The Great Northern station at Sandy in the 19th century [Z50/99/7]
Accidents and suicides are, sadly, all too common on railway lines. The following three newspaper reports, all from the Bedfordshire Mercury cover the 1860s. On 25th March 1861 it was reported: "SHOCKING DEATH ON THE GREAT NORTHERN RAILWAY. - On Saturday evening last, a brickmaker from Biggleswade, named James Cherry, entered the Brickmakers' Arms public-house in this village [Sandy - in Brickhill Road adjacent to the railway line], and stayed there about two hours drinking with a number of men, starting for home in a state of intoxication about half-past nine o'clock. In order to shorten his journey home, he seems to have resolved to cross the railway, although soon after he left the public-house he was cautioned by a man with whom he was acquainted as to which road he took. Nothing was heard of him until the following (Sunday) morning, when he was found dead on the line, mutilated in a dreadful manner, one arm and leg having been severed from the body. Mr. Sandford, surgeon, of Biggleswade, examined the corpse as soon as it was found. An inquest was held at the public-house, Stratford, before Mr. E. Eagles, coroner for the county, on Tuesday last, when the jury returned a verdict of "accidental death", adding thereto a request "that the chairman and directors of the Great Northern line do adopt means for the future to prevent parties from trespassing on the rails, or any footpath adjoining, being the property of the Great Northern Company". The deceased was 37 years of age".
On 27th January 1862 the following piece appeared in the paper: "An accident involving the destruction of considerable amount of property happened at the Sandy Station of the Great Northern Railway on Saturday morning last. It seems that about six o'clock an up luggage train was propelling some detached waggons [sic] up a siding at the station mentioned, when, from some unexplained cause, instead of continuing on the siding, the trucks took a line diverging to the left hand, and leading to the main rails. They therefore came on to the down main line. Simultaneously, there arrived a long down train of luggage wagons, and, before any steps could be taken either to caution the driver or to remove the obstruction, came in violent collision with the runaway trucks. The latter were scattered in all directions, the engine of the goods train - which at the time was nearly at full speed - being also much injured, and thrown on its broadside. The fireman escaped, but Thomas Wykes, the driver, was seriously injured. He has his hip broken or dislocated, and his collar-bone fractured. Both lines were blocked for a time, but assistance - a large number of men from Peterborough - arriving one of the lines was soon re-opened, and the communication renewed without any serious detention to the traffic. It is supposed that the severe frost which prevailed caused a pair of switches to stick instead of springing back, and so to open with the main line the communication which has led to the accident".
Finally, from the edition of 27th July 1863: "An inquest was held at the Stone Axe, Stratford, in the parish of Sandy, on 22nd inst., before Mr. M. Whyley, deputy coroner for the county, on view of the body of James Brittain, who was killed in the night of the 20th inst., on the Great Northern Railway, under the following circumstances: -"
"Thomas Putman, fireman, said he was engaged with George Smallcombe, driver, on the night of the 20th inst., in bringing up the mail from Grantham; they left Peterborough about 1.40, stopped at Sandy in consequence of the engine being disabled and left between two and three o'clock; when between Biggleswade and Sandy, about a mile and a half from the latter place, witness was standing with his back to the engine, and, on going over he cattle bridge, he felt something heavy strike the engine; he took no notice of it until the train arrived in London when he saw traces of brain upon one of the engine wheels".
"John Walden, guard of the train which followed the mail, deposed to seeing something dark in the "four-feet" as he passed the bridge in question; he stopped the train, went back to the spot, and saw the mangled remains of the deceased".
"George Ball said he was going home shortly after two o'clock on Tuesday morning, with his cousin, when he saw some one in the lane leading to the Stone Axe; he picked him up and he walked with them; the man tumbled down twice and witness picked him up; he also fell in the ditch; he said he should go up the line; witness wished him to go with them home down the Common; he said, "I will see you d- first"; when they got against the gate witness tried to persuade him to go home with them but he would not. He was very drunk. It was Sandy feast. Witness identified the body shown to the jury as that of the man he saw on the morning of the 21st".
"The jury returned a verdict of accidental death. - The deceased was about 26 years of age".