY loi 

and everything is in a state of perpetual motion. At 
the same time there is a minimum of noise. Here are 
no steam-hammers beating on the stubborn masses of 
iron and steel and making the foundations of the earth 
tremble beneath you, no riveters' hammers battering 
on the hollow plates of the frames and boilers, and no 
pneumatic tools ringing out sharply and driving one to 
distraction with the unspeakable din. The wheels 
revolve almost without sound ; the shafting turns and 
spins silently. The lathes are nearly noiseless in opera- 
tion, and the drills only creak a little now and then as 
a small portion of the detached metal becomes blocked 
underneath the tool and runs round with it. The 
greatest noise is made by those who are busily chipping 
at the benches ; otherwise there is comparative quiet 
when we remember the tremendous din of the neigh- 
bouring workshops. 

As there are no furnaces or forges in the fitting shed, 
and abundant ventilation, the air is cool and free from 
smoke and fume. The work is less laborious than is 
that of the smithy or frame shed, and the men are not 
required to perspire much. Both the fitters and the 
machinemen wear cloth suits, with a thin blue jacket 
or " slop " and overalls, and you rarely see them stripped 
or with their shirt-sleeves turned up. This is so much 
the rule that if they should be seen to take off their 
coats at a job in either of the outljdng sheds the circum- 
stance will be noted as of unusual occurrence by the 
rank and file. They will immediately raise a good- 
natured laugh and jokingly tell them to "put their 
jackets on if they don't want to catch a cold." One 
local fitter, by reason of his great fondness for carrying 
a drawing with him wherever he goes and the readiness 
and ease with \v^hich he has resort to it in order to ex» 
plain away thr most trivial detail, has earned for him- 



102 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

self the title of " The Drawing King." A second, as 
the result of his artificial activity with the callipers, is 
styled " Calliper King," while a third, by his volubility, 
has secured the expressive nickname of " Fish-mouth." 

An amusing and true story is told of a chargeman of 
the fitting shed. He was lying seriously ill and believed 
himself to be at the point of death. While in that con- 
dition he was conscience-stricken at the thought that he 
had had one or two very good prices for work in the shed. 
He accordingly sent for his foreman to come and visit 
him. When he arrived the sick man unburdened his 
soul and begged him to cut the prices forthwith ; he 
said he " could not die with it on his mind." In due 
time the prices were cut. The old fellow's period had 
not yet come, however. He got better and had the 
satisfaction of returning to the shed and working at 
the reduced rates, the laughing-stock of his companions. 

The fitters are usually looked upon as the men par 
excellence of the shed. Like the smiths, they have 
usually travelled far. Some have visited every part of 
the kingdom, while others may have served abroad — 
in America, at the Cape of Good Hope, in China, or 
Egypt. A few have been artificers in the Navy or in the 
Mercantile Marine ; here is one, for instance, who, by 
reason of his nautical experiences^ has gained the nick- 
name of " Deep Sea Joe." It will commonly be found 
that those who have gone furthest from home are not 
only the best workmen — as having had a more varied 
and extensive experience — but they are also more 
broad-minded and sympathetic towards their mates and 
labourers. 

The majority of the fitters are members of Trades 
Unions, and of all other classes at the works, perhaps, 
they take the greatest pains to protect themselves and 
their interests. By contributing to the funds of their 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 103 

organisations they are insured against accidents, strikes, 
or dismissal, and are thus placed in a position of con- 
siderable independence. They are required to serve an 
apprenticeship of five or seven years' duration before 
they are recognised as journeymen and they are, by a 
common rule, compelled to go furthci afield in order to 
obtain the standard rate of wages. Nearly all the fore- 
men of the different sheds are appointed fiom among 
the fitters ; whatever qualities an outsider may dis- 
cover he stands but Httle chance of being preferred for 
the post. 

Before a fitter has been promoted to the position of 
foreman he is a bold champion of the rights of Labour, 
one loud in the expression of his sympathy with his 
fellowmen, a staunch believer in the liberty of the in- 
dividual and a hearty condemner of the factory system. 
If he has been appointed overseer, however, there is a 
considerable change in his manner and attitude towards 
all these and kindred subjects. A great modification 
of his personal views and opinions soon follows ; he 
begins to look at things from the official standpoint. 
He is now fond of telling you that " things are not as 
they used to be." Possibly they are not, as far as he 
himself is concerned, but there is another view of the 
situation. At the same time, he will be fairly loyal to 
his old mates, the journeyman fitters, and treat them 
with superior respect. To the labourers, however, he 
will not be so well-disposed. He will ignore their in- 
terests and rule them with a rod of iron. 

I have said that steam-hammer forging is on the decline 
in the railway town. The chief cause of this is the recent 
development of the piocess of manufacturing malleable 
cast steel, which has largely taken the place of wrought 
iron forging both in the locomotive and elsewhere. 
Formerly all wheels were forged in sections and were 



104 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

afterwards welded up, and the work provided constant 
emplojanent for the steam-hammer men. Now they 
are obtained elsewhere, more cheaply, it may be, though 
they are of an inferior quality. Engine-cranks also, 
which at one time were made exclusively on the premises, 
are nearly all bought away from the town, and this was 
a second great loss to the shed. All that remains is 
the manufacture of the less important details, such as 
connection rods and levers, with a few special or repair 
cranks now and then. 

The steam-hammer shed has thus been deprived of 
much of its importance. The big machines, capable of 
striking a blow equivalent to a hundred or two hundred 
tons' pressure, have been removed and put on the scrap- 
heap, and their places have been filled by other and 
less powerful plant. The old forgemen, too, with their 
mates who worked the furnaces, are missing. Of these, 
some are dead, some have been discharged, while others 
have been reduced and are scattered about the yard. 
He who formerly shouted out his orders at the steam- 
hammer and controlled the mighty mass of iron or steel 
with the porter, turning it round and round to receive 
the tremendous blow, is now hobbling about with a 
shovel and wheel-barrow, cleaning up the refuse of the 
yard, in receipt of a miserable pittance. Perhaps he 
is lame as the result of a blow, or he has a withered 
arm through its having been " jumped up " with the 
driving back of the porter, or he may have lost an eye. 
A portion of steel has fled from the hammer rod, or 
from the " ram," and struck him in the eye and he is 
blind as a consequence. 

Several years ago there was at the factory a splendid 
forger, a cool and highly-skilful workman, and one 
possessed of fine physique. He was tall, square and 
broad built, full of bone and muscle, soUd and strong, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 105 

and, though of seventeen or eighteen stone in weight, 
he was very nimble and of unerring judgment. One 
day he received the offer of a job in the Midlands, at 
nearly double the wages he was getting in the railway 
town, and he decided to accept the post. Accordingly 
he left the shed and took over his new duties. He had 
not been away long, however, before he met with a 
serious accident that quite incapacitated him from 
following his occupation as a forgeman. A careless or 
unskilful hammer-driver had struck a terrific blow out 
of time, and the porter-bar, driven out suddenly, forced 
the forger's hand and arm violently to the shoulder, 
completely cripphng him. A ruined man, he came back 
to the town and gained a wretched livelihood by help- 
ing to serve the bricklayers and masons with his one 
arm. 

The steam-hammer forger is one of the most skilful 
and useful, as well as the most interesting of men. He 
may possibly have learned his trade in the town, or he 
may hail from Sheffield, Middlesborough, Scotland or 
Wales. AU these places are noted for extensive manu- 
factures in iron and steel and for the efficiency of their 
workmen, and especially of their forgers and furnace- 
men. If any forger in the shed is reputed to have come 
from the Midlands, the North, or the iron region of 
Wales, he is sure to be considered something of a pro- 
digy. He comes bearing with him a part of the laurels 
of his township and all eyes will be upon him to see 
how he acquits himself of the responsibihty. Very often, 
however, he quite fails to fulfil the expectations enter- 
tained of him and is easily beaten by the local men. 
After aU, it was but the name ; he is no better than 
many who have learned their trade in the shed. Per- 
haps he is not even as efficient as they, though he did 
come from " Ironopolis " and forged very many tons 



io6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

of steel ingots in an incredibly short space of time, 
though this happened " years ago," if you chance to 
press him at all concerning the matter. 

The forger is not always a man of big physical pro- 
portions. On the contrary, he is more usually of a 
medium, or even of a diminutive type ; you seldom 
or never find one as stout and heavy as is the average 
smith. The nature of the toil forbids this. The smith, 
at his work, is more or less stationary. His forging, 
moreover, is not so heavy, nor is he exposed to such 
great heat. The forgeman's ingot may weigh four or 
five tons, all blazing hot, with a porter-bar of thirty 
hundredweight or more attached, and though this will 
be suspended from the crane and he will have several 
mates to help him, it will yet require the whole of their 
powers to remove it from the furnace to the hammer 
and to turn it over or push it backwards and forwards 
to receive the ponderous blow. But if the fprgeman 
is inferior to the smith in the matter of stature and bulk, 
he easily beats him in strength. He is a very Uon in 
this respect. Underneath his thin, shrunken cheeks 
and skinny arms are sinews almost as tough as steel 
itself. In the most bhnding and deadly heat of the 
furnace, with three or four tons of dazzhng metal ex- 
actly in front of him and the sweat pouring out of the 
hollows of his grimy cheeks and running down his nose 
and chin to drop in a continual stream on the ground 
beneath, he still pushes, heaves, and shouts loudly to 
his mates, and works and slaves quite unconcernedly. 
He is almost as fresh at the end of the operation as he 
was at the beginning. Nothing seems to tire him down ; 
he is for ever active and vigorous. 

The forgeman often proves to be a rather irritable 
individual, one sharp and sour to his mates and hasty 
in his temper. His companions at the hammer — with 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 107 

the exception of the furnaceman — are so many children 
to him ; he orders them here and there with the shghtest 
ceremony and shouts out his orders at the top of his voice. 
At every command he utters they hasten to obey, fear- 
ing his testiness, and when he roars out at them they 
shake in their boots. Perhaps they are slow in handing 
him a tool, or they have applied the wrong gauge, or 
the hammer-driver has struck too hard a blow. What- 
ever it is, the forgeman's wrath is aroused and they 
must suffer for it. In his anger he calls them many 
names that could not be styled complimentary and 
withers them with looks. Then, whatever kind of 
blow the hammerman strikes, it will be wrong. If it is 
light, he wanted it heavy ; if heavy, he required it light — 
the mere suggestion of a blow. He will often, in the 
same breath, roar out at the top of his voice — " Hit 
'im! Hit'im! Light! light! LIGHT!" and will 
immediately explode with passion because his order 
was not acted upon to the letter. By and by the ex- 
asperated hammer-driver will venture to reply to his 
autocratic mate, and a smart battle of words ensues, 
in which the forgeman, however, usually comes off best. 
The old furnaceman, greyheaded, or totally bald with 
the heat, will fire away with his coals and wink at the 
gaugeman now and then, but never a word will he utter. 
He knows his mate thoroughly, and understands his 
temper perfectly. Accordingly, he hears all and says 
nothing ; it makes but little difference to him which 
way the forging goes as long as he has performed his 
heat properly. Perhaps, after this, things may run a 
httle more smoothly for a time, or matters may even 
become worse. I have known mates to work at the 
same hammer and not speak to each other for a year, 
not even to give the necessary instructions as to carrying 
out the forging. 



io8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Though there could be no excuse for this fooUsh 
exhibition of ill-nature, many apologies may yet be 
made for the nervous and irritable forgeman. In the 
first place, his work is enormously hard and exacting ; 
and in the second, there is a great responsibility resting 
upon him which is not shared by his workmates. The 
value of the forging in his hands is often considerable, 
and the least error on the part of his furnaceman or 
hammer-driver might completely spoil it. If the metal 
should be in the slightest degree overheated it would 
burst all to pieces at the first blow of the hammer, and 
if the hammer-driver should happen to strike a heavy 
blow at a critical moment, he might spoil the piece 
in that way, or otherwise necessitate a considerable 
amount of labour to get it into shape again. AU this 
is a matter of serious care to the forgeman, and as his 
mates are very often raw hands or careless, dull-headed 
fellows, it is not to be wondered at that he should now 
and then discover some perverseness of temper. 

It is interesting to note the style of working adopted 
by different forgers. This, of course, will vary with the 
man's capabilit3^ for the job, his gift, his skill acquired, 
and his natural temper. All forgers are not possessed 
of a uniformity of skill and capacity, any more than are 
all musicians and painters equal in their arts ; wherever 
you go you will find good, bad and indifferent workmen. 
It may at once be said, however, that bad forgemen are 
not tolerated for any length of time. If they cannot 
handle the porter and bring their ingot or bloom to a 
successful finish they are quickly removed and better 
men put in place of them, for iron and steel ingots are 
too valuable to be wasted with impunity. As a rule, 
the quiet workman is the best ; that is, he who talks 
least to his mates, and who does not bawl out every 
order at the t'^p of his voice. Such a one vdll o^ter 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 109 

remove his bloom from the furnace, bring it to the 
hammer and complete it without speaking a word. A 
nod of the head or a few motions of the hand will be 
sufficient ; his mates understand him perfectly and every- 
thing proceeds without a hitch. The hammer-driver, 
encouraged to use his discretion, knows exactly what 
kind of a blow to strike — heavy or light, light or heavy 
— when to stop and when to begin. The grimy mate, 
usually styled the donkeyman, stands by with the 
gauges ; at each pause he fits them to the white-hot 
mass of iron or steel and again the hammer descends, 
regularly and evenly. The tremendous " monkey " 
goes high up, almost out of sight overhead, and glides 
noiselessly downwards till it beats the metal, making 
the pulley chains rattle and jingle and the whole shed 
to totter and tremble. I have often sat on a gate, or 
under the trees in the fields on a still evening, towards 
midnight, and counted the blows struck on an obstinate 
forging in the shed five miles distant. 

It is a pleasure to watch the skilful forgeman perform 
his heat and shape the ponderous bloom under the steam- 
hammer. If you observe him closely you will see that 
he scarcely moves his body. He stands in one position, 
easily and naturally, all the time, in a slightly stooping 
attitude, yet h'" has full power over the heavy weight 
in his hands. When he shifts the porter, or turns the 
forging round, his arms are the instruments ; it is all 
performed deftly and simply, with a minimum of exer- 
tion. There is a style in it the most casual observer 
must readily perceive. He cannot help being struck 
with the extreme simplicity and attractiveness of the 
whole operation, and he will at once recognise the skilful 
forger from the unskilful, the gifted craftsman from 
the mere amateur or improver. 

The inferior forgeman will be full of excitement, 



110 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

noise and bustle. He will peer into the furnace half-a- 
dozen times before he is satisfied as to the heat of the 
bloom, and grumble and scold the furnaceman all the 
while. Then, after darting to and fro, backwards and 
forwards, kicking things out of his way and seeing to 
this and to that, he bawls out to his mates to " pull up, 
and get on the pulley chain." After a considerable 
amount of pulling and shoving, grunting, sweating, 
twisting and turning the ingot, he at last succeeds in 
bringing it to the hammer, having lost a great part of 
the heat in the transit. Even now he is undecided as 
to how to begin the shaping of the piece and has to con- 
sider a moment or two before giving the word to start. 
At last he shouts out to the driver, and the preliminary 
blows fall. A dozen times, where there is no need of 
it, he stops the hammer and makes his mate try the 
gauges. Then he goes on again, thump, thump, thump, 
now shouting out " Light ! " at the top of his voice, 
followdng up with a very loud " Whoa ! " If his mate 
happens to be in the way he gives him a rough push 
and tells him to " get out," takes up the gauges and fits 
them himself and afterwards throws them down with 
violence, and repeats the performance till the bloom is 
in some manner completed. When the porter-bar has 
been lopped off and the forging placed on the ground 
he examines it several times, going to the furnace and 
coming back to view his half-finished labour and making 
as much fuss as though he had just forged a battleship, 
till even the door-boy is disgusted and passes sarcastic 
remarks upon his ceremonious chief. Considerably 
more slotting and shaping will always be required on 
his piece than on that of the other forgeman, and his 
work will be left tiU last in the machine shop. The 
skilful forger will shape his bloom perfectly, so that there 
will be but a very small amount of facing to do to it ; 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY in 

his work will be sure to receive praise, while the other's 
will as certainly be execrated. 

The men of the steam-hammer shed differ from the 
rest of the factory hands in having to work a twelve- 
hour day. Very often the heats are ready to draw out 
at meal-times, and it would be ruinous to leave them to 
waste in the furnace while the men went home to break- 
fast and dinner. Accordingly, the forger and his mates 
boil water in a can on the neck of the furnace, or over 
a piece of hot metal, and make their own tea to drink. 
Occasionally the mid-day meal is brought to the factory 
entrance by the forgeman's little son or daughter, or 
he may bring in a large basin full of cooked meat and 
vegetables and warm it up himself. Perhaps the fare 
is a rasher of bacon. This the workman brings in raw 
and either roasts it over the furnace door, or on a lump 
of hot iron. Perhaps he uses a roughly-made frying- 
pan ; or he may place it in the furnaceman's shovel in 
order to cook it. If the furnaceman sees him, however, 
he will certainly forbid this, for heating the shovel will 
spoil the temper of the steel and cause it to warp. He 
will say, moreover, that coal charged into the furnace 
with a shovel that has had " that mess " in it wiU never 
heat the iron, and I have more than once seen the half- 
cooked food unceremoniously turned out into the coal- 
dust. A common name for the roughly-made frying- 
pan is a " rasher- waggon." 

At night, when the day's work is over and everything 
has been left neat and tidy for the succeeding shift, the 
forger stows his leathern apron, cap and jackboots, 
rinses his hands in the bosh, and leaves the shed, walk- 
ing a little in advance of his mates and preserving the 
same temper he has displayed at the toil. His mates, 
however, together with the ingenuous and mischievous 
door-boy, are not so conventional in their behaviour. 



112 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Since they are free to go home and roam the streets or 
trudge off into the country once more, they indulge in 
games and fun before they leave, and sing and whistle 
to their heart's content. Meanwhile the old furnace- 
man has damped his fire and made everything ready 
for the mate who succeeds him. Now he, too, swills 
his hands in the bosh and gives his sweaty old face an 
extra special rub with the wiper, puts the muffler around 
his neck, slips on his jacket, and, taking his dinner-can 
under his arm, proceeds through the tunnel and out into 
the town. 

Very few of the forgemen were born in the town ; 
they have nearly all come in from the villages round 
about and become urbanised. After their toils in the 
hot shed they do not want to have to journey far to 
their homes. Their dwellings are consequently usually 
within easy distance of the forge, though here and there 
is to be found one who has the courage to continue in 
his native village. As their wages are above the average 
paid at the works — though the rate is not nearly as 
high as it is at most steam-hammer sheds — the forgers 
are enabled to indulge themselves in the matter of living. 
Their food will accordingly be of the very best quality, 
and when that has been paid for there is yet a fair 
supply of pocket money remaining. MC^it forgemen are 
fond of a glass of ale ; it is a rare thing to find a tee- 
totaler in their ranks. They are much given to talking 
of their achievements at all times and in all places, and 
they occupy long hours in telling of the famous jobs 
they have done on many occasions — a special crank for 
this or that engine, a big piston-rod or monkey for an 
outside firm, or a mighty anchor for an ocean-going 
vessel. 

In point of real usefulness and importance the boiler- 
makers stand second to none at the works. Though 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 113 

they may not be as highly skilled as are the fitters in- 
dividually, collectively they form a much more imposing 
and vigorous body, and one that is far more essential 
to the absolute needs of the firm. To whatever extent 
the forger or fitter may be done without, or unskilled 
men put in place of them, that is not possible in the 
case of the boilersmith. His labour, as well as being 
very important, is distinct from that of all others at the 
factory ; his is an exclusive profession. In the making 
of locomotives for the hne the boiler is by far the greatest 
item, and it is very difficult and expensive to construct. 
The work must be performed with exquisite care and 
ever3rthing must be conscientiously well done. There 
must be no shoddy work in a boiler ; no " nobbhng 
over," concealment of flaws, or deception of any kind, 
or disastrous consequences would be inevitable. The 
plates must aU be admirably shaped and fitted, the 
bolts and stays very strong and sound, and the whole 
most carefully adjusted and riveted. The time required 
for the construction of a first-class boiler for a loco- 
motive is about six months, and the cost is near about 
a thousand pounds. All the inner plates are of copper, 
which is used in order to allow of regular expansion and 
contraction. The tubes are of iron or steel, and number 
several hundreds. Tubing is a branch of work distinct 
from boilermaking properly so-called, and is undertaken 
by those less skilful than are required for the other 
processes. 

Boilermakers are divided into two classes — the platers 
and the riveters. Those of the first grade prepare the 
plates, perform the marking-off and cutting-out, see 
to the drilHng of the holes and afterwards bolt the parts 
together. The riveters follow and make everything 
soHd and compact. Nearly all the riveting is done by 
hand ; very little is left to the chance work of the 
H 



114 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

machine, which is often faulty and unreUable. Rivets 
put in by hand are far more trustworthy than are those 
done by the machine. The hammered heads will be 
tougher and more durable than those that have been 
squeezed up by the hydraulic apparatus. 

The two grades of boilermakers are kept separate 
and distinct. Every man is provided with a card 
certifjdng to which class he belongs, whether to the 
platers or riveters, and he can — as a general rule — only 
obtain a job upon that kind of work specified by his 
ticket. Similarly, if he has been employed on repair 
work for any length of time he will have great difficulty 
in getting re-admittance into the ranks of those engaged 
on the new boilers. The trade throughout is jealously 
guarded and protected. The rules are well-defined and 
pubhshed far and wide ; there is no setting aside the 
regulations. Notwithstanding the division of work on a 
boiler the efficient boilersmith is qualified to construct 
one throughout, from the marking of the plates to the 
insertion of the tubes. The valves and other fixings 
are usually attached by the fitters. 

The din of the frame shed and the unearthly noise of 
the pneumatic apparatus on the headstocks and plates 
is not to be compared with the tremendous uproar of 
the boiler shop. Here are no less than two hundred 
huge boilers, either new ones being made, or old ones 
undergoing repairs and engaging the attentions of four 
or five hundred boilersmiths, to say nothing of tubers 
and labourers hammering and battering away on the 
shells and interiors. There are boilers in every stage 
of construction and in every conceivable position on 
the stocks. Some are upright, some are upside down, 
some are standing on end, some l5dng on their sides, and 
others are scattered broadcast. The workmen swarm 
like ants everywhere, crawHng over the tops, inside and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 115 

out, in the smoke-box and fire-box, and Ijdng on their 
backs underneath. Hundreds of tools are in operation 
at once. Hundreds of hammers are falling, banging 
and clanging perpetually, with an indescribable noise 
and confusion. If you would be heard you must shout 
at the top of your voice and make yourself hoarse in the 
attempt. The boilersmiths, who are used to the con- 
ditions, do not try to address each other at their work ; 
they have discovered an expedient. Instead of strain- 
ing their throats and lungs in the vain effort to make 
themselves heard they simply motion with the head 
or hands ; their mates come to know what is required 
and obey the telegraphic intimation, and so the work 
proceeds. 

The boilermakers are a bold and hardy class, sturdy 
in their views and outlook, and very independent. As 
in the case of the fitters, smiths, and other journeymen, 
they have travelled far and wide and become acquainted 
with many workshops and sets of conditions. Very 
often they will have tramped the whole country, from 
end to end, in search of emplojnnent, for though as a 
class they are indispensable their ranks are often 
over-crowded, and when trade is slack the services of 
many of them are dispensed with. As with the majority 
of other journeymen, if they are thrown out of employ- 
ment, though they may be idle for a long time and re- 
duced to dire straights, they seldom deign to do other 
work, but shift from place to place and beg food along 
the highways and through the villages. Though verg- 
ing on starvation they cannot, even for a short period, 
be prevailed upon to abandon the idea of their trade, 
but still crowd around the factory doors and hope for 
a revival of the industry. 

A short time ago a party of boilermen, who had been 
discharged from the town, made weekly visits to the 



Ii6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

villages round about pretending that they had walked 
from Sunderland and Newcastle — where a big strike 
had been declared — and calling themselves a deputation 
empowered to collect money for their mates at home 
in the North. The spokesman, a voluble and impudent 
scoundrel, told impressive stories of hardships and suffer- 
ing and drew a great many coins from the credulous and 
sympathetic rustics. By and by, however, a second 
party, with exactly the same story, came on the scene 
and professed to be highly indignant on being told that 
they had been anticipated in their office as collectors. 
The second batch of visitors did not solicit money ; 
they demanded it, and any who refused were subjected 
to abuse and threatening language. At last the sus- 
picions of the villagers were aroused. They doubted 
the genuineness of the tales of distress and of the long 
march from far-off Sunderland, and closed their doors 
to the importunate strangers. Very soon trade in the 
railway to\vn re\'ived ; the majority of the men were 
reinstated and the countryside knew them no more. 

The iron foundry is but a few yards from the boiler 
shed ; you may very quickly be introduced to it, with 
the noise of the hammers and the clatter of the pneu- 
matic apparatus still ringing loudly in j'our ears. After 
the din of the boiler shop the quietude of the foundry 
wiU be the more remarkable. Here are no plates to be 
beaten, no rapidly revolving pulleys and shafting, and 
no uproar. All that can be heard is the dull roar of the 
blast furnace half-way up the shed, and the subdued 
noise of the traversing table in the roof above you. The 
floor is of soft, yielding sand, similar to that of which the 
moulds for the castings are made, and it is noiseless 
under the feet. The men sit or kneel on the ground, 
with their patterns beside them, and construct the 
duplicates to receive the molten metal. As soon as the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 117 

moulds are finished the dark, grimy labourers bring the 
molten liquid, either carrying it in a thick iron vessel 
hned with firebricks and having a spout on one side — 
as you would carry a stretcher — or wheeHng it along 
in a big cauldron that swings like a pot, and pour it in 
through a small space left for that purpose. 

The chief interest to the visitor centres in the furnace 
that contains the molten fluid. This is a large, cylin- 
drical structure, enclosed in a steel frame, towering high 
into the roof and emitting a terrific heat all around. 
Near the top is a large platform, reached by an iron 
stairway, up which you are invited to mount by the 
grimy furnaceman, more often in jest than in earnest, 
for the heat there is overpowering. The handrail of 
the stairway seems nearly red-hot, and the air, puffed 
out from the furnace, strikes you full in the face, so that 
you are almost suffocated with it. On the platform 
is the feeding-place where the fuel and metal are charged 
— coke to produce the heat and material for the molten 
fluid, either old broken up castings, or bars of new pig 
iron. Both iron and coke are thrown in and fused 
up together. The fluid metal collects and flows out in 
front, while the debris of the coke — what Uttle remains 
after combustion — is ejected through a small aperture 
at the rear. The iron, by its weight, sinks to the floor 
of the furnace, while the filth and ashes of the coke 
remain floating on the top — there is no fear of the two 
intermixing. An iron conduit, working on a hinge, 
conveys the Uquid metal into the pots for the moulds. 
When the vessels are filled the shoot is raised, and tliis 
stops back the metal that goes on accumulating till the 
next pot is in position. 

There is a great attractiveness in the operation of 
filling the vessels with the molten fluid that, yellowish- 
white in colour, flows like water from the interior, 



ii8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

sparkling and spluttering as it drops into the receptacle 
beneath. The heat is very intense at all times, and the 
toil continuous ; hundreds of moulds are waiting to be 
filled from the furnace. Having occasion to visit the 
shed recently I pushed a way through the crowd of 
labourers waiting to have their pots filled and stood 
beside the furnaceman as he was running out the metal. 
He took no notice of my presence, but kept his eyes 
fixed upon the conduit. 

" Very hot to-day 1 " I shouted. 

" Yes, 'tis," he replied, without turning round. 

" How much metal does the furnace hold ? " 

" Don' know." 

" What's your heat ? " 

" Don' know." 

" How many tons of metal do you run out in a 
day ? " 

" Don' know." 

" You must have an idea." 

" Don' know. Got no time. We're busy." 

" Are you always on at this rate ? " 

" We kips on till us stops, same as the rest on 'em, 
an' has a sleep in between." Then, turning round to 
one of the new arrivals he shouted — " What ! bist thee 
got back 'ere agyen, CharHe ? Thee't eff to wait a bit. 
I got none for thee yet awhile." CharHe nodded 
and grinned, with the sweat streaming down his nose 
and chin ; the whole company smiled appreciatively. 
Perhaps Charlie was carrying metal for one of the less 
important moulds, and was used to being put aside 
and made to wait a few moments, or he may have been 
one of the day men, of whom there are but a small 
number in the shed. Nearly everything is done at 
the piece rate ; a few special jobs alone are done accord- 
ing to the day work rule. Under these circumstances 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 119 

Charlie might have no objection to waiting five or ten 
minutes. 

Most of the moulders dwell in the town, though many 
of the labourers prefer to inhabit the region round 
about the borough, in those viDages of easy access to the 
railway centre. Some of the journeymen have served 
their apprenticeship at small country towns and villages 
— perhaps in the same county and district — at which 
agricultural machinery is manufactured. Such as these 
will be sure to import local methods and characteristics 
and they will always retain some part of their individual 
style acquired during their term of apprenticeship. 
Though the difference of method may not be very great, 
it will be productive of good results ; it is by a com- 
bination of several practices and systems that perfec- 
tion is ultimately attained. Very often, in the midst 
of a teasing operation, a mate or passer-by may suddenly 
call to mind a similar difficulty he had in some far-off 
village yard and thus he will be able to supply the 
key to the situation. According to the theory of the 
works' officials, no difficulties should ever be encountered 
— they should not even exist. In practice, however, 
difficulties will often be met with, and when the work- 
man is compelled, by the lowness of his prices, to push 
ahead at a great speed he is sometimes apt to become 
confused with a difficulty and to overlook a point that, 
to the leisured overseer, wiU be quite obvious and 
simple. 



CHAPTER VIII 

GETTING TO WORK — THE AWAKENING IN THE COUNTRY — 
STEALING A RIDE — THE TOWN STIR — THE ARMY OF 
WORKMEN — " CHECKING " — EARLY COMERS — CLERKS 
AND DRAUGHTSMEN — FEATURES OF THE STAFF 

At an early hour the whole neighbourhood within a 
radius of five or six miles of the factory is astir ; there 
is a general preparation for the coming day's work. 
The activity will first begin in the villages furthest 
from the town. Soon after four o'clock, in the quiet 
hamlets amidst the woods and lanes, the workmen will 
leave their beds and get ready for the long tramp to 
the shed, or to the nearest station touched by the trains 
proceeding to the railway town. Many of the younger 
men have bicycles and will pedal their way to work. 
They will not be forced to rise quite as early as the rest, 
unless ^'hey live at a very great distance. A few work- 
men I know have, for the past twenty years, resided at 
not less than twelve miles from the town and have 
made the journey all through the year, wet and dry 
together. The only time at which they cannot get 
backwards and forwards is when there are deep floods, 
or after a heavy snowstorm. Then, if the fall has been 
severe and the water or snow lies to any depth on the 
roads, they will be compelled to walk or to lodge in the 
town. Sometimes the fall of snow has taken place in 
the night and the workman, under these circumstances, 
will be forced to take a holiday until it melts and he is 
able to journey along the road again. 

120 



LIFE IN A R.\ILWAY FACTORY 121 

I have heard manj' accounts, from workmen who had 
long distances to walk to the factory, of the great and 
terrible bhzzard of 1881, when the drifts in many places 
along the highways were from sixteen to twenty feet 
deep. One sturdy fellow took great pride in relating 
how he made the journeys daily — of six miles each way 
— during the whole time the snow lay on the ground, 
though many were frozen to death in the locality. 
Another workman whom I knew walked regularly to 
and from the village for fifty years, and at the end of 
that time bethought himself to get a tricycle. It was 
amusing to see him, with snow-white hair and the per- 
spiration pouring down his weather-beaten old face, 
pedalling home from work after a very hot and scorch- 
ing day at the rolHng mills. What with the fatigue of 
the day's work and the extraordinary exertions required 
to propel the machine, he was very nearly exhausted 
by the time he reached home. Everyone along the 
highway turned to have a second view of the old man 
as he trundled his machine along, puffing and blowing 
with the effort, his face red and fiery ; but he was not 
to be deterred from the innovation. It is probable 
that walking would have been the easier way of getting 
backwards and forwards, for the machine was nearly 
as heavy as a farm cart. There was a slight saving of 
time, however, and it is a common saying among work- 
people of all sorts that " Third-class riding is better than 
first-class walking." After the old man's death the 
tricycle became the property of a band of farm boys 
who used it as a training machine ; it was for a long 
time a source of fun and amusement to the villagers. 

Very often, in the remote villages, where there is no 
access to the stations at which the factory trains call, 
a party of workmen club together and hire a conveyance 
to bring them daily to the town ; or they may subscribe 



122 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the money and buy a horse and cart and contribute 
equally towards the expense of keeping them. An 
arrangement is made with the proprietor of a pubhc- 
house in the town. The horse is stabled and the vehicle 
stored for a small sum, and the men ride backwards and 
forwards, comfortable and independent. It was the 
custom, years ago, during haymaking and harvest-time 
for farmers to come in with conveyances from the out- 
lying villages and meet the men and drive them home. 
They went straight from the factory to the farmyard 
or hayfield, and, after a hearty tea in the open air, or a 
square meal of bread, cheese and ale, turned in and 
helped the farmer, both enjojdng the change of work 
and earning a couple of shilhngs a night as additional 
wages. This practice was very popular with the factory 
men, who never ceased to talk about it to their town 
mates in the shed and rouse them to envy with the 
frequent narration. Of late years, however, the custom 
has died out. Labour is too cheap and machinery too 
plentiful for the farmer to have any difficulty in getting 
his crops together nowadays. 

The majority of the villagers, though compelled to 
leave home for the town at such an early hour, will yet 
rise in time to partake of a light breakfast before start- 
ing for the shed. The country mothers are far more 
painstaking in the matter of providing meals than are 
many of those in the town ; they think nothing of rising 
at four a.m. in order to boil the kettle and cook food for 
their husbands and sons. Though the goodman may 
protest against it and declare that he would rather go 
without the food than give his wife so much trouble, 
it makes no difference. Every morning, at the usual 
hour, the smoke goes curling up from the chimney ; 
a cup of hot, refreshing tea is invariably awaiting him 
on the table when he arrives downstairs. After the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 123 

repast he starts off in abundant time and takes his 
leisure on the road ; one rarely sees a countryman 
hurrying to work in the morning. 

The boys, on the other hand, will not be as punctual 
in starting off to work ; they will usually be late in 
setting out, very often delaying till the last moment. 
They will, moreover, often loiter on the way bird's-nest- 
ing or reading, or perhaps they may start into the 
farmer's orchard and carry off the rosy-cheeked apples 
to eat in the shed or to divide out among their mates 
and companions. At one time there were three brothers 
of one house in the village, all working in the factory, 
though they never under any circumstances went to 
the town together. The eldest of the three always led 
the way, the second following five minutes later, and 
the youngest brought up the rear at a similar interval. 
The return home at night was made in the same manner : 
it is unusual to see the members of a family or house- 
hold going to work together. 

Very often the village resident will work for an hour 
in his garden or attend to his pigs and domestic animals 
before leaving for the railway shed. If the neighbour- 
ing farmer is busy, or happens to be a man short, he 
may help him milk his cows or do a Uttle mowing with 
the scythe and still be fresh for his work in the factory. 
I have known those who, during the summer months, 
went regularly to fishing in the big brook, or practised 
a little amateur poaching with the ferrets, and never 
missed going to gather mushrooms in the early mornings 
during autumn. 

Several boys of the village, especially on the dark 
winter mornings, used to watch for the freight-trains 
that sometimes stopped at the signal station and steal 
a ride down to the works, hanging on to the rails of the 
brake van, or cUnging to the buffers. The practice 



124 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

was attended with considerable risk, and the punish- 
ment, had they been detected, would have been sharp 
and severe. It was difficult to see them sitting in the 
shadow of the tail lamps, however, though once or 
twice we were reported by the signalmen and chased by 
the goods guards. At one time the train ran through 
the station without stopping, with three youngsters 
chnging to the rails of the guard's van, and it was only 
checked by accident twelve miles higher up the line. 
A great chase across fields in a drenching downpour of 
rain followed, but the goods guard had to own himself 
beaten and returned to the van. One of the boys 
was fond of lying down between the metals, and of 
allowing the trains to thunder along above him — cer- 
tainly a dangerous proceeding, though he did not think 
so at that time. All these practices are well-nigh im- 
possible now. Greater care is taken to keep trespassers 
off the Hue and the modern system of transverse sleepers 
for the track hardly permits of lying down between the 
metals. 

One morning, nearly dark, as a village lad was going 
to work down the Hne, he was much frightened at seeing 
a man behaving in a mysterious and suspicious manner 
underneath one of the bridges. He appeared to be 
selecting a spot in which to he across the rails, and as 
there was a fast train approaching close at hand, the 
youngster soon became considerably alarmed. To his 
rehef, however, as the engine drew near, the unknown 
one got off the track, ran up the bank and disappeared. 
At the same spot, soon afterwards, a young man, sus- 
pected of a criminal offence, threw himself in front of 
an express and was cut to pieces. After that occurrence 
we boys shunned the Hne, for that winter at least, and 
passed to work along the highway. We had many 
narrow escapes from being knocked down by engines, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 125 

trains and waggons in the station yard at different 
times. One morning, being very late, I ran between 
some waggons that were being shunted, when only a 
very narrow space remained before the vehicles closed 
up. In spite of warning shouts, I skipped through 
quickly, but as I cleared the rails an old shunter, who was 
waiting on the other side, swung his arm round and 
struck me a terrific blow behind the ear with his open 
hand, and loudly scolded me for taking such risks. 
Half stunned with the blow, I ran off, and freely forgave 
the old man for his well-meant chastisement. I often 
meet him now in the town, many years after the escapade, 
and always remember the incident, though he has 
doubtless forgotten it long ago. 

By five o'clock the people of the inner circle of the 
radius without the town are well awake, and twenty 
minutes later the dreaded hooter bellows out, Uke the 
knell of doom to a great many. The sound travels to 
a great distance, echoing and re-echoing along the hills 
and up the valley seventeen or twenty miles away, if 
the wind is setting in that direction. This is the first 
warning signal to the workman to bestir himself, if he 
has not akeady done so ; to awake from dreams to 
realities, to shake off the warm, comfortable bed- 
clothes and don his working attire. It is now the turn 
of the town dweller to stir. Very soon, here and there, 
a thin spire of smoke arises from the chimney, telling 
of the early cup of tea in preparation. The oldest hands, 
a good many of them grey and feeble, are to be seen 
making their way towards the entrances to the works. 
It will take some of them quite half an hour to 
reach the shed, though that is no more than three- 
quarters of a mile away. By and by others will come 
from their houses and join those who are just arriving 
from the country. These are the town's early risers. 



126 LIFE IN A IL\ILWAY FACTORY 

Some time yaH elapse yet before the reg^-ilar stream 
comes forth to fill the street and make the pavements 
ring \nth their countless footsteps. Although a few 
may prefer to come leisurely to work and perhaps wait 
in the slied some ten minutes before it is time to start 
at the macliines. the great majority loiter till the very 
last minute and spend not a second of time, more than 
they are absolutely bound, upon the company's premises. 
At ten minutes to six tlie hooter somids a second 
time, then again at five minutes, and finally at six 
o'clock. This time it makes a double report, in order 
that the men may be sure that it is the last hooter. 
Five minutes' grace — from six till six-five — is allowed 
in the morning ; after that everyone except clerks 
must lose time. As soon as the ten-minutes hooter 
sounds the men come teeming out of the various parts 
of the town in great numbers, and by five minutes to 
six the streets leading to the entrances are packed with 
a dense crowd of men and boys, old and young, bearded 
and beardless, some firm and upright, others bent and 
stooping, pale and haggard-looking, all off to the same 
daily toil and fully intent on the labour before them. 
It is a mystery where they all come from. Ten thousand 
workmen ! They are hke an army pressing forward 
to battle. Tramp ! tramp ! tramp ! Still they pour 
down the streets, \nth the regularity of trained 
soldiers, quickening in pace as the time advances, until 
they come ver^* nearly to the double and finally dis- 
appear through the entrances. Some of the young 
men's faces are ghastly wliite, very tliin and emaciated, 
telling a ston.- of ill-health — consmnption, very hkely 
— while others are fresh and healthy-looking — there 
are fat and lean among them. Some there are still 
bearing traces of yesterday's toil — large black rings 
around the eyes, or sharp lines underneath the chin and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 127 

continued round the back of the neck. A little 
more soap and water would have removed them, but 
in all probabihty the youngster was extra tired, or in 
a great hurry to get off to play, or go a-fishing, and so 
could not endure a tedious toilet. Others, again, come 
blundering along with eyes only half open — having 
obviously missed the morning swiU — with their shirt 
unbuttoned at the neck, their boots not laced up, 
untidy and unkempt, and in a desperate hurry. This 
one is bare-headed, that one carries his hat in his hand, 
and another wears his hind before. Many have had no 
time even to look for their working clothes, but have 
clapped on the first that met their eyes on arising from 
bed ; you often see one enter the shed dressed in odd 
garments, and sometimes wearing a shoe of a sort. 

The boys and youths are usually the last. They 
always experience greater difficulty in leaving the 
comfortable bed, and the pater familias will often 
have had trouble in inducing them finally to wake up 
and think about work. They do not reaUse the 
seriousness of the business as he does, and are very 
careless on first awaking. By and by, however, the 
truth dawns upon them ; up they scramble, dress, 
and run out of doors and up the street, and very often 
do not stop till they come to the shed. I have many 
a time, as a boy, run from the village to the factory, 
four miles distant, in thirty-five minutes, as the result 
of oversleeping. When the youngsters reach the shed, 
after a long run, they will require a speU of a few 
minutes before they can start work, and the forgers and 
hammermen will often have to shout at them several 
times before they are sufficiently rested to begin. 

