Dickens on the move

On the bicentenary of Charles Dickens's birth, Jonathan Grossman explores the ways in which the 19th century transport revolution impacted on the author's life and work

Aftermath of the Staplehurst rail crash, a derailment at Staplehurst, Kent in 1865, that killed ten passengers and injured forty. Author Charles Dickens was among the passengers who escaped unscathed. “He spent hours aiding the hurt and dying and extricating the dead,” says Jonathan Grossman. (SSPL/Getty Images)

This article was first published in the February 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 

On 9 June 1865, the South Eastern Railway’s timetable clearly put the Saturday tidal train coming from Folkestone into Headcorn station at 5.20pm. A foreman working further down the line from Headcorn near Staplehurst calculated he had plenty of time. The crew could replace the last of the baulks of the small viaduct on which they were working. They took up the track.

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