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, Modern Records Centre at Warwick University, and the National Archives, researchers at the University of Portsmouth are making previously-underused accident reports more accessible, 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 4,500 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 or through the 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 members

  • Dr Mike Esbester – Senior Lecturer in History at the University of Portsmouth, specialising in the history of transport and mobility, and in the history of accidents and safety in modern Britain
  • Karen Baker – Librarian at National Railway Museum
  • Peter Thorpe – Library and Archive Assistant at the National Railway Museum
  • Craig Shaw – Administration Volunteer at the National Railway Museum
  • Helen Ford – Manager of Modern Records Centre at Warwick University

Recent activities

‘Transcription Tuesday’ event, Feb 2019 – Over the course of a single day, volunteers from around the world logged in to transcribe an entire volume of records from the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants trade union, 1901-5.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about the project, please email

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