A great many of the crowd bring their breakfast and 
dinner with them, either to eat it in the shed, or in the 
mess-rooms provided for the purpose. Some of the 



128 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

men carry it in a canteen, held under the arm or slung 
with a string over the shoulder and back. Others 
bring it tied up in red handkerchiefs, and very many, 
especially of the town dwellers, wrap it up in old news- 
papers. The country workmen are more particular 
over their food than are their mates of the town. 
Though their fare will be plainer and simpler — seldom 
amounting to anything more tasty than bread and 
butter, cheese or cold boiled bacon — they will be at 
great pains to see that it is very fresh and clean. 

That which strikes one most forcibly about the 
morning crowd is the extraordinary quiet and sober- 
ness, both of the men and the juveniles. They seldom 
speak to each other as they hurry along through 
the streets and tunnels towards their several destina- 
tions — not even those who toil side by side at the same 
forge or machine, however much they may talk later on 
in the day. They do not — except in somewhat rare 
instances — even wish each other " Good morning." If 
they happen to speak at all it will usually be no more 
than to utter a curt " Mornin'," which is often responded 
to with a very impohte and often positively churhsh 
" 'Ow do ! " And as for a smile I A morning smile 
on the way to work is indeed a rarity. Now and then 
the careless-hearted lads may indulge in a httle playful 
banter, though even this is not common, but the men 
never smile in the early morning. There is the day's 
work to be faced, the smoke and heat, the long stand at 
the machine, the tedious confinement, the hard word 
and bitter speech, the daily anxiety, the unnatural 
combat for the necessaries of life, and it all looms big 
on the horizon. By and by, as the day advances and 
the hands of the clock slowly but surely record the 
death and burial of the hours, the set features will 
relax, and the tongue will regain its ofhce. The 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 129 

fire of human sympathy will be rekindled and man and 
boy will be themselves again. But this wiU be not 
yet. For the present everyone is concerned with his 
own necessity. He is marching to battle, the issue of 
which is doubtful and uncertain. When the first 
victory has been won, which is at dinner-time for him, 
he will dissolve and be natural and genial, but not now. 
It is noteworthy that the country workmen will prove 
to be more sympathetic than those of the town. Many 
of them will bid " Good morning " to everyone they 
meet, whether they know them or not. They do not 
stand upon any kind of formality; answered or not 
they persist in the salutation, and always add the 
christian name of the individual where it is known to 
them. 

In the street, near the entrances, are coffee stalls, 
where, for the modest sum of a halfpenny, the workmen 
may obtain a cup of the steaming beverage, which is 
usually of a weak quality and not at all hkely to 
derange the stomach of the individual who swallows 
it. Another halfpenny will purchase a bun or scone, 
a slice of " lardy " or currant cake, if anyone shall 
desire it, so that there is no need for any who can afford 
a copper each morning to go hungry to work. Some 
workmen bring food from home in their hand and eat 
it standing by the stall, where they have stopped to 
partake of a cup of tea or coffee. 

It is pathetic, especially on cold, wintry mornings, 
to note the rivet boys and others of the poorest class 
as they approach the entrance by the coffee stalls. 
Their eyes are fixed longingly on the steaming urns 
and piled-up plates of buns ; they would like to gulp 
down a good big cup of the liquid and munch several 
of the cakes. But such luxuries are not for them. 
They have not a halfpenny in the world, so they content 
I 



130 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

themselves with a covetous look and pass on to the 
labour. Now and then a father, with his little son, 
wiU stop to share a cup of coffee, or they may have 
one apiece, but this is not a common occurrence. All 
the money is needed elsewhere — for clothes, boots, and 
household requirements. The better class of work- 
people — journeymen and such like — never drink tea 
or coffee at the stalls. That is beneath their dignity. 
They do not like to be seen breaking their fast in public, 
and they speak of the beverages as " messes " and 
" slops." A few of the workmen will loiter about the 
street till six o'clock, by which time some of the public- 
houses will be opened. They will require a mug of ale 
or a Uttle spirit to put them in order ; perhaps they 
were drunk overnight and want a " livener " before 
starting in the morning. 

At about three minutes past six a smart rush for 
the entrance is made, and those bringing up the rear 
will be forced to put on a good spurt in order to gain 
the shed in time. They have either dawdled about 
at home, or were late in rising ; whatever the reason 
may be, every morning finds them in the same pre- 
dicament. The same workmen are always first or last ; 
year in and year out there is Little variation in the 
individual time-table. What a man is this morning 
he will be to-morrow morning ; there is no change 
w^eek after w^eek or month after month. Moreover, 
he that is late at the first beginning of the day's work 
wiU most certainly be in the same position at break- 
fast-time and dinner-time, too. He will come to be 
noted for that characteristic ; he is bound to be late 
in any case. Such men alwaj'S parcel out their time 
with exquisite nicety, so that when the hooter begins 
to sound they have about twenty yards to run in order 
to reach the check-box. Immediately after the rear 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 131 

part of the crowd has disappeared within the entrance 
the ponderous doors are closed with a loud bang, and 
the town without looks to be deserted. The men 
inside the yard scatter, some this way and some that, 
and are soon out of sight in the different sheds. All 
that can be seen now are a few clerks sauntering along, 
usually wearing a flower in their button-hole, and 
glancing at the morning newspaper. 

Every workman is provided with a brass check or 
" ticket," round in shape hke a penny, or oblong, with 
a number stamped upon it, corresponding to his name 
in the register. This has to be placed in the check-box 
each time the man enters the shed, and it is the only 
accepted proof of his attendance at work or absence from 
it. If he loses or mislays the ticket he will be fined a 
sum equal to half an hour's wages, whether he hkes it 
or not, and he will consequently often be forced to pay 
fourpence or fivepence for a portion of metal that is 
worth no more than a farthing. This will be the price 
of having his name registered, or, if he is dissatisfied 
with the arrangement, he can return home and wait till 
after the next meal-time. Similarly, in the morning, 
after the five minutes' grace, whoever is late is charged 
quarter of an hour for the first five minutes, and half 
an hour for the next, i.e., till six-fifteen, though there is 
no reason whatever why a workman should be fined so 
heavily. A fairer thing to do would be to fine all late- 
comers a quarter of an hour's wages and allow them to 
check till quarter-past six. This is the latest time 
for checking the first thing in the morning. No work- 
man is admitted later than that hour, but must wait 
till the re-start after breakfast. 

The country workmen will be among the first arrivals 
at the shed, though they are not usually the earliest 
comers of all. Some of the townsmen are early risers, 



132 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

and come regularly to the premises half an hour before 
it is time to begin work. It is remarkable that those 
who are addicted to very early rising, that is, earlier 
than is really necessary, will most certainly be found 
to be deficient in brains and intellect. You will in- 
variably find such ones to be dull-witted, and lower in 
the mental scale than are many who hurry and come 
late to business. The old adage — / 

"Early to bed and early to rise, 
Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise," 

may be true enough in all three particulars, but it does 
not necessarily follow that a strict observance of the 
rule will also endue him with a plentiful supply of brains 
and intellectual keenness. Healthy it will certainly 
make him. The application of a httle common-sense 
will easily demonstrate that one reason of his retiring 
early is the fact that he has no mental pursuits, nothing 
in which to interest himself outside his daily occupa- 
tion, so that he is already deficient, and must perforce 
betake himself to bed. Being free from mental worry 
and not troubling about intellectual hobbies, he will 
sleep soundly, enjoy the maximum amount of rest, and 
wake up fully refreshed and vigorous in the morning. 
All that such men as these think of is their day's work, 
their food and sleep ; they have no other object or 
ambition in Hfe. 

As to the entire wisdom of the rule, that is another 
matter. It was counted sufficiently wise formerly, but 
we of this day are made of sterner material. Horses 
and oxen work hard, rest well, enjoy very good health, 
and appear to be satisfied, if not actually happy, but 
one man is of more value than many horses or oxen. 
Work and sacrifice are the only things that will raise 
a man in the estimation of the world and set him up 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 133 

as a worthy example to his fellows. To those who are 
content merely to hve, and not to shine, may be addressed 
the words of the Ant spoken to the Fly in the Fable : 
Nihil labor as ; ideo nil habes — " You do nothing, and 
consequently you have nothing." At the same time 
it must be admitted that those who retire early and rise 
early nearly always prove to be the strongest workmen ; 
they will be capable of great physical exertions and 
staying powers. But when all has been said, such men 
are rather to be pitied than envied. They are Httle 
more than mere tools and the slaves of their employers — 
the prodigal squanderers of their powers and Hves. 

It is a privilege of the shop clerks to arrive a Httle later 
than the workmen, and to leave a little in advance of 
them at meal-times and in the evening. The members 
of the principal office staff enjoy a still greater dispensa- 
tion, for they do not begin work at all before nine o'clock 
in the morning and finish at five-thirty in the afternoon. 
The clerks are the most numerous of all the trained 
classes at the factory. With the draughtsmen they 
form an imposing body, yet though they rank next the 
foremen and heads of departments, they are not taken 
very seriously by the rank and file, except when they 
appear in the shed with the cashbox to pay the weekly 
wages. 

For the sake of distinction the shop clerks are called 
the " weekly staff," and the managers' and other clerks, 
with the draughtsmen, are denominated the " monthly 
staff." The first-named of these are paid weekly with 
the workmen ; the others receive their salary once a 
month. The shop clerks are chiefly recruited from 
the personnel of the sheds, while those of the monthly 
staff are chosen from over a wider area. In the case 
of them considerably more training and experience will 
be required. They must be possessed of specific abilities, 



134 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

and have gone through classes and taken examinations 
in order to quaUfy for the positions. It is usual for the 
more intelligent lads at the higher elementary schools 
of the town to be recommended to the chiefs of the 
factory offices. If their qualifications are considered 
satisfactory, they are started in one or other of the 
clerical departments and instructed in the several duties. 
By entering the offices young, and passing from point to 
point, they have every opportunity of becoming pro- 
ficient, and are in course of time promoted according to 
their abihties. 

The clerks of the sheds naturally enjoy the confidence 
of the overseers. They know everything pertaining 
to piecework prices and output, and are consequently 
able to furnish the chief with whatever information 
he desires upon any point. In addition to the clerk 
there is a checker, who books every article made and 
supervises the piecework outside the office, and, as if 
that were not sufficient, a piecework " inspector," who 
is commissioned with the power to report upon any 
price on the spot and to make any reduction he thinks 
fit. AU these co-operate and together supply particulars 
of the workman and his job, how much he makes on a 
shift, the precise time it takes him to finish an article ; 
and if it is necessary one or the other stays behind after 
working hours and computes the number, of forgings, 
or other uses made, and is a perfect spy upon his less 
fortunate mates of the shed. 

An unscrupulous clerk may thus work incalculable 
mischief among the men. He often influences the fore- 
man in a very high degree, or he even dictates to him, 
so that you sometimes hear the clerk spoken of as the 
" boss " and the foreman himself styled the " bummer." 
Under such circumstances it will not be wondered at 
that the clerk is sometimes an unpopular figure in the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 135 

shed and is looked upon with disfavour, though very 
often unjustly so. A great deal depends upon the temper 
and honesty, or dishonesty, of the overseer, for the clerk, 
in most cases, will take the cue from him. If he is 
honourable and " above board/' he will not tolerate 
any covert dealings and tale-bearing. If, on the other 
hand, he is shifty and cunning, he will encourage all 
kinds of slimness and questionable proceedings on the 
part of his clerks. 

The members of the monthly staff and draughtsmen 
occupy quarters grouped around the managers' offices, 
and do not often appear in the workshops. When they 
do so it will be on account of some extraordinary busi- 
ness, or they may come in with the foreman to take 
a look round and view the machinery. They usually 
bring a book or dramng in their hand, or under the arm, 
so as to have some kind of excuse in case they should be 
challenged by a superior, for even they are not allowed 
to go wherever they wiU. I have known draughtsmen 
to come regularly to the shed provided with a tape- 
measure, books, and plans, and take the dimensions of 
a machine again and again. No doubt they were in 
need of a Httle exercise and anxious to see the stampers 
and forgers at work. 

Very few clerks, in spite of their leisure and oppor- 
tunities, are bookish or endowed with a taste for litera- 
ture ; out of over a thousand at the factory less than 
twenty are connected with the Literary Society at the 
Works' Institute. The students and premiums have 
their debating classes on matters connected with engin- 
eering. They meet and read papers on technical sub- 
jects, but have httle interest in anything natural or 
spirituel. 



CHAPTER IX 

FIRST OPERATIONS IN THE SHED — THE EARLY DIN — ITS 
EFFECT ON THE WORKMEN — CHARGING THE HEATS — 
THE OIL FURNACE — THE " AJAX " — HARRY AND 
SAMMY — ^THE " STRAPPIE " — HYDRAULIC POWER — 
WHEEL-BURSTING 

Arrived in the shed the workmen remove their coats 
and hang them up under the wall, or behind the forges. 
If any shall be seen wearing them by the foreman when 
he enters they will be noticed and marked : it is a 
common rule, \vinter and summer, to take them off on 
coming into the workshop, except in places where there 
are no fires. A terrible din, that could be heard in the 
yard long before you came to the doors of the shed, is 
already awaiting. Here ten gigantic boilers, which for 
several hours have been steadily accumulating steam 
for the hammers and engines, packed with terrific high 
pressure, are roaring off their surplus energy with in- 
describable noise and fury, making the earth and roof 
tremble and quiver around you, as though they were in 
the grip of an iron-handed monster. The white steam 
fills the shed with a dense, humid cloud hke a thick 
fog, and the heat is already overpowering. The blast 
roars loudly underground and in the boxes of the forges, 
and the wheels and shafting whirl round in the roof and 
under the wall. The huge engines, that supply the 
hydrauHc machines with pressure, are chu-chu-ing 
above the roof outside ; everything is in a state of the 
utmost animation. If you were not fully awake before 
and sensible of what the day had in store for you, you 

136 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 137 

are no longer in any doubt about the matter. All 
sluggishness, both of the mind and body, is quickly dis- 
pelled by the great activity everywhere displayed around 
you. The very air, hot and heavy, and thickly charged 
with dust as it is, seems to have an electrical effect upon 
you. You immediately feel excited to begin work ; the 
noise of the steam, the engines, the roar of the blast, and 
the whirling wheels compel you to it. 

At the same time the morning freshness, the bloom, 
vigour, the hopeful spirit, the whole natural man will 
be entirely quelled and subdued after the first few 
moments in this living pandemonium. Wife and chil- 
dren, friends and home, town and village, green fields 
and blue skies, the whole outside world will have been 
left far behind. There is no opportunity to think of 
anything but iron and steel, furnaces and hammers, 
the coming race and battle for existence. Moreover, 
as everything is done at the piece rate, the men will be 
anxious to make an early start, before the day gets hot. 
It is especially true of the stampers and hammermen 
that " A bird in the hand's worth two in the bush," 
and a good heat performed before breakfast is far better 
than depending upon exertions to be made at a later 
part of the day. 

So, before you can well look around you, before the 
foreman can reach the shed, in fact, the workmen are 
up and at it. Those who are earliest on the place 
usually make the first start. They, and especially the 
furnacemen and forgemen, often begin before the 
regulation hour, and make haste to get their fires in a 
fit condition to receive the metal. First of all, the coal 
furnaces have to be clinkered. A large steel bar and 
a heavy sledge break the clinker ; the fire-bars are with- 
drawn, and down plunges the white-hot mass into the 
" bosh " of water beneath. When this is performed 



138 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

new fuel is laid on, light at first, and sloping gently to 
the rear wall. The corners are well filled ; the floor 
of the furnace, recently levelled with fresh sand, is 
firmly beaten down with the heavy paddle, and all is 
ready to receive the ingots or blooms. 

Immediately the forger and his mates swarm round 
with the metal, either using the crane and pulley, or 
charging it in upon the peel. The chargeman grunts 
and scolds and the furnace door is raised, Ughting up the 
dark corners behind the forges. Now the hammer- 
driver winds the wheel that opens the valve, and fills 
his cyHnder with the raucous vapour ; the heavy 
monkey travels noiselessly up and down, preparing to 
beat the iron into the shape required. Little by little, 
as the steam is absorbed by the engines and hammers, 
the din of the boilers subsides. The tremendous amount 
of power required to drive the various machines soon 
reduces the pent-up energy, and by and by the priming 
ceases altogether. The steam will continue gradually 
to diminish until the first meal-hour, when it wiU have 
reached a low figure, as indicated by the pressure gauge. 
During the interval, however, it will have risen again, 
and long before it is time to recommence work the 
boilers will be roaring off their superfluous energy with 
the same indescribable din and fury. 

To obviate the noise of the simultaneous priming 
of the boilers an escape valve was recently constructed, 
and a pipe affixed to carry it through the roof. Owing 
to the incapacity of the tube, however, the noise, 
instead of being diminished, was considerably in- 
tensified. People heard it in every quarter of the 
town and thought it was an explosion. No one in the 
vicinity of the shed could sleep at night, so at last 
complaints were made to the manager, and the use 
of the valve was discontinued. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 139 

Now the oil furnaces will have been lit up and the 
smiths' forges kindled. The two foremen will have 
arrived and made their first perambulation of the 
shed, and everything will be in a state of bustle 
and confusion. Certainly the sparks will not be flying, 
nor the anvils ringing yet. It will take fully twenty 
minutes to get everything into order and to produce 
the first heat. But there is a deadly earnestness evident 
all round. It will not be long before the busy Titans 
are stripped to the waist, turning the ponderous ingots 
and blooms over and over, and raining the blows upon 
the yielding metal. 

The oil forge hails from the other side of the Atlantic, 
and is an innovation at the shed. It is attached to 
machinery of the American type, and is well suited for 
the game of hustle. It is not very large, and occupies 
but a small space anywhere, but it has this advantage, 
that it may be moved to any position ; it is not a fixture, 
as are the other furnaces. It is oblong in shape, with 
an arched roof ; and the heating space is not more 
than several cubic feet. The front is of brick, with as 
many apertures as are required for the bars of metal, 
and the back and ends are enclosed in a stout iron 
frame. The oil — derived from water-gas and tar — is 
contained in a tank as high as the roof, fixed outside 
the shed, and is conducted through pipes to the furnace. 
A current of air from the fan blows past the oil- 
cock and drives the fluid into the furnace. The heat 
generated from combustion of the oil is regular and 
intense ; the whole contrivance is speedy and simple. 

This is so, however, only when the oil is good and 
clear. Then there will be scarcely any smoke or fume. 
The slight flame emitted from the vent-hole on top will 
be of a copperish colour, and the interior wiU ghtter 
like a star. The furnace will go right merrily ; there 



140 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

will be no need for the workman to wait a moment. 
But when the oil is cheap and inferior, or absolutely 
worthless — as it often is at the shed — the system is a 
most foul and abominable nuisance. As soon as the 
forger attempts to Hght up in the morning, tremendous 
clouds of black, filthy smoke pour out of every httle 
crack and hole and mount into the roof. After strik- 
ing against the boards and rafters this beats down 
to the ground again and rolls away up the shed, 
fining the place from end to end, half suffocating 
the workmen with the sickening, disgusting stench, 
and making their eyes smart and burn. Several times 
during the operation of lighting up, by reason of the 
irregular flow through the feeder, the oil in the furnace 
will explode with a loud bang, shooting out the flames 
and smoke to a great distance, and frequently blowing 
the whole front of the forge to pieces, to the great 
danger of the stampers and the amusement of the other 
workmen and smiths — for the oil system of heating is 
not at all popular with the men of the shed. 

The stampers' furnaces, to the number of five or six, 
are behaving in the same manner, and as there are no 
chimneys to carry off the smoke the whole smother is 
poured out into the shed. This will very soon be 
more than the average man can stand. With loud 
shouts and curses, down go hammers and tools ; the 
blast is shut off from the fires and a rush is made for 
the open air until the nuisance is somewhat abated. 
The overseer walks round and round, viewing the scene 
with great ill-temper, defending the oil and the furnaces, 
and blaming the lighters-up for everything, at the 
same time darting angry looks at those who, half 
suffocated, have sought refuge outside. So, no matter 
what the time of year may be, whether summer 
or the dead of winter, when the chiUing winds drive 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 141 

through upon the stampers shivering at their fires, he has 
every door and window thrown open, and often does 
it himself and stands hke a sentinel in the doorway, 
that no one shall close them up till he is quite satisfied. 
If he moves away and the half-frozen workmen steal 
along and adjust the doors, he returns, closes them 
entirely, and forces the stampers to endure the whole 
smother, because they dared to meddle with the doors 
when he had opened them. 

By and by, as the heat in the furnaces increases, the 
smoke will diminish somewhat, though as long as the 
oil is inferior they will continue to emit a dirty cloud 
accompanied with deadly fumes and intense volumes 
of heat, which are forced out by the blast to a distance 
of several yards, making it impossible for the youth to 
get near enough to attend to his bars without having 
his arms and face scorched and burnt. The roof and 
waUs, for a great distance around, are blackened with 
the soot. There is no mistaking the cause of it, though 
it is a favourite recommendation of the oil furnaces 
that they consume every particle of their vapour. 
When the oil is of a sufficiently good quality this 
actually happens ; it is only when the fuel is cheap and 
bad that considerable unpleasantness arises. 

Our entry to the shed was made through the large 
door in the north-west corner, near which the first oil 
furnace is situated. This furnace is attached to a new 
kind of forging machine conveniently named the 
" Ajax/' by reason of its great strength. Ajax was the 
name of two of the mighty ones who fought before 
Troy, but the manufacturer does not inform us whether 
the machine is named after Ajax, the son of Telamon, 
or he that was the son of Oileus, though perhaps the 
latter is intended. Standing alongside the oil furnace 
is the first of the drop-stamper's forges, and next to 



142 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

that, in a line, are the three drop-stamps themselves. 
Opposite the Ajax is the foreman's office— a two-storied 
building— and a httle to one side, straight from the 
door, is a coal furnace, upon which is superimposed 
a large " loco " boiler. This reflects a tremendous 
heat all round, and, together with the furnaces and 
forges, makes that part of the shed, though near to the 
door, ahnost unbearably hot, so that it has come to be 
called " Hell Corner " by the workmen. 

The line of hammers and furnaces is continued up 

the workshop to the far end under the wall. There 

also, fixed to the masonry, are the main shafting and 

pulleys, whirled round at a tremendous rate by the 

engine in the " lean-to " outside. At the end of the 

Hne stand the heavy steam-hammers and, under the 

wall outside, the blower house, containing machinery 

for forcing the air for the smiths' fires. A huge stack 

of coal and coke is visible through the door at the 

other end. A small single fan is attached to the oil 

furnace with the Ajax in order to supply it with air. 

This travels at a high rate of speed and makes a loud 

roar, thereby adding to the confused din of the hammers 

and other machinery. Standing further out in the 

shed is a second row of smaller steam-hammers and 

forges with drills, saws, shears, pneumatic apparatus, 

other oil furnaces, and the American stamping-hammers 

with then: trimmers and appUances. Beyond them 

is an open space reserved for future arrivals in the 

shape of manufacturing plant, and towards the south 

wall are two lines of powerful hydrauUc machines and 

presses with furnaces and boilers attached for heating 

the plates of metal for punching and welding. 

The Ajax machine operates by up-setting. It is 
worked by youths, one of whom heats the rods of 
metal, while the other sets them in the dies and presses 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 143 

the treadle that brings the machine head forward. 
As soon as the furnace is sufficiently hot fifteen or 
twenty bars are thrust through the brickwork in front 
of the forge, the lubricators are filled, the belt pulled 
over, and the work begins. The belts flap up and 
down on the pulleys with a loud noise, the cog-wheels 
rattle and clank, the " ram " travels backwards and 
forwards incessantly, chcking against the self-act, the 
furnace roars and the smoke and flames shoot out. 
When the bars are white-hot the assistant hands them 
along ; his mate grips them and inserts them in the 
dies, then presses the treadle with his foot. Imme- 
diately the steel tools close up and the ram shoots 
forward ; in about two seconds the operation is 
complete. Very often the water, running continually 
over the tools to keep them cool, becomes confined in 
the dies as they close. The heat of the iron converts 
it into steam, and, as the ram collects and forces the 
material, it explodes with a loud report, almost like 
that of a cannon. Showers of sparks and hot scale 
are blown in all directions, and if the operator is not 
careful to stand somewhat aside, his face and arms 
will be riddled with the tiny particles of shot-hke metal 
ejected by the explosion. It is not uncommon to see 
his flesh covered with drops of blood from the accident. 
The bits of metal will adhere tightly underneath the 
skin, and must be removed with a needle, or otherwise 
remain till they work out of their own accord. 

Both youths of the Ajax dwell in the town, and are 
known about the corner by the names of Harry and 
Sammy. Harry's father was an infantryman, and 
Sammy's parent served in the Navy. There is a little 
of the roving spirit about both of them — each possesses 
a share of the paternal characteristic. Harry's father, 
however, is an invahd, and he is forced to stay at home 



144 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

and help keep him and his mother, otherwise he would 
long ago have bidden farewell to the shed, Ajax and 
all. Sammy, on the other hand, is free and unfettered, 
but though he has made many attempts to enter the 
Navy, they were all in vain. First, he was not sufficiently 
tall or broad in the chest, and later, when, after a course 
of exercises with dumb-bells, he was able to pass the 
examinations, he was refused on account of his teeth, 
which were badly decayed. This was a great dis- 
appointment to Samuel. He sulked about for several 
days afterwards, quarrelled and fought with his mate, 
and was generally inconsolable. The boys' chargeman 
had to intervene as peacemaker and he comforted 
Sammy, who shed a few tears and finally became re- 
conciled to the forge again, though he often defiantly 
affirmed that he would not be beaten, not he ! He would 
go to Bristol and get a job aboard ship ; he would not 
stop there in that hole all his life ! 

Both Sammy and Harry dress much alike, and they 
resemble each other in their habits. They are both 
nimble and strong, active, energetic, and high spirited. 
Both have commendable appetites, and they are especi- 
ally fond of drinking tea. They have a passionate 
regard for sports, including boxing and football, but, 
over and above all this, they are hard workers ; every 
day they are sure of a good sweating at the furnace and 
Ajax. Both wear football shirts — Sammy a green one 
and Harry a red and white — in the forge, and they have 
football boots on their feet. If you should turn out 
Sammy's pockets you would be sure to find, among 
other things, half a packet of cigarettes, a pack of cards, 
a mouth organ, a knife, a comb, and a small portion of 
looking-glass. A great many of the town boys and young 
men carry a small mirror in their pockets, by the aid of 
which they comb and part their hair and study their 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 145 

physiognomies. At meal-times, as soon as the hooter 
sounds, they hasten to the nearest water-tap, give 
their faces a rough swill and, with the aid of a 
portion of looking-glass, examine them to make sure 
that they are free from the dust and soil of the 
smoky furnace. 

Though the companions of Ajax work hard and per- 
spire much they do not become very tired, apparently, 
for after the most severe exertions they are still ready 
to indulge in some sport or other, and run and play or 
wrestle and struggle with each other on their way down 
the yard. Arrived home they have their tea, wash and 
change, and come back to the crowded parts of the town 
to see and be seen and be moved on by the policeman, 
returning late home to bed. In the morning they will 
often be sullen and short-tempered. This invariably 
wears off as the day advances, however, and they will 
soon be up to the usual games, singing popular songs 
and imitating the comic actors at the theatre^ where 
they delight to go once or twice a week. 

Close behind the oil furnace, in a recess of the waU, 
is the fan that drives the blast for this part of the shed, 
supplying four forges altogether. The fan itself is of 
iron, enclosed in a stout cast-iron sheU or case, and is 
driven from a countershaft half-way up to the main 
shafting. Multiplication takes place tlirough this from 
the top pulley, and whereas the main shaft will make 
but one hundred and twenty revolutions a minute, the 
fan below will; in that space, spin round two thousand 
times. As the engine is running day and night, for more 
than twenty hours out of the twenty-four, the number 
of revolutions made by the fan will be over two millions 
daily. Although, viewed on paper, these figm-es appear 
high, yet, if you should stand near and watch the fan 
itself, it would seem incredible to you that it would 

K 



146 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

require such a long time in which to complete them. 
The speed is terrific, and this you may know by the 
sound, without troubhng to look at the gear. The rate 
of the belts, from the pulleys on to the countershaft, 
is a further proof of the tremendous velocity of the 
machine. Although strained very tight on the wheels 
they make a loud noise, flapping sharply all the while ; 
one may easily gauge the speed of an engine by the sound 
of the belts alone. The fan itself, at normal times, 
emits a loud humming noise, hke that of a threshing- 
machine, but when the speed of the engine increases 
through the relaxation of some other machinery, or the 
sudden rise of steam pressure in the boilers, it seems to 
swell with a dreadful fury, and assails the ear with a 
vicious and continuous hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo- 
Hoo-Hoo-Hoo, like some savage beast ravenous for 
its prey. The oscillation of the fan is imparted to 
everything around. The very ground under your feet 
trembles, and if you should place your hand upon the 
outer sheU, or on the wooden guard around it, you 
would experience something Uke an electric shock, 
strangely pleasant at first, but very soon necessitating 
the removal of your hand from the \dcinity. 

It is dangerous to meddle with the fan while it is in 
motion. A stout wooden guard is erected around it 
to prevent any object from coming into contact with 
the wheels or the interior. If a nut or rivet head 
should happen to fly and be caught in it, the shell 
would immediately burst. Very often excessive speed 
alone will cause a fan to explode. The effect is similar 
to that of a steam or gas explosion ; the heavy cast-iron 
frame will be shattered to bits, and hurled to a great 
distance. I remember one in the smithy that exploded 
and blew up through the roof, making a huge rent. 
For safety's sake the fans are often constructed under- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 147 

ground in order to lessen the danger of explosion, if one 
should happen. 

It is remarkable that while the pulley on the counter- 
shaft is traveUing at a tremendous speed, so that the 
spokes are generally invisible, and there appears to be 
nothing but the rim and centre whirhng round, if you 
look up quickly you will see one spoke quite plainly as 
it flies over, then it will be entirely lost to view with the 
rest. The space of time during which it is visible is 
exceedingly short — it could be no more than a fraction 
of a second — yet in that brief period the eye perceives 
it clearly and distinctly : it is something similar to 
taking a snapshot with a camera. 

Formerly, when all the belts were of leather and thickly 
studded with large broad-headed copper rivets, the 
boys used to draw near to them and take small lessons 
in electricity. This could only be done in the case of 
belts that travelled at a very high rate of speed, such 
as the one on the fan or the circular saw. Standing 
dangerously near the wheels they held a finger, or a 
knuckle, very close to the belt in motion, and were 
rewarded with seeing a small stream of electric sparks, 
about as large in volume as the stem of a needle, issuing 
from the finger-tip or knuckle, accompanied with a 
slight pain like that produced by the prick of a pin. 
The velocity of the belt, with the copper, attracted the 
electricity within the body and drew it out in a tiny 
visible stream from the flesh. All the belts for high 
speed work at this time, however, are made of another 
material, i.e., a preparation of compressed canvas, 
without rivets. Instead of being laced together they 
are fitted with a steel-wire arrangement for connection. 
The ends are inserted, as you would bend the fingers of 
both hands and thrust them one between the other, 
and a piece of whalebone is pushed through. Slight 



148 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

as this may seem to be, it is yet capable of withstanding 
a great strain, and the whole runs much more smoothly 
than did the old-fashioned leather belts. 

A man is specially kept to attend to everything per- 
taining to the belts. He is known to all and sundry 
as the " strappie." Directly anything goes wrong with 
the connections he appears on the scene smothered in 
oil from head to foot, and looking very cloudy and 
serious. He is usually in a great hurry and is not over- 
polite to anyone. First of all he gives the signal to 
have the engine stopped. As soon as the shafting is 
still, armed with a very sharp knife, he climbs up the 
wall, in and out among the wheels, and unceremoniously 
cuts away the defective belt. Arrived on the ground 
again, he draws out the belt, motions " right away " to 
the engineman, then rolls it up and disappears. In a 
short while he comes back with it strongly repaired, or 
brings a new one in place of it. The shafting is stopped 
again, and up he mounts as before. When he has placed 
it over the shaft and connected the ends, he pulls it 
half-way on the wheels and ties it loosely in that position 
with a piece of cord. As the engine starts the belt 
assumes its position on the wheel automatically ; the 
piece of cord breaks, or becomes untied, and faUs to the 
ground, and everything goes spinning and whirling 
away as before. If a belt is merely loose the strappie 
brings a potful of a substance he calls " jam," very 
resinous and gluey, some of which he pours on the wheel 
and belt while in motion. This makes the belt " bite," 
or grip well, and brings the machine up to its maximum 
speed with the shafting. 

Sometimes, if the shafting has not been oiled punctu- 
ally, it will run hot, or perhaps a small particle of dust 
will obstruct the oil in the lubricator and produce 
friction. News of this is soon pubhshed abroad by a 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 149 

loud creaking noise that everyone can hear. The work- 
men take up the cry and shout " Oil, oil," at the top of 
their voice ; then the engine-driver comes forth with his 
can and stops the screeching. Occasionally the spindle 
of the fan wiU run hot, and especially so if the belt 
happens to be well tight. This, by reason of its great 
speed, will soon generate a fierce heat ; I recently ran 
to attend to it and found the spindle of the fan a bright 
red-hot. Thanks to the warning of the belt, which was 
sHpping owing to the greater exertion required through 
tightening of the bearings by expansion, I was just in 
time to prevent an accident. In another moment the 
fan might have been a total wreck. 

Through a doorway in the wall, in an extension of the 
shed, stand several boilers used as auxiliaries, and, near 
to them, are two powerful pumping engines and their 
accumulators, which obtain the pressure for the whole 
hydraulic plant of the department. The engines are 
of a hundred and twenty horse-power each, and are 
fitted with heavy fly-wheels that make forty revolutions 
a minute at top speed. These draw the water from a 
neighbouring tank and force it into the accumulators, 
from which the pressure is finally derived. The accumu- 
lators are constructed in deep pits that are bricked 
round and guarded with iron fencing. They are large 
weights of fifty tons each — there was originally one of a 
hundred tons — and are built about a central column of 
iron or steel standing fifteen or twenty feet above the 
floor level. Contained in the lower part of the weight 
is a cylinder ; into this the water is forced by the engines 
and the pressure obtained. The power of the water, 
when a sufficient volume has accumulated, raises the 
weights high into the roof and keeps them there, with 
a httle rising and falHng, corresponding to the action 
of the presses in the shed. When the weights have 



150 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

risen to a certain point they operate a self-act, and the 
engines stop. Similarly, when they sink below the 
point they displace a second small lever that communi- 
cates with the engine valves and re-starts the pumps. 
The pressure put on the water is enormous ; it often 
amounts to two thousand pounds per square inch. 
Since the operation of water is much slower than that 
of steam, however, the power is not nearly as effective. 
It would be impossible by its agency to drive machinery 
at a high rate without the use of gear, though for punch- 
ing, pressing, and welding some kinds of work the system 
is admirable and unsurpassed. 

The engine that drives the lesser machinery of the 
shop stands in a " lean-to " and is not nearly as powerful 
as are those that operate the pumps. A httle higher up, 
in another small lean-to, is a donkey engine that drives 
the " blower," which produces blast for the forges and 
fires. This machine is vastly superior to the old- 
fashioned fan, and the speed of it is quite low ; there is 
no danger of explosion or other rupture. It is a pleasure, 
since so much manufacturing plant is introduced to 
us from foreign countries — America, France and 
Germany — to reflect that the idea of the blower is 
English. There is a considerable amount of American- 
made machinery at the works^ and the percentage of it 
increases every year, though it is often far from being 
successful. At the same time, it must be conceded that 
our kinsmen over the sea are very clever in the design- 
ing and manufacture of tools and plant, and many of 
their ideas are particularly briUiant. The Enghsh 
maker of manufacturing tools follows at some httle 
distance with his wares. These, though not actually 
as smart as the others, are yet good, honest value, the 
very expression of the Englishman's character. The 
chief features of American machinery are — smartness 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 151 

of detail, the maximum usefulness of parts, capacity 
for high speed and fiimsiness, styled " economy," of 
structure : everything of theirs is made to "go the 
pace." English machinery, on the other hand, is at 
the same time more primitive and cumbersome, more 
conservative in design and slower in operation, though 
it is trustworthy and durable ; it usually proves to be 
the cheaper investment in the long run. One often sees 
American tackle broken all to pieces after several years' 
use, while the British-made machine runs almost ad 
znfinilum. At a manufactory in Birmingham is an old 
beam engine that has been in use for more than a century 
and a half, and it is almost as good now as when it was 
new. The same may be said with regard to English- 
made agricultural machinery. A modern American 
mower wiU seldom last longer than four or five years, 
but I know of English machines that have been in use 
for nearly thirty years and are as good as ever, generally 
speaking. 

One man attends to the engines that drive the shop 
machinery and the " blower." It is his duty to see 
that the shafting is kept clean and the bearings well 
oiled, to watch over the belts and to notify the strappie 
when one becomes loose or slips off the wheel. Dressed 
in a suit of blue overalls, and equipped with ladder and 
oil-can, he remains in constant attendance upon liis 
engines and shafts. He will also be required to keep a 
watchful eye upon the valves, to regulate the steam 
to the cylinders, and to maintain a uniform rate of speed 
for the lathes and driUs. Occasionally, if the pressure 
of steam in the boilers should rise very suddenly — which 
sometimes happens, as the result of a variable quahty 
of coal and the diversity of heats required by the furnace- 
men — the engine, in spite of the regulators, will rapidly 
gain speed and " run away," as it is called. This may 



152 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

also result from the disconnecting a particular machine 
engaged on heavy, dragging work, such as the saw, or 
fan, both of which require great power to drive them at 
their high rate of speed. 

Considerable danger attaches to the running away 
of an engine, especially where it is provided with a 
heavy fly-wheel. This, if it is whirled round at an ex- 
cessive speed, is Hable to burst, and the consequences, 
in a crowded quarter, would be disastrous. The danger 
of bursting hes in the tremendous throwing-off power 
generated from the hub of the wheel, about the shaft ; 
as the sections forming the circle of the wheel are brought 
rapidly over there is a strong tendency for them to be 
cast off in the same manner as a stone is thrown from a 
shng. If the wheel is exactly balanced, however, and 
every part of precisely the same weight, so as to ensure 
perfectly even running on the shaft, the danger of 
bursting will be small. Grindstones burst much more 
commonly than do metal wheels. There is not the same 
consistency in stone as in iron ; moreover, there may 
be a flaw some^vhere that has escaped the eye of the 
fitter or overseer. Consequently, if the speed of the 
engine driving the stone should be immoderately in- 
creased, it will not be able to withstand the throw-off, 
and will fly to pieces, inflicting death, or very severe 
injuries upon all those in the vicinity. 



CHAPTER X 

STAMPING — THE DROP-HAMMER STAFF — ALGY AND CECIL 
— PAUL AND " PUMP "— " SMAMER "—BOILERS— A 
NEAR SHAVE 

The drop-stamps stand in the corner, close under the 
wall. They are supplied by three coke forges, and 
by the coal furnace before mentioned. A drop-stamp, 
or drop-hammer, is a machine used for stamping out 
all kinds of details and uses in wrought iron or steel, 
from an ounce to several hundredweights. It differs 
from a steam-hammer properly so called in that while 
it is raised by steam power it falls by gravity, striking 
the metal in the dies by its own impetus, whereas the 
steam-hammer head is driven down by a piston. Three 
hands are employed at each machine. They are — the 
stamper, his hotter, and the small boy who drives the 
hammer. A similar number compose the night shift ; the 
machines are in constant use by night and day. All 
the work is done at the piece rate, and the prices are 
low ; the men have to be very nimble to earn sufficient 
money to pay them for the turn. 

The hands employed on the drop-hammers are of a 
fairly uniform type, though there are several distin- 
guished above the others by reason of their individual 
features and characteristics. Chief among them are 
the two young hammer boys, Algy and Cecil, Paul the 
furnaceman, and a youth who rejoices in the preposter- 
ous nickname of " Pump." Algy drives the end drop- 
stamp for the chargeman and Cecil the next one to it, 

153 



154 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

larger and heavier. Algy has several nicknames, one 
of which, from his diminutive stature, being " Teddy 
Bear," and the other, carrying with it a certain amount 
of sarcasm, is plain " Jim." Sometimes, also, he is 
called " Dolly " or " Midget." Cecil boasts of a string 
of christian names, the correct list being Cecil Oswald 
Clarence. Questioned concerning the other members 
of the family he informs you that his brother is named 
Reginald Cuthbert, his schoolgirl sister May Alberta, 
and his baby sister Ena Merle. From some cause or 
other he himself has not obtained a regular nickname ; 
he is rather summarily addressed by his surname. No 
one in the shed ever deigns to caU him by his christian 
name, it is too unusual and high-sounding, too aristo- 
cratic and superb. Bob or Jack would have been pre- 
ferable ; scarcely anyone at the works goes beyond a 
monosyllable in the matter of names. 

The boys are of the same age — fifteen or thereabout — 
but they are dissimilar in stature and in almost every 
other respect. Algy is short and small, plump and 
sturdy, while Cecil is inclined to run. He is tall for 
his age, and very thin. His body is as fiat as a man's 
hand ; he has no more substance than a herring. 
Algy's features are round, regular, and pleasant ; he is 
quite a handsome boy. His forehead slopes a little, 
his nose is perfect in shape. He has frank, grey eyes 
sparkling wth fun and good-nature, a girlish mouth, 
and small, pretty teeth. Cecil, on the other hand, is 
not what one would style handsome. He has thin, 
hollow cheeks and small, hard features. His forehead 
is narrow, and his eyes are rather large and searching — 
expressing strength and keenness. His mouth is stern, 
and his hps pout a httle : they are best represented by 
the French s'allonger — les Uvres s'allongent, as Monsieur 
Jourdain's did in Mohdre, when he pronounced the vowel 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 155 

sound of u. He has a particularly fine set of teeth, and 
he has a way of grizzing them together and showing 
them when in the act of making a special exertion that 
gives him a savage expression. 

