Surfacemen on the Waverley line

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dmacniven
NER Y7 0-4-0T
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:02 pm

Surfacemen on the Waverley line

Post by dmacniven » Sun Nov 30, 2014 12:21 am

Several members of my family were surfacemen (railway labourers) at Fountainhall on the Waverley line in its early days. This is their story, which may be interesting even for folk who aren't related! And I'd be very glad to hear from anyone who has extra information (especially Bill Jamieson from Stow, one station to the south, who has posted here on local questions).

The North British Railway's “Waverley line” from Edinburgh to Hawick (and later to Carlisle) reached Fountainhall Station in August 1848. John Paterson, who had been a surfaceman on the roads, had by the time of the 1851 Census (when he was 49) turned to work on the railway. He was still working there ten years later - and had been joined by his step-son Thomas Linton (aged 37), and Thomas's brother-in-law Thomas Storrie (also 37). The three families lived in a former coaching inn on the turnpike road built in 1818 - Cortleferry Inn, just across the Gala Water from Fountainhall.

John Paterson was still a railway surfaceman when he died (of a malignant carbuncle from which he had suffered for 6 months) at Cortleferry Inn on 17 October 1865, aged 62. But at the time of the 1871 Census, there were four railway surfacemen living in the former Inn - Thomas Linton (47), his son Thomas (22) and son-in-law David Smith and John Paterson's son-in-law William Halliday (32).

But nepotism had its drawbacks. Living conditions at Cortleferry Inn, and working conditions on the railway, must have been primitive. Thomas Linton elder died there of tuberculosis on 3 October 1878, aged about 54. His wife Agnes died of the same cause on 14 May 1880, aged 49. Tuberculosis, at that time called phthisis or consumption, was a widespread infectious disease closely linked to overcrowding and malnutrition - one of the principal diseases of poverty. At that time, there was no effective treatment – indeed the cause of the disease was only identified in 1882.

So the family provided surfacemen for the North British Railway at Fountainhall Station for at least 27 years, and perhaps more.

I'd be delighted to hear from anyone who has more information about life as a surfaceman at the time, or any early photographs of that part of the Waverley line or (though unlikely) of Cortleferry Inn.

Seagull
NBR D34 4-4-0 'Glen'
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Location: Between a cheap railway station and a ploughed field

Re: Surfacemen on the Waverley line

Post by Seagull » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:54 am

Maybe you know about this already, I found this on the Scotlands Places website:- Cortleferry

Alan
Playing trains, but trying to get serious

dmacniven
NER Y7 0-4-0T
Posts: 2
Joined: Fri Nov 14, 2014 3:02 pm

Re: Surfacemen on the Waverley line

Post by dmacniven » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:37 pm

Very grateful for that, Alan. I HAD searched ScotlandsPlaces but hadn't found that entry, which is surely the plans for the Inn I'm talking about. I'll get the actual document next time I'm at Register House.
Thanks also to 52D for his private message. As a new boy, I seem not to be able to reply to it!

Duncan

NickyG
NER Y7 0-4-0T
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Re: Surfacemen on the Waverley line

Post by NickyG » Tue Mar 10, 2020 1:28 pm

Hi
Just came across this article whilst doing some family history research.
My 3 times great grandfather was actually the innkeeper at Cortleferry until he died in September 1950 - his name was Robert Darling. Died relatively young so assuming the same nasty illnesses of the day got him too.

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