Irish Railway Record Society
The Railway Press in 1916
study and analysis
Much has already been published in this
centenary year of the 1916 Rising and more is destined to find its way into
print. This study examines what the railway press published in 1916, but to
provide a more comprehensive account of the railways during the Rising and
aftermath, and to fill gaps in the coverage, other periodicals and sources have
also been used.
The railway press consisted of a number of
weekly and monthly publications. The Railway
Gazette (RG) was considered the unofficial organ of the railway companies
and management. Proclaiming itself to be ‘British
owned and British run’, it was read by railway directors, bankers,
stockbrokers, Government departments and ‘wherever
there are railways’. The Railway
News (RN) catered mainly for investors in railway stocks and shares while
the Railway Magazine (RM) was to
become the enthusiasts’ magazine. That railway enthusiasts existed by 1916 is
evidenced by the activities of the Railway Club, the Stephenson Locomotive
and a small correspondence circle in Ireland before the war. The Locomotive
Magazine (LM) kept readers informed of locomotive developments and other
periodicals like the Engineer and Engineering were also technical in content. There were in addition
the in-house publications of railway companies and the organs of the railway
trade unions. RG and RN were weekly, RM & LM monthly, publications. By 1916
the Railway Times (RT) and Herepath’s
Journal had ceased publication.
RAILWAYS AND THE GREAT WAR
Since the beginning of the Great War the
railway press had given much coverage to the railways’ part in the war effort,
troop trains, works war output, and railway workers who had joined the colours.
In May 1916, RN published statistics of those who had joined and from these the
following Irish figures have been abstracted:-
GS&WR: 689, 16 commissions (c), 19 killed
(k), 32 wounded (w), 4 missing (m), 6 taken prisoner (p), one decorated.
GNR(I): 516, 9 k.
MGWR: 190, 5 c.
B&CDR: 89, 1 c, 2 k, 1 w.
CVR: 11, 1 m.
D&SER: 97, 2 c, 5 k, 5 w.
SL&NCR: 9, 3 c, 1 k.
WCR: 13, 1k, 1w.
Total enlisted: 1,636, 37 already killed,
46 wounded. The Irish figure is just 1.5% of over 110,000 enlisted railway
workers in these islands, of whom 4,000 had already been killed. 10% of GNR(I)
staff had enlisted.
The periodicals told how railway managers
in Britain and Ireland made their workshops available for the manufacture of war
materials. ‘In Ireland the railways have
not been behind in “doing their bit” of war work. At Inchicore the
well-equipped works of the Great Southern and Western Railway...under the
direction of Mr. Watson assisted by many volunteers have done much good
munitions work for the Government...the weekly output is now 3,000 fuse
bodies...The Midland Great Western Railway was asked “to place a part of the
Company’s works at their disposal for the manufacture of certain war
materials...” (RM, April 1916).
The GS&WR turned out an ambulance train
and ‘As soon as this had been completed an order was given...for 90 general
purpose transport wagons and these had been delivered’ (ibid).
In the same issue, the RM reported that the
GNR(I) had ‘at the request of the War
Department fitted up and equipped an ambulance train, composed of nine bogie
vehicles for the conveyance of wounded soldiers...it was our duty to do all that
we could to facilitate the authorities in this crisis’. They also produced
an armoured train but this is not mentioned in the railway press.
Sir William Goulding chairman of the
GS&WR told the Railway Magazine:
‘During the past half told year they carried, in 172 special trains,
60,000 men, 10,000 horses, 200 trucks of baggage, and 1,100 trucks of guns etc.
Although they had received no guarantee of subsidies, as the English Companies
had had when taken over by the Government...everything possible was done by
their company to assist and co-operate with the military authorities regardless
of all other considerations’ (RM, April 1916).
INCHICORE ARMOURED CARS
And it would seem that ‘everything
possible’ would be done. Although the railway press was silent on the
matter at the time, Inchicore works hastily manufactured five armoured car
bodies mounted on motor lorries provided by Messrs. Guinness to patrol the
streets of Dublin during the Rising.
