‘she was thrown violently down’

We’ve posted about accidents to women railway workers before (see here and here). Each time we’ve noted that there are relatively women in our data so far (here) – only 3 in our original data release of 3,928 cases, with a further 3 in our most recent release covering the Great Eastern Railway (GER) and which added around 500 more cases (detailed here). We expect more to appear in our coming project extensions (more on those at the end of the post about the GER data release).

As we approach the anniversary of one of the women’s accidents, we thought it appropriate to outline her case. She was Mrs Julia Cashen, and she was injured at work on 11 January 1912. As in many of the female cases, she was employed in what was at this time seen as typical ‘women’s work’: she was a carriage cleaner, on the Great Southern and Western Railway in Ireland. Just after midday, she was at work inside a carriage at Kingsbridge Station, Dublin. Another vehicle was loose-shunted on the same line: that is, pushed by a loco but not attached to it, and then allowed to move – usually slowly, under the control of a shunter on the ground who walked alongside and stopped it when necessary. However, on this occasion it was loose-shunted ‘sharply’. Cashen was stooping down to clean a toilet bowl when the vehicle hit her carriage, ‘with the result that she was violently thrown down’ injuring her head, right hip and arm, and left shoulder.

Inspector JJ Hornby investigated the case, finding foreman carriage cleaner Laurence Delaney entirely responsible for the accident, as he had ‘neglected to protect Mrs Cashen by placing a red flag on the leading end of the saloon’ which would have indicated to those doing the shunting that staff were at work in or about the carriage (1912 Quarter 1, Appendix C).

This was one of only 125 accidents investigated in Ireland between 1911 and June 1915, with a further 51 in what we now know as Northern Ireland. It remains to be seen whether Ireland and what is now Northern Ireland were under-served by accident investigations – that would need analysis of route miles and operation statistics, amongst other things, to get a sense of the relative proportions when compared to the other nations in our dataset. However, it does look rather like the further away from London a worker accident occurred, the smaller chance there was that it would be investigated.

As is typical of all the Appendix C reports, it is a very brief account of the accident – especially when compared with the detail given in the case of passenger train accidents. Nevertheless, they still give us a little more insight into the working lives and accidents of railway staff, male and female.


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  1. Accidents and the ordinary (railway)women of the past - Railway Work, Life & Death - March 4, 2019

    […] have so far appeared in our project. This is something we’ve blogged about before, most recently here, including noting a relative absence of women in the cases formally investigated by the state – […]

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