Work and Residence
At the time of Olwen's death and of James's birth, the family was living at Los Talleres FCS. Translated literally, 'los talleres' means 'the workshops' and the 'FCS' represents 'Ferrocarrel del Sud' (the 'Southern Railway'). This company had evolved from a railway' company founded in 1862, largely with capital provided by British investors. It was unsurprising that Britain, enjoying the benefits of industrialisation, should become involved both technically and financially in what would become the largest railway network in South America. ("Britons placed more long-term investment in South America during the nineteenth century than in any other geographic region.") Despite many logistical difficulties, expansion was rapid and the influence of the railway companies began to extend beyond the development of the burgeoning Argentine railway system, to include activities such as grain production, oil production and building and running hotels.
At the end of the 19th century the FCS was outgrowing its workshop space. It acquired two huge sites on either side of the main road between Lanus and Banfield where a new complex was built; this was called "Los Talleres" but was later renamed "Remedios de Escalada" (click on picture and see map). Construction was authorised in 1900 and incorporated differential housing, dependent on the employee's grade, as well as a social club. It was a colony in which railway staff such as Thomas would live and work.
Only a small percentage of the employees of FCS were British-born and these were mainly administrators, like Thomas, who would have had to become proficient in Spanish. However, Britain continued to provide personnel and equipment for the Argentine railways; it provided much of the coal required.
"As the British railways grew, many of their staff were specifically imported and trained for work in different sections of the companies. And as this crowd became larger, rows of English looking terraced or semi-detached houses were built in front of stations on the suburban lines. The houses were often built with bricks imported from Britain and most of the fittings were British-made too. But those were the smaller imports; entire stations - from railway terminals to signal boxes - were also shipped from Britain. In one case, what is today the La Plata central station was intended for India; but was re-routed at the time of shipment on the reception of news of disturbances and economic difficulties on the Indian subcontinent." (Extracts from "Forgotten Colony" by Andrew Graham-Yooll (1981))