They had an only child, a son, a grown up man, an uncouth ill-looking ungainly fellow, who did no work, smoked and loafed about, but was the idol of his mother. He resembled neither parent in the least, and, except that such vagaries of nature are not unknown, it might have been supposed that some cuckoo had visited the parental nest.
A gaunt, hard-featured domestic completed this interesting family, and she was uncommon too. By no means young, what Balzac calls "a woman of canonical age," she resembled Pere Grandet's tall Nanon. Like Nanon, she had been the devoted servant of the family for nearly a quarter of a century, and like her, had no interest outside that of her master and mistress. She was always working, rarely went out, spoke little, but ministered to the wants of Tom and myself, and waited on us with unremitting attention.
Despite all drawbacks, however, they were fine lodgings. The old lady was a wonderful cook and had all the liberality of her race.
New Year's Day, the great Scotch holiday, Tom and I spent in Edinburgh, and returned much impressed with its stately beauty.
The next morning I entered upon my work at St. Rollox, where the stores department of the Caledonian Railway is situated. The head of the department was styled Stores Superintendent. I thought him the most impressive looking man I had ever seen. He overpowered me; in his presence I never felt at ease. He was a big man, and looked bigger than he was; good-looking too; ruddy, portly, well-dressed and formal. An embodiment of commercial energy and dignity. In his face gravity, keenness, and good health were blended. Soon after I joined his staff he left the Caledonian to become General Manager of Young's Paraffin Oil Company, and subsequently its Managing Director. Success, I believe, always attended him. No position could lose any of its importance in his hands. When he left St. Rollox a great blank was felt; he filled so large a space. He has lately gone to his rest full of years and honors.
I fear he never liked me, nor had any great opinion of my abilities. This was not to be wondered at, for I am sure I did not display any excessive zeal for the work on which I was then employed, and which I found monotonous and uninteresting.
He confided to his chief clerk, who was my friend, that one day he had seen me, in business hours, in the city, smoking a cigarette and looking at the girls, and was sure I would never do much good. He had very strict business notions. I confessed to the cigarette, but not to the graver charge. It was a wholesome tonic, however, and pulled me up. I wanted to get on in life; ambition was stirring within me; and I formed some good resolutions which, as time went on, I kept more or less faithfully.
At St. Rollox one's daily lunch was a matter of some difficulty. It was a district of factories, and the only restaurants were the Great Western Cooking Depots, where one could get a steak and bread and cheese for fivepence, but the rooms and tables and accessories were, to say the least, unappetising. Hunger had to be satisfied, however, and I had to swallow my pride and my five-pennyworth. I varied this occasionally by bringing with me my own sandwiches and eating them seated on a tombstone in Sighthill cemetery, which was less than a quarter of a mile distant from the stores department.
My work, as I have said, was monotonous enough: writing letters from dictation, an occupation which gave but little exercise to one's faculties. I obtained some variation by occasionally taking a turn through the various stores and getting into touch with the practical men in charge. They were always very civil and ready to talk of their business, and so I learned something of the nature, quality, uses and cost of many things necessary to the working of a railway, which I afterwards found very useful. Occasionally also I visited the laboratory, in which an analytical chemist was regularly engaged.
The event which, in my short service of two years with the Caledonian, seemed to me of the greatest moment, was that, after six months or so, I became a taxpayer! This was an event indeed. In the offices at Derby it was only, as a rule, middle-aged or old men who attained this proud distinction; and here was I, not yet twenty-two, with my salary raised to 100 pounds a year, paying income tax at the rate of threepence in the pound on forty pounds, for an abatement of sixty pounds was allowed. Until I got used to the novelty I was as proud as Lucifer.
The office in which I now worked had no Apollos, no literary geniuses, no Long Jacks, no boy benedicts, such as adorned our desks at Derby, but it rejoiced in one rara avis, who came a few months after and left a few months before me. He was a middle-aged, aristocratic, kind, good-hearted, unbusinesslike man, and was brother to a baronet. He professed a knowledge of medicine and brought a bottle, a bolus or a plaster, whichever he deemed best, whenever any of us complained of cold or cough, of headache or backache or any ailment whatever. When he left we all received from him a parting gift. Mine was a handsome, expensive, red-felt chest protector. I wore it constantly for a year or two and, for aught I know, it may be that by its protecting influence against the rigour of Glasgow winters, the bituminous atmosphere of St. Rollox and the smoke-charged fogs of the city, I am alive and well to-day. Who can tell? It is certain that I then had a bad cough nearly always; and this I am sure was what decided the form of his parting gift to me.
It was about this time that I attended my first public dinner and made my first speech in public. Several days before the event I was told that, being in the Volunteer Force, I had been placed on the toast list to reply for the Army, Navy and Volunteers. It was a railway dinner, for the purpose of celebrating the departure to England, on promotion, of the chief clerk in the Midland Railway Company's Scottish Agency Office. The dinner was largely attended. The idea of having to speak filled me with trepidation. But to my great surprise I acquitted myself with credit. Once on my legs I found that nervousness left me, words came freely and I even enjoyed the novel experience. To suddenly discover oneself proficient where failure had been feared increases self esteem and adds to the sum of happiness. At this dinner I also made my first acquaintance with that "Great chieftain o' the puddin' race," the Haggis, which deserves the pre-eminence it enjoys.
One night, towards the end of December, in 1874, when skating by moonlight, not far from Cambuslang, I chanced to meet a young friend, a clerk in the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, who, like myself, was enjoying the pleasures of the ice. Tom was not with me, for he, poor fellow! was not well enough to be out o' nights in winter. My young friend gave me, with great eagerness, a rare piece of news. Mr. Johnstone, the Glasgow and South-Western general manager, was retiring and Mr. Wainwright was to succeed him! Well, that did not excite me, and I wondered at his earnestness; but more was to follow. Mr. Wainwright, as general manager, required a principal clerk and there was, it seemed, no one in the place quite suitable. He must be good at correspondence, and expert at shorthand. I was, my young friend said, the very man; I must apply. Mr. Wainwright was English, so was I; I came from the Midland, and the Midland and the Glasgow and South-Western were hand and glove. How lucky we had met; he had not thought of me till this very moment. It was fate. Would I write tonight? By this time I was as eager as himself. No more skating for me that night. I hurried home, Tom and I composed a careful and judicious letter. I posted it in Her Majesty's pillar box hard by; went to bed, but was too excited to sleep. An answer soon came, and an interview with Mr. Wainwright followed. I received the appointment, at a salary of 120 pounds a year to begin with; and in the early days of the new year, two years after my first appearance in Scotland, entered upon my duties, not at Saint Enoch Station, where the headquarters of the Glasgow and South-Western now are, but at Bridge Street Station on the south side of the river, where the office staff of the company was then accommodated.
CHAPTER IX. GENERAL RAILWAY ACTS OF PARLIAMENT
Such unromantic literature as Acts of Parliament had not, it may be supposed, up to this, formed part of my mental pabulum. I knew that an Act was a necessary preliminary to the construction of a railway, and this was all I knew concerning the relations between the railways and the State. Whilst a little learning may be a dangerous thing, in my new situation, I soon discovered that a general manager's clerk would be the better of possessing some knowledge of the numerous Acts of Parliament that affected railway companies. Almost daily questions arose in which such knowledge was useful; so I determined to become acquainted with them, and in my leisure hours made as profound a study as I could of that compilation which, in railway offices was then in general use—Bigg's General Railway Acts. I found the formidable looking volume more readable than I had imagined and less difficult to understand than I had expected.
Governments have ever kept a watchful eye on railway companies. Up to 1875, the year at which we have now arrived, no less than 112 general Acts of Parliament affecting railways had been placed on the Statute Book of the realm. They were applicable to all railways alike, and in addition to and independent of the special Acts which each company must obtain for itself, first for its incorporation and construction, and afterwards for extensions of its system, for the raising of capital, and for various other purposes.
Many of the general Acts have been framed upon the recommendations of various Select Committees and Royal and Vice-Regal Commissions, which have been appointed from time to time since railways began. From 1835 down to the present year of 1918 some score or more of these Committees and Commissions have gravely sat and issued their more or less wise and weighty reports.
What are these numerous Acts of Parliament and what are their objects, scope, and intentions?
Whilst neither time nor space admit of detailed exposition, not to speak of the patience of my readers, a few observations upon some of the principal enactments may not be inapposite or uninteresting.
Pride of place belongs to the Carriers' Act of 1830, passed in the reign of William IV., five years after the first public railway (the Stockton and Darlington) was opened. This Act, although in it the word railway does not appear, is an important Act to railway companies, and possesses the singular and uncommon merit of having been framed for the protection of Common Carriers. It is intituled "An Act for the more effectual Protection of Mail Contractors, Stage Coach Proprietors, and other Common Carriers for Hire, against the Loss or Injury to Parcels or Packages delivered to them for Conveyance or Custody, the Value and Contents of which shall not be Declared to them by the Owners thereof." The draughtsman of this dignified little Act it is clear was greatly addicted to capitals. Probably he thought they heightened effect, much as Charles Lamb spelt plum pudding with a b—"plumb pudding," because, he said, "it reads fatter and more suetty." At the time this Act came into being, railways in the eye of Parliament were public highways, upon which you or I, if we paid the prescribed tolls, could convey our traffic, our vehicles, or ourselves. In the years 1838-1840 many of the companies obtained powers enabling them to act as public carriers; and in 1840 questions having arisen in Parliament as to the rights of the public in this respect the subject was referred to a Select Committee of the House of Commons. The Committee's report disposed of the view which, until then, Parliament had held, and expressed the opinion that the right of persons to run their own engines and carriages was a dead letter for the good reason, amongst others, that it was necessary for railway trains to be run and controlled by and under one complete undivided authority.
