Relentless hard work (Thomas Brassey)

Home from Russia by rail I was interested in this description of the work habits of an early British railway builder, Thomas Brassey:

“For relentless hard work and monomaniacal attention to detail, Brassey was your man. His memory and his powers of mental arithmetic were prodigious. He had no time for secretaries, and undertake all correspondence and working records himself. A bag containing letters and writing materials went everywhere with him… In waiting rooms at railway junctions, Brassey would sit writing; in hotels too, into the small hours. His friend Dr Burnett, travelling with Brassey in Italy, once retired at 9 p.m. and came down the following morning to find thirty-one letters written by the contractor and ready for the post. If a reply had taken more than one day to compose, Brassey was known to commence his letter with an apology for its slowness.” – (Simon Bradley, The Railways, 2015)

Does it sound completely different from work habits today? Plenty of people, I think, send 31 work emails after 9 in the evening.

The photo is of Lancaster railway station, in the north of England. It is on one of the lines Brassey built. I passed through there in 2015 on the way back from the Lake district.

Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

2 thoughts on “Relentless hard work (Thomas Brassey)”

    1. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote 13000 words a week in his diary (22000 in total) during the walk that became Travels with a donkey – as well as doing the walk. But as is normal with travel writing, I suppose, this was just a first draft. The final book is 44000 words long, with some verbatim passages from the diary, lots of new stuff, and without the bits where he writes about being in love (with a Californian, Fanny Osbourne).


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