This and other cases made the newspapers because a trainunder the charge of an intoxicated individual was clearly an accident risk. Butreviewing such reports cannot give me an accurate indication of how frequently late-Victorianengine drivers were found to be drunk. To determine this hard data wasrequired.
While Victorian railway companies kept staff registerswhich listed their employees’ positions, pay and promotions, most also kept‘Black Books.’ These ominously titled volumes recorded every instance where anemployee disobeyed the rules and was punished. They recorded smalltransgressions, such as when forms were incorrectly filed, to major offences,for example criminal activity, refusing to follow orders, or drunkenness – the subjectof this post. Indeed, from the time of the earliest railways being intoxicatedwhile on duty was a serious offence, and rule 12 of the London and SouthWestern Railway’s (LSWR) 1897 rule book stated: ‘The company may at any timewithout notice dismiss or suspend from duty any servant of the company forintoxication.’
So, it was to the Black Books (available throughAncestry.com) that I turned to find out about drunkenness amongst nineteenthcentury engine drivers. Despite a reluctance to again study the LSWR, it beingthe company I have done my thesis on, a Black Book dedicated to themisdemeanours of its footplate crew (drivers and firemen) between 1889 and 1896was available on-line. This volume was the perfect choice for my research.
In total I surveyed the records of 584 LSWR firemen anddrivers in the Black Book. Between 1889 and 1896 these individuals collectivelytransgressed the rules 1,728 times. However, amongst these punishments thenumber issued for intoxication was small, with only seventeen instances beingrecorded (0.98 percent of cases). Additionally, these seventeen offences wereonly committed by fourteen individuals (2.50 percent of the sample), three ofthe men being repeat offenders.
These findings clearly suggest that for the most part theLSWR’s drivers and firemen were, while at work at least, a temperate group ofemployees. The supports the commonly held view at the time that railwayemployees stayed away from alcohol while at work. The South Western Gazette, the company’s staff magazine, reported in1885 that at the inaugural meeting of the Exeter branch of the United KingdomRailway Temperance Union, the Bishop of the city had commented that theorganisation was ‘very peculiar and very striking’ as ‘it could not be saidthat railway men as a general rule were tempted to drunkenness.’ Generally theywere ‘as a body were as temperate a body as could be found.’
As for the fourteen drivers and firemen found to be underthe influence while at work, it is probable that most never got as far as beingin control of a train. Usually the ‘Black Book’ recorded that they came ‘toduty the worse for drink’ or they were ‘under the influence of drink whilst onduty’, and only in two cases was it explicitly stated that a driver had been ‘underthe influence of drink whilst in charge of an engine’: J. Appleton of the NineElms Shed was caught in May 1896, while R. Reid., who was based at Twickenham, wasfound driving a passenger train while drunk in August 1889.
From this evidence it can therefore be tentativelysuggested that instances where drivers ‘under the influence’ actually got onto thefootplate of their locomotives, such as the one cited at the start, wereexceedingly rare on the late-Victorian railways.
 Bury andNorwich Post, 20 January 1891
 South Western Circle Collection [SWC], 1897 Rule Book, p.9
 The National Archives [TNA], RAIL 411/521, London andSouth Western Railway Company. STAFF RECORDS. Black Book - fines to drivers andfiremen, 01 January 1889 - 31 December 1896. Accessed through Ancestry.com.
 South WesternGazette, January 1885, p.6
 TNA, RAIL 411/521, London and South Western RailwayCompany. STAFF RECORDS. Black Book - fines to drivers and firemen, 01 January1889 - 31 December 1896, p.11 and p.29. Accessed through Ancestry.com.