So this is probably at train crash you have never heard of and why would you unless you know the history of the area. Well I do know the area as my family lived there and on that fateful night they may well have rushed to the scene of devastation to assist.
The accident happened on the night of the 10th September 1874 in the town of Thorpe St Andrew. A peaceful place on the side of the river Yare east of Norwich in Norfolk. At the time the population was between 4000 and 5000. It was an extremely wet night and due to the time it happened it was also dark. The crash happened on the single track line at about 21.45 when the 20.40 mail train from Yarmouth collided head on with the 17.00 London to Yarmouth passenger train. Both trains were running late that night and had both received written confirmation that they could proceed onto the single track line. But unfortunately mistakes were made with a misunderstanding about which train was to be given permission to enter the line. The station master at Thorpe meant for the passenger train to enter the line but the duty inspector thought he meant the mail train. With both travelling at speed they stood no chance of stopping when they each caught sight of the other. There was nothing the drivers could do to prevent disaster. It was said that when the engines hit they pushed each other up into the air and the carriages were destroyed. In the accident the drivers and firemen of the trains died instantly and 17 passengers died at the scene and more died from their injuries. A further 75 people were seriously injured.
Now at the time of the accident my ancestors were living on Thunder Lane in the town. My great great grandma was 8 years old and living with her mother and stepfather. Her eldest brother Edward was 21 and newly married with his first child. It is fair to say when the accident happened Edward and his stepfather along with other members of the family would have rushed to the scene to see what had happened and they then probably stayed to help the rescue of those trapped and the transportation of the injured to the nearby pub for treatment. The young men of the town would have been pressed into service to help in the rescue efforts. There were no heavy rescue units to call upon. It would have been all hands on deck to get the injured out and to safety.
The eyewitness accounts of the accident said what a sight of devastation with the mangled trains and carriages with the cries of the injured. As it was night bonfires had to be lit so that the rescuers could see what they were doing. Bodies had been flung from the train and survivors landed in peoples gardens. Many had serious injuries that needed instant treatment and others had lost their clothing or what they had left was in tatters. One child had to have her leg amputated at the scene.
Of those who died there was a family. A mother, a father and a young child. A family outing that ended in tragedy.
What did my family see, what did they hear. How did it affect them at the time and in the future? I guess I will never know for sure, but I can’t see them not being troubled by it. Anyone who had to witness such an event must have been impacted by it. Did it impact them in their later lives? Did little Julia Weeds see any of the carnage or was she sheltered form it by her mother?
This rail disaster just goes to show that history and family history/genealogy go hand in hand. The history is the rail disaster but my family’s potential involvement is the family history and the genealogy. So the moral of this blog is do not ignore the history of the time your ancestors lived in. You can get an insight into their lives from it.
Hello and thank you for taking the time to read my Family History Ramblings on genealogy and history in general. I hope you find it informative and hopefully funny!