Henry Harrisse.

Britain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries online

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paratory to its next trip,
and to avoid delays on
going out in the morning.
Having served his time
as shunting-driver, pilot-
man, or engine-turner, the
engineman is promoted in
turn to the posts of third-
class driver, working local
goods trains ; second-class
driver, working main-line
goods trains ; and first-
class driver, employed on
passenger trains exclu
sively. Concerning the
latter, a point to be em
phasised is that there is
no difference in rank or
pay between him who drives the " crack "
express and the driver of the slowest and
most obscure branch-line passenger train.
Most persons have an idea and it is a very
natural one that the drivers of the fast or
long-distance express trains are better paid
than the remainder of their confreres; whereas

Cosset I & Co., Ltd.




the former arc only picked men, forming the
engine-drivers guard corps, so to speak, and
receiving no extras save the honour and
glory. A man, however, who lias attained
the rank of second-class driver need not
seek promotion ; he may, if he prefers it,
remain where he is, in charge of goods trains.
As a matter of fact, a man in the higher
tirade of goods train driving will make more
money than is possible in the case of
passenger train driving ; but, on the other
hand, his hours will be much longer, and his
work altogether of a more arduous and less
interesting description. On British railways
the rule obtains
that the same men
- both driver and
fireman are kept to
the same engines in
the passenger and
long main-line goods
services. On all the
great American and
Continental roads,
however, the system
of " first in first out "
has been adopted, which means that
engines are sent out from the shed
in the order in which they come in,
and the men take whichever locomotive
happens to fall to their lot.

Before describing the routine of duty
peculiar to an engine-driver, the education
of enginemen, by means of periodical
examinations, must be explained. When a
lad wishes to qualify for third-class fireman
he must be able to read and write ; and at
this stage also the sight test is of a rigorous
character. The danger of colour blindness
in the case of signals is guarded against by
showing him a tray full of skeins of wool
of all shades of colour. The examiner picks
out a skein, and the candidate has to match
it from among the heap. Further, the
latter has to be able to read lettered cards
at stated distances. The examination for
sight is repeated at even* rung of the ladder
till the engineman rises to second-class
driver ; it then takes place periodically, the
interval between each varying with different
companies with the Great Western a driver
over sixty years of age is examined every
year till he retires.

Before a man becomes a first-class fire
man he has to pass an examination in
the mechanical working of the locomotive,
which examination becomes harder and
more searching as he passes through the
different grades of driver. Every incentive
to stiuh- is offered by the authorities in
the shape of placing working models at
the disposal of the men. But the officials
who examine him are not satisfied with
theoretical knowledge alone ; the} require
convincing that, if anything goes wrong,
he is in possession of sufficient practical
experience to locate the mischief, and even

Photo: Cassftl
& Co., Ltd.


effect repairs, as far as the tools placed at
his disposal enable him to do so.

The driver and fireman come on duty
together, usually at 6 a.m., having been called
at their homes an hour or so previously by
call-boys attached to the running-shed. At
the time office each signs on, and the driver
receives his keys, which open the tool bunkers
on the tender and the padlock round the fire-
irons. The} then proceed to the running-shed
office, where the driver signs a book certifying
that he has read the notices there displayed.
These notices refer to permanent- way works
in progress ; warning him if single-line
working is in operation between an} two
points, if the relaying of the track is proceeding




elsewhere, or if the repair of bridges, crossing-
gates, track-troughs, signal posts, etc., at
certain specified points demands a sharp look
out, together \vith a reduction of speed.
Needless to point out, very serious accidents
might happen were not these notices carefully
scanned. The board, however, also contains
notices of a different kind, as, for instance :
" Complaint is made of ashes being thrown
from engines on to the point rods and signal
wires at Mugby Junction. This practice
must cease at once."