After the Carriers' Act, which applied to all carriers as well as to railways, the first general railway Act of importance was the Railways (Conveyance of Mails) Act of 1838. This Act enabled the Postmaster-General to require railway companies to convey mails by all trains and to provide sorting carriages when necessary, the Royal Arms to be painted on such carriages, and in 1844, under the Railway Regulation Act, it was further enacted that the Postmaster-General could require, for the conveyance of mails, that trains should be run at any rate of speed, certified to be safe, but not to exceed 27 miles an hour!
As I have said, the Select Committee of 1840 reported against the right of the public to run their own engines and carriages on railways. They made recommendations which led to the passing of the Railway Regulation Act of that year, and in that Act powers were, for the first time, conferred upon the Board of Trade in connection with railways. It was the beginning of that authority, which since has greatly grown, but which the Board of Trade have in the main exercised with an impartiality, which public authorities do not always display. The Act empowered the Board, before any new railway was opened, to require notice from the railway company. This power was repealed by an Act of 1842, and larger powers granted in its place, including the right to compel the inspection of such railways before being opened for traffic. The Act of 1840 also required the companies, under penalty, to furnish to the Board of Trade returns of traffic, as well as of all accidents attended with personal injury; and to submit their bye-laws for certification.
Of the railway mania period I have spoken in a previous chapter. For a time enormous success attended some of the lines. Amongst others the Liverpool and Manchester and the Stockton and Darlington enjoyed mouth watering dividends; the former ten, the latter fifteen per cent.! Said the Government to themselves, "'Tis time we saw to this," and accordingly they passed the Railway Regulation Act of 1844. This Act provided that if at any time, after twenty-one years, the dividend of any railway should exceed ten per cent., the Treasury might revise the rates and fares so as to reduce the profits to not more than ten per cent. This expectation of high dividends, I need hardly say, has not been realised, and the Act in this respect has been a dead letter. The Act also conferred an option on the Treasury to acquire future railways at twenty- five years purchase of the annual profits; or, if such profits were less than ten per cent., the price was to be left to arbitration.
It is interesting now, when, owing to the war, the railways of the land are under temporary Government control, and their future all uncertain, to remember that, on the Statute Book to-day, there is an Act which provides for State purchase of the railways of the country. Whether a solution of the difficulty will be found in State purchase or in State control it is hard to say, but it is clear that some solution of the problem will become imperative when the war is ended and normal conditions return. Justice and reason demand it.
In the year 1845 three long Acts of Parliament came into force; the Companies Clauses, the Lands Clauses and the Railway Clauses Acts. Between them they contained no less than 483 sections. Each Act was a consolidating measure. The first contained provisions usually inserted in Acts for the constitution of public companies, the second the same in regard to the taking of land compulsorily, and the third consolidated in one general statute provisions usually introduced into Acts of Parliament authorising the construction of railways.
The Railway Clauses Act authorised railway companies to use locomotive engines, carriages and wagons; to carry passengers and goods, and to make reasonable charges not exceeding the tolls authorised by their special Acts. Since then the whole of the trade of transit by rail has been conducted by the companies owning the lines.
The gauge of railways in Great Britain was not fixed upon any scientific principle. At first it followed the width of the coal tram-roads in the north of England, which was adopted simply on account of its practical convenience (five feet being the usual width of the gates through which the "way-leaves" led) and so four feet eight and a-half inches became the ordinary gauge, but in the early days it was by no means the universal gauge. Five feet was chosen for the Eastern Counties Railway; seven feet for the Great Western and five feet six was used in Scotland. The Ulster Company in Ireland made twenty-five miles of the line from Belfast to Dublin on a gauge of six feet two, while the Drogheda Company, which set out from Dublin to meet the Ulster line, adopted five feet two. When the Ulster Company complained of this, the Irish Board of Works, it is said, admitted that it was a little awkward, but added that, as it was not likely the intervening part would ever be made, it did not much matter. The subject was, I believe, in Ireland referred to a General Pasley, who consulted the authorities (who were many) throughout the kingdom. He ultimately solved the question by adding up the various gauges the authorities favoured, and recommended the mean, which was five feet three inches; and so, for Ireland, five feet three became the standard gauge.
"The battle of the gauges," as it was styled at the time, was lively and spirited. Eventually it was decided by Parliament, which in the year 1846 passed the Railway Regulation (Gauge) Act. This Act ordained that in Great Britain all future railways were to be constructed on a gauge of four feet eight and a-half inches, and in Ireland of five feet three inches, excepting only certain extensions of the broad gauge Great Western Railway.
Up to this time no action at common law was maintainable against a person who by his wrongful act, neglect or default caused the immediate death of another person, and an Act (known as Lord Campbell's Act), "for compensating the Families of Persons Killed by Accidents," became law. This enactment was due principally to the railway accidents that occurred. They were relatively more numerous than they are now, for the many modern appliances for ensuring safety had not then been introduced. The Act provided that compensation would be for the benefit of wife, husband, parent and child of the person whose death shall have been caused. The Act did not apply to Scotland. Perhaps it was because the laws of the two countries differed more then than now, and the life of the railways in Scotland was young, England being well ahead. Probably England thought she was doing enough when she legislated for herself by passing this Act. It must be observed, however, that the Act applies to Ireland as well as England.
In the year 1854 Parliament considered that regulations were necessary to further control the companies and passed an important statute, the Railway and Canal Traffic Act. Known, for short, in railway parlance, as "the Act of '54," its main provisions dealt with:—
Reasonable facilities for receiving and forwarding traffic The subject of undue preference, which was forbidden Railways forming part of continuous lines to receive and forward through traffic without obstruction The liability of railway companies for loss of, or damage to, goods or animals
and it preserved to railway companies the protection of the Carriers' Act, to which I have referred.
The Select Committees of 1858 and 1863 sat on the subject of the great length of time and the immense cost which railway promotion in those days entailed, when Bills were fiercely contested, and protracted struggles before Parliamentary Committees took place. Two Acts resulted from their deliberations: the Railway Companies' Powers Act, 1864, and the Railway Construction Facilities Act of the same year. These Acts empowered railway companies to enter into agreements with each other in regard to maintenance, management, running over or use of each others lines or property and for joint ownership of stations. They also enabled powers to be obtained from the Board of Trade to construct a railway without a special Act of Parliament, subject to the conditions that all the landowners concerned agreed to part with the requisite land, and that no objection was raised by any other railway or canal company. Little use has ever been made of this well-intentioned enactment. Landowners have rarely been disposed to accept terms which the companies thought fair; and rival railways, in the days gone by, dearly loved a fight.
By the Companies Clauses Consolidation Act of 1845 railway companies were required to keep full and true accounts of receipts and expenditure, but it was not until the year 1868 that Parliament placed upon the companies an obligation to keep their accounts in a prescribed form. This form was scheduled to the Regulation of Railways Act, 1868. It provides for half-yearly accounts, and is the form which has been familiar to shareholders for many years. This Act (1868) also ordained that smoking compartments be provided on all trains, for all classes, on all railways, except on the railway of the Metropolitan Company. Up to then the railway smoker had to obtain the consent of his fellow passengers in the same compartment before he could light up, or brave their displeasure; and many were the altercations that ensued. The Act also imposed penalties on railways who provided trains for attending prize fights, which was hard on companies of sporting instincts. A clause provided for means of communication between passengers and the servants of the company in charge of trains running twenty miles without stopping; and another clause gave the companies power to cut down trees adjoining their line which might be dangerous. Prior to 1868, although railways had then existed for three and forty years, the accounts of one company could not usefully be compared with those of another, for scarcely any two companies made up their accounts in the same way. Variety may be charming, but uniformity has its advantages.
The Board of Trade, in 1871, was endowed with further powers. By the Regulation of Railways Act of that year, they were given additional rights of inspection; authority to enquire into accidents, and further powers in regard to the opening of additional lines of railway, stations or junctions. And by this statute the companies were required to furnish the Board of Trade with elaborate statistical documents, annually, in a form prescribed in a schedule to the Act.
