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The Railway Connection

Our Robbins family (and related family members from the Peters, Woods, Bimson, Brownridge, Moses and Hayward families) have had a long association with the railways, with connections to Wolverton and Crewe (England), Williamstown / Newport (Australia), USA, Canada, and Africa.

The earliest known member of the family to work in the railways was
Eli Robbins, who was employed as a Foundry Labourer at Wolverton between approximately 1862 - 1866 while living in New Bradwell, Buckinghamshire, and subsequently as a Brass Finisher at Crewe Works, Cheshire between approximately 1867 - 1887.

Crewe Works
Our Robbins family came to settle in Crewe following the transfer of Eli and his family from the London and North Western Railway Company's old Southern Region locomotive works at Wolverton around 1866-67. Many other workers and their families also transferred from Wolverton to Crewe during this period. Wolverton became the Company's main carriage and wagon works, while Crewe grew to become one of "the most advanced railway and locomotive workshops in the world" (Drummond, 1995).

From railway records obtained from the Public Record Office, we know that all of Eli's sons also worked at Crewe Works during this period, including:
* William Robbins (approx. 1867 - 1873, and 1874 - 1879)
* Eli Robbins (1873 - date unknown)
* Joseph Christopher Robbins (1870 -1872)
* Walter Isaac Robbins (1872 - 1881)
* George Frederick Robbins (1879 - 1888)

Apart from William, who was employed as a riveter and boilermaker, all other members of the family worked as fitters in the locomotive department, with Joseph, Walter Isaac and George Frederick beginning work as an apprentice (aged 14). Joseph later died of an accident at age 16 (details of which are unknown).

At one stage (believed to be around 1873), William Robbins went to the United States and worked in the Central Pacific Railway at Sacramento. However, the conditions not being suitable, he returned to England and started work as a boilermaker at Crewe Works. During this period, William held the office of auditor of the Society of Boilermakers and Shipbuilders and was also elected President. He remained in Crewe until mid 1879, before migrating to Melbourne, Australia. Upon his departure from the Crewe Branch, he was awarded the English Emblem, and later went on to establish the Boilermaker's Society in Melbourne and become President of the Society.

Other related family members known to have worked at Crewe Works include:
* John Peters (father of Emily Peters, who married Walter Isaac Robbins)
* William Henry Robbins (son of Eli Robbins and Elizabeth Flanders)
* William Woods (husband of Leah Annie Robbins)
* Frank Caucutt Woods (son of William Woods and Leah Annie Robbins)
* Alfred Bimson (husband of Emily Annie Woods)
* Thomas Lee Brownridge (husband of Lucy Mary Woods)
* William Henry Hayward (son of Thomas Hayward and Elizabeth Robbins)
* George Henry Moses (husband of Sarah Elizabeth Hayward)

Williamstown / Newport
After arriving in Australia, William Robbins worked first at the Tyne Foundry, before commencing work as a boilermaker in the Government Railway Yards at Williamstown in January 1881. Walter Isaac Robbins later joined his brother, commencing work at Williamstown in February 1882. Both continued to work in their original trades, with William becoming a Leading Hand Boilermaker and Walter Isaac becoming a Leading Hand Fitter.

Younger brother George Frederick Robbins, who came out to Australia in 1888, died in a tragic accident in November 1888 while working at Seymour Railway Station. His death was the subject of a
Magisterial Inquiry. William's sons (Walter Robbins, George Frederick Robbins, and Albert Ernest Robbins) also followed their father, working at Newport Railway Yards, as did Percy Harold Box (the husband of Walter Isaac's daughter Edith Elsie).

Other Railway Connections
Other family railway connections include Walter Clifford (Cliff) Woods, who worked with the London Midland and Scottish Railway, and was an engineer on the "Royal Scot", that toured Canada and the USA in 1933. Cliff's brother, Wilfred George Woods is known to have worked in Trinidad (West Indies), Tanganyika (Tanzania), and Sierra Leone, were he was the manager of the railways.

Railway history and References

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Last update: 5th April 2000