14.14. Railways

A painting of the inaugural journey of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, by A. B. Clayton (1831), “taken on the spot” by the painter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liverpool_and_Manchester_Railway#/media/File:Opening_Liverpool_and_Manchester_Railway.jpg

The economic effects of the railways on the income of the working population were:

  • personnel on the trains and in the stations;
  • the labourers who excavated the cuttings, excavated the tunnels, laid the tracks, and built the bridges;
  • the engineers and designers;
  • the production of rails for the United Kingdom, and for export;
  • the production of the locomotives, with the boilers, and the transmission of power;
  • the production of the rolling stock, for passengers and for freight (particularly coal);

The first railway for passenger traffic was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830. The routes laid out in Great Britain increased in length from 125 miles in 1830 to 13,000 miles in 1871.

The investments took place in three concentrated periods, known as “railway manias”, in the late 1830’s, mid 1840’s, and the early 1860’s. There were a number of highly speculative financing and production projects. At the highest point, the yearly investment was about 6 % of Gross National Product. The private investment in railways was double the current expenditure of the State on the military. The money came in general from the general public (commercial and professional classes) through payment for shares in the companies.

(Bogart, Dan; Shaw-Taylor, Leigh; You, Xuesheng, The Development of the Railway Network in Britain, 1825-1911, p. 19)

Persons employed in Railways open in U. K.

1847    47,000
1850    60,000
1855    98,000
1860  127,000

(Kingsford, 2006, Table 1, p. xii)

Of these, about 20 % were artificers, porters 15 %, labourers 23 %, and clerks 8 %.

(Ibid., Table II, p. 2)

In 1867, the porters earned 17s. 6d. per week, the policemen 18s., the ticket collectors 25s., guards 20s. The engine-drivers earned 30 to 45 shillings. The labourers had 18 shillings a week. As averages, the administrative personnel earned around 21 shillings, and the operatives around 30 shillings. These wages remained stable from 1830 to 1860.

(Levi, 1867, p. 28)

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