The only other important Act down to the year 1875 is the Regulation of Railways Act of 1873. This Act was passed for the purpose of making "better provision for carrying into effect the Railway and Canal Traffic Act of 1854, and for other purposes connected therewith." In 1872 a Joint Committee of both Houses sat and, following upon their report, this Act was passed. It established a new tribunal, to be called the Railway and Canal Commission, to consist of three Commissioners, of whom—one was to be experienced in the law, one in railway business, and it also authorised the appointment of not more than two assistant Commissioners. As to the third Commissioner, no mention was made of qualifications. This tribunal, though styled a Commission, conducted its work as if it were a court; and a regularly constituted court in time it became. By the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, 1888, the section in the Act of 1873 appointing the Commission was repealed and a new Commission established consisting of two appointed and three ex officio Commissioners, such Commission to be "a Court of Record, and have an official seal, which shall be judicially noticed." One of the Commissioners must be experienced in railway business; and of the three ex officio Commissioners, one was to be nominated for England, one for Scotland and one for Ireland, and in each case such Commissioner was to be a Judge of the High Court of the land. Under the Act of 1873, the chief functions of the Commissioners were: To hear and decide upon complaints from the public in regard to undue preference, or to refusal of facilities; to hear and determine questions of through rates; and to settle differences between two railway companies or between a railway company and a canal company, upon the application of either party to the difference. The Act of 1888 continued these and included some further powers.
In my humble opinion the Railway Commissioners have done much useful work and done it well. For more than forty years I have read most if not all the cases they have dealt with. On several occasions I have been engaged in proceedings before them, and not always on the winning side.
CHAPTER X. A GENERAL MANAGER AND HIS OFFICE
January, 1875, was a momentous time for me. In the second week of that month I commenced my new duties at Glasgow and bade farewell for ever to the tall stool and "the dry drudgery of the desk's dead wood." Before me opened a pleasing prospect of attractive and interesting work, brightened by the beams of youthful hope and awakened ambition. I was now chief clerk to a general manager. Was it to be wondered at that I felt proud and elated if also a little scared as to how I should get on.
Mr. Wainwright assumed the office of general manager on the first day of the year. I say office, but in fact a general manager's office scarcely existed. His predecessor, Mr. Johnstone, a capable but in some respects a singular man, performed his managerial duties without an office staff, wrote all his own letters, and not only wrote them but first carefully drafted them out in a hand minute almost as Jonathan Swift's. A strenuous worker, Mr. Johnstone, like most men who have no hobby, did not long survive his retirement from active business life.
Mr. Wainwright, who, like myself, was born in Sheffield, was twenty-three years my senior. His early railway life was passed in the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (now the Great Central), of which the redoubtable Mr. (afterwards Sir) Edward Watkin was then the lively general manager.
A different man to his predecessor was Mr. Wainwright. Unlike Mr. Johnstone he was modern and progressive. He never scorned delights or loved, for their own sake, laborious days; pleasure to him was as welcome as sunshine; and work he made a pleasure.
As I have said, no general manager's office existed. Of systematic managerial supervision there was none. What was to be done? Something certainly, and soon. Mr. Wainwright concurred in a suggestion I made that I should visit Derby, see the general manager's office of the Midland there, and learn how it was conducted. This I did. E. W. Wells, a principal clerk in that office, who was married to my cousin, showed and told me everything. I returned laden with knowledge which I embodied in a report and my recommendations were adopted. Several clerks were appointed and the general manager's office, of which I was chief clerk, soon became efficient.
Wells afterwards became Assistant General Manager of the Midland, and Frank Tatlow, my cousin and brother of Wells' wife, is now its General Manager, in succession to Sir Guy Granet. I am not a little proud that the attainments of one who bears the name of Tatlow, and is so nearly related to myself, have enabled him to reach the topmost post on a railway such as the Midland Railway of England. He commenced as a junior clerk in the General Manager's office and worked his way step by step to that eminent position. No adventitious circumstances helped him on.
I became fond of railway work, which it seems to me for interest and variety holds a high place among all the occupations by which man, who was born to labour, may earn his daily bread. My duties were certainly arduous but intensely interesting. The correspondence with other railway companies regarding agreements, joint line working, Parliamentary matters, and many other important subjects, conducted as it required to be, with skill, care and precision, was for me a liberal education. The fierce rivalry which, in those days, raged in Scotland for competitive traffic culminated often in disputes which could only be settled by the intervention of the general managers, and these brought much exciting work into the office. Again, the close and intimate relations between the Midland and the Glasgow and South-Western involved interesting communications, meetings and discussions, and the keeping of certain special accounts which it fell to me to supervise.
The Midland and the Glasgow and South-Western alliance was regarded by the West Coast Companies (the London and North-Western and the Caledonian) with much disfavour. In their eyes it was an attack upon their hen roost, and it certainly resulted in the loss to them of a large share of through traffic between England and Scotland which the West Coast route had previously had all to itself. To carry on the competition successfully necessitated a large expenditure of capital by the Glasgow and South-Western, and the Midland, of course, had to help in this. The original cost of Saint Enoch Station for instance was nearly one and three-quarter millions sterling, and a considerable outlay was also necessary for goods stations and other accommodation. There was in those days much doing between the general managers' offices of the Midland and Glasgow and South-Western companies, and it was all delightfully new and novel to me.
A Committee of Directors of the two companies, called the Midland and Glasgow and South-Western Joint Committee, was established. This committee, with the two general managers, met periodically either at Derby, London, Carlisle or Glasgow. Mr. Wainwright acted as secretary and I kept the minute book and papers relating to the business of the committee.
Pullman cars had been introduced on the Midland and were run on the through trains between Saint Pancras and Saint Enoch. The cars were the property of Mr. Pullman, but the Midland kept them in repair, the Glasgow and South-Western relieving them of a proportion of the cost corresponding to the mileage run over their line. Mr. Pullman received as his remuneration the extra fare paid by the passengers—three shillings each for drawing-room cars and five shillings each for sleeping cars. Other through carriages on these trains were jointly owned by the two companies. The interesting accounts connected with these arrangements were supervised by me. I commenced work with Mr. Wainwright on a Monday. The following Saturday afternoon, before leaving the office, to my great surprise and delight, he presented me with a first- class station to station pass over the railway. With what pride I showed it to Tom that evening! Six months later my salary was increased, and the pleasant fact was announced to me by my kindly chief, coupled with the expression of a wish that he and I might long work together.
On the Scottish railways the financial half-years ended, not in June and December, as in other parts of the United Kingdom, but at the end of July and January. This was for the better equalisation of receipts, taking a month from the fat half-year to the lean, and giving, in exchange, a month from the lean to the fat. Soon after the first-half-year was concluded and the accounts published, which was in the month of September (my first September with the Glasgow and South-Western), Mr. Wainwright handed to me a large sheet of closely printed figures, giving a detailed analysis and comparison of the accounts of five of the principal English and the three principal Scottish railways in columnar form, with a request that I should take out the figures and compile for printing a similar statement for the past half-year, from the accounts of the eight companies. I trembled inwardly for I had never yet looked at a railway account, but I took them home, and, as in the case of the Acts of Parliament, found them simpler than I thought; and, with less trouble than I expected, succeeded in accomplishing the task.
Mr. Wainwright was himself a skilful statistician and tested everything he could by the cold logic of figures. I was soon surprised to find that I too had a taste for statistics and acquired some skill in their compilation. Up to this I had always imagined that I disliked everything in the shape of arithmetic. At school I was certainly never fond of it, and since school my acquaintance with figures had been little more than the adding up of long columns in huge books at the half-yearly stocktaking in the stores department at St. Rollox, a thing I detested, and which invariably gave me a headache. Well pleased was Mr. Wainwright to see that statistics took my fancy. As general manager he had not much time himself to devote to them, but the office was now well manned and we were able to establish, and keep up, tables, statistics and returns concerning matters of railway working in a way which I have not seen surpassed. These statistics were of much practical use when considering questions of economy and other matters from day to day.
My first year as general manager's clerk was, I have always thought, the most important in my railway life. Certainly in that year I learned much and acquired from my chief business habits which have stood me in good stead since. Mr. Wainwright was a man of no ordinary nature, as all who knew him will admit. He was a pattern of punctuality and promptitude, never spared himself in doing a thing well and expected the same thoroughness in others, though he would make allowance for want of capacity, but not for indolence or carelessness. Straightforwardness, honesty and rectitude marked all he did. His word was his bond. His disposition was to trust those around him, and his generous confidence was usually justified. High-minded and possessing a keen sense of honor himself, he had an instinctive aversion to anything mean or low in others. A man of great liberality and generous to a fault he often found it hard to say no, but when obliged to adopt that attitude it was done with a tact and courtesy which left no sting. In all business matters he required a rigid economy though never at the expense of efficiency.
Intellectually he stood high, as I had ample opportunity of judging, but if asked what were his most striking qualities I should say goodness and a charm of manner which eludes description, but irresistibly attracted all who met him. In appearance he was tall and portly, and his bearing, carriage and presence were gentlemanly and refined. He was of fair complexion, was possessed of a delightful smile, and had side whiskers (turning white) continued in the old-fashioned way under the chin, and yet he was so bright and debonair that he never looked old-fashioned. Like myself he was a great lover of Dickens, and I think his most prized possession was a small bookcase which had belonged to Dickens' study and which he purchased at the sale at Gad's Hill. His directors esteemed him highly, and the officers of the company were all sincerely attached to him. In his room he held almost daily conferences. Correspondence formed but a small part in his method of dealing with departments. He believed in the value of viva voce discussion, and discouraged all unnecessary inter-departmental correspondence. In this he was right I am sure. The daily conferences were cheerful and pleasant, for he had the delightful faculty of "mixing business with pleasure and wisdom with mirth." I consider that I was singularly fortunate at this period of my life in finding myself placed in close and intimate association with such a man as Mr. Wainwright, in enjoying his confidence as I did, and in being afforded the opportunity of benefiting by his kind precepts and fine example.
