Overview of the Songs and Poems in this Category:

May of the poems in this section were written by railway workers and informed by their personal experience.

The railway worker and poet Alexander_Anderson¹ was the author of bar291, 687, 690 and 693

Main Themes and Motifs

- The dangers of the work


1870-79 291; 687; 690; 693
1880-89 102;
1890-99 225; 252; 579
1900-09 566; 569

Uncertain: 300; 723

Historical Background:



People on the trackside have always been in more danger than passengers or footplate men.

Of all the lineside workers shunters¹ were the most vulnerable.
The Midland Railway company, for example, kept an ambulance wagon permanently stationed at Toton Marshalling Yard near Nottingham to give treatment to injured shunters.

During 1912, one in ten shunters was killed or injured.



Track workers (variously known as platelayers, or surfacemen) were frequently hit by trains. It is surprising to the modern ear that they did not hear the trains coming but steam locomotives are surprisingly quiet when coasting. 


3 across Articles in this Category: click a link

Absent Minded Ganger

bar566: Dates 1899~1900|

Complaint about a ganger who works his men dangerously hard.

Economies With Lights

bar102: Dates ----~1882|

Sardonic complaint about the dangerous lack of lights on locomotives.

High Shields Goods Yard Lights

bar569: Dates 1900~1900|

Complaint about the dangerous lack of rail yard lighting.

Shunting Pole Inspector

bar225: Dates 1898~1898|

A group of shunters celebrate the absence of their shunting pole inspector and regret his return after only one week.

More Work for the Undertaker

bar252: Dates ----~1895|

Includes a verse in which a shunter is killed by an engine.

Old Wylie's Stone

bar291: Dates ----~1878|

Poem ~ A track worker is killed by a train

Onward ~ A Tale of the S.E. Railway

bar300: Dates ----~----|

A Signalman does his duty and puts his daughter's life in danger.

Parting, The

bar579: Dates ----~1898|

Marking the separation of two track maintenance workers after 30 years of friendship.

Jim's Whistle

bar687: Dates 1862~1877|

A deaf and dumb track worker is killed by a train.

Pointsman's Story

bar723: Dates ----~----|

Tall-tale of disaster averted.

Duncan Weir

bar690: Dates 1862~1877|

A track worker is killed by a train running on the wrong line.

Bill's Length

bar693: Dates 1862~1877|

A track worker is killed by a train driven by his brother.

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