The driver next proceeds to the stores,
where he obtains a supply of oil and waste,
the amount of the former being booked to
him, for he is allowed I Ib. of waste per week
merely to clean his hands. Generally he
receives three different kinds of oil, namely,
rape oil for machinery, a thicker oil for the
cylinders, and paraffin or petroleum for the
gauge and head lamps. At the stores also
are issued to him the discs, if any, carried
in front of the locomotive, to notify the
destination of the train. Meanwhile, the
fireman has gone to another part of the shed
to obtain a supply of dry sand heated by
special furnaces. After this the two men
repair to their engine, which they find coaled,
cleaned, repaired, and already making steam.
Here it must be explained that, about three
or four hours before the engine is required,
a bar boy comes along with a torch-lamp,
steel broom, and fire-box lifter, and enters
the fire-box to clean it of clinkers and to
re-arrange the bars. After him follows the
fire-lighter, carrying on his shoulder a shovel

of live coal, with
which he starts
the fire ; while, till
the driver arrives,
the same man
looks after the
engine occasion
ally, to see that it
is making steam

When on the
footplate the first
thing that requires
the driver s atten
tion is the level of
the water in the
gauge glass. He

must ascertain whether the level as it appears
shows correctly the height of the water within
the boiler by opening the lower cock. On
being satisfied that the boiler is safe, the
engine must be examined over a pit, the loco
motive itself being placed in such a position
that every part of it may be inspected without
having the machinery moved. The driver
then descends and carefully oils all bearings,



i ii

slide bars, eccentrics, etc., paying special
attention to the crank-axle, or "big end,"
for the latter he cannot get at when on the
road. When the examination of machinery
has been finished underneath, the fireman
must open the ash-pan door, so that the
driver can inspect the ash-pan. The latter
should be nicely raked out, and the fire bright
and free from clinkers.

The engine is then taken out into the
yard, where it fills up with water ; while,
before starting off to pick up
his train, the driver must see
that the coal on the tender is
not stacked too high, and that
it and the bunkers, fire-irons, and
tools which are carried on the
latter are so placed that they
will not fall off when the engine

inconvenient arrangement. However, the
North-Western Company have long arranged
their engine gear so that the driver can take-
up his position on the " near" .side ; and with
the new engines of the London and South-
\\ estern Railway the gear has been transferred
to what may be termed the proper side. The
regulations direct that the driver must keep
a good look-out all the time the engine is
in motion, and the fireman must do the same
when he is not necessarily otherwise engaged.


is in motion. On coupling on to his train,
the driver must ascertain from the guard
what number of vehicles are behind him,
so that he may know how to work his
engine with economy, and exercise due care
in descending gradients.

Once started, the driver must stand in his
proper place upon the footplate, so as to be
able to command the regulator, the reversing
gear, and the brake handle. It is a relic of
the old coaching days that still keeps these
apparatus, and consequently the driver, on
the "off," or right-hand, side of the footplate,
which, since trains run on the left, and the
signals and the station platforms are placed
on that side of the track, is manifestly an


As a driver must possess
intimate acquaintance with the
road over which he travels,
meaning not only the maze of
signals and sidings, but its
varying gradients as well, it
stands to reason that his
journey area is restricted. In
fact, it is this which accounts
for the engines belonging to each run
ning-shed being grouped with their drivers
and firemen in separate links or gangs.
As a rule, where passenger engines arc
concerned, the links are so arranged as to
permit of the engines returning to their
sheds and the men to their homes the same
night. The engines of main-line goods
trains, however, travel farther afield, neces
sitating what are termed "double home trips."
For example, a man living at Westbourne
Park takes a train down to Swansea, sleeps
there, and returns home the next day. Most
companies provide excellent lodging houses
at the principal junctions for enginemen
engaged on double-trip jobs those of the

I 12



North- Western Company being regular hotels ;
while, if this is not done, as is the case on
the Great Western system, the rule is to
furnish men with a list of approved lodgings,
and to allow them is. 6d. per night, or, in the
event of their going to a strange place, 2s. 6cl.
for each of the first three nights they spend
there. In ordinary circumstances a driver,
on arriving at his destination, takes his engine
to the shed, turns it, fills up with water, and
then rests until it is time for him to start home
again ; but neither he nor his fireman may
leave their engine without special permission.
On his return home the driver hands over
his engine to a turner, after which he goes
to the running-shed office, where he makes
out his returns for the day, reports any ir
regularity that may have occurred, and enters
in a book kept for the purpose what repairs
he thinks necessary. Here also he learns
at what hour he comes on duty again. A
driver has a different time with a train
practically every day, in order to equalise
turns and give him plenty of rest in between.
Leaving the shed office, the driver proceeds

to the time office, where he signs off, and
hands in his keys.

