Early train travel was plagued by accidents: derailments, signal accidents, and horrifying boiler explosions. It is frankly astonishing that anyone actually traveled by train in the wake of some of these tragedies, particularly when you realize the relish with which the media of the day sensationalized, photographed, filmed and even fictionalized the disasters.
In 1865, Charles Dickens and his mistress survived a train crash that killed ten people and injured another 49. He wrote about the horror of the crash:
“I was in the only carriage that did not go over into the stream. It was caught upon the turn by some of the ruin of the bridge, and hung suspended and balanced in an apparently impossible manner. Two ladies were my fellow passengers; an old one, and a young one. This is exactly what passed:- you may judge from it the precise length of the suspense. Suddenly we were off the rail and beating the ground as the car of a half emptied balloon might. The old lady cried out “My God!” and the young one screamed.”
In 1866, just in time for the holidays, he wrote his train wreck inspired ghost story “The Signal Man”, inspired by his own experiences as well as an 1861 rail disaster known as the Clayton Tunnel Crash, in which 23 people died. In the story, a railway signal man is visited by a ghost whose visits predict rail disasters. Read Charles Dickens’ “The Signal Man” on Project Gutenberg
More deadly trains:
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