Clement Edwin Stretton.

The history of the Midland railway online

. (page 24 of 36)
Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 24 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

under the Railway and Canal Traffic Act on its coming into operation
in 1873, on the acceptance of
which he retired from the Mid-
land Board. He was at one
time member of Parliament for

of Leicester, son of a former
chairman of the Midland, took
office on May 2oth, 1873, and oc-
cupied the position till his death
on December 3rd, 1879. He was
one of those who were at the
birth of railway enterprise, and
during his youth he came under
the spell of George Stephenson,
with the result that during the
whole of his railway life Stephen-
son's name and memory were a
source of profound veneration
and inspiration to Mr. Ellis.
An intimate friend of his once
remarked to the writer that he

never had the idea of Mr. Ellis being a great man, because he was a
man of one great idea, and that was all treasured up in the Midland
Railway. That was a very narrow and restricted view of the life of
Edward Shipley Ellis; but it was also a great testimony to the way
in which he, conscious of the responsibilities of his position during
very difficult and trying times, threw himself heart and soul into the dis-
charge of his duties. On more than one occasion he stated to the writer
that the Midland system had become so important, and its continued
success so essential to the well-being of its shareholders as well as
to the commerce of the country, that its affairs, its policy, administra-
tion, and management must absorb the whole commercial life of the men
at its head, including that of its Chairman. Punctuality in the running



of trains, and civility and attention on the part of the servants of the
Company were two of the things he tried to enforce and secure. He
was a man of great determination, very cautious in the formation of
his judgments, but when once his mind had become fixed on what
he conceived to be adequate foundations his confidence and power
could not be shaken. Mr. James Allport found in Mr. Ellis a true
and staunch friend and supporter in the masterly policy which he
from time to time initiated, and much of Allport's success was due
to the great intellectual, moral, and material power of Mr. Ellis. No
one who was present at the meeting of the Midland shareholders in
November, 1874, will ever forget the fierce way in which the proposal
to abolish second-class was assailed ; nor the able way in which Mr.
Ellis quietly marshalled the facts and announced the determination
of the directors to stand by their policy, notwithstanding the great
pressure which had been brought to bear by other companies. It
was the most notable and memorable railway meeting during the last
quarter of a century. A weaker man would have yielded before the
storm. Mr. Ellis, by his firmness and strength of purpose, as well as the
grasp which he had of all the facts and his confidence in the sound-
ness of his judgment, carried the day; and twenty-six years' experience
has verified the soundness of his position. Another period when Mr.
Ellis showed great financial ability was during the construction of the
Settle and Carlisle line, when unlooked-for difficulties had to be met
in a unique way, as set forth in that part of this volume referring to
that extension. Mr. Ellis used to say that he owed much to railway
companies even to the extent of his wife, for he was first introduced
to Mrs. Ellis at the opening of the Leicester and Swannington line.
In fact, the whole of his life was more or less bound up in the Midland,
and he, like Mr. George B. Paget, died in office on December 3rd,
1879. It is a curious circumstance that three notable chairmen of
the Midland line lie in a corner of the Leicester Corporation Cemetery,
namely, John Ellis, W. E. Hutchinson, and E. S. Ellis, within a few
feet of one another, and a few yards away lie the remains of Thomas
Cook and John M. Cook, of railway tourist fame.

SIR MATTHEW WILLIAM THOMPSON, Bart., of Guiseley, Leeds, who
was Chairman from December i6th, 1879, to December 2oth, 1890,
was once asked in cross-examination before a committee of the House
of Commons by a learned counsel who rather appeared to question
Sir Matthew's trading experience, "What are you?" Sharply came
the reply: "When I am at Derby, I am Chairman of the Midland
Railway Company; when I am at Glasgow, I am Chairman of the
Glasgow and South Western Railway Company ; when I am at Brad-


ford, I am a brewer; and when I am in London, I am a barrister,
like you, sir." During the eleven years of his chairmanship the most
important event was the construction and completion of the Forth
Bridge for railway traffic on March 4th, 1890. The Midland Railway
Company being part owners of the Forth Bridge, Sir Matthew was
ex-offido Chairman of that great undertaking, and in recognition of his
services in that vast engineering work he received the honour of a
baronetcy. His elevation to the Directorate of the Midland Company
took place in 1865, so that he occupied a seat on the Midland Board
for just a quarter of a century. He also served as Deputy Chairman
under Mr. E. S. Ellis, and he represented for a good many years
the Midland Company on the Cheshire Lines Committee. He was
a man of very genial and kindly disposition.

