Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Natal Arrival of Railway Workers 1885

These lists show contingents of platelayers "engaged by the Crown Agents for service on Natal Government Railways" and brought out, most with their families, in 1885 on various vessels. The date shown is that of arrival at Natal and where not otherwise stated all were accompanied by wives and in some cases, children.

Railway extension was considered a matter of life and death to the commercial interests of Natal at this time. The line to Pietermaritzburg had been officially opened on 1 December 1880 - the Inchanga Viaduct being completed in July of that year. Construction commenced on the section beyond Pietermaritzburg in 1883, Howick being reached in 1884, then Estcourt 1885, Ladysmith 1886 and Charlestown (the Transvaal border) opened 7 April 1891. The railway would play a vital part in the Anglo-Boer War towards the end of the decade.

For more details, see The Birth & Development of the Natal Railways by E D Campbell, Shuter & Shooter PMB 1951). The Colony of Natal: An Official Illustrated Handbook & Railway Guide by J Forsyth Ingram (Sir Joseph Causton & Sons London 1895) has a good map of the Natal railway system at that date including details of agricultural production in each area. 

Some of the passengers' names shown here appear in the Natal Civil Service Lists, giving clues as to their later careers. Many worked as platelayers.

A platelayer fastens or repairs fastenings on railway lines. The term derives from the rectangular metal plates that bolt or rivet the ends of the lines to each other so joining the expansion gap that causes the familiar clickety-click as the train wheels go over them. The plate is known as a fish-plate.

SS NORHAM CASTLE 12 February 1885
Hollister Robert
Forster George
Hawkwood H
Hazell H
Pearce J
(Sailed 22 souls, Landed 22, 14 adults)
MEXICAN 25 February 1885
Massey W
Sellors S
Palmer T
Rich A
(Embarked 10 souls, Landed 10, 7 1/16 adults)
TROJAN 13 March 1885
Huggins J H & wife
Brusby (?) M single
Ridley W
Double (sic - perhaps Doubell) J
(Embarked 12 souls, Landed 12 souls, 7 11/16 adults)
SPARTAN 24 May 1885
Lake H C
Coxhill G
(Embarked 9 souls, Arrived 9 souls, 4 12/16 adults)
ATHENIAN 10 April 1885
Coppin J
(Sailed 3 souls Landed 3, 2 9/16 adults)

[Note: more subsequently arrived on the Roslin Castle]


Unknown said...

Hi, I know this comment is a few years late....but, My gggfather is listed as arriving in 1885 on the "Trojan", William Ridley with wife and 2 children. I would like to extend my research on him and wonder if you can help me as to where this research information came from?
PMB archives under NGR?


Mole said...

These lists are from original passenger registers held in Pietermaritzburg Archives. e.g. the Norham Castle list source is EI (European Immigration)Vol 14 LIB 73 1885. Names of wives and children are given where applicable. You'd need to track down the Trojan list in the EI registers probably starting with the same register. From a letter in the same source: 'The experiences of the men and their families were such as to make them say on arrival that if they had known the hardships they would encounter they would never have consented to come third class ...'(by David Hunter General Manager NGR). Thanks for your comment.