If Brunel was subverted from his true calling, then Bristol Temple Meads Station wouldn’t exist. All sorts of solutions would be applied to getting passengers off safely from a moving train once it was within the city’s environs. As this following advert from The London Evening Comet testifies:
ARE YOU TRAVELLING TO BRISTOL BY RAIL?
Do you fear possible fatal injury when you attempt to jump off?
Then your worries are at an end.
Loak out for Jacob Wrenthrow’s Farm near Keynsham on the outskirts of Bristol.
There, adjacent to the track, has been placed three different piles to soften your landing.
HERE ARE YOUR OPTIONS:
- HAY. Land in our soft bales of hay for just sixpence. A first-class experience.
- MUD. Soften your landing by jumping into our mud heap for just threepence. Good quality Somerset mud. You will not be disappointed.
- DUNG: Jump into our dung heap and be charged just a penny. A third-class experience to complete your journey.
JACOB WRENTHROW’S FARM: Guaranteed to bring you down to earth with a soft landing.
The success of this enterprise is measured by the appearance, a few months later, of this advert:
SHERBOURNE & HEATHERSMIRE SOLICITORS.
Have You Suffered Injury That Wasn’t Your Fault?
Did you pay out for a MUD landing at Jacob Wrenthrow’s Farm but find yourself covered in DUNG instead?
As a consequence did you suffer the INJURY of losing your friends, business and your appetite?
Then contact SHERBOURNE & HEATHERSMIRE SOLICITORS (preferably by post at 129 Baker Street, London) and tell us that you’ve been dung.
There will be various means tried to bring the express train from London to a stop in Bristol to allow loved ones to disembark safely as this report from July, 1878 testifies:
INQUEST INTO DEATH OF MISS PRISCILLA GARBUTT
The inquest was held yesterday at Bristol of local woman Miss Priscilla Garbutt, 20, who met a most unfortunate end when she was run over by a train that had travelled from London as she lay upon the tracks in Bristol in an attempt to stop the engine to enable her acquaintance, Mr David Robey, to safely depart from it.
Her mother, Mrs Muriel Garbutt in her evidence to the court revealed that in the days leading up to the arrival of her suitor she’d entertained a melancholy as she fretted about his safety when leaping from the moving train upon arrival in Bristol. As she was an avid reader of adventure novels, Miss Garbutt devised the idea of lying upon the track, like a heroine trying to escape being tied up on one, in an attempt to bring the engine to a halt in Bristol and thus allow Mr Robey to disembark safely.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t often parallel adventure novels and this attempt at the recreation of one was doomed to failure. Miss Garbutt had hoped that not actually being tied to the track would ensure her safety, but in attempting to roll away from the track as the engine was almost upon her, her dress caught upon it and she was killed instantly, her body being distributed in various pieces along the track. The engine driver, Mr Harold Stropp of Maypole, Birmingham, brought the train to a halt and GWR staff left their duties to gather the pieces of the unfortunate Miss Garbutt. Her identity was also established by means of a letter addressed to her carried in a pocket of her dress. A request was made for anyone who knew Miss Garbutt aboard the train, whereupon Mr David Robey made himself known to the staff.
Mr David Robey informed the court that he was told by the porter, Jeremiah Sackville-South, to take a seat in the second-class carriage he had occupied. He replied that he had already tried but they were screwed in too well. He then explained that he was travelling to Bristol with the intention of asking Miss Garbutt’s father for her hand in marriage. It was at that point that the porter broke the tragic news and then, in an attempt to cheer the grief-stricken passenger, said that if it made him feel any better he could have her hand in carriage instead and promptly left to fetch it.
VERDICT: Death by Miss-Adventure.