Locomotive & Train Working in the Latter Part of the Nineteenth Century, By E. L. Ahrons, V. 1, Heffer, Cambridge, 1951 [ebook]


Reprints of articles in the Railway Magazine


Volume 1:
Great Northern
Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire
North Eastern
Great Eastern;
Midland & Great Northern

Hull & Barnsley.

Ernest Leopold Ahrons (1866 – 1926),  was educated at the Bradford Grammar School and Yorkshire College, Leeds. As a student at the latter he obtained one out of three advanced scholarships in mathematics and physics, and was awarded first prize in engineering construction and mechanism and machinery. Leaving college in 1885, Ahrons went as a pupil under Mr. W. Dean to Swindon Locomotive Works, Great Western Railway, until 1888, and for two years after was employed in the Drawing Office and as an inspector of materials. In 1890 he became Chief Draughtsman to Messrs. Fleming, Macfarlane & Co., of Middleton, and soon afterwards obtained a position on the drawing office staff of Messrs. Beyer, Peacock & Co. Ltd. He was appointed in 1892 to the position of Engineer and Manager of the Government Workshops attached to the Ecole Khédivial d’Arts et Métiers, at Boulac, Cairo. Owing to ill health, he resigned this appointment in 1898, and returned to England. In the same year he became engineer-in-charge of the general department of Messrs. Henry Simon Ltd., of Manchester. Between the years 1902 and 1917 he held various positions in engineering industry, and during the Great War acted as a Trade Officer at the Department of Overseas Trade (Development and Intelligence). He resigned from the Government service in 1919, and until his death devoted himself entirely to literary work.

 LOCOMOTIVE & TRAIN WORKING… is by far the best body of published work describing what rail travel was like in the second half of Victoria´s Reign. Ahrons did time trains as a passenger, but unlike C.J. Allen, O.S. Nock and later, P.W.B. Semmens,did not pad out his work with practically signal box by signal box passing times, confining himself basically to departure and arrival times, commenting  “late”, “on time” or “early”. The type of detailed log described is virtually meaningless without details of weather throughout the journey, was the train half full, full “full and standing?”; what recovery time was privately allowed in the Working Timetable?; what did the guard´s journal for the run have to report over delays caused by large numbers of passengers leaving or joining, GPO loading or unloading mail, or the railway’s own parcel and luggage traffic?

 Also unlike the “professional” train timers, Ahrons did not feel the need to avoid criticism of the railway, for fear of not being granted footplate trips and free passes. He was a keen observer, not just of locomotives but also of passenger carriages and of stations. His style, although not quite as entertaining as Hamilton Ellis, nonetheless is readable, and betrays a dry sense of humour. This is what he has to say about  a constituent of the Midland and Great Northern Joint in 1883.

 …the locomotives themselves formed the quaintest assortment that ever adorned a railway of this length. There were a good many shapes, but only about one size, which fitted the railway after the manner of a 5 7/8 hat on a 14” foot. This collection had been gathered together through the united efforts of the directors and officials…who possibly bought some of them at a jumble


Of related interest:

 The other five volumes in this series will be made available in due course.



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