One year later the Locomotive
Magazine published Goulding’s description of these vehicles given to the
shareholders’ meeting. Having described their modus operandi, he told the
proprietors: ‘These cars materially
minimised the casualties and reflects great credit on the ingenuity of those
responsible for the work.’ (LM, 26 April 1917). This begs the question –
who was responsible? Perhaps they were Mr. Watson’s volunteers already
In operation, the vehicles resembled the
legendary wooden horse of Troy. They were filled with some 12-15 soldiers and
driven to the scenes of action and used to storm houses where volunteer snipers
were ensconced (ibid).
Independent of 10 May 1916 said that it took eight hours to build each car.
This same paper on 3 October saw them as the precursor of tank warfare on the
western front ‘from the day when a handful of soldiers, snugly installed
inside a boiler on wheels, pushed the rebels from some of the worst corners of
the Dublin slums’. General Maxwell described them as ‘roughly
armoured with boiler plates’. During and after the Rising, they were also
used to transport money to the banks and to the post offices, so that the Old
Age Pension and Separation payments (allowances paid to wives/mothers of
enlisted men) could be made.
Armoured Train for Enniscorthy” reported on by RG on Friday 5 May 1916
(and copied from the Daily Mail) is
now regarded as a piece of creative journalism. The existence of this train may
be little more than romantic fiction (see: Journal Vol. 5, No. 26, Spring 1960,
POLITICS & INVESTMENTS
Readers of the railway press before the
Rising were led, by the pens of correspondents, to believe that all Ireland was
the present time Irish railways are in a different position from other lines in
the kingdom, inasmuch as they are not under Government control. Ireland has made
great strides towards prosperity and although emigration has not ceased
altogether, it has decreased considerably, and there is no doubt that the
general body of people are far more satisfied with their present conditions.’
Railway Clerk (RC), journal of
the Railway Clerks’ Association, painted a different picture: ‘The
suggestion that the country is prosperous is no palliative for station masters,
clerks and porters. In that prosperity they have no share’ (RC, July
1916). Under ‘The Rising in Ireland – The Causes and the Remedies’, we read:
‘We are far from assuming that the
recent troubles have been solely the outcome of the desire of the majority of
the Irish people for Republican or National Independence. Any student of the
labour movement could have suspected that a crisis was near at hand’
(ibid, May 1916).
Just two days before the Rising, the RN of
22 April told its readers:- ‘the
prosperity of Irish railways depends on the agricultural industry and the
absence of political troubles, and if the latter can be avoided the future is
The context was railway investments which
had remained stable since 1913. Dividends paid in 1915 were: GNR(I) 5.5%,
GS&WR 5%, MGWR 2%. The railway press appraised as follows, ‘The
Great Northern of Ireland are justly regarded as one of the most reliable of
dividend earners...the Great Southern and Western did very well during the last
year, the gross receipts totalling £1.8 million or half a million more than in
13...the Midland Great Western pay quite a small dividend, but at the present
price the return is almost 7 per cent.’ (RN, 22 April 1916)
Early in 1914 and before the outbreak of
the Great War itself, the effect of political unrest on railway investments was
signalled by the Railway Times in
respect of the Ulster Volunteers. ‘The
Ulster question has occupied so prominent a position in the daily newspapers,
and has been dressed up in such sensational form, that perhaps is not surprising
that it has become a predominant influence in the Stock Exchange, and that it
has in particular affected high class Home securities and Home rails’ (RT,
21 March 1914). In its issue of the following week (28 March) under “Politics, the Army and Railway Strikes”, the prospects of
rebellion, strikes or civil war and the possible use of the army to suppress
such actions was mooted.
