8th November 2017

Imagine the sight

posted in history |

“It’s like watching a train wreck” is not the same as “it’s like reading about a train wreck”. After a question on social media about an accident that happened more than 80 years ago, I decided to see just where things happened. Not so simple…

The directions were imprecise. A mile and a half doesn’t mean much when you ask someone how far they had walked through drifted snow. Similarly, knowing that there was a water tank within a mile works only when the water tank is still extant. And so I turned to the recorded testimony from the inquest. I know, now, that people remember what they ate, not where they were. The accident happened in the dark, so there were no eyewitnesses, and the only constant seems to be the colour of the signal lantern  on the rear of the stopped train; that was a requirement.

I then turned to the aerial photos from three years later. The plane studiously avoided the area; I can catch views from a mile on either side but the middle remains imagined ground. And any measurements, once applied using an app designed for runners on a path, become nothing more than a friendly gesture.

So, should I go for a hike through the area, hoping that there remains a trace on the ground after all this time? Not going to happen. I’ve passed on what little I could determine to the person who posed the original question, and any further details will have to come from people closer to the time and place. Best hurry; there are few left.

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