Both boys are pale. Algy's face, when it is clean, 
shines like a glass bottle ; Cecil's skin is incHned to be 
yellow. Both have dark rings around the eyes, especi- 
ally Cecil, who is the more delicate of the two — they are 
neither very robust-looking. Their hair is very long, 
and it stands out well from underneath their cloth caps 
and stretches down the cheeks before the ears. They 
are consequently often assailed with the cry — " Get yer 
'air cut," or — " You be robbin' the barber of tuppence," 
or — " Tell yer mother to use the basin," suggesting that 
the boys' hair is cut at home. It is a common charge 
to lay to small boys in the shed that their mothers used 
to put a basin over their heads and cut the hair around 
the outside of it. Both boys wax indignant at being 
taunted about the basin, and reply to the other remark 
with, " You gi' me the tuppence, then, an' I'll have it 
cut." Occasionally, more by way of being sarcastic than 
out of any desire to show good-nature, the stampers 
will make a collection towards defraying the barber's 
expenses, and the next morning the boys will turn up 
at the shed nearly bald : they have had their hair cut 
this time with a vengeance. 

Several times Algy has come to the shed wearing a 
pair of wooden clogs, but, as everyone teased him and 
called him " Cloggy," he cast them aside and would 
not wear them any more. Clogs belong rather to the 
Midlands and the North of England, and are very rarely 
seen in the railway town. The least respectable of all 
the boys' clothing are their shirts. They are usually 
full of big rents, being split from top to bottom, or torn 
quite across the back, the lower part falling down and 



156 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

exposing the naked flesh for a space of a foot, and they 
are of an inscrutable colour. One day_ an entire sleeve 
of Algy's shirt dropped clean away, and Cecil's was 
rent completely up one side so that his entire flank and 
shoulder were visible. Though the stampers laugh at 
Cecil and sometimes grip hold of whole handfuls of his 
flesh, where the shirt is torn, he is not very much dis- 
concerted. Algernon blushed considerably, however, 
when his mate quietly told him one day that he could 
see his naked posterior through a rent in his trousers. 

Although the boys' clothing is untidy and dilapidated 
they are not kept short of food, and their appetites are 
truly enormous. They bring large parcels of provisions 
to the shed — thick chunks of break and butter, rashers of 
raw bacon, an egg to boil or fr}', and sometimes a couple 
of polonies or succulent sausages. The whole is tied 
up in a red dinner-handkerchief or wrapped in a news- 
paper ; you would often have a difficulty in getting it 
into an ordinary-sized bucket. The youngsters have to 
stand a great deal of chaff over their parcels of pro- 
visions. The men often take them in their hands and 
weigh them up and down, showing them about the shed, 
and asking each other if they do not want to buy a 
pair of old boots. At breakfast- or dinner-time the lads 
obtain a roughly-made frying-pan, or take the coke 
shovel, and, after rubbing it out with a piece of paper, 
cook their food, usually frying it together and dipping 
their bread in the fat alternately. Then, if it is fine, 
stiU stripped of their waistcoats, they go out in the yard 
and sit down, or crouch by the furnace door and clear 
up the food to the last morsel ; they will often not have 
finished when the hooter sounds the first time to warn 
the men to come back to the shed. When the meal is 
over, if there is yet time, Algy will produce from his 
pocket some Uterature of the Buffalo Bill type, or a 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 157 

school story, of which he is fond, and read it. Cecil 
will not deign to look at " such stuff," as he calls it, 
but will borrow a newspaper, or some part of one, from 
his mates, and greedily devour the contents of that. 

Though neither of them has left school for more 
than a year, or, at the outside, fifteen months, they 
have forgotten almost everything they learned, even 
to the very rudiments in many cases. Their knowledge 
of grammar, arithmetic, poetry, geography, and history 
has entirely lapsed, or, if they remember anything at 
all, it will be but a smattering of each. To test their 
memory and knowledge of these matters the boys' 
chargeman occasionally offers them prizes, and enters 
them into competition with other lads of the shed, some 
of whom have not been away from school for more 
than five or six months, but one and all show a 
deplorable lack of the faculty of retention. Whether it 
is the result of too much cramming by the teacher, 
or whether it is that the rising generation is really 
deficient in mental capacity, they are quite incapable 
of answering the most simple and elementary questions. 
The chargeman's plan is to offer them pennies for the 
names of half-a-dozen capitals of foreign countries, 
half-a-dozen foreign rivers, six names of British kings 
or British rivers, the capitals of six English counties, 
or the names of the counties themselves, six fish of 
English rivers, six wild birds, half-a-dozen names of 
wild flowers, the capitals of British colonies, the names 
of six English poets, or a few elementary points of 
grammar, and so on. 

The answers, when any are vouchsafed, are often 
ludicrous and amazing : the intellectual capacity of 
the boys is certainly not very brilliant. During these 
tests the chargeman was astonished to learn that 
Sahsbury is a county, Ceylon is the capital of China, 



158 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

and that Paris stands on the banks of the river Liffey. 
As for the preterite tense, not one had ever heard of it. 
Only one out of six could give the names of the six 
counties and kings complete, though another of the 
lads had strong impressions concerning a monarch 
he called the "ginger-headed" one, but he could not 
think of his name. Not one could furnish the requisite 
list of fish, fowl, and natural wild flowers, but httle 
Jim, struck with a sudden inspiration, shouted out 
"jack and perch," for he had recently been fishing in 
the clay-pits with his brother. The others frankly 
confessed they did not know anything about the matter ; 
if they had ever learned it at school they had forgotten 
it now. Anyway, it was not of much use to one, they 
said, though it was all right to know about it. Not 
one of the half-dozen, though all were born in the town, 
could give the name of a single Wiltshire river. 

Paul is not permanently attached to the furnace in 
the corner, but came to fill the place of one who had 
met with an accident. As a matter of fact, Paul is 
everybody's man ; he is here, there, and everywhere. 
He can turn his hand to almost anything in the second 
degree, and is a very useful stop-gap. Forge he cannot, 
stamp he cannot, though he is a capital heater of iron, 
and makes a good furnaceman ; he is a fair all-round, 
inside man. But somehow or other, everyone persists 
in making fun of Paul, and contrives to play pranks 
and practical jokes upon him. Whatever job he is 
engaged upon his mates address ridiculous remarks to 
him ; they will never take him seriously. Some one 
or other, in passing by, will knock off his hat ; this 
one gravely takes him by the wrist and feels his pulse, 
and that one will give him a rough push. Another puts 
water over him from the pipe, pretending it was by 
accident ; whatever reply he fnakes his mates only 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 159 

laugh at him. As a rule, Paul takes it all in good part, 
though sometimes he will lose his temper and retahate 
with a lump of coal, or any other missile upon which 
he can lay his hands. 

Paul would be the tallest man in the shed if it were 
not that he stoops sHghtly as the result of having had 
rheumatics. As it is, he is quite six feet in height, 
bony, but not fleshy, with broad shoulders and large 
limbs. As he walks his head is thrown forward ; he 
goes heavily upon his feet. His features are regular 
and pleasant ; he has grey eyes and bushy brows. 
His skin is dark with the heat and grime of the furnace ; 
his expression is one of marked good-nature. In 
appearance he is a perfect rustic ; there is no need to 
look at him the second time to know that he dwells 
without the municipal border. It is this air of rusticity, 
combined with his simplicity of character and behaviour, 
that makes Paul the butt of the other workmen. They 
would not think of practising their clownish tricks upon 
others, for there are many upon whom it would be very 
inadvisable to attempt a jest without being prepared 
for a sudden and violent reprisal. 

Paul's home is in the village, about three miles from 
the town. There he passes his leisure in comparative 
quiet, and, in his spare time from the shed, cultivates 
a large plot of land and keeps pigs. This finds him 
employment all the year round, so that he has no time 
to go to the public-house or the football match, though 
he sometimes plays in the local cricket eleven. He 
takes great interest in his roots and crops, and almost 
worships his forty perch of garden. During the 
summer and autumn he brings the choicest specimens 
of his produce in his pocket and shows them to his 
mates in the shed ; he usually manages to beat all 
comers with his potatoes and onions. 



i6o LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

In spite of Paul's simplicity of behaviour, one cannot 
help being attracted to him by reason of his frankness 
and open-heartedness ; he would not think of doing 
an}i:hing that is not strictly above board. Though 
rough and rude, blunt and unpohshed, he is yet very 
honest and conscientious. Certainly he is not as sharp 
and intelligent as are many of the towTi workmen, but 
he is a better mate than most of them, and when 
it comes to work he wiU stand by 3^ou to the last ; he 
is not one to back out at the slightest difficulty. 

How Pump came to be Pump is a mystery ; no one 
knows the origin of the nickname. " They called I 
Pump a long time ago," says he. Very Ukely it was 
given to him extemporaneously, with no particular 
relation to anything ; someone or other said " Pump," 
and the name stuck there at once. Pump is just under 
eighteen years of age. He drives the hea\^ drop- 
stamp on the day-shift, and, o^\ing to certain char- 
acteristics of which he is possessed, he always attracts 
attention. He is very loud and noisy, fuU of strong 
words and forcible language, though he is extraordinarily 
cheerful and good-natured. He is short in stature, 
very strong and much given to sweating ; in the least 
heat his face will be very red and covered with great 
drops of perspiration. His forehead is broad and 
sloping, he has immense blue eyes, tapered nose, 
bronze complexion, a sohd, square countenance, and 
a tremendous shock of hair. In driving the hammer 
he has acquired the unusual habit of following the 
heavy monkey up and down \\dth his eyes, and the 
expression on his face, as he peers up into the roof, 
induces many to stop and take a peep at him as they 
pass by. To all such Pump addresses certain phrases 
much more forcible than pohte, and warns them to 
" clear out " \\ithout delay if they do not " want 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY i6i 

something." They usually respond with an extra- 
special grimace, or work their arms up and down as 
though they were manipulating the engine from which 
he derives his nickname. 

As a mate Pump is variable. With the men of one 
shift he can agree very well, but with the others 
he is nearly always at loggerheads. The fact is that 
Pump's stamper on one shift does not like him, and 
will not try to hke him, either. He quite misunder- 
stands his driver's characteristics, and will not see his 
good quahties underneath a certain rugged exterior. 
Accordingly, they quarrel and call each other evil 
names all day. Very often the stamper will throw 
down his tongs and walk off. Thereupon Pump lowers 
the hammer defiantly, folds his arms, and tosses his 
head with disgust, while the furnaceman, waiting with 
his heat, calls to them to " come on." Now the 
stamper picks up his tongs quickly, shouts loudly to 
Pump, " Hammer up, there ! " and on they go again, 
the stamper snorting and muttering to himself, and 
glaring fiercely from side to side, while Pump bursts 
into song, with a broad grin on his countenance. Some- 
times the stamper, in a towering fury, will come to the 
chargeman and swear that he will not hit another 
stroke with " that thing there," and demand another 
mate forthwith, but with a little tact and the happy 
application of a spice of good-humour, the situation 
will be saved, and everything will go on right merrily, 
though the old trouble will certainly recur. Pump 
confides all his troubles to the chargeman and sheds a 
few tears now and then. He is full of good intentions 
and tries to do his level best to please, but he cannot 
avoid friction with his fiery and short-tempered mates 
of the fortnightly shift. 

He has one very special and ardent desire, which is 
L 



i62 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

to go on night duty ; he is for ever counting up the 
days and weeks that must pass before his birthday 
wiU arrive, and so raise him to the age necessary for 
undertaking the shift. In common with most other 
youths, he looks upon the night turn as something 
" devoutly to be wished," but I very much fear that 
a few weeks of the change will modify his opinion 
of the matter, if it does not entirely disillusion him. 
Notwithstanding a certain amount of novelty attaching 
to the working on the night-shift, it is attended with 
many hardships and inconveniences. The greater part 
of those who have to perform it would willingly ex- 
change it for the day duty. 

There was at one time another highly distinctive 
" character " attached to the drop-stamps. He 
revelled in the nickname of " Smamer." Where he 
obtained the pseudonym is unknown, though it is 
notable that the word has an intelHgible derivative. 
Smamer is undoubtedly derived from the Greek verb 
(r/xav = sman, meaning to smear, and, afterwards, 
from frju,a/^a 1 = soap, so that the nickname is meant to 
designate a smearer. As there are many who are 
in the habit of smearing their faces with soap, the 
nickname would seem to have a very wide and universal 
application. Be that as it may, our Smamer was a 
smearer of the first order ; he usually stopped at that 
and did not care to prosecute the matter further. His 
face daily bore traces of the initial process of washing, 
and that only ; it was a genuine smear and Httle 
besides. Whoever first honoured him with the appella- 
tion was a person of discernment, though he might not 
have been aware of the origin of the word. You often 
hear a workman say that So-and-so is " all smamed up " 
with oil or some other greasy substance. 
^ Classical, crix^v, <r/j.^fjLa. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 163 

Smamer was one of the forge hands and heated 
iron for the middle drop-stamp. His home was in the 
country, several miles from the town ; winter and 
summer he tramped to and from the shed. For 
several years after his father and mother died he lived 
in the cottage by himself, tilled his own garden, pre- 
pared his food, performed his housework, made his bed, 
and did his own washing, though he was no more than 
nineteen years of age. He was noted for his eccentric 
mode of living. Whatever the weather might be he 
scarcely ever wore an overcoat. He often came to 
work wet through to the skin, and reached home at 
night in the same condition, where he received no 
welcome of any sort, but had to light his own fire 
before he could dry his clothing or prepare his meal. 
To every inquiry as to whether he was wet or not he 
made one reply ; he was " just a little bit damp about 
the knees," that was all. 

In manner he was quiet and rather sullen ; he was 
never very sweet-tempered, though he was a quick and 
clever heater of iron and a very good mate. About his 
native village he was rough and noisy, fond of fighting 
and disturbance. He was frequently in conflict with the 
police, and often on the point of being summoned before 
the Bench for some offence or other, but he usually 
scraped out of the difficulty at the last moment, either by 
means of apologies, or by making some kind of restitu- 
tion to the injured party. At week-ends, with a band 
of associates, he paid visits to the neighbouring villages 
and fought with the young men, until the whole of them 
became so well-known to the poHce that wherever they 
went they were recognised and promptly hustled off 
in the direction of their native place. 

During the autumn months Smamer visited all the 
orchards along the road on the way to work, and came 



i64 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

to the shed with his pockets crammed full of apples. 
These he used to divide out among his mates, who ate 
them with little or no compunction ; there is small 
searching of conscience among the boys of the factory, 
especially when the contraband happens to be sweet, 
juicy apples plucked from the farmer's trees. Very 
soon, however, the habit of the life began to tell upon 
him. His continually getting wet, and the having no 
one to provide him with any kind of comfort, ruined 
his constitution ; in a few months he wasted away and 
died. A small party of mates from the shed attended 
the funeral at the little village churchyard : that was 
the end of Smamer. His place at the forge was soon 
filled ; he was not missed very much. Everyone said 
he had but himself to blame ; there was no sjmipathy 
meted out to him. His brother, who also worked on the 
drop-stamps, had been kiUed by a blow on the head with 
a piece of metal from the die only a short while before. 
They lay side by side in the Httle walled enclosure, for 
ever oblivious of the noise and din of the thunderous 
hammers and the grinding wheels of the factory. 

There are several others, distinguished with titles of an 
expressive kind, working on the drop-stamps. Of these 
one answers to the nickname of " Bovril," one is 
" Kekky Flapper," one is " Aeroplane Joe," one 
" Blubber," and another is known about the shed as 
" Wormy." How they came to possess such inglorious 
appellatives cannot with certainty be told ; a very 
little will suffice to brand you with an epithet in the 
work-shed. In addition to these, in the vicinity of 
the drop-stamps in the corner are an ex-groom, a grocer, 
a musical freak, a comedian, a photographer, a boy 
scout, a territorial, a jockey, a cowman, a pianoforte 
maker, and a local preacher. 

Situated over the coal furnace that feeds the big 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 165 

drop-stamps is a boiler of the " loco " pattern, one of 
those responsible for the tremendous din that is raised 
every day at meal-times when the steam is not required 
for the engines and hammers. These boilers have all 
served their time on the line — in passenger or goods 
traffic — and, after their removal from the engine frames, 
they have become distributed over the company's 
system and throughout the factories. The distance a 
boiler is required to travel under steam on the railway 
is about thirty thousand miles ; after completing this 
it is superseded and removed from the active list on the 
permanent way. By the time the boiler and engine 
have travelled together so many miles they will be half 
worn out. The wheels, by reason of the frequent 
appHcation of the brakes and " skidding " on the rails, 
will be grooved and cut about, and the machinery will 
require new fittings and bearings. After the boilers 
have been removed from the frames they are over- 
hauled and tested and then sold out to the different 
sheds and stations, wherever they may happen to be 
wanted. 

The method of transacting business between the 
different sheds and departments at the works is exactly 
like that employed by outside firms and tradesmen. 
Bills and accounts are rendered, and the whole formula 
of hire and purchase is entered into by the different 
parties ; everything, in fact, except the actual payment 
of money, is duly carried out. The sheds are required 
to show a balance on the right side at the end of each 
year ; percentages are charged for working expenses, 
and all the rest is profit. Thus, some sheds will show 
profits of many thousands of pounds annually, though 
upon paper only ; the surpluses do not exist in reality. 

Although the new boiler costs £1,000 it is sold to the 
shed second-hand for £200, so that the cost of ten for 



i66 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the workshop was only £2,000. The charge for setting, 
and fitting, and also for repairs and cleaning, however, 
is very great ; a big sum is needed to keep them in a 
fit condition for work. After they have been erected 
above the furnaces they are covered with a thick jacket 
of a compound of magnesia and fibre, to enable them 
to retain the heat, and they are afterwards painted 
black, so as to harmonise with the general environment. 
The steam pressure of the repaired boiler is usually 
fixed at about a hundred and twenty- five pounds per 
square inch. The capacity of each boiler is very great, 
and the composite power of the whole set formidable ; if 
one of them should happen to explode the result would 
indeed be disastrous. A small staff of men superintends 
them by day and night, and greater care is taken of 
them than was the case formerly. I can remember 
when the shed was several times within a hair's breadth 
of being blown up and forty or fifty men hurled to 
perdition. 

A few years ago, instead of trustworthy men being 
appointed to superintend the boilers, they were consigned 
to the charge of several youths, who were very careless 
and negligent in their work, and who seemed to have 
no idea whatever of the tremendous responsibility rest- 
ing upon them for the safety and welfare of the Hfe in 
the shed. Provided with mouth-organs and bones, 
or Jew's harps, they would play and skylark about for 
a long time and leave their boilers unattended at con- 
siderable risk. I have often known them to be away 
from their posts for an hour at a stretch, and to allow 
the water in the boilers to become aknost entirely evapor- 
ated before they returned to fill them up again, which, 
as everyone knows, is an exceedingly dangerous practice. 
By the common regulation attaching to boilers, the 
water should never be permitted to fall below that point 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 167 

when it is visible in the gauge-glass. If it is allowed to 
do so the position becomes dangerous immediately, and, 
to obviate accident, the bars of the furnace fire should 
be withdrawn and no cold water admitted. 

Once a youth — a wild, reckless fellow — ^was absent 
from the boiler an unusually long time in the middle of 
the morning before dinner. The stampers watched the 
water in the gauge-glass drop little by little and finally 
vanish, and still no one came to attend to it. Being 
a little anxious about it I sent several men and boys 
to try and find the boilerman, but without avail. 
His mates were nowhere to be found either, and 
the foreman was away from the shed at the time. 
From being anxious I soon felt alarmed. The matter 
was becoming serious, and we were not allowed, 
under any circumstances, to meddle with the injectors 
ourselves. 

As I was warning aU men in the locality of the danger 
the boilerman arrived, a little frightened, but in a 
desperate mood. I advised him to take the usual 
course in such a case, to have the fire withdrawn from 
the furnace and allow the boiler to burn, but as this 
would have meant certain dismissal for him he decided 
to risk everything and fill up the boiler or explode it. 
As he was determined in his foolhardy resolution we 
collected our mates and left the shed, retiring to a safe 
distance. By good fortune, however — by pure luck, 
and nothing else — the boiler received the water safely, 
though with a great deal of shuddering, and the danger 
was past. To make the best — or the worst — of it, 
there were three men on the back of the boiler at the 
time, laying on the coat of magnesia, for it had not been 
erected many days. Although we gave them warning 
of the danger they took not the slightest notice, but kept 
working away, in a hurry to get the job done, for it 



i68 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

was piecework. If the boiler had exploded, packed 
as it was with terrific pressure and priming furiously, 
they would have been blown to atoms. 

The bold and daring of the shed indulge in many jeers 
and uncomplimentary remarks, if some others, in the 
face of real danger, should adopt precautionary measures 
and take heed of their safety, but experience has taught 
me that it is better to be apprehensive and cautious and 
to take pains to safeguard oneself than to score a cheap 
victory by bravado and carelessness. When danger 
threatens in the factory, the best course is to stand 
quite clear at aU costs ; it is then no shame to put into 
practice the words of the old proverb, slightly amended : 
" He that works and runs away wiU Uve to work another 
day." By far the greater proportion of the accidents 
that happen daily at the works are the direct result of 
inattention, of not taking notice of warnings uttered 
b}^ others, and the failure to exercise the instinct of 
self-preservation natural to each individual. It is not 
that the men are absolutely careless of themselves ; 
it is rather that the care they do take is not con- 
siderable or sufficient. 



CHAPTER XI 

FORGING AND SMITHING — HYDRAULIC OPERATIONS — 
" BALTIMORE " — " BLACK SAM " — " STRAWBERRY " 
AND GUSTAVUS — THE "FIRE KING" — " TUBBY " — 
BOLAND — PINNELL OF THE YANKEE PLANT 

The drop-stamps and forgers, together with the plant 
known as the Yankee hammers — so called by reason of 
their having been introduced from the other side of the 
Atlantic — are the hfe and soul of the shed. The 
hydraulic machines, through their noiseless and almost 
tedious operation and the considerably less skill required 
on the part of the workmen in carrying out the various 
processes, are dull and tame in comparison with them. 
The steam-hammers, both by their noise, speed, and 
visible power and by the alertness and dexterity of the 
stampers and forgers, are certain to compel attention. 
There is a great fascination, too, in standing near the 
furnace and watching the sparkling, hissing mass of 
metal being withdrawn by the crane, or seeing the heated 
bars removed from the oil forge and clapped quickly 
on the steel dies to be beaten into shape. No one can 
withstand the attraction of the steam-hammers ; even 
those who have spent a hfetime in the shed like to stand 
and watch the stampers and forgers at work. 

Forging and smithing are, without doubt, the most 
interesting of all crafts in the factory ; other machinery, 
however unique it may be, will not claim nearly as 
much attention. Visitors will pass by the most elabor- 
ate plant to stand near the steam-hammers, or to 

109 



170 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

watch the smith weld a piece of iron on the anvil. The 
small boy who has just been initiated into the shed, the 
youth, the grown-up man, and the grey-haired veteran 
are bound to be attracted by the flashing of the furnace 
and the white-hot metal newly brought out. They are 
greatly delighted, too, with the long, swinging blow of 
the forging hammers, or the short, sharp stroke of the 
stampers ; to watch the metal being transposed and con- 
forming to the pressure of the dies, to see the sparks shoot- 
ing out in white showers, and the men sweating ; to feel the 
earth shaking, and to hear the chains jinghng, the steam 
hissing and roaring and the blows echoing like thunder 
all the time. To stand in the midst of it and view the 
whole scene when everything is in active operation is 
a wonderful experience, thrilling and impressive. You 
see the lines of furnaces and steam-hammers — there are 
fifteen altogether — with the monkeys travelling up and 
down continually and beating on the metal one against 
the other in utter disorder and confusion, the blazing 
white light cast out from the furnace door or the duller 
glow of the half-finished forging, the flames leaping 
and shooting from the oil forges, the clouds of yellow 
cinders blown out from the smiths' fires, the whirling 
wheels of the shafting and machinery between the 
lines and the half-naked workmen, black and bare- 
headed, in every conceivable attitude, full of quick 
Ufe and exertion and all in a desperate hurry, as though 
they had but a few more minutes to live. And what 
a terrific din is maintained ! You hear the loud ex- 
plosion of the oil and water appUed for removing the 
scale and excresence from the iron, the ring of the metal 
under the blows of the stampers or of the anvil under 
the sledge of the smiths, the simultaneous priming of 
the boilers, the horrible prolonged screeching of the 
steam-saw slowly cutting its way through the half- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 171 

heated rail, the roaring blast, the bellowing furnace, 
the bumping Ajax, the clanking cogwheels, the groan- 
ing shears, and a hundred other sounds and noises inter- 
mingled. There is the striker's hammer whirling round, 
this one pulling and heaving, the forgeman running out 
with his staff, the stamper twisting his bar over, the 
furnaceman charging in his fuel, the white slag running 
out in streams sparkhng, spluttering, and crackling, the 
steam blown down from the roof through the open door, 
the thick dust, the almost visible heat, the black gloom 
of the roof and the clouds of smoke drifting slowly about, 
or hanging quite stationary like a pall, completely blot- 
ting out the other half of the shed, all which form a 
scene never to be forgotten by those who shall happen 
to have once viewed it. 

The hydrauUc work, on the other hand, though inter- 
esting, is not engrossing. There is a lack of life and 
animation in it ; it is not stirring or dramatic. The huge 
" rams " of the presses, though capable of exerting a 
pressure equal to two hundred tons weight, descend 
very slowly ; the quick, alert steam-hammer could 
strike at least ten or a dozen blows while the ram is 
once operating. So rapid is the blow of the steam- 
hammer that the pressure raised in the metal by the 
impact of the dies is often still unspent when the hammer 
rebounds, so that, as the dies separate, if the metal is 
very hot, it explodes and flies asunder. The speed of 
the rebound may be gauged by the fact that the stamper 
can actually see the flow of metal in the dies from the 
blow after the hammer has left it. The metal, as the 
result of this, wiU frequently overflow the edge of the 
bottom die, and when the hammer descends again the 
top die will have to shear away a quarter, or half 
an inch. 

It is instructive to note the effect of the blows on the 



172 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

hot metal. Continual beating it will quickly raise the 
temperature of the iron or steel ; I have many times 
raised the heat of a piece in operation from a dull yellow 
to a brilliant welding pitch during the delivery of three 
or four blows. Hammers have recently been invented 
that, with continually beating on cold metal, will make 
it sufficiently hot to aUow of drawing and shaping ; but 
though such machinery is interesting, it is not of much 
use for serious manufacture. Compressed air, directed 
on metal of a dull yellow heat, will soon considerably 
increase its temperature ; you may easily burn a hole 
quite through a six-inch steel bloom by the method. 

The flying of sparks through the air will greatly 
intensify their heat ; after travelling a few yards they 
will become very dazzHng and brilliant and explode 
like fireworks. Sometimes a piece of this superfious 
metal, an ounce or more in weight, forced out from the 
die with the blow, will shear off and fly to a great distance 
— often as much as sixty or seventy yards. This, at 
the moment of leaving the die, may be no more than a 
dull yellow, but by the time it falls to the ground it 
will be intensely hot and will throw off a shower of hiss- 
ing sparks. The shearing-off of the bur is a source of 
great danger to the workmen. I have several times 
been struck with pieces and been brought to the ground 
in consequence ; the effect is almost as though you 
had been struck with a bullet from a gun. 

Nothing of this kind is ever possible with the hydraulic 
machines. If a weld is to be made it must be performed 
with one stroke of the ram ; after the top die leaves 
the metal it will be too cool to receive any benefit from 
a second application of the power. Welding by hand 
or steam power is always preferable to that performed 
by hydraulic action ; a joint that is made with six or 
ten smaU quick blows wiU be far more effective and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 173 

durable than where the iron has been simply squeezed 
together by one operation of the ram. As soon as the 
hydraulic dies meet the metal is considerably chilled. 
Instead of intensifying the heat, as in the case of the 
steam-hammer, the cold tools greatly lessen it. The 
weld, when made, will most certainly be short and 
brittle. 

Some portion of the personnel of the shed has already 
been given, but of the hundred and fifty comprising 
the permanent staff of the place several are conspicuous 
among the rest for strangeness of habit, queer char- 
acteristics, or strong personality. The men are a 
mixture of many sorts and of several nationalities — 
English, Scotch, Welsh, and Irish. There is the shaggy- 
browed, fierce-looking son of Erin ; the canny Scot from 
Motherwell over the border ; the gruff and short- 
tempered old furnaceman from Dowlais ; the doughty 
forger from Middlesborough ; the cultured cockney 
with his superb nasal twang ; the Lancastrian with 
his picturesque brogue ; a representative of distant 
Penzance ; an ex-seaman, nicknamed " The Jersey 
Lily," from the Channel Islands, and those hailing from 
nearly every county in the Midlands and south of 
England, from " Brummagem Bill " to " Southampton 
Charlie." There are ex-soldiers and sailors with arms 
and breasts tattooed with birds, flowers, serpents, fair 
women and other emblems, and who have seen service 
in the East and West Indies, China, Egypt, or the 
Transvaal ; those who constantly pride themselves on 
having once been in gentlemen's service — though they 
do not tell you how they came to leave it ! butchers 
and bakers, professional football players, conjurers, 
bandsmen, and cheap- jacks. 

" Baltimore " works the middle drop-stamp, about 
halfway up the shed, and, in the line of smaller steam- 



174 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

hammers opposite to him, toils a mulatto known to 
everyone about the place as " Black Sam," or " Sambo." 
They are old hands, having both come to the premises 
as boys, where they have since been, except for the time 
when " Baity" was absent for the annual training in 
the local Militia. It is not explained how he came to 
receive the nickname. Black Sam is so called from his 
very dark complexion, his short, black, curly hair and 
large, dark eyes. Baltimore is rather ordinary in appear- 
ance. His forehead is low, his cheek-bones high and his 
nose irregular. His lips are thick, he has a pointed 
chin and lantern jaws. He is of medium height, square 
and broad shouldered. As he walks his shoulders sway 
to and fro and up and down, keeping time with liis 
footsteps ; he is exceedingly unmilitary both in physique 
and movement. 

It was by reason of these characteristics that Balti- 
more obtained the attention of his shopmates. They 
all laughed rudely to see him in the old-time MiUtia 
uniform — scarlet tunic much too big, with regulation 
white belt, baggy trousers too long in the legs, heavy 
bluchers on the feet and, instead of the swagger head- 
gear worn in the Service to-day, the old Scotch cap 
with long streamers behind and a little swishing cane 
in the hand or under the arm. It is carefully handed 
down and passed from one to the other that when Baity 
was at home on furlough all the small boys of the street 
would gather round him, sniggering and jeering, and 
making fun of his cut and appearance, and it is said 
furthermore that he used very unceremoniously to drive 
them away with his cane crying — " Get out, you young 
varmints ! 'Aven't you never seen a sojer before ? " 
In the shed and at the furnace he continued to attract 
attention and be the subject of jocular remarks made 
by his workmates. They never would take him seri- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 175 

ously, not even though he came in time to work one of 
the biggest drop-stamps and be reckoned among the 
honourable company of forgers. 

To aU the superfluous attentions and mock regard of 
his fellow-mates Baltimore preserves a good-natured and 
even an indulgent attitude ; he is not at all discon- 
certed with their wit and sarcasm. Though not one of 
the most skilful of workmen, he is very shrewd and 
painstaking ; his whole heart and soul are in the busi- 
ness. From morning till night he is toiling and sweating 
over his blooms and forgings, and when he is off the 
premises he is still concerned with his occupations at 
the hammer. He will sometimes tell one of his mates 
how he lay awake the greater part of a night working 
out in his mind some problem connected with a diffi- 
cult piece of forging and then came in the next morning 
and triumphantly finished the job. 

Sambo's father was an army veteran, a sergeant, who 
took for his wife an Indian woman and became the 
parent of a family, of whom Samuel is the eldest. He 
is of medium height, thin, but very erect, with low 
shoulders and long neck. The forehead is sloping, the 
nose rather thick. He has large dark eyes with tre- 
mendous whites, short woolly hair, high cheekbones, 
skin very dark and sallow. The whole countenance 
is long and the head angular ; he has the clear character- 
istics of the half-cast. The general opinion is that 
Sambo is out of place in the shed. He ought rather 
to have been trained for a Hfe on the stage ; without 
doubt he would have made a good pantomimist. Both 
his appearance and manner are comical ; he causes 
everyone to smile by reason of his ludicrous expressions 
and grotesque facial contortions. 

Sambo is quite aware of his own funniosity and readily 
lends himself to the amusement of the small fry that 



176 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

sometimes come to gaze upon him. Snatching up a 
shovel, he claps it to his shoulder as though it were the 
traditional nigger's instrument and, rolling his eyes 
and turning up the whites of them, pretends to be 
fingering the banjo while he sings a few lines of the 
" Swanee River " or other coon song. Sam.bo has 
always been the butt of the rougher section in the shed 
and has been forced to suffer many indignities. It 
was a common thing for the bullies of the place to throw 
him on the ground and disgrace him. This they con- 
tinued to do long after he had married and become the 
father of children. 

Working just beyond Sambo, at the next furnace, is 
the very shadow of a man — a mere frame, a skeleton, 
which a good puff of wind might very Hkely throw down. 
He is stripped to the waist and hatless. His hair is 
long and it stands upright. His flannel shirt is thrown 
open ; his trousers merely hang on him, and he is as 
black as a sweep with the smoke and grime of the 
furnace. This is " Strawberry," sometimes also known 
as " Gooseberry." His features are remarkably small 
and fine, and his neck is no bigger round than a span. 
He does not appear strong enough to do any work, but, 
for all that, he is very tough and wiry. Many a one 
laughs at him and tells him that he is melting away 
" like a tallow candle," but he answers them all boldly 
and tells them, with a merry twinkle in his tiny dark 
eyes, that he is all right. " You look after yourself, 
mate, and don't fret about me," says he. 

Strawberry was at one time a cobbler, and used to 
get his living by the patching up and renovation of old 
soles. Long after he entered the shed he kept up the 
employment in his spare time, but by and by he dis- 
continued the work and betook himself to the more 
genteel though less lucrative pursuits of flute-playing 



LIFE IN A R.4ILWAY FACTORY 177 

and photography. For a time he donned uniform and 
played in the local band, and then, after a while, that 
had to be discontinued. Now all his thought and care 
is to take photographs and make models of steam- 
engines, magic lanterns and cinematographic instru- 
ments. Mounted on a cycle, and provided with a 
camera, he scours the country round at week-ends for 
customers and comes home and does the developing 
and printing on Sundays. He is thoroughly versed 
in time exposures and the various mysteries of photo- 
graphic development. Wherever he goes he carries a 
book of instructions in his pocket, and if you stop to 
speak with him for a moment he is sure to tell you of 
some new lens or snap-shot arrangement he has lately 
made, or wearies you nearly to death with an attempted 
explanation of the compounds in his home-made de- 
velopers — " Hypo-tassum " something or other, and 
the rest of it. 

Another of Strawberry's hobbies is the blind poring 
over fusty books, several hundreds of years old, bought 
at auctions and usually fit for nothing but the fire or 
dust-heap. These he treasures with great care, and he 
is frequently trying to expound the contents of them 
to his workmates, and to any others who will suffer to 
listen to him for a few moments. His latest passion is 
to seek out old caves, ruins and legendary sites ; he is 
musician, artist, engineer, archaeologist and antiquarian 
combined. What he will become ultimately no one 
knows. I much fear, however, that he will suffer the 
furnaceman's fate in the end and perish of the smoke 
and heat of the fires. 

Strawberry succeeded Gustavus, who died under 
very sad circumstances. Poor Gus was most unfor- 
tunate, though such cases as his are not of uncommon 
occurrence. He had been through the war in South 
M 



178 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Africa, and had fought there for his country. He had 
not been long on the furnace. His health was not good 
at the best of times. If regard for a man's health were 
had at the time of putting him on a job Gus would 
never have gone to the fires, but there is a ruthless, and 
very often a sinister, disregard of a man's physical con- 
dition when he is wanted to fill a difficult post. About 
a year before Gus's wife contracted milk fever, after 
confinement. This affected her reason and she had to 
be removed ; her case was pronounced hopeless — 
absolutely hopeless. This came as a great shock to 
Gus ; there were five little children, all babies, one of 
them new-born. He had no friends to come and take 
care of them and he was poor — very poor. Accord- 
ingly, with a little assistance from the neighbour, he 
determined to look after them himself. The oldest 
boy prepared the meals by day ; Gus saw to the general 
needs at night and did the washing Sundays. Very 
soon one of the mites fell ill and had to go to the work- 
house hospital. All the others but one suffered sick- 
ness, and Gus very soon followed suit. Worn out with 
the day's work at the furnace and obliged to toil and 
watch half the night over his infants, he soon fell a 
prey to ill-health, and was compelled to stop at home 
from work. 

Then the little stinging insects of the shed began to 
cavil and sneer. " He's oni shammin'. Ther's nothin' 
the matter wi' he. He's as well as I be. He oni wants 
to shirk the furnace. Kip un to't when a comes in." 
By and by Gus started work again, but not till the over- 
seer had played a treacherous trick upon Mm and tried 
to have him rejected at the medical examination through 
an innocent and incautious remark he had chanced to 
let faU concerning himself. The fact of the matter was, 
Gus was a broken, ruined man. His general health 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 179 

was gone. His sight was failing ; his constitution was 
wrecked. For several weeks he dragged himself to 
work, in a last desperate effort to keep a home for his 
babes and supply them with food, though anyone 
might have seen that he was in positive torture all the 
while. At last he could bear up no longer. He came 
to work the fore part of the week, then stopped at home ; 
in three days he was dead. His httle boys and girls 
went to the workhouse, or to charities. One has to 
die before his mates in the shed think there is anything 
the matter with him. Then, in nine cases out of ten — 
especially if he happens to be one of the poorest and 
most unfortunate — he is mercilessly sneered over. 
Probably that was his own fault. They even blame 
him for dying ; in three days he is almost totally for- 
gotten. Cruel hearts and feehngs are bred in the atmo- 
sphere of the factory. 

There is one " Fire King " and only one ; all the 
others are mere apprentices — nobodies. He comes 
from " The Noth," from Middlesborough, of great iron 
fame. Without doubt he is a marvel. He is always 
talking about the " haats " they used to draw " way 
up there." It was prodigious. There is nothing like 
it down south. ' ' Wales ! I tell you Wales is a dung- 
hill ; they can't do it for nuts." He looks at you with 
inexpressible scorn. Then he plunges the bar into the 
furnace hole and stirs up the coals, " stops up " again, 
peers through the iron door and comes back mopping 
his face with the wiper. " I tell you tha be a lot o' cow- 
bangers about here. Tha never sin a furnace nor a 
haat afore. When I was at Sunderland " — here he 
gives an especially knowing wink, and scratches one 
side of his nose with his forefinger, drawing his head 
near to your ear and speaking in an undertone — " when 
I was at Sunderland, though I says it myself, there 



i8o LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

wasn't a man on the ground as could hold a candle to 
Phil Clegg, The manager alius used to stop and talk 
to me about the haats, and slip a crown piece into mi 
hand for a drink. ' Clegg,' says he, 'I've learned from 
you what I never knew before.' " All this is accepted 
with reserve in the shed. It may or may not have been 
true ; one is not compelled to believe all the extraordin- 
ary reports circulated by the forgers and furnacemen. 

Some years ago the doughty one was set to do some 
initial forging in steel blooms and spoiled three parts of 
the material by overheating. " Bad steel ! damn bad 
steel ! 'Twunt stand a bit o' haat," said he. The 
matter was accordingly reported to the managers, and 
word was sent to the firm that had manufactured the 
blooms — " Bad steel ! Bad steel ' " passed all along 
the line. Then the manufacturers' representative came 
to inspect the process and to report upon the quality of 
the metal. The Fire King scraped his leg and scratched 
his nose and talked much of " kimicals/' winking at his 
mates and getting his metal to a fizzing heat. " Too 
hot, too hot," said the representative. " Aye ! man, 
but we must get it so hot or the hammer wunt bate it 
down, ' ' the Fire King replied. ' ' Get a heavier hammer, ' ' 
said the inspector, touching the spot immediately, and 
walking off in disgust. The steel was all right, it was 
merely overheated. Thereafter the Fire King's prestige 
visibly diminished. He became the scorn of the furnaces ; 
he was humbled and disgraced for ever. He was sub- 
sequently put in charge of the damping-up of the 
furnaces, and he styled himself foreman of the night 
shift there, which was one, besides himself. 

After all, " Tubby " is the best furnaceman. He 
hails from Wales, " the true old country, where the men 
comes from," according to him. Tubby is short, fat 
and round, about the size of a thirty-six barrel, and he 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY i8i 

is extremely short-legged. His head is quite bald and 
shines well. His features are regular and well-formed. 
He has an aristocratic nose, thick neck, and shoulders 
shapeless with fat. At the fire he strips off his outer 
shirt and only retains his flannel vest. The sleeves of 
this are cut short to the shoulders and it is fastened at 
the neck by means of strings threaded with a bodkin. 
He drinks an enormous quantity of cold water, and it 
is singular that he never uses a cup but swallows it 
from the large two-gallon pot. To this habit he attri- 
butes his uncommonly good health and fine proportions. 

He is a genius at the fire. Whether the furnace be 
in a good or bad condition he will soon have it as radiant 
as a star, and he is marvellously cool at it. His speech 
has a strongly Welsh accent and he talks with great 
rapidity, especially when he happens to become excited. 
At such times it is difficult to understand him ; he pours 
out his words and sentences like a cataract. 