In a post-mortem just a week after the
Rising, the RG of 5 May 1916 had this to say: ‘The
stock markets have suffered from the disturbed feelings created by the Irish
rebellion, the recruiting muddle, and the unfortunate surrender of Kut, all
three events causing buyers to hold their hands for the time being...but the
Irish situation is re-established it is probable there may be a recovery in
OF TRANSPORT SERVICES
Railway weekly circulars had already been
compiled and printed before the Rising broke out. From manuscript notes in a
volume of GS&WR circulars preserved in the Society’s library, we get a
first-hand account of the railway events of Monday, 24 April 1916. Two clerks on
duty in the Traffic Managers Office at Kingsbridge recorded as follows:- ‘Monday 24 April, date of rising. 12 noon Hurley and self on duty when
order came from military authorities to provide trains. Curragh siding to
Kingsbridge 4 troop trains conveying 2,000 troops. Order received from military
at 1.00pm. Empty trains left 1.10pm 1.40pm 1.55pm 2.10pm. No trains left
Kingsbridge after 12.20pm. 9.45 only train that came to Kingsbridge after
The RG of 28 April recalled what the
Marquis of Landsdowne told the House of Lords on Wednesday 26 April
about the Dublin outbreak: ‘The Railway
Stations and the Sinn Feiners – the rebels made a half-hearted attack on
Dublin Castle which was not pressed through. They occupied St. Stephen’s Green
and held up troops on their way from the barracks...The City Hall, Post Office,
the Four Courts, Westland Row Station and...Broadstone Station were occupied by
the Sinn Feiners, and telegraphic communication was at first completely
From the Post
Office Electrical Engineers Journal for July 1916, we learn that
communications were quickly restored. ‘Simultaneously
with the Rising in Dublin the lines had been cut down at a large number of
places...a light engine with improvised protection was used in searching for
faults on important wires where firing was proceeding...a few men on special
trains travelled towards Dublin picking up and repairing broken wires...block
and electric train staff instruments, telephone and Telegraph apparatus in
signal boxes were battered and destroyed’. A temporary telegraph
instrument room was set up in the GNR(I) drawing room (sic) at Amiens Street,
and as the railway telegraph office remained in operation, a military telegraph
line was obtained to London. (ibid.) The
telegraph office at Kingsbridge was also under military control.
Difficulties in communication with England
were recounted to the House of Commons by Sir Edward Carson on 27 April. ‘There are very few people who have not near and dear relatives on the
very scene of the action. This is a matter which has caused many of us very
grave anxiety, and at the same time we can get no news from Ireland-practically
no news...’ (RN, 29 April).
Cross channel boat services were suspended
and questions were raised in the Lords and Commons on Wednesday 26 April. Having
reported on these, the RN said ‘The
Irish Mail train left Euston on Thursday (27th) at 8.45pm for Holyhead to meet
the 2.15am mail boat, and on Friday the Irish mail from Dublin reached Euston at
6.10am. Large numbers of passengers also came through... the only ports open for
cross-channel traffic for the time being were Dublin, Kingstown, Belfast and
Greenore, and passengers must have military passes’. (RN, 29 April). From
the same issue we learn ‘During the past
week train services have been gradually restored, but the police examine
prospective passengers at the stations’.
No account of the disruption of the Dublin
Trams appeared in the railway press, but we know that by 2.00pm on Easter
Monday, all tram services had ceased and some vehicles were seized, burnt or
destroyed. The Dublin & Lucan tram located to the west of the city and
removed from the scenes of action continued to operate.
The railway press did not at any stage give
an account of the casualties in the Rising in which British soldiers, policemen,
volunteers and civilians alike (including children) were killed. Casualties
included two GNR(I) management staff who were wounded and William Moore,
Limerick district auditor of the GS&WR ‘accidentally
shot during the Sinn Fein Rebellion’. He was at a friend’s house in
Fairview, Dublin, when killed by a stray sniper’s bullet. The GS&WR staff
records tell of a Capt. A E Warmington, office assistant at Maryborough since
1913, who had “enlisted during the
emergency” (sic) and was “Killed
during the Sinn Fein rebellion April 1916".
The railway press did, however, outline the
extent of the damage and destruction caused to property and compensation
out of the recent Sinn Fein rebellion in Ireland and the huge destruction of
property, which is estimated at between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, the
Government has appointed Sir William Goulding, Bart., DL, to be chairman of the
Tribunal which will deal with claims.’ Having briefly outlined his career,
the RN went on to say: ‘Very few men are
better fitted for the position...owing to his long practical experience, and the
success of the great enterprise of which he is head.’ (RN, 17 June 1916).
