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Volunteers sought to transcribe railway notebook

Railways were the driving force behind Britain’s industrial revolution, keeping docks, factories, mines and quarries humming with activity, and serving villages and cities across the land.

Volunteers are now being sought to help tell the sad and costly story behind Britain’s railway age – the deaths and injuries suffered by many thousands of mainly men who operated the railways.

Historian Mike Esbester, at the University of Portsmouth, is hoping people will volunteer to help transcribe a 1901-1905 railway trade union handwritten notebook, as part of Transcription Tuesday, on 5th February.

The notebook meticulously details the surprisingly common deaths of railwaymen – seven deaths are recorded on just the first page – alongside scratches, cuts, concussions and stories of workers fired for petty theft, among other things.

Dr Esbester said: “In the early 1900s, the railways were Britain’s lifeblood. But keeping the nation moving carried a high price – the death or injury of many thousands of mostly men who did the dirty work. So far, the book hasn’t been used by researchers and we don’t know what it will contain – we’re excited. The data would be a huge benefit to research and a really excellent resource for family historians and anyone interested in our railway past.”

Transcription Tuesday is in its third year. It is run by Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine and aims to encourage and inspire armchair-historians to help turn archive records into digital format for future generations.

To find out more about the project, visit www.railwayaccidents.port.ac.uk/transcription-tuesday. Volunteers don’t need to sign up – they just need to ‘turn up’ digitally at the website, download a picture of an entry from the book, and enter details into a spreadsheet.

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