Notwithstanding the old furnaceman's skill and general 
inoffensiveness, he could not escape a little practical 
joking at the hands of the youths. In the shed was an 
iron bogie, in the shape of a box, just big enough to 
contain his Falstaffian body. When he was on night 
duty he always seized upon this as a sleeping bunk for 
meal hours. Resting it upon the handles forward he 
sat in it, with his head at the back and his feet hanging 
over the front, and slept profoundly, with his arms 
folded and a coat drawn over his face. When he had 
fallen asleep several hard-hearted youths came up 
quietly and attached a strong rope to each handle of 
the bogie. They then raced off with it as fast as they 
could travel, going out of the shed and returning by a 
roundabout route to the furnace over bricks and stones, 
steel rails, and anything else that happened to be in 
the way. The jolting was terrific, but the bogie was 



i82 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

drawn at such a rate that poor Tubby dared not attempt 
to get out and was forced to endure it as best he could. 
Arrived back at the furnace the youths speedily decamped 
and Tubby never knew for certain who had perpetrated 
the joke upon him in the darkness, 

Dominus vobiscum. Et cum spiritu tuo. Domine 
sanctorum. The old ash-wheeler leans on his shovel and 
thus addresses you with profound gravity, as though 
he were the reverend Father himself ministering to his 
flock in the church. Boland is an Irishman and hails 
from far Tipperary. He brought his old mother over 
to England many years ago and has since dwelt in the 
railway town. He is a typical Hibernian. He is square- 
set and distinctive in feature, with heavy brows, thickish 
nose, strong eyes, and firm, expressive mouth. Notwith- 
standing the fact that he is slighted by the critical of 
the shed he has a good many virtues ; underneath his 
rough exterior is concealed a wealth of kindness and 
good-nature. In common with the bulk of his race he 
is a CathoHc in religion. If you should approach him 
on the subject you would be surprised at his interest in 
and affection for his Church and doctrine : he is im- 
movable in his simple and childlike faith. In speaking 
of any matters connected with it his voice wiU be 
solemn and hushed; he is filled with reverence and 
awe. Though not a very constant church-goer he yet 
manages to attend at festival times and pays consider- 
able attention to the sermon. He will always tell you 
the text, and in summing up the Father's oratorical 
abilities he tells you, as a climax, that he can " go back 
in history two hundred years." 

The last and most important of all to be dealt with 
is Pinnell, of the Yankee Plant. He is by far the hardest 
working man in the stamping shed. In the first place 
he cannot help being a hard worker, for it is his nature 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 183 

so to be. Rest and he are most inveterate enemies. 
He must find something or other to do ; he could not 
be idle though he tried never so hard. In the second 
place he is bound to work hard. The job requires it, 
or, at any rate, the " super " requires it, which is a 
slightly different matter. Pinnell used to work one of 
the small drop-stamps and was always remarkable for 
his conscientiousness and dogged perseverance. He 
was the first to start work and the last to finish. He 
would never take a moment's spell. If there had been 
no work he would promptly have made some, and have 
kept plodding away at his forge and stamp. Accord- 
ingly, when the miraculous tools from the other side of 
the Atlantic — which, in the opinion of the Yankee in- 
novator, were going to smash up the other section alto- 
gether and displace half the men in the shed — were 
introduced, Pinnell was the man selected to start the 
process and lead the way for others. He had to demon- 
strate what the machines were capable of doing, and 
upon his output would be based the standard of prices 
for those to follow after or work beside him. 

The introduction of the Yankee hammers and the oil 
furnaces for heating was the beginning of hustle in the 
shed. Everything was designed for the man to start as 
early as possible, to keep on mechanically to and from 
the furnace and hammer with not the slightest pause, 
except for meals, and to run till the very last moment. 
His prices were fixed accordingly. Every operation 
was correctly timed. The manager and overseer stood 
together, watches in hand. It was so and so a minute ; 
that would amount to so much in an hour, and so much 
total for the day. If Pinnell flagged a little — it is dread- 
ful to have to keep hammering away for hours in an 
exhausted condition, with never a moment's pause — if 
he flagged a little, or checked the oil somewhat in the 



i84 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

forge, the overseer promptly set it going again and 
pricked him on to greater effort, answering his words — 
if he ever dared utter any — with a wheedHng and 
plausible excuse, and telling him it was not at all hard ; 
" Just a busy little job," and so forth. If nature re- 
quired that he should leave the forge and walk across 
the shed, that was the subject of a note — " One minute 
and three-quarters gone." Did he think he could beat 
the records of all the other men at the stamps? The 
manager hoped he would try hard to do so, he wanted 
the machine to be quite first in output. The prices 
were weighed, chiselled, and pared with great exactness, 
even to the splitting of a farthing : "A halfpenny is 
too much for this job ; I shall give you three-eighths." 
Moreover, the overseers only timed him in the morning, 
after breakfast, which is the most active part of every 
day, and when all are fresh and fit for work, or never, so 
that the prices were fixed at a time when everything was 
going at its best. It is impossible to maintain the same 
speed in the afternoon, or even during the latter part of 
the morning towards dinner-time, that one is capable 
of after breakfast. 

So Pinnell was little by little broken in to the new 
conditions. Whatever protests he made were of no 
avail. If the acute manager happened to make a slight 
misjudgment and give him a fair price for a job, one or 
other of the shed overseers — though always very flip 
with him to his face — rushed off privately and informed 
about it, and had it cut down to the dead level. Very 
often the overseers competed with each other to see 
which could make the lowest quotation in order to get 
into favour with the managers. Once, after playing an 
underhanded game in the fixing of prices, the foreman 
even induced Pinnell to leave his hammer and forge and 
go and protest to the manager himself, though he knew 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 185 

very well the matter was nothing but a farce. When 
the deluded one arrived at the office he was received 
with studied courtesy. A httle arithmetic was entered 
into, and it was proved beyond all doubt that the job 
was well, and even generously, paid for. Accordingly, 
feeling rather foolish at his boldness in going to the 
manager and his failure to succeed in the matter, Pinnell 
returned to his work, while the overseer stood in hiding 
and watched him back to his hammer, laughing at his 
simplicity. 

When at last he found that there was no escape for 
him, he settled down in despair, and decided to bury 
himself at the toil. So exacting is the labour it admits 
of no interest whatever in anything else. It is a body- 
and soul-racking business, just that which keeps the 
whole man in a crushed and subdued state, and makes 
him a very part of the machinery he operates. It was 
nothing but the man's natural zeal for work and grit 
that kept him at the task. Night after night he went 
home to his wife and children as tired as a dog, too tired 
even to read the newspaper, or write a letter. He 
simply sat in the chair or lay on the couch till bed-time, 
completely worn out with the terrible exertions. 

Very soon the abject misery of his condition found 
expression in words to his workmates. He was con- 
tinually wishing himself dead. He said he should like 
to die out of it. Life was nothing but a heavy burden, 
and there was nothing better in sight in the future ; 
only the same kilUng toil day after day. He often 
wondered when he should die. He had heart enough 
for anything, but somehow he felt he could never keep 
it up, and everyone told him he was " going home 
sharp." At the same time, nothing would prevent him 
from turning up at the hammer day after day ; iU or 
well he was sure to be at his post. Sometimes, when 



i86 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

his wife exhorted him to stay at home and recuperate 
and locked the doors against him, in the early morning 
he escaped to work through the window. There was 
no detaining him at all ; he felt bound to come to the 
shed and endure the daily punishment. To intensify 
his sufferings everyone told him it was his own fault. 
He had no one to blame but himself ; he should not 
have been such a fool as to lend himself so easily to it, 
they said. 

So, eternally tired with the work — he has two forges 
to attend to, he heats all his own bars, drives his own 
hammer with the foot and operates the heavy trimmer 
by the side of it in the same manner — half-choked and 
blinded with the reeking smoke and fumes of the oil, 
sore-footed with using the treadle, his arms Mistered 
and burnt with the scale and hot water from the glands 
and valves — they are very often in bandages — his hands 
cut and torn with the sharp ends of the bars, or burned 
with the hot ones that sometimes shoot out from the 
die and sHp white-hot through his palm and fingers, 
beaten and distressed with the heat, the gazing-stock 
of everyone that passes through the shed and who look 
upon him as a freak and a marvel, he keeps plodding 
away, a much be-fooled and over-worked individual, 
the utter victim of a cruel and callous system. 



CHAPTER XII 

FIRST QUARTER IN THE FORGE 
" HEY-Up ! " 

" What's up ? " 

" Wake up ! " 

" What's the matter ? " 

" Get up ! " 

" Go to hell ! " 

" You-u-u ! Tell me to go to hell, will you ? I'll 
smash you. I'll— I'll " 

"Come on, then! Try it on! I'm not afraid of 
you ! You're nobody ! " 

" Well, wake up ! and jump about when I tell you." 

" Wake up yourself, whitegut ! " 

" Who are you calling whitegut, eh ? Who are you 
calling whitegut ? " 

" Who shot the sheep and had to pay for it ? " 

" Blast you ! I've had enough of your jaw. I'll 
put your head in that bucket of oil." 

" Will ya ? You got to spell able first." 

Scuffle, in which the younger is thrown down to the 
ground, after which he gets up and runs away, crying : 

" Baa-a-a ! " 

" rU give you ' Baa-a-a ! ' Wait till I get hold of 
you ! " 

" Baa-a-a ! Baa-a-a ! " 

" Take that I you-u-u ! " throwing a lump of coal 
that misses him and goes flying through the office 
window. 

187 



i88 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

"Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! 

' Everybody's doing it, doing it, doing it ; 
Everybody's doing it now.' " 

" Yes, and you'U be doing it directly ! 'Tis all your 
fault. If you was to look after your work instead of 
acting about so much that wouldn't have happened. 
Blasted well light that fire up ! " 

" Here's the gaffer comin'." 

" A good job too ! I don't trouble." 

" What the heU's up this end ? Ya on a'ready this 
mornin' ? I'll send the pair of you home directly." 

'I 'Tis my mate here. He's the cause of everything. 
He's no good to me. He won't do nothing " 

" D'ye hear this ? " 

" I alius does mi whack." 

" Don't talk to me. Hello ! What's this 'ere ? 
Who bin smashin' the window ? Ther'll be hell to pop 
over this. If I reports ya you'll be done for, both on 
ya." 

" Please, sir, I kicked a piece of coke and it went 
through the pane." 
" Hey ? " 

" The hammer fled off the shaft and went through 
the window." 

" Why the devil don't 3'ou look after the shaft then, 
and keep the wedges tight. You'U knock somebody's 
head off presently. I daresay you was at that blasted 
football again. The first I ketches at it I'll sack. Have 
un clean off the ground. I'U give un football ! " 

" Light that fire up, Laudy ! " 

" Got a job on over 'ere, gaffer." 

" Wha's the trouble ? " 

" Top cyUnder busted, ram cracked, and the crown 
of the furnace feU in." 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 189 

" How did that happen ? " 

" Night chaps, I s'pose. 'Twas done when we got 
here this mornin'." 

" You're out for the rest o' the wik then. Set yer 
mind at rest on that. Damn it ! Everything happens 
on nights. This blasted night work's a nuisance. Go 
and tell Deep Sea and fetch the brickies, and get they 
on to't. Wher's yer mates ? " 

" Waitin' instructions." 

" They can go home, and stop ther' if tha Hkes. Got 
nothin' for 'em to do. Go and tell 'em." 

" Sign this order, sir." 

" Come on then, quick ! No time to mess about 
with you. Hello ! Bailey's Best ! Wha's this for ? " 

" Leg irons." 

" You don't want best for them. Cable's good enough 
for they. What ya thinkin' about ? " 

" Have a look at this 'ere die, guvnor ? " 

" Wha's up wi' he ? " 

" Wants dressin' out, or else re-cuttin'." 

" Spit in him, and get yer iron hot ! " 

" Wanted on the telephone, quick ! Number fifteen 
shop." 

" Got no coke out at the hip, gaffer ! " 

" The water tank's half empty." 

" The glass on the boiler's smashed." 

" Please, sir, the chargeman's out, and he got the key 
of the box." 

" And my mate bin an' squished the top of his finger 
half off." 

" Damn good job, too ! How many more on ya ? " 

" Are you coming to answer number fifteen ? " 

" Oh, be God ! " 

" Another day doin' nothin'. You can never start 
till the middle o' the wik." 






igo LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Steady on with that oil, Laudy ! Steady on, I 
tell you ! He'll go off directly." 
BANG ! " 
There ! What did I tell you ! " 

" Oh, Christ ! My eyes got it." 

" Serves you damn well right ! I told you on it. 
You got the front half out now. Get some oily waste," 

" There's plenty here." 

" You haven't got the back stopped up yet. Get 
some wet sand and stop that hole up. Now then ! 
Be quick with you ! " 

" Steady on a bit, then ! I don't want to get burned 
to death." 

" Serve you right if you was to ! " 

" Steady on, I say ! Damn well do it yourself then ! 
I'm not going to get myself burned." 

" I shut him off. Make haste with you. Ya ready ? " 

" Right." 

Foo-oo-oo-oo-oo. 

" What a blasted smoke ! Shut some of that oil 
off." 

" Let it alone ! That won't hurt. We wants to get 
on." 

" It gets down my inside. I shall spew in a minute" 

"That'll do you good." 

" Shut some of it off." 

" Let it alone, I tell you ! " 

" I'm not going to be pizened." 

" 'Tis no worse for you than 'tis for me." 

" I can't see two yards." 

" HeUo ! Hello ! What the hell's on there ? " 

'" Sweep ! Sweep ! Sweep ! " 

" Steady on with that oil, mate ! We gets all the 
smoke here." 

" I can't help it." 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 191 

" Yes you can help it, too ! Shut some of that oil 
off." 

" That won't make no difference." 

" Wind off, mate ! and hammer down. This is a 
bit too thick. Hey ! Gaffer ! Are we expected to 
work in this ? " 

" That'll kill the worms in yer guts." 

" I can't stand this. My head aches splittin'. I'm 
half-smothered." 

" We don't care a damn about the smoke, mate, as 
long as we can get the iron hot. 'Tis no worse for you 
than 'tis for the rest. If you don't like it you can stop 
out. There's plenty more to take yer place." 

" That's all you get for your trouble ! Wants the 
inspector in here. It's worse than bein' up the chim- 
muck. Go on, mate ! Hammer up, Jim.' " 

" He'll be all right directly, old man. He ain't got 
hot yet." 

" Hot, be hanged ! He ought to be dropped in the 
middle of the sea, and you along with him ! The pair 
of you ought to be down with the Titanic." 

" Don't talk wet ! " 

" Come on, Laudy ! and put some pieces in the fire." 

" I ain't filled the lubricators yet." 

" Ain't filled the lubricators ! What ya bin at this 
half-hour ? " 

" God ! Give us a chance." 

" 'Twill be breakfast-time before we makes a start." 

" I wish 'tood be ! I wants mine." 

" What the hell a' ya talkin' about ? " 

" Baa-a-a ! " 

" Now then ! You knows what I told you ! Get 
and put some pieces in the fire." 

" Can't find my tongs now." 

" Where did you leave 'em last night ? " 



192 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Chucked 'em down." 

" What's this here ? " 

" That en' them." 

" Damn well go and look for 'em then. You'll lose 
your head directly." 

" Strike a light, mate ! That key's in there tight." 

" Look out ! Hold that bar up." 

" I wants the tongs first." 

" I shan't hit you." 

" I don' know so much." 

" Come on ! A couple o' blows'll do the trick." 

" Not in these trousers ! " 

" Old Ernie's thinkin' about the Tango." 

" The tangle, more hkely." 

" Don't you worry, mate ! " 

" Ya got him ? " 

" Right ! " 

Slap, slap, slap. 

" Whoa ! Wait a minute. That hammer's comin' off." 

" Hold him up." 

" Is he shifted ? " 

" He's gone a bit, I think." 

" Hold your hand the other side, and feel him." 

" Now go on. Steady, mate ! " 

Slap, slap. 

" Ho ! Hooray ! " 

" What did I tell you ? " 

" Everybody's doin' it, doin' it, doin' it." 

" Our mate's strong this mornin'. He bin eatin' 
onions.' 

" Give us a bit of that packing. That thin piece ! 
Now get the pinch bar, and prise the monkey up." 

" How's that ? " 

" A bit higher. Right ! That'U do." 

" Key in ? " 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 193 

" Ah ! Slap him in." 

" Give us the sledge." 

" Get that big un." 

" Shaft's broke in two." 

" Get the furnace one, then." 

" How about packing ? " 

" Same as before." 

" Look out, then ! " 

" Blow up, mate ? " 

" Right away with you." 

" How tight do you want him ? " 

" As tight as you can get him. Slip him in. That'll 
do now." 

" Hey-yup ! Hammer up. He's burned a bit, mate." 

" Be hanged ! You only got half a piece." 

" Can't help it. That was stoppin' to get the key 
out." 

" Go on. Hit him ! " 

Bang, bang, bang. 

" Whoa ! That'll do." 

" What's the dies Hke, chum ? " 

" All right now." 

" Blow up ? " 

" Ah ! Let's have you." 

" Tool up, mate ! " 

" The chain's twisted." 

" Can't you see it's upside down ! D'you want to 
smash the bounder ? Now go on." 

Bang. 

" Light again." 

Bang. 

" That'll do. Oil up." 

1 " Pi, Pi, Balli! Let's have you! whack 'em along 
there ! " 

1 iral, TToi, ;8dXXe = Boy! boy! whack 'em along. 

N 



194 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Hullo ! " 
Whizz. 

" As quick as you like, mate ! We've got to move 
to-day. Hit him, there ! " 
Bang, bang, bang. 

" Whoa ! Tool up, quick ! Light, now ! " 
Bang. 

" One more. Light ! " 
Bang. 

" That got him." 

"Pi, Pi, BaUi! AU hot! AU hot! Let's have 
you ! " 
Whizz. 
" Hooray ! " 

''Not much afore breakfast, but look out aater ! " 
" Wormy 's makin' some scrap on the next fire. Look 
at 'im ! " 

" Rat, O ! Rat, O ! Get that rat out o' the fire, old 
man." 

" Don't burn 'em ! Don't burn 'em ! " 
" Another snider, O ! " 

" The blasted jumper won't work." 

" Oil they tongs a bit." 

" Pizen that rat in the fire." 

"Go to the boneyard and dig Smamer up, and fetch 
he back." 

" What the hell are ya talking about ? Don't you 
never spile one ? " 

" Hair off 1 Hair off ! " 

" Don't get your bracers twisted." 

" TeU him off, kid." 

" I'll put my hand in your mouth directly." 

" You're the finest worm I've ever seen." 

" Come on here, and not so much of your old buck 1 " 

" Get out of the road, and let Pep have a try." 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 195 

" Damn well get away from here ! Who the hell can 
hot iron with you about ? Your face is enough to spoil 
anything." 

" Get 'em hot ! Get 'em hot ! " 

" Get hold of that lever, you reptile ! " 

" I've seen better things than you crawling on 
cabbages." 

" How's that ? Will that do for you ? " 

Whizz. Slap. 

" Get that muck out o' your fire." 

" Hit him hard ! Right up." 

Bang, bang, bang. Knock. 

" Keep off the top ! " 

" You said right up." 

" Shut some of that steam off." 

" Steam's aU right." 
• " Shut it off, I tell you ! " 

" Shut it off yourself ! Mind the tongs, or you'll 
get it." 

Bafig, bang, bang, bang. 

" Don't answer me back or I'll flatten j^ou out." 

" Nothing's never right for you. You ought to be in 
a bigger town." 

" Tool up, there ! " 

" Rope's off the wheel, mate ! " 

" Shut the blasted wind off." 

" He's cut all to pieces," 

" Tha's knockin' the top. I told you of it. I shall 
ast the gaffer for another mate. This'll take us till 
dinner-time. Go and get the spanners, and ast Sid for 
a new rope, and look sharp about it ! " 

"Now, Laudy! Wake up with you! We shan't 
earn damn salt." 

" I don't trouble. I can't help it." 

" Well ! Come on, then." 



1^6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Tongs won't hold 'em." 

" Get another pair." 

" Which uns ? " 

" There's plenty more about." 

" I'm sick o' this job." 

"You don't like work." 

" 'Cause you're so fond of it ! " 

" Don't waste them ends off. They won't fill up as 
it is." 

" I reckon the fella as started work ought to come 
back and finish it." 

Crack. 

Boom. 

Bump. 

" Don't burn the damn things ! Look at that ! All 
over me." 

" My clothes is afire." 

" What's yer Uttle game there, eh ? Med as well kill 
a fella as frighten him to death." 

" Oo ! My grub got it ! " 

" Get these others out first." 

" What O ! I'm not goin' to see my grub burn. 
What do yon think ? " 

" AU the damn lot'll be spoiled." 

" I don't care a cuss ! I got some tiger in there." 

" Steady that oil a bit." 

" God ! Doan it stink ! " 

" Shut some of it off, I tell you. It's running all over 
the place." 

" Half on it's water." 

" That second one there, and keep to the top row." 

" Hey-up ! " 

Crack. 

" Why don't you be careful ? " 

Snap. Bump. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 197 

" Back tool's jammed now." 

" The safety bolt's broke." 

" Shut the belt off." 

" Look out, then ! " 

" Stop the oil, and pull them others out." 

" Let 'em alone ! We shan't be a minute." 

" Well ! Jump about then." 

" Here's Calliper King comin' ! " 

" Tell him to clear off. We can do very well without 
him. That fellow makes me bad." 

" If you was to put the spanner on the nuts sometimes 
you wouldn't get half the trouble." 

" All right, mate ! There's no damage done. We 
can't think of everything." 

" Your bearings are hot." 

" They'll get cold directly." 

" You might get them seized." 

" Damn good job ! Shove some oil into 'em, kid ! " 

" Who are you calling kid ? " 

" Look out, there ! " 

" I shall report you, mind ! " 

" You can please yourself. 'Twon't be the first time. 
If you'll only keep out o' the road we shall be all right. 
Blow up, Laudy ! " 

Foo-00-00-00-00. 

" Pull the belt over." 

" Right ? " 

"I'm ready." 

" Take him, then." 

Crack. 

Click, clack. Bump. 

" How's that ? " 

" That got him. Now we shan't be long ! " 

" Yip ho ! All new uns ! " 

" I got that pistol in my pocket." 



198 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Is he any good? " 
" Kill at hundred and twenty." 
" What ? Inches ? " 
" Inches be damned ! Yards, man ! " 
" You never killed anything with him." 
" Ain't he, though ? I know he have." 
" What have you killed ? A dead cat ? " 
" Dead cat ! You're afraid to let me try him on you." 
" You couldn't hit a barn door." 
" I tell you what I done." 

"What's that? Oh! I know. Who shot the 
sheep ? Baa-a-a ! " 
" Shut your blasted head ! " 
" Pride o' the Prairie ! Got any cartridges ? " 
" Half a boxful." 
" Slugs or bullets ? " 
" Slugs." 

" Let's have a look ! " 

" Get this work done first. 'Twill be breakfast- 
time directly." 

" Hey-up ! He's slightly wasted." 

" I should blasted well think so." 

Crack. 

Boom. 

" Hello ! There's another snider ! " 
Bang. 

" Keep him there ! We don't want your scrap." 

" Pi, Pi, Balh ! Tha's a good heat, mate ! " 

" We haven't done anything yet." 

" What ! Tell somebody else that yarn ! Hear that, 
Jim ? " 

" Wha's up ? " 

" Chargeman says we ain't done nothin' yet." 

" More we ain't, have us ? " 

" Have us not ! Tha's only a rumour." 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 199 

" I didn't think we had." 

" You bin asleep an' only just woke up. All good 
uns, too." 

" We shall want 'em, bi what I can see on it." 

" What d'ya mean ? " 

" Look at the next hammer ! They won't start 
to-day." 

" How's that, mate ? " 

Whizz. 

" Mind my toe." 

" Good shot, that ! " 

" Cool your tongs out." 

" Have a drink." 

" Put it on the anvil." 

Bang, hang, hang. 

" Whoa ! Tool." 

" Ain't he slippy ! " 

" Light blow." 

Bang. 

" That takes a bit of doing, one hand ! " 

" Come on, Lightning ! " 

" Unknown swank ! " 

"All hot! All hot!" 

" You'll get the price cut directly." 

" Come and see the boys ! " 

" I'm a-lookin' at ya ! " 

" Ain't a burned one yet." 

" Don't make a song about it." 

" You got a good mate on the hammer." 

" Fifty without stoppin' the wind. All new uns ! " 

" See who you are ! " 

" Stand back, and mind the mallet ! There's one 
for you. Wormy ! " 

" Take a couple, mate ? " 

" Come on with 'em." 



200 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Slap, slap. 

Ba7ig, hang, hang. 

Bang, hang, hang. 

" Fire's gettin' low. Wants some more coke up." 

" Wher' d'ye want thase few pieces, Willums ! " 

" Tip 'em up anywhere, Mat ! " 

" All you'll get to-day." 

" You're talking wet. They won't last five minutes." 

" You'll hef to see gaffer, then. We got to channge 
knives." 

" Get out of the road, or you'll get your whiskers 
singed." 

" Dossent thee fret thy kidneys. This is too damn 
hot for me. You got no room to mauve." 

" Somebody got to do a bit." 

" Thee dossent do't all." 

" You'd have to go home if I did." 

" Top hammer's stopped now. Middle un's ready." 

" What's up a-top ? Going to start, there ? See 
that rope's all right ! Have the sharp edges took off 
the wheel." 

" We be done for." 

" What's the matter ? " 

" Top block broke. Only had forty more to do." 

" Ram up, and get your dies out. Give a hand 
there, mates." 

" 'Tis all bad luck this mornin', ain' it ? " 

" 'Tis the chaps as make the luck. What do you 
think ? We get on aU right." 

" Here's the bummer in a tear." 

" Why the hell don't you be careful ! You'll break 
all the tackle in creation. First one thing and then 
another. Ropes and wheels and dies. You wants to 
go home for a month. That 'ood teach 'e a lesson. 
You don't trouble a damn for nothing." 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 201 

" I asked the fitters to see to it, and they wouldn't 
come." 

" That block was never strong enough for the 
job." 

" Go an' fetch Moses. What ya goin' to put in 
next ? " 

" Pull-rod levers. Die seventy-two." 

" Don' want them. Put in hunderd an' one." 

" Chargeman says levers. Wanted urgent. Chaps 
bin up after 'em." 

" Let 'em wait. I'm the foreman. You knows 
that." 

" All right, Don' make no difference to me." 

" Did you send for me ? " 

" I did. Get on wi' new blocks for piston rods." 

" Any alterations ? " 

" Not as I knows on." 

" We've had complaints about the others." 

" I don't care. Let 'em file 'em. The devils be never 
satisfied.'" 

" Better have 'em a bit stiffer ? " 

" They'm stiff enough. They wasn't set level." 

" They was as level as a billiard table, gaffer ! " 

" I could a' shoved my finger underneath 'em." 

" I had 'em packed tight everywhere." 

" Then you didn't have yer iron hot, 'Tis no good 
to arg' the point. Take care wi' the next lot, 
mind ! " 

" Let him go to hell ! He'd make anybody a damn 
har. Key out. Hang on to that spanner. Damp 
up, and shut the blower off. Fetch the iron trucks. 
We shall want some help to get these out o' the 
way." 

" Billy, sing that song, 
That good old song to me ! " 



202 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Now, Jacko ! Give us a hand here." 

" I can't. My leg's bad." 

" That won't hurt your leg, will it ? I wants your 
hand, not your leg. 'Tis all in the gang." 

" I got one stuck on the jumper." 

"All right. Blind you! We'll do it ourselves. This 
is a show ! Come on, mates ! Keep the handles down, 
and mind he don't tip." 

" Give him a blow on that bar to get him off the 
jumper, can't ya ; and don't stick up there doin' nothin'. 
You ain't heard our mate's new nickname, have you, 
Wormy ? " 

" No. What's that ? " 

" Flannel. Know why that is ? " 

" No." 

" Cos water alius makes him shrink. Look at him ! 
The only curly-headed boy in the family ! " 

" You hump-backed, monkey-faced baa-boon ! You 
broke loose from the Zoo, you did. I won't hit another 
stroke for nobody, now, damn if I do ! " 

" Get out ! I'll spiflicate you ! " 

" I'll bash the tongs across your head." 

" What ya goin' to do ? Take that ! Now what 
ya goin' to do ? I've had enough of your jaw." 

" Let the kid alone, can't you ! " 

" I'll get my own back on him, before night, see if I 
don't. I'll drop the hammer on his head." 

" Fetch him out, Wormy ! " 

" Hey-yup ! " 

Whizz-z-z. 

" Keep that hammer still, wiU. ya ! Hit him if you 
dares ! Now go on. Steady ! " 

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. 

" Whoa ! whoa ! steady ! steady ! Light when I 
tell ya ! " 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 203 

Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. 

" Blast you ! What a' you doin' ? You smashed 
him all to pieces." 

" I told you I'd do it." 

" Workin' your breakfast-time, there ? " 

" Goin' to keep on all day ? " 

" Ain't you goin' to chuck up ? " 

" How's the balance ? " 

" What ! only just started ? " 

" Whack 'em along ! " 

" How many more ? " 

" Work 'em out ! " 

" What time is it ? " 

" 'Ere's old Sid with the checks ! " 

" What's up, Flannigan ? " 

" Only wants two minutes ! " 

" Flatfoot's gone by." 

" You're on late, mate ! " 

" What's going to happen ? " 

"Got a book-ful? " 

" Tool up, there ! " 

" Put him up yourself ! " 

" Put that tool up. Wormy, and catch hold o' that 
lever." 

" Light blow ! " 

Bang. 

" Whoa ! That'll do." 

" What cheer, Sid ! " 

" Stand back, here, and let's get by." 

" Wants a lot o' room for a little un, don't ya ? " 

" Not so much as you. Not so much as you. My 
time's precious, not like yourn. We got summat to 
do, we have." 

" Ah ! Sit on your backside an' count they checks 
out, that's aU." 



204 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Goin' to have your bit o' brass when I offers it to 
you ? " 

" Put him on the anvil." 

" Shan't ! Take him in your hand. Lose him, and 
then blame me." 

" My hand's oUey ! " 

" Don' matter ! Wipe him in your breeches, can't 
you ? Come on, kidney bean-stick ! " 

" Little fat maggot ! " 

" Go on, bones ! " 

" Pimple on a cabbage ! " 

" Alpheus ! " 

" Sideus ! " 

" Nemo mortalium omnibus horis sapit! " 

" a-(fipayiSovvxo.pyoKO[ji7]Tr]s." 

" Lend my father your wheelbarrow ! " 

" Using your knife breakfast-time, kid ? " 

" No ! I got bread and scrape." 

" Who got the frying-pan ? " 

" You can have him for a fag." 

" I got a bit o' dead dog, I have." 

" What d'ya call it ? Looks hke a bit of Irish." 

" That never died a natural death ! " 

" That drove many a man up a tree ! " 

" Lend us that catalogue of fireaims, Dick ! " 

" He's underneath the bucket." 

" How much longer ya going to keep on ? " 

" I wants to get my blocks right afore breakfast." 

" Laudy ! You left that rotten stinking oil on." 

" No, I didn't ! " 

" Yes you did ! Stop it off, and put that board in 
the hole ! " 

" I tell you it's shut off. That's only the stink you 
can smell." 

" It makes me feel rotten. I shan't want any grub." 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 205 

" Ain't it damn hot ! We shall be dead afore night." 

" Hit him, Wormy ! " 

Bang, bang, bang. 

" Whoa ! " 

" What's the die like ? " 

" Wants to go over a bit yet." 

" Chuck it up ! " 

" Lie down, can't you ! " 

" Mind your own business ! " 

" Put him through the tool." 

" Got the coke ready for after breakfast, Jim ? " 

" Ah ! " 

" I'm going to put you through your facings, by and 
by." 

" I don't trouble ! I ben' a-goin' to work no harder 
for nobody." 

" Look out for Ratty ! He's peepin' about. He's 
going to report the first one as puts his coat on afore 
the hooter goes." 

" He's worse than old Wanky ! " 

" 'Tis all damn watchmen here ! " 

" How's the minutes ? " 

" It's quarter past." 

" There's the buzzer ! " 

" There he goes ! " 

" Tools down, mates ! " 

" Whack 'em down ! " 

" Hooter ! " 

" Hoo-ter-r ! " 

" Hoo-00-ter-r-r ! " 



CHAPTER XIII 

THE NIGHT SHIFT — ARRIVAL IN THE SHED — " FOLLOWING 
THE TOOL " — THE FORGEMAN'S HASTE AND BUSTLE — 
LIGHT AND SHADE — SUPPER-TIME — CLATTER AND 
CLANG — MIDNIGHT — WEARINESS — THE RELEASE — 
HOME TO REST 

Whatever the trials of the day shift at the forge may 
be, those of the night turn are sure to be far greater. 
For the da^^time is the natural period of both physical 
and mental activity. The strong workman, after a 
good night's rest and sleep, comes to the task fresh, 
keen, vigorous, and courageous. Though the day before 
him be painfully long — almost endless in his eyes — he 
feels fit to do battle with it, for he has a reserve of 
energy. In the earh* morning, before breakfast, he is 
not at his best. He has not yet "got into his stride," 
he tells you. His full strength does not come upon him 
suddenly, it develops graduall3^ He can spend and 
spend and spend, but cannot exhaust. Nature's great 
battery continues to yield fresh power until the turn of 
the afternoon. Then the rigid muscles relax, and the 
flesh shows loose and flabb3^ The eyes are dull, the 
features drawn ; the whole body is tired and languid. 

But this is with the day shift, working in the natural 
order of tilings. A great change is to be observed in 
the case of the night turn. There nature is inverted ; 
the whol^ scheme is reversed. The workman, unless 
he is well seasoned to it, cannot summon up any energy 
at all, and he cannot conquer habit, not after months, or 

206 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 207 

even years of the change. When, by the rule of nature, 
he should be at his strongest and the exigencies of the 
night shift require that he should sleep, that strength, 
bubbling up, keeps him awake, dead tired though he 
be, and when he requires to be active and vigorous just 
the reverse obtains. The energy has subsided, the sap 
has gone down from the tree. Nature has retired, and 
all the coaxing in the world will not induce her to come 
forth until such time as the day dawns and she steals 
back upon him of her own free will. That is what, 
most of all, distinguishes the night from the day shift, 
and makes it so wearisome for the pale-faced toilers. 

There is a poignancy in preparing for the night shift, 
the feeling is really one of tragedy. This is where the 
unnaturalness begins. Everyone but you is going home 
to rest, to revel in the sweet society of wife and children, 
or parents, to enjoy the greatest pleasure of the workers' 
day — the evening meal, the happy fireside, a few short 
hours of simple pleasure or recreation and, afterwards, 
the honey-dew of slumber. As you walk along the 
lane or street towards the factory 5^ou meet the toilers 
in single file, or two abreast, or marching like an army, 
in compact squads and groups, or straggling here and 
there. The boys and youths move smartly and quickly, 
laughing and talking ; the men proceed more soberly, 
some upright with firm step and cheerful countenance, 
others bent and stooping, dragging their weary limbs 
along in silence like tired warriors retreating after the 
hard-fought battle. 

There is also the inward sense and knowledge of even- 
ing, for, however much you may deceive your external 
self, you cannot deceive Nature. Forget yourself as 
much as yon please, she always remembers the hour 
and the minute ; she is far more painstaking and 
punctual than we are. The time of day fills you with 



2o8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

a sweet sadness. The summer sun entering into the 
broad, gold-flooded west, the soft, autumn twihght, 
or the gathering shades of the winter evening, all tell 
the same story. It is drawing towards night ; night 
that was made for man, when very nature reposes ; 
night for pleasure and rest, for peace, joy, and com- 
pensations, while you — here are you off. to sweat and 
slave for twelve dreary hours in a modern inferno, in 
the Cyclops' den, with the everlasting wheels, the smoke 
and steam, the flaring furnace and piles of blazing hot 
metal all around you. 

Within the entrance the place seems almost deserted. 
The huge sheds have poured out their swarms of work- 
men. The black-looking crowds have disappeared, and 
the great, iron-bound doors are closed up and locked. 
The watchmen, who have been patrolling the yard and 
supervising the exodus of the toilers, are returning to 
their quarters. Only the rooks are to be seen scavenging 
up the fragments of bread and waste victuals which 
the men have thrown out of their pockets for them. 

Arrived at the shed you are greeted with the famihar 
and dreadful din of the boilers priming, the loud roar 
of the blast and the whirl of the wheels. The rush of 
hot air almost overpowers you. You feel nearly suffo- 
cated already, and half stagger through the smoke and 
steam to reach your fire and machine standing under 
the dark, sooty wall. As you thread your way in and 
out between the furnaces and among the piles of iron 
and steel you receive a severe dig in the ribs with the 
long handle of the man's shovel who is cleaning out the 
cinders and chnker from beneath the furnaces, or the 
ash-wheeler, stripped to the waist and dripping with 
perspiration, runs against you roughly with his wheel- 
barrow and utters a loud " Hey-up ! " or otherwise 
assails you with " Hout o' the road, else I'll knock tha 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 209 

down," and hurries off up the stage to deposit his load 
and then comes down again to get in a stock of coal 
from the waggon for the furnaces. Here the smith is 
preparing his fire, while his mate breaks up the coke 
with the heavy mallet ; the yellow flames and cinders 
are leaping up from the open forge by the steam saw. 
The oil furnaces are puffing away and spitting out 
their densest clouds of pitchy smoke, fihing the shed, 
while the stamper fixes his dies and oils round, or half 
runs to the shears in the corner and demands his stock 
of iron bars to be brought forthwith. The old furnace- 
man, sweating from the operation of clinkering, shovels 
in the coal and disposes it with the ravel. The forging 
hammers ghde up and down, clicking against the self- 
act, while the forger and his mates manipulate the 
crane and ingot, or charge in the blooms or piles. Every- 
one is in a desperate hurry, eager to start on with the 
work and get ahead of Nature, before she flags too much. 
It is useless to wait till midnight, or count upon efforts 
to be made in the hours of the morning. 

All this is during your entry to the shed and often 
before the official hour for starting work. On coming 
to your post you, too, strip off hat, coat, t and vest, and 
hang them up in the shadow of the forge, then bind 
the leathern apron about your waist, see to your own 
fire and tools — tongs, sets, flatters, and sledges — obtain 
water from the tap by the wall, shout " Hammer up ! " 
to your mate, and prepare to thump away with the rest. 
The heat of the shed in the evening, from six o'clock 
till ten o'clock, is terrific in the summer months. For 
hours and hours the furnaces and boilers have been 
raging, fuming, and pouring out their interminable 
volumes of invisible vapour ; the sun without, and the 
fires within have made it almost unbearable. The 
floor plates, the iron principals, the machine frames, 

O 



210 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the uprights of the hammers — everything is full of heat ; 
the water in the feed-pipes is so hot as to startle you. 
As the hour draws on, towards nine or ten o'clock, 
this diminishes somewhat. The cool night air envelops 
the shed and enters in through the doors, restoring the 
normal temperature, though, if the night be muggy, 
there will be scarcely any diminution of the punishment 
till the early morning, when there is always a cooling 
down of the atmosphere. 

Now the general toil commences in every corner of 
the smithy. The brawny forger pulls, tugs, or pushes 
the heavy porter ; the stamper runs out with his white- 
hot bar, spluttering and hissing, and poises one foot on 
the treadle while he adjusts it over the die, then P«w- 
tcku, pom-tchu, ping-tchu, ping-tchu, goes the hammer, 
and over he turns it deftly, blows away the scale and 
excrescence with the compressed air, and pom-tchu, 
ping-ichu, again repHes the hammer. Here he claps 
the forging in the trimmer, click goes the self-act, and 
down comes the tool. The finished article drops through 
on to the ground ; the stamper thrusts the bar into the 
furnace, turns on more oil and off he goes again. The 
sparks swish and fly everywhere, travelling to the 
furthest wall ; he wipes away the sweat with the 
blistered back of his hand, looking half-asleep, and 
rolls the quid of tobacco in his cheek. 

Hard by the smith is busy with his forge and tools. 
His mate is ghastly pale and thin in the yellow firelight, 
though he himself looks fat and well. He sets the blast 
on gently till the iron is nearly fit, then applies the 
whole volume, to put on the finishing touch and make 
the iron soft and " mellow." This lifts up the white 
cinders in clouds and blows them out of the front also, 
so that now and then they lodge on the blacksmith's 
arms and in his hair, but he shakes them off and takes 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 211 

little notice of them. He jerks the jumper up and 
down once or twice, turns the heat round quickly, then 
shuts off the blast, and with a lion-hke grip of the tongs, 
brings it to the anvil and lays on with his hand-hammer, 
while his mate plies the sledge. Presently he throws 
down his hammer, grips the " set tool " or " flatter," 
and his mate continues to strike upon it till the work 
is completed. If the striker is not proficient and misses 
once or twice, he jerks out, in a friendly tone — " On the 
top, or go home," or, "Go and get some chalk" — i.e., 
to whiten the tool — or, " Follow the tool, follow the tool, 
you okkerd fella." Once, when a smith had a strange 
mate — a raw hand — with him, and bade him to " Follow 
the tool," when he put that down the striker continued 
to go for it tiU it flew up and nearly knocked out the 
smith's eye, but he excused himself on the ground that 
he thought he had to " foUow the tool." 

Here is a skinny, half-naked fellow, striving with all 
his might to draw a heavy bogie piled up with new 
blooms, half a ton or more in weight. His head is 
thrown far forward, about a yard from the ground. 
His arms, thin and small, are strained like rods of iron 
behind his back ; only his toes grip the ground. He 
shouts out to someone near for help. 

" Hey ! Gi' us a shove a minute." 

" Gi' thee tha itch ! Ast the gaffer for a mate. I 
got mi own work to do," the other replies, and keeps 
hammering away. 

Next is a belated stamper in want of tools. " Hast 
got a per o' tongs to len' us a minute, ole pal ? " 

" Shove off wi' thee and make a pair, or else buy some, 
like I got to. Nobody never lends I nothin'," is the 
answer he receives. 

This one wants a blow. " Come an' gi' I a blow 
yer." 



212 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" Gi' thee a blow on the head. I got no time to mess 
about \vi' thee." 

Another is concerned as to the hour — there are those 
whose thoughts are always of the clock, anxiously 
awaiting the next stop. " Wliat time is it, mate ? " 

" Aw ! time thee wast better," or " Same as 'twas 
last night at this time. Thee hasn't bin yer five 
minutes it." 