SIR ERNEST PAGET, Bart., of Sutton Bonnington, Loughborough, was
appointed Chairman January 2nd, 1891. He is the only son of the
late George Byng Paget, a former Chairman, who, although cut down
by death soon after his elevation, had been long associated with the
fortunes of the Midland. He was born in 1841, and was a youth of
seventeen at the time of his father's death. Previous to his appoint-
ment as Chairman of the Midland, on the retirement of Sir M. W.
Thompson through ill-health, Sir Ernest had a rather varied experience,
having served with the 7th Hussars and the Royal Horse Guards, from
which he retired in 1867. Subsequently he was appointed Lieutenant-
Colonel of the Leicestershire Yeomanry Cavalry, but when he entered
upon his railway career he gave up military duties entirely. As
Chairman of the Traffic Committee, and afterwards as Deputy
Chairman of the Company, he rendered very valuable service to the
Midland, and thus prepared the way for the highest place in the
Company. Among the positions which he occupied were those of
Deputy Chairman of the Nottinghamshire Quarter Sessions, a Deputy
Lieutenant of the same county, and a Justice of the Peace for
Leicestershire. He was also associated as Director with the Inter-
Oceanic Railway of Mexico, Limited, Chairman of the Mexican
Southern Railway Company, Limited, Chairman of the South Western
of Venezuela Railway Company, Limited, ex-offido Chairman of the
Forth Bridge Railway Company, the Somerset and Dorset Railway
Company, the Tottenham and Forest Gate Railway Company, and the
Tottenham and Hampstead Junction Railway Company. Sir Ernest,
during the period of his chairmanship, has become more and more
entirely absorbed in the Midland Railway. The " forward " policy of
the Midland has been kept well to the front, and the advancement
and consolidation of the undertaking have been very marked. There


has been a great doubling of the lines, so as to give four pairs of
rails where the traffic was most congested. In fact, either by alterna-
tive routes or by four sets of lines, the Midland now have four roads
practically from London to Stockport, also from London to Shipley ;
whilst by means of their right of running over the Lancashire and
Yorkshire system the Midland have, in fact, four roads from London
to Hellifield. The present Chairman has had to face some serious
difficulties, and among them may be included the important "flanking"
movement of the Great Central Line right through to London; and
there has never been such keen competition for all classes of traffic
as at the present day. Although the present Chairman has not
had great departures of policy to inaugurate and to carry out, yet
his responsibilities are greater than those of any of his predecessors.
There is a greater mileage to supervise; there is a vast amount more
capital for which he is primarily responsible ; the duties on joint com-
mittees in conjunction with representatives of other companies have
never been greater; a large number of stations which had become
obsolete or utterly inadequate for present-day requirements have had
to be rebuilt on a much larger scale at an enormous outlay. In fact,
comparatively few stations now remain that existed at the time of the
amalgamation in 1844. Sir Ernest received the honour of a baronetcy
in the New Year's honours of 1897, in recognition of the splendid part
which the Midland Railway Company has taken in railway development
during Her Majesty's reign. Sir Ernest's great energy and capacity
for administrative work, backed up by the great experience which he
acquired whilst Chairman of the Traffic Committee, enable him to
deal with all those multifarious duties and intricate questions of
finance and general administration with a master hand. He is very
clear-sighted, rather cautious, blended with firm determination quali-
ties the exercise of which are constantly called into play, in spite of all
the advantages secured by an elaborate system of delegation.



