7. Water, Water, Everywhere

Things are a little bit different this week with severe flooding having affected my railway line, preventing me from reaching my office, so trains under water naturally sprang to mind.

Click on the wreck’s name to access the PastScape record – as ever, click on More Information and Sources to read the full story.

Today’s wreck contained five locos. The St. Chamond was torpedoed in 1918 while moving locos as deck cargo, consigned to France for the war effort. Wrecks such as these form part of a landscape of war, destined for another landscape of war, where British industrial output directly affected the French landscape. The British required coordinated transport between the ports and the Western Front for men and munitions, and of course, a rapid reverse flow as casualties were cleared and sent back home for recuperation, my own grandfather among them. Some of these ambulance trains were actually built at the Swindon Works, part of which is now the EH Swindon office. (Follow this link for history on the Swindon army base; Chiseldon Camp)

Here are some fabulous Futurist images by Gino Severini of trains speeding into or out of Paris during WWI:

Suburban Train Arriving in Paris, 1915

Armored Train in Action, 1915

Train de Blessés, 1915

Such wrecks, containing rolling stock and other items, such as railway sleepers, are fairly common, and illustrate the export of British railway engineering worldwide from the early days of the industry. The latest wreck containing rolling stock, as far as I know, may be that of the Fort Massac in 1946. I came across a reference to a Darlington loco consigned for South Africa lost in the Thames Estuary in the latest issue of my husband’s Railway Magazine. It just goes to show that you can find wreck information in the unlikeliest of places, buried deep among accounts of terrestrial infrastructure! The un-named wreck in the article fits the profile of the Fort Massac in date and place of loss, and the fact that the vessel was outward-bound from Middlesborough. I have found no reference, though, to the loco in either the UKHO or in the contemporary Times report.

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