Commander C H Binstead, RN 1797-1876
The Railways of the 1830s were without precedent - not only for size but cost and personnel involved. Who were the Directors of these new companies to get to manage them? On the Liverpool & Manchester, day-to-day management was vested in the redoubtable Henry Booth who as a Secretary and Treasurer, acted as General Manager. This was in addition to a Management Committee of selected Directors which took on the running of the Company.
Other companies, however, vested management in a single figure, often referred to as General Manager or Superintendent. The majority of these men were selected from half-pay officers because they represented a class of professionals who had experience of commanding and administering large numbers of men and materiel.
The most famous was Captain Mark Huish of the Grand Junction, latterly L&NWR. Born in Nottingham to a family of Unitarians - they attended the High Pavement Chapel - he was commissioned into the forces of the Hon. East India Company, because his religious pursausions barred him from a commission in the forces of the Crown.
Captain John Edward Cleather, a half-pay officer from the Royal Staff Corps - an elite, specialist unit of Engineers and Administrators - was General Manager of the Manchester & Birmingham Railway.
But by far it was Naval men who were in positions of management:
Captain John Milligen Laws RN was General Manager of the Manchester & Leeds Railway; he was a nephew of Sir Robbert Seppings, Surveyor of the Navy. He had been promoted Captain in 1833 and had commanded HMS Southampton, a 60-gun Frigate.
Commander - later Admiral - Cheesman Henry Binstead was appointed as Traffic and Passenger Superintendent. Binstead had considerable experience of this kind of work having served from 1828-1834 as 'Agent for Transports Afloat' directing the movements of men and materiel of the Army and Navy accross the globe.
Lieutenant Peter Lecount RN was appointed as Manager of the London & Birmingham Railway. He was also a qualified civil engineer, fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society
Lieutenant Samuel Eborall RN was Goods Manager of the Grand Junction, and latterly the 'Northern Divison' of the L&NWR; his son, Cornelius was involved wtih the East Lancashire Railway and later became General Manager of the L&SWR. Lieutenant Eborall had been on half pay from 1815 but up to 1829 had 'been in command of various Merchanmen'
Many of these Naval men had been on half-pay (retired from active duty but still receiving half pay as a retainer cum pension) for several years before joining the railways: Lecount had been on half pay from 1829; Milligen from 1833 and Binstead from 1841. Perhaps these men sense that they could have a new career with the new-fangled railways, where there skills and experience would be put to good use. So too the Directors of the new companies, who sensed the need for men used to commanding and organising a large undertaking. Indeed, the influence of these Naval men is evidenct in many of the regulations of the railway companies; expressions such as 'Officers and Men' and even terms auch as 'Ahead' and 'Astern' on the London & Birmingham. The use of signalling flag, semaphores and signal rockets also show a distinct Naval influence. Commander Binstead of the Lancashire & Yorkshire developed a 'safety signal' and a means of allowing the guard to communicate with the driver.
Binstead is in fact of particular interest to this writer, as his family share a home with Binstead, who lived in South Parade, Wakefield from 1870 to his death - renting the large Georgian town house as a residence appropriate to a Royal Navy Admiral. There can't be many railway companies which can boast a Vice-Admiral as their Traffic and Passenger Superintendent!