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On the 9th of June 1865, Charles Dickens was travelling aboard the Folkestone to London Boat Train with his mistress and her mother, when it derailed while crossing a viaduct near Staplehurst in Kent. The train plunged down a bank into a dry river bed, killing ten passengers, and badly wounding forty.
Dickens was profoundly affected by the disaster, and a year later, he published The Signalman, a supremely atmospheric ghost story in which the narrator, while investigating a dank and lonely railway cutting, meets the signalman who lives there. His new acquaintance appears to live under the shadow of an unbearable secret, haunted by an apparition whose appearance prefigures terrible rail accidents.
Drawing on Dickens own experiences, and introduced by Simon Bradley, author of The Railways, The Signalman is both an important piece of rail history, and a sinister tale which will make you think twice next time you enter the quiet carriage.
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