Saturday Night Railway Tragedy – Man Killed in Conisborough Tunnel

February 1905

Mexborough and Swinton Times February 18, 1905

Saturday Night Railway Tragedy
Man Killed in Conisborough Tunnel
The Victim a Thurscoe Labourer

The 8.15 train from Doncaster at Barnsley on Saturday night arrived at Conisborough with a door and the side window of a third class compartment smashed into atoms.

It was noticed just as the train was steaming out of Conisborough en route to Mexborough and at the latter place information was given Mr Dickinson, the stationmaster, who had the carriage detached and placed in the sidings and telephoned to Conisborough, directing a search of the line to be made as appearances suggested someone had fallen from the train.

Two railway guards on duty at Conisborough station proceeded up the line, and shortly after entering the tunnel they just noticed splinters of the broken carriage door. A little further on the body of a respectably dressed workingman shockingly mutilated was discovered lying between the side of the archway and the metals. The police were notified and a light engine sent for the body being quickly removed to the waiting room at Conisborough station where Dr Forrester’s services were not required for the poor fellow was dead almost the moment he fell from the train.

Deceased was a well-developed man about 5’8” in height and was wearing drab cord knee breeches and waist coat, black coat, fancy silk muffler, grey cap, leather belt with brass buckles, black laces, boots and grey leggings. In the pockets were found £1.09 shillings in money, and two watches, one silver and one brass but there was nothing to indicate his identity, not even a railway ticket to shed light as to his intended destination.

The body remained in the waiting room unidentified throughout Sunday, and up to the time of the enquiry on Monday afternoon.

The Inquest

Dramatic Final

Mr F. E. Nicholson coroner held the inquest at the Station Hotel Conisborough.

On Monday afternoon. Mr Sam Whitfield was Forman of the jury and the enquiry was also attended by Mr. W. Gender, G. C. R. chief permanent way inspector, Sheffield district and Inspector Watson (West Riding).

At the commencement of the inquest the body still remained unidentified and the witnesses called were the three railway guards and the police. Their evidence had been taken and the coroner was about to sum up, when PC Wroe entered the room accompanied by a man evidently labouring under intense nervous excitement. He gave his name as James Newby, and said he believed deceased was a mate of his. He had just inspected the body but would like to see the clothes before pronouncing a definite opinion. Shown the articles in question he was certain of the identity of the deceased more so because of the two watches he carried. His evidence was extremely valuable, in as much as it cleared up any remaining mystery, and proved that the unfortunate man who had lost his life had left Doncaster in an empty carriage of the train from which he fell.

Deceased was described as being a bit fresh and the other evidence given left no doubt that in the moment of thoughtlessness he opened the carriage door in the dark of the tunnel and tragically met a horrible fate.

The first witness called was William Lawrence of 37 Flowit Street Doncaster, a goods guard on relief work at Conisborough Station on Saturday night. He said that on arrival of 8:15 pm train from Doncaster Barnsley he noticed the door of an empty third class compartment smashed at the top. Witness was collecting tickets and as he could not leave his position he called the attention of guard Turgoose who was acting as temporary stationmaster to the damaged carriage. He questioned the driver of the engine who gave no explanation of the cause.

The train was just steaming away and Tuurgoose told the traveling guard to report matters to Mexborough. Six minutes afterwards Mr Dickinson, stationmaster at Mexborough telephoned suggesting a search should be made along the line, but in the meantime witness and Turgoose had walked along the line with hand lamps.

Just inside the tunnel were so splinters of wood from the carriage door and about 10 yards further on the body of deceased was found lying face downwards with the head towards Doncaster and close to the metals inside the down line was deceased’s hand and wrist which have been severed by the wheels. Deceased’s cap was some yards further inside the tunnel.

Witness was of the opinion that the deceased had opened the door and that the top of the woodwork have been caught by a steel girder projecting inside the tunnel to within a few inches of the train. The broken wood had probably caught deceased on the head and knocked him insensible from the train. Deceased’s body would be banged to and fro between the walls of the tunnel and the passing coaches until it fell alongside the rails in the position it was discovered.

The Forman: You must have noticed the damaged door at Conisborough station?

Witness replied that he had and that he felt a suspicion that someone had fallen out of the train. When he and Turgoose reached the Cadeby signal box they received a message from Mexborough to institute enquiries. When they found the body they sent for a policeman and a doctor.

Foreman: Did you find any blood and flesh on the tunnel wall?

Witness: No,it was very dark and the place where deceased would strike the tunnel was too high up for us to see. There was our dent in one of the girders evidently caused by contact with the carriage handle.

In reply to have questions witness said that girders were certainly dangerous if anyone had their heads out of the windows. They had the body conveyed to Conisborough station on a light engine.

