Railway worker database adds 17,000 accidents

A new dataset detailing some 17,000 British and Irish railway worker accidents has been released online

Railway accident database
Published: July 27, 2022 at 10:33 am
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The Railway Work, Life and Death project, run by the University of Portsmouth and National Railway Museum, has updated its free database to include accidents investigated by the state that ranged from those involving multiple fatalities to incidents as minor as a pinched thumb.

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In addition to its original coverage spanning the years 1911-1915, the free resource now includes reports made between 1900-1910 and 1921-1939, with a gap in coverage due to the First World War.

It also includes details of applications to the Great Eastern Railway Benevolent Fund (1913-23) for assistance after an accident and legal cases handled by the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants trade union (1901-1905).

Previous records in the database were transcribed by Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine readers as part of our annual Transcription Tuesday event, which sees volunteers from all over the world give up their time to transcribe historic records for non-profit projects.

Railway accident register
An early 20th century railway accident register transcribed by WDYTYA? Magazine readers and included in the new database The National Archives (UK) RAIL 23/57 p95

The accidents happened across the UK and Ireland and included nearly 13,000 cases in England, just over 3,000 in Scotland, about 900 in Wales and a little over 300 on the island of Ireland, plus a single case from the Channel Islands.

About 4,500 of these were fatalities while the rest were injuries of varying severity, though the data as a whole represents only a fraction - about 3% - of all railway staff accidents at the time, as most weren’t investigated by state officials.

Dr Mike Esbester, from the project, said he hoped the database would help remember the men, women and children named in the reports.

“Likely few, if any, did the exceptional things that mean they are widely known. But each one of them had family and friends. They belonged to a place… they were part of their communities.

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“If our project can help share their stories and experiences, and help us understand everyday life on the railways in the past, then it does something valuable. The everyday was, after all, far more typical than the exceptional.”

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