Watch the ankles – multiple cases 2

In a previous post, we focused on labourer Joseph Brown of the Great Eastern Railway, one of a select few – 15 – who feature in our database as having two accidents. This week we see the anniversary of the 2nd accident of another member of this group: shunter Tom Oliver. Like Brown, who worked on the tracks, Oliver was fortunate to survive both incidents, despite the potential danger involved in his job.

The investigations, both carried out by Inspector Amos Ford, between them merited only 5 paragraphs in report form, 2 of which were a single line only. The first accident occurred on 29 December 1911, in York on the North Eastern Railway, at 2.30am – once again reminding us of the truly 24-hour nature of the railway at this time. Running alongside a wagon being shunted in the No. 1 down yard, he stumbled over a cross-tie rod connecting the points in the next siding, fortunately only spraining his left ankle. Ford made no comment on the pace or intensity of the work, the lighting conditions, weather or any other factors – which may or may not have had an impact on the case. Instead the conclusion was that ‘the mishap was purely accidental’ (1911 Quarter 4, Appendix C).

Snapshot of the complexity of York’s sidings, 1909. Courtesy National Library of Scotland – maps.nls.uk

Oliver passed another 3 and a half years without an investigated accident – he might well have had other cases, but they weren’t examined by the Railway Inspectors. However, one of the final cases in our database was Oliver’s second accident. On 25 May 1915, Oliver, by now 39, was again on duty in York, this time at the intriguingly-named Severus No. 2 down sidings. Once again he was ‘hurrying alongside a moving wagon’ to uncouple it from the engine, though this time he caught the edge of trunking covering an electric cable. He twisted his right ankle, fracturing it when he fell. The ballast in the area had been compressed by foot traffic, exposing the edge of the trunking, hence the fall. As in the first case, Ford considered the mishap accidental (1915 Quarter 2, Appendix C).

Severus Junction, York, 1909. Courtesy National Library of Scotland – maps.nls.uk

The second case made no reference to the first, and it’s doubtful that Ford would have remembered it after that time and with hundreds of other cases he investigated – plenty of which would have been very similar. One of the values of our database is that it allows connections like these to be drawn – as well as highlighting the relatively mundane nature of a great many of the railway worker accidents. Then, as now, slips, trips and falls were a major problem.

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