[W. J. Wainwright: wainwright.jpg]
In Glasgow there was a weekly paper of much humour and spirit called The Bailie. With each issue it published an article on some prominent man of the day under the title of Men You Know, accompanied by a portrait of the person selected. It is the Glasgow Punch. It was established in 1873,and "Ma Conscience!" is its motto. It still, I am glad to hear, runs an honorable and profitable course, which its merits well deserve. In its issue of September 13th, 1882, Mr. Wainwright was The Man You Know, and, at the request of the Editor, I wrote the article upon him. In it are some words which, penned when I was with him daily, and his influence was strong upon me, are, perhaps, more true and faithful than any I could at this distance of time write, and so I will quote them here, and with them conclude this chapter.
"He (The Man You Know) is one upon whom responsibility rests gracefully and lightly, who accomplishes great things without apparent effort, and whose personal influence smoothes the daily friction of official life. He rules with a gentler sway than many who are accustomed to other methods of command would believe possible. He believes in Emerson's maxim that if you deal nobly with men they will act nobly, and his habit towards everyone around him, and its success, lends force to the genial truth of the American philosopher."
CHAPTER XI. THE RAILWAY JUBILEE, AND GLASGOW AND SOUTH-WESTERN OFFICERS AND CLERKS
The 27th day of September, 1875, was the Jubilee of the British Railway System. It was celebrated by a banquet given by the North-Eastern Railway Company at Darlington, for the Stockton and Darlington section of the North-Eastern was, as I have mentioned before, the first public railway. A thousand guests were invited. No building in Darlington could accommodate such a number, and a great marquee, large enough to dine a thousand people, was obtained from London. My chief attended the banquet and I remained at home to hear the news when he returned. Dan Godfrey's band was there, and Dan Godfrey himself composed some music for the occasion. The menu was long, elaborate and imposing; equalled only by the toast list, which contained no less than sixteen separate toasts. It was a Gargantuan feast befitting a great occasion. Could we men of to-day have done it justice and sat it and the toast list out, I wonder. It took place over forty years ago, when the endurance of the race was, perhaps, greater than now; or why do we now shorten our banquets and shirk the bottle?
The Stockton and Darlington Railway is 54 miles long, and its authorised capital was 102,000 pounds—a modest sum indeed, under 2,000 pounds per mile, less than half the outlay for land alone of the North Midland line and not one twenty-fifth of the average cost of British railways as they stand to-day, which is some 57,000 pounds per mile. The railway owed its origin to George Stephenson and to Edward Pease, the wealthy Quaker and manufacturer of Darlington, both burly men, strong in mind as body. The first rail was laid, with much ceremony, near the town of Stockton, on the 23rd of May, 1822, amid great opposition culminating in acts of personal violence, for the early railways, from interests that feared their rivalry, and often from sheer blind ignorance itself, had bitter antagonism to contend with.
The day brought an immense concourse of people to Darlington, all bent on seeing the novel spectacle of a train of carriages and wagons filled with passengers and goods, drawn along a railway by a steam engine. At eight o'clock in the morning the train started with its load—22 vehicles—hauled by Stephenson's "Locomotion," driven by Stephenson himself. "Such was its velocity that in some parts of the journey the speed was frequently 12 miles an hour." The number of passengers reached 450, and the goods and merchandise amounted to 90 tons—a great accomplishment, and George Stephenson and Edward Pease were proud men that day.
Seven years from this present time will witness the Centenary of the railway system. How shall we celebrate it? Will railway proprietor, railway director and railway manager on that occasion be animated with the gladness, the pride and the hope that brightened the Jubilee Banquet? Who can tell? The future of railways is all uncertain.
A word or two regarding the railway system of Scotland may not be inappropriate.
Scotland has eight working railway companies, England and Wales 104, and Ireland 28. These include light railways, but are exclusive of all railways, light or ordinary, that are worked not by themselves but by other companies. Scotland has exhibited her usual good sense, her canny, thrifty way, by keeping the number of operating railway companies within such moderate bounds. Ireland does not show so well, and England relatively is almost as bad as Ireland, yet England might well have shown the path of prudence to her poorer sister by greater adventure herself in the sensible domain of railway amalgamation. Much undeserved censure has been heaped upon the Irish lines; sins have been assumed from which they are free, and their virtues have ever been ignored. John Bright once said that "Railways have rendered more service and received less gratitude than any institution in the land." This is certainly true of Ireland, for nothing has ever conferred such benefit upon that country as its railways, and nothing, except perhaps the Government, has received so much abuse. On this I shall have more to say when I reach the period of the Vice-Regal Commission on Irish Railways, appointed in 1906.
The average number of miles operated per working railway company in Scotland compared with England and Wales and Ireland, are:—
Scotland 477 England and Wales 156 Ireland 121
and the mileage, capital, revenue, expenditure, interest and dividends for 1912, the latest year of which the figures, owing to the war, are published by the Board of Trade, are as follows:—
Average rate of interest and dividend. Per cent. Miles. Capital. Revenue. Expenditure. Pounds Pounds Pounds England and Wales 16,223 1,103,310,000 110,499,000 70,499,000 3-58 Scotland 3,815 186,304,000 13,508,000 7,882,000 3-07 Ireland 3,403 45,349,000 4,545,000 2,842,000 3-83
The General Manager of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway and his office I have described, but I have not spoken, except in a general way, of the other principal officers, with whom, as Mr. Wainwright's assistant, I came into close and intimate relationship. They, alas! are no more. I have outlived them all. Each has played his part, and made, as we all must do, his exit from the stage of life.
Prominent amongst these officers was John Mathieson, Superintendent of the Line, who was only twenty-nine when appointed to that responsible post. We became good friends. He began work at the early age of thirteen, had grown up on the railway and at nineteen was a station master. He was skilful in out-door railway work, and an adept in managing trains and traffic. Ambitious and a bit touchy regarding his office, all was not always peace between his and other departments, particularly the goods manager's. The goods manager was not aggressive, and it was sometimes thought that Mathieson inclined to encroach upon his territory. Often angry correspondence and sometimes angry discussion ensued. Yet, take him for all in all, John Mathieson was a fine man with nothing small in his composition. Soon his ambition was gratified. In 1889 he was appointed Chief Commissioner of the Railways of Queensland; and after a few years occupation of that post was invited by the Victorian Government to the same position in connection with the railways of that important State. In 1900 he left Australia and became General Manager of the Midland Railway; but his health unfortunately soon failed, and at the comparatively early age of sixty he died at Derby in the year 1906. In his early days, on the Glasgow and South-Western, Mathieson was a hard fighter. Those were the days when between the Scottish railway companies the keenest rivalry and the bitterest competition existed. The Clearing House in London, where the railway representatives met periodically to discuss and arrange rates and fares and matters relating to traffic generally, was the scene of many a battle. Men like James MacLaren of the North British, Tom Robertson of the Highland, Irvine Kempt of the Caledonian, and A. G. Reid of the Great North of Scotland were worthy of Mathieson's steel. Usually Mathieson held his own. Irvine Kempt I cannot imagine was as keen a fighter as the rest, for he was rather a dignified gentleman with fine manners. To gain a few tons of fish from a rival route, by superior service, keen canvassing, or by other less legitimate means, was a source of fierce joy to these ardent spirits. The disputes were sometimes concerned with through traffic between England and Scotland, and then the English railway representatives took part, but not with the keenness and intensity of their northern brethren, for the Saxon blood has not the fiery quality of the crimson stream that courses through the veins of the Celt. Now all is changed. Combination has succeeded to competition, alliances and agreements are the tranquil order of the day, and the Clearing House has become a Temple of Peace.
Between David Dickie, Goods Manager, and John Mathieson, Passenger Superintendent, as I have said, many differences arose. I sometimes thought that Mathieson might well have shown more consideration to one so much his senior in years as Dickie was. Poor Dickie! Before I left Scotland he met a tragic death. He was a kind-hearted man, a canny Scot, and died rich.
James Stirling was the Locomotive Superintendent. He and Mathieson did not always agree, and the clash of arms frequently raged between them. Mr. Wainwright's suavity often, and not infrequently his authority, were required to adjust these domestic broils, but as all deferred to him willingly, the storms that arose were usually short lived.
In 1878 Mathieson and I took a short holiday together and crossed to Ireland. It was our first visit to that unquiet but delightful country, in which, little as I thought then, I was destined a few years later to make my home.
