Lasts and firsts – the boundaries between years

As we approach 2018 we thought it might be interesting to have a look at the junction between the old year and the new as experienced by railway workers in the past. As we might expect, and as with Christmas day, things didn’t change dramatically from one year to the next, and the accidents continued from 31 December into 1 January. In the case of the end of 1912 and start of 1913 there was very little time between accidents.

On 31 December 1912 goods guard William Robinson was injured at Hatfield on the Great Northern Railway. At around 10pm he was standing alongside the lines as a goods train came to a halt, when he noticed a door pin on one of the wagons was not in place. Being diligent ‘he attempted to place the pin in position with his left hand, but while doing so stumbled over something’, falling to the ground with his hand lamp under him, bruising his ribs. Inspector JH Armytage could not determine what Robinson had tripped over, and so the accident was attributed to misadventure (1912 Quarter 4, Appendix B). And so closed 1912’s sorry record of railway worker accidents.

A few hours passed before the next accident – or at least, the next accident that the Railway Inspectors investigated, the first of 1913. At 2.45am at the wonderfully-named Whifflet on the North British Railway, another goods guard, N McGilvery, was injured. Walking alongside a train he was shunting, he held his shunting pole under his arm. As he turned to look at the wagons passing him ‘he inadvertently allowed the hook of the pole to go foul of the train’, and he was caught by one of the vehicles. With a sudden pull forward, he fell and his right leg and one of his fingers were run over ‘by some of the wheels’, with his leg later being amputated. Inspector Charles Campbell also attributed this to misadventure (1913 Quarter 1, Appendix C). And so 1913 began as it meant to carry on, in a year which was to see at least another 29,000 injuries and deaths.

And that’s the end of this year’s blog posts – hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading them and they’ve been informative. We’ll be back with plenty more next year, which, along with our Twitter feed (@RWLDproject), will try to highlight some of the work our project is doing as well as some of the cases in our database.

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