UK rail workers archive launched online
Railway Employment Records from 1833 to 1963 are available online for the first time following a digitisation project by The National Archives and family history website Ancestry.co.uk. The collection documents the history of the British rail service through the lives of its employees, containing records dating back to the invention of the locomotive in the early 19th century.
Please note: these newly digitised files cover a limited selection of records from a limited selection of series - not all railway companies have been included. You can find a complete list of the available records on Ancestry.co.uk.
The records tell the story of how the rail service grew during the Industrial Revolution and show staff striving to 'make it' as one of the most desirable professions of the Victorian era - a train driver. Men would join the service as labourers, cleaners or attendants and work their way up, often taking 20-25 years before controlling their own train.
The collection of almost two million records goes into intricate detail, listing not only name, home station and date of birth of the employee, but also information on their career progression, salary increases, rewards, fines or suspensions for misbehaviour and notes from superiors on the worker's character and behaviour.
Ancestry.co.uk International Content Director Dan Jones comments: 'The level of detail within the records is also staggering, which means family history enthusiasts can gain a real insight into their ancestor's character - be it through records of promotions and rewards or perhaps punishments and demotions.'
Accident books containing lists of injuries and fatalities also reveal how dangerous the rail service was before safety measures were put in place in the early 20th century.
Caroline Kimbell, Head of Licensing at The National Archives, said: 'The records reveal fascinating stories about life on the railways from their early, dangerous beginnings to their heyday as a key component of Victorian Britain's infrastructure, and reflect the significance of the railway companies as huge employers in both towns and country.'