But claimants were faced with a legal
conundrum as the Irish Law Times for
13 May pointed out. ‘All damage done by
the rebels in the recent revolt is clearly an indictable malicious injury on
which a claim can be founded. But where the damage has been done by the troops
who put down the revolt, then no offence is committed, and, presumably, no
compensation is payable’.
The GS&WR claimed £3,000 arising out
of ‘damages for injury to the company’s line of rails between Abbeyleix
and Maryborough on the morning of April 24’ where a locomotive and
carriage were damaged. However the Chief Secretary for Ireland was ‘unable to hold out much hope that compensation can be provided from
public funds’. (RG, 2 June 1916). Claims for loss of revenue during the
Rising were made by the railways against the Government and the railway press
recorded how these dragged on through 1917 and 1918, bedevilled by
Other pertinent matters occupied the pages
of the railway press in the latter half of 1916. The Whit bank holiday was
postponed until 8 August in Ireland and England due to the exigencies of the
war. (RN, 10 June). In August, the Irish Trades Unions held their annual
congress in Sligo. But ‘The decision to
hold the Congress was received with some dubiety because of doubts as to whether
the atmosphere of calm reason – in so far as such can ever be attained in
Ireland – could be expected in view of the catastrophe of the recent
insurrection.’(RC, October 1916). Notwithstanding that some intending
delegates had been killed and others were in prison because of the rebellion,
topical resolutions on railway nationalisation, the war bonus grievance, and the
dismissals on the D&SER were passed (ibid). The July issue had advocated
that ‘The Government should no longer withhold from the railway workers of
Ireland a war allowance which is given to all cross-channel railway employees
whose annual income does not exceed £200.’
In its December issue, this same
publication told us about the low wages of lady railway clerks stating that ‘...(she)
cannot embellish herself on 10/- or 12/- per week ...and forced to live on a wage far less than it takes to support an
inmate in a workhouse’.
After the Rising, the time difference
between Britain and Ireland was considered inconvenient for telegraphic
communication, and the Time (Ireland) Act, 1916 provided that Irish time would
be the same as British time, from 2.00am Dublin Mean Time on Sunday 1 October,
1916. The RM for October stated: ‘...the
clocks in the Emerald Isle will on Sunday, October 1st be put forward 35 minutes
so that Irish time and Greenwich Time will be the same. It is estimated that the
change has necessitated 2,000 alterations in the October railway time-tables.’
Some 215 alterations are recorded against the GS&WR Working Timetable for
October 1916 alone. The Irish Times of
30 September foresaw ‘a small increase
in revenue to the railway companies...it is a fact that trains from the
provinces which used to reach Dublin in comfortable time for dinner will now run
at an hour which means a virtual compulsion to dine on the train’.
On 3 December, the RN reported on the
Government prohibition of excursion traffic in Ireland. The GAA had sent a
deputation to Westminster in connection with special trains for the All Ireland
Football Final to be held on 17 December, but the answer was unfavourable. When
the match took place, the pitch was frozen over, Wexford beat Mayo, and the poor
attendance (3,000) was put down to the lack of excursion trains following the
GS&WR staff threatened to strike over
war bonuses and the impending Government control from January 1917. On 14 December,
a deputation of engine drivers met with Sir William Goulding and other officers
at Kingsbridge. Goulding told the men: ‘I
cannot believe that you as Irishmen are really in earnest in your notice that
you would cause a strike at the present moment, when by doing so, you might
inflict injury on your fellow countrymen at the front fighting for the existence
of the nation by partially holding up of the military and munitions traffic, and
also causing very severe loss to the traders throughout Ireland’ (RN, 23
Some readers may find this quite an
extraordinary statement and exhortation. Were not the volunteers of 1916 also
“fighting for the existence of the nation”? Goulding’s concept of
the ‘nation’ apparently differed
from that of the volunteers which included some of his own staff. An internal
GS&WR memo of 9 May gives the names of three including John (Seán) Heuston
, who absented themselves from duty and joined the volunteers. Others were
arrested, suspended or dismissed as the RC for July noted:- ‘At
the early stages of the outbreak...railway companies acted hastily in suspending
men who held strong views on Irish Politics before the war, but had nothing
whatsoever to do with the rising...it is not surprising that men engaged in
transit should fall into the hands of the military who were making wholesale
arrests on suspicion’. And again ‘It
is a great hardship on railway clerks...to be dismissed because they believe
that Ireland should have her liberty and independence’. From an internal
GS&WR memo, some six month after the Rising, we learn of 29 workers from
Inchicore works who had been imprisoned and had requested reinstatement.
