Luke Benson Stationmaster

Harry Harrison sent us this photograph of his grandfather who was station master at the Midland Road station during the 1940s and was sadly killed in a railway accident.

Luke Benson – station master at the Midland Station, Bristol Road, Stonehouse c1945

Harry read about the accident in an article by Darrell Webb in SHG Journal Issue 2 “Stonehouse railway stations from 1845”.
Excerpt from – From nowhere to Casablanca: memoirs of an entrepreneur by John Vick, pub.2000.

“John Vick worked there on his father’s coal lorries from an early age and mentions in his memoirs that, during the late 1940s, there was a nasty accident on the line. He says that, one morning when he was loading his lorry, there was a great commotion. Apparently the station master, who was “a hell of a nice fellow”, had been struck by the train. He’d been supervising a horse box being loaded onto the back of a slow train down to Bristol (all horses went into railway horse boxes in those days) and, after making sure the thing was coupled onto the southbound train, he stepped back, straight into the path of the Pines Express which went about 80 miles an hour. No man could survive that. Of course they were picking up the pieces of the poor soul and they put him in the waiting room in the branch line station, just out of the way, because everything had to go on just the same. Afterwards John explains: “I was talking to Ernie Partridge, the Red Cross man, who supervised the clearing up operation. I said, Mr Partridge, I admire you for doing that. He said, my son, he never hurt me when he was alive; he isn’t going to hurt me when he’s dead!””

At the time we did not know the name of the station master, but Harry realised it was his grandfather, Luke Benson, and was kind enough to send us a photograph of him. This prompted us to try to find out more about him.

Luke Randolph Benson was born on 11th August 1888 in Ampleforth, Yorkshire. He worked for the Midland Railway all his life starting as a Porter/Clerk and working his way up to Stationmaster. He served in the Royal Garrison Artillery during World War One. Harry recalls that his grandfather had kept a ‘killing stick’ he used in the tunnels beneath the trenches, and a wrought iron candlestick that he dug up from the ruins of an old abbey at some time in the 1920s.

After working at several stations around the country, Mr Benson was appointed station master at Stonehouse in the summer of 1942 and lived in the station master’s house at the Midland Station, Bristol Road, with his wife and family of four.

On 13th February 1946 he had been loading a horse into a railway horsebox and, having secured the horse, he stepped back onto the line into the path of an oncoming express train. At the inquest it was suggested that the steam from the train pulling the horse box may have distracted him and obscured his view of the express. The driver of the train saw him on the track and attempted to stop as Mr Benson tried to step off the track. But it was too late and he was struck by the train.
The funeral of Luke Benson, aged 57, was held at St Cyr’s Church and he is buried in the graveyard there.