It was in January, 1879, that the headquarters of the company were removed from the old and narrow Bridge Street Station to the new palatial St. Enoch, and there a splendid set of offices was provided. This was another advantage much to my taste. St. Enoch was and is certainly a most handsome and commodious terminus. Originally it had one great roof of a single span, second only to that of St. Pancras Station. Other spans, not so great, have since been added, for the business of St. Enoch rapidly grew, and enlarged accommodation soon became necessary. In 1879 it had six long and spacious platforms, now it has twelve; then the number of trains in and out was 43 daily, now it has reached 286; then the mileage of the railway was 319, now it is 466; then the employees of the company numbered 4,010 and now they are over 10,000. These figures exemplify the material growth of industrial Scotland in the forty years that have passed. St. Enoch Station was not disfigured by trade advertisements, and it is with great satisfaction I learn that the same good taste has prevailed to this day. Not long after it was opened a great grocery and provision firm, the knightly head of which is still a well-known name, offered to the company a large annual sum for the use of the space under the platform clock, which could be seen from all parts of the station, which the directors, on the representation of their general manager, declined; and I am proud to remember that my own views on the subject, pretty forcibly expressed, when my chief discussed the subject with me, strengthened his convictions and helped to carry the day in the board room. The indiscriminate and inartistic way in which throughout the land advertisements of all sorts crowd our station walls and platforms is an outrage on good taste. If advertisements must appear there, some hand and eye endowed with the rudiments of art ought to control them. In no country in the world does the same ugly display mar the appearance of railway stations; and considering what myriad eyes daily rest on station premises it is well worth while on aesthetic grounds to make their appearance as pleasant and as little vulgar as possible. The question of revenue to the companies need not be ignored for proper and efficient control would produce order, moderation, neatness, artistic effect—and profit.
With the principal clerks of the office staff my relations were very pleasant. The consideration with which I was treated by my chief, and the footing upon which I stood with him, gave me a certain influence which otherwise I should not have possessed. Till then there had been absent from the company's staff any gathering together for purposes of common interest or mutual enjoyment. The Railway Benevolent Institution provided a rallying point. I had been appointed its representative on the Glasgow and South-Western Railway and we held meetings and arranged concerts in its aid. Then, after a time, we established for the principal clerks and goods agents and certain grades of station masters, an annual day excursion into the country, with a dinner and songs and speeches. "Tatlow is good at the speak," said publicly one of my colleagues, in his broad Scotch way, and so far as it was true this I daresay helped me. I was made permanent president of these excursions and feasts, and often had to "hold forth," which I must confess I rather enjoyed. We christened ourselves The Railway Ramblers. The fact that I became the Scotch correspondent of the Railway Official Gazette, a regular contributor to the Railway News, and had access to the columns of several newspapers, enabled reports of our doings to appear in print, and diffused some pleasure and pride throughout the service. Also I became a weekly contributor of Scotch Notes to the Montreal Herald. In the Railway Official Gazette was a column devoted to short reviews of new books which were sent to the editor. For a time, from some reason or other, I undertook this reviewing. Possession of the books was the only recompense, though for all other work payment in money was made. It was a daring thing on my part and I am sure many a reader of the paper must have smiled at my criticisms. I forget why I soon gave up the duty; probably from incompetence, for I am sure I was not at all qualified for such a task; but what will the audacity of youth not attempt? This journalistic work occupied much of my spare time, but it supplemented my income, a consideration of no little importance, for in October, 1876, I had entered the married state. My wife came from the Midlands of England. My friends became her friends, and other friends we made. Children soon appeared on the scene; my bachelor days were over.
Societies amongst the staff of a railway company, whether for the purpose of physical recreation, for mutual improvement or for social enjoyment are to be much commended. The assembling together of employees of various ages, filling various positions, from the several departments, from different districts, freed from business, and mixing on equal terms for common objects, promotes good feeling and good fellowship, provides pleasant memories for after life, gives a zest to work, and adds to the efficiency of the service.
Amongst all my fellow clerks I remember one only who resembled as a borrower some of my quondam associates at Derby. But this was in Scotland where more provident ways prevailed. He was a married man, about 30 years of age, with a salary of 100 pounds a year. By no means what one would call a nice fellow, he had nothing of the bonhomie or light-hearted good nature that distinguished my Derby friends. He possessed a good figure, wore fierce moustaches, and affected a military air. One suit of well-made, well-cut clothes by some means or other he managed to keep in a state of freshness and smoothness nothing short of marvellous. Borrowing was his besetting sin, and he was always head over ears in debt. Duns pursued him to the office and he sometimes hid from them in a huge safe which the office contained. It was a wretched life, but he brazened it out with wonderful effrontery, and, outwardly, seemed happy enough. From all who would lend he borrowed, and rarely I believe repaid. Once I was his victim, but only once. I lent him 3 pounds, and, strange to say, he returned it. Of course he approached me again, but I had read and digested the master's wisdom and determined to "neither a borrower nor a lender be."
Prominent amongst the principal clerks was David Cooper. When I left Glasgow he succeeded me as assistant to the general manager. Now he is general manager of the company himself. Recently he celebrated his 50th year of railway service. Like me, he entered railway life in 1867; but, unlike me, has not been a rolling stone. One company only he has served and served it well, and for nearly a quarter of a century has filled the highest office it has to bestow. He and I have been more fortunate than many of our old-time colleagues. In the list of officers of the Glasgow and South-Western to-day I see the names of two only, besides David Cooper, who were principal clerks in those days—F. H. Gillies, now secretary of the company, and George Russell, Telegraph Superintendent.
In railways, as in other departments of life, ability and industry usually have their reward; but alone they do not always command success. Other factors there are in the equation of life and not least luck and opportunity. In those distant days, in the pride of youth, I was too apt to think that they who succeeded owed their success to themselves alone; but the years have taught me that this is not always so, and I have learned to sympathise more and more with those to whom opportunity has never held out her hand and upon whom good luck has never smiled.
CHAPTER XII. TOM
In the last few chapters I have made but little mention of Tom. The time was drawing nearer when I was to lose him for ever. Until early in 1876 we lived together in the closest intimacy. We pooled our resources, and when either ran short of money, which often happened, the common purse, if it were not empty, was always available. Similar in height and in figure, our clothes, except our hats, boots and gloves, in each of which I took a larger size than he, were, when occasion required, interchangeable. We standardised our wardrobe as far as we could. We rose together, ate together, retired together, and, except during business hours, were rarely apart. I being, he considered, the more prudent in money matters, kept our lodging accounts and paid the bills. He being more musical, and a greater lover of the drama than I, arranged our visits to the theatres and concert halls. I was the practical, he the aesthetical controller of our joint menage. Once I remember—this occurred before we left Derby—we both fancied ourselves in love with the same dear enchantress, a certain dark-eyed brunette. Each punctually paid his court, as opportunity offered, and each, when he could, most obligingly furthered the suit of the other; and this went on till the time arrived for Tom's departure to Glasgow, when I was left in possession of the field. Then I discovered, to my surprise, that I was not so deeply enamoured as I had imagined; and, curiously enough, Tom on his part had no sooner settled in Scotland than he made a similar discovery.
The climate of Glasgow never suited Tom's health and in 1876, on the advice of his doctors, he decided to return to England. For a time he seemed to regain his health, but only for a time. Soon he relapsed, and before another year dawned it became evident, if not to himself, to his friends, that his years on earth were numbered. With what grief I heard the news, which came to me from his parents, I need not say. Bravely for a while he struggled with work, but all in vain; he had to give in, and return to his parents' home in Lincolnshire. That home he never again left, except once, in the summer of 1877, to visit my wife and me, when he stayed with us for several weeks. Though greatly reduced and very thin, and capable only of short walks he was otherwise unchanged; the lively fancy, the bright humor and the sparkling wit, which made him so delightful a companion, were scarcely diminished. He himself was hopeful; talked of recovery, planned excursions which he and I should take together when his health returned; but his greatest pleasure was in recalling our Derby days, our Maypole visits, our country rambles, our occasional dances and flirtations, and our auld acquaintances generally.
Tom was remarkable for the quickness of his observation, for keen penetration of character, and for happy humorous description of particular traits in those he met. He possessed, too, a wonderfully retentive memory. It is largely due to his lively descriptions of our interesting fellow clerks at Derby that I have been able, after the lapse of half a century, to sketch them with the fidelity I have. His humorous accounts of their peculiarities often enlivened the hours we spent together, and impressed their personalities more forcibly on my mind than they otherwise would have been.
When his visit came to an end, and he returned to his home, I too indulged in the hope that he might regain some measure of health, for he seemed much improved. But it was a temporary improvement only, due in part, perhaps, to change in environment, and in part to the exhilaration arising from our reunion, heart and mind for a time dominating the body and stimulating it to an activity which produced this fair but deceptive semblance of health. His letters to me breathed the spirit of hope till almost the last. We never met again. The intention I had cherished of going to see him was never fulfilled. The illness of my wife and the death of one of our children, and other unfortunate causes, prevented it; and in little more than a year and a half from our farewell grasp of the hand at the railway station in Glasgow my dear and beloved friend breathed his last. Often and often since I have heard again the music of his voice, have seen his face smiling upon me, and have felt
"His being working in mine own, The footsteps of his life in mine."
CHAPTER XIII. MEN I MET AND FRIENDS I MADE
Ten years I served the Glasgow and South-Western Railway Company as chief clerk, or as Mr. Wainwright euphemistically called it, assistant to the general manager. In that position I met from time to time, not only many prominent railway men, but also other men of mark.
Amongst these, two stand out with great distinction because of the effect they had upon me at a memorable interview I had with each. I never forgot those interviews, and nothing that ever occurred in my life tended to strengthen in me the quality of self-reliance so much as they did. Their effect was sudden, inspiring and lasting. These well-remembered men were Mr. John Burns (afterwards the first Lord Inverclyde), head of the shipping firm of G. and J. Burns, and chairman of the Cunard Line, and Mr. John Walker, General Manager of the North British Railway. The interviews occurred, as nearly as I recollect, during the second or third year of my Glasgow and South-Western life, and took place within a few weeks of each other.
