15 years old, & 2 limbs injured in 3 months

One of the virtues of our database is that we can cross-reference cases. By doing so, we’ve identified a number of instances in which a worker had more than one accident (see the most recent such blog post here). Today’s post looks at the final of these cases found in our dataset as it currently stands – though we already know there will be more to come in future data releases.

Map of Buchanan Street, Glasgow.

Buchanan Street stations, including the goods yard, in 1910.
Courtesy National Library of Scotland maps.

In 1912 wagon greaser J. Campbell was 15 years old and working for the Caledonian Railway Company. On 14 September, at 5.10am, he’d been on duty for 10 hours and 10 minutes at Buchanan Street goods yard in Glasgow. His role was to apply lubricant to the axle boxes of goods wagons, to ensure they kept turning smoothly. Campbell had just finished dealing with one rake of wagons; when it was moved off, he ‘seized the top of a low-sided waggon [sic] for the purpose of riding on the vehicle.’ No doubt this was to save the journey to the next set of wagons – and presumably a trick he’d learned either by being taught directly by an older colleague or by seeing it being done. Possibly he’d done it times before – but this time there was a problem.

His feet ‘which were being dragged along the surface of the rail’ were caught by the rear wheel ‘and he fell to the ground.’ Inspector Charles Campbell (presumably no relation!) determined that the accident was ‘due to the fact that Campbell exposed himself to danger.’ This case features an uncommon insight into the investigative process, usually hidden from view in these reports. Inspector Campbell noted that he’d interviewed a locomotive foreman and a chief wagon inspector. They said that ‘when Campbell entered the Company’s service about six weeks before the mishap, they verbally warned him against riding on engines or wagons’. Inspector Campbell believed them, though wagon greaser Campbell claimed to have no memory of the warning.

As a result, Inspector Campbell concluded that the Caledonian ‘would do well to post up in every greaser’s cabin a notice instructing greasers that they must not ride on engines or vehicles. All greasers should on their appointment have their attention drawn to the notice and they should be called upon to certify in writing that they have read it’ (1912 Quarter 3, Appendix C). This speaks to the levels of literacy expected within railway service. Whether or not the Company carried this out isn’t known – there aren’t any further similar accidents at this location or for the Caledonian Railway within the database, though the coming project extensions may reveal more.

Just under 3 months later and Campbell was back on duty at Buchanan Street goods yard. At 12noon on 29 November 1912 he had been on duty for 4 hours of his 11 hour shift. He oiled the axle boxes of a brake van, then attempted to cross the line by passing between the brake van and the buffers several feet away. However, just at that moment, some wagons which had been loose-shunted into that siding nudged the brake van into the buffers, catching Campbell’s left arm and breaking it. Inspector Campbell investigated once again, though made no reference to the first accident. His conclusion was brief: ‘the responsibility for the accident rests on the injured lad, who, by going between the van and the buffer stops, exposed himself to grave danger’ (1912 Quarter 4, Appendix C). How wagon greaser J. Campbell fared for the rest of his railway career isn’t known, but as he doesn’t crop up again in the current dataset, hopefully these two accidents were his only ones.

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