Research into railway worker accidents is so far in its infancy – but there are some publications to explore if you are interested in following up on the area. We’ve detailed these below, giving a mix of more formal, academic pieces and more easily accessible work. This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, so further suggestions are always welcome: please contact us to make any suggestions. Also, beware: this does include some imposters which focus solely on passenger accidents!
Passenger accident reports, produced by the Railway Inspectorate:
A very extensive run of Railway Inspectorate reports into passenger accidents (which do mention any workers affected), covering c.1840-the present day, are available to be downloaded from: http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/eventlisting.php
Worker accident reports, produced by the Railway Inspectorate:
As noted, these are more difficult to locate – hence the project – but if you can get to the locations below, you can get hold of the reports in hardcopy:
- Search Engine, National Railway Museum, York
- The National Archives, Kew: accident reports (both passenger and worker) are located in classmark RAIL 1053; worker reports for the period 1900-1910 have been catalogued down to a piece level, so you can search for individual names.
Company worker accident reports:
Many volumes of these are held at The National Archives, within the RAIL classmarks. We would like to use these as part of the bigger Zooniverse project in the future.
NRM online exhibition:
Working with the NRM, Mike produced an online exhibition about railway safety, focusing particularly on railway workers. It’s full of illustrations and insight into railway work and accidents, and includes material to download.
GWR, The ‘Safety’ Movement (London, 1914)
A booklet intended to show workers the ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ ways of doing their jobs; it was given free to each of the GWR’s 80,000 employees, and reissued later. Many other companies followed suit and produced variants of this booklet. You can view a version here.
Scottish railway accidents, as reported in the press, 1900-1915.
Transcriptions being produced, free, by a researcher, as an ongoing project. More here.
Wilson, HR, The Safety of British Railways, or Railway Accidents: How Caused and How Prevented (London, 1909)
Pieces produced later
- A 20 minute video, produced to mark the accident in Omagh on 24 November 1950 which killed 5 platelayers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6k18lQ0_y4
- A 36 minute audio piece, about the Barkston accident of 1936, which killed 8 platelayers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbd2tm1eEEw
- From the ‘Tracks through Grantham’ project, which looks at the history of railways around Grantham, a page about staff killed at work; the whole website is worth exploring & tells us lots about railway work: http://www.tracksthroughgrantham.uk/grantham-railway-history/some-incidents-on-the-railway-at-grantham/roll-of-honour/
- An interesting general introduction to the history of workplace health and safety: http://www.historyofosh.org.uk/
- Some detail on accidents to navvies involved in tunnel construction: http://www.forgottenrelics.co.uk/accidentaldeath/index.html
- Esbester, M., ‘Digital Disasters: Crowdsourcing the railway accident’ in D. Turner (ed.) Transport and its Place in History. Making the Connections (London, 2020), 207-228.
- Esbester, M., ‘”Railway Work, Life & Death”: Exploring British & Irish railway worker accidents, c.1890-1939’, Labour History 119 (November 2020), 209-226.
- Esbester, M., ‘“No Good Reason for the Government to Interfere”: Business, the State and Railway Employee Safety in Britain, c.1900-39’, Business and Economic History Online, Vol. 4 (2006), http://www.thebhc.org/publications/BEHonline/beh.html.
- Esbester, M., ‘Reinvention, Renewal or Repetition? The Great Western Railway and Occupational Safety on Britain’s Railways, c.1900-c.1920’, Business and Economic History Online, Vol. 3 (2005), http://www.thebhc.org/publications/BEHonline/beh.html.
- Giles, A., ‘Railway Accidents and Nineteenth-Century Legislation: “Misconduct, Want of Caution or Causes Beyond their Control”?’, Labour History Review, 76, 2 (August 2011), 121-42.
- Gray, A., ‘Blood on the Tracks’, Backtrack, 11, 1 (January 1997), 13-15.
- Hall, S., The Railway Detectives.150 years of the Railway Inspectorate (London, 1991).
- Harrington, R., ‘The Neuroses of the Railway’, History Today, 44, 7 (July 1994)
- Harrington, R., ‘The railway accident: trains, trauma and technological crisis in nineteenth-century Britain’ in M. Micale and P. Lerner (eds), Traumatic Pasts. History, Psychiatry, and Trauma in the Modern Age, 1870-1930 (Cambridge, 2001), 31-56.
- Harrington, R., ‘Railway Safety and Railway Slaughter: Railway Accidents, Government and Public in Victorian Britain’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 8, 2 (Autumn 2003), 187-207.
- Hewison, C., From Shedmaster to the Railway Inspectorate (Newton Abbot, 1981);
- Hutter, B., ‘Public Accident Inquiries: The Case of the Railway Inspectorate’, Public Administration, 70 (Summer 1992), 177-92.
- Knox, E., ‘Blood on the Tracks: Railway Employers and Safety in Late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain’, Historical Studies in Industrial Relations, 12 (Autumn 2001), 1-26.
- Nock, O.S., Historic Railway Disasters (London, 1966).
- Simmons, J., ‘Accident Reports, 1840-90’, in Simmons, J., The Express Train and Other Railway Studies (Nairn, 1994).
- Rolt, L.T.C., Red for Danger (Stroud, 1988).
- Wells, J., ‘Aspects of the Regulation of Railways (Prevention of Accidents) Bill of April 1873’, BackTrack, 15, 10 (Oct 2001)