Printout of a story from The Last Main Line:

All Shipshape and Leicester Fashion!

Unlike the modern railway station where one person carries out a wide range of duties, Leicester Central station in the early 1900's was a hive of activity and employment. The jobs available on the station ranged from kitchen staff, carriage washers, porters, booking clerks and obviously, the stationmaster himself. It is therefore fortunate that S. W. A. Newton managed not only to photograph a number of the staff at work, but also to get many of their names as well. Some of these men could even be your relatives, and if so, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please see the 'About this Site' link for details or use the 'Send Feedback' link.

The Great Central Railway prided itself on its appearance and levels of comfort. Locomotives were always immaculately turned out, the stations were spotless and the station staff were always smart and well presented. The trains themselves were also always clean with gleaming windows and polished brass, yet the passengers never really saw the men who kept their trains clean and their locomotives shining. The gentleman on the right was one of these people. He was a carriage cleaner and would regularly go through trains of empty stock - wiping windows, emptying ashtrays, sweeping the floor and generally making sure the compartments were presentable. One only has to look at the leather padding on the door to see why the Great Central had such a good reputation for passenger comfort.

Another feature of train travel that the passengers often took for granted was the provision of lighting in the carriages. In the days before electric lights, internal carriage lighting came in the form of paraffin lamps fitted into the roofs of the vehicles. These lamps would need to have their wicks primed regularly and have their paraffin supply refilled, and this was done by the station's lampman. Lampmen were once a common sight at stations where, as well as dealing with carriage lamps, they would also have had the responsibility of caring for the locomotive headlamps and tail-lamps and the lighting on the station itself. This duty even extended to the maintenance of signal lamps at certain stations.

Seven railwaymen at the Great Central Station, Leicester, circa 1900. These porters and clerks were probably amongst the first staff to work at the Station, the Railway having opened just a year or two before.

Seven railwaymen at the Great Central Station, Leicester, circa 1900. These porters and clerks were probably amongst the first staff to work at the Station, the Railway having opened just a year or two before.

Carriage washer standing by a passenger carriage at Leicester Central, circa 1900. From the photograph, it is easy to see why Great Central carriages had a reputation for being well-furnished and comfortable. Note the 'GCR' badges on the man's lapels.

Carriage washer standing by a passenger carriage at Leicester Central, circa 1900. From the photograph, it is easy to see why Great Central carriages had a reputation for being well-furnished and comfortable. Note the 'GCR' badges on the man's lapels.

Lampman working over the Guard's Compartment of a carriage at Leicester Central station, circa 1900. Unlike many of the Great Central employees photographed by Newton, this railwayman's identity is sadly unknown.

Lampman working over the Guard's Compartment of a carriage at Leicester Central station, circa 1900. Unlike many of the Great Central employees photographed by Newton, this railwayman's identity is sadly unknown.