The duties of the engine-turner have already
been explained ; but it should be added
that it is he who takes the engine to coal,
the amount received being booked to the

A few lines must now be devoted to the
staff of a running-shed, which is officered
by a foreman, a foreman-fitter, and several
inspectors, the latter being responsible that
the men and engines are ready to leave at
the right hour and in a fit state. The staff
itself consists of a number of skilled workmen,
copper and brass smiths, etc., for executing
repairs ; while in addition to the cleaners there
are tube-cleaners, boiler-washers, lighters-up,
and sand-men. The four last-named are
as often as not enginemen who have failed
to continue a footplate career owing to
defective eyesight or inability to obtain a
driver s certificate. Every engine is washed
out once a week. Previous to this operation
the smoke-box has been cleaned and perfectly
cleared of ashes, so that the wash-out plugs


can be easily taken out, and that there may
not be any ashes to be washed into the tubes.
The engine is then taken into a shed and
placed over a pit, the leaden wash-out plugs
removed, and the washers-out tackle the
boiler with a hydrant. After this all the
glands have to be re-packed, tubes cleaned,
and ash-pan and damper put right. The
driver has to attend during the operation,
which is finally passed by the shed-foreman,
and for doing so he receives a full clay s

The maximum pay of a driver is 8s. per
clav, that of a fireman, 5s. Knginemen work
ten hours per clay, with overtime and Sunday
work paid for at the rate of eight hours per
day. The earnings of a first-class driver
average well over 3 per week, those of a
fireman \ less, but the former can also
earn a substantial quarterly premium for
saving of coal and oil. The post of driver
is not the highest an engineman can rise

to. A thoroughly steady and well-educated
man may be promoted to locomotive inspector
or shed-foreman, in which case he receives a
salary of quite ^,200 per year.

The companies are very far from being
unmindful of the material welfare of the
men they employ ; and, indeed, it is their
constant study to maintain the most cordial
and friendly relations with them. .Manx-
excellent free pension schemes have been
devised for enginemen, notably that of the
London and South- Western Company, who
give one at sixty-five, also at sixty years of
age, if the man s health fails, provided he
has been twenty-five years in the company s
service. It only remains to add that the
life of engine-driving has in recent years
undergone great changes fen- the better. In
the improvements of engines, in personal
comforts, and in reduction of working hours
locomotive enginemen ma} find much upon
which to congratulate themselves.





r I A HERE are one or two interesting features

A. about the great cutlery industry of

Sheffield which distinguish it from

almost every other trade or craft carried on

in the British Isles. Its antiquity everybody

knows of, but still more singular is the fact

"hat it is even now to a great extent carried on


(I holo kindly supplied by Messrs. J. Rodgers & Sons, Ltd., Sheffield.)

by methods exactly similar to those in vogue
three or four centuries ago.

The industrial revolution of the nineteenth
century, which substituted machinery for
hand labour, and made the factory system
everywhere predominant, scarcely touched the
cutlery trade. Only in one or two of the
processes involved in the making of a pocket
or table knife have mechanical contrivances
been successfully or largely introduced.

The Sheffield grinder, his clothing smeared
with " wheelswarf," sitting before his whirring
stone, still bestrides his " horse " in the same
way as did his predecessor in the days of
Good Queen Bess, and in holding the blade
to the stone he uses just such a rude handle,
formed of a cleft twig, as suggested itself

to the earliest cutlers who carried on then-
handicraft by the side of some woodland
brook, in the days when machinery was
unknown, and when in Roche Abbey or
Beauchief Abbey, not so far away, the monks
were painfully illuminating their beautiful
missals. Nor has the forger changed his
methods one iota.

