The Yanwath railway explosion of February 26, 1867, killed two men and caused massive damage to homes in the village.https://crimesofthecenturies.com/index.php/2019/06/30/yanwath-railway-explosion/
Just a few weeks later, there was nearly another tragedy on the Yanwath railway. But a local hero prevented an accident that could have seen greater loss of life.
- (Note: it wasn’t the ‘Yanwath Railway’ as such, but railway lines running past the village)
Yanwath railway 12 March 1867
COLLISION PREVENTED NEAR YANWATH. An act of foresight, decision, and prompt action was displayed by a workman on the Lancaster and Carlisle Railway on Thursday morning last…Penrith Observer
The Observer reminds readers how the Eden Valley line joins the Lancaster and Carlisle line ‘at no great distance from Yanwath,’ (actually, at Clifton, a couple of miles away) and that ‘the (Eden Valley) trains ran along the latter into Penrith station’.
It seems that on that morning, a goods train from Kirkby Stephen, laden with coke, passed from the Eden Valley line on to the Lancaster and Carlisle railway at the usual time (about seven o’clock), running at reduced speed.
What the driver didn’t know was that the ‘old mail’ train, which had been due into Penrith about 6am, was running more than an hour late.
Green for danger!
The Observer says the signalman at the junction hoisted the green danger flag, to stop the approach of the mail train, in which were several passengers.
But the driver steamed on at full speed.
Perhaps there is someone reading who knows why it was then a GREEN danger flag, which seems so counter-intuitive now. For sure, in The Railway Children (written 1905), they use red flannel petticoats to warn a train crew the line ahead has been blocked by a landslide.
A local hero
It wasn’t three children who saved the day on the Yanwath railway, but a plate-layer, called John Poole (or John Pool), who lived at Yanwath.
On hearing the approach of the passenger train, and knowing that nothing but prompt action could prevent a collision, immediately ran up the line in front of the engine, and succeeded, at the imminent risk of his life. in placing a fog signal upon one of the rails.
The fog signal must have been something that ‘went bang,’ for:
The explosion that shortly followed warned the driver of the mail that danger was in front of him, and he at once threw off the steam, and was enabled to stop his engine when within a few yards of the coke train.
The Observer says that:
Had the passenger train been permitted to run on without this timely warning, it is thought by Poole and the rest of the men, over whom he is ” leader,” that a collision would have undoubtedly occurred between the two trains, close to the scene of the late memorable catastrophe.
So John Poole was the leader of a team of railway workers. What else can find out about the Yanwath railway hero?
John Pool (or John Poole)
The 1861 census shows John Pool (no ‘e’), aged 32 living at Yanwath with his wife Ann, 31, and daughter Mary Ann, aged one. John seems to have been born in ‘London, Middlesex,’ with Ann born at Eamont Bridge and Mary Ann at Yanwath. The birth for Mary Ann is recorded as Pool.
The best birth match for John is an 1828 baptism in Shoreditch, to John Pool, gentleman’s servant, and Hannah (likely Atkinson).
John Pool senior, and Hannah, were in Kirby Thore by 1861 (John was a gentleman’s groom). Which makes sense and supports the ‘match’. It also looks as though they’d moved to Westmorland by 1841, though the John Pool (wife Hannah, kids include John 12) at Sleagill was an ag lab. Hannah and two daughters are in Kirby Thore in 1851, without John, who is listed as a house servant nearby, in the household of banker and farmer John Crosby.
Hero John Pool and his wife Ann were still at Yanwath in 1871, still with one child, Mary Ann, now 11. There is an 1858 Crosby Ravensworth marriage of a John Pool to an Ann Brown, then 29. They stayed in Yanwath, there (just them) in 1881 and 1891, when John, 63, was still a railway platelayer.
An Ann Pool died in West Ward district in 1907, aged 78, and a John a year later, aged 79.
The only other time our hero seems to have been named in the press was in 1886, when:
Mr. T RICHARDSON (relieving and sanitary officer) reported a nuisance caused by throwing washing water on the road at Yanwath, from the houses of Thomas Nicholson, Thos. Ball, John Pool, and Joseph Carlton. He was instructed to communicate with the agents of Lord Lansdale, the owner …
Well hey, it may have been the others to blame. And it doesn’t sound the worst offence in the world.
Mary Ann possibly married Robert Simpson Walker in 1885. His wife Mary Ann, for sure, puts her place of birth at Yanwath on the 1911 census. Was the story of her father’s bravery passed down the generations? Or was he a modest man, who ‘just did what I had to’?
Nowt goes to waste
The two trains that collided on February 26, 1867, were goods trains. The explosion (of the wagon carrying gunpowder) wrecked other wagons and their contents, including fabrics. But some of it was clearly salvaged, and while not in the best of conditions, some people clearly saw a value in it:
Patchwork for the Million
Robert Allan begs to inform the public he has bought an immense quantity of the best prints damaged by the explosion at Yanwath, which will be sold in bundles, a decided bargain; also some very good moleskins etc damaged by water, to be sold at nominal prices. Small prices and quick returns.Advert. March 16, 1867