Perhaps the steam pressure is low. " Wha's bin at 
wi' the steam, matey ? We chaps can't hit a stroke." 

" Got twisted in the pipes, I 'spect. Go an' put thi 
blower on, an' fire up a bit, an' run that slag out." 

This one cannot obtain his supply of bars from the 
shears. " Now Matty ! Hasn't got that iron cut ? 
I can't wait about for thee." 

" D^^alnt thee be in sich a caddie. Thee ootn't get 
it none the zooner. Other people got to live as well 
as thee, dost naa ! " 

" All right ! I shall go and see he," (the overseer). 

" Thee cast go an' do jest whatever thee bist a-mine 
to. 'Twunt make a 'appoth o' difference." 

By and by the overseer comes up and shouts — " Hey ! 
Can't you let these chaps on, Matthews ? " 

" No, I caan't ! Tha'U hef to woite a bit. Ther's 
some as bin a-woitin' all night, ver nigh. 'Tis no good 
to plag' I, else ya wunt get nothin' done at aU." 

Here is the forger bellowing at Ms driver. "Go on! 
Go on ! Hit him ! Hit him ! Hit him ! Light, ther' ! 
Light ! 'Old on ! 'Old on ! Whoa, then ! Castn't 
stop when I tells tha ? Dost want to spile the jilly 
thing ? Gi' us up they gauges. A's too thick now. 
Up a bit, ther ! Hit un agyen ! Light now ! Light ! 
Light! That'U do! Whoa! Take 'old o' this bar, 
an' gi' us that cutter. Now, Strawberry ! turn 'e over 
in the fire, an' don' stand ther' a-gappatin'. 'Aaf thi 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 213 

'ed '11 drop off in a minute. Ther's a lot to do yet, else 
ya won' get no balance, Hout o' the road, oot ! " 

" Haw-w-right. Kip yer wool on. 'Tis a long time 
to mornin' it. Thee bist alius in a caddie," the other 
answers. 

" Shet thi 'ed, an' mind thi own business, else I'll 
fetch the gaffer to thee ! Pull up ther', an' le's 'ev un 
out on't. We be all be'ind agyen ! Everybody else 
ull a done afore we begins ! Hang on to that chayn, 
Fodgy ! Now then ! All together ! Ugh ! " 

So the ingot is brought out with shouts and cries, 
the ratthng and jinghng of chains and the loud roaring 
of steam in the roof outside. The blaze of the furnace 
and the spluttering, white-hot metal make it as light as 
day in the shed. The forger and his mates stagger 
under the weight of the ingot and porter-bar and in- 
cUne their heads to escape the fierce heat. Their faces 
and necks are burnt red and purple — of the colour of 
blood-poisoning. Their shirt sleeves are hanging loose 
to protect their arms ; they wear thin, round calico caps 
on their heads and leathern aprons about their waists. 
At the first blow or two the sparks shriek around, and 
especially if the ingot is of steel and happens to be well- 
heated. The smiths yell out at the top of their voice 
and rush to save their clothes hanging up beside the 
forge. The men's faces look transfigured in the bright 
light. Their shadows, huge, weird, and fantastic, reach 
high up the wall, even to the roof. The smallest object 
is thrown into relief and the shafts of the sledges cast 
a shadow as sharp and clear as from the sun at mid-day. 
As the mighty steel monkey descends, half covering the 
white mass, the shadow falls on the roof, walls, and 
machinery around, and rises as the smooth, shapely 
piston glides upward into the cyHnder ; up and down, 
up and down it goes, like the rising and falling of a 



214 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

curtain. This continues till the heat of the forging 
diminishes and the rays of the metal are no longer 
capable of overpowering the light cast out from the fire- 
holes and the smoky, sleepy-looking gas-jets hanging 
in hues adown the smithy. 

As the iron becomes cooler the hammer beats harder 
and harder. The oscillation is very great and the 
sound nearly approaches a ring. The steam roars over- 
head and leaks and hisses through the joints of the 
pipes and glands. The oil in the stamper's dies explodes 
with a cannon-Hke report. The huge hydrauHc engines 
tchu-tchu outside ; the wheels whirr and hum away in 
the roof, and the smith's tools clang out or ring sharply 
on the anvil. Without, through the open doors, the 
night shows inky black ; the smoke and steam beat 
down and are blown in with the wind, or the fog is sucked 
in quickly by the currents. Now the rain beats hard 
on the roof and runs through in streams, while the wind 
clatters between the stacks and ventilators overhead 
with a noise like thunder ; or, if it is mid-winter, the 
light, feathery snowflakes are wafted in from above and 
sway to and fro and round and round, uncertain where 
to lodge, until they are dissolved with the heat and 
finally descend in small drops like dew upon the faces 
and arms of the forgers. 

At the end of every hour the watchman with his lamp 
passes through, like a policeman on his beat, and stands 
a moment before the furnace to warm himself or to 
watch the shaping of the ingot. The old furnaceman 
views him askance, or ventures to address him with a 
" How do ? " or " Rough night out," to which the 
other responds with a nod, or a " Yes ; 'Tis ! " and takes 
his departure into the blackness outside. At frequent 
intervals the overseer walks round and takes his stand 
here and there, with his hands behind him, or twisting 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 215 

his fingers in front, or with his thumbs thrust into the 
arm-holes of his waistcoat, and glares at the men, 
spitting out the tobacco juice upon the ground or on 
the red-hot forging. Presently he shouts: — "Ain't ya 
done that thing yet ? How much longer ya going to 
be ? He'll want a bit o' salt directly. Wher's Michael ? 
Ain't he in to-night ? Wha's up wi' he ? " 

" He's a-twhum along o' the owl' dooman to-night," 
someone answers. The grimy toilers curse him under 
their breath and wish he would soon clear off, which he 
presently does, slipping quickly away into the shadows 
or climbing up the wooden stairway into the well-lit office. 

The first spell is at ten o'clock — that is, after four 
hours of terrific hammering and sweating. This is the 
supper-hour. Here the engines cease and the wheels 
stop their grinding. The roar of the blast has ceased, 
too ; there is not a flicker from the coke fires. The old 
furnaceman is still shovelling away, for the forger was 
on till the last moment. Now he " stops up," lays a 
httle coal dust along the furnace door, shuts off his 
blower, puts down the damper, and proceeds to rinse 
his hands in the water bosh. All the while he was 
attending to his fire he had the wiper about his neck 
and held one corner of it in his mouth. After drying 
his hands with it he gives his grimy face a good rub, 
goes to his clothes hanging up by the waU, slips on his 
waistcoat, stirs his tea in the can with the blade of his 
pocket-knife, takes his food from the peg and comes and 
sits down near the furnace, or in the sand-bunk. The 
one in charge of the steam walks from boiler to boiler, 
setting on the injectors. They admit the cool water 
with a murmurous, sleepy sound — there is no priming 
yet. The furnace fire glitters through the chinks of 
the door or grate like the stars on a frosty night. The 
old furnaceman does not eat much. He tastes a httle 



2i6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

and bites here and there, then he wraps the whole up 
again. 

" What ! Bistn't agwain to hae thi zupper, then ? " 
some one enquires. 

" No-o ! Can't zim to get on wi't to-night," he 
answers. 

"Well! Chock it out for they owld rats, they'll 
be glad on't. Yellacks is a girt un ther' now, in atween 
they piles ! " 

Try how you will you cannot enjoy your food on the 
night shift. I have carried mine home again morning 
after morning, or thrown it out for the birds in the 
yard. I have seen men — and especially youths — go 
to sleep with the food in their mouths. You are too 
languid to eat much, and what you do eat has no savour. 
It is remarkable, also, that while you continue working 
you do not feel the fatigue so much, but as soon as you 
sit down 3'ou are assailed with increased weariness ; 
you feel powerless and exhausted and have no strength 
or energy left. Many, in order to keep awake and 
fresh, go out into the town, deserted at that hour. 
Some walk outside in the yard and bruise their shins 
against this or that obstruction in the darkness. Others, 
again, after partaking of a few mouthfuls of food, go 
on making up their fires, not only to keep themselves 
awake, but also to help the work forward and earn their 
mone}^ for the shift. I have many times worked all 
night — through both meal-hours — in the attempt to 
earn my wages, and then have been deficient. 

Here and there a small party will sit together and chat 
the meal-time away, or a few \vi\l endeavour to read. 
Very soon, however, the newspaper or book slips from 
the fingers. The tiredness and heat together prevail ; 
the eyes close and the mouth opens — the toiler is fast 
asleep. Presently someone comes on the scene with a 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 217 

loud shout : " Hey-yup ! What ! bist thee vly- 
ketchin' agyen ? Get up and check, else tha't be 
locked out," or another staggers round with half-closed 
eyes and bawls out, " 'Ow beest bi tiself. Bill ? " the reply 
to which usually is, " Thee get an' laay down," or 
" None the better for thy astin'." Occasionally several 
will start singing a song, or hymn, and be immedi- 
ately assailed \vith loud cries of " Lay down, oot ! " or 
" Yeow ! Yeow ! Kennul ! Kennul ! " or a large 
lump of coal is thrown against the roof to break and fall 
in dust upon the choristers. Some spread rivet bags 
in front of the furnace and He upon them and others he 
down upon the bare bricks or iron of the floor. A few 
minutes before eleven o'clock the stragglers arrive back 
from the town. The old furnaceman bestirs himself, 
Mfts the damper, sets on the blower, routs the coals of 
the fire and shouts, " Come on, yer," to his mates. The 
steam-hammer man opens the valve and raises the 
monkey, making it ghde up and down to work the water 
out of the cyHnder, the forgemen and smiths bustle 
about again and the terrific din recommences. 

So the furious toil proceeds hour by hour. Bang 
hang, bang. Pum-tchu, pum-tchii, ping-ichu, ping-tchu. 
Cling-clang, ding-clang. Boom, boom, boom. Flip-flap, 
flip-flap. Hoo-oo-oo-oo-oo. Raltle, rattle, rattle. Click, 
click, click. Bump, bump. Scrir-r-r-r-r-r-r. Hiss-s-s- 
s-s-s-s. Tchi-tchu, tchi-tchu, tchi-tchu. Clank, clank, 
clank, clank, clank. The noises of the steam and 
machinery drown everything else. You see the work- 
men standing or stooping, pulling, tugging, heaving, 
dragging to and fro, or staggering about as though they 
were intoxicated, but there is no other sound beyond 
the occasional shouting of the forger and the jerking 
or droning of the injectors. It is a weird living picture, 
stern and reahstic, such as no painter could faithfully 



2i8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

reproduce. If the oil in the stampers' forges is worse 
than usual the dense clouds of nauseating smoke hang 
over you like a pall so thickly that you cannot see your 
fellows a few paces away, making it intensely difficult 
to breathe and adding a horrible disgust to the unspeak- 
able weariness. Then the bright flashing metal and the 
white gas-jets show a dull red. Even the sound seems 
deadened by the smoke and stench, but this is merely 
the action of the impurity upon the sense organs ; they 
are so much impaired with the grossness of the atmo- 
sphere as to fail in their functions. By and by, when 
the air has cleared a little, it all rushes back upon you 
with increased intensity. Everything is swinging and 
whirling round, and you seem to be whirled round with 
it, with not a thought of yourself, who you are, where 
you are, or what you are doings but keep toiling 
mechanically away. Ofttimes you would be quite lost, 
but the revolutions of the machine, the automatic strokes 
of the hammer, and the hahit of the job control you. 
And if this should fail, your mate, half asleep, whacks 
his heat along and casts it upon your toe, or sears you 
with the hot tongs, or he misses the top of the tool at 
the anvil and strikes your thumb instead. There are 
many things to keep you alive, and always the fear of 
not earning your money for the turn and having to be 
jeered at and bullied by the chargeman or overseer and 
so have your life made miserable. The faces and fronts 
of the smiths and forgers, as they stand at the fires or 
stoop over the metal, are brilliantly Ut up — yellow and 
orange. Here are the piles of finished forgings and 
stampings upon the ground — white, yellow, bright red, 
dull red, and almost black hot ; the long tongues of fire 
leap up from the coke forges, and every now and then a 
livid sheet of flame bursts out from the stamper's dies. 
There is plenty of colour, as well as animation, in the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 219 

picture, which obtains greater intensity through con- 
trast with the blackness outside. 

The greatest weariness assails you about midnight, 
and continues to possess you till towards three o'clock. 
Then Nature struggles violently, demanding her rights, 
twitching, clutching, and tugging at your eyehds and 
striving in a thousand ways to bring you into submission 
and force her rule upon you, but the iron laws of neces- 
sity, circumstance, and system prevail ; you must battle 
the power \vithin you and repel the sweet soother, 
strugghng on in the unnatural combat. The keen eye 
of the overseer is upon you, who is always whipping 
you to your task, or the watchman is striving to take 
you loitering and so bring himself into notice ; it is 
useless to give way. Necessity urges ; the body must 
be clothed and fed. There are the wife and children 
at home, and you must live. I have felt it, and I know 
what it is. There, in the smoke and stench, the heat 
and cold, draught and damp of midnight I have slaved 
with the rest, not harder or with greater pains than 
they, though perhaps I have noted the feehngs whereas 
they have not. The eyes ache, the ears ache, the teeth 
ache, the temples ache, the shoulders ache, the arms 
ache, the legs ache, the feet ache, and the heart aches. 
I have many times wished, in those dark, awful hours, 
that the hammer would smash my head ; that I might 
be suddenly caught and hurled into eternity, and I 
have heard others express the same wish openly and 
sincerely. Sometimes I have stolen out of the great 
doors to stand for a moment in the open in the cold 
dark or starry night, and looked out towards the hills, 
or away over the town with the whirl of the shed behind 
me. There was the great red moon showing through 
the clouds low down, or the fiercely gUttering Mars 
setting in the west, or inky blackness above, with a few 



220 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

tiny lights twinkling in the far-off streets of the town 
and a silence as deep as death out beyond. If I could 
but have heard the old barn owl hooting in the farm- 
yard, the cow lowing in the meadow or stall, the fox 
yelping in the little wood, or even the bark of a dog, 
I should have been strengthened and relieved, but there 
was never a sound of them — nothing but the black out- 
lines of the sheds around, the small distant lights of the 
town and the great white blaze and crash of noises 
within. Even to pause there is but to intensify the 
torture and the cold air soon chills you to the bone. 
The only course open is to keep toiling away with the 
rest and wear the night out. 

The second stop is at two o'clock and is of brief dura- 
tion — twenty minutes or half an hour at the outside. 
It is merely a break in order to have a mouthful of food, 
a something, so that it shall not be said that the men 
have to toil for seven consecutive hours in that unspeak- 
able weariness. Here the huge engines become silent 
again and the heavy pounding stops. The wheels and 
machinery under the wall look as inert and innocent as 
though they had never moved ; it would be difficult to 
imagine that they were capable of such noise and up- 
roar if you had not heard it yourself but a few minutes 
before. The boilers, relieved of the strain upon their 
resources, begin to prime again with a continued crash- 
ing, shattering sound which the boilerman tries in vain 
to subdue with cold water through the injectors. The 
furnace glitters and the oil forges smoke. The air is 
laden with the peculiarly nauseous fumes of the water- 
gas that make the toilers feel sick and ill and destroy 
the appetite. 

This time the men are unusually silent and mopish. 
Each selects a place for himself and sits, or Ues down, 
apart from the others. Only the tough, wiry forgeman, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 221 

the strong smith, or the hardy coalies and ash- wheelers 
can attack the food. The rest usuall}^ go to their jackets, 
open their handkerchiefs, look at the contents, eat a 
httle perhaps, half-heartedly, and wrap them up again. 
The constitution of the forgeman is almost like iron 
itself. He and the smith can usually manage their 
meal, and the coal-wheelers, from being constantly out 
in the fresh air, are not quite as weary as are the others, 
and so can relish the food better. On Friday nights — 
when the men are more than usually drowsy — the food 
may be a httle more tempting and tasty. At six o'clock 
the wages were paid, and at supper-time a few, at least, 
wiU have gone or sent out into the town for an appetizing 
morsel : some sausages, rashers, a mutton chop, a pound 
of tripe, a bloater, or a packet of fried fish and chipped 
potatoes — the youth's favourite dainty. Then, in the 
early hours, amid the din of the boilers, the black frying- 
pan or coal shovel is produced and the savoury odour 
is wafted abroad. The greatest pleasure, however, is 
usually in the anticipation of the meal. The food itself 
is seldom eaten — or no more than a small part of it, at 
least — the other is cast out for the rats and rooks. 
Years ago, in the autumn, we boys used to gather 
mushrooms in the fields on our way to work and cook 
them for " dinner " in the early morning and suffer 
severely for it afterwards. Nature, disorganized with 
the exigences of the night shift, refused the proffered 
dainties. It is diffiicult to digest even ordinary food 
taken in the unwholesome air of the shed at such an 
unearthly hour. 

Punctually to the moment, if not before time, the 
engines begin to throb again ; the piston rods, gliding 
slowly at first, soon attain a rapid speed. The huge 
crank, flashing in the bright gas-light, leaps over and 
over. The big belt strains and creaks as though it 



222 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

would avoid its labour and the turning of the shaft over- 
head, but the heavy fly-wheel spins round, and the little 
pulleys and cogs go with it ; they must all obey the 
urging of the mighty steam wizard lurking in the green- 
painted cylinder. The donkey engines, forcing the blast, 
are coughing and spitting out the white vapour and 
labouring painfully under the wall in the lean-to out- 
side. Within the fires are flashing and the flames leap- 
ing, and the toil goes on as before. 

About three o'clock, or soon after, the weariness begins 
to diminish somewhat, and the old habit of the body 
reasserts itself. The natural hour of repose is passing, 
and the fountain of energy begins to bubble up within 
you ; you feel to be approaching the normal condition 
again. The fatigue now gives place to a feeHng of un- 
reality and stupidity ; you seem to be dazed and irrit- 
able, as though you had been aroused from sleep before 
the accustomed time. Now you experience deep pains 
in the chest, resulting from loss of sleep. The head 
aches as though it would burst and the eyes are very 
painful and " gritty," but you feel cheered, neverthe- 
less, with the thought of daylight, the coming cessation 
from toil, and the opportunity of obtaining a breath of 
fresh, pure air again. The overseer slips to and fro 
quickly about this time in order to keep the men well 
on the move, pricking here and prodding there, and 
visiting those whom he knows will tell him all the news 
of the night's work — such as may have escaped him. 
The toilers pay him but little attention, however, and 
keep plodding languidly away. 

Steadily, as the day dawns, the light within increases, 
red, white, or golden, stealing through the thick glass of 
the roof or by the wide open doors, and soon after one 
appears with a long staff and turns off all the gas. It 
is really day once more, and there is not much longer to 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 223 

go. At twenty minutes past five the hooter sounds 
loudly, calling up the men of the day shift, and the 
pace flags visibly. A few, however, who have not done 
any too well in the middle hours of the night, hammer 
away with increased energy right up to the last, for they 
know the day overseers and the chargemen will go 
round and feel the forgings to see how late the others 
were toiling. If the iron is cool they know that their 
mates have been dilatory and the tale is told around. 

A few minutes before six o'clock the engines slow 
down and stop and the roar of the blast ceases. The 
steam-hammers are lowered with a loud thud and the 
furnace fires are banked up ; the mighty toil is over, 
for this turn, at any rate. Now the forgers and stampers 
unbind their aprons and roll them up ; the smiths stow 
their tools, placing these in the iron box and those in 
the boshes of water to soak the shafts and tighten the 
handles of the sledges. After that they swill their hands 
at the tap, put on muffler, jacket, or great-coat, and file 
out of the shed — dirty, dusty, tired and sleepy-looking. 
Not for them the joy of morning, the vigour, freshness 
and bloom, the keen delight in the open air, the happy 
heart and elevated spirit. They slouch away through 
the living stream of the day toilers now arriving as black 
as sweeps, half-blinded with the bright daylight, blink- 
ing and sighing, feeling unutterably and unnaturally 
tired, out of sorts and out of place, too, and crawl home, 
like rats to their holes, to snatch a little rest, and re- 
cuperate for new efforts to be made on the following 
turn. 

Few of the men's wives or parents in the town will 
be up to welcome them at that early hour and provide 
them with warm tea and a breakfast. Accordingly, 
some go home and straight to bed without food at all, 
a few walk about the streets or out towards the country 



224 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

for an hour or so till the home fire is lit, while others 
go home and get the breakfast themselves. Perhaps, 
if trade in the shed is brisk, they will be required to 
work overtime till eight or nine o'clock. I have done 
this for months at a stretch and afterwards walked home 
to the village, ofttimes sitting down on the roadside to 
rest, reaching home at about ten o'clock and getting 
to bed an hour before noon, to be awakened by every 
slight noise without the house. At one time I was 
aroused by the old church clock striking, at another by 
the sound of the school bell, or the children at play 
underneath the window, or by the farm waggon. At 
four in the afternoon, rested or not, you must rise again, 
wash and dress, snatch a hasty meal, and plod off to the 
town, four miles distant, forgetful of everytliing behind 
you — the gentle peace of the village, the long hue of 
dreamy-looking hills, the haymakers in the field, the 
sweetly sorrowful sound of the threshing machine by 
the ricks in the farmyard, the eternal pageantry of the 
heavens, the whole natural hfe and scenery of the world. 
The knowledge of the loss hes hke lead at the heart and 
fills one with a keen regret, a poignant sense of the cruelty 
of the industrial system and your own weakness with 
it ; yet one must hve. But there is real tragedy in 
working the night shift at the forge. 



CHAPTER XIV 

INFERIORITY OF WORK MADE BY THE NIGHT SHIFT — 
ALTERING THE GAUGES — THE " BLACK LIST "— 
" DOUBLE STOPPAGE CHARLIE " — " JIMMY USELESS " 
— THE HAUNTED COKEHEAP — THE OLD VALET — THE 
CHECKER AND STOREKEEPER 

The work produced on the night turn is greatly inferior 
to that made by the men of the day shift. It is im- 
possible to do good work when you are tired and weary. 
One has not then the keenness of sense, the nerve, nor 
the energy to take the requisite pains. You are not 
then the master of your machinery and tools, but are 
subject to them ; even where the work is with dies 
and performed mechanically, there will be depreciation. 
Perhaps the stamper's tools have shifted a little. The 
keys want removing, the dies re-setting and then to be 
rammed up tight again. But he is too weary to do 
much with the sledge, so he keeps dragging along with 
his dies a-twist and makes that do, whereas, if he were 
working by day he would rectify them immediately 
and bang away at top speed. 

It is the same with the forger. He, too, tough as he 
is, cannot maintain the precision he would exercise by 
day. The pile or ingot on the porter-bar seems to him 
to have doubled in weight. The flash of the blazing 
metal half bhnds him. He cannot stand the heat so 
well ; it is all against turning out good work. Unless 
the bloom is kept exactly square under the stroke of the 
hammer it lops over on one side and obtains an ugly 

T, 225 



226 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

shape, which it will be impossible to rectify ; there is 
nothing more unsightly to the eye of the careful smith 
or hammerman than a shabby piece of forging. Very 
often, too, a portion of slag or sand from the bed of the 
furnace has adhered to the pile and, falling away, has 
left a hole in the metal. Although, in the uncertain 
light, the forger may think that he has hammered it 
quite out, when he views the piece by daylight he finds 
it rough and untidy and perhaps worthless. It may be 
too small now ; there is not enough metal to clean up 
under the tools of the slotting- or shaping-machine. 

Then there is the smith's weld or bend to be con- 
sidered. In the first place, the smith is hable to mistake 
the heat of his parts by gaslight, for then they appear 
brighter and hotter than they really are, and when he 
brings them out to the anvil, the metal, instead of 
shutting up well, will be hard and glassy under the tools. 
It will, consequently, go together badly and leave a 
mark or " scarf," which is not at all desirable, though 
the weld may be strong enough inside. In such a case 
resort will be had to " nobbling " ; that is, covering up 
and concealing the scarf with the small round ball of the 
hand-hammer. This must be done secretly, for no fore- 
man would tolerate much of it. It is looked upon as a 
mark of bad workmanship, though the bluff old overseer 
of the regular smiths' shed may condone it in a few 
cases with : " Hello ! You be at it agen then ! But 
ther', you be no good if you can't do't. I alius 
said any fool can be a smith but it takes a good man 
to nobble." The smiths, under ordinary circumstances, 
are not allowed to use a file. They must finish their 
job manfully with the sledge and tools, otherwise they 
might fake up a bad forging, with nobbling and fihng, 
and make it look as strong as the best. 

There are more cases of ill-health among men of the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 227 

night than of the day shift, but the reason of this will 
be obvious to any. It is evident that the unnatural 
conditions of all-night toil must weaken and wear down 
the body and render it unfit to bear the strain put upon 
it, and especially to withstand the cold draughts from 
the doors and roof, which are the most fruitful source of 
sickness among the workmen — a large number is always 
absent with chills and influenza. Small regard for a 
man's health is had at any time in the factory. It is 
nothing to the officials that he is out on the sick Hst, 
unless he happens to be drawing compensation for an 
injury. I remember once, when work was slack in the 
shed, the day overseer left orders for the night boss to 
send the men outside in the yard and keep them there 
for two or three hours shifting scrap iron, in order that 
they might " catch cold and stop at home, and give the 
others a chance." 

Accidents, too, are frequent on the night shift ; the 
greater part of the more serious ones happen on that 
turn. Then the men, by reason of the fatigue and 
dulness, are unable to take sufficient care of them- 
selves ; they lack the quick presentiment of danger 
common to those of the day shift. There is also the 
matter of defective light and carelessness in the use of 
tools, and, very often, the mad hurry to get on in the 
first part of the night — the wild rush and tear of the 
piecework system. It was not long ago that " Smamer's " 
brother was killed at the drop-stamps with a blow on 
the head, shortly after starting work. A jagged piece 
of steel, ten or twelve pounds in weight, flew from the 
die and struck him between the eye and ear knocking 
out half his brains. As things go, no one was to blame. 
The men were all hurrying together to get the work 
forward, but he was murdered, aU the same, done to 
death by the system that is responsible for the rash 



228 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

haste and frenzy such as is common on the night 
shift. 

Nearly all whitewashing and painting out the interiors 
of the sheds is done by night, when the machinery is 
still. This is performed by unskilled hands — youths, 
for the most part ; from one year's end to another they 
are employed at it, taking the workshops by turn. 
The work is very unhealthy and extremely dangerous. 
The men construct a little scaffolding and work upon 
single, narrow planks, or crawl Uke flies along the net- 
work of girders in and out among the shafting, with a 
single gas-jet to afford them light. One false step or 
overbalancing would bring them down to the ground, 
thirty feet below, amid the machinery ; death would 
be swift and certain for them if they should miss their 
footing on the planks. Their wages, considering the risks 
they take, are very low ; i8s. or 19s. a week is the 
amount they commonly receive. Several of the men, 
whom I know personally — steady fellows and good 
time-keepers — had been getting iSs. a week for twenty' 
years till recently ; then, after persistent apphcations 
for an advance, they were granted the substantial rise 
of IS. a week ! One sturdy fellow, braver than the rest, 
on meeting the manager one day, complained to him of 
the low w'ages, but was unsuccessful. His overseer, 
upon hearing of it, promptly told him to clear out, 
which he afterwards did, and went to Canada and saved 
^^150 in less than a year. When the small boys asked 
Bill Richards, the old smiths' foreman, for a rise, he 
used jokingly to tell them to " Get up a-top o' the 
an\Til." 

The running expenses of much of the " labour-saving " 
plant is truly enormous and very often so great as 
entirely to counteract the much boasted profit-making 
capacity of the machine, but the managers do not mind 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 229 

that in the least as long as they can show a reduction 
of hands. If, by any means at all, they can get one man 
to do what formerly required the services of two or 
three, they do not trouble about machinery or fuel 
expenses ; the losses incurred by these they make good 
by speeding up the workman and getting a bigger share 
out of him. They would rather pay fabulous sums for 
plant and running expenses than allow the workman 
to get a few shillings more in wages. 

The wholesale waste of material, fuel, and energy, in 
many of the sheds, is appalling ; many thousands of 
pounds are annually thrown away in this direction. 
Walk where he will the keen observer will detect waste ; 
no one seems to trouble about the real economy. I 
have seen it daily for years and have made numerous 
suggestions, but to no purpose ; the overseers are too 
stupid and ignorant, or too haughty and jealous, to 
carry out ideas, and the managers are no better. They 
squander thousands of pounds in experiments and easily 
cover up their short-comings, but if the machineman 
happens to break a new tool, or spoil metal of a few 
pence in value, he is suspended and put on the " black 
list." 

If a workman sees a way to make improvements in 
processes and the hke, he immediately falls into dis- 
favour with the overseers. Some years ago I, as chief 
stamper, was anxious to improve the process of making 
a forging, and also the forging itself, and waited on the 
overseer with a view to having the alteration made, 
but I could not obtain his sanction for a long time. At 
last, as new dies were to be made, I succeeded, after 
some difficulty, in obtaining his consent for the improve- 
ment. Happening to enter the die shed while the job 
was in the lathe I was told by the machineman that no 
alteration had been authorised. Grasping the situation, 



230 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

I took a bold course, carried out the suggested altera- 
tion myself, and set the dies in the steam-hammer. The 
improvement was a complete success. I was cursed 
and abused by the overseer, and he was highly con- 
gratulated by the staff in my own presence and hearing. 
The improvement was not to be permanent, however. 
Shortly afterwards the dies were re- cut, and made in the 
old way again. At another time, when I had assisted 
the overseer with an idea, he would not speak to me 
for a fortnight. 

Many times after that I stood for improvements, and 
was rewarded with the cutting of my prices and the 
threat of dismissal, and I had the mortification of being 
" hooted " by my shop-mates into the bargain. The 
fact of the matter is, workmen and overseers, too, want 
to run along in the same old grooves, at any rate, as far 
as processes are concerned. The foreman and manager 
think they have done enough if they merely cut a 
price ; they are too blind to see that improvements in 
the process of manufacture is the first great essential. 
There are many jobs in the sheds which have been done 
in the same old way for half a century. It is painful 
to contemplate the ignorance, stupidity, and prejudice 
of the staff in charge of operations. 

Every shed has an institution called " The Black List." 
This Ust is filed in the foreman's office and contains the 
names of those who have been found guilty of any 
indiscretion, those who may have made a little bad work, 
indifferent time-keepers, and, naturally, those who have 
fallen into disfavour with the overseer on any other 
account, and perhaps the names have been added for no 
offence at all. When it is intended to include a work- 
man in the list, he is sent for to the office, bulHed by 
the overseer before the clerks and oihce-boy, and warned 
as to the future. " I've put you on the black list. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 231 

You know what that means. The next time, mind, 
and you're out of it. I give you one more chance." 
Not long ago an apprentice — a fine, smart, intellectual 
youth — was asked by a junior mate to advise him as to 
a piece of work in the lathe and went to give the re- 
quired assistance. While thus engaged he was sent for 
to the office and charged with idling by the overseer. 
He tried to explain that he was helping his mate, but 
the foreman would not Hsten to it. " Put him on the 
black list," he roared to the clerk. The lad's father, 
enraged at the treatment meted out to his son, promptly 
removed him from the works, and sacrificed four or 
five years of patient and studious toil at his trade. It 
is useless to continue in the shed when you have been 
stigmatised with the " black hst." You will never 
make any satisfactory progress ; you had better seek 
out another place and make a fresh start ^ in hfe. 

A favourite plan of the overseer's is to catch a man 
in a weak state and force him to undergo a strict medical 
test. As a matter of fact, the " medical test " is a 
farce ; it is merely an examination by one of the staff. 
Even if the workman passes the test satisfactorily it is 
recorded and tells against him. Quite recently one of 
the forgers came to work with a black eye, as the result 
of a private encounter, and the overseer, after jesting 
with him concerning it, communicated with the ex- 
aminer and hustled him off to pass the " medical 
test." 

" What have you been at with the hammer ? " said 
I to Httle Jim one day, finding the lever working very 
stiffly. 

" I dunno. The luminator's broke," answered he. 

" The what broke ? " I inquired. 

^ I am told that the "Black List" has now been abolished. 
It certainly existed down to several years ago. 



232 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

" That there yu-bricator, the thing what you puts 
the oil in," he repHed, 

Most of the articles stamped seemed to suggest some- 
thing or other to Jim's childish mind. One job, made 
three at a time, looked Uke " Httle bridges " ; something 
else resembled great butterflies. This was like an air- 
gun, and that "just like little pistols." Jim's opinion 
of factory work is interesting— he is a little over fifteen 
years of age. Coming up to me one day, cap, waistcoat, 
everj^thing cast aside, his shirt unbuttoned, his face soot 
black, and with the sweat streaming down his nose and 
chin, he said naively—" This is what I calls a weary 
Hfe. This place is more Uke a prison than anything 
else." After that he wished to know if I had any apples 
in my garden, or, failing that, would I biing him along 
some crabs in my pocket ? 

" Double Stoppage Charhe " was well-known at the 
works. He first of all used to keep his wife short of 
cash, telhng her each pay-day it was " double stoppage 
this week." He often figured in a pubHc place, too, 
and invariably made the same excuse. It was always 
" double stoppage week " with him, so he came to be 
honoured with the nickname of " Double Stoppage 
Charhe." There was also " Southampton CharUe," who 
had seen service with the Marines, and who was for ever 
talking about the " gossoons " and telling monstrous 
yarns of things — chiefly of bloody fights and ship- 
wrecks. He took pride in informing you that he had 
been told he would have made a capital speaker of 
French, by reason of his wonderful powers of " pro- 
nounciation." 

Jimmy Eustace — better known as " Jimmy Useless " 
— was full of poaching adventures and midnight tussles 
with the gamekeepers and poUce. He was delighted 
to tell you of how they dodged the men in blue and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 233 

waded half a mile, up to their necks in water, along the 
canal in the dark hours in order to keep out of their 
clutches. This happened in his young days, in the 
neighbourhood of Ufiington. He was always somewhat 
of a rake, though he was a very clever constructor of all 
kinds of iron work. Everyone called him " an old fool," 
however, when Queen Victoria's new Royal Train was 
made, and the workmen went out in the yard to see it. 
" He go to see that thing ? Not he ! He could make 
a better one than that standing on his head, any day." 
His long grey hair hung down as straight as candles 
and his grey beard had the true lunar curve. He 
chewed half an ounce of tobacco at a time, and spat 
great mouthfuls of the juice about everywhere. 

A little humour is occasionally in evidence in the life 
that is lived by the grimy pack of toilers in the factory 
sheds. There is, for instance, the story of the young 
man engaged to be married to a smart lass, and who 
gave himself certain unjustifiable airs, representing 
liimself as holding a position in the drawing office. After 
the wedding took place, at the end of the first week, he 
took home i8s. in wages and was severely taken to task 
by his spouse and mother-in-law. It transpired that 
he was employed pulling a heavy truck about ; that 
was the only " drawing office " to which he was 
attached. 

One young fellow was subjected to the ridicule of his 
mates by reason of an accident that befell him on liis 
wedding-day. He lived far out in the country, and, on 
the morning of the ceremony, just before the appointed 
hour, happening to give an extra specially good yawn, 
he dislocated his jaw and had to be driven twelve miles 
to a doctor. Another artless youth, newly brought into 
the shed, when he was put to withdraw the white-hot 
plates from a vast furnace, finding the iron rake much 



234 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

too short, tied a piece of tar-cord on the end in order 
to lengthen it ! 

The riveter and his mates occasionally practise the 
ludicrous. One day, when " Dobbin," the " holder- 
up," who was short-sighted, was sitting underneath the 
floor of the waggon with his head against the plate, 
dozing perhaps, the riveter began to beat on the floor 
with his hand-hammer and severely hurt his mate's 
cranium. Shortly afterwards Dobbin unconsciously 
took his revenge. It is usual to " drift " the holes with 
a steel tool in order to make them clear to admit the 
rivet, and on this particular occasion the riveter thrust 
his finger through instead and Dobbin, seeing it in the 
dim Hght and thinking it was the drift, gave it a mighty 
ram upwards with the dolly and smashed it. 

Then there is " Budget," who works one of the oil 
furnaces, with only half a shirt to his back and hair 
six or seven inches long and as straight as gunbarrels ; 
whose face, long before breakfast-time, is as black as a 
sweep's ; who slaves like a Cyclops at the forge and is 
frequently quoting some portions of the speeches of 
Antonio and Shjdock in the " Merchant of Venice," 
which he learnt at school and has not yet forgotten. 
He sprang out of bed in a great fright, seized his food 
and ran at top speed, and only partly dressed, half 
through the town in the darkness to discover finally 
that it wanted an hour to midnight : he had only gone 
to bed at ten o'clock. His father is a platelayer on the 
railway receiving the magnificent sum of i6s. a week in 
wages, and his mother, after suffering five operations, 
was lately sent home from the hospital as incurable ; 
it is a struggle to make both ends meet and to keep 
the home respectable. It is no wonder that Budget's 
shirt is always out of repair and that he himself is racked 
with colds and influenza. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 235 

There is romance in every walk of life, and legends of 
ghosts and spirits that frequent desolate ruins and dark 
places, but few would think to find such a thing as a 
haunted forge or coke heap, though they were believed 
to exist by the credulous among the night-men at 
the factory. " Sammy," the cokewheeler, had a mortal 
dread of the cokeheap at midnight, by reason of strange, 
weird noises he had heard there in the lone, dark hours, 
and the men at the fires often had to wait for fuel, or 
go and get it in for themselves. Accordingly, certain 
among them determined to frighten the old man still 
further. For several nights in succession, at about 
twelve o'clock, someone scaled the big high heap at the 
back and waited for Samuel's return from the shed with 
his wheel-barrow. When he arrived the hidden one 
set up a loud, moaning noise and started to clamber 
down the pile. The coke gave way and fell with a 
crash, and Sammy, stuttering and stammering with a 
childUke simplicity and in a paroxysm of fear, rushed 
off and told how the " ghost " had assailed him. 

The haunted forge was in the smith's shed, adjoining 
the steam-hammer shop. There a simple fellow was 
by a waggish mate first of all beguiled into the belief 
that a treasure was hidden beneath the floorplate and 
anvil, and then induced to go alone during the supper- 
hour in the hope of obtaining a clue from the " spirit " 
as to its exact whereabouts. Accordingly he went 
fearfully in through the darkness and up to the fire, 
while his mate, concealed in the roof, moaned and spoke 
to him in a ghostly voice down the chimney, telling how, 
many years before, he had been murdered on that spot 
and his body buried there together with the treasure, 
and promising to discover it to the workman if he 
would come secretly to the fire a fixed number of nights 
and not communicate the matter to any outsiders. 



236 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

This went on for some time, until the unhappy dupe 
was made ill, and driven half out of his mind with crazy 
fear, and things began to get serious. Suddenly the 
noises stopped, and the midnight visit to the forge was 
discontinued. 

Cases have occurred in which a man has actually been 
driven out of his mind by continual and systematic 
trading on his weakness, and by a downright wicked 
and criminal prosecution of the unscrupulous game. 
Teddy, the sweeper-up, who was a young married man, 
and highly respectable, but who discovered a trifling 
weakness, was assailed and befooled with disgusting 
buffoonery and drivelling nonsense to such an extent 
that he became a perfect mental wreck, to the complete 
amusement of the clique who had brought it about, and 
who indulged in hysterical laughter at the unfortunate 
man's antics and general condition. To such a point 
was the foolery carried that Teddy had to be detained, 
and he fell seriously ill. In a fortnight he died, and 
those who had been the chief cause of his collapse went 
jesting to his funeral. It was nothing to them that they 
had been instrumental in his death ; a man's life and 
soul are held at a cheap rate by his mates about the 
factory. 

Jim Cole is considerably out of place in the factory 
crowd ; ill-health and other misfortunes were the cause 
of his migration to the railwaj^ town. He is a Londoner 
by birth, and was first of all a valet in good service ; 
afterwards he bought a cab and plied with it about the 
streets of the metropolis. As a valet he lived with a 
sister of John Bright, and was often in attendance upon 
the famous statesman and orator. John Bright's faith 
in the Book of Books is well nigh proverbial ; the old 
valet says whenever he went to his room in the morning 
he was always sitting up in bed reading the Bible. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 237 

As a cabman Jim was brought into contact with 
many celebrities, and it is interesting to learn in what 
light great men appear to those who are at their service 
about the thoroughfares. He knew Tennyson well by 
sight. The famous poet was never a favourite with the 
" men in the street." His testiness of manner and 
severity were well-known to them ; to use Jim Cole's 
words : " They hated the sight of him." " There goes 
the miserable old d 1/' they would say to each other. 

Carlyle was not a favourite with the cabmen either. 
They said he was " hoggish," and " too miserable to 
live." Everyone was in his way, and everything had 
to be set aside for him. His brilhant hterary fame was 
no recommendation in the face of his stern personal 
characteristics. 

Oscar Wilde was " a very nice man." There was 
not a bit of pride in him ; he would talk to anyone. He 
would not walk a dozen yards if he could help it, but 
must ride everywhere. He often gave cabby a shilHng 
to post a letter for him. One day Jim Cole was driving 
him, and they met Mrs Langtry in her carriage. There- 
upon Oscar Wilde stopped the cab, got out, and stood 
with one foot on the step of the popular actress's carriage, 
remaining in conversation with her for nearly an hour. 
At the end of the journey Oscar stoutly denied the 
time, declared he was not talking to Mrs Langtry for 
more than ten minutes, and refused to hand over the 
fare demanded. Ultimately, however, he admitted he 
might have been mistaken, and so came to terms and 
paid the extras. 

Once James was engaged to drive the celebrated 
Whistler and Mrs Whistler to Hammersmith, and came 
very near meeting with disaster. That night he was 
driving a young mare of great spirit, and she took fright 
at something on the way and bolted. Poor Jim was in 



238 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

great suspense, fearing an accident at every crossing. 
The mare flew along at a terrific speed, but the hour was 
favourable and the traffic thin ; there was a fair, open 
road all the way. He strained every nerve to subdue 
the animal and slacken the pace, but for over two miles 
he had not the sHghtest control of the vehicle. Whistler 
was quiet and apparently well content within ; he had 
not the faintest idea that anything was wrong. At 
last, after a great race up Hammersmith Broadway, the 
pace began to flag ; by the time they reached their 
destination Jim was able to " pull her up " successfully. 
Whistler was delighted with the journey and waxed 
enthusiastic about it. He clapped and patted the 
animal fondly on the neck, several times exclaiming 
— " You splendid little mare ! " Whistler was a great 
favourite with the cabmen and he often chatted with 
them, and made them feel quite at their ease. 

