Friday, 20 April 2018

Don't Pull the Communication Cord

July 1st 1907 and at 2pm the London and North West Railway's express from Liverpool stops at Tamworth after someone had pulled the communication cord. When the guard investigated he found it had been pulled by Mrs Higham, none other than the wife of the MP for Sowerby in Yorkshire. She claimed her son of 3.1/2 had fallen from the train. Quickly all stations and signalmen on the line between Tamworth and Stafford were alerted and all traffic stopped as the search began.

By 4:30pm news filtered through that the child had been found near Hademore Crossing and was being treated by a district nurse at the cottage of a Mrs Smith near Whittington Bridge. In Tamworth the stationmaster, a Mr Matthews, stopped the down train and accompanied Mrs Higham as she went to check on her son. They arrived at the same time as Dr Homan who reported the child to have been badly hurt but would live. He had been discovered by a platelayer ganger working on the line. Noticing movement at the side of the line he investigated and found the young boy. He had carried the child to the cottage after sending his colleague for the district nurse whom he had seen cycling past just moments earlier.

How the door came open on a train travelling at 60mph was never explained, although he was a large child for his age and perhaps he had done something to contribute to the accident. Indeed, his bulk will have helped protect him as an examination of the trackside revealed he had collided with and broken a number of large stones as he bounced along for some 40 yards before coming to rest alongside the line used by traffic in the opposite direction. Although conscious he had not attempted to move which was fortunate indeed as the down express had passed him two minutes after he came to rest here. The driver of the down train had seen the body of the child but surmised he must have hit the mother, hence stopping at Lichfield to raise the alert.

Later that evening Mr Higham MP arrived from London Euston. He made a statement in the House the following day, thanking all those who had had a hand in the rescue and informing them his son was "progressing nicely".

Perhaps the oddest part of this potentially tragic tale came in the form of the newspaper headline, for the Lichfield Mercury led with the odd choice of EXCITEMENT ON THE TRAIN LINE NEAR LICHFIELD.

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