John Burns was one of the largest shareholders in the Glasgow and South- Western Railway, his steamers plied between Greenock and Belfast, and his relations with the company were intimate and friendly. At the time I speak of some important negotiations were proceeding between him and Mr. Wainwright concerning the company and his firm, and whilst they were at their height Mr. Wainwright was unexpectedly summoned to London and detained there. Now Mr. Burns was a man who greatly disliked delay, and I was told to see him and, if he wished, discuss the business with him, and, if possible, further its progress. It was the way in which Mr. Burns received me, young and inexperienced as I was, the manner in which he discussed the subject and encouraged me, and the respect with which he listened to my arguments, that surprised and delighted me. I left him, feeling an elation of spirit, a glow of pride, a confidence in myself, as new as it was unexpected. It is a fine trait in Scotchmen that, deeply respecting themselves, they respect others. Difference of class or position does not count much with them in comparison with merit or sterling worth—
"The rank is but the guinea's stamp, The man's the gowd for a' that."
Mr. Burns was a striking personality; strong and vigorous, mentally and physically. He had a good voice, and was clear, decided and emphatic in speech. He was a doughty champion of the Glasgow and South-Western Company, with which at this time, affairs, like the course of true love, did not run smooth. The dividend was down and discontented shareholders were up in arms. Bitter attacks were made on the directors and the management. Not that anything was really wrong, for the business of the line was skilfully and honestly conducted, but the times were bad, and "empty stalls make biting steeds." The very same shareholders who, when returns are satisfactory, are as gentle as cooing doves, should revenue and expenditure alter their relations to the detriment of dividend, become critical, carping and impossible to please, though the directors and management may be as innocent as themselves, and as powerless to stem the tide of adversity. At shareholders' meetings Mr. Burns was splendid. He rose after the critics had expended their force, or if the storm grew too violent, intervened at its height, and with facts and figures and sound argument always succeeded in restoring order and serenity. An excellent story of him appeared about this time in Good Words. He, Anthony Trollope and Norman Macleod were once at a little inn in the Highlands. After supper, stories were told and the laughter, which was loud and long, lasted far into the night. In the morning an old gentleman, who slept in a room above them, complained to the landlord of the uproar which had broken his night's rest, and expressed his astonishment that such men should have taken more than was good for them. "Well," replied the landlord, "I am bound to confess there was much loud talk and laughter, but they had nothing stronger than tea and fresh herrings." "Bless me," rejoined the old gentleman, "if that is so, what would they be after dinner!"
In the entrance hall of the North British Railway Company's Waverley station at Edinburgh stands the statue, in bronze, of Mr. John Walker. As far as I know this is, the whole world over, the only instance in which the memory of a railway general manager has been so honoured. It is of heroic size and eloquently attests his worth. He was born in Fifeshire in 1832, and died with startling suddenness from an apoplectic seizure, at the age of fifty-nine, at Waterloo station in London. When he left school he was apprenticed to the law, but at the age of nineteen entered the service of the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway. This railway was in 1862 amalgamated with the original North British, which was first authorised in 1844, and extended from Edinburgh to Berwick. His exceptional ability was soon recognised and his promotion was rapid. He became treasurer of the amalgamated company, and in 1866 was appointed its secretary. In this office he rendered great service at a trying time in the company's affairs, and in 1874 was rewarded with the position of general manager.
The North British Railway has had a chequered career, has suffered great changes of fortune, and to Mr. Walker, more than to any other, is due the stability it now enjoys. On the occasion of his death, the directors officially recorded that, "He served the company with such ability and unselfish devotion as is rarely witnessed; became first secretary and subsequently general manager, and it was during the tenure of these offices that the remarkable development of the company's system was mainly effected."
His capacity for work was astounding. He never seemed to tire or to know what fatigue meant. Ordinary men are disposed to pleasure as well as to work, to recreation and social intercourse as well as to business, but this was not the case with Mr. Walker. It must be confessed that he was somewhat exacting with his staff, but his own example was a stimulus to exertion in others and he was well served. One who knew him well, and for many years was closely associated with him in railway work, tells me that his most striking characteristics were reticence, combativeness, concentration and tenacity of purpose, and that his memory and mastery of detail were remarkable. Deficient perhaps in sentiment, though in such silent men deep wells of feeling often unsuspectedly exist, he was, by those who served under him, always recognised as fair and just, and no one had ever to complain of the slightest discourtesy at his hands. Like Lord Byron, he was lame from birth, and while this may have affected his character and pursuits, it never, I am told, in business, which indeed was practically his sole occupation, impeded his activity. On the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank, in 1878, which involved in ruin numbers of people, he lost a considerable fortune. He was a large shareholder of the bank, and the liability of the shareholders was unlimited. He faced his loss with stoical fortitude, as I believe he would have confronted any disaster that life could bring.
On a certain day Mr. Walker came to Glasgow by appointment to discuss with Mr. Wainwright some outstanding matters which they had failed to settle by correspondence. In the afternoon Mr. Wainwright had an important meeting of his directors to attend. The business with Mr. Walker was concluded in time, all but one subject, and Mr. Wainwright asked Mr. Walker if he would let me go into this with him. Without the least hesitation he consented; and he treated me as Mr. John Burns had done, and discussed the matter with me as if I were on an equal footing. This was the interview that strengthened and confirmed that self-reliance which Mr. Burns had awakened, and which never afterwards forsook me. Great is my debt to Scotland and to Scotchmen.
Amongst the most prominent railway men I have met were Sir Edward Watkin, Chairman of the South-Eastern Railway, and the following general managers:—Mr. Allport, Midland, the exalted railway monarch of my early railway days; Mr. (afterwards Sir) Henry Oakley, Great Northern; Mr. Grierson, Great Western; Mr. Underdown, Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire; and Mr. (afterwards Sir Myles) Fenton, South Eastern. Of Sir Edward Watkin a good story was told. When he was general manager of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway (he was Mr. Watkin then) many complaints had arisen from coal merchants on the line that coal was being stolen from wagons in transit by engine drivers. Nothing so disgraceful could possibly occur, always answered Mr. Watkin. Down the line one day, with his officers at a country station, a driver was seen in the very act of transferring from a coal wagon standing on an outlying siding some good big lumps to his tender. This was pointed out to Mr. Watkin, who only said—"The d—-d fool, in broad daylight!" When Mr. Allport learned that I came from Derby, and was the son of an old Midland official, he treated me with marked kindness. Mr. Oakley came in the year 1880 to Glasgow, where he sat for several days as arbitrator between the Glasgow and South-Western and Caledonian Railway Companies, on a matter concerning the management, working, and maintenance of Kilmarnock Station, of which the companies were joint owners, and I learned for the first time how an arbitration case should be conducted, for Mr. Oakley was an expert at such work. This experience stood me in good stead, when, not many years later, I was appointed arbitrator in a railway dispute in the North of Ireland.
In the front rank of the railway service I do not remember many beaux. General managers were men too busy to spend much time upon the study of dress. But there were exceptions, as there are to every rule, and Sir James Thompson, General Manager, and afterwards Chairman of the Caledonian Railway, was a notable exception. Often, after attending Clearing House meetings or Parliamentary Committees, have I met him in Piccadilly, Bond Street, or the Burlington Arcade, faultlessly and fashionably attired in the best taste, airing himself, admiring and admired. We always stopped and talked; of the topics of the day, the weather, what a pleasant place London was, how handsome the women, how well dressed the men. At the Clearing House we usually sat next each other. I liked him and I think he liked me. Do not think he was a beau and nothing more. No, he was a hard-headed Scotchman, full of ability and work, and as a railway manager stood at the top of the ladder. Next to him Sir Frederick Harrison, General Manager of the London and North- Western Railway, was, I think, the best dressed railway man. Both he and Sir James were tall, handsome fellows, and I confess to having admired them, perhaps as much for their good looks and their taste and style, as for their intellectual qualities; and I have often thought that men in high positions would not do amiss to pay some attention to old Polonius' admonition to his son that, "the apparel oft proclaims the man."
In the friends I made I was fortunate too. They included two or three budding lawyers, a young engineer, a banker, a doctor, two embryo hotel managers, an auctioneer, and one or two journalists; and, as I have mentioned before, my artist friend Cynicus. We were, most of us, friends of each other, met often, and the variety of our pursuits gave zest and interest to our intercourse. First amongst these friends ranked G. G., one of the young lawyers, or writers, as they are called in Scotland. He was my closest friend. We have not met for many years, but the friendship remains unweakened; for there are things that Time the destroyer is powerless to injure. Like myself, G. G. comes of the middle class. His parents, like mine, were by no means affluent, but they were Scotch and held education in veneration, and were ambitious, as Scottish parents are, for their sons. They gave him a University education, and afterwards apprenticed him to the law. He became, and is still, a prosperous lawyer in Glasgow.
