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Aug 092017

Photo courtesy: Mike Esbester

In 1911 alone over 28,000 employees were injured or killed on British railways. The government
department responsible for the railways, the Board of Trade, had been investigating some of
these casualties since the 1890s, to find out what happened and to make recommendations
to improve safety in the future. These reports are a fantastic resource, giving plenty of
detail about who was involved and working practices, as well as what happened. But it’s
often difficult to get hold of these reports, or even to find out what they contain.
Late in 2016, as a joint initiative of the University of Portsmouth and the National
Railway Museum (NRM), the ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project started to try to make
these records more accessible and see what we could learn from them.
A team of NRM volunteers has been working through the Railway Inspectors’ reports
for the years 1911-15 (when the reports were temporarily stopped as a result of the war).
They have done fantastic work, reading each report, extracting the key information and
placing this in a spreadsheet. With the details standardised in a spreadsheet, they become
easily searchable, making the information more accessible and useable
Dr Mike Esbester of the University of Portsmouth has been leading the project and recently contacted the Guild to ask for our members’ help.  The project has just made the first batch of data freely available via the project website:  The Project has catalogued nearly 4,000 individuals involved in accidents over the four and a half year period.  Full details for each individual are available to download in a spreadsheet.

One of the hopes of the project was that it would be of interest to a variety of audiences – including family historians, social historians and the general public. So, now that they’ve released some data, they would like some feedback.  Please take a look and offer any feedback you want to share through their website.

Mike will be speaking at our seminar, entitled “Accidents will Happen”, in Abberley, Worcestershire next February.

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  4 Responses to “Railway Work, Life & Death project – help sought”

  1. Richard Wakeford

    I don’t know whether this is of any interest, but I have a report from the Ministry of Transport regarding a rail accident which caused the death of my father and two others.
    In brief; at 06.23 on the 28th October, 1952, they were working on a fault to the points close to Victoria Station, London, when they were hit by a train and were ‘fatally injured’.
    If you might find this four page report of interest, I am happy to send a copy to you.

    With best regards,

    Richard Wakeford.

  2. I have a copy of the inquest into the death of my great grandfather who was killed at work in Birmingham New Street Station on 24 December 1903. It’s outside the date range but I am happy to share this.

    Kind regards

    David Cooper