Mr Justin M'Carthy and his son were other celebrated 
fares. They were very quiet and unassuming and 
earned the great respect of the cabmen. Ill-health 
dogged the old-time valet. He is now forced to do the 
work of a menial, lost and swallowed up in the crowd 
of grimy toilers at the factory. 

There is one in every shed who stands at the ticket- 
box and checks in the workmen at the beginning of 
each spell; i.e., at six a.m., at nine o'clock, and two in 
the afternoon. It is his duty also to carry off the box 
to the time office and bring back the tickets to the 
men before they leave the shed. At the time office the 
metal tickets are sorted out and placed on a numbered 
board ; this the checker receives and carries round to 
all the men and hands them their brasses. It is a 
favourite plan of the man on the check-box to allow 
the workmen to drag a little by degrees until they get 
slightly behind the oflicial moment, and then to close 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 239 

the box sharp and shut out forty or fifty. This causes 
the men to lose half an hour, or they may possibly be 
compelled to go home for the rest of the morning or 
afternoon. For some time afterwards they are very 
punctual at the box, but by and by they are allowed 
to drag again and the act of shutting out is repeated. 
The checker, as well as officiating at the ticket-box, 
acts as a kind of shop watchman, and supplies the 
overseer with information upon such points as may 
have escaped his notice. 

Besides the checker, there is the regular shed detective, 
who locks up the doors and cleans the office windows, 
and his supernumerary who guards the doors at hooter- 
time and completes the custody of the place : there is 
little fear of anything transpiring without its becoming 
known to the foreman. As those selected to watch the 
rest are invariably the lazy or the incompetent they 
are sure to be heartily contemned by the busy toilers ; 
there is nothing the skilful and generous workman 
detests more than to have a worthless fellow told off 
to spy upon him. 

The storekeeper is another who, by reason of his 
extreme officiousness and parsimonious manner in 
dealing out the stores, is not beloved of the toilers in 
the shed. He treats every apphcant for stores with 
fantastic ceremony, examining the foreman's shp half- 
a-dozen times or more, and turning it round and round 
and over and over until the exasperated workman can 
stand it no longer, and sets about him with, " Come on, 
mate ! Ya goin' to mess about all day ? We got some 
work to do, we 'ev. Anybody'd think thee'st got to 
buy it out o' thi own pocket ! " If the applicant wants 
a can of oil the vessel is about half-filled ; if a hammer 
is needed the storekeeper searches through the whole 
stock to find out the worst, if nails, screws, or rivets 



240 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

are required they are counted out with critical exact- 
ness, and if the foreman is not at hand to sign the order 
— no matter how urgent the need is — the workman 
must wait, perhaps for an hour, till he returns to 
initial the shp. The time necessary for an order to 
reach the shed after it has been issued from the general 
stores, fifty yards away, is usually a week, and the work- 
men are forbidden to begin a job until they have actually 
received the official form. 

The political views of the men in the shed are known 
to the overseer and are — in some cases, at any rate — 
communicated by him to the manager ; there is no 
such thing as individual liberty about the works. He 
whose opinions are most nearly in agreement with those 
of the foreman always thrives best, obtains the highest 
piecework prices and the greatest day wages, too, while 
the other is certain to be put under the ban. In brief, 
the average overseer dislikes you if j^ou are a tip-top 
workman, if you have a good carriage and are well- 
dressed, if you are clever and cultivated, if you have 
friends above the average and are well-connected, if 
you are rehgious or independent, manly, and courageous ; 
and he tolerates you if you creep about, are rough, 
ragged, and round-shouldered, a born fool, a toady, a 
har, a tale-bearer, an indifferent workman — no matter 
what you are as long as you say " sir " to him, are 
servile and abject, see and hear nothing, and hold with 
him in everything he says and does : that is the way to 
get on in the factory. 



CHAPTER XV 

SICKNESS AND ACCIDENTS — THE FACTORY YEAR — HOLI- 
DAYS — " TRIP " — MOODS AND FEELINGS — PAY-DAY 
— LOSING A QUARTER — GETTING MARRIED. 

Sickness and accidents are of frequent occurrence in 
the shed. The first-named may be attributed to the 
foul air prevaiHng — the dense smoke and fumes from 
the oil forges, and the thick, sharp dust and ashes from 
the coke fires. The tremendous noise of the hammers 
and machinery and the priming of the boilers have a 
most injurious effect upon the body as well as upon the 
nervous system ; it is all intensely painful and weari- 
some to the workmen. The most common forms of 
sickness among the men of the shed are complaints of 
the stomach and head, with constipation. These are 
the direct result of the gross impurity of the air. Colds 
are exceptionally common, and are another result of 
the bad atmospheric conditions ; as soon as you enter 
into the smoke and fume you are sure to begin sniffing 
and sneezing. The black dust and filth is being breathed 
into the chest and lungs every moment. At the week- 
end one is continually spitting off the accretion ; it will 
take several days to remove it from the body. As a 
matter of fact, the workmen are never clean, except at 
holiday times. However often they may wash and 
bathe themselves, an absence from the shed of several 
consecutive days will be necessary in order to effect 
an evacuation of the filth from all parts of the system. 
Even the eyes contain it. No matter how carefully 

Q 241 



242 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

you wash them at night, in the morning they will be 
surrounded with dark rings — fine, black dust which 
has come from them as you lay asleep. 

A short while ago I was passing through a village near 
the town, and, seeing a canvas tent erected in a cottage 
garden I made it my business to inquire into the cause 
of it and to ask who might be the occupant. Thereupon 
I was told that the tent was put up to accommodate a 
consumptive lad who slept in it by night and worked 
in the factory by day. On asking what were the lad's 
duties I was informed that he worked on the oil furnaces. 
The agonies he must have suffered in that loathsome, 
murderous atmosphere may easily be imagined. Strong 
men curse the filthy smoke and stench from morning 
till night, and to a person in consumption it must be 
a still more exquisite torture. Reading the Medical 
Report for the county of Wilts recently I noticed it was 
said that greater supervision is exercised over the work- 
shops now than was the case formerly. From my own 
knowledge and point of view I should say there is no 
such supervision of the factory shops at all ; during the 
twenty odd years I have worked there I have never 
once heard of a factory inspector coming through the 
shed, unless it were one of the company's own confidential 
officials. 

The percentage of sickness and accidents is higher 
at the stamping shed than in any other workshop in the 
factory. The accidents are of many kinds, though they 
are chiefly scalds and burns, broken and crushed limbs, 
and injuries to the eyes. It is remarkable how so many 
accidents happen ; they are usually very simply caused 
and received. A great number of them are due, directly 
and indirectly, to the unhealthy air about the place. 
When the workman is not feehng well he is liable to 
meet with an accident at any moment. He has not 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 243 

then the keen sense of danger necessary under such 
conditions, or, if he has this, he has not the power in 
himself to guard against it. He has a vague idea that 
he is running risks, but he is too dazed or too ill fully 
to realise it, and very often he does not even care to 
protect himself. He is thus often guilty of great self- 
neglect, amounting to madness, though he is ignorant 
of it at the time. When he is away from the shed he 
remembers the danger he was in, and is amazed at his 
weakness, and vows resolutions of taking greater pains 
in the future, but on coming back to the work the old 
conditions prevail, and he is confronted with the same 
inability to take sufficient precautions for his safety 
and well-being. Where the air is good, or even moder- 
ately pure, the workmen will be more keen and sensible 
of danger. Both their physical and mental powers will 
be active and alert and accidents will consequently 
be much more rare. 

As soon as a serious accident happens to a workman 
a rush is made to the spot by young and old ahke — they 
cannot contain their eager curiosity and excitement. 
Many are impelled by a strong desire to be of service 
to the unfortunate individual who has been hurt, though, 
in nine cases out of ten, instead of being a help they are 
a very great hindi-ance. If the workman is injured 
very severely, or if he happens to be killed, it will be 
impossible to keep the crowd back ; in spite of com- 
mands and exhortations they use their utmost powers 
to approach the spot and catch a ghmpse of the victim. 
The overseer shouts, curses, and waves his hands franti- 
cally, and warns them all of what he wiU do, but the 
men doggedly refuse to disperse until they have satis- 
fied their curiosity and abated their excitement. 

Immediately a man is down one hurries off to the 
ambulance shed for the stretcher, another hastens to 



244 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the cupboard for lint and sal volatile ; this one fetches 
water from the tap, and the " first-aid men " are soon 
at work patching up the wound. In a few moments 
the stretcher arrives and the injured one is Hfted upon 
it and carried or wheeled off to the hospital. Some of 
the men inspect the spot at which the accident occurred 
and loiter there for a moment ; afterwards they go on 
with their work as though nothing had happened. 

If the injured man dies word is immediately sent into 
the shed. A notice of the funeral is posted upon the 
wall and a collection is usually made to buy a wreath, 
or the money is handed over to the widow or next-of- 
kin to help meet the expenses. There are always a few 
to follow the old comrade to the grave, and the bearers 
will usually be the deceased man's nearest workmates. 
Occasionally, if the funeral happens to be that of a very 
old hand, and one who was a special favourite with the 
men, the whole shed is closed for the event. Within 
two or three days afterwards, however, the affair will 
be almost forgotten ; it will be as though the workman 
had never existed. Amid the hurry and noise of the 
shop there is little time to think of the dead ; one's 
whole attention has to be directed towards the living 
and to the earning of one's own livelihood. For a 
single post rendered vacant by the death of a workman, 
there are sure to be several applicants ; a new hand 
is soon brought forward to fill the position. Though 
he does not wish to be unnatural towards his predecessor, 
he thanks his lucky stars, all the same, that he has got 
the appointment ; it is nothing to him who or what 
the other man was. It is an ill wind that blows nobody 
good, and that, for the most part, is the philosophy of 
the men at the factory. 

There is one other point worth remembering in con- 
nection with the matter of pure or impure air in the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 245 

shed, and that is, that the quaUty of the work made 
will be considerably affected by it. The more fit a 
workman feels, the better his work will be. If he is 
deficient in health it will be unreasonable to expect that 
his forging will be of the highest quality ; there is 
bound to be a depreciation in it. The same may be 
said of the workman's relations with his employers — 
his satisfaction or dissatisfaction with existing con- 
ditions. If he is treated honestly and fairly the firm 
will gain greatly thereby, in many ways unknown to 
them. The workman, in return, will be conscientious 
and will use his tools and machinery with scrupulous 
care. But if he is being continually pricked and goaded, 
and ground down by the overseer, he will naturally be 
less inclined to study the interests of the company 
beyond what is his most inevitable duty, and something 
or other will suffer. In any case it is as well to remember 
that in such matters as these the interests of all are 
identical ; where there is mutual understanding and 
appreciation gain is bound to accrue to each party. 
No general has ever won a battle with an unhealthy 
or discontented army, and the conditions in a large 
factory, with ten or twelve thousand workmen, are very 
similar ; the figure is reasonably appHcable. 

The year at the factory is divided into three general 
periods; i.e., from Christmas till Easter, Easter tiU "Trip" 
— which is held in July — and Trip till Christmas. There 
are furthermore the Bank HoHdays of Whitsuntide and 
August, though more than one day's leave is seldom 
granted in connection with either of them. Sometimes 
there will be no cessation of labour at all, which gives 
satisfaction to many workmen, for, notwithstanding 
the painfulness of the confinement within the dark 
walls, they are, as a rule, indifferent to holidays. Many 
hundreds of them would never have one at all if they 



246 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

were not forced to do so by the constitution of the 
calendar and the natural order of things. 

Very little traveUing is done by the workmen during 
the Easter hoHdays. Most of those who have a couple 
of square yards of land, a small back-yard, or a box of 
earth on the window sill, prepare for the task of 
husbandry — the general talk in spare moments now 
will be of peas, beans, onions, and potatoes. The longest 
journeys from home are made by the small boys of the 
shed, who set out in squads and troops to go bird's- 
nesting in the hedgerows, or plucking primroses and 
violets in the woods and copses. Young Jim was very 
excited when Easter came with the warm, sunny weather ; 
it was pleasant to Hsten to his childish talk as he told 
us about the long walks he had taken in search of prim- 
roses and violets, going without his dinner and tea in 
order to collect a posy of the precious flowers. Ques- 
tioned as to the meaning of Good Friday, he was puzzled 
for a few moments, and then told us it was because 
Jesus Christ was born on that day. Though he was 
mistaken as to the origin and signification of the Festival, 
there are hundreds of others older than he at the works 
who would not be able to answer the question correctly. 

At Whitsuntide the first outings are generallv held. 
Then many of the workmen — those who can afford it, 
who have no large gardens to care for, and who are 
exempt from other business and anxieties — begin to 
make short week-end trips by the trains. The privilege 
of a quarter-fare for travel, granted by the railway 
companies to their employees, is valued and appreciated, 
and widely patronised. By means of this very many 
have trips and become acquainted with the world who 
otherwise would be unable to do so. 

When the men come back to work after the Whit- 
suntide holidays they usually find the official notice- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 247 

board in the shed covered with posters containing the 
preHminary announcements of the annual Trip, and, 
very soon, on the plates of the forges and walls, and 
even outside in the town, the words " Roll on. Trip," or 
" Five weeks to Trip," may be seen scrawled in big 
letters. As the time for the hohday draws near the 
spirits of the workmen — especially of the younger ones, 
who have no domestic rseponsibilities — rise consider- 
ably. Whichever way one turns he is greeted with 
the question — often asked in a jocular sense—" Wher' 
gwain Trip ? " the reply to which usually is — " Same 
old place," or " Up in the smowk ; " i.e., to London, or 
" Swindon by the Sea." By the last-named place 
Weymouth is intended. That is a favourite haunt of 
the poorer workmen who have large families, and it is 
especially popular with the day trippers. Every year 
five or six thousand are conveyed to the Dorsetshire 
watering-place, the majority of whom return the same 
evening. Given fine weather an enjoyable day will be 
spent about the sands and upon the water, but if it 
happens to rain the outing will prove a wretched fiasco. 
Sometimes the trippers have left home in fine weather 
and found a deluge of rain setting in when they arrived 
at the seaside town. Under such circumstances they 
were obliged to stay in the trains all day for shelter, or 
implore the officials to send them home again before the 
stipulated time. 

" Trip Day " is the most important day in the calendar 
at the railway town. For several months preceding it, 
fathers and mothers of families, young unmarried men, 
and juveniles have been saving up for the outing. What- 
ever new clothes are bought for the summer are usually 
worn for the first time at " Trip " ; the trade of the town 
is at its zenith during the week before the holiday. Then 
the men don their new suits of shoddy, and the pinched 



248 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

or portly dames deck themselves out in all the glory of 
cheap, " fashionable " finery. The young girls are 
radiant with colour — white, red, pink, and blue — and 
the children come dressed in brand-new garments — 
all stiff from the warehouse — and equipped with spade 
and bucket and bags full of thin paper, cut the size of 
pennies, to throw out of the carriage windows as the 
train flies along. A general exodus from the town 
takes place that day and quite twenty-five thousand 
people will have been hurried off to all parts of the 
kingdom in the early hours of the morning, before the 
ordinary traffic begins to get thick on the line. About 
half the total number return the same night ; the others 
stop away till the expiration of the hoHday, which is of 
eight days' duration. 

The privilege of travelling free by the Trip trains is 
not granted to all workmen, but only to those who are 
members of the local Railway Institute and Library, 
and have contributed about six shiUings per annum to 
the general fund. Moreover, no part of the holiday is 
free, but is counted as lost time. The prompt com- 
mencement of work after Trip is, therefore, highly 
necessary ; the great majority of the workmen are 
reduced to a state of absolute penury. If they have 
been away and spent all their money — and perhaps 
incurred debt at home for rent and provisions before- 
hand in order to enjoy themselves the better on their 
trip — it will take them a considerable time to get square 
again ; they will scarcely have done this before the 
Christmas hoHdays are announced. 

At the end of the first week after the Trip holiday 
there will be no money to draw. When Friday comes 
round, bringing with it the usual hour for receiving the 
weekly wages, the men file out of the sheds with long 
faces. This is generally known at the works as " The 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 249 

Grand March Past," because the toilers march past the 
pay-table and receive nothing that day. The Hving 
among the poorest of the workmen will be very meagre, 
and a great many will not have enough to eat until the 
next Friday comes round, bringing with it the first pay. 
The local tradesmen and shopkeepers look upon the 
Trip as a great nuisance because, they say, it takes 
money away from the town that ought to be spent in 
their warehouses ; they do not take into consideration 
the fact that the men are confined like prisoners all the 
rest of the year. 

Work in the sheds, for the first day or two after the 
Trip, goes very hard and painful ; everyone is yearning 
towards the blue sea or the fresh open country, and 
thinking of friends and kindred left behind. This feehng 
very soon wears off, however. Long before the week is 
over the spirit of work will have taken possession of the 
men ; they fall naturally into their places and the Trip 
becomes a thing of the past — a dream and a memory. 
Here and there you may see scrawled upon the wall 
somewhere or other, with a touch of humour, "51 
weeks to Trip " ; that is usually the last word in con- 
nection with it for another year. 

There are three general moods and phases of feeling 
among the workmen, corresponding to the three periods 
of the year as measured out by the holidays. The 
period between Christmas and Easter is one of hope and 
rising spirits, of eager looking forward to brighter days, 
the long evening and the pleasant week-end. The dark 
and gloom of winter has weighed heavily upon the 
toilers, but this has reached its worst point by the end 
of December ; after that the barometer begins to rise 
and a more cheerful spirit prevails everjrwhere. 

From Easter till Trip and August Bank Holiday — 
notwithstanding the terrible trials of the summer 



250 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

weather in the case of those who work at the furnaces — 
the feeHng is one of comparative ease and satisfaction. 
A series of Httle hohdays is included in this period. 
The men are encouraged to bear with the heat and 
fatigue through the knowledge that it will not be for 
long ; a holiday in sight goes far towards mitigating 
the hard punishment of the work in the shed. The 
summer sunshine and general bright weather, the 
occupations of gardening, and the prevalence of herbs 
and salads, fresh, sweet vegetables, flowers, and fruits 
all have a beneficial effect upon the workman and tend 
to distract his attention from the drabness of his em- 
ployment and make the weeks go by more easily. 
The period is one of lightness. It is the time of 
reahzation, the fulfilHng of dreams dreamed through the 
long, dark winter. 

From August till Christmas the feeling is one almost 
of despair. Five whole months have to be borne without 
a break in the monotony of the labour. The time before 
the next holiday seems almost infinite ; a tremendous 
amount of work must be done in the interval. Accord- 
ingly, the men settle down with grim faces and fixed 
determinations. The pleasures' of the year are thrust 
behind and forgotten ; day by day the battle must be 
fought and the ground gained inch by inch. The smoke 
towers up from the stacks and chimneys, the hammers 
pound away on the obstinate metal, the wheels whirl 
round and the din is incessant. Day after day the 
black army files in and out of the entrances with the 
regularity of clockwork ; it is indeed the period of stern 
work — the great effort of the year. Whatever money 
the workmen save must be put aside now or never ; 
the absence of hohdays and lack of inducement to 
travel will provide them with the opportunity. Now 
is the time for purchasing new clothing and boots and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 251 

for getting out of debt — if there is any desire to do that ; 
it is in every sense of the word the great productive 
period. 

It is also interesting to note the various moods and 
feeUngs common to the workmen during the passage 
of the week. Monday is always a flat, stale day, and 
especially is this true of the morning, before dinner- 
time. It might reasonably be supposed that the work- 
men, after an absence of a day, or a day and a half, 
would return to the shed rested and vigorous, and fit 
for new efforts, but this is far from being the actual 
case. As a matter of fact, Monday is an extremely 
dull day in the shed. Everyone seems surly and out 
of sorts, as though he had been routed up from sleep 
before time and had " got out of bed on the wrong 
side." The foreman comes on the scene with a scowl ; 
the chargeman is " huffy " and irritable ; the stampers 
and hammermen bend to their work in stonj? silence, 
or snap at each other ; even the youngsters are quiet 
and mopish. Work seems to go particularly hard and 
against the grain. It is as though everything were under 
a cloud ; there is not a bit of life or soul in it. This feel- 
ing is so general on the first day of the week that the 
men have invented a term by which to express it ; if 
you ask anyone how he is on that day he will be sure 
to tell you that he feels " rough " and " Monday- fied," 
By dinner-time the cloud will have lifted somewhat, 
though not till towards the end of the afternoon will 
there be anything like real relief, with a degree of bright- 
ness. By that time the tediousness of the first day will 
have worn off ; the men's faces brighten up and a spirit 
of cheerfulness prevails. Now they speak to each other, 
laugh, whistle and jest, perhaps ; they have won the 
first skirmish in the weekly battle. 

Tuesday is the strong day, the day of vigorous activity. 



252 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

of tool- and also of record-breaking. The men come to 
work like lions. All the stiffness and sluggishness con- 
tracted at the week-end has vanished now. There is a 
great change, both in the temper and the physical con- 
dition of the men, visible about the place ; they move 
more quickly, handle their tools better, and appear to 
be in perfect trim. The work made on Tuesdays is 
always the greatest in amount and usually the best in 
quality. Everyone, from the foreman to the office-boy, 
seems brighter and better, more fit, well, and energetic 
— great things are accomplished on Tuesdays at the 
works. 

Wednesday is very similar to Tuesday, though the 
men are not quite as fresh and vigorous. The pace, 
though still smart and good, will fall a little below that 
of the day previous. Three days' toil begins to tell 
on the muscles and reserve of the body, though this is 
counterbalanced by the increase of mental satisfaction 
and expectation, the knowledge of being in mid-week 
and of getting within sight of another pay-day and 
cessation from work. 

Thursday is the humdrum day. As much work will 
be done as on the day preceding, but more effort will 
be required to perform it. An acute observer will 
perceive a marked difference in the general behaviour 
of the workmen and in the manner in which they 
manipulate the tools. They will begin to look tired 
and haggard. When they leave the shed at meal- 
times they do not rush headlong out, pushing and 
shouting, but file away soberly and in comparative 
silence. 

By Friday morning the barometer will have risen 
considerably. Notwithstanding the tiredness of the 
individual, he is nerved to fresh efforts and induced to 
make a final spurt towards the end of the weekly race. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 253 

His manner is altogether more cheerful, and he becomes 
quite affable to his mates. If the manager or overseer 
passes through the shed more frequently than usual 
and comes and times him at his work, he takes but very 
little notice of him. Those who are by nature gruff 
and surly melt a httle and show a more genial disposition 
on the Friday. The secret of all this Hes in the fact that 
Friday is both the last whole day to be worked at the 
shed, and it is pay-day, too. The men's faces brighten 
considerably at the approach of that happy and eagerly- 
awaited hour. When they collect together around the 
pay-table they indulge in jocular remarks with one 
another, and the majority bubble over with good-nature. 
As they pass the table in single file they grab up the 
box containing the money with commendable deter- 
mination. If the pay is a full one there will be a broad 
smile, or a grin, on the faces of most of the men as 
they remove the cover and pocket the coin ; that is 
about the happiest and most triumphant moment of 
all for them. 

To draw the wages each man is furnished with a 
metal check having a number, corresponding with his 
name in the register, stamped upon it. The check is 
issued to the men as they enter the shed after dinner, 
and is a guarantee that they have wages to receive on 
that day. Each man's wages are put up in a tin box, 
which is also stamped with his number. The foreman 
takes his position at the head, and two clerks stand 
behind the table. Of these, one calls out the number 
upon the box and the other takes it and claps it sharply 
on the table. The men are waiting ready and take it 
as they walk past ; two hundred may be paid in about 
five minutes by this method. Extras for piecework 
are paid fortnightly. Whatever stoppages and con- 
tributions are due for the local Sick and Medical Fund, 



254 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

coal, wood, and other charges, are deducted on the normal 
week, and this is called " stoppage week." Accordingly, 
the day of great good-humour comes fortnightly, and 
that week is known among the men as " balance 
week." 

Saturday is the day of final victory, the closing up of 
the weekly battle, though a great part of the eagerness 
evinced a day or two before will have vanished now 
that the time to take the hebdomadal rest is really at 
hand. It is strikingly true, even here, that expectation 
is better than realization. Notwithstanding the fact 
that the men are tired and worn out they do not appear 
to be as keen for the rest as might be imagined ; they 
now seem to have recovered their normal powers and 
work away quite unconcernedly up to the last moment. 
The boys and youths, however, will be restless ; they 
whistle and sing and rush off hke shots from a gun as 
soon as the hooter sounds. 

Sunday is the day of complete inactivity with most 
of the workmen, and it is possibly the weakest and 
the least enjoyed of all. If the weather is dull and 
wet a great number stay in bed till dinner-time, and 
sometimes they remain there all day and night, till 
Monday morning comes. This will not have done them 
much harm ; they will feel all the more refreshed and 
the better able to face the toil and battle of the coming 
week. 

Every day, as well as the year and week, has its 
divisions and a temper and feehng on the part of the 
men corresponding with each of them. In the morning, 
before breakfast, nearly everyone is sober and quiet, 
very often surly, and even spitefuUy disposed. During 
that time the men in the shed rarely speak to each other, 
but bend down to the labour in silence. After breakfast 
the tone improves a Uttle, and continues to do so till 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 255 

dinner-time, when the tempers of the men will have 
become about normal ; they are restored to their 
natural humour and disposition. When they return 
after dinner a still greater improvement is discernible, 
and by five o'clock in the afternoon they are not Hke 
the same beings. In the evening, after tea, greater 
good-fellowship than ever prevails, and if a man 
meets his mate in the town he is quite cordial. By the 
next morning, however, he is metamorphosed again ; 
the old conditions obtain, and so on day after day and 
month after month. The best work of the day is always 
made in the morning, between the hours of nine and 
eleven. 

If a workman oversleeps in the morning and is too 
late for admittance before breakfast, he may start at 
nine o'clock. This is called " losing a quarter." There 
are those at the works who are noted for losing quarters ; 
they are usually absent from the shed before breakfast 
once or twice a week. Such as these, by the frequency 
of their absence, are not noticed very much, but if one 
who is habitually a good timekeeper happens to be 
out unexpectedly before breakfast, means are taken to 
celebrate the event. When he arrives there will be a 
httle surprise awaiting him. He will find an effigy of 
himself standing near the forge, and will receive a salute 
composed of hammers knocking on steel plates, and the 
rattHng of any old pot that chances to be at hand. 
During the meal-time the workmen obtain several 
coats, a hat, and a pair of boots, and fix them on the 
handles of the mallets and broom, and then chalk out 
the features of a man upon the coke shovel. After- 
wards they assemble in a gang and greet their comrade 
with an overpowering din. If he is wise he will take it 
all in good part and join in with the fun, and the din 
will soon cease ; but if he loses his temper — as is some- 



256 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

times the case — he is assailed more loudly than ever, 
and driven half mad with the uproar. 

A somewhat similar reception is given to a workman 
who has just been married. As soon as it is known that 
the banns are published — and this is certain to leak 
out and news of it be brought into the shed — he be- 
comes the object of very special attention. The men 
come to him from all quarters and offer him their 
congratulations, sincere and otherwise, very often 
accompanying them with advice of different kinds, 
sometimes of a highly sarcastic nature. Many insist 
upon shaking hands with him and, with mock ceremony, 
compliment him on his decision to join the " Big Firm," 
as they call it, assuring him, at the same time, that they 
shall expect him to " stand his footing." Occasionally, 
if their mate is poor, the men of a gang will make a 
small collection and buy him a present — a pair of pictures, 
a piece of furniture, or a set of ornaments. Perhaps 
this may be carried out ridiculously, and the whole 
thing turned into a joke, whereupon the prospective 
bridegroom loses his temper and soundly lashes his 
mates for their unsolicited patronage. 

If the workman divulges the time and place of the 
wedding there will certainly be a few to witness it, in 
order to see how he behaves during the ceremony. Very 
often they wait outside the church with missiles of 
several kinds, such as old shoes and slippers, rice, barley, 
Indian corn, and even potatoes, ready to pelt him. 
Occasionally, however, it happens that the wily mate 
has deceived them with regard either to the time or the 
place, and if they turn up at the church they will have 
to wait in vain, the laughing-stock of all passers-by. 
When the newly married man recommences work he 
is received with a loud uproar. This is called " ringing 
him in." A crowd of men and boys beat upon any 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 257 

loose plate of metal that will return a loud clang — 
such as Uds of tool-chests, steel bars, anvils, and sides 
of coke bunks — and make as much noise as possible. 
This is all over by the time the hooter sounds. With 
the starting of the shop engine the men fall in to work, 
and the marriage is forgotten by the crowd. 



R 



CHAPTER XVI 

COLD AND HEAT — MEALS — FAT AND LEAN WORKMEN — 
WAYS AND MEANS — PRANKS — ALL FOOLS' DAY — 
NEW year's EVE 

Two kinds of weather go hard with the toilers in 
the shed ; they are — extreme cold and extreme heat. 
When it is very cold in the winter the men will be sub- 
jected to a considerable amount of draught from the 
doors and roof ; on one side they will be half-baked 
with the heat, and on the other chilled nearly to the 
bone. The furnacemen and stampers will be drenched 
with perspiration day after day, in the coldest weather. 
When they leave the shed to go home at meal-times 
and at night they will run great risks of taking cold ; 
it is no wonder that cases of rheumatism and lumbago 
are very common among those who toil at the furnaces 
and forges. The workmen, for the most part, wear 
the same clothes all the year round, winter and summer ; 
they make no allowance for cold and heat with warm 
or thin clothing. 

Very few wear overcoats, or even mufflers, in the 
coldest weather, unless it is wet. They are often 
numbed with the cold, for they feel it severely, and they 
commonly run up the long yard in order to keep them- 
selves warm in frosty weather on their return to the 
shed after meals. If you ask them why they do not 
wear a cravat or muffler they tell you it is " no good to 
coddle yourself up too much, for the more clothes you 
wear the more you will want to wear." A great many 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 259 

— of the town workmen especially — do not possess an 
overcoat of any kind. Whatever the weather may be 
they journey backwards and forwards quite unpro- 
tected. I have known men come to the shed drenched 
to the skin, many a time, and be forced to work in that 
condition while the garments were drying on their 
backs. Now and then, though not often, a bold and 
hardy workman will remove his shirt or trousers and 
stand and dry them at the furnace door. If he does 
this he is certain to be shied at and made the target 
for various lumps of coke and coal. Amusement is 
sometimes caused by the shirt taking fire ; I have more 
than once seen a workman reduced to the necessity of 
borrowing an overcoat to wrap around him in lieu of 
upper garments. Sometimes the clothes of half the 
gang are set aHght with sparks from the hammers, and 
burnt to ashes. 

The heat of the summer months, for those who toil 
at the furnaces and forges, is far more painful to endure 
than are aU the inconveniences of cold weather. This 
is especially the case in close and stuffy sheds where 
there is a defective system of ventilation, or where the 
workshop is surrounded by other buildings. The 
interior of these places will be like a hot oven ; it will 
be impossible for the workmen to maintain any degree 
of strength and vigour at their labour. In the early 
morning, before eight o'clock, the air will be somewhat 
cooler, but by the time of re-starting, after breakfast, 
the heat will be deadly and overpowering ; the tempera- 
ture in front of the furnaces will be considerably over 
100 degrees. Where there is a motion of air the work- 
men can stand a great amount of heat on all sides, but 
when that is quite stagnant, and thick and heavy with 
the nauseous smoke and fumes from the oil forges, it is 
positively torturous. The exigencies of piecework will 



26o LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

admit of no relaxation, however ; approximately the 
same amount of work must be made on the hottest day 
of summer as on the coldest day of winter. 

There is one inevitable result of all this — the work 
made under such conditions will be inferior in quality, 
for the men cannot spend the time they should over the 
hot metal. If you stand and watch the stampers you 
wiU see, from their very movements, how wretchedly 
tired and languid they are ; one-half of them are scarcely 
able to drag their weary limbs backwards and forwards 
— they are truly objects of misery. At the same time, 
they do not complain, for that would be fruitless, and 
they know it. Lost to everything but the sense of 
their own inexpressible weariness, with grim necessity 
at their elbows, they spend their last effort on the job, 
having no interest available for the work, only longing 
for the next hooter to sound and give them a temporary 
rest. Those who work out of doors in the extreme heat 
of the sun, though they perspire much, yet have pure 
air to breathe, so that there will be a minimum of fatigue 
resulting from it. In the dust and filth of the shed, 
however, the perspiration costs very much more. It 
seems drawn from the marrow of your bones ; your 
very heart's blood seems to ooze out with it. 

The change from cold to heat, and also the shifting 
of the wind, is immediately felt in the shed ; there is 
no need of a weather-vane to inform you of the wind's 
direction. Even when there is air moving, only one 
half of the place will benefit from it. Entering the 
shed at one end, it will pile up all the smoke and fume 
at the other. This, instead of passing out, wiU whirl 
round and round in an eddy, and tease and torment 
the workmen, making them gasp for breath. 

The toilers have resort to various methods in order 
to mitigate the heat during the summer months. The 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 261 

furnacemen, stampers, and forgers usually remove their 
shirts altogether, and discard their leathern aprons for 
those made of light canvas, or old rivet bags. The 
amount of cold water drunk at such times is enormous. 
It is useless to advise the men to take it in moderation : 
" I don't care, I must have it," is the answer made. 
Occasionally the officials issue oatmeal from the stores, 
to be taken with the water. This removes the rawness 
from the liquid, and makes it much more palatable, 
and less harmful to the stomach. The boys are especi- 
ally fond of the mixture ; they would drink it by the 
bucketful, and swallow grouts and all. They do not 
beHeve in wasting anything obtained gratis from the 
company. 

One plan, in very hot weather, is to wrap a wet towel 
or wiper about the head, cooling it now and then with 
fresh water. Some hold their heads and faces under- 
neath the tap and let the cool water run upon them ; 
and others engage their mates to squirt it in their faces 
instead. Such as do this tie an apron close around the 
neck under the chin, and receive the volume of water 
fuU in the face. It is deUcious, when you are baked 
and half-choked with the heat in midsummer, to go to 
the big tap under the wall and receive the cold water 
on the inside part of the arm, just below the shoulder, 
aUowing it to run down and flow off the finger tips. 
This is very cooling and refreshing, and is a certain 
restorative. 

Now and then, during the meal-hour, a hardy work- 
man will strip himself and bathe in the big bosh used 
for cooling the furnace tools. In the evening, after a 
hard sweating at the fires, many of the young men will 
pay a visit to the baths in the town. Little Jim and 
his mates, who have no coppers to squander upon the 
luxury of a dip under cover, betake themselves to the 



262 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

clay-pits in a neighbouring brick-field. There they 
dive down among the fishes and forget about the punish- 
ment they have suffered to-day, and which is certainly 
awaiting them on the morrow. 

The majority of the workmen go out of the sheds to 
have their food. In very many workshops they are 
not permitted, under any consideration, to remain in 
to meals. On the score of health this is as it should be ; 
it forces the workman, whether he likes it or not, to 
breathe a little fresh air. It also removes him from 
his surroundings for the time, and affords him some re- 
freshment in that way. The sheds in which the men 
are allowed to have their meals unmolested are the 
smiths' shops, the steam-hammer shops, and the rolling 
mills shed. In all these places the men perspire con- 
siderably, and they would be very liable to take a chill, 
especially in the winter months, if they were forced to 
go out into the cold air to meals. Mess-rooms are pro- 
vided for the men of some shops, and tea is brewed and 
food cooked for as many as like to repair to them. 
Very many will not patronise them, however, because 
they do not like eating their food in pubhc ; they saj^ it 
is " like being among a lot of cattle." Such as these 
take their food in their hand and eat it as they walk 
about, or perhaps they visit a coffee tavern or an inn 
of the town. During fine weather a large number have 
their meals in the recreation field underneath the trees. 
Their httle sons or daughters bring the food from 
home, with hot tea in a mug or bottle, and meet them 
outside the entrances. Then they sit down together 
in the shade of the elm-trees and enjoy the repast. 

The forgers and furnacemen do not eat much food 
in the shed during the summer months. The heat of 
the fires and the fumes from the oil furnaces impair 
their appetites, and large quantities of bread and other 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 263 

victuals are thrown out in the yard for the rats and birds. 
Rooks and sparrows are the only regular feathered in- 
habitants of the yard, if, indeed, the rooks can be so 
called, for they have their nests a long way off. They 
merely obtain their food about the yard during the day 
and go home to bed at night. The sparrows buUd their 
nests almost anywhere, though their favourite place 
seems to be in the sockets made in the walls for contain- 
ing the lamp brackets. As the lamps are removed 
during the summer months, the holes afford a convenient 
resting-place for the ubiquitous passeres. 

No starUngs frequent the yard ; they prefer a quieter 
and more natural habitation. A robin, even, is an 
unusual visitor, while martins and swallows never visit 
the precincts of the factory. The sweet chelidon — the 
darling stranger from the far-off shores of the blue 
Mediterranean — shuns the unearthly noise and smother 
of the factory altogether ; her delight is in places far 
removed from the whirling of wheels and the chu-chu- 
ing of engines. 

The rooks seem perfectly inured to the smoke and 
steam and the life of the factory yard ; at all hours of 
the day they may be seen scavenging around the sheds, 
picking up any stray morsel that happens to be lying 
about. Four of these frequent the yard regularly. 
Summer and winter they are to be seen strutting up 
and down over the ashes of the track, or perched upon 
the tops of the high lamps. Once, during a gale, I saw 
a rook try to alight upon the summit of a lamp, eighty 
feet high — on the small curved iron stay that crowns 
the whole like a bow. Although it secured a footing 
on the top, it could not balance itself to rest there, but 
was forced to keep its two wings entirely expanded in 
order to maintain any equilibrium at all. This it did 
for nearly two minutes, but the force of the wind was 



264 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

so great that it could not keep its balance and was 
presently blown away. To view it there, with wings 
outstretched, brought to mind a bird of a much nobler 
reputation than that of Master Rook ; it was worthy 
of the traditions of the eagle. 

It is instructive to note the various types of men and 
to consider how they compare with one another. Big, 
fat workmen invariably make better mates than do 
small, thin ones. Their temper is certain to be more 
genial, and they are usually more open and simple, 
hearty and free ; ever5Athing with them, to use a time- 
honoured phrase, seems to go " as easy as an old cut 
shoe." Even Caesar, though very thin himself, wished 
to have about him men who were fat and sleek — he 
was suspicious of the lean and hungry-looking Cassius. 
Fat workmen, as a rule, seem incapable of much worry. 
If anything goes amiss they look upon it with the greatest 
unconcern and lightly brush it aside, while the thin, 
small individual is forever fretting and grieving over 
some trivial thing or other. It is noteworthy that 
hairy men, as well as being considerably stronger, are 
usually better-tempered than are those who are lacking 
in this respect. The little person is proverbially vain 
and conceited and " thinks great things " of himself, 
as the Greeks would have said, while the words of the 
old rhyme are uniformly true and applicable : — 

"Long and lazy, 
Black and proud, 
Fair and foolish, 
Little and loud." 

Small pride is discovered in the individual of sixteen 
or seventeen stone weight. Nor are size and bulk in 
a workman always indicative of the greatest prowess. 
Very many men of no more than five feet or less in 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 265 

stature, and of correspondingly small proportions, are 
veritable lions in strength. 

Of all styles of workmen soever the dandy, or, as he 
is vulgarly called, the " swanker," is usually the least 
proficient at his trade. There is another who would 
delight to stand with his hands behind him, or perhaps 
to walk about like it : he is certain to be of the self- 
conscious type, one not extra fond of making unnatural 
exertions. This one, whenever an opportunity presents 
itself, would stand with his thumbs thrust in the arm- 
holes of his waistcoat and complacently look upon all 
around him ; you may know him for one who would 
rather see you do a job than do it himself. That one 
yonder is fond of standing with his arms folded, and 
another would thrust his hands deep into his trousers 
pockets at every stray opportunity. Such as these 
may come in time to draw as much wages as the best 
workmen on the premises, or they may even obtain 
more, but they will never be experts themselves ; they 
are too choice, and too dilatory. Your capital workman 
never adopts any of these attitudes. Walking or stand- 
ing, pausing, resting, or viewing any other operation, 
his hands are down by his sides — free, and in the most 
advantageous position for rendering assistance to him- 
self, or to others, as the case may be. 

The men of one department or shed — except in the 
case of a fire — never help those of another, no matter 
how great the difficulty may be, unless they have been 
officially lent, and this is of extremely rare occurrence. 
One might think that where two sheds stand side by 
side, help would occasionally be given, when it was 
required, but such is the condition of things, and so 
rigid is the system imposed at the works, that this is 
completely out of the question. The men of two con- 
tingent sheds, though they may have been working 



266 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

close together for twenty or thirty years, are almost 
total strangers. They may see each other now and 
then, and recognise one another by sight, but they do 
not think of exchanging conversations. 

There is one matter, however, in which, notwithstand- 
ing the many facilities at hand for perfect equipment, 
the works resembles most other establishments, and that 
is in the frequently defective supply of proper tools for 
the workmen and the too great tendency to use anything 
that may be lying about for a makeshift. When I came 
into the factory as a boy I expected to find everything 
of this sort in perfect arrangement. In the rough and 
ready trade of agriculture I had been accustomed to 
making the best use of old, worn-out tools. The farmer, 
if he is not blessed with abundant capital, is often forced 
to have recourse to crude means and expedients in order 
to tide himself over a difficulty. He must bind up 
this and patch that, and sometimes set his men to work 
with tackle that is broken and antiquated. One looks 
for this, naturally, out on the farm, and is surprised if 
he does not find it so. But in the factory, thought I, 
there will be none of it. I supposed that all the machinery 
would be in perfect trim, that tools would be very 
plentiful and of the best description, and that every- 
thing would be ordered for the men's convenience in 
order to expedite the work. 

