Fatal Accident at Chirk Railway Station, 16th September 1854

At about half past two on the afternoon of Saturday 16th September 1854, two men employed by Mr. Morris, were engaged in unloading wheat from three railway trucks on railway sidings just off the main line on the Shrewsbury to Chester railway. 

A torrential rainstorm occurred so the railway point man told them not to do anything further with the trucks until a goods train travelling from Shrewsbury towards Chester had passed through Chirk Station.

To the horror of the point man as the train approached Chirk station he noticed that one of the trucks being unloaded was moving along the sidings toward the main line. The train and the truck collided on the main Shrewsbury to Chester railway line.  The truck suffered massive collision damage and was tipped over.

The driver of the train a Mr. Jack Blackburn was killed instantly due to a glass tube bursting over him.  The train stocker survived the accident by jumping off the train.  The Shrewsbury to Chester railway line had been open for the last seven years and this was the first fatal accident on that line.   Although any death is unfortunate, if the train involved in the accident had been a passenger train rather than a good train the number of casualties would have been much higher.

As speculation as to the causes of the accident continued suspicion fell onto the two employees of Mr. Morris who were unloading the trucks prior to the accident. This suspicion reached such a level that Sir Wynn had the two men taken into custody where they remained until the following Monday when the Coroner, Mr. Thelwall, opened an inquest into the death.

When the Coroner’s Inquest took place on Monday 18th September 1854, no evidence was found to support the idea that the two men unloading the trucks were responsible for the accident, and the Court returned verdict of accidental death.

Surprisingly, little is recorded about Jack Blackburn except that he was married and that he had worked on the Shrewsbury & Chester Railway just three months.  No information exists about the two men who were initially suspected as causing the accident.

The case has a rather chilling and spooky ending to it.  Whilst Jack Blackburn’s corpse was being moved from Chirk to Manchester, where it was to be buried, it was involved in a further fatal train accident.

A man assisting to remove the corpse from the train was accidentally killed. This man had formally been a train stocker who had worked with Jack Blackburn on a different railway line.

Source: Victorian Criminal Cases: The Wrexham Area ©2013 Wayne Piotr Cronin-Wojdat of Historical Gems.

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