TWO RAILWAY WORKERS who died in an accident are set to be remembered on the anniversary of their deaths, by the visit of a project which aims to gain a greater understanding of the consequences of railway worker accidents, writes Neil Gordon.
Joseph Rutherford and Thomas Scaife, who were employees of the Birmingham and Gloucester Railway, both died after the boiler exploded on Lickey Incline banking engine ‘Surprise’ on November 10, 1840, at Bromsgrove.
To mark the 183rd anniversary of the accident this Friday, an event has been organised by the Lickey Rail Group which will be held at St Johns church and attended by the Railway Work, Life and Death project.
The project was formed in 2016 in collaboration between the University of Portsmouth, the National Railway Museum and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick, with the aim of improving the knowledge and understanding of British and Irish railway worker accidents between the late 1880s and 1939, as well as gaining an insight into the social and financial impact on workers and their families as a result of an accident.
Around 50,000 British and Irish railway accidents have so far been studied by teams of volunteers using official railway records, with details of each case researched being made publicly available on the project’s website.
The project’s lead, Dr Mike Esbester of Portsmouth University, told the Standard: “We wanted to find out as much as possible about the workers involved in accidents and listed in the records in our database.
“These aren’t the spectacular passenger accidents which received lots of attention at the time, but instead everyday accidents that ultimately killed or injured many more ordinary people.
“Most of these people have left relatively little trace in the documentary record, so finding out as much as we can about them is important. Where we can, working with descendants of those people recorded in the official records is really powerful – we can see what impact the accidents had on those involved and their families.”
Friday’s event came about after a group of Bromsgrove-based rail enthusiasts received a talk on the project from Dr Esbester earlier this year. Since then, the group has been researching rail worker accidents which occurred in and around Bromsgrove. This led the group to form the Lickey Rail Group as a platform for its research.
A spokesperson for the group said: “The Railway Work, Life and Death project is an important and fascinating study of rail worker accidents, and the greater social and financial impact suffered by workers and their families.
“The aim of the event is to provide an opportunity for anyone interested in railway or social history to learn more about the project, and for anybody with information on, or a connection to, a rail worker accident to share any details they possess.”
The event is being held between 10.30am and 12.30pm on Friday, November 10, at St John’s church, Kidderminster Road, Bromsgrove. Admission is free.
Organisers have assured those attending that whilst there are details of injuries and fatalities contained with the project’s database, no images of accidents will be displayed at the event.
Visit www.railwayaccidents.port.ac.uk for more information on the Railway Work, Life and Death project, and to download a free copy of the research database. Visit www.lickeyrailgroup.org for details of research undertaken by the Lickey Rail Group.