Railway Workers

Where and When?


Railway Workers

Where and when might this photo have been taken?

A group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?

  Kenneth Williamson, Silverknowes, Edinburgh                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Photographer not known




Kenneth Williamson

Silverknowes, Edinburgh

Thank you to Kenneth Williamson who wrote:

Group Photo

"Here is a picture that belonged to Jimmy Gordon.  The inscription on the back of the picture frame has long gone."

A group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?

"Can anybody shed any light on this picture?  I don't know whether it is railway or not."

Kenneth Williamson, Silverknowes, Edinburgh:  October 8, 2013




Peter Stubbs


Group Photo

   A group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?

This photo, sent to me by Kenneth Williamson, belonged to Kenneth's relative Jimmy Gordon.  Jimmy was born in 1899.  He worked for the North British Railway, retiring as Yard Foreman at Leith Central Station in 1965.  He died in 1986.

Here are a couple of enlargements of detail from this photo

            Detail 1                                                                     Detail 2                   

Detail from a photograph of a group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?             Detail from a photograph of a group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?

Comment 1

Three of the men in the photo have a short identifications of some sort (numbering/lettering?) on thier collars.  All three have similar buttons on their jackets, and two of them are wearing wide belts over their shoulders.  What type of workers are these?.  I've tried enlarging the collars of all of them but have not been able to read the numbering/lettering.  The best result I can get is 'Detail 1' above.

Comment 2

Two of the men have the wording 'Ticket Collector' on thier collars.  Both have similar jackets, fastened at the top then open.  One of them is shown in Detail 2 above.  So, at least we know that the group appears to be a group of railway workers.

Comment 3

I've enlarged other parts of this photo to try to see what badge or medal two of the men are wearing on their ties, and what the lettering is on the collar of the first bearded man on the front row, but I've not been able to bring up sufficient detail.  The second bearded man on the front row also looks interesting, dressed in a different uniform from any of the others.

Your Comments Please

If you can suggest when and where this photo might have been taken, or if you have any other comments about the uniforms or the men in this photo,  please email me.

             Thank you.

Peter Stubbs,  Edinburgh:  October 8, 2013




Andy Arthur

Meadowbank, Edinburgh

Thank you to Andy Arthur who wrote with a few helpful observations about this photo.

Andy wrote:


Eleven Railway Workers

   A group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?

"I have a few thoughts about this photo:

Three Guards

"The 1st, 2nd and 5th men in the back row are dressed the same. They have double-breasted jackets, wear a watch (or whistle) and chain and have caps with a coloured band, letters stitched above this and two have leather satchels. I believe these are guards, the satchels would carry their signal flags, timetables, etc. All guards would require a watch or whistle handy, and If you squint at the caps you could imagine that the letter reads "Guard", it's generally the right shape of that word anyway.  The man on the far right has his jacket buttoned in a different style.  Maybe he's the most senior.

As to their collars, all three have the same design with letters. Bearing in mind this is likely to be either a North British Railway (NBR) or Caledonian Railway (CR) group, I believe it's the latter.  

I've found a picture of a CR Guard's collar on this page of  the Glasgow Story web site.  It's actually a female uniform  -  the first female guard on the CR and dates from 1915 (a wartime employee).  What is clear though is her collar letters say "CR" and then there's another symbol. It might be a number, a crest or 'Co.', something like that.

I think you'll agree it matches the collars on the three guards in the photo at the top of this page, very closely. The only legible images of possibly contemporary North British uniforms I could find have 'NBR' embroidered on the collar in an italic script and in a colour not too dissimilar to the coat; not clearly visible metal letters."

A Victorian Photo

"Judging by the beards and uniform styles I think this is a Victorian image, 1880s or 1890s?  The facial hair might tell something else too.  The 3 'guards' all have moustaches, 1 has a close-cropped beard.

The most senior employee?

The man centre-back has mutton chops.  I would imagine from his position centre back, facial hair, smarter jacket (silk-covered, not metal buttons) and silk tie with wing-tip colour that he may be the most senior. He also appears to have more of a peak to his cap (or has it stiffened and pulled down in a smarter style)."

Ticket Collectors

"The two ticket collectors both have a narrow band on their cap and bandsman-style jackets. The man to his front left (without beard) has a similar shirt and collar.

Railway Police?

On the front row, the man 3rd in (who looks spookily like Inspector Clouseau in one of his bad disguises) and the man 5th in (with the bushy beard) wear different styles of uniform.  Man 3 has some words on his collar, man 5 has a single-breasted, long policeman's style jacket. Bearing in mind that the railways of these times had their own police forces, it's not too much a leap of faith to imagine he could be a constable?

Footplate Staff or Signal Box Staff?

Man 1, Man 4 and Man 6 appear to be in the same style of uniform, shirt and tie with an unmarked jacket. They appear to have collar and tie, and a narrow band on the cap. It's possible that these 3 men in plainer uniforms are footplate staff, cleaned up in their Sunday best? Or perhaps signal box staff, who wouldn't be seen by passengers and therefore didn't need such fancy uniforms.

I've probably offered more 'what ifs' than answers, but what I think you have is a selection of Caledonian Railway staff, of different ranks and functions, perhaps from a station but also including some crew from a train."

Andy Arthur, Meadowbank, Edinburgh:  April 8, 2014




Iain Chalmers

Grimsby, Lincolnshire

Thank you to Iain Chalmers who wrote:


North America?

      A group of Railway Workers  -  Where and when might this photo have been taken?

"I think this photo has been discussed recently on the

                                RM Web (Railway Modellers) Forum

 and on the

                                CRASSOC (Caledonian Railway Association) Forum

and that the balance of opinion was that the style (both the dress codes and the beards) suggests that the photo would not have been taken in the UK  -  but possibly somewhere in North America."

Iain Chalmers, Grimsby, Lincolnshire:  June 10 + 36, 2015




Leith - Old Pictures