Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants

The Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants (ASRS) was a trade union of railway workers in the United Kingdom from 1872 until 1913.

Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants
Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants emblem.jpg
MottoWorkers of the world, unite!
Date dissolved1913
Merged intoNational Union of Railwaymen
Members97,561 (1907)[1]
JournalRailway Review
AffiliationTUC, Labour
Office location72 Acton Street, London
CountryUnited Kingdom


The ASRS was an industrial union founded in 1871 with the support of the Liberal MP Michael Thomas Bass.[2] Its early years were difficult. In 1872 the ASRS reported having 17,247 members but by 1882 this had declined to only 6,321.[3]

In 1880 the ASRS's growth was challenged by the foundation of two railway craft unions: the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen and the United Pointsmen and Signalmen's Society.[3] A fourth union, the General Railway Workers' Union, was founded in 1889.[3]

In 1900 the ASRS proposed amalgamation with ASLEF[4] but ASLEF proposed federation with the drivers and firemen of the ASRS.[5] A Scheme of Federation was drafted and ASLEF's triennial conference adopted it in 1903.[4] There were joint meetings of the Executive Committees of the two unions until 1906 when relations broke down.[6]

In 1907 the Board of Trade set up a Conciliation Board between railway employees and their employers, but its operation dissatisfied many workers and ASLEF's General Secretary nicknamed it the "Confiscation" Board.[7] By this point, the ASRS had grown significantly, with 97,561 members in 1907, making it one of the country's largest trade unions.[1]

In August 1911 the ASRS, ASLEF, GRWU and UPSS jointly called the United Kingdom's first national rail strike.[8] In only two days the joint action succeeded in forcing the Liberal Government to set up a Royal Commission to examine the workings of the Conciliation Board.[9]

In 1913 the ASRS, GRWU and UPSS merged, forming the National Union of Railwaymen.[10]

Election resultsEdit

The ASRS affiliated to the Labour Representation Committee when it was founded, in 1900, and sponsored candidates for the party and its successor, the Labour Party at each subsequent election. Several candidates were elected, including many in Derby, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Stockport, who won one of the two seats available in each of those constituencies.

Election Constituency Candidate Votes % share Position
1900 general election Derby Richard Bell 7,640 25.7 2[11]
Birmingham East James Holmes 5,343 47.4 2[11]
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Walter Hudson 18,869 31.1 1[11]
Stockport George Wardle 7,299 32.4 1[11]
1907 by-election Kingston upon Hull West James Holmes 4,512 29.1 3
1910 Jan general election Derby James Henry Thomas 10,189 27.9 2[12]
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Walter Hudson 18,241 28.1 2[12]
Stockport George James Wardle 6,682 28.0 1[12]
1910 Dec general election Derby James Henry Thomas 9,144 34.1 2[12]
Newcastle-upon-Tyne Walter Hudson 16,447 28.0 2[12]
Stockport George James Wardle 6,094 26.9 2[12]
1912 by-election Crewe James Holmes 2,485 17.7 3


General SecretariesEdit

1871: George Chapman
1874: Fred W. Evans
1883: Edward Harford
1897: Richard Bell
1909: J. E. Williams

Assistant SecretariesEdit

1883: Thomas Watson
1889: Edward Garrity
1902: J. E. Williams
1910: J. H. Thomas


1872: J. Baxter Langley
1874: John David Jenkins
1877: Peter Stewart Macliver
1892: Walter Hudson
1899: George Thaxton
1902: W. G. Loraine
1905: James Henry Thomas
1907: James Reed Bell
1910: Edward Charles
1911: Albert Bellamy


  1. ^ a b Report on Trade Unions in 1905-1907. London: Board of Trade. 1909. p. 82-101.
  2. ^ Raynes, 1921, pages 23–24
  3. ^ a b c Raynes, 1921, page 24
  4. ^ a b Raynes, 1921, page 124
  5. ^ Raynes, 1921, page 110
  6. ^ Raynes, 1921, page 125
  7. ^ Raynes, 1921, pages 147–148
  8. ^ Raynes, 1921, page 148
  9. ^ Raynes, 1921, page 151
  10. ^ Raynes, 1921, page 165
  11. ^ a b c d Frank Bealey and Henry Pelling, Labour and Politics, 1900-1906, p.289–292
  12. ^ a b c d e f David Howell, Respectable Radicals: Studies in the Politics of Railway Trade Unionism, p.195

Sources and further readingEdit

External linksEdit

See alsoEdit