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Taking a Look Back


This is a regular feature in 'The Friends' Newsletter, but is not included on the web site version, Nor are many of the photographs which appear in the 'hard copy' which is sent to each of our members.


Let's face it, our members are paying a subscription and deserve that bit extra!


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Bob Brown

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Stourbridge DY9 0UX


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The Railway Clearing House


In the 1936 a magazine called 'Railway Wonders of the World' published an article about the Railway Clearing House. Information from this article has formed the basis of the following.


A passenger could go to a station and purchase a ticket to practically any other station in the Country, despite having to travel on lines of more than one railway company. How was ticket revenue shared?


Also, a train of goods wagons on any line would usually have wagons owned by several railway companies. How was carriage paid for the goods in these wagons?


The answer was the work of the Railway Clearing House.


In the very early days there was no through booking for passengers, and goods would be transhipped from one company's wagons to another. Soon passengers demanded through tickets, and businesses were frustrated at the cost of transhipment, and were annoyed by the delays, damage, and loss it caused.


To address this the Railway Clearing House was established on 2nd January 1842, at Drummond Street, near Euston Station. The facility grew and moved to new premises at Seymour Street, Euston Square in 1848.


The first Secretary was Mr Kenneth Morison and nine companies participated in the business: the London and Birmingham, the Midland Counties, the Birmingham and Derby Junction, the North Midland, the Hull and Selby, the Manchester and Leeds, the Leeds and Selby, the York and Midland and the Great North of England.


By 1845 16 companies had joined the organisation with 656 route-miles of railway, but difficulties obtaining cash settlements between the RCH and the railways led to the passing of an Act of Parliament in 1850 giving the RCH rights to sue in the courts.


In 1897 the RCH was Incorporated by Act of Parliament. From the start it had a committee consisting of one delegate from each railway company involved, but at the Grouping in 1922 it the had one from each of the 'big four' companies as well as a representative for the London Passenger Transport Board, the Mersey Railway, the lines of the Joint Committees and the Irish companies.


By the 1930's 15 companies were represented with a total of 23.000 route-miles and receipts totalling over £34,000,000.


The work of the Clearing House was divided into 3 Departments - Merchandise, Coaching and Secretarial.


The Merchandise Department apportioned receipts from the carriage of goods, minerals and livestock. (Coal was once dealt with by the RCH but more recently by the originating company itself.)


In the case of merchandise numerous adjustments had to be made. Firstly there were 'terminal services' such as collection and delivery charges for the start and finish of the transhipment. The balance was divided on a mileage basis, according to the distance the load was carried by each of the companies., further complicated by special apportionment agreements, fixed tolls etc.


Passenger traffic was dealt with differently. and is divided by the Coaching Department into two categories - a 'two companies group' and a 'three companies group'. With each group ordinary (including monthly and tourist) tickets and excursion tickets were dealt with separately. With 'two companies' - the booking company gave particulars on its returns of the other company's proportion of the receipts . This proportion was credited by the RCH to the company to which it was due and added as a debit to the booking company. The booking company's returns were then sent to the other company for agreement or any necessary adjustment.


'Three companies' passenger traffic was similarly returned by the booking company but other companies' proportions were not shown. The apportionment was made by the RCH to a method agreed by the companies concerned. In this case the booking company retained the cash from ticket sales and the difference was balanced out by the RCH taking into account all the amounts of cash owed by whom to whom.


Where receipts were £3 or less per month from one station to another a 'light fund' apportioned in the ratio of four selected months prior to the month of settlement thus avoiding numerous small calculations.


The figures given by the booking companies were double checked by means of the tickets collected at the end of a journey which were sent to the RCH every month by all of the companies.


All done without a computer!.


Parcel traffic was another important aspect. Parcels had adhesive labels affixed at the forwarding station and details of each parcel and the value of the stamps attached entered into a counter book. The receipts formed a 'parcel pool' which was divided each month in proportion to receipts and number of parcels carried in the years 1928,29 and 30 taken as a datum.


As for Post Office parcels, The GPO accounted to the RCH by taking count of all the parcels from every post office in the Kingdom. For one week each quarter the Post Office prepared a detailed list of all parcels sent and whether by road or rail. The average postage per parcel and percentage sent by road or rail produced a formula by which the Post Office would pay the RCH, who then distributed the revenue to each of the railway companies. This sum was apportioned by the number of PO receptacles carried and the earnings of each company from their own parcels traffic.


And still no computers in sight.


Another function of the RCH was the 'bulk travel' arrangements. A commercial firm trading with at least £300 of freight charges could participate by depositing a sum of money with the railway company and be issued with books of vouchers to be used by their staff, such as commercial travellers (reps). These vouchers could be exchanged for tickets without making a payment.


The firms would receive monthly statements from the RCH showing remaining credit. In 1936 3000 firms were in the scheme.


Finally the 'Secretarial' department dealt with 'Mileage' of carriages running on other railways on 'through' trains. Mileage was charged on a fixed tariff. An additional 'demurrage' charge was also made if stock was not returned promptly by specified routes.


Mileage and demurrage were originally charged on wagons and wagon sheets but following the First World War a 'common user' scheme began where all wagons of up to 12 tons capacity (with certain exceptions) could be used by any company. To ensure that companies benefited equally all wagons passing from one company's system to another were recorded at exchange junctions and details forwarded to the RCH. This allowed the RCH to see who had gained extra wagons and must return them to the company which was short.


A 'journey payment' was made whenever a wagon (including those over 12 tons) passed from one company to another, but coal wagons were exempt. Payments by the RCH were made every 6 months.


At the RCH there were board and meeting rooms where conferences of general managers, goods managers, accountants, engineers, solicitors, advertising managers, chemists and any other railway officials and their representatives could hold meetings.


In one month as many as 180 meetings could take place with 1,800 people in attendance.

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