A short acquaintance with matters in the shed soon 
dispelled this illusion, however. I found that the same 
condition of things obtained in the factory as was the 
case on the far away, deserted farm. There something 
ailed the chaffcutter, the mowing- or reaping-machine, 
the plough, the elevator, or the horse-rake. Some 
links were missing from the traces and had to be replaced 
with stout wire ; many things were in use that were 
heavy, cumbersome, and primitive. Here something is 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 267 

wrong with the steam-hammer, driU, lathe, or hydrauhc 
machine. The wheel-barrows are broken, the shovels 
are without handles, the besoms are worn out ; hammers 
and chisels, tongs, sets, and other tools are almost as 
scarce as pound pieces. You seldom have any decent 
tools to work with unless you can make them yourself, 
or pay the smith for doing it out of your own pocket. 
Then, in nine cases out of ten, if the machinery breaks 
down, the same means are resorted to as were adopted 
by the farmer or hauher ; any patching up wiU do until 
such time as someone or other can make it convenient 
to carry out the necessary repairs. As long as the parts 
hang together and the wheels go round, that will be 
considered sufficient. This kind of procedure, in the 
case of a farmer or other, who has no very great con- 
venience for equipping himself with every desirable 
apparatus, may be condoned, but in a large and pro- 
fessedly up-to-date factory there is no excuse at all for 
it — it is pure misdemeanour and slovenHness. 

Many pranks are played upon one another by the 
workmen, though it is significant of the times that sky- 
larking and horse-play are not nearly as common and 
frequent as they were formerly. The supervision of 
the sheds is much more strict, and the prices are con- 
siderably lower than they used to be ; there is not now 
the time and opportunity, nor even the inclination to 
indulge in practical jokes. Under the new discipHne 
the men are generally more sober and silent, though 
they are none the happier, nevertheless. The increased 
efforts they are bound to make at work and the higher 
speed of the machinery has caused them to become 
gloomy and unnatural, and, very often, peevish and 
irritable. It is a further illustration of the old adage — 

" All work and no play 
Makes Jack a dull boy." 



268 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

There is one matter for congratulation, however, and 
that is that the youngsters are not to be deprived of 
their sports and amusements on any pretext whatever. 
Though you set them to do almost impossible tasks 
they will find the time and the means to exercise their 
natural propensity to playfulness. 

It is a bad sign when there is a total absence of play 
in the shed. It is bad for the individual and for the 
men collectively ; it indicates too great a subjection 
to working conditions — the subjugation of inherent 
nature. It is of far greater value and importance to 
mankind that spirit and character should be cherished 
and maintained, than that the trifling and petty rules 
of the factory should be scrupulously observed and 
adhered to. At the same time, no sane person would 
recommend that an unrestricted hberty be allowed the 
workmen. There is bound to be a certain amount of 
law and order, but where everything is done at the piece 
rate and the firm is not in a position to lose on the 
bargain, it is stupid obstinately to insist upon the 
observance of every little rule laid down. Piece-rated 
men seldom or never work at a perfectly uniform speed ; 
there are dull and intensely active periods depending 
sometimes upon the physical condition of the workman 
and sometimes upon the quality known as " luck " in 
operation. Give the workman his head and he will 
fashion out his own time-table, he will speedily make 
up for any losses he has incurred before. The feeling 
of fitness is bound to come ; he revels in the toil while 
it possesses him. There never was, and there never will 
be, a truly mechanical man who shall work with the 
systematical regularity of a clock or steam-engine ; 
that is beyond all hope and reason, beyond possibihty 
and beyond nature. What is more, it is absolutely 
unnecessary and undesirable. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 269 

One prank that used^to be greatly in vogue in the shed 
was that of inserting a brick in the sleeve of a work- 
mate's jacket as it was hanging up underneath the wall 
or behind the forge. This was sometimes done for pure 
sport, though occasionally there was more than a spice 
of malice in the jest. Perhaps the owner of the garment 
had been guilty of an offence, of tale-bearing, or some- 
thing or other to the prejudice of his fellow-mates, and 
this was the means adopted for his punishment. Accord- 
ingly, a large brick was quietly dropped into the sleeve 
from inside the shoulder and well shaken down to the 
cuff, and the jacket was left hanging innocently in its 
position. At hooter time all those in the secret con- 
gregated and waited for the victim of the joke to come 
for his coat. Suddenly, as the hooter sounded, he 
rushed up in a great hurry, seized his coat and discovered 
the impediment, while all the others speedily decamped. 
He had considerable difficulty in dislodging the brick 
from the sleeve. After trying in vain for ten minutes 
or more he was usually forced to cut away the sleeve, 
or the hning, with his pocket-knife. 

Another favourite trick was to place some kind of 
seat under a wall in order to entice the unwary, and 
to fix up above it a large tin full of soot, so arranged 
as to work on a pivot, and operated by means of a 
string. The soot was also sometimes mixed with water, 
and stirred up so as to make an intensely black fluid. 
By and by an unsuspecting workman — usually an 
interloper from the yard or elsewhere — would come 
along and sit down upon the improvised seat. Very 
soon one of the gang shouted out " Hey up ! " sharply, 
and as the victim jumped up someone pulled the string 
and down came soot, water, and very often the pot, too, 
upon his head. If the joke was successful the dupe's 
face was as black as a sweep's ; a loud roar of laughter 



270 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

went up from the workmen and the unhappy victim 
very quickly got outside. Sometimes, however, he 
did not take it so quietly, and I have seen a free fight 
as the outcome of this adventure. 

The water-pipe plays a great part in practical joking 
in the shed, though this is more usually the juvenile's 
method of perpetrating a jest or paying off an old score. 
There is also the water-squirt, which is another juvenile 
weapon. It is sufficient to say that the use of this, 
whenever it is detected, is rigidly put down by the 
workmen themselves ; it is universally looked upon as 
a nuisance. Great injuries to health have been done, 
in some cases, by senseless practical joking with the 
water-pipe. I have known instances in which a workman 
has thrust the nose of a pipe up the trouser leg of another 
as he lay asleep on the floor in the meal-hour, during 
night duty, and he has been awakened by it to find 
himself quite drenched with the stream of water and 
most wretchedly cold. One lad, who used to drive 
the steam-hammer for me, was often treated to this 
by some roughs of the shed, and, as a consequence, was 
afflicted with chronic rheumatism. Finally he had to 
stop away from work altogether, and he lay as helpless 
as a child for nine years, with all his joints stiff and set, 
and died of the torture. 

There is a touch of humour in the situation sometimes, 
however, as when, for instance, upon breaking up for 
the Christmas holidays, a group of workmen were singing 
" Let some drops now fall on me," and a wag, in the 
middle of the hymn, shot a large volume of water over 
them from the hose-pipe. Another trick is to fill a thin 
paper bag with water and throw it from a distance. 
If it happens to strike its object the bag bursts, and the 
individual forming the target receives a good wetting. 

AU Fools' Day is sure to be the occasion for many 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 271 

jokes of a suitable kind. A common one at this time 
is to take a coin and solder it to the head of a nail, 
and then to drive the nail into the sill of a door, or into 
the floor in a well-frequented spot where it is bound to 
be noticed. As soon as it is spied efforts will certainly 
be made to detach the coin, and, in the midst of it, the 
party of youths who prepared the trap rush forward 
and bowl the other over on the floor, at the same time 
greeting him with boisterous laughter and jeers. Even 
the chief manager of the works' department has been 
the victim of this jest. In this case an old sixpence 
was strongly soldered to the nail, which was then well 
driven into the floor. Presently the manager came 
along, saw the coin, and made several attempts to pick 
it up. It needs not to be said that the jest itself was 
witnessed in respectful silence ; the bowling over a 
chief might have been attended with certain undesirable 
consequences. 

New Year's Eve was always suitably observed and 
celebrated by those on the night-shift. When the men 
came in to work they set about their toils with extra 
special celerity, and the steam-hammers thumped away 
with all possible power and speed. This effort was 
maintained till towards midnight, and then everyone 
slowed down. At about one o'clock a general cessation 
of hostihties took place. The steam-hammers were 
silenced, the fires were damped, and the tools were 
thrown on one side. All that could be heard was the 
continual " chu-chu " of the engine outside forcing the 
hydrauhc pumps, and the exhaust of the donkey engine 
whirhng the fan. In one corner of the shed a large 
coal fire was kindled on the ground, and around it were 
placed seats for the company. Then an inventive and 
musical-minded workman stretched a rope across from 
the principals and came forward with two sets of steel 



272 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

rods, of various lengths and thicknesses, and capable 
of emitting almost any note in the scale. These were 
tied about with twine and suspended from the rope in 
a graduated order, from the shortest to the longest. 
Someone else fetched a big brass dome from a worn-out 
boiler, while others had brought several old buffers 
from the scrap waggon. Two were trained to strike 
the rods, and the others were instructed to beat on 
the dome and buffers. 

Shortly before midnight, when the bells in the town 
and the far-off villages began to peal out, the workmen 
commenced their carnival. Bells were perfectly imi- 
tated by striking the bars of steel suspended from the 
rope ; the buffers contributed their sharp, clear notes, 
and the brass dome sounded deeply and richly. This 
was called " Ringing the changes." When the noise 
had been continued for a sufficient length of time food 
was brought out and the midnight meal partaken of. 
Although strictly against the rules of the factory, 
someone or other would be sure to have smuggled into 
the shed a bottle or jar of ale ; this would be passed 
round and healths drunk with great gusto. When 
supper was over a melodeon or several mouth-organs 
were produced, and selections were played for another 
hour. After that the majority had a nap ; they seldom 
started work any more that morning. The foremen and 
watchmen were usually missing on New Year's Eve, 
or if they should happen to arrive upon the scene they 
never interfered. For once in their lives they, too, be- 
came human, and accepted the situation, and perhaps 
the old watchman sat down with the men and drank 
out of their bottle and afterwards puffed away at his 
pipe. If the high officials at the works had only 
known of what was going on at the time they would 
have sacked half the men the next day, but even they, 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 273 

sharp as they are, do not get intelligence of every- 
thing. 

All this happened some twenty years ago and would 
not be possible to-day. The shed in which it took place 
has been deserted by the forgers and transformed into a 
storehouse for manufactures. The kindly disposed old 
watchmen are dead, or have been superseded, and a 
new race of foremen has sprung up. Of the workmen 
some are dead and others have retired. A great number 
are missing, and many of those who remain have altered 
to such an extent under the new conditions that I have 
sometimes wondered whether they are really the same 
who worked the night shift and jested with us in the 
years ago. So striking is the change that has taken 
place, not only in the administration, but in the very hfe 
and temper of the men of the factory during the last 
decade. 



CHAPTER XVII 

GETTING A START — THE NEW HAND — TOWN AND COUNTRY 
WORKMEN — PROMOTION — DISCHARGING HANDS — 
LANGUAGE OF THE SHED — EDUCATION — THE EDU- 
CATED MAN NOT WANTED — GREASING THE FORGE 

Formerly, when anyone was desirous of obtaining a 
start in the factory, he tidied himself up and, arrayed 
in clean working costume, presented himself at one or 
other of the main entrances immediately after breakfast- 
time so as to meet the eyes of the foremen as they re- 
turned from the meal. Morning after morning, when 
work was plentiful, 3'ou might have seen a crowd of men 
and boys around the large doorways, or lining the pave- 
ments as the black army filed in, all anxious to obtain 
a job and looking wonderingly towards the opening of 
the dark tunnel through which the men passed to arrive 
at the different sheds. The workmen eyed the strangers 
curiously, and, very often, with contempt and dis- 
pleasure : it is singular that those who are safely estab- 
lished themselves dislike to see new hands being put on. 
They look upon them as interlopers and rivals, and 
think them to be a menace to their own position. 

Those in want of a start were easily recognisable 
from the rest by reason of their clean and fresh appear- 
ance. Many of them were clad in white corduroy 
trousers, waistcoats of the same material, with cloth 
jackets and well-shone boots, and they wore a plain 
red or white muffler around the neck. Some of them 
were very modest and bashful, and quite uneasy in 
274 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 275 

face of the crowd ; the boys especially were astonished 
to see so many workmen at once passing by like an army. 

As soon as the men had disappeared within the 
entrances the hooter sounded and the great doors were 
shut. Shortly afterwards the staff clerks came along, 
the foremen walking between them at the same time. 
Very often the two classes were not to be distinguished ; 
in such a case the overseers passed by unchallenged. 
It usually happened, however, that the foremen were 
known to one or other of the crowd. As they came up 
the word was sent round and there was a rush to see 
who should be the first to put the usual question — 
" Chance of a job, sir ? " This was sometimes accom- 
panied with an obsequious bow, or the appHcant merely 
raised his forefinger to his forehead. If the foreman 
was not in need of hands, he simply said " No " to each 
appUcant and pushed by them all. If he required any 
he asked them where they came from and what they 
had been doing, and furthermore questioned them as to 
their age. If the answers were satisfactory he merely 
said, " Come along with me," and conducted the men 
off, and they followed with alacrity. 

The boys hardly ever had the courage to address the 
foremen. If they could summon up the necessary 
resolution, however, they said, " Please, sir, will you 
give me a job ? " and if the reply was favourable they 
followed off in high glee, wondering all the way at the 
strange surroundings, the busy workmen, and the vast 
array of machinery. Boys usually had but little diffi- 
culty in obtaining a start ; they were soon taken on 
and initiated into the mysteries of the sheds. When 
the foreman saw them outside he went up to them and 
asked them if they wanted a job and promptly told them 
to " Come along." 

When an appUcant was taken in hand by the foreman 



276 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

he was conducted to the shop office. From that place 
he was sent, in company with the office-boy, to the 
manager's department, where he had to submit to a 
whole code of formal questions, and was also required 
to read the rules of the factory and to subscribe his 
name to them, pledging himself to their observance. 
After that he was required to undergo a strict medical 
examination, though one not so severe as that now in 
vogue. If he was successful in this he was told to present 
himself at the shed, and was there informed when he 
might begin work. This might be at any hour of the 
day, though it was usually fixed for the early morning 
— getting a start commonly occupied one day entire. 
Sometimes it happened that a man's references were 
unsatisfactory ; in that case, after working for several 
days, he was discharged and another was brought 
forward to fill the vacancy. 

The boys were always frightened at the thought of 
one painful ordeal which they were told they would 
have to undergo. They were seriously informed by 
their new mates in the shed that they would have to be 
branded on the back parts with a hot iron stamp con- 
taining the initials of the railway company, and very 
many of the youngsters firmly believed the tale and 
awaited the operation with dreadful suspense. As 
time went on, however, and they were not sent for to 
the offices, they came to discredit the story and smiled 
at their former credulity. 

Different methods are now employed in engaging 
new hands. They are now seldom taken up from the 
entrances, but must apply at the works' Inquiry Office 
and begin to pass through the official formula in that 
way, or the foreman is supphed with names from private 
sources. This is another indication of the times, a 
further development of system at the works. By 



LIFE IN A R.'\ILWAY FACTORY 277 

reason of it many good and deserving men and boys are 
precluded from the chance of getting a start in the 
factory, and many less competent ones are admitted ; 
it affords an excellent opportunit}^ for the exercise of 
favouritism on the part of the overseer. Whoever now 
has a mate he would like to introduce into the shed 
approaches the foreman. If he is a favourite himself 
room will be made for his friend, somehow or other, 
but if he is a commoner, and not reckoned among the 
" lambs," he will be met with a curt refusal, or his 
application wall be put off indefinitely. The officials do 
not gain anything by the method ; they will not be 
able to exercise as great a choice in the selection of 
hands, but must have what is sent them. 

Another tendency at the works is that to keep out 
all those who do not Uve in the borough or within a 
certain area around the town, or, if they are given the 
chance of a start, it is only upon condition that they 
leave their homes and come and Uve under the shadow 
of the factory walls. It is said that this rule was first 
introduced chiefly in deference to the tradesmen and 
shopkeepers of the town, because they are under the 
impression that all wages earned in the town should 
necessarily be spent there, either in the payment of 
rent or the purchase of provisions and clothes. 

When a new hand enters the shed he attracts con- 
siderable attention ; all eyes are immediately fixed 
upon him. If he has worked in the factory before he 
will go about his duties in a very unconcerned manner, 
but if he is a total stranger to the place he will be shy 
and awkward, and will need careful and sympathetic 
instruction ; it will be some time before he is entirely 
used to the new surroundings. If he is rustic in appear- 
ance, or seems likely to lend himself to a practical joke, 
the wags of the place soon single him out and play 



278 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

pranks upon him. It sometimes chances, however, 
that they have mistaken their man ; they m.ay meet 
with a sudden and unlocked for reprisal and be beaten 
with their own weapons. 

The workmen who come from the villages are usually 
better-natured and also better-tempered than are those 
who are strictly of the town, though there are exceptions 
to the rule. On the whole, however, they make the 
more congenial mates, and they work much harder and 
are more conscientious. They dress much more roughly 
than do their confreres of the town ; the last-named 
would not think of wearing corduroys in the shed. 
There is often a great temperamental difference between 
the two, and they differ widely in their ideas of and 
adaptability for work in the shed. The country work- 
man is fresh and tractable, open to receive new ideas 
and impressions of things. He brings what is practi- 
cally a virgin mind to the work ; he is struck with 
the entire newness of it all and enters heart and soul 
into the business. He is usually more active and 
vigorous, both in brain and body, than is the other, and 
even where he falls short in actual intelHgence and 
knowledge of things, he more than makes up for it with 
painstaking effort ; he is very proud of his new situation. 

The town workman, on the other hand, is often 
superior, disdainful, and over-dignified. There is httle 
in his surroundings that is really new and strange to 
him. He has always been accustomed to the crowds 
of workmen, and if he has not laboured in the shed before 
he has heard all about it from his friends or parents. 
His mind has often become so full of the occupations 
and diversions of the town that it is incapable of receiving 
new ideas ; it is like a slate that has been fully written 
over and is impossible of containing another sentence 
or word. Instead of exhibiting shyness or reserve 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 279 

he immediately makes himself familiar and causes his 
presence to be felt. Before he has been in the shed 
many days he knows everything and can do everything, 
in his estimation, and if you attempt to reason with 
him, or offer any advice as to how to proceed, he will 
inform you that he " knows all about it without any 
of your tehing." 

Many of the town workmen, and especially those of 
the more highly skilled classes and journeymen, though 
village-born themselves, show considerable contempt 
for the country hand newly arrived in the shed, and 
even after he has worked there many years and proved 
himself to be of exceptional abihty. They consider 
him at all times as an interloper and a " waster," and 
make no secret of their dishke of and antipathy to him. 
They often curse him to his face, and tell him that "if it 
was not for the likes of him " they would be getting better 
wages. " If I could have my way I'd sack every man 
of you, or make you come into the town to Uve. AU 
you blokes are fit for is cow-banging and cleaning out 
the muck-yard ; you ought to be made come here and 
work for ten shiUings a week," they say. All this has 
but little effect upon the countryman, however, and he 
seldom deigns to reply to it. Whether his coming to 
the factory to work was really better for him or not, 
prudent or otherwise, he does not attempt to argue. 
There is no law that prohibits a man from changing his 
occupation and taking another place when he feels 
inclined so to do. 

When the average boy of the town first enters the 
shed he is not long in finding his way about and taking 
stock of the other juveniles and men ; he is here, there, 
and everywhere in a few moments. With his shirt-sleeves 
turned up to the elbow he walks round, whistling or 
humming a tune, and greeting all indiscriminately with 



28o LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

a wink or a nod, and a " What cheer ? " or " Pip ! pip ! " 
If the men beckon to him — with a sly wink at their mates, 
intending to ask some ridiculous question or take a rise 
out of him — the j^oungster shakes his hand at them and 
retires straightway with a knowing nod and the ex- 
pression, " I don't think," laying great stress upon the 
don't. By and by, however, as he becomes a little 
more proficient and " cheeky," the men get hold of him 
and treat him to a little rough play. They \vill either 
twist his arm round till he cries out with the pain, and 
nearly crush him in a vice-like grip, or dip his head in 
the nearest bosh of water. 

The country lad behaves in a manner quite the reverse 
of this. He remains strictly near his machine or steam- 
hammer, and is usually too bashful to speak, unless it 
be to his immediate mates. He is afraid of strangers, 
and it will be some weeks before he ventures to walk 
to the other end of the shed. Even when he does this 
it will be not to converse with the other boys and 
men, but in order to watch the machines, the furnaces, 
and steam-hammers. There he will stand with great 
attention and view the several operations, and if anyone 
shouts out at him he will move quietly away and watch 
something else with the same earnestness, or go back to 
his own place. His conduct is altogether different from 
that of the other, and he is often singular in turning up 
his shirt-sleeves inside, and right up to the very shoulders. 
Before the town boy goes home from the shed he is 
careful to wash off the black from his face, comb his hair, 
and tidy himself up. The country boy, on the other 
hand, wears his livery home ^vith him ; he hkes everyone 
to see that he has been engaged at a hot, black job. 
In a word, town boys are ashamed of the badge of their 
work, while country boys are proud of it. 

Perhaps, when the village boy starts in the shed, one 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 281 

or two kindly disposed workmen will immediately take 
notice of him, and, calling him to them, will ask him 
where he comes from, and upon what kind of work he 
was before engaged, and all about himself, and so win 
him over with their friendliness ; no matter how long 
he remains in the shed he does not forget their former 
kindness to him. In contradistinction to this the wags 
of the shed make him a ready mark for their diversions, 
running away with his cap, or sending him on many 
ridiculous errands and confounding him with stupid 
questions and conundrums. One favourite jest was to 
send him to the engine-house after a " bucket of blast," 
and another was to despatch him for the " toe punch." 
The " toe punch " consisted of a vigorous kick in the 
posterior, which the youngster, if he obeyed the instruc- 
tions given, was most certain to receive ; but he very soon 
came to know what was intended and sturdily refused 
to run any more errands. 

A great alteration, physically and morally, usually 
takes place in the man or boy newly arrived from 
the country into the workshop. His fresh complexion 
and generally healthy appearance soon disappear ; 
his bearing, style of dress and all undergo a complete 
change. In a few weeks' time, especially if his work 
is at the fires, he becomes thin and pale, or blue and 
hollow-eyed. His appetite fails ; he is always tired 
and weary. For the first time in his life he must go to 
the surgery and obtain medicine, or stay at home on the 
sick list. His firm carriage — unless he is very careful of 
it — leaves him ; he comes to stoop naturally and walks 
with a slouching gait. His dress, from being clean, tidy, 
and well-fitting, partakes of the colour of soot and grease 
and hangs on his limbs ; I know cases in which men have 
lost ten pounds in weight in a fortnight and regained it 
all in a little more than a week's absence from the shed. 



282 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

The change in character and morals is often as pro- 
nounced as is the physical transformation ; the new- 
comer, especially if he is a juvenile, is speedily initiated 
into the vices prevalent in the factory and taught the 
current slang phrases and expressions. Some of the 
workmen are greatly to blame in respect of this, and are 
guilty of almost criminal behaviour in their dealings 
with young boys. They use the most filthy language 
in their presence, purposely teaching them to swear, and 
sometimes also producing obscene pictures and books 
for their perusal. The foremen are not free from blame 
and responsibihty in this matter. Many of them use 
the most foul language, and curse the men openly before 
the youngsters upon the shghtest provocation. There 
is a species of Continental picture card that is far too 
popular in some of the offices ; where the example is 
set by superiors it is smaU wonder that the rank and file 
are affected with the contagion. The managers them- 
selves are guilty of coarse language and vulgar expres- 
sions. Certain remarks of theirs are frequently repeated 
and circulated in the sheds, and do not tend to improve 
the morals of the workmen, or to increase respect for 
those who made them. 

Promotion among the workmen is very slow and 
tedious, unless there happens to be an influence at work 
somewhere behind, which is often the case. It is super- 
fluous to say, moreover, that the cleverest man is not 
the one usually advanced ; that would be contrary to aU 
precedent at the factory. He is more usually the very 
indi\'idual to be kept under ; the foreman will be sure 
to keep him in the background and hide his light under- 
neath the bushel, or try his best to snuff it out altogether. 
The only material advancement possible to a workman, 
besides being appointed overseer, is that of being raised 
to the position of chargeman. A few privileges attach 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 283 

to the post of chargeman, especially if there is a big 
gang ; his wages are higher, and he draws a sum called 
percentage, equal to 10 per cent, of his own weekly wages, 
deducted out of the " balance " earned by the gang. 

The system of paying percentage is very unpopular 
with the rank and file of the workmen ; whether the 
chargeman's behaviour is good or bad, he is heartily 
hated by most of the men in consequence of it. Foremen 
they must tolerate, but a chargeman they fully despise. 
They do not like to think that any of their earnings go 
to pay for his supervision, although in most cases he 
is quite a necessary individual. In times past the 
chargeman used to pay the piecework " balance " to 
the men, having received the money in a bulk from the 
company, and he was often guilty of scandalous robbery 
and cheating. The chargeman could and did pay the 
gang what amount he pleased, and kept several pounds 
a week extra for himself. AU that is past and done with 
now. The " balance " is paid to the man with his day 
wages ; no opportunity of cheating him is given to the 
chargeman. 

As soon as it becomes known that it is intended to 
discharge a number of hands considerable anxiety is 
evidenced by the rank and file, and especially by the 
unskilled of the shed. They begin to quake and tremble 
and to be full of apprehension, for it is usually men of 
their class who are chosen to go, together with any who 
may be old and feeble, those who are subject to periodical 
attacks of illness, who have met with an accident at some 
time or other, those who are awkward and clumsy, 
dwellers in country places, and those whom the foreman 
owes a grudge. It can generally be surmised beforehand 
by the men themselves who will be in the number of 
unfortunates. Groups of workmen gather and discuss 
the situation quietly ; there is great suspense until the 



284 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

notices are actually issued. Sometimes as many as a 
hundred men of the same shed have received their notices 
of dismissal in one day. The notices are written out 
upon special forms and the clerk of the shed, or the 
office-boy, carries them round to the men ; it is a 
dramatic moment. Although fully expecting to receive 
the dreaded " bit of paper," the men hope against hope ; 
they are quite dazed when the clerk approaches and 
hands it to them, for they know full well what it means. 
The young men may not care a scrap. To them all the 
world is open. They have plenty of other opportunities ; 
but to those who are subject to illness — contracted on 
the premises — or who are getting on in hfe and are 
becoming old and grey and unfit for further service, it 
is little less than tragedy. One day's notice is served 
out to the men ; they are quickly removed from the shed 
and are presently forgotten. 

Of the number discharged a great many loiter about 
the town for several weeks, unable to find any sort of 
employment. These scatter about among the villages 
and try to obtain work on the farms ; those are assisted 
by their relatives and kindred in various parts of the 
country to leave the locality altogether. Some find 
their way into the workhouse and end their days there, 
and others develop into permanent loafers and outcasts 
and beg their food from door to door, picking up stray 
coppers around the station yard or in the market-place. 

Great relief is felt in the shed when the discharging 
is over. A common remark of the workman who is 
left is, " Ah well ! 'Twill be better for we as be left. 
'Tis better to sack a few than to keep us all on short 
time here." That is invariably the view of the well- 
estabhshed in the factory. Occasionally, when a work- 
man knows he has been selected for dismissal through 
spite, or personal malice, he may go to the overseer and 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 285 

" have it out with him," but there is no remedy. The 
foreman has had the whole batch in his eye for some time 
past. Whatever httle indiscretion is committed he 
records it and the man is marked. The overseer boasts 
openly that he shall " get his own back," sooner or later. 
" We don't forget it, mate, you bet, not we ! His time'U 
come all right, some day." After the last great dis- 
charge of hands at the factory, in the year 1909, when a 
thousand men were dismissed in order to "reduce ex- 
penses," it was reported that every manager at the 
works was granted a substantial increase in salary. 
In less than a month, for some inscrutable reason, a 
number of new hands, equivalent to those who had been 
discharged, were put on again. 

The speech of the workmen in the sheds necessarily 
varies according to the country or locahty which gave 
them birth or to the part in which they were settled 
before coming to the railway town, and to the degrees 
of culture existing among them. The majority, in- 
cluding foremen, fitters, smiths, and other journeymen 
and labourers, speak a common language, plain, direct, 
and homely ; there is little pretence to fine words 
and " swell " phrases. The average workman detests 
nothing more than to be bound to a mate who is always 
giving himself airs, who lays stress upon his claim to 
superior knowledge of grammar and other matters, and 
■ who makes use of affected or artificial language and 
" jaw-breakers," as the men call them. Sometimes 
a new-comer to the shed may attempt to make an im- 
pression with a magnificent style of diction, though 
he is only mocked and ridiculed for his pains, and he 
soon conforms to the general rule and habit of the 
workshop. Even if he really possesses culture, it is 
soon effaced and swallowed up amid the unsympathetic 
environment of the shed. Occasionally one meets with 



286 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

an individual — it may be a workman or a clerk — who 
can never speak simply, but tries to express everything 
in ridiculous and fantastic language, and who at all 
times looks upon himself as a perfect hero. The blunt 
and matter-of-fact workmen take an entirely different 
view of him and his jargon, however ; they look upon 
him as a perfect fool or an idiot. 

One habit of speech is particularly noticeable amongst 
the men, that is the adding the suffix " fied " to a number 
of words ; you often hear them make use of such ex- 
pressions as " Monday-fied," " sweaty-fied," " bossy- 
fied," " silly-fied," and so on. Another pecuharity is 
the adding the letter y to a surname, usually a mono- 
syllable, and especially to those ending in dentals and 
labials, such as Webb-y, Smith-y, Legg-y, Lane-y, Nash-y, 
Brooks-y ; you never find the termination used with 
such words as Fowler, Foster, Matthews, Jerrom, or 
Johnson. This is no more than an extension of the 
rule which is responsible for such forms as Tommy, 
Annie, Betty, Teddy, or CharHe. 

If one workman asks another how he is feehng, he 
usually receives for an answer — " Rough and ready, 
Hke a rat-catcher's dog," or " Passable," or " Among 
the Middlings," or " In the pink, mate ! " as the case 
may be, with the common addition of " Ow's you ? " 
A few are still to be found, and these among the town 
dwellers, too, who can neither read nor write. I especi- 
ally remember one youth, of a very respectable family, 
of good appearance and fairly well-to-do, who could 
not write his name or read a letter. Such cases as this 
are happily rare now. Where there is an illiterate work- 
man, if the cause of his deficiency be carefully sought 
out, it will usually be found to have been entirely through 
his own fault. 

As for the fruits of education exhibited among the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 287 

men in the sheds generally, that is rather a difficult 
and deUcate matter to touch upon. One thing, how- 
ever, is obvious to any who care to pay the shghtest 
attention to it : extremely little of those subjects taught 
with such assiduity at school remains with the individual 
in after life — such things as grammar, composition, 
history, geography, arithmetic, and chemistry are uni- 
versally forgotten. The boys of the town are especially 
remarkable for shortness of memory and general forget- 
fulness ; they have few powers of m.ental retention, and 
are almost incapable of concentrating upon a matter. 
You have often to instruct them upon each trivial detail 
half-a-dozen times, and before you can turn round they 
have forgotten it again. The least occurrence is suffi- 
cient to distract their attention. Scolding will not help 
matters, it is really a natural defect. When I have 
had occasion to reprove boys for apparent carelessness 
and neglect they have more than once replied — " I 
can't help it. I forgot it." There is great truth in 
the first of those sentences. 

Sport and play, and especially football, claims the 
attention of the juveniles. The love of the last-named 
pastime has come to be almost a disease of late years — 
old and young, male and female, of every rank and 
condition, are afflicted with it. Whatever leisure the 
youngsters have is spent in kicking about something 
or other amid the dirt and dust ; from one week's 
end to another they are brimful of the fortunes of the 
local football team. Many a workman boasts that he 
has denied himself a Sunday dinner in order to find the 
money necessary for him to attend Saturday's match. 
Politics, religion, the fates of empires and governments, 
the interest of life and death itself must all yield to the 
supreme fascination and excitement of football. 

There is an almost total lack of spontaneous interest 



288 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

in anjrthing — with the exception of sport and politics — 
that happens in the world without the factory walls 
and the immediate vicinity of the town. The great 
business of hfe is entirely ignored ; small inchnation 
is discoverable — even if there were opportunities— 
to pay attention to anything but the ordinary duties 
and routine of the shed. The beauties of wood and 
field, or hill and down, scarcely appeal to the average 
working man. Though magnificent downlands and 
historical rehcs are within easy reach of the town's- 
people, few are tempted to walk so far from the smoky 
atmosphere of the factory as to visit them ; a great 
indifference to the compelling attractions of Nature 
apparently exists. Yet, on the other hand, if you should 
happen to enter the shed with a handful of common 
wild flowers — willow-herb, rosebay, bell flower, oxeye, 
and so on — you would immediately be surrounded by 
a crowd of boys, and men, too, full of admiration for 
the lovely strangers, and all eagerly inquiring after 
their names, thereby discovering an innate passion for 
them, though lack of opportunity and other circum- 
stances had almost obliterated it. Every man, woman, 
and child, though they may not be well aware of it, 
is a nature-lover at heart ; they all have a fond regard 
for the simple, natural things of the earth — birds, plants, 
and flowers. The men of the shed are always eager to 
listen to and take part in political discussions, but they 
are, as a rule, totally indifferent to the interest of htera- 
ture. At the same time, if you have anything to tell 
them of birds, flowers, and animals, hfe on the farm, 
haymaking, reaping, threshing, ploughing, and so on, 
they are full of attention : they evidently derive great 
pleasure from the relation of these simple matters and 
occupations. 
As for general culture, it may at once be said that the 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 289 

educated man is not wanted at the factory. What is 
more, the managers will not have him if they can by 
any means avoid it ; there is a great antipathy to him 
on the part of the staff in and out of the shed. Where 
a workman is known to possess any intellectual abihties 
above those commonly found and has the courage to 
raise his voice in any matter or to interest himself in 
things pertaining to the town, or if he has in any way 
access to the ear of the pubhc, he is certain to be marked 
for it ; at the first convenient opportunity he will be 
shifted off the premises. Every workman who desires 
to improve himself in any direction other than in that 
which tends to promote the interests of the company 
is looked upon with suspicion ; he is immediately in- 
cluded in the number of " undesirables." 

Several years ago the manager of a department, 
who was at the time ChaiiTnan of the local Educational 
Authority, sent for me in order to see whether I might 
be of any use to him in his office. After a lengthy 
interview he expressed his disappointment at being 
unable to offer me any position, and took care to point 
out to me the folly of my ways. My intellectual quali- 
fications were beyond his consideration, said he. I 
was so full of many matters as to be quite worthless to 
him. He must have certificates. What was the use 
of my trying, anyhow ? He would quote two words 
to me — Cui bono ? The world was full of better men 
than I. What was the good of literature ? His advice 
to me was to go back to my furnace, look after my wife 
and family, and trouble no more about it. 

At the forge, however, the steady persistence of my 
efforts towards self-improvement was not appreciated. 
Day after day the foreman of the shed came or sent 
someone with oil or grease to obliterate the few words 
of Latin or Greek which I had chalked upon the back 

T 



290 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

of the sooty furnace in order to memorise them. Even 
my tool-boxes and cupboard, always considered more or 
less private and sacred, were periodically smeared vnth 
fat and the operation was often carried out in a very 
offensive manner. The plan was not successful, how- 
ever, and I was often more amused than annoyed, 
though it was most seriously intended by the overseer, 
who always said he was acting under the manager's 
orders. At one time he had caused the furnace back 
to be tarred. Before the tar had completely dried I 
innocently chalked upon it several words that figured 
in my studies for the day. By the next morning the 
characters had become permanent. The colour of 
the chalk had set, and as often as the overseer or his 
agent came with the oil-pot and removed the dust and 
soot, thinking to baffle me, he was confronted with the 
Horatian precept. Nil desperandum, a quotation from 
the Hecuba, and irahpuGov avrov (Crucify him) from 
the New Testament. The one most appreciated at the 
works is he who remains silent and slavishly obeys 
every order, who is wiUing to cringe and fawn hke a 
dog, to swear black is white and white is black at the 
bidding of his chief, to fulfil every instruction without 
ever questioning the wisdom or utility of it, to be, in a 
word, as clay in the potter's hand, a mere tool and a 
puppet. 

Where the cultured person does exist in the shed he 
must generally suffer exquisite tortures. There can 
be no culture without a higher sensibihty, and he will 
be thereby rendered less able to endure the hardships 
of the toil, and the otherwise brutal and callous environ- 
ments of the place. As for the view, held in some 
quarters, that education will make a man happier at 
work and better satisfied with his lot and condition, 
that is pure myth and fallacy, and the sooner it is dis- 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 291 

pensed with the better. On the other hand, it will 
most certainly produce dissatisfaction, but such, perhaps, 
as will speedily wake him up to his real needs and require- 
ments — a larger freedom, and the attainment of a fuller 
and better Ufe. Any kind of education that tends to 
make the workman at all subjective to his lot is worthless 
and retrograde ; he must be roused up to battle to- 
wards perfection of conditions and must himself be 
prepared to make some sort of sacrifice towards the 
accomplishment of that end, unless he is content to 
occupy the same level for ever. Nor will it be sufficient 
for him to have obtained higher wages and greater 
leisure if he does not attempt to derive something more 
than a mere physical or material benefit from them. 
Whatever advantage is gained in the future must be 
turned to sterling account — to the acquisition of useful 
knowledge and the increase of mental strength and 
fitness, otherwise the battle will have been fought 
greatly in vain. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

SHORT TIME AND OVERTIME — " BACK TO THE LAND " — 
THE TOWN INFLUENCE — CHANGES AT THE WORKS — 
GRIEVANCES — THE POSITION OF LABOUR — ILLS AND 
REMEDIES — THE FUTURE OUTLOOK 

Frequent spells of short time occur at the works, 
which are most certain to be followed by brisk and busy 
periods, as though the officials were anxious to make up 
for every moment of the previously lost time. It 
usually happens that the change is made direct from 
prosperity to adversity and vice versa. One week the 
machinery in the sheds is running day and night and 
every man is working unusual hours ; the next, every- 
thing is changed. Short time is declared ; only half the 
output will be needed and about half the time worked. 
Similarly, after a period of short weeks, a full-time notice 
is posted, and by the next night all the men are peU-mell 
on overtime, working as though they had but a few hours 
to Uve, Whether it is necessary or not is never ascer- 
tained ; there is apparently an astounding want of order 
and foresight on the part of the managing staff. 

It is remarkable that, notwithstanding the terrific 
nature of the hardships endured, the majority of the 
men at the factory do not show themselves seriously 
averse to the working of overtime. There is even 
satisfaction evinced at the prospect of putting in an 
extra day, or day and a half, a week, and drawing a few 
shillings more in wages. The few who dislike it from 
principle and on other grounds must swallow their 

292 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 293 

objections and join in with the rest ; whether they Hke 
it or not they are forced to follow the crowd. If a man 
refuses point-blank to work after the usual hours he is 
punished either with suspension from the shed or instant 
dismissal. Unfortunately for the good of the working 
classes generally, those who are satisfied with the 
ordinary rate of hours are insignificant in number. The 
highly-paid workmen and journejonen are about as 
unreasonable in the matter as are the lowest paid 
labourers. Very often they are the more insatiable of 
the two ; they will put in any number of hours provided 
an opportunity is given them for so doing. The trade 
unionists are usually as well agreed as the others to work 
extra time ; there is but very little difference discovered 
between them. No matter how loudly they declaim 
against the system and advocate the abolition of over- 
time, should the order be issued they commonly obey 
it with alacrity. 

Occasionally, though not often, it is announced that 
the working of overtime may be optional. In the 
extreme heat of summer, when overtime at the fires is 
prevalent, the overseer may relax a little and cause it 
to be known that any who wish it may go home at the 
ordinary hour, but few take advantage of the offer. 
I have known those who were highly paid, on the hottest 
days of summer, to be so severely punished with the 
heat that they could scarcely stand at their posts, 
almost incapable of further effort and exhausted with 
the toil, yet though it was free for them to leave at the 
usual hour they would not go home. They cling to the 
shed as long as they possibly can ; they have an un- 
natural fondness for the stench and smoke. Such as 
these are often teased and twitted and told to " bring 
their beds " with them, or an outspoken workman will 
tell them they ought to die and be buried on the premises. 



294 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

A great part of the overtime, moreover, is not always 
genuinely necessary, but is artificially engineered in 
order to please this or that one and to provide someone 
or other with additional pocket-money. A few charge- 
men in every shed systematically nurse the overseer and 
entreat, or influence him, directly or otherwise, to allow 
them to work a few quarters, a Saturday afternoon, or a 
Sunday. 

Very often, too, some of the men live in houses owned 
by their foreman. In that case a little overtime will 
expedite payment of the rent ; it will not then be amiss 
to allow them to work a few quarters. The putting on 
a few new hands and the addition of a night shift would 
obviate much overtime and give the unemployed a 
chance, but the daymen are offended should that pro- 
position be made. I have actually heard men volunteer 
to work double-handed at the fires and promise to turn 
out considerably increased quantities of work on their 
turn rather than for the foreman to run a night shift 
and so prevent them from working overtime. 

The men's takings at such times as these are fairly 
high. Some of the new hands are astonished when 
they receive their wages, with the piecework " balance " 
added, on a full week. One of them, in the days of the 
old foreman of the frame shed, was so aghast at the 
amount he had to draw he could not believe it was all 
intended for him ; he thought there must be a mistake 
somewhere. Accordingly, holding the money in his 
hand, he went back to the foreman, and, in front of all 
the other men cried — " Be this all mine, sir ? " The 
foreman, who happened to be in an ill-temper, cursed 
him for an idiot and promptly told him to " clear out." 

