Unearthed: the era when a top railwayman earned 71p a day

By Geoff Courtney

IN an era in when a £50,000 annual basic salary is commonplace for train drivers – those at Virgin Trains are paid up to £63,000, or more than £1200 a week – it is fascinating to see the wages of drivers and lower-ranked employees on the minor railways of early 20th century Britain.

Research revealed by Dave Rogerson in the September issue of the Welsh Highland Railway Heritage Group’s quarterly magazine has unearthed a paysheet listing the earnings of the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways’ 20 employees in May 1922, shortly before the 1ft 11½in gauge railway, which ran for nine miles from Dinas Junction to Rhyd Ddu with a short branch to Bryngwyn, ceased operations prior to being incorporated into the WHR.

From the US to Wales via the First World War western front: Daniel Owen Jones on the footplate of Baldwin 4-6-0T No. 590 at Dinas Junction in 1923. Jones was traffic superintendent for the North Wales Narrow Gauge Railways leading up to it ending services in 1922, but when this photograph was taken a year later he was stationmaster for the Welsh Highland Railway at Dinas Junction. No. 590 was built by Baldwin Locomotive Works in Philadelphia in March 1917 for the UK War Department and operated behind the western front. After the end of the conflict it was overhauled by W G Bagnall of Stafford and bought by the WHR for £240, arriving there in July 1923 and being scrapped in 1942. Behind is Little Giant, an 0-4-0STT built by George England & Co of south-east London in 1867. WHRHG COLLECTION

The NWNGR paysheet unearthed by Dave is for the fortnight ending May 24, 1922, by which time passenger services had ceased, leaving just limited freight operations, mainly on the branch from Tryfan Junction to Bryngwyn for slate quarry traffic, although there was also a service to Rhyd Ddu at the southern end of the line.

The paysheet shows a total wages bill of £87 7s 10d (plus £2 4s 4d company insurance contributions), with the largest amount of £8 10s for the two weeks going to Daniel Owen Jones, the traffic superintendent, followed by yard foreman Thomas Richard Thomas at £7 2s. These two were the only staff who worked the full 12 working days in that fortnight, with 16 of the others working for nine days and another two, Tom Morris and W L Jones, a loader, not at all, and thus receiving no pay.

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