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Railway Crimes Committed in Victorian Britain (Hardback)

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > True Crime Transport > Trains & Railways

By Malcolm Clegg
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 160
Illustrations: 20 mono
ISBN: 9781399085816
Published: 11th January 2023

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The vast majority of Britain’s railways were built between 1830 and 1900 which happened to coincide with the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901). By the turn of the Nineteenth/Twentieth Century, over one hundred different railway companies were operating in Britain on more than 22,000 miles of railway track.

Although these new railways brought prosperity to the nation and enabled goods and passengers to be speedily transported the length and breadth of the country for the first time, this remarkable feat of engineering brought with it some unwelcome side-effects, one of which was crime. Wherever crowds of people gather, or unattended goods are being transported, a few unscrupulous individuals and career criminals will usually emerge to ply their trade. Some railway staff members are also unable to resist the temptation of stealing money or goods passing through their hands.

This book gives an insight into the nature and types of crime committed on the railways during the Victorian era, incorporating such offences as theft, assaults and murder, fraud, obstructing the railways and various other infringements of the law.

Over seventy different cases mentioned in the book are true accounts of events which took place on the railway during the Victorian era, the details of which were obtained as a result of hours of researching British Newspaper Archives of that period. The author hopes that readers will get as much pleasure from analysing the various cases cited in the book, as he himself derived from researching and writing about them.

As the author explains, the majority of crimes committed on the railways, such as theft, violence and fraud, are just the same as those committed elsewhere, though railways could increase the opportunities for them. Others arise from legislation, the primary purpose of which was to make railways a safe mode of transport. The book details over seventy examples, of all types, using information derived from newspaper reports. The final chapter deals with some quirky cases, including a runaway horse on the track, a man who set fire to a railway sawmill because he had been sacked, and a duel between two locomotives because the driver of one would not move it to allow the other to pass over the points.

Journal of the Railway & Canal Historical Society

As featured in

The Sherlock Holmes Journal - Summer 2023

As featured

Welsh Railways Research Circle Spring newsletter

"...the books wide range and readability giving a broad range of railway crimes including largely unknow cases."

Friends of the NRM Review - Spring 2023

Review as featured in

Highlight: '...an enjoyable and fascinating read.'

Who Do You Think You Are

An interesting book, Railway Crimes Committed in Victorian Britain that does exactly what it says on the tin. A wide variety of crimes were committed on the railways and surrounds.

The crimes listed range from the serious right down to the almost trivial, but It’s a good read to see a lot about the social issues and crimes going on at the time. While some stories or incidents got a few pages of writing, quite a few, the least serious got a paragraph. But like I said well written and a good read about crime on the railways. Certainly one for those interested in railways or the Victorian era.

Read full review here

The History Fella

True crime aficionados will appreciate this collection, which is well written, and it is a good read, maybe even on a long train journey.

Read the Full Review Here

Beating Tsundoku

This work encompasses a wide range of crimes committed on the railways and dealt with mainly by railway police forces of which there were many! Much of the crime was no different to that dealt with by Home Office police forces but some offences required specialist knowledge, contacts and understanding to ensure an effective investigation.

This is an interesting and well researched small book of interest.

Surrey Constabulary History Journal, Police History Society

About Malcolm Clegg

Malcolm Clegg had a thirty year career as a Constable and Sergeant in the British Transport Police. The majority of his service was spent both in Uniformed and CID policing of the railways and docks at Newport, Cardiff and Swansea. He spent ten years in London, stationed at Paddington, Liverpool Street, Stratford and the London Underground Network. His final years were spent working as a Detective Sergeant in Swansea, investigating crimes in South and West Wales. After his retirement, he became an active member of the British Transport Police History Group (www.btphg.org.uk). He has carried out extensive research on behalf of the group and has written a number of articles. He has written four other books entitled; British Steam Locomotives before Preservation, The Last Days of British Steam, LMS and LNER Steam Locomotives, British Transport Police (A definitive history of the early years and subsequent development), each published by Pen & Sword.

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