DEATH – ASKEW Margaret 73 years. Frightful death of a woman on the railway

Accreditation The Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea Gazette 29/03/1877.


            On Wednesday afternoon (27/03), an inquest was held at the Warrenby Hotel, near Redcar, before A. Buchannan, Esq., district coroner, on view of the body of Margaret Askew, seventy-three years of age, who had been killed on the railway the previous day, at am accommodation crossing, leading to her residence Marsh Cottage, Coatham, her body been mutilated in a most shocking manner. Mr. Thomas Armstrong, superintendent of railway police, attended the inquest on being half of the North-Eastern Railway Company. The following evidence was adduced:-

Jonathan Hutton:  I am a cart man, and live at Warrenby cottage. I have known the deceased fifteen or sixteen years. Her husband’s name is John Askew, and he works as a labourer at Messrs. Downey’s furnaces. There is a footpath over the railway, which leads to the two houses, one of which is occupied by deceased. It is not a public road. I last saw deceased alive about six minutes past twelve yesterday. She was going direct home, and I was going to my dinner. I went into my house, from which I could see a goods train going up to Middlesbrough, and a passenger train coming down to Redcar. I saw the passenger train slackened speed, and soon afterwards a person came to my house and said that a woman had been killed. I took a door, and about 20 yards from the crossing, leading to her house, I found the body of deceased. The body was laid between the rails of the download line, and there was part of our flesh on the rails. I got the body onto the door, and assisted to remove it to the deceased’s home. It is not the custom for drivers to whistle or signal in any way at this particular crossing, unless they see anyone on the line.

Joseph Fairbridge sworn: tab I am an engine-driver in the employee of the North-Eastern Railway Company, and have been employed in that capacity for the last thirty-two years. I have driven the train called the Saltburn express for the last two years, which leaves Newcastle at 10:15 am. and arrives at Saltburn at 12.25.Until within the last two years I have not known this part of the line, and was not aware until this accident that there was an accommodation crossing between the one leading into Warrenby, and the one at Coatham gates. I was driving the train yesterday, and as near as I can guess at about six minutes past twelve a mineral train was passing us, going on the up line. Owing to this I could not see far along the line. I had just passed the Warrenby gates, when I noticed an old lady stepping onto the line, about 15 yards in front of the engine. I opened the whistle, but she was knocked down immediately. I pulled up as soon as I could, and afterwards informed the station master at Redcar of the accident. When I first took charge of the train I now drive, I was instructed by officials familiar with this line for the first six months.

By the Foreman of the jury (Mr. Hikeley): I was not aware that there was any cross between Warrenby gates and Coatham. I know of I am accommodation crossing on a farm, a little nearer Coatham.

By Mr. Armstrong: Supposing the gates were closed at a farm crossing, it would be my duty to whistle; on I should usually do so.

The witness appeared several times to contradict himself in giving his evidence, and Mr. Armstrong after wards explained that there was no doubt he was suffering from nervousness, as he had narrowly escaped running over a platelayer at Darlington in the afternoon after the present accident. The man was standing in the middle of the line, with his back to the approaching train, and when Fairbridge, by shutting off the steam and reversing the engine, managed to bring up the train within three yards of the platelayer, he was still standing with sprayed over his shoulder perfectly unconscious of any danger.

The evidence not being clear as to whether it was of whether it was not an engine-driver’s duty to sound his whistle at every crossing, accommodation or otherwise, at the request of the Coroner Mr. Armstrong was sworn. He said, I am a superintendent of police on the North-East Railway, and am to a certain extent familiar with the duties to be discharged by engine-drivers. From what I know of the subject it is not my opinion that it is the duty of an engine-driver to whistle before coming to an accommodation crossing, unless he sees any person either in the act of crossing on about to cross the line. I should not consider any blame should be attached to an engine-driver for not whistling before approaching such a crossing.

The Coroner then went over the evidence, remarking that he also was of opinion that the law did not compel the whistle of an engine to be sounded when a train was approaching and accommodation crossing, such as where deceased met her death, but only at public crossings.

The jury then returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”


Lol Hansom October 30, 2014 Doctors & Health, Trains & Railways