Then came J. B., a young lawyer too, who blossomed into the pleasant and important position of Senior Deputy Town Clerk of the City of Glasgow. He, too, had sprung from the great middle class. Well versed in classical lore he was a delightful companion. He had travelled much and benefited by his travels; was a sociable being, exceedingly good-natured, and peered through spectacles as thick as pebbles, being very short-sighted, and without his glasses would scarcely recognise you a yard off. Yet he could see into the heart of things as well as most men, for he was a shrewd Scotchman, and had a pawky humour. If he possessed a fault it was a love for a game of cards. We played nap in those days, and when a game was on it was hard to get him to bed. He has gone over to the majority now. His sudden death a year ago came as a great blow to his family and a large circle of friends. Next to G. G., as intimate friends, came H. H. and F. K. They were in the company's service though not in the railway proper, but connected with the management of the hotel department. Of foreign birth, sons of a nation with whom we are now, alas! at war, they were youths of fine education, disposition and refinement, and I became greatly attached to each. H. H. preceded and F. K. followed me to Ireland, where he (F. K.) still resides, honoured and respected, as he deserves to be. He and I, throughout the years, have been and are the closest of friends. Once, not very long ago, in a grave crisis of my life, when death seemed near, he stood by me with the devotion of a brother. My auctioneer friend (G. F.) was, perhaps, the most interesting man of our circle; certainly he possessed more humour than the rest of us put together. Fond of literature, with a talent for writing, he was a regular contributor to the Glasgow Punch, The Bailie. But his greatest charms were, his dear innocence, his freshness of mind, his simple inexpensive tastes, his enjoyment of life, and his infectious laugh. In years he was our senior, but in worldly knowledge junior to us all. He lives still and is, I believe, as jocund as ever. Another of these Glasgow friends I must mention—a poet, and like Burns, a son of the soil. His name was Alexander Anderson. When first I met him he was in the railway service, a labourer on the permanent way, what is called a surfaceman in Scotland, a platelayer in England and a milesman in Ireland. Self taught, he became proficient in French, German and Italian, and was able to enjoy in their own language the literature of those countries. A Scottish nobleman, impressed by his wonderful poetical talent, defrayed the expenses of a tour which he made in Italy and an extended stay in Rome, to the enrichment of his mind and to his great enjoyment. On his return to Scotland he published a book of poems. In an introduction to this book the Revd. George Gilfillan wrote, "The volume he now presents to the world is distinguished by great variety of subject and modes of treatment. It has a number of sweet Scottish verses, plaintive or pawky. It has some strains of a higher mood, reminding us of Keats in their imagination. But the highest effort, if not also the most decided success, is his series of sonnets, entitled, 'In Rome.' And certainly this is a remarkable series." A remarkable man he was indeed; simple and earnest in manner, with a fine eye, a full dark beard and sunburnt face. Tiring, however, of a labourer's life and of the pick and shovel, he left the railway and became assistant librarian of Edinburgh University, and three years afterwards Secretary to the Philosophical Institution of Edinburgh. He afterwards became Chief Librarian to the Edinburgh University. He died in the summer of 1909. He stayed with me in Glasgow once for a week-end, and on the Sunday afternoon we together visited a friend of his who lived near, a literary man, who then was engaged in writing a series of lives of the Poets for some publishing house. An interesting part of our conversation was about Carlyle with whom this friend was intimate, had in fact just returned from visiting him at Chelsea. He told us many interesting stories of the sage. I remember one. He was staying with the Carlyles, when Mrs. Carlyle was alive. One evening at tea, a copper kettle, with hot water, stood on the hob. Mrs. Carlyle made a movement as if to rise, with her eye directed to the kettle; the friend, divining her wish, rose and handed her the kettle. She thanked him, and, with a pathetic and wistful gaze at Carlyle, added, "Ay, Tam, ye never did the like o' that!"
My first trip abroad was in 1883, and my companion, G. G. We went to Paris via Newhaven, Dieppe and Rouen, and at Rouen stayed a day and a night, and spent about a fortnight in Paris. We were accompanied from London by a friend I have not yet named, one who was well known in the railway world, Tony Visinet, the British Engineering and Commercial Agent of the Western Railway of France; a delightful companion always, full of the charm and vivacity that belong to his country. He took us to see his mother at Rouen, who lived in an old-fashioned house retired from the road, in a pleasant court-yard; a charming old lady, with whom G. G. was able to converse, but I was not. Tony Visinet's life was full of movement and variety. He had lodgings in London, and a flat in Paris, traversed the Channel continually, and I remember his proudly celebrating his fifteen hundredth crossing.
From childhood I had longed to see something of the world, and this excursion to Paris was the first gratification of that wish. Paris now is as familiar to me almost as London, but then was strange and new. Rouen and its cathedral we first saw by moonlight, a beautiful and impressive sight, idealised to me by the thought that we were in sunny France. Little I imagined then how much of the world in later years I should see; but strong desires often accomplish their own fulfilment, and so it came to pass.
CHAPTER XIV. TERMINALS, RATES AND FARES, AND OTHER MATTERS
Of course it was right that Parliament, when conferring upon the railway companies certain privileges, such as the compulsory acquisition of land and property, should, in the public interest, impose restrictions on their charging powers. No one could reasonably complain of this, and had it been done from the beginning in a clear, logical way, and in language free from doubt, all might have been well and much subsequent trouble avoided. But this was not the case. Each company's charging powers were contained in its own private Acts (which were usually very numerous) and differed for different sections of the railway. It was often impossible for the public to ascertain the rights of the companies, and well nigh impossible for the companies themselves to know what they were. These powers were in the form of tolls for the use of the railway; charges for the use of carriages, wagons, and locomotive power, and total maximum charges which were less than the sum of the several charges. In the Acts no mention was made of terminals, though in some of them power to make a charge for services incidental to conveyance was authorised, and what these words really meant was the subject of much legal argument and great forensic expenditure.
In addition to the tolls and charges, the Acts usually contained a rough classification of goods to which they applied. These were divided into from three to five classes, and comprised some 50 to 60 articles. The railway companies, however, had in existence, for practical everyday use, a general classification called The Railway Clearing House Classification, and this contained over 2,700 articles divided into seven classes.
The tolls and charges in the Companies' Acts were fixed originally in the old belief (to which I have before alluded) that railway companies, like canal companies, would be mere owners of the route; and when they became carriers and provided stations, sidings, warehouses, cranes, and all the paraphernalia appertaining to the business of a carrier, the old form was not altered, the charging powers remained as originally expressed in subsequent Acts, and the same old model was followed. For several years prior to 1881 complaints by merchants, traders and public bodies against railway rates and fares had become very common. The cry was taken up by the public generally, and railway companies had a decidedly unpleasant time of it, which they bore with that good temper and equanimity which I (perhaps not altogether an unprejudiced witness) venture to affirm generally characterised them. The complaints increased in number and intensity and Members of Parliament and newspaper writers joined in the jeremiad.
Parliament, as Parliaments do, yielded to clamour, and in 1881 a Select Committee was appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into railway charges, into the laws and conditions affecting such charges, and specially into passenger fares. It was a big committee, consisted of 23 members, took 858 pages of evidence, and examined 80 witnesses. At the end of the session they reported that, although they had sat continuously, time had failed for consideration of the evidence, and recommended that the committee be re-appointed in the next session. This was done, and the committee, enlarged to 27 members, took further evidence, and submitted a report to Parliament.
The gravest issue was the right of the companies to charge terminals, and the committee found that the railways had made out their case, and recommended that the right of the companies to station terminals should be recognised by Parliament. Further, the committee, on the whole of the evidence, acquitted the railway companies of any grave dereliction of their duty to the public, and added: "It is remarkable that no witnesses have appeared to complain of 'preferences' given to individuals by railway companies as acts of private favour or partiality." As to passenger fares, the committee reported that the complaints submitted to them were rather local than general, and not of an important character, but thought that it might be well for the Railway Commissioners to have the same jurisdiction in respect to passengers as to goods traffic.
The railway companies thus emerged from this searching inquiry with credit, as they have done in the many investigations to which they have been subjected, and no high-minded and aspiring young railway novice need ever blush for the traditions of the service.
Before the committee Mr. James Grierson, General Manager of the Great Western, was the principal witness for the railway companies, and yeoman service he rendered. He presented the railway case with great ability, and his views were accepted on the important terminal question. In 1886 he published a book on Railway Rates, which was warmly welcomed by the Press and, in the words of Herepath's Journal, was "an exhaustive, able, and dispassionate resume of all the conflicting statements, claims, and interests verging round the much vexed question of railway rates." Certainly he did much towards the ultimate settlement of the matter. Mr. Grierson was, perhaps, the ablest witness before Parliamentary Committees the railway service ever had, which is saying much. A leading counsel, during the luncheon interval, once said to him, "We feel small when we are cross-examining you. You know all about the business, and we can only touch the fringe of it." The great secret of Mr. Grierson's success was his mastery of, and scrupulous regard for, facts and his straightforwardness. Of his book he himself said, "My conclusions may be disputed, but no one shall dispute the facts on which they are based."
