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The Death of a Sandy Station Master

The Bedford and Cambridge Railway Station at Sandy [Z1306/99] 
The Bedford and Cambridge Railway Station at Sandy [Z1306/99]

The following account of the inquest into Sandy's first station master on the Bedford and Cambridge Railway appeared in the Bedfordshire Mercury on 14th July 1862.

"On Saturday afternoon last an inquest was held at the General Infirmary, Bedford, before Dr. Prior, coroner for the borough, to enquire into the death of Henry Linnell, the newly appointed station-master at Sandy, on the Bedford & Cambridge Railway".

"The jury having returned from viewing the body, the following witneses were called: -"

"Mr. James Warren, station-master of the London & North Western Railway at Bedford, sworn: The body which has been shown the jury is the body of Henry Linnell. I last saw him alive on the 10th instant, at the Bedford station, as they were removing him from the carriage between half-past four and five, he appeared to be in a dying state; one leg was twisted outwards very much, as though apparently broken, on mentioning his name to him, he said "Who are you?" His countenance appeared deathly. He was conveyed to the Infirmary in an omnibus, and was attended by three or four railway servants".

"Henry Clark sworn: I was guard of the train 3.15 from Cambridge on the 10th instant; I arrived at Sandy station at 4.13, where I saw the deceased, and he got into my break-van with me; about a mile and a half from Sandy I heard a crash; I was at that time sitting with my back to the deceased doing a little writing; I was one side of the break-van and he was the other; about a quarter of a mile on the Sandy  side of the Blunham station I heard a crash; I looked out and saw the break-door torn off, and the deceased lying across the metals; I applied the break momentarily and pulled up as quick as I could; the train stopped in about 150 yards; we got the assistance of one of the engine men, and carried the deceased to a first-class carriage; deceased said nothing to me; he was bleeding from the nose, and appeared insensible. Another person, a man who was working on the line, remained with the deceased in the carriage, and I think one of the engine men likewise. I helped to get him out of the carriage at Bedford, and to place him in the omnibus. After the deceased got into the break at Sandy he asked me how business was on the line".

"By a juryman: The break-door was shut, and I suppose he must have opened it himself".

"Examination continued: I am confident I got in at Sandy after deceased, and that I fastened the door after me. When I found deceased he was lying on the bridge which crosses the river on the Sandy side. If the door of the break was wide open the wall of the bridge would catch it. It is a low wall, but it would catch the bottom of the door. Deceased asked me before he got in whether the train stopped at Blunham, and I told him it did not".

"The Coroner: Had the deceased any authority to ride in a break-van?"

"Witness: As a station-master I considered he had. Being a superior officer to myself, I allowed deceased to ride in the break. At the time the accident happened we were going at about 20 miles the hour. Deceased appeared perfectly calm when he got into the train".

"James Frederick Mason sworn: I am travelling clerk in the service of the London & North Western Railway Company, on the 10th I left Cambridge by the 3.15 train, on arriving at Sandy I spoke to the deceased through the carriage window, deceased was on the platform, as the train was about starting I heard the deceased tell the witness Clark that that he was going to Blunham, and Clark replied that the train did not stop there. My conversation with the deceased was on the business of the company, he appeared quite collected. When the train arrived within a quarter of a mile of the Blunham station, I looked out of the carriage window and saw he deceased standing with the van door open, and his feet I believe on the iron plate, he was holding by the door with one arm, and with the other hand he was beckoning to a person on the line, whom he believed to be the station master at Blunham; the face of the deceased was towards Sandy, and consequently he could not see the danger ahead. As the train was coming to the bridge over the river I put my head in, as I had known the danger to the head being out under such circumstances. The carriage I was in was about two in front of the break van. Immediately I drew in my head I head a crush, and looking out again, I ascertained the result of it; I saw the body of the deceased lying on the rails. I assisted in helping the deceased into a first-class carriage, when one man, named Reeve, rode with the deceased. [Clark here said that it appeared he was mistaken in thinking that the engine man was also with the deceased on his way to Bedford.] Deceased was insensible. His thigh appeared broken, and he had a mark at the top of his head".

"John Reeve sworn: I am a labourer on the Bedford and Cambridge Railway; on the 10th instant, in the afternoon, I was at work on the side of the line about 100 yards from the bridge near the Blunham station, putting the signal-post up; I saw the train coming from Sandy and I got up [to] let it pass; I stood looking at the train as it was coming along, and I saw a gentleman standing with one arm on the door of the break and with the other hand he was beckoning to the station master at Blunham; the door was a little way open. The gentleman had some papers in the hand with which he was beckoning. He was looking back towards Sandy, contraryway to which the engine was going. I saw the door catch the corner of the bridge and the door flew off and he flew out, and he fell down between the step and the bridge, and that turned him over two or three times. I ran as quick as I could to the man and was there first and held up my hand and they stopped. His head was lying across the metals; I took hold of him and tried to lift him up; but he was like a dead man, he could not stand. I assisted to get him into the carriage; and came to Bedford with him alone. He was quite "unsensed" until he got very near to  Bedford; I kept wiping his face and he said "take hold of my hand", and he nipped mine very hard. He said "I must die; good-bye". When I got to the station he said "Pray lift me up". Several men assisted to get him out at Bedford, and to put him into an omnibus".

"Mr. William Henry Sheppee sworn: I am a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and now acting as house surgeon at the General Infirmary, Bedford. Deceased was brought to this Institution about a quarter past five o'clock on the 10th inst. He appeared almost insensible and called out when he was moved. He was immediately taken upstairs to the accident ward and put to bed. On examining him I found a wound on the left side of the skull; on moving his arms I found that his right shoulder blade was fractured; there was a compound fracture on his right thigh. He gradually sank and died about half-past nine the same night. On the next day (Friday) I made a post mortem examination of the body. In the head a great deal of blood infused, and there was a fracture on the left side of the skull, extending to the right ear. The brain was lacerated on the right side, opposite the wound. I found the thigh bone broken in two places about an inch and a half apart. Such injuries as I described are very likely to have arisen in the way described by the former witnesses. The injuries he sustained by being thrown from a railway carriage and being crushed against a wall are quite sufficient to account for death in a few hours".

"The Coroner said the evidence had completely cleared up the difficulties in the case. He felt that the accident was quite casual and accidental; and no blame appeared to be attaching to anyone".

"The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental Death"".

Some details of Henry Linnell are given earlier in the newspaper. He was 25 years old and had just been appointed station master for the new station and had only been in Sandy for a few days. He came from Camden [Middlesex], was married and had two children.

Being station master at Sandy seems to have been a rather ill-fated occupation. In the Bedfordshire Mercury of 28th August 1866 the following brief piece appeared: "FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT. - A fatal accident occurred at the station on Thursday. Robert Thrush, aged 10 years, son of the station-master, was on the line, when a fast excursion train on the Great Northern Railway came up, knocked him down, ran over him, and killed him. The inquest on the body was fixed for Saturday".

The Great Northern station at Sandy in the 19th century [Z50/99/7]
The Great Northern station at Sandy in the 19th century [Z50/99/7]