Grizzly Railway Stories

Yesterday Sunday the 2nd June,  was my first walk of 2024 and it was a beautiful sunny afternoon. The walk started with fourteen people and took a circular route from the non-Conformist chapel, going up and one of the more “rural” paths in the cemetery and ending along the main carriageway. The group heard the stories of thirteen unfortunate people who died in horrific ways all involving the railway.

A young seaman working on the dockside went to get some water from the nearby train shed who, despite a warning whistle, stepped into the path of moving train. Then the platelayer who was working on the points when he was hit by a train shunting waggon because the engine driver was at the back of the waggons and did not see him on the line.

The train gate keeper at Mount Pleasant Crossing started opening the gate to let people cross before the express train went through crossing and ended up wrapped in the gate wreckage with terrible head injuries.

There was the doctor who committed suicide in a first-class carriage because he was facing bankruptcy after being prosecuted for illegally imprisoning a “lunatic” (words used at the time in the newspaper) in his cellar and then demanding money for his keep.

Perhaps the saddest was the story of a four-year-old boy who was standing at the Chapel crossing with his head between the gate post and the gate looking at the trains along the tracks. Unfortunately, the gate keeper did not see the boy when he started to shut the gates to allow a train to pass. Despite a warning shout from a passer-by, he continued shutting the gate and only stopped when he heard a scream and a “pop.”  The small boy died laying on the ground with terrible head injuries.

The walk finished at the grave of Alfred Bist. This is the grave with the beautiful carving on it of a train engine. Bist was fireman and was involved in a horrific crash at Bishopstoke when the train he was on collided with a stationary mail train. Bist survived the crash but died later in hospital from blood loss and shock.

I would like to thank FOSOC for clearing some of the graves so we could get close to them, to Bruce for taking the photographs and to Val for her help on the walk.

Text by Lizzie O’Sullivan

Photos taken by Bruce Larner