The committee recommended that Parliament, when authorising new lines, or extending the powers of existing companies, should have its attention drawn by some public authority to the proposed, and in the case of existing companies, to the existing rates and fares. They also recommended that one uniform classification of merchandise be established by law; that the Court of Railway Commissioners be made permanent; and that the amalgamation of Irish Railways be promoted and facilitated. Thus the great inquiry ended; but public agitation did not cease. One or two attempts at legislation followed, but from one cause or another, fell through; and it was not until 1888 that the subject was seriously tackled by Parliament. In that year the Railway and Canal Traffic Act, of which I shall later on have something to say, was passed.
On the appearance of the Report in 1882, it was recognised in railway circles that something must happen regarding the eternal rates question, and the companies began to prepare themselves as best they could. It fell upon me to examine the many Acts of Parliament of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, to collate the provisions relating to tolls, charges and maximum powers, to compare those powers with actual rates, to work out cost of terminal service, and to draw up a revised proposed scale of maximum conveyance rates and terminal charges. Deeply interesting work it was, and led, not very many years afterwards, to unexpected promotion, which I valued much, and about which I shall have more to say.
In the year 1880 a Scotch branch of the Railway Benevolent Institution was established. Mr. Wainwright was made its chairman, and I was appointed secretary. He and I had for some time urged upon the Board in London the desirability of a local committee of management in Scotland. The Institution had a great membership in England, and was generously helped there in the matter of funds by the public. The subscription payable by members was small, and the benefits it bestowed were substantial; but railway men in Scotland looked at it askance: "the Board in London kenned little aboot Scotland and Scotch claims wouldna get vera much conseederation." Well, all this was changed by what we did. Soon a numerous membership succeeded to the few who on Scottish railways had previously joined the Institution, and we had much satisfaction in finding that we were able to dispense substantial aid to many old and needy railwaymen and to their widows and orphans. Mr. Wainwright remained Chairman of the Branch till his death, and I continued Secretary until I left Scotland.
In 1883, after my return from Paris, I grew restless again, with a longing for more responsibility and a larger and freer life; with, perhaps, an admixture of something not so ennobling—the desire for a bigger income. Never was I indifferent to the comforts that money can bring, though never, I must confess, was I gifted with the capacity for money making or money saving. The pleasures of life (the rational pleasures I hope) had always an attraction for me. I could never forego them, or forego the expense they involved, for the sake of future distant advantages. What weighed with me, too, was the fact that I was undoubtedly overworked and my health was suffering. It was not that my railway duties proper were oppressive, but the duties as Secretary of the Railway Benevolent Institution in Scotland added considerably to my office hours, and at home I often worked far into the night writing for the several papers to which I contributed. Too much work and too little play was making Jack a very dull boy. I envied those officers, such as John Mathieson, whose duties took them often out of doors, and gave them the control and management of men.
My chief was as kind and considerate as ever, and I confided to him the thoughts that disturbed me. Warm-heartedly he sympathised with my feelings. He himself had gone, he said, through the same experience some twenty years before. The prospect of promotion at St. Enoch, he agreed, seemed remote; the principal officers, except the engineer, were young or middle-aged; and he himself was in the prime of life. He did not want to lose me, but I must look out, and he would look out too. At last the opportunity came, and it came from Ireland. The Belfast and County Down Railway Chairman, Mr. R. W. Kelly, and a director, Lord (then Mr.) Pirrie, were deputed to see half a dozen or so likely young applicants in England and Scotland. I was interviewed by these gentlemen in Glasgow, was selected for the vacant post of general manager, and in May, 1885, removed with my family to Belfast, and entered upon my duties there.
Lord Pirrie is a great shipbuilder of world-wide fame. I was not long at the County Down before I discovered his wonderful energy, his marvellous capacity for work, his thoroughness, and keen business ability. I always thought that at our interview at Saint Enoch he was as much impressed with the order and method which appeared in the office of which I had charge as by anything else. I showed him everything very freely, and remember his appreciation and also his criticism, of which latter, as I afterwards found, he was at times by no means sparing, but if sometimes severe, it was always just and salutary. How little one foresees events. Not long had I left Glasgow before unexpected changes occurred. In 1886, Mr. Wainwright took ill and died; soon after Mathieson went to Queensland; and in less than eight short years three general managers had succeeded Mr. Wainwright.
They were good to me when I left Glasgow. I was presented with a valuable testimonial at a banquet at which Mr. Wainwright presided and at which my good friend, G. G., made a fine speech. It would be idle for me to say that the warm congratulations of my friends, the prospects of change, and the sense of new responsibilities, did not delight and excite me. But a strong measure of regret was mixed with the pleasurable draught. I was greatly attached to my chief, and keenly felt the parting from him. He felt it too. When it came to the last handshake words failed us both.
The Nestor of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway was Andrew Galloway, the chief engineer. A Nestor he looked with his fine, strong, grave features, abundant hair, and flowing beard. He was a very able engineer, but had many old-fashioned ways, one of which was an objection to anyone but himself opening his letters, and when absent from his office they would at times lie for several days untouched. If remonstrated with he was quite unmoved. He had a theory that most letters, if left long enough unanswered, answered themselves. In me he always showed a fatherly interest, and sometimes chided me for talking too freely and writing too much. His last words when he bade me farewell, and gave me his blessing were, to remember always to think twice before I spoke once. On the very day I was assured of my appointment as general manager for the County Down Railway I discarded the tall silk hat and the black morning coat, which for some time had been my usual business garb, as it was of many serious-minded aspiring young business men in Glasgow. Mr. Galloway asked me the reason of the change, which he was quick to observe. "Well," said I, "I have secured my position, so it's all right now." Never since, except in London, have I renounced the liberty I then assumed; the bowler and the jacket suit became my regular business wear, and the other habiliments of severe respectability were relegated to churchgoing, weddings, christenings, and funerals and other formal occasions.
CHAPTER XV. FURTHER RAILWAY LEGISLATION
In Chapter IX., at the outset of my Glasgow and South-Western service, I reviewed the public Acts of Parliament passed since the beginning of railways down to the year 1875, and it may not be amiss to notice now the further railway legislation enacted up to 1885.
The first measure of importance was the Railway Returns (Continuous Brakes) Act, 1878. The travelling public had for some years been sensitive regarding railway accidents which, though infrequent, nevertheless occurred much oftener then than now, and were more serious in their results. The matter of their reduction began to receive the serious attention of railway engineers and inventors, and among many appliances suggested was the system of continuous brakes. In June, 1875, a great contest of brakes, extending over three days, in which trains of the principal companies engaged, took place on the Midland railway between Newark and Bleasby. A large number of brakes competed—the Westinghouse, the Vacuum, Clarke's Hydraulic, Webb's Chain, and several others. It is recorded that at the conclusion of the trial, each patentee left the refreshment tent satisfied that his own brake was the best; but Time is the great arbiter, and his decision has been in favour of two—the Automatic Vacuum and the Westinghouse, and these are the brakes the companies have adopted. The Act required all railway companies to submit to the Board of Trade, twice in every year, returns showing the amount of rolling stock fitted with continuous brakes, the description of brake and whether self-acting and instantaneous in action. So far there was no compulsion upon the railways to use continuous brakes, though most of the companies were earnestly studying the subject, but the rival claims of inventors and the uncertainty as to which invention would best stand the test of time tended to retard their adoption. Meanwhile, the publicity afforded by the Board of Trade Returns, and public discussion, helped to hasten events and the climax was reached in 1889, when a terrible accident, due primarily to inefficient brake power, occurred in Ireland, and was attended with great loss of life. The Board of Trade was in that year invested with statutory power to compel railway companies, within a given time, to provide all passenger trains with automatic continuous brakes.
In 1878 there was also passed the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Act. Foot and mouth disease had for some time been rife in Great Britain and Ireland, and legislation became necessary. The Act applied not only to railways but was also directed to the general control and supervision of flocks and herds. It contained a number of clauses concerning transit by rail, and invested the Privy Council with authority to make regulations, the carrying out of which, as affecting the Glasgow and South-Western Railway, devolved upon me, and for a year or two occupied much of my time.
An Act to extend and regulate the liability of employers, and to provide for compensation for personal injuries suffered by workmen in their service, came into force in 1880. It was called the Employers' Liability Act, and was the first step in that class of legislation, which has since been greatly extended, and with which both employer and employed, are now familiar.
That great convenience the Parcel Post, which for the first time secured to the public the advantage of having parcels sent to any part of the United Kingdom at a fixed charge, and which seems now as necessary to modern life as the telephone or the telegraph, and as, perhaps, a few years hence, the airship will be, was brought into existence by the Post Office (Parcels) Act, 1882. Under that Act it was ordained that the railways of the United Kingdom should carry by all trains whatever parcels should be handed to them for transit by the Post Office, the railway remuneration to be fifty-five per cent. of the money paid by the public. The scheme was a great success. During the first year of its operation the parcels carried numbered over 20 millions, and in the year 1913-14 (the last published figures) reached 137 millions.
The Cheap Trains Act, 1883, was passed to amend and consolidate the law relating to (a) railway passenger duty, and (b) the conveyance of the Queen's Forces by railway. It did not apply to Ireland. Passenger duty was never exacted in that happy land. In Great Britain the Act relieved the railway companies from payment of the duty on all fares not exceeding one penny per mile; provided for the running of workmen's trains; and prescribed a scale of reduced fares for the conveyance of Her Majesty's soldiers and sailors.