Jobs on the go: What did children use to do on the railways and canals during the Victorian era?

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We’ve always needed transport, but the jobs in this area increased hugely during Victorian times. So why was this?

Many jobs simply hadn’t existed before – the first railway lines appeared around 1810 – before that time if you needed to transport large quantities around on land, you would use horses on the roads.

Within a hundred years around thousands of passengers were taking millions of journeys. In addition, the new networks could transport coal –something which was in huge demand.

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These new railway lines and new locomotives needed lots of workers.

For a long time the law didn’t stop companies from using children and so they could find jobs on the railways too.

Canals might not be a fast way to travel but they are a great solution for heavy loads which don’t perish (perish means to go rotten).

Coal and timber are two types of loads like this and around the time of the Victorian Era there was a massive demand for coal, especially, to power all the new factories.

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Although canals had existed for a long time, there simply weren’t enough. In the 1790s 20 million pounds of investment lead to “Canal Mania”. 1850 there were over four thousand miles of waterways.

Like the railways, there weren’t laws to protect children from the plentiful work this produced.

Canal workers were often families who had previously farmed the land and it was often a family affair with everyone having a role to play.

Click here to find out more about Victorian jobs!

Kids in The Past

Discover what life for children was like throughout the ages


Dan and Bex have found a book that transports them back to Victorian Britain!

They’re exploring all the grim and nasty jobs that children just like you had to do in the past, from picking up poop to popping up chimneys.

english_landscape_blackReally? Kids Did That! is supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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