WHILST the directors are in supreme authority and have the
ultimate responsibility of the affairs of the Company, the
practical and technical head of the administration is, of course, the
General Manager, who has the sole responsibility of giving final and
authoritative advice in regard to all practical matters, and, further,
he has the additional duty imposed upon him of seeing that it is
carried into actual working. But although the whole of the general
working and administration of the line vests in the General Manager,
the executive responsibility for the working of the railway is divided
into many departments, some of which have supreme heads, who
are independent of each other and are separately responsible to the
directors. The following heads of departments are directly respon-
sible to the directors for the conduct and administration of all that
comes within their respective spheres : The General Manager, the
Secretary, the Accountant, Locomotive Superintendent, the Engineer-
in -Chief, the Stores Superintendent, the Carriage and Wagon Super-
intendent, the Hotels and Refreshment Rooms Manager. However,
this general rule is subject to this modification, if it may so be termed,
that the General Manager has the supreme control of the working
of the line generally in all departments, and the directors confer
with him on the general policy of the Company; and he likewise
has to deal with all parliamentary matters, agreements and arrange-
ments with other companies as to through traffic, leasing of lines,
traffic arrangements on joint lines, and generally with all questions
of the first importance, subject, of course, to strictly technical ques-
tions being dealt with by the chief officers of each department. The
heads of these departments, subject to the approval of the various
sub -committees of directors under which they act, are responsible
for the appointment of the staff in their respective departments,
their promotion or dismissal, and the fixing of their rate of pay ;
but all permanent additions to the staff have to be approved by



the Board of Directors. In fact, the whole system is one of carefully
devised devolution combined with constant and watchful supervision.

The GENERAL MANAGER, in addition to his duties as adviser to the
directors and the duty of exercising a general supervision of the whole
of the affairs of the Company, also occupies what may be termed a
dual position by undertaking the special control and superintendence
of the whole Traffic Department, which is the largest and most im-
portant of all, and is at once the greatest spending department as well
as the great channel through which the revenue flows from the public
into the treasury of the Company.

It follows as a matter of necessity that a position of this varied and
complicated character can only be adequately filled by a gentleman
who has had a long and very wide experience, not only in the vast and
intricate details of railway working, but also of large general knowledge
of affairs and commercial and financial experience, combined with
a sound judgment and what we British people understand by good
common sense, great tact, and wise discrimination.

The Midland Railway Company have been particularly fortunate in
their general managers, upon whom so much of the success of the
railway depends. The names of those who have held this important
office and the dates of their appointments are as follows :


P. Clarke
J. Sanders

J. Sanders

J. J. Allport .

W. L. Newcombe

J. J. Allport .

J. Noble

G. H. Turner .


Superintendent from North
Midland Company .

Appointed General Superin-
tendent of the manage-
ment of all trains in the
Coaching Department .

General Manager

Date Appointed.

July, 1844.

July, 1849.
January, 1850.
Oct. ist, 1853.
Oct. ist, 1857.
April 4th, 1860.
Feb. 1 7th, 1880.
May 20th, 1892.

It will be observed in the above list of notable men that Mr.
J. J. ALLPORT held office altogether for the long period of twenty-four
years, and he afterwards became a director, which position he occupied
until his death. His name and the fame of his policy and administra-
tion, which have been dealt with in other parts of this volume, are
indelibly associated with British railway enterprise. His name is a star
in the railway firmament of the first magnitude, and his life's work con-
ferred untold advantages on all classes in the country. He did for
railway passengers what Rowland Hill did in postal reform, and his far-


