Accidents on the Railway

Recollections of Sydney Rackham

Transcribed from a recorded interview (March 2001)

I used to get a ride in the guard's van with my Dad when he was acting as guard on South Town to Lowestoft line. I used to get a ride to Lowestoft with him in the guard's van. We were going along there one day, and they were then... course they had long since done away with the aforementioned railcar and they were using what they termed push and pull trains, pull in one direction and push in the other, tender first. The footplate crew, they weren't very happy at all about tender first, though the fireman used to keep playing his hose from the water tank over the coal. It soon dried out and the dust used to blow straight back in their faces, on the footplate.

There were several unmanned crossings on that line to Lowestoft and on this particular occasion there was a terrific bang, the train came to a halt and when everybody looked out the window and my Dad got out of the guard's van, the driver, etc. to see what had happened, there was a farm labourer and he'd been leading a horse pulling one of those old tumbrells, farm cart things. Well, either he'd not heard the train coming or he couldn't get across quick enough, I don't know exactly why but the train hit the tumbrell and smashed it to matchwood and yet the horse was still standing there with all the leather traces and that, hanging down, unharmed.

The funny thing is, with steam trains, if the wind was in the wrong direction, it's incredible how you don't hear the train until it's virtually on top of you. I know there was another incident when a lady was killed on an unmanned crossing at Bradwell. What had happened there was, she'd got a smallholding and the chickens had strayed on to the railway line and she went out on to the line to get these chickens back and she was struck from behind by the train. She didn't even hear it, the wind was in the other direction and she didn't even hear it.