Our superb volunteers have excelled themselves and have just finished cataloguing all the railway worker accidents investigated by the Railway Inspectors between 1 January 1911 and 30 June 1915, when investigations were halted due to the war.
We were expecting a figure of around 3,000 – but the actual figure was 3,911 individual workers either killed or injured, with their accidents subsequently being investigated.
However, this is only a tiny fraction of the actual numbers of railway employees injured or killed at work in this period: for the 5 year period 1911-1915, the minimum total was a staggering 141,120 – and this is likely to be an underestimate.
Most accidents went uninvestigated – there were simply too many of them for the small team of inspectors. Most of the worker casualties were, of course, injuries, and often relatively minor injuries at that (though not forgetting that in the pre-penicillin age, a ‘simple’ scratch could lead to blood poisoning and death). But over 141,000 is still an astonishingly high figure (particularly to our eyes today).
Most of the accidents we’ll never know enough about – but for the nearly 4,000 individuals captured in these reports we have an important insight into not just their lives (and in some cases deaths), but also into working practices in one of the biggest industries in Britain. And we’ve got the NRM’s team of volunteers to thank for starting to make this information more accessible: bravo!