seeing policy and the courage which he showed in carrying it out
marked him as a public benefactor, although at the same time it
secured advantages of the most substantial character to the Midland
Company. He determined that the great English railways should not
be mere sectional monopolies holding dependent districts at their
mercy. They were the great national arteries for commerce, and he
the Bismarck of railway policy was determined that a policy of reform
and advancement should be pursued, in the conviction that trade,
railways, and passengers would all share in the common advantages.
Born on February 27th, 1811, Mr. Allport was twenty-eight years of
age when, in the year 1839, he became associated as chief clerk with
the Birmingham and Derby Railway. He was speedily marked out for
advancement to the position of "carrying manager," which included
with it a salary of ^300, and afterwards ^400 a year an "extravagant
reward," as the not over-prosperous shareholders of the time thought,
and against which they protested. But his mind was directed towards
greater matters than those small details which drew the criticism of the
shareholders. The first battle of railway rates ever recorded in history
was fought under his regime, when the Birmingham and Derby line
entered the lists with the Midland Counties Railway for the through
traffic to London ; but the war ended in a happy combination and the
formation of the Midland Company. Thus it came to pass that the
first railway war also brought about the first important amalgamation in
railway history. But in this new corporation there was no room for
Allport, because, with three sets of officials and the Birmingham and
Derby line as the smallest of the three companies, his services could
not be utilised. But the Railway King, Hudson, who had a great
faculty for selecting the most able men, knew the value of Allport if
the shareholders of the Birmingham and Derby line did not. Mr.
Hudson, the new Chairman of the Midland, at once transferred
Mr. Allport's services to another of Hudson's undertakings, the New-
castle and Darlington, in whose service he remained for six years. He
was just too late to join in a deputation, headed by Hudson and
Robert Stephenson, to Sir Robert Peel to solicit Government aid for
the east coast route to Scotland. Allport's business, however, as the
east coast route was gradually pieced together, was to organise a
through service of carriages from London to Edinburgh. It was at
the period 1845 that Mr. Allport made his famous run from Sunderland
to Euston and back with the announcement of Hudson's election as
M.P. for Sunderland. The route was vi& York over the York, New-
castle, and Berwick line ; thence to Normanton over the York and
North Midland Companies' line ; forward to Derby over the Midland


system, and continuing on to Rugby ; and thence via Wolverton over
the London and North Western line to Euston. Special trains were
waiting for Allport at each of these points. Mr. Allport, describing
the run, said : " Reaching Euston, I drove to the Times office, and
handed my manuscript to Mr. Delane, who, according to an arrange-
ment I had previously made with him, had it immediately set up in
type, a leader written, both inserted, and a lot of impressions taken.
Two hours were thus spent in London, and then I set off on my
return journey, and arrived in Sunderland next morning at about ten
o'clock, before the announcement of the poll. I then handed over
copies I had brought with me of the Times newspaper of that day con-
taining the return of what had happened in Sunderland the afternoon
before. Between five o'clock in the evening and ten o'clock that
morning I had travelled six hundred miles, besides spending two hours
in London, or a clear run of forty miles an hour."

This was a very wonderful performance, for, without deducting any-
thing for stops en route, the whole journey of six hundred miles was
done in fifteen hours.

From 1850 to 1853 he was General Manager of the Manchester,
Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway, which gave him an insight into
the resources of Lancashire and the West Riding, which afterwards
proved extremely valuable. In 1853, when Mr. Allport returned to
the Midland, he inaugurated his great policy, which in the course of
years transformed the Midland from a local link or collection of local
lines, dependent entirely on other companies for through traffic, into a
great trunk system. But these extensions were not initiated and carried
through without great efforts. The times were bad, money was hard
to raise, and the dividends were small 3 per cent. ; but Mr. Allport
urged the policy of progress. After the opening of the Leicester and
Hitchin line in 1857 Mr. Allport joined the great shipbuilding firm of
Messrs. Palmers, of Jarrow, in the capacity of Managing Director. His
connection with the Midland Railway, however, was maintained by his
acceptance of a seat on the Midland Board of Directors. After two
years of retirement from active railway work he, in 1859, returned to
the Midland Company, whose fortunes, if not its very existence, was
menaced by what is known as the " triple alliance " of its competitors
on every side to shut the Midland out from the sources of its traffic.
The recall of Mr. Allport from Jarrow, and his resumption of the
general managership in 1860, resulted not only in the triple alliance
being frustrated, but the eyes of the Midland directors were opened to
the perils of the system so long as the Company was at the mercy
of strangers. Henceforward the Midland were driven into the pursuit


