Saturday, December 22, 2012

Railways and the workers who run them


By Andy Brooks

Unity is Strength; The National Union of Railwaymen: 100 years of industrial unionism: Alex Gordon, Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers Union 2012, illus, pbk, 72 pp,  £3.00 (free to RMT members)

THOUGH most children prefer computer games to trainsets these days, interest in railways still has a place in the British psyche as a casual glance around any high street bookshop will show. Magazines and books devoted to real or model railways still exist to cater for the needs of model makers and train-spotters young and old. Reams are written about the “age of steam” and the train routes that span the country. Sadly, few if any, ever bother to tell the story of the men and women who actually ran them.
 This new publication from the biggest transport union in the country helps redress the balance. It has been written by RMT president, Alex Gordon, as part of the union’s celebration of the centenary of the founding of the National Union of Railwaymen in February 1913, which is the core component of the Rail, Maritime and Transport  Workers union of today.
 This is a potted history that can only skate over the struggles that the railway workers have faced over the past 100 years and it is essentially a tribute to the generations that forged and built the first industrial union in the country.
 It starts with the struggle for unity that led to the amalgamation in 1913 and ends with the nationalisation of the railways by the post-war Labour government. Profusely illustrated it would make an excellent present for anyone interested in the railways and it only costs £3.00 post free from the RMT webshop at: or from freephone 0800 376 3706 (have your debit or credit card ready).