Press & Media; Portsmouth locations; 15th July 2019

Railway Work, Life and Death

Discovering the lives of those hurt or killed while working on Britain and Ireland's railways a century ago

Working on Britain and Ireland’s railways a century ago was incredibly dangerous, and tens of thousands of employees were injured or killed in accidents at work.

The Railway Work, Life and Death research project aims to discover who these people were, what they were doing on the railways, and what happened to them.

In collaboration with The National Railway Museum and the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick, and working with the National Archives, researchers at the University of Portsmouth are making previously-underused accident reports more accessible. This is possible with the help of a team of volunteers, who have created a free database of railway worker accidents and deaths from the late 1880s to 1939.

We currently have data for around 50,000 individuals from the UK and Ireland and whether you’re a family historian, labour historian or railway enthusiast, you can search our database by name, location, date, employers, cause of accident and nature of injury.

You can read more about the project and download the database from our Railway Work, Life and Death microsite. You can also follow the project on Twitter, Facebook or through the National Railway Museum's blog.

About the project

In the first phase of the project, we extracted information from the following sources:

  • Railway Inspectorate 1911-15
  • Great Eastern Railway Company’s Benevolent Fund 1913-23
  • Amalgamated Society of Railway Servant’s legal book 1901-5

In the second phase of the project, we're aiming to add a further 70,000 names, by using the following sources:

  • State inspector report, 1921-39 at the National Railway Museum
  • Railway company records, 1890s-1920s at the National Archives
  • Trade Union records, c.1870s-1920s at the Modern Records Centre, Warwick University

Project lead

Mike Owen Esbester Portrait

Dr Mike Esbester

Principal Lecturer

School of Area Studies, Sociology, History, Politics, and Literature

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

PhD Supervisor

Read more

Project members

Contact us

If you have any questions about the project, please email

Find out more

Research projects

Read more about the projects we're working on, and those which we've recently completed – and find out how they're making a difference.

Back of man at a computer looking at data charts
Discover our research projects

Research groups and centres

Discover our research groups, centres, institutes, clusters, networks and labs, exploring pressing global issues and ground-breaking research. 

blue governance
Discover more

Research themes

Our research themes aim to make a difference by confronting the major issues and challenges facing the planet and society.

Student wearing VR headset
Discover more