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قراءة كتاب Life in a Railway Factory

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‏اللغة: English
Life in a Railway Factory

Life in a Railway Factory

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
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50 Volumes Published

Full list of Titles can be had from the Publishers







First Published 1915
Published in the Readers’ Library 1920

Printed in Great Britain
by Turnbull & Spears, Edinburgh

To My Friend


My object in penning “Life in a Railway Factory” was to take advantage of the opportunities I have had as a workman, during twenty-three years’ continuous service in the sheds, of setting down what I have seen and known for the interest and education of others, who might like to be informed as to what is the actual life of the factory, but who have no means of ascertaining it from the generality of literature published upon the matter.

The book opens with a short survey of several causes of labour unrest and suggestions as to its remedy. Then follows a brief description of the stamping shed, which is the principal scene and theatre of the drama of life exhibited in the pages, the central point from which our observations were made and where the chief of our knowledge and experience was acquired. After a glance into the interior we explore the surroundings and pay a visit to the rolling mills, and watch the men shingling and rolling the iron and forging wheels for the locomotives. Continuing our perambulation of the yard we encounter the shunters, watchmen, carriage finishers, painters, washers-down, and cushion-beaters. The old canal claims a moment’s attention, then we pass on to the ash-wheelers, bricklayers, road-waggon builders, and the wheel-turning shed. Leaving them behind we come to the “field,” where the old broad-gauge vehicles were broken up or converted, and proceed thence into the din of the frame-building shed and study some portion of its life. Next follows an exploration of the smithy and a consideration of the smith at work and at home, his superior skill and characteristics. From our study of the smiths we pass to that of the fitters, forgemen, and boilermakers, and complete our tour of the premises by visiting the foundry and viewing the operations of the moulders.

The early morning stir in the town and country around the sheds, the preparations for work, the manner in which the toilers arrive at the factory, and the composition of the crowd are next described, after which we enter the stamping shed and witness the initial toils of the forgemen and stampers, view the oil furnace and admire the prowess of “Ajax” and his companions. The drop-hammers and their staff receive proportionate attention; then follows a comparison of forging and smithing, a study of several personalities, and an inspection of the plant known as the Yankee Hammers. Chapter XI. is a description of the first quarter at the forge expressed entirely by means of actual conversations, ejaculations, commands, and repartees, overheard and faithfully recorded. Following that is a first-hand account of how the night shift is worked, giving one entire night at the forge and noting the various physical phases through which the workman passes and indicating the effects produced upon the body by the inversion of the natural order of things. The remainder of the chapters is devoted to the description and explanation of a variety of matters, including the manner of putting on and discharging hands, methods of administration, intimidating and terrorising, the interpretation of moods and feelings during the passage of the day, week and year, holidays, the effects of cold and heat, causes of sickness and accidents, the psychology of fat and lean workmen, comedy, tragedy, short time and overtime, the advantages — or disadvantages — of education and intelligence, ending up with a review of the industrial situation as it was before the war and remarks upon the future outlook. A table of wages paid at the works is added as an appendix.

The site of the factory is the Wiltshire town of Swindon. This stands at the extremity of the Upper Thames Valley, in the centre of a vast agricultural tract, and is seventy-seven miles from London and about forty from Bristol. Its population numbers approximately fifty thousand, all largely dependent upon the railway sheds for subsistence. The inhabitants generally are a heterogenous people. The majority of the works’ officials, the clerical staff, journeymen, and the highly skilled workers have been imported from other industrial centres; the labourers and the less highly trained have been recruited wholesale from the villages and hamlets surrounding the town. About twelve thousand men, including clerks, are normally employed at the factory. A knowledge of the composition of the inhabitants of the town is important, otherwise one might be at a loss to account for the low rate of wages paid, the lack of spirited effort and efficient organisation among the workers, and other conditions peculiar to the place.

The book was never intended to be an expression of patriotism or unpatriotism, for it was written before the commencement of the European conflict. It consequently has nothing directly to do with the war, nor with the manufacture of munitions, any more than it incidentally discovers the nature of the toils, exertions, and sacrifices demanded of those who must slave at furnace, mill, steam-hammer, anvil, and lathe producing supplies for our armies and for those of our Allies in the field. It is not a treatise on economics, for I have never studied the science. If I had set out with the intention of theoretically slaughtering every official responsible for the administration of the factory I should have failed signally. I never contemplated such a course. Instead I wished to write out my own experiences and observations simply, and from my own point of view, mistaken or otherwise, without fear or favour to any. I have my failings and prejudices. What they are is very well known to me, and I have no intention of disavowing them. Whoever disagrees with me is fully entitled to his opinion. I shall not question his judgment, though I shall not easily surrender my own. I am not anxious to quarrel with any man; at the same time I am not disposed to be fettered, smothered, gagged or silenced, to cower and tremble, or to shrink from uttering what I believe to be the truth in deference to the most formidable despot living.

A. W.

24th July 1915.

A portion of Chapter XIII. has appeared in the English Review. My thanks are due to the Editor for his courteous permission to reproduce it in the volume.