“Shocking death on the railway”, was the headline 150 years ago this week as local newspapers told of the terrible decapitation of George Pearson, from Shildon.

He was in driving engine No 1217 from Barnard Castle over Stainmore to Tebay, pulling a heavy mineral train.

“Between Lartington and Bowes, a bridge crosses the railway, and under the bridge is a spout to convey water across,” said the Darlington & Stockton Times.

We are not sure the D&S was completely correct about this, as we think the metal aqueduct just outside Lartington station was built solely – and uniquely on the North Eastern Railway – to carry a stream over the tracks.

However, there is no dispute about what happened next…

“Pearson was standing on the tank of the engine, watering his coke, when in passing under the bridge, the spout caught him and knocked him off the tank, and he fell between the tank and first truck onto the rails, the whole of the heavily laden train passing over his body about the stomach, cutting him completely in two,” said the D&S.

The Northern Echo was even more ghastly.

“His head was found in the five-foot way, and his body between the rails, completely cut in two,” it said. “His house door key was also found near his body, which was also cut in two, and his pocket knife was found crushed quite flat.”

It said: “Seventeen laden mineral trucks and a guard’s van had passed over his body.”

The D&S concluded: “Death was, of course, instantaneous.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Priestgate, Darlington, and the letter RLAST week, we told how the cast iron and enamel letter R (above), which once featured in the words “Northern Despatch” that looked down from the printing palace in Priestgate, Darlington, was going to be auctioned by Darlington Rotary Club at Thomas Watson’s. The mid-1930s was the only one to be salvaged after the Despatch closed in 1986 and its name was taken down from the building it shared with The Northern Echo and the Darlington & Stockton Times.
Fabulously, this unique piece of local history made an amazing £300 on Tuesday. With the Rotarians’ other lots, the sale made £1,200 for St Teresa’s Hospice.