1890: Shocking accident at the Oxenholme railway station

On the evening of New Year’s Day a terrible accident happened at Oxenholme Railway Station to John Pears, the foreman porter, causing his death. The deceased was married but had no family, and resided at Helmside, a row of cottages a little south of the railway station. When coming on duty about six o’clock it would appear that the deceased crossed the line, and was run into by the London express and literally cut to pieces. The deceased was a steady, quiet man, and much respected by his fellow workmen and the travelling public. An inquest was held on the body on Thursday evening by Mr. F. W. Watson, deputy coroner, when the following evidence was adduced:-

Sarah Pears, of Helmside, deposed: I am the widow of John Pears, the deceased. I last saw him alive last evening, about twenty minutes to six o’clock. My husband was foreman porter at Oxenholme Railway Station. He was due on duty at six o’clock. Before leaving home he was in his usual health and spirits. I had not the slightest reason to think that deceased contemplated any rash act. I am quite satisfied on this point. I attribute his death purely to accident. The deceased was 42 last March.

Henry Paine, brakesman, living at 8, Black Hall Yard, Kendal, deposed: I am in the employ of the London and North-Western Railway Company . I have known the deceased, John Pears, since I commenced work at Oxenholme nine years ago. He was a sober, steady man, and thoroughly acquainted with his duties. When I was coming off duty last evening, about six o’clock, I crossed the shunting yard to get to the platform. I walked along the six-foot way. When near Oxenholme Station I found a can and basket; the can had the deceased’s name stamped upon it. The evening was rather foggy and wet. I suspected that an accident had happened. On proceeding to search a little further south I found a human foot lying on the up loop line, on the shunting side. I then came to the office and told the station master what I had found. The station master and I proceeded back to the place, where we found the trunk of the deceased’s body lying in the four foot of the up main line. The trunk was mangled into a heap. Another person found some other portions of the body further south. I could not identify John Pears from his clothing, nor from any portion of the body that had been found. I cannot account for how the deceased got on to the line. The remains were found about forty yards from the southern end of the platform. I am not aware that the deceased had any duty which required him to cross the rails, but it is commonly done by the railway officials instead of using the sub way.

Thomas Moffat, station master at Oxenholme deposed: I have known the deceased, John Pears, nine years. He was a steady, trustworthy official, and acted as foreman porter. The deceased was due on duty at six o’clock last evening. I did not see him come on duty. A few minutes after six o’clock, the last witness came and reported to me the finding of the can and basket and a human foot. We returned together to continue the search. I corroborate what Paine has said as to the result of the search. Deceased might have been crossing the rails in the ordinary course of his duty. He had continually to do this when on duty. The London express is due to pass Oxenholme at 5-33 p.m., not stopping. Last night the express was late, passing through the station at 5-49. It was proceeding at a high rate of speed. I have no doubt the deceased was killed by that train. It is quite probable that he would think the express had passed and that the line was clear. By a juryman: A lamp underneath the bridge was not lighted; it was moonlight. There was no fog at the time. The platform lamps were all lighted. The lights from the signal box gives a good light where the remains were found. I could identify the deceased by the clothing and can.

Thomas Rumney, of Crewe, deposed: I am an engine-driver, and was in charge of the London express las evening due to pass through Oxenholme at 5-33. I passed through at 5-50. I neither saw, heard or felt anything in passing through Oxenholme, which we did at a rate of about 45 miles an hour. We ran through to Preston without a stop, and on arriving there I found portions of brains scattered against the side frame of the engine. I also observed the peak of a railway cap on the smoke box on the same side. The right buffer lamp was missing when we arrived at Preston. The lamp would be 4ft. or 5ft. from the ground, and this might probably cause death of deceased. The evening was a little hazy, but not so bad at Oxenholme as it was about Hayfell.

Inspector Shepherd, of Lancaster, here stated that there was another train on the down line being shunted when the express went through Oxenholme.

The Deputy-Coroner, however, did not think it was necessary to encumber the dispositions with this.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”

Westmorland Gazette, 4 January 1890