Replying to the coroner Mr Genders explained that the girders were a necessity for the strength of the bridge and were in use all over the country.

The Foreman: These girders seem very dangerous things to be in the tunnel.

The Coroner: If you open a door any time whilst travelling it might catch something on the railway.

The Foreman: Not so near as this appears to be.

Witness further said that there was plenty of space for a person to walk but not for the top of an open carriage door to pass .

The Foreman: I am speaking of people travelling in trains not walking. It is a common thing for people to put their heads out of carriage windows and they might be in the tunnel before they are aware. There ought to be four or five feet between the carriage and the wall.

Mr Hawksworth (juryman) in your opinion, would it be possible for an open carriage door to strike the masonry?

Witness: I could not say; I don’t know the dimensions of the tunnel.

Mr Genders said that such a thing would be impossible except perhaps at the top where the girders were. He said that passengers were not supposed to open doors when trains were in motion nor put their heads out of the Windows.

Guard Turgoose, 12 White Lee Road, Swinton said that on the night in question he was officiating as stationmaster at Conisborough. He described the walk through the tunnel and the findings of the body and incidentally mentioned that goods train and two engines had passed through the tunnel after the 8-15 passenger and before the deceased was discovered. He thought that the injuries to deceased were inflicted by the first fall.

Witness said that the door would not have to be more than about 18 inches open to catch the girder. Deceased was riding in the third carriage behind the engine.

George Bosson Greaves, guard of the train from which deceased fell said his attention was called to the damaged carriage by Turgoose just as his train was steaming away from Conisborough Station. When he left Doncaster everything was all right and all the doors properly shut and during the journey he heard no suspicious sound. He described the state of the carriage when his attention was drawn to it and said that the coach was detached at Mexborough, and placed on a siding.

The handle was torn away and pieces of wood and glass were strewn about the carriage floor.

Police constable Duffin said that on searching the clothes of the deceased he declared he found £1 9s 10d in money, one metal and one silver watch, one of which was going, a pocket knife, watch key and a small key. There was no railway ticket or letters to lead to deceased identification, nor was there any marks on the clothing.

The Foreman: Have you looked in the watches to see if there is any name of the maker?

The coroner (inspecting them): They are not marked.

At this juncture, James Newby came into the room, saying he believed he knew deceased. He did not know deceased’s surname, but he knew him only as James. Witness lived at Highgate, Goldthorpe, and deceased had worked as a plasterer’s labourer for his (witnesses) father.

Whilst at Mexborough, an hour before, witness had heard a description of deceased clothing, and knowing that deceased had not turn up at his lodging, thought that it might be him. Until then he had conjectured that deceased nonappearance at work that morning was that he might have been locked up. Deceased was about 26 to 28 years of age, and had been in the district for about five months, formally working as a farm labourer for Mr Hind of Thurnscoe. He did not know where deceased originally came from, but since the identification of the body is landlord had been wired for, and would probably be able to furnish the requisite information. On Saturday night witness and deceased went to Doncaster about 5.30, and had a few drinks during that evening in the Plumbers Arms. Deceased got a bit “fresh” and witness, him to the railway station. Deceased life witness purchase a ticket, but he could not say whether he did so, but he had plenty of time, as they saw the Sheffield train leave just prior to the departure of the 8:15 pm. Deceased was intended to go home via Wath. Deceased had received his wages, £1 6s 6d on Saturday midday but had other money on him, as he was usually a steady man, and witness had not before seen him worse for liquor.

The Foreman: Are you sure it is he?

Witness: Yes, I recognise the two watches, for he pulled these out of his pocket at Doncaster to look at the time.

Dr Foster said he had examined the body, and found large scalp wound on the left side of the head, about 4 inches long, a long wound in the forehead, 2 inches deep; several smaller rooms on the face, compound fracture of the right side of the school, the left arm was cut off below the elbow joint, and there was a compound fracture of the right arm. These injuries were consistent with such an accident as had been described.

The Coroner said there was no doubt that when this unfortunate man got into the train at Doncaster, you are slightly the worse for drink, and that when he came to the tunnel the open the door for a purpose. From the evidence of the railway officials, the door was down to strike the obstruction, and deceased would no doubt be rendered insensible by a blow, and falling from the train would receive the terrible injuries which would cause his death.

There was only one verdict, to his mind, and that was one of accidental death. There was not the slightest suspicion of foul play, and it was satisfactory to know that the friend of the deceased at ceiling, is that along from Doncaster, so that no one could have possibly got into the carriage between there and Conisborough. There was no need to adjourn the inquest as the deceased’s name could be ascertained by the police from the deceased’s landlord.

The jury returned a verdict accordingly, and shortly afterwards a man named William Oades, living in High Street Thurnscoe, identified the body as that of George Parkinson, who was single, 28 years of age, and had lodged with him as stated by Newby.