Time, of course, has wrought many changes
in the accessories of the trade. The grind-


stones are now run by steam, and in some
cases even by gas, although there are still
a few of the old-fashioned water-power shops
on the streams which find their way into
the Don near Sheffield. The popular tradi
tion that Sheffield is the original home of
the cutlery trade is incorrect. Cutlery was
first made in London ; but we find it flourish
ing at an early period, before the days of
Chaucer, in the district round about Sheffield,
known as Hallamshire. The transference
occurred probably when the iron industry
left Kent and Sussex, its original home,
for the Midlands and the North, so as to
be near the coalfields. From Chaucer s day
down to very recent times the forges and
grinding " wheels " as the shops containing
grindstones are termed were scattered about
a wide area on the banks of every convenient
stream. It was the introduction of railways
and the growth of other manufactures which
caused the modern city of Sheffield to grow
up as the nucleus of the commercial activity
of the district.

Although the last few years have witnessed
some developments in the rapid production
of cutlery, it is a fact that the best knives
are still made throughout by hand. In
Sheffield, " cutlery " means any tool having
a cutting edge, but for the purpose of this
article we shall only speak of pocket and
domestic cutlery. In the manufacture of a
first-class pocket or table knife the services
of a number of workmen, skilled in very
different ways, are called into play.

In the first place, a good knife must be
made from refined steel made of the very
purest Swedish iron ore. The forging of


cutlery is a trade to itself, and in former
days each workman had a forge at his own
cottage door, and, being paid bv the " piece,"
lie was one of the most independent of
artisans. \Ye shall see as we go along that the
peculiar feature which formerly characterised
the manufacture of cutler} , and which still
to a great extent survives, is its dependence
upon a number of independent craftsmen or
small employers having their own workshops
and receiving their remuneration by " piece."
To-day there are a few modern, large, and
self-contained cutler\- factories in the city,
but we doubt whether there is one where
the cutler}- sold is produced entirely on the

But let us return to the forger, with whom
the making of the knife begins.

Starting with a bar of steel made from
best Swedish iron and rolled to a convenient
width and thickness at one of the rolling mills
in .Sheffield which prepare metal for the
various trades, by a series of quick blows
with his hammer the craftsman forms a rouirh


semblance of a blade ; the work being
performed at a " hearth " or furnace similar
to that of the ordinary village smith} . But
by far the most delicate and important part


(ritcto Ai. i.i. y ntfflifj /y M^trs. .llaffiii l!>vs., S, icffi,-l. .)


(/koto kindly iufplitd by .Ut ssrs. .!/,//// n>-?s., Sh jffleld.)

of the work is that of hardening or tempering,
upon which the cutting power of the instru
ment depends. A sharp, durable edge is
even-thing to a knife, and indifferent
hardening will destroy the very best steel.
Hardening is accomplished by heating the
blade and plunging it suddenly into water
or oil. If the blade is heated to an extreme
temperature the edge will be as brittle as
glass, and liable to snap, while if the tempera
ture be too low it will be too soft to cut. The
workman has nothing to guide him except
the tint of the hot metal, assisted by his
experience. The universal plan is to produce
a too high temper at the first operation, and
to let it down by one or more heats and
coolings. The superior properties of Sheffield
cutler}- is believed to be largely due to the
softness and peculiar property of the water
used for hardening. It is also a tradition
that the more the water is used for the
purpose the better are the results, and it is
said that man}- of the tanks have not been
emptied for a great number of years.

