Navvies

Navvies were the people who did the physical work to construct and maintain the railways. The word "navvy" was a shortened version of "navigator".

  • By the middle of the 19th century about 2,500 navvies worked on the railways.
  • Most of the work was done by hand, using picks and shovels.
  • Navvies lived in huts by the line they were working on. Some paid to sleep in a bed. Some paid less to sleep on the floor.
  • Working as a navvy was dangerous. Many navvies died due to accidents such as tunnels collapsing or explosions.