of a new policy, which must be carried out with great determination, so
that the Company might be independent of its neighbours. While this
policy of expansion was in progress the panic of 1866 had caused a
temporary collapse of the Brighton Railway, and had sent the Chatham
and Dover and a host of smaller lines into a state of bankruptcy.
At this very critical juncture the Midland had no less than five millions
of capital absorbed in unfinished works, which, of course, produced
nothing towards dividend; but notwithstanding this, the directors
issued a circular in 1867 announcing that the Company proposed
to apply to Parliament for a further sum of five millions of capital
for new works. The shareholders were almost in a panic; but the
calm unfolding of the Midland policy showed that the men at the
head of affairs took a wider and more comprehensive view, and their
policy was finally adopted and carried into effect. The direct result of
this bold and heroic policy at a critical time was soon disclosed; and
to the master minds which controlled the Midland system at this
period is due the fact that to-day the great trunk system from London
to Carlisle is crowded with traffic. Mr. Edward Shipley Ellis, when
Chairman in 1874, recalling the events of this period, wrote :

" It must be remembered that the Midland Railway has grown up
under different circumstances from its neighbours. We are often
charged, either good humouredly or otherwise, with aggressiveness, but
shareholders who have been long connected with the Company will
recall how the policy of extension, miscalled aggression, was forced
upon us. The Midland system originally formed part of the route from
London to Leeds, York, and Scotland via Rugby and Normanton, and
from South Wales to the north via Gloucester ; but the construction of
the Great Northern Railway and the extensions of the London and
North Western and Great Western Companies deprived us of our
through traffic, a project of amalgamation with the London and North
Western failed, and the Midland directors and shareholders were left
to choose between the policy of making the Midland a complete system,
independent of its neighbours, or of remaining as a local line to be
gradually starved by our more fortunate competitors on either side.
Those who remember the facts will know that this statement is not
exaggerated. The policy of extension was adopted and successfully
carried out under many difficulties, and shareholders have since had no
reason to regret the patience and self-denial then largely drawn upon,
or the confidence which they extended to their then directors, and
no one who has watched the subsequent development of the districts
traversed by our system can doubt the enormous advantages which the
public have derived."

But his master-stroke was the commencement of the conveyance of
third-class passengers by all trains ; and not only that, for third-class


passengers, who not many years previously had been carried in what
were little better than cattle trucks, were to be provided with luxuriously
cushioned carriages. Mr. Allport's great revolution was due to his
foresight that a multitude of customers at a penny per mile was better
than a few at a higher rate. The experiment was a tremendous success
for the Company, an enormous advantage to the great mass of the
people, and to trade and the country generally. In 1880 Mr. Allport
retired from the general managership of the Midland and rejoined the
Directorate. On this occasion Mr. Allport took the place of his old
friend, Mr. Ellis, on the Board, and the circumstances are set out
in the following resolution which was passed on the occasion : " That
Mr. James Joseph Allport be and is hereby elected a director of the
Company in the place of Mr. Edward Shipley Ellis, deceased, and
that the directors be and are hereby empowered and requested to
set aside out of the profits of the Company for the half-year ending
the 3ist day of December, 1878, the sum of ; 10,000, and to present
the same to Mr. Allport as an expression of the gratitude of the
shareholders for services rendered by him to the Company as General
Manager during 26 \ years, and as an acknowledgment of the ex-
ceptional ability, energy, and public spirit which have so largely
contributed to the progress and development alike of the Midland
Railway and the great industrial districts which it unites."

In 1884 Her Majesty conferred upon Mr. Allport the honour of
knighthood, and his death, at St. Pancras Hotel, on April 25th, 1892,
full of years and greatly honoured, snapped the last link between
the primitive experimental railways of the past and the great systems
and organisations of to-day. He was a picturesque and genial per-
sonality a man who did well for his country and for the advancement
of the nation, and those who were privileged to pay a last mark of

Online LibraryClement Edwin StrettonThe history of the Midland railway → online text (page 24 of 36)