Clyde Workforce 1883-1945
Clyde workers vote to donate to the HMAS Sydney fund
This is the story of working life within the engineering companies of the Hudson Brothers and its successor the Clyde Engineering Incorporated Pty Ltd between 1883 and 1945. In the late nineteenth Century, Hudson Brothers was the biggest domestic manufacturer of rolling stock in New South Wales and employed more than 1, 000 men; 7.9 % of the total employment in manufacturing at the time. The firm also had a big impact on the local community. When they opened their new factory in Granville in 1883 the population rose from around 372 to 1,500 by 1885, where it had been 372 in 1881. Of the 650 workers in the Hudson Brothers factory there were many Scottish workers from the industrial town of Glasgow were an essential ingredient in the success if the Engineering works making up a large proportional of the early workers at the Clyde works.
The Australians who worked in the Granville factory produced everything from agricultural tools and aeroplanes to trains and mining equipment. In addition Clyde played an essential role during the Second World War manufacturing arms and transport equipment to help New south Wales become more self sufficient.
While most of the workforce was initially housed in the huge factory complex in Granville they also had land at Redfern, Pyrmont, Bathurst and Myall Lakes. In the 1880's Hudson Brothers made timber fumes to finish the redirecting of rivers of the Upper Nepean Scheme.
The 1890's Depression forced the Hudson Brothers into liquidation but it was reborn in 1898 under a new name, Clyde Engineering. This new company was run by a new board that included: Walter Mapelson Noakes, Thomas Irons, William Rigg, Joseph Edmund Vance, John Woods and James Angus.
Trams, trains, Pullman Coaches, hearses, prison vans, powder vans and water tanks were all produced at the Granville works. The Hudson Brothers made 1460 goods wagons between 1884 and 1887. Orders for new carriages dried up in 1895 when it was felt that the electric powered rail lines across Australia were overextended.
Hudson Brothers worked on the cable tram system. In 1905, after an initial refusal the government finally gave them a contract to build trains locally, thereby saving the company.
Clyde had workshops of every kind and the yard with its numerous buildings would have felt like a small town albeit this town's focus was on the production of steel goods. In the Foundry (68.83 meters) there were three ovens where workers cast an array of metal forms including gears and plough shears. The larger casts were then moved with a twenty ton crane. The Smiths Shop (186 by158 meters), used a pump and accumulator as well as drop hammers and hydraulic presses to build locomotive cases and wagon buffers. The Machine Shop (113 by 73 meters) contained "high speed lathes, turret lathes, Millers, gear-cutters, drillers 12 ton vertical miller and a? 20 ton planto-miller. The works included room for locomotive erection and also car building shops. The 'car shop' made railway cars and produced orders for "cattle vans, composite Lavatory Cars, American Suburban cars, Oil Tank Wagons, Brake Vans and Traction Wagons"
Work in the factories may have been hard but the managers at Clyde Engineering recognised this and provided staff extracurricular facilities. These social groups were organised on site to keep employees entertained and workforce morale high. Many managers across the west at the time invested in onsite entertainments because they wanted to keep their workers away from 'pool halls, saloons and amusement parks' which would have resulted in them usually underperforming the next day.
There was a Sports Club which had a cricket and football team. The Club also managed an annual picnic. The Works boasted its own band and had a variety of clubs to join including the rifle, golf and tennis clubs. While all of this created a sense of community and comradeship among the workers. It also contained something of a hangover from the paternalistic attitudes of the early nineteenth century for the workers were regarded as symbolic children by management who engineered how their workers would spend their leisure time.
Physical fitness at the workplace as a healthy lifestyle was brought under closer consideration. In the period of 1910-1930 there was an increase in interest and discussions of what was termed the human machine, an attitude among the industrialists, industrial engineers and social scientists alike about the way a worker was the most important cog of the factory 'machine' and had to bee looked after. This was in consequence to a belief that there had been lack of efficiency during the First World War.
To deal with health and safety issues Hudson Brothers prepared their own personal horse-drawn fire cart and the ambulance were kept in the medical building. This was an initiative between the St. John Ambulance association and the directors. Funded by company money this service was still regarded as a branch of the St. John's service. Employees were welcome to volunteer for classes to receive first aid certificates to ensure each workshop had employees with knowledge of first aid. Ambulance kits were available in every building.
The concern over workers health was linked very closely with their productivity and was influenced in part by Columbia University Professor Frederick S. Lee with his 1918 book 'the human machine and industrial efficiency' in which he requested managers to 'study the individual capacity for work and sources of fatigue, ensure that the work load was reasonable and would not result in excess fatigue.'
Clyde engineering was of major benefit to the country during World War II. With the help of an initiative by the Government to train workers, set up in 1940, Clyde was able to employ 2, 200 workers. Clyde contributed in a number of other ways to the war effort, making '3.7 inch field guns, trench mortars, mine-sweepers and torpedo casings.' Australia also needed to be able to build its own planes and by 1939 Clyde had begun to take on this role. This was to prove vital when in 1940 Australia had to be self sufficient in plane production. The Clyde Engineering company had, by 1942, opened offices in each of the Australian mainland state capitals, demonstrating in full the company's realisation that workshop Australia was of national dimensions.
Other objects in the Museum's collections related to Clyde Engineering include two horse works, two engine-plates with the Clyde engineering logo, an omnibus and a tram car. There are even some concept sketches for the millennium train.
J. Graham, internship project, curatorial, 2009
Biggs, Lindy, The Rational Factory, Architecture, Technology and Work in America's Age of Mass Production, Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1996.
Ferguson, Laurie, The Granville Guardian, September 2006, vol. 13, Issue 9.
Ferguson, Laurie, The Granville Guardian, January 2005, vol. 12, Issue 1.
Gunn, John, Along Parallel Lines A History of the Railways of New South Wales, Melbourne: University of Melbourne Press, 1989.
Lee Robert, The Greatest Public Work, The New South Wales Railways, 1948 to 1889 (NSW: Hale & Iremonger.
Murray, James Phoenix to the World, the story of Clyde Industries and Sir Raymond Purves, CBE, Sydney: Playwright Publishing, 1992.
Pike, Douglas, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, 1851-1890, D-J, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1972.
Singer, Charles; Holmyard, E.J.; Hall, A.R. and Williams, Trevor I. (ed) A History of Technology, Volume V, The Late Nineteenth Century c 1850-1900, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958.
Australian Pioneer Technology , Victoria: Heinemann, 1979.
Who's Who in Australia, 1947, Sydney: Herald Press, 1947.
Eureka, vol. 1. US:Gale Research, 1995.
The Railways of New South Wales, 1855-1955, Sydney: The Western Company Pty. Ltd, 1984.
Map of Clyde Engineering, unferenced Blue File document produced by Clyde Engineering.
http//www.home.railscene.com.zanatta/clyde.1htm (site visited 10:15 am, 25/5/09).
http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Details/Series_Detail.asp?Id=15676 - Government Archive Record of planned production levels and targets for railway workshops.
http//www.home.railscene.com/zanatta/clyde/clyde.1htm (site visited 10:15 am, 25/5/09).
88 / 289 PHM - Emu Catalogue Module - Object Documentation Report p. 1-4.
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