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A Railway Accident


Here are some words from the text. Use them all to make a short story. Take turns around the class to add a new sentence to the story.

passenger, intoxicated, steam, cheering, precautions, track, terrified, reported, actress, Prime Minister.

Read these questions and keep them in mind while reading the text.

1) When did this story take place?
2) What was the occasion?
3) Name some of the passengers.
4) What was The Rocket?
5) Who was injured?

On September 15th 1830, the first widely-reported accident to a railway passenger occurred. It was a day of changeable weather and the new railway line between Liverpool and Manchester was to be opened, so there was great excitement and curiosity in the air and perhaps also some apprehension. The first steam locomotive to be used on railways, Locomotion, had been built only five years earlier and this new line would be one of the first with a regular passenger service.

Many important people had been invited to be the first passengers on the line. Among the famous guests were the Duke of Wellington (the Prime Minister), Members of Parliament and an actress, Fanny Kemble, who recorded the experience in her journal. The train, pulled by the locomotive, Northumbrian, left from Liverpool and travelled at amazing speeds of up to 27mph! Fanny felt intoxicated by the sensation of flying along, but her mother was terrified. Hundreds of people lined the route, waving and cheering.

When there was a temporary halt about halfway between Liverpool and Manchester, some of the passengers jumped down onto the parallel line and stood there looking around or went to talk to the Prime Minister. At the same time, there was going to be a demonstration of another steam engine, The Rocket, which was travelling on the parallel line. Suddenly, there were shouts of, “Stop the engine!”, “Clear the track!” The men standing on the track saw The Rocket coming towards them, but had no idea of how fast the engine was travelling or of what to do. Some jumped or were pulled into their own carriage again, some pressed themselves flat against the side of the carriage, but one unfortunate MP, William Huskisson, was too slow and confused, had his leg crushed and died later the same day.

New machines and faster methods of transport were important for the rapid industrial development of the 19th century and the safety aspect was not given such a high priority in 1830 as it is today. We can see that better safety precautions and more knowledge of dangers and procedures would perhaps have saved the life of Mr William Huskisson MP.

Solution to introductory questions
  1. September 15th 1830.
  2. The opening of the new railway line between Liverpool and Manchester.
  3. The Duke of Wellington (the Prime Minister), Members of Parliament, Fanny Kemble, William Huskisson, Fanny Kemble’s mother.
  4. A steam engine.
  5. Mr William Huskisson MP.

Tasks and Activities


Are these statements true (T) or false (F)? Correct the ones which are false.
a) Many people heard about the accident.
b) It was a warm, sunny day.
c) The first steam locomotive used on railways was used to pull the train.
d) There were representatives from the government on the train.
e) William Huskisson was the Prime Minister.
f) The Rocket was pulling the train.
g) One man was killed instantly.


a) T.
b) F. The weather was changeable.
c) F. The train was pulled by Northumbrian. Locomotion was the first to be used on railways.
d) T.
e) F. William Huskisson was an MP.
f) F. The Rocket was travelling on the parallel line.
g) F. The man died later the same day.


A. 2116 Match the words

Oral Activities

  1. You are one of the passengers on the train and are being interviewed by the police after the accident. Work with a partner and carry out the interview.
  2. You are a journalist for “The Times” and are travelling on the train. Imagine that television has been invented and you are making a report to the newsroom.
  3. Watch the animation of The Rocket: Stephenson's Rocket Animation.
    What are the names of the main parts? Use your own words to describe how it works.


  1. You were the driver of The Rocket. Write a report for your employer, describing the accident from your point of view.
  2. You were a passenger on the train. Describe your experience of the journey from Liverpool to Manchester
  3. Write a newspaper report for “The Times”. You were a journalist on the train.

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