Pen and pocket knife blades are made
wholly of steel, but in table cutler}- the tang
or shank and the bolster (the raised portion
between the blade and handle consists of
iron, which the forger welds to the steel



After the former comes the turn of the
crrinder. \\ e have stated how the grinding

t> O O

" \vheels " were formerly to be found
clotted along the banks of local streams.
A modern grinding " wheel " is quite a
different affair, being usually a company
undertaking, in which steam power is
provided for a considerable number of sets
of grindstones, the actual users of which
work independently of one another and
pay a rent to the company for the facilities
provided. These grinders are, in fact, small
employers, or " little
mesters," to use the
vernacular phrase: they
undertake to supply
one or more cutlery
firms with ground
blades, and pay men
and boys by piece to
do the work. Only a
few cutler\- firms grind
on their own premises.
The blades, having
been ground, are then
lapped, gla/.ed, and
polished on emery and
other stones, and taken
to the cutler, whose
duty it is to put the
parts together and turn
out a finished knife.

The branch of the
trade necessitating the
most skill is that of
the pen and pocket
knife cutler. Many
years of expedience,
a c c o m p a n i ed by
artistic taste, a correct
eye, and nice judg
ment, are essential for
the putting together
of a high-class article.
His parts consist ot
blades, springs, linings,
pins, and any special
articles which may be
wanted such as cork
screws, cigar-holders,
buttonhooks, prickers,
etc. Except in the
case of the very largest

firms these articles are produced from outside
the factor}-, each forming a separate trade.
There are old craftsmen who have made
nothing all their lives but corkscrews, springs,
or some one of the other articles mentioned.
The patterns of pen and pocket knives made
in Sheffield number more than 10,000, and
the prices range from 46. to five guineas

The making-up of table knives is a more
simple affair. Manv kinds of material are used
for the scales of spring cutlery and the hafts


(Photo kindly supplied by Messrs. Maf-pin C- // ebb, Sheffield.)



of table knives ivory, bone, wood, stag horn,
buffalo horn, ox horn, mother-o -pearl shell,
lortoiseshell, celluloid, etc. the cutting and
preparation of which furnishes emplovment
for several different classes of workmen and
small employers. 1 lafting material dealers
buy their ivory and stag horn at the auctions
held quarterly at Antwerp, London, and
Liverpool. It is then cut up into handles
and scales and sold to the cutlery manu
facturers. Three or four of the latter,
however, also attend
the sales, and supply
their own require
ments direct.

The most largely
used hafting material
to-day is celluloid
a m a n u f a c t ured
article closely re
sembling ivory and
vastly cheaper, and,
although not equal to
its natural prototype,
it is very nice to look
at, and wears well.
Ivor}- itself is likely
to become more and
more a luxury, seeing
that the advance of
civilisation threatens
" my lord the ele
phant " with gradual
extinction, and the
supply of other
hafting materials is
also contracting through tne same cause.

Machinery has lately come into use in
the manufacture of second-rate cutlery.
Table knives are now forged by the goffing
hammer a small steam hammer which
delivers blows at a great speed, so as to
imitate as nearly as possible the work of
a hand forger. There is also another
process by which blades are "flied," or
stamped out of a sheet of metal ; but these
" flied " blades are inferior even to the goffed
ones, through lack of the hammering, which
has a beneficial effect on the wearing quality
of the steel by closing its fibres. Although
blades can be produced rapidly and cheaply
by these means, there is no doubt that the
cheapest table knife in the long run is the

(Photo kindly


hand-forged blade, hafted in best African
ivory, which, if taken care of, may be handed
down from generation to generation, and
last practically for ever. At the present
time a plant of American machinery for
forging, grinding, gla/ing, and finishing table
knives entirely by machinery is being worked
by a syndicate, but only meagre support
has been given to the venture at present
It would appear that the conservatism of
the British public is a more serious bar to
progress in industrial
methods than the

ftiiK^ much talked of con

servatism of the
manufacturers. It is
most difficult to sell
m a chine- m a d e
cutlcr\ , simply be
cause the shape and
appearance of the
articles appear

The typical Shef
field scissor is made
in the same form as
it always was the
blade, shank, and
bow, or ring, being
forged out of one
piece of steel. In
the case of larger
scissors, however, the
blade is forged on to
a shank and bow of
common steel, so
saving expense. The Germans, using a lower

Online LibraryHenry HarrisseBritain at work; a pictorial description of our national industries → online text (page 12 of 39)