It was to be almost forty years before Seán
Heuston’s part in the Rising was recalled by the railway press. In 1953, on
the occasion of a staff commemoration at the Heuston monument (erected 1943) in
the Peoples’ Gardens, Phoenix Park, the CIÉ in-house magazine outlined his
input through the medium of the Irish language and indicated that railway
workers fought on both sides in the Rising:-
stríoc Seán an foirgneamh* don Lieut. Wilson, fear a bhí ina chomhchléireach
leis í Staisiún Droichead an Rí agus a bhí anois mar oifigeach in arm Rí
(The Link, 8 May 1953)
(Seán surrendered the building
to Lieut. Wilson, a former fellow-clerical officer in Kingsbridge, who was now
an officer in the British army...)
THE REBELLION AND WAR
Among the issues immediately facing the
railways after the Rising, apart from the restoration of services and repair of
damage, was the payment of wages for periods of enforced absence, and the
re-instatement of those who had joined the volunteers. Initially the GS&WR
ordered, but later relented, that “no
wages be paid to men who were not at work during any period of the insurrection”.
But they declined to re-employ three firemen, ‘their
places having been filled up’. The MGWR directors resolved that those who
desired re-employment give a satisfactory explanation for their absence plus a
statement from the military authorities. The D&SER paid its drivers, firemen
and cleaners half-pay during stoppage. The RC contended that ‘the
recent rebellion added to the work and worries of staff. During Easter Week
Station Masters had to remain on duty at night as well as day...recognition
ought to take some tangible form, and the companies...(should) relieve the
burdens which press so heavily on their servants at the present time.’
(RC, July 1916).
Bonuses were paid to railway staff for
exceptional efforts during the Rising. One or two pounds were typical payments.
The GNR(I) had to replace some 4,000 yards of staff uniform cloth held by the
Dublin Clothing Company and destroyed when its premises at Usher’s Quay burned
down during the Rising.
One knock-on effect of the Rising was
signalled by the LM for August 1916 when publishing a photograph and description
of the first of the 400 class locomotives built at Inchicore. Describing it as:
‘an express engine of dimensions greatly exceeding those of any yet
placed on an Irish railway...the design of Mr. EA Watson...’ – it went
on to say ‘...it had been arranged to
complete this engine much earlier. The construction...was...delayed owing to the
partial dislocation of the shops due to munitions work, the difficulty in
getting materials across the Irish Channel, and finally by the deplorable
rebellion, which interrupted all work in Dublin for several weeks’.
With 1916 and the war behind them, public
opinion began to change, and Ireland and its railways faced an uncertain future.
There followed the War of Independence, the Black and Tans, the Irish Free
State, and its ensuing Civil War, all accompanied by damage to railway property.
Some of what was in store was outlined by the RG on March 18 1918. Under “Threat to destroy Irish railway bridges” we read: ‘Major
Newman asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether he was aware that a party
of 28 men were recently discovered at a house in Dublin receiving instruction on
the method of blowing up railway bridges...and that in defence it was stated
that as soldiers of the Irish Republic the accused were entitled to train
themselves in the use of arms, and that they intended to throw the invader out
of their country’.
Reflecting on the Irish situation at the
end of 1920 the Railway Service Journal
(formerly The Railway Clerk) had this
to say under “Irish National Situation”:
‘Unless the present Irish political
situation changes for the better, it is feared that the coming Christmas will be
a sad one...we sincerely hope that the coming season of peace and goodwill will
inspire the parties to the present terrible conflict with a spirit of
reasonableness and conciliation, which will eventually result in a satisfactory
settlement of this thorny question on a basis acceptable to both democracies’.