At another time, when the men were being paid on 
breaking up for Christmas holidays, a good-natured 
country lad, whose earnings were small, chanced by 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 295 

mistake to draw the wages of another, much more 
highly rated than himself, and, thinking the extras were 
intended for a Christmas-box, promptly went and laid 
out the money in presents for his mother and dad. He 
was quickly called to account, however, and had to 
refund the cash at once, and he furthermore received 
the imputation of being a sly rogue and a thief. Without 
doubt money is plentiful during overtime, though the 
extras are far from being all profit. It costs more to 
live. The workman requires more to eat and drink, 
more clothes, firing, light, and other sundries, to say 
nothing of the sacrifice of freedom and life. 

It is little real gain to the workman, even though 
he have a trifle better food and clothing, a finer house 
and costlier furniture, while he has to work excessively 
long hours in order to pay for it. The more expensively 
he lives the more time he must spend in the smoke and 
stench of the shed and the greater must be his dependence 
upon his employer. He that lives simply in a modest 
cottage is much nearer to freedom than the other can ever 
hope to be, for he is bound down to life-long servitude. 
Every hour spent outside the factory walls is a precious 
addition to life ; whoever wiUingly throws away the 
opportunity of enjoying it is guilty of the highest folly 
and negUgence. He is the curtailer of his dearest rights 
and Uberties, the forger of fetters for himself and his 
children after him, and the sooner the working classes 
can be brought to see this the better it will be for them. 

There is a great deal of talk, chiefly with a political 
bias, about the sheds, of getting back to the land. 
Many of the men tell you they are sick of town life and 
conditions and would like to see themselves established 
upon a dozen acres of land far away from the noise of the 
factory, but they never make the slightest effort towards 
the consummation of the wish. The fact is that, not- 



296 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

withstanding all the punishments and hardships endured 
in the workshop, they are still strongly attached to it 
or to the life they are enabled to Uve by reason of it. 
They have no intention whatever at heart of changing 
their occupation. They are content to mix with the 
crowd, and are unable to withstand the novelty and 
excitement of the town existence. 

During the many years I have spent in the works I have 
known of but one case in M'hich a man left the shed to go 
back to the land as a small working farmer. He had 
always been careful and thrifty, and seemed to be well 
fitted for the agricultural hfe, but he could not succeed 
in it. After five or six years of hard labour, trying in 
vain to prosper, he returned to the shed, a disappointed 
and ruined man : he had spent his savings and lost the 
whole of his small capital. He is still working in the 
shed, and he has no intention of repeating the experiment. 
The wages at the works, though low as compared with 
those obtainable at other towns, are much higher than 
what the farm labourer receives. Youths of eighteen 
years of age in the sheds often draw more than the 
carter or cowman, who may have to maintain big 
families. 

Consequently, while the cry of " Back to the land " 
is heard on all sides, there is at the same time a most 
passionate desire to get away from it and to come into 
the town to work and live ; whoever is of the requisite 
age will be certain to appear at the factory gates to try 
and obtain admission there. The whole countryside, 
within a radius of six or eight miles of the town, is almost 
destitute of good strong workmen. Only the feeble 
and decrepit are left behind to work on the farms — 
those who cannot pass the phj^sical tests and those who 
formerly worked in the factory and were discharged 
through old age or other causes of unfitness. Once a 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 297 

man becomes settled in the factory he is very reluctant 
to leave it. Notwithstanding the rigour of the system 
imposed, he usually remains there till the end of his 
working days, unless he happens to meet with an 
accident or dismissal. He soon loses his self-confidence 
and independent spirit. The world is considerably 
narrowed down in his view ; he feels bound to the life 
with indissoluble fetters. 

As for the work itself, men do that in the factory 
they would scorn to do outside or upon the farm. They 
would not be seen milking or " clod- hopping," or carrying 
a yoke and pails, a truss of hay on their head, or a little 
pig in their arms, or driving cattle to market. At the 
same time they are not ashamed to scour down filthy 
roofs and windows, to do white-washing, to clean black 
and greasy engines, to wheel coal and ashes up or down 
the stage, to tar the axles and wheels of waggons and 
vehicles, to stand at the furnace or machine all day in 
a half-fainting condition choked with the smoke and 
dust of the shed ; as though it were not more wholesome 
to have to do with cattle and crops than to be for ever 
penned up within four walls ! 

Although perhaps not as keen intellectually as are 
some of those who get their living in the town, and not 
receiving as much in wages, the best of the farm-hands 
are healthier, happier, and generally more well-to-do 
than are the factory labourers. At the same time, it is 
but natural that a man should desire to leave the country 
to come into the town. Though the work is much 
sharper and infinitely more painful while it lasts, the 
shorter hours and higher pay are powerful inducements 
for him to make the change. He will be free on Saturday 
afternoons, and there is no Sunday labour, while his 
wages will often be half as much again as what he would 
get on the farm. It is idle to say that the desertion of 



298 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

the countryside is a modern symptom ; that has very 
Httle force, for it was always the same among highly 
civiUsed communities. The Greek husbandman left the 
soil and flocked to Athens to sit in the Agora, the 
Egyptians thronged the streets of Alexandria, and the 
Itahans deserted the plough and sickle and crowded in 
Rome to see the circus games and other diversions of 
the " Urbs Terr arum." 

Those who, most of all, use the cry of " Back to the 
land " are they that obtain the highest wages in the 
sheds, and who are themselves the least likely to set 
the example. Men with famiUes enlarge upon the 
blessings and privileges of agricultural Hfe, but they 
take great care to get their sons started in the shed at 
the very earliest opportunity. As soon as they leave 
school they are brought along in knickerbockers and 
presented to the overseer, with the earnest hope of a 
speedy admission to work on the premises. I know 
of several cases in which workmen have been offered 
financial help in order to instal them in small-holdings, 
and they have refused point-blank. When I asked them 
the reason they replied that they " would rather go home 
at half-past five, if it made no difference," and that is 
the crux of the whole matter. Not only this, there is 
the football match, the railway " Trip," the privilege 
fares, the theatre, the cinematograph, the skating-rink, 
and the trams, all which must be sacrificed if the work- 
man determines in favour of the simple life on the farm 
or small-holding. The class of men to secure for the 
land is the pick of the agricultural labourers, those who 
are uncontaminated with the life of the town ;. it is 
useless to think of reclaiming those who have once 
entered the factory and become established there. 

Even very many of those who dwell outside the town 
are not content to spend their leisure in the village ; 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 299 

in the evening and at week-ends they wash and dress 
and flock back to the street corners or parade up and 
down the thoroughfares. Innovations such as the 
cinematograph and the skating-rink, though harmless 
enough in some respects, are of httle real value to the 
workman ; with all their claims to be " educational " 
and " health-giving " the town could very well afford 
to dispense with them. There is little that is really 
manly and vigorous in roller-skating, and many of 
the cinematograph pictures serve only to indulge the 
craving for the novel and sensational. Half the boys 
of the shed, and even the infants of the town, can think 
of little but those ridiculously stupid and often debas- 
ing entertainments, of blood and thunder, crime, and 
mawkish love dramas ; their minds are rendered quite 
incapable of imbibing sound and useful knowledge. 

Even the trams, useful as they are, prove in several 
ways detrimental to the toiler and contribute to the 
restriction of his liberty. Scores of workmen I know 
wait at their doors or at street corners for five, and very 
often for ten minutes, in order to ride a distance of about 
a quarter of a mile. I have nothing to say against the 
habit provided the man can afford twopence or three- 
pence a day for fares. At the same time, considered 
from the point of view of health, walking the distance 
would often be much better, and every copper needlessly 
spent by the worker tends to make him more and more 
dependent upon the shed. Where a man is engaged 
upon very hot and laborious work he is often too tired 
to walk home. The wages of such a one ought to be 
sufficiently high to enable him to make the journey in a 
taxicab, if he desired it. 

Very different from this, however, is the lot of the 
small-holder. He must rise early all the year round — 
in summer and winter, light or dark, hot or cold weather. 



300 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

His work is not of five-and-a-half, but of six or seven 
days. Where cattle are kept there can be no such thing 
as a day off ; dumb mouths must be fed and their needs 
ministered to. He has no trams to take him to work, 
very often no shelter from the storms and showers, no 
shade in summer and no steam-heated refuge in winter. 
His leisure is short, his companions few, his whole hfe 
laborious. But he is happy and strong, healthy, and 
vigorous in body and mind ; he is in many ways a better 
man than is his confrere of the town. Considerably 
more skill, knowledge, and human feeling are also re- 
quired on the part of the carter, coNvman, and shepherd 
in dealing with their teams, flocks, and herds, than in 
the case of those who merely superintend mechanical 
processes and have to do with lifeless blocks of iron and 
steel, yet the countrymen are more or less despised by 
the factory workers and are greatly deficient in wages. 
Low wages are given on the farm simply because it is 
the custom so to do ; if the Government were to intervene 
and fix a higher rate the extra money would be paid 
as a matter of course. This is the only kind of reform 
that would really popularise work on the land from the 
point of view of the poor man and help to check the 
wholesale migration to the towns. Not until such 
improvements have been made will the labourer be 
willing heartily to respond to the cry of " Back to the 
land." 

One thing is especially to be deplored in the factory, 
and that is the serious lack of recognition and apprecia- 
tion of the skilful and conscientious workman ; there 
is very little inducement for anyone to make efforts in 
order to obtain better results at the steam-hammer or 
other machine. If a workman proves himself to be 
possessed of unusual skill and originality, instead of 
being rewarded for it he is boycotted and held in check. 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 301 

Even the managers are not above exhibiting the same 
petty feeUng where they find their ideas have been 
echpsed by those of less authority. It is their habit 
to think that anj^hing they suggest is the best possible 
of its kind. 

Whatever inventions are produced by the workmen, 
whether in leisure time or at the shed, become the 
property of the railway company ; they claim the right 
of free and unrestricted use of all patents applied for 
by their employees. Consequently, if a workman dis- 
covers means by which he might assist the firm with a 
new process he holds his peace and troubles no more 
about it. He knows that he would not be thanked for 
the information, and he is also aware that if the scheme 
were adopted his prices would consequently be reduced. 
In more up to date sheds, and particularly in America, 
bonuses are given for the best work made and every man 
is induced, by aU reasonable means, to think out new 
methods. An " idea box " is kept on the premises ; 
every " happy thought " is written upon a form and 
shpped into this. The managers alone inspect the sheets 
and any suggestion considered worthy of being adopted 
is paid for.i 

Bonuses are paid to firemen and engine-drivers on 
the line for economy in fuel. The same plan might 
profitably be adopted in the factory. It is well-known 
that certain men invariably produce the best work. 
One furnaceman will waste as much again fuel as another. 

* Since these pages were penned the railway authorities have 
invited the workmen to submit to them any ideas they may have 
for the improvement of dies and plant, but, unfortunately, the 
local foreman still stands in the way and blocks progress. On 
the pubhcation of the notice a workman of the shed put forward 
a brilliant and original idea in respect of a complex job upon 
which he was engaged, but the foreman promptly cut him short 
and told him he was a fool, and there the matter ended. 



302 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

One machineman breaks no end of drills and tools. 
The work of this or that smith always looks rough and 
shoddy. One stamper spoils more dies in a year than 
another will in ten and often gets his work sent back, 
while the other does never. If the best men were the 
most highly paid there would be no just cause for com- 
plaint, but they are not. They are all classed the same. 
The incompetent receives as much as the competent 
and is usually held higher in esteem. 

That great changes have taken place in regard to 
everything connected with the factory of late years is 
not to be disputed. Different schemes of work and other 
methods of deaUng with the men have everywhere been 
introduced. New machinery has revolutionised many 
branches of the labour and it usually happens that where 
an appliance that saves 50 per cent, to the firm is adopted 
the men are hustled into double activity ; the great delight 
of the managers is to boast of the large amount of work 
produced by a machine, and to add that " one man does 
it all." In addition, prices all round are continually 
being sharpened ; " balance " is earned \\ith greater 
difficulty and only by increased effort. The officials 
declare openly that piecework balance is merely given 
to the men when they earn it without strenuous efforts ; 
they will not admit the reasonableness of working with 
any degree of sanity and comfort. 

As well as new machinery, which has revolutionised 
many branches of work in the factory, there are such 
things as fresh laws and regulations touching accidents 
and compensation for injuries, which have helped con- 
siderably to modify the tone and character of the sheds. 
Only those in perfect health are now admitted to the 
works ; those possessed of flaws of any kind are rejected. 
The tests are almost as severe as are those used for 
recruiting for the Army and Navy, and young men are 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 303 

refused on account of the most trivial ailments and 
infirmities. 

When a man shows signs of being subject to recurrent 
spells of sickness he is marked out as an undesirable ; 
as soon as an opportunity comes he will be quietly 
shifted off the premises. If a workman falls ill he 
must not only satisfy the medical authorities at the 
works' infirmary, and notify his foreman of the fact, but, 
after passing the doctor's examination and clearing off 
the funds, he must present himself at one of the manager's 
offices and be further interrogated before he is allowed 
to start again. This last-named examination is deeply 
resented by the rank and file, and many, though ill, 
continue at work when they ought to be at home because 
they do not like the irritating process of passing the test 
and the certainty of having something or other recorded 
against them. 

In reaHty this is a system of espionage, a cowardly 
inquisition, but one that is in high favour with the 
foreman because it gives him the chance of getting rid 
of a man on so-called medical grounds without his sus- 
pecting that he has been discharged for other reasons. 
By this means the shed foreman may remove anyone 
against whom he has a grudge and he cannot well be 
blamed himself ; the victim is told that he is " medically 
unfit," and there is an end of it. The game is played by 
putting a private pen mark upon the official slip to be 
presented at the office. If the foreman desires to retain 
the workman he puts a private mark upon the paper, 
and if he wants to get rid of him and has not the courage 
to tell him so to his face the mark is omitted. This is so 
arranged in order that if the workman suspects that the 
paper contains something to his detriment and demands 
to see it, there shall be nothing that he can cavil at. 
The damaging thing is in that there is no sign upon it. 



304 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

Honest Mark Fell, who was one of the finest smiths 
that ever worked at a forge, an excellent time-keeper, 
and who was possessed of a grand character, died rather 
than go out on the sick hst and be forced to pass the 
dreaded inquisition. He was run down with over-work, 
and was badly in need of a rest, but he did not like the 
idea of going to the offices. Accordingly he kept coming 
to work day after day, and grew weaker and weaker. 
When at last he did stay out it was too late ; his strength 
and vitahty were gone and he died within a week or two 
afterwards, 

A decade and a half ago one could come to the shed 
fearlessly, and with perfect complacence ; work was 
a pleasure in comparison with what it is now. It was 
not that the toil was easy, though, as a matter of fact, 
it was not so exhausting as it is at present, but there 
was an entirely different feeling prevalent. The work- 
man was not watched and timed at every little operation, 
and he knew that as the job had been one day so it would 
be the next. Now, however, every day brings fresh 
troubles from some quarter or other. The supervisory 
staff has been doubled or trebled, and they must do 
something to justify their existence. Before the work- 
man can recover from one shock he is visited with another ; 
he is kept in a state of continual agitation and suspense 
which, in time, operate on his mind and temper and 
transform his whole character. 

At one time old and experienced hands were trusted 
and respected, both by reason of their great knowledge 
of the work, acquired through many years, and as a 
kind of tacit recognition of their long connection with 
the firm, but now, when a man has been in the shed for 
twenty years, however young he may be, he is no longer 
wanted. There is now a very real desire to be rid of 
him. For one thing, his wages are high. In addition 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 305 

to this, he knows too much ; he is not pHable. It is 
time he was shifted to make room for someone lower 
paid, more plastic and more ignorant of the inner work- 
ing of things. 

If a workman has a grievance it is useless for him to 
complain to the overseer, who is usually the cause of it, 
and if he takes it upon himself to go and see the manager 
he gets no redress. The manager always supports the 
foreman whether he has acted rightly or wrongly, and 
the man is remembered and branded as a malcontent ; 
he will be carefully watched ever after. The safest 
way to quell a man is to keep him hard at work. While 
his nose is firm upon the grindstone there is no danger 
of his indulging in speculations of any kind ; he could 
no more realise himself than he could hope to see the 
stars at midday. 

While the men are inside the walls of the factory, 
they are under the most severe laws and restrictions, 
many of which are utterly ridiculous, and out of all 
reason considering the general circumstances of the 
toil and the conditions in vogue ; they are indeed 
prisoners in every sense of the term. In the midst of 
the busiest period of hay-making and harvest-cart, 
ploughing or threshing, a short stop is always made for 
refreshment, or the labourer takes a crust of bread and 
cheese from his pocket and eats it at his work and is 
strengthened with it, but in the factory one must not 
be seen to crack a nut, or eat an apple or biscuit, much 
less to partake of any other food. If he should break 
the rule and be seen eating, he will be marked for it 
and told to "get a pass out and go home." Four or 
five hours is a long time to keep up a strenuous pace 
at the fires. A half-way relaxation of ten minutes 
would be good for everyone ; the workman would more 
than make up for it afterwards, 
u 



3o6 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

A regrettable dulness is discovered by very many of 
the men, which may be bred of the labour itself and the 
extremely monotonous conditions of the factory. There 
is little or no thought taken for the future, no knowledge 
of the value of hfe, and not much desire to know, either. 
The workmen do not think for themselves, and if you 
should be at the pains of pointing out anything for their 
benefit they will tell you that you are mad, or curse you 
for a SociaHst. Anyone at the works who holds a view 
different from that expressed by the crowd is called a 
Socialist, rightly or \vrongly ; it would need an earth- 
quake to rouse many of the men out of their apathy 
and indifference. It is more than education at fault. 
There is something wrong at the very roots of the tree. 
The whole system of Hfe requires overhauling and 
revolutionising ; the national character is become fiat 
and stale. 

I have already, in the first chapter, referred to labour 
unrest. That is the perfectly natural outcome of 
modern conditions of labour, the long spell of commercial 
prosperity, and of the spread of knowledge among the 
working classes. It is not to be viewed with misgiving 
at all, at any rate, not by those who can look intelli- 
gently into the future and brush aside the paltry pre- 
judices that are common ever5rwhere to-day. The 
very fact that working-men are rousing themselves 
and showing a masterly interest in problems of the hour, 
and are prepared to fight fairly and bravely for better 
conditions should be a source of satisfaction to everyone. 
It proves, at least, that they are awake and aHve ; that 
they have cast off torpor and stagnation and put on 
power and virility, and that is surely a good omen 
both for the future of democracy and for the nation at 
large. The extent of the riches of this country is so 
great as to be inconceivable to the workers ; if they 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 307 

knew how much wealth there really is they would need 
to have no scruples in pressing with all their might for 
a fairer share in the proiits of their labours. Where 
the pace is so much faster and the output considerably 
increased it is natural that there should be a demand 
for higher wages and shorter hours. More leisure and 
rest are absolutely indispensable in order properly to 
recuperate for the increased demands made upon the 
workmen's physical powers. The difficulties of forming 
agreements with the men are not nearly as great as they 
are represented to be. Drastic changes could be made 
with but very little inconvenience or loss to the firm ; 
the transition would be almost imperceptible. 

The idea that the general factory week should be 
completed in five turns, the day shifts to finish working 
by Friday night, and the night shifts to complete their 
toils by Saturday morning, has long been in my mind. 
The having two clear days of leisure would give the 
worker an opportunity of entirely shaking off the effects 
of confinement in the shed at the week-end, and of 
starting work a new man on the Monday morning. It 
is impossible for one to recuperate sufficiently in the 
short space of time at present allowed ; he is never free 
from the effects of the hurry and speed of the machinery. 
There is, moreover, no time to get away from the shadow 
and ugliness of the factory walls and to make the ac- 
quaintance of other scenes in the country round about. 
When the sheds are closed on Saturdays for short time, 
crowds of workers either leave the town on foot and 
walk around the adjacent villages, enjoying the fresh, 
pure air, or take short trips by the train and come back 
strengthened with the change ; you hear many a one 
say, during the following week, that he feels extra fit 
and well. 

If a week of forty- eight hours were divided out and 



3o8 LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 

completed in five turns, instead of six, it would be both 
popular with the men and economical for the employers. 
The fuel and light, the cost of steaming up the boilers 
and the general wear and tear of machinery on the sixth 
turn and for several hours a day besides would be saved, 
and there would be about an equivalent amount of work 
produced. It is useless for critics and calculators to 
come forward with figures and quotations to disprove 
the statement and show its impossibility ; I have worked 
in the shed long enough to understand the true signi- 
ficance of things. What is more, the workman is not, 
and never will be a mathematical machine ; his efforts 
and powers are not to be calculated by the set rules of 
arithmetic. 

The whole trend of things in the industrial world is 
towards shorter hours, better wages, and a greater pro- 
portion of liberty for the workman ; all the objections 
that can be raised and schemes devised will not stop 
the progressive movement. Sooner or later the barriers 
must give way, and the goal will have been reached ; 
the wonder then will be that the change was not effected 
earlier. I would bid all toilers and moilers, in and out 
of factories, to be of good hope and cheer, to fight on 
and press steadily forward ; victory will be certain to 
follow. At the same time, one must not expect to arrive 
at an utter immunity from hardships, nor, perhaps, 
will the whole of the differences between capital and 
labour ever be absolutely removed and every problem 
solved. Many conditions, however, will most certainly 
have been bettered, many disputes settled and evils 
overcome, and this, it will be confessed, is worth hving 
and hoping for. 



APPENDIX 

Table of average day wages per week of fifty- four 
hours paid to men employed at Swindon Railway 
Works, July 1914 :— 



Foremen 


70s. 


Coppersmiths 


30s 


Foremen, Assistant 


. 50s. 


Tinsmiths 


30S 


Draughtsmen 


35s. 


Moulders . 


26s 


Clerks, Monthly Staff 


30s. 


Wheel Turners . 


24s 


Clerks, Shop 


25s. 


Machinemen, General 


24s 


Forgemen . 


33s. 


Carriage Body -makers 


30s 


Smiths 


33s. 


Carriage Finishers 


28s 


Rolling Mills Men 


30s. 


Waggon-builders 


28s 


Fumacemen 


28s. 


Road-Waggon Builders 


28s 


Stampers . 


28s. 


Carpenters 


28s 


Stampers' Assistants 


22s. 


Painters . 


26s 


Smiths' Strikers . 


22s. 


Saw Mills, Timber 


24s 


Pattern-makers . 


35s. 


Riveters . 


26s 


Boilermakers 


34s. 


Bricklayers 


28s 


Fitters and Turners 


34s. 


Labourers, Skilled 


22s 


Fitters, Engine . 


34s. 


Labourers, Unskilled . 


20s 


Fitters, Carriage . 


28s. 


Labourers, Fitters' 


21S 


Die-sinkers 


34s. 


Storekeepers 


23s 



309 



INDEX 



Abingdon, 44 
Accident, 14, 243 
Accumulators, 149 
Africa,92 
Agora, 298 
" Ajax," 141 
Alexandria, 29S 
All Fools' Day, 270 
America, 92, 102, 150, 301 
Annealed, 21 
Antiquated, 25 
Antonio, 234 
Apprentices (smiths') 90 
Aquatic plants, 44 
Archfcologist, 177 
Army, 77, 302 
Ash-wheelers, 47 
Athens, 298 
Athletes, 63 
Atlantic, 139, 169 
Atlas, 73 

Avon, river, 22, 45 
Axles, 20 

" Back to the Land," 296 

Balance, 283 

Balance-week, 254 

Balling-up, 17 

Bank Holidays, 245 

Battleship, no 

Bays, 10 

Beam-engine, 151 

Beltage, 100 

Besom, 85 

Bible, 32 

" Big Firm," 256 

Birmingham, 92, 151 

Bogies, II 

Boilers, 136 

Boilersmiths, 74, 113 

Bonuses, 301 

Borough, 18 



Boss, I ^4 

" Black List," 230 

Blast-furnace, 116 

Blood-poisoning, 213 

Bloom, 108 

" Blower," 150 

Bricklayers, 48 

Bricklayers' labourers, 49 

Bridge, of furnace, 46 

Bristol, 13, 44 

Broad-gauge, 67 

Broadway, Hammorsmith, 23S 

" Bucket of blast," 281 

Buffalo Bill, 77, 156 

Buffer, 23 

Bullion van, 70 

" Bummer," 134 

Burns, 19 

Burs, 23 

Cabin, 25 
Csesar, Julius, 264 
Callipers, 102 
Canada, 228 
Canvas belts, 147 
Cape of Good Hope, 102 
Capitalist, 2 
Carlyle, Thomas, 237 
Carriage body-makers, 56 
Carriage finishers, 38 
Cassius, 264 
Castellum, 12 
Casuals, 69 
Catastrophe, 38 
Ceremonious, 57 
Ceylon, 157 
Chalk-pits, 13 
Channel Islands, 173 
Chargeman, 282 
Charities, 97 
Cheapjack, 173 
Check-box, 130 

811 



312 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 



Chelidon, 263 
Cheltenham, 92 
Chemicals, 33 
China, 102, 157, 173 
Cinematograph, 298 
Cirencester, 13 
Clay-pits, 262 
Clinkering, 46 
" Clod -hopping," 297 
Coal-heavers, 14 
Coffee stalls, 129 
Compensation, 227 
Compressed air, 172 
Condensation, 11 
Consumption, 126 
Contraband, 31 
Corporation, 62 
Cotswold Hills, 45 
Cottage Hospital, 97 
Countershaft, 145 
Covered goods waggons, 71 
" Cow-banging," 279 
Cramp, 94 
Cricklade, 44 
Cushion-beaters, 41 
Cutting-down, 68 
Cj'clops, 208 
Cyhnder, 18 



Deadwood Dick, 77 
Dee, river, 22 
Democracy, 294 
Detectives, 37 
Detonators, 23 
" Diagonals," 23 
Dinner-can, 112 
" Discontent," 4 
" Dolly," 69 
Donkey-engine, 150 
Donkej'-man, 109 
Door-boy, no 
Dorsetshire, 247 
Double-handed, 306 
Dowlais, 173 
Draughtsmen, 133 
Dredger, 45 
Drop-stamp, 153 
Dumb-bells, 144 
Durham, 92 



Earthquake, 18 
Ebony, 15 

Educational Authority, 289 
Egypt, 173 
Egyptians, 298 
Electricity in belts, 147 
Engine-cranks, 104 
Entrenchment, 13 
Erin, 173 
Espionage, 303 
Examination, 93 
Excursionists, 26 
Exhaust of engines, 63 
Exhibition, 88 
Ex-Hussar, 73 
Explosions, 36 

Fable, 133 
Factory Acts, 74 
Factory s3'Stem, 103 
Falstaffian, 181 
Fan, 145 
Feed-pipes, 210 
Feudal times, i 
Fire-engine, 33 
Fires, 34 

First Aid Men, 244 
Fitters, 10 1 
" Flatter," 21 
Flying Dutchman, 68 
Fogmen, 23 
" Foreigners," 86 
Forgemen, 106 
Forging, 18 
Fortress, 11 
Foundry, 116 
France, 150 
Freight trains, 123 
" Fuller," 21 

Gallerv-men, 87 
Gauge-glass, 166 
Gazing-stock, 186 
Geological data, 50 
Germany, 20, 150 
Gloucester, 44, 92 
Government, 8, 300 
Greeks, i, 289 
Grindstones, bursting of, 152 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 



3^3 



Crossness of atmosphere, 249 
Gun barrel, 17 

Hammer-driver, 107 
Hammersmith, 237 
Heavy-weights, 73 
Hecuba, 290 
" Hell Corner," 142 
Hercules, 52 
Hereditary, 91 
Hibernian, 182 
Historical relics, 288 
Holder-up, 69 
Hooter, 125 
Horatian, 290 
Horse-rake, 266 
Hustle, 183 
Hydraulic work, 171 

Idea-box, 301 
" lerky," 59 
Improvers, 90 
Incendiarism, 34 
Inferno, 208 
Injector, 215 
Inquiry office, 276 
Inquisition, 303 
Irishmen, 173 
" Ironopolis," 105 
Italians, 298 

Jackboots, 17, iii 
Jam, 148 

" Jaw-breakers," 285 
Jefferies, Richard, 12 
" Jersey Lily," 173 
Jesus Christ, 246 
Jew's harp, 166 
" Jogglers," 82 
" JoggUng," 14 
John Bright, 236 
Journals, axle, 13 
Justin M'Carthy, 238 

Kennet, river, 22 

Labour unrest, i 
" Lambs," 177 
Lancaster, 92 
Latin, 289 



Laughing-stock, 29 
Lean-to, 142 
Library, 248 
Liddington Hill, 12 
Lightning, 10 
Literary Society, 135 
Liverpool, 92 
" Loco " boiler, 164 
Loitering, 29 
London, 44, 45, 68 

Magnesia, 166 

Malcontent, 305 

Malleable steel, 103 

Mallet, 83 

Marines, 232 

Mark Fell, 304 

Mars, 219 

May-pole, 63 

Medical Report, 242 

Mediterranean, 263 

Merchant of Venice, 234 

Mess-rooms, 262 

Middlesborough, 105, 173 

Midlands, 105, 155 

Militia, 174 

Mines, i 

Moliere, 154 

" Monday-fied," 257 

" Monkey," of hammer, 109 

Monsieur Jourdain, 154 

Monthly staff, 133 

Motherwell, 173 

Moulders, 119 

Mrs Langtry, 237 

Mulatto, 174 

Municipalities, 2 

Mushrooms, 221 

Narrow-gauge, 67 
Navy, 77, 143, 302 
Newcastle, 116 
New Testament, 290 
New Year's Eve, 271 
Nicknames, 77 
Night shift, 206 
" Nobbling," 113 

Oatmeal, 261 
Obsequious, 275 



314 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 



Officialism, 7 
Oileus, Ajax, 141 
Oil furnace, 3, 139 
Oscar Wilde, 237 
Output, 5 
Overalls, loi 
Overseer, 7 
Overtime, 292 
Oxford, 13 

Painters, 38 

Palmy days, 21 

Pandemonium, 71, 135 

Paris, 158 

Parliament, 8 

Parrot, river, 22 

Passeres, 263 

Pater familias, 127 

Pattern-makers, 38 

Pay-day, 253 

Pension, 32 

Percentage, 51, 283 

Piece-work inspector, 134 

Piers and panels, 10 

Pig iron, 117 

" Piles," 16 

Platers, boiler, 113 

Pneumatic riveting machine,70 

Police Court, 53 

Politics, 287 

Porter-bar, 105 

" Pride o' the Prairie," 198 

Provocation, 4 

" Puddling," 17 

" Puller-up," 71 

Pull-rod, 201 

Punishment, 15 

Pushfulness, 53 

Railway Institute, 248 
" Ram," 104, 143 
" Rasher- waggon," in 
References, 276 
Refrigerator van, 70 
Repairs, 37 
" Riddle," 83 
River Liffey, 155 
Rivet-boys, 75 
Road-waggon builder, 54 
Rolling mills, 15 



Romans, i, 85 
Rome, 298 
Rooks, 263 
Rotherham, 92 
Roj^al train, 233 
Rubbish heap, 61 
Ruffianism, 56 

Salisbury, 157 

Sanitary, 32 

Scientist, 20 

Scotland, 13, 20, 105 

Scrap-waggons, 21 

Serfs, I 

" Set-tool, 82 

Severn, 22 

Shear-off (bur), 172 

Sheer-legs, 14 

Sheffield, 13, 92, 105 

Shingling, 16 

Shop clerks, 133 

Shunters, 25 

Shylock, 234 

Sick and Medical Fund, 253 

Signalmen, 68, 124 

Skating-rink, 298 

Skulker, 47 

Slag, 171 

Smithy, 82 

Smoke-box, 115 

Smoking, 27 

Smudging, 37 

" Snap " (rivet), 78 

Sneak, 31 

Snowstorm, 121 

Socialist, 36 

Sole-bar, 67 

Sop, 5 

Speeding-up, 5 

Stamping, 98 

State, 8 

Steam-saw, 16 

Steamship Company, 2 

Stoppage week, 254 

Storekeeper, 239 

" Strappie," 148 

Sunderland, 116, 179 

Supper-hour, 215 

Surgery, 281 

" Swanker," 265 



LIFE IN A RAILWAY FACTORY 



315 



Tamar, river, 22 

Tarpaulin, 22 

Taxicab, 299 

Teak, 13 

Telamon, 141 

" Tell-tale," 28 

Tennyson, 237 

Thales, i 

Thames, river, 22, 45 

Theft, 30, 81 

Throw-oft (wheels), 152 

" Ticket," 131 

Tipperary, 182 

Titanic, 191 

Titans, 139 

" Toe-punch," 281 

T pieces, 20 

Towy, river, 22 

Trades Union, 2, 102 

Trams, 299 

Transfer, 40, 43 

Transport, 44 

Transvaal, 173 

Traversing Table, iCi 

Trespassers, 67 

Trimmer, 210 

" Trip," 245 

Troy, 141 

Tubing (boilers), 113 

Tug-of-war, 73 

Tyres, 13 

Uffington, 233 
Ugliness, 12 



Under-strapper, 61 ^ 
" Undesirables," 289 
Upholsterers, 38 
Up-setting, 142 

Vacuum arrangement, 41 
Ventilation, 10 
Viaduct, 22 
Virgil, I 

Wages, 5 
Wales, 179, 181 
Washer, 21 
Washing-down, 37 
Waster, 279 
Watchmen, 25 
Water-closet, 32 
Water-gas, 220 
Water-pipe, 270 
Weather-vane, 260 
Weekly staff, 133 
Welsh pits, 14 
West Indies, 173 
Weymouth, 247 
Wheel shed, 57 
Whistler, the artist, 237 
Wiltshire, 158 
Witney, 13 
Worcester, 92 
Works' Institute, 135 
Wye, river, 22 

Yankee hammers, 133 



BV THE SAME AUTHOR 

A WILTSHIRE VILLAGE 

By ALFRED \YILLIAMS 

" We have found it a gentle and continuous delight. To the 
reader it can hardly be anything but a joy to find the old village 
life, which perhaps he himself remembers, set down so fairly 
and fully, with the charge of monotony roundly dismissed and 
all the events and pleasures recorded. . . . Wonderful little 
descriptions. Here is a vivid portrait that will seem to many 
like that of an old friend — Jemmy Boulton, the carter. . . . 
We knew and loved him ever so many years ago. And it is 
because Mr Williams knows and loves him, as he knows and loves 
the woods and waters, the plants and the beasts, that he makes 
a country-side live for us again as it still is here and there, as it 
will not be anywhere for long." — Times. 

" Here is one who has never been drawn from his allegiance to 
the country-side bj' the allurements of big cities. An extremely 
interesting book, concerned not only with village life, but 
wandering far afield to the advantage of the thoughtful reader. 
The beauty of his descriptions, the quiet dignity of his well- 
considered inclusion of details, the manner of introducing us 
to this ' character ' and that, call for appreciation, and the 
reader closes with reluctance a fascinatingly discursive record 
which he has followed with genuine pleasure and unabated 
interest." — Country Life. 

" He brings to bear the same observation and love of nature 
which are the salient features of his delightful ' Poems.' There 
is in him much quaint lore and wide knowledge of birds and 
animals. He has many good things to say on this subject." — 
Evening Standard. 

" A book which is as charming as it is uncommon. Makes a 
deep appeal to the naturalist and lover of the country. Mr 
Williams writes of what he knows, and that fact adds a special 
value to his book." — Field. 

" A faithful description of a quiet corner of rural England, so 
well WTitten in strong simple English that it deserves a place of 
honour on the shelf where country-side books are treasured." — 
Daily Mail. 

" Written from personal experience and with the closest 
observation. Those whose interests are centred on rural matters 
generally will take a keen dehght in it. There is food for much 
reflection in this volume ; and be it noted that sincerity runs 
like a golden thread through every page." — Daily Chronicle. 

Crown Svo, ^o$ + xvi pages. 5s. net, postage 4d. 

DUCKWORTH & CO., COVENT GARDEN, LONDON. 



7?F THE SAME AUTHOR 

VILLAGES OF THE WHITE HORSE 

By ALFRED WILLIAMS 

" If there were a Mr Williams in every county, how rich our 
libraries would be in records of real rural life ! We hope Mr 
Williams will keep on writing as long as he has material in his 
collections with which to picture the kindly, stout-hearted, 
humorous folk of the Downside." — Manchester Guardian. 

" This book cannot be too strongly recommended for general 
reading, as a charming picture, full of changing interest, of a 
tract of country of great native Iseauty, and of the people, sturdy 
and characterful, who inhabit a score of villages, so independent 
and self-centred that the mere story of their industries makes 
no small part of the charm of this delightful book." — Pall Mall 
Gazette. 

" The author is on friendly terms vnth all the oldest inhabit- 
ants. He draws vi^dd pictures, tells many delightful stories. 
The book is one of great interest, and we should be glad to see 
others of a similar sort." — Athencsum. 

" Especially has he been successful in his portraits of old 
characters with whom he has talked. He is good on farm 
customs, good, too, when he writes of the lore of the countryside. 
The whole life of the country lives in his book, which is a valu- 
able and delightful book, and should be bought by ever\'one 
who loves the country : bought because it is emphatically a 
book to read many times and to special friends." — Observer. 

" He writes with the insight, the humour, and something of 
the poetry of Richard JefEeries. A knowledge and a cheerful 
humour which are refreshing." — Yorkshire Post. 

" We have only one quarrel with the Author of Villages of 
the White Horse : the book should have been twee as long. 
With a genuineness which is not inevitably behind the reviewers' 
summing up, we bear testimony to its sterling qualities — its 
simple strength of style, its sweetness, its fine balance, its sanity 
of outlook, its flashes of rollicking humour, its informativeness, 
its warm sympathy and quick comprehension, and its unfailing 
gentle charm." — Wiltshire Advertiser. 

" A series of dramatic pictures and sketches, full of life, anec- 
dote and humour, together with charming Nature-studies. It 
introduces us to the people in their homes and in the field. It 
gives the most vivid impression of how they live, of what they 
think and of what they say." — The Academy. 

Crown Svo, 2go + xvi pages. 55. net, postage 4^. 
DUCKWORTH & CO., COVENT GARDEN, LONDON. 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

COR GORDIUM 

By ALFRED WILLIAMS 

" Coy Cordium confirms Mr Alfred Williams' remarkable 
position among writers of contemporary verse. It has all his 
sincerity and clear vision. We prefer his ecstatic reckless 
lyrics to the longer poems, in which he gives us nineteenth- 
century philosophy in admirable eighteenth century verse." — 
Manchester Guardian. 

" Mr Alfred Williams' position as a poet is fully established." — 
Times. 

" That remarkable poet, Mr Alfred Williams, adds another 
triumph to his list of volumes of verse." — Daily Citizen. 

" Mr Williams is one of those writers whose books we often 
pull down from their place when the town lies heavy on the 
heart. ' ' — Observer. 

" Mr Williams is a simple and a genuine poet, simple because 
he is not tempted away into decorative effects alien from the 
spontaneity of his lyrical impulse, and genuine because he 
breathes the utmost strength of his spirit into every line and 
phrase. He is circumscribed neither in the concentration nor 
the intensity of this impulse, but in its range. The energy and 
feeling which quicken his expression are sufficient in themselves 
to create a responsiveness in the reader which registers the 
vicissitudes in the mood and sensibiUtics of the poet. That is 
a great quality. Mr Williams' strength lies in the clear and ex- 
quisite treatment of a common sentiment." — The Nation. 

" Every line is the expression of a calm, determined purpose, 
buoyant in its own well -measured, well-disciplined confidence." 
— Daily Chronicle. 

" The serious manliness and good sense of these pieces are 
qualities so rare in the verse of to-day that when we find them 
they have a sort of exotic piquancy. There are times when 
Mr Williams wears with grace the mantle of the Jacobeans." — 
Spectator. 

" His lyrics in strict form are often wonderful. We do not 
think that such lovely lyric verse can fail to give its creator a 
high place among the poets of to-day." — Poetry Review. 

Large 8vo, 82 pa^es. 35. 6ci. ntt, postage 3^. 

PUBLISHED BY ERSKINE MACDONALD 
16 FEATI-IERSTONE BUILDINGS, LONDON, W.C. 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR 

NATURE AND OTHER POEMS 

By ALFRED WILLIAMS 

" It is seldom, even among the romantics, that we find so 
ecstatic a rage for nature. The purpose and sincerity of the 
author bear him along, and there are times when he achieves 
a rare beauty. He has depths yet unplumbed to draw from." — 
Times. 

" The expression of a mystical exaltation of spirit. Truth and 
sincerity are the impulse of Mr Williams' poems." — Edinburgh 
Review. 

" A rare blend of Goth and Latin." — English Review. 

" Mr WiUiams' work has the passionate throbbing purity of 
the later Richard Jefferies." — Bookman. 

" Mr Williams' work has a splendid detachment and a splendid 
essentiality. It is pure rapture." — Academy. 

" The poems have the fragrance and simplicity that come 
from a strong, sincere mind. To read them is to be refreshed." — 
Observer. 

" There is movement, joy of life, strenuous bliss of existence 
throughout the book ; it is a real and rare pleasure to read." — 
Poetry Review. 

" The work, which recalls Cowper, is delightful." — AthencBum. 

" Written in glowing strains of rare quahty." — Publishers' 
Circular. 

" Mr Williams is a poet of a school uncommon in these days. 
His robust and shapely verse is a counterpart of his wholesome 
philosophy of life." — Spectator. 

" Those who read the other books of this man, who has tri- 
umphed over circumstances so remarkably, will know that 
pleasure awaits them on every page." — Outlook. 

" Works of high merit. Remarkable human documents." — 
Swindon Advertiser. 

" Mr WiUiams is a singer whom we should place very high." — 
Literary Monthly. 

Large Svo, 90 pages. 31. 6 J. net, postage S*/. 

PUBLISHED BY ERSKINE MACDONALD 
16 FEATHERSTONE BUILDINGS, LONDON, W.C. 



A LIST OF THE LIBRARIES 
AND SERIES OF COPYRIGHT 
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DUCKWORTH ^ CO. 




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LONDON, W.C.2 



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MASTERS OF PAINTING 
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A Bit o' Love. By John Galsworthy. 



f 



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