Artificial Limb

Giving employees a helping hand

From: STEAM, Museum of the Great Western Railway

These artificial limbs were manufactured at the Great Western Railway’s Swindon Works. The company regularly provided replacement limbs to workers who were injured carrying out their duties. 

Wooden limbs for injured workers

Employment at Swindon Works involved the construction of locomotives and rolling stock, which was heavy and often dangerous work. Accidents happened and sometimes workers were injured, and in the more serious cases, lost a limb. The GWR made some effort to compensate for such injuries by providing the unfortunate worker with a new wooden limb and, when possible, relocate them to a less physically demanding job. Hands, feet, arms, and legs were crafted at the Carriage Shop at Swindon Works by the same carpenters who spent their days making carriages, station benches, carts, and similar items. 

Curator’s Insights

These are certainly not what one would expect when thinking of the Great Western Railway. However, they provide such an insight not only into the dangers of the railway works, but also the level of care provided for the employees. The GWR also supported the employees’ own health society, which provided access to doctors, dentists, and a public swimming pool. 

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