For some of those party to one of the alluded-to democracies, the result was to
be civil war!
The railway periodicals examined were
edited and published in England and could be expected to be pro-establishment
and the British status quo in Ireland. So unencumbered to a great extent by
Irish politics, Home Rule and freedom aspirations, they could afford to be
economical about events of the Rising. Railway management was war supportive and
the periodicals reflected this while being more concerned about the effects of
the Rising on the railway stock markets. With much rhetoric, trade union
publications championed the workers’ cause and outlined the consequences of
the Rising for Irish railway workers.
In terms of quantity, the railway press
coverage of the Rising was small by comparison with its other news. The RM gave
five column inches “Railways and the
Irish Rebellion” on p445 of its July issue. ‘Irish
Mails and the rebellion’ occupied five inches in the RN of 29 April
followed by four on ‘The Irish Rebellion
and Railway Property’ on 6 May. RG gave just 2.5 inches - “Rebel
attacks on Irish railways” on 5 May plus four on the Enniscorthy armoured
train. The Locomotive Magazine gave
4.5 inches to “Armoured Cars in the
Irish Rebellion” in April 1917.
figure of Sir William Goulding, chairman of the GS&WR, champion and upholder
of the establishment and status quo, stands out in the railway press coverage
for 1916. He is complimented and indeed compliments himself on his company’s
war effort and its co-operation with the authorities in the rebellion. He is
appointed chairman of the compensation tribunal. He exhorts the striking train
drivers and he is praised for “the
success of the great enterprise of which he is head”.
mentioned, the executed volunteer leader Seán Heuston, clerk in the GS&WR
Traffic Manager’s office, is accorded no mention in the contemporary railway
press. But both he and Goulding are remembered to this day by the Irish
railways. The latter’s portrait, by war artist Sir William Orpen, hangs in the
CIÉ boardroom, while in 1966 Kingsbridge was renamed Heuston station. (See:
Journal 40, June 1966 p298).
It will be observed that in common with
contemporary publications, the railway press, when printing the nomenclature
“Sinn Féin” or “Sinn Féiners”, (in translation “we ourselves”/
“ourselves alone”) invariably omitted the síne fada (long accent) on the
‘e’ of “Féin”. Although the Rising came during a Gaelic cultural
revival, it seems that neither editors nor correspondents nor typesetters had
any knowledge of or interest in the Irish language.
Were it not for the railways, the 1916
Rising might well have been prolonged, albeit with more casualties, disruption
of services, and destruction of property. British troops would certainly have
arrived in Dublin, even if they had had to march from the Curragh or Belfast.
For the time being at least, both the Rising and the aspirations of its leaders
had gone the way of previous rebellions in Irish history, when there were no
railways to look to. And it may be surmised that the railway press in 1916
published what it wanted its readers to read and think. It is unlikely that many
Sinn Féiners were among its readership.
(additional to those cited in the text):
Balfour, G, The
Armoured Train, London, 1981
Barry, Michael B: Courage
Boys, We are Winning, an Illustrated History of the 1916 Rising, Dublin,
Dublin Newspapers, 1916.
Ferguson, Stephen, GPO
Staff in 1916, Cork, 2012.
Gibney and Collins, Sean
Heuston 16 lives, Dublin, 2013
Manager’s File No. 2659
Irish Times, Sinn
Féin Rebellion Handbook, Dublin, 1917
Ó Broin, Inchicore
Kilmainham and District, Dublin, 1999.
Rigney, Peter: The
Great Southern and Western Railway and the 1916 rising, Irish Railway News
workers fought and died on both sides during the Rising, Liberty, Vol. 15.
No. 2, March 2016.
Times History and Encyclopaedia of the War: Vol. 8, Part 102,
Railway Board and Committee Minutes, 1916.
on a lecture given to the society by the writer in December 2015. Research
assistance was provided by Greg Ryan, Oliver Doyle, Tom Wall, Richard McLaughlin
and Tom Moriarty)
Founded as the “Stephenson Society” in 1909, the SLS took its present
name in 1911.
 The Mendicity Institution in Usher’s Island which was under his command during the Rising
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