Dangerous Days on the Victorian Railways (eBook): Feuds, Frauds, Robberies and Riots
by Terry Deary
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Facing feuds and frauds, robberies and riots and the disasters of dangerous drivers, deadly designers and sleepy signalmen, Victorians risked more than just delays when stepping on a steam train.
Victorian inventors certainly didn't lack steam, but squabbling over who deserved the title of 'The Father of the Locomotive' and busy enjoying their fame and fortune, safety on the rails was not their priority. Brakes were seen as a needless luxury (until a steamer started to slide downhill towards disaster) and boilers had an inconvenient tendency to overheat and explode, and in turn, blow up anyone in reach.
Four years after a mysterious murderer left only his victim's crushed hat and walking stick on board a first class carriage, the nation trembled at the trains once more. Poorly timed repairs caused a locomotive to derail and crash into the shallow River Beult, killing ten passengers and injuring 40 more. The infamous Staplehurst disaster is said to have traumatised passenger Charles Dickens, threatening to expose his affair with the young Nell Ternan, and altering his health and writing for the rest of his life.
Often recognised as having revolutionised travel and industrial Britain, Victorian railways were perilous. Few other histories honour the lives of the people killed or injured by the diseases and disasters which accounted for thousands of deaths. The victims of the Victorian railways had names, lives and families, and they deserve to be remembered...
Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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