More records, more work – more accidents for our database!

We mentioned a few weeks’ ago that, thanks to the National Railway Museum and its lovely volunteers, we were extending our project (see here). That work on the Great Eastern Railway’s Benevolent Fund book is coming along nicely (despite the difficulties of deciphering 100+ year old manuscript!).

Even better news now … and again, we’re thrilled that it’s down to the support of the National Railway Museum and its volunteers, as well as the help of the Office of Rail and Road (ORR). The ORR is the current railway industry safety regulator and the successor organisation to the Railway Inspectorate, so it’s particularly fitting that they’re involved.

Many of the volunteers from the original ‘Railway Work, Life & Death’ project found the work so interesting and engaging that they wanted to do more. Thankfully we’re able to do this, and following a favourable ethical opinion, we’re once more going to be focusing on the official state accident investigators, the Railway Inspectorate.

Our database currently features worker accidents from the period 1911-15, when the pressures of the First World War meant Inspectors stopped publishing reports into the accidents they investigated. The extension will bring the inter-war years into the database, hugely expanding our dataset – we estimate there will be around 7,500 additional cases. This will give us a much longer-term view of the types of occupational dangers on the railways, as well as do things like see how many workers had more than one accident or what, if any, impact the changing nature of the railway industry’s structure had on accidents.

The Inspectors didn’t resume publishing their reports until part-way through 1921, so there will still be a gap in the data, but from there we’ll gradually get the data into the standard database format through until 1939, when the Second World War meant reporting changed again. The volunteers are already making good progress on this work; this time we’re having to scan the reports ourselves, which adds an extra task into the proceedings. We’ve had access to the reports through the NRM and the Office of Rail and Road – we’ve grateful to both for their support. In August we’ll be putting up a blog post on what borrowing the volumes of reports from the ORR has helped us consider and what we’ve learnt.

Finally … stay tuned for a post on another big project extension starting soon, this time working with The National Archives. For now, volunteers are needed for this work: see

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  1. Volunteers' Week 4: One NRM volunteer's experiences - Railway Work, Life & Death - June 5, 2019

    […] volunteer Philip James outlines some of what working on the project involves, and one case from our ongoing interwar extension which caught his eye. We’re indebted to Philip, who has been with us since the start and is […]

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