For enthusiasts and researchers of the Great Eastern Railway

LEF.DL Railway Items from the ASLEF Journals 1891-1901 as a Download.

NEW AUGUST 2020.  The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) was formed in 1880, and still represents British train drivers today. What we have here are major extracts from volumes 4 to 14 of their Monthly Journal, issued between 1891 and 1901. In total they run to more than 4200 pages.

They ought to be of interest to observers of social trends and trade union affairs of those times, but they should appeal to far more tastes than that.

Its readership was interested in railways in general and locomotives in particular. Around a quarter of a typical issue was taken up with a section headed ‘Railway Items’, and those pages are always reproduced in full in our files. Some of them are snippets from other contemporary publications, such as Engineering and Feilden’s Magazine, or from official reports which had just been released. Other articles were presumably original to the ASLEF Journal.

Clement Stretton contributed a great deal of material, though his scrupulous accuracy has since been questioned. Apart from locomotives, one strength of the Journals is very early railway history – the history of the Vulcan Foundry is described, for example, and a table gives details of the first 100 engines they produced. A series of recollections of a retired NER driver are featured, and he had started work way back in 1839!

Another strength is official reports on contemporary railway accidents, which give an insight into routines of a typical day never normally preserved but which in this case went so disastrously astray. They are usually quoted in detail: a collision on the GER at the Barnby passing loop between Beccles and Lowestoft on Christmas Eve 1891, for example, runs to five pages. Responsible engine drivers were obviously very interested to learn of how things could go wrong. With new high-pressure engines, they were extremely concerned to hear of boiler explosions. During this time the GER suffered one at Westerfield, closely followed by another on the L&YR at Knottingley. These were both fully covered, and their official reports were serialised.

The race from London to Aberdeen also reached its peak, and detailed performances on both the East Coast and West Coast routes are tabulated by Charles Rous-Marten. This led to discussions about railway speed more widely, both from a safety point of view (a train had jumped the rails at Preston) and from an economic standpoint. The latter led to questions about the detested coal premium, which rewarded drivers who displayed ‘timid’ techniques.

Apart from ‘Railway Items’, another section was headed ‘Miscellaneous’ – and was precisely that: topics ranged from Dante on suffering to tips on dealing with sweaty feet! This section is usually omitted, apart from the odd occasion when an entry in it could better be classed as a railway item. Likewise, sections entitled ‘Humorous’, ‘Poetry’ and ‘Short Story’ have not been scanned.

The other section normally scanned in full was ‘Correspondence’. That title is a bit misleading, because letters did appear in Railway Items. This section is really for letters from members: sometimes these offer discussions on topics of the moment, and sometimes they constitute news from the branches (which admittedly occasionally descended into a report of a concert where ‘Miss Skinner gave selections on her banjo’ and the like, but it was not feasible to edit these out).

The final part of each Monthly Journal comprised information about ASLEF itself – its Benevolent Fund and current recipients, its aims and objectives and a list of where each of its branches met. These are of course quite repetitive, so to accommodate any who wish to know about them a sample set is included for one month in each year.

The files are arranged in the format of a ‘virtual CD’, though it is available only as a download. The Journals are all word-searchable, and a facility is provided to carry out a single search of them all.

To help you to decide if they are for you, you can see a 19-page contents list of their railway items HERE. You may also download for free HERE a copy of File RH019, compiled back in 2012, which set out to illustrate the light which the 1900 ASLEF Journals could shed on life back in those days.

If you are still unsure, you can purchase the entire volume for 1896 for £1.20 – you’ll find that at RW011. If that convinces you to get the whole lot, you can then claim that £1.20 off their cost price.

If you add the item here to your cart and buy it, you will be able to download two files: one provides a link and the other explains what you do with that link. The files are quite big, totalling 432 MB, so inevitably they will then take some time to download - a few minutes perhaps. What you will get is a zipped folder. With Windows on a PC, right-click on the folder to get a menu and choose 'extract all...' or 'unzip...'.

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