Eric Jones-Evans was a medical practitioner and actor. He maintained a medical practice in Fawley, near Southampton, and closed his surgery on matinee days to perform at the Grand Theatre in Southampton. In 1928 he formed his own company and both wrote and appeared in a number of his own melodramas, chiefly adapted from the novels of Charles Dickens and George Eliot.
Among the papers of Dr Eric Jones-Evans is a typescript of Death on the Line: A Ghost Story in One Act. Based on Dickens’ short story The Signal Man, the play is set in a signal-box in a deep cutting near a tunnel entrance on a lonely stretch of the railway line. The author describes it as a play of “atmosphere and tension”, with the wailing of the wind in the telegraph wires introduced judicially to provide an eerie background to the narrative. It tells the story of a railway signalman who is haunted by a recurring apparition, with each appearance of the spectre preceding a tragic event on the railway. The first is followed by a terrible collision between two trains in the tunnel (likely based on the Clayton Tunnel crash of 1861) and the second by the mysterious death of a young woman on a passing train. The third and final warning of “death on the line” causes the signalman to rush onto the track in an attempt to stop an oncoming train where he is struck and killed. As the driver and other characters stand over his body a telegram is received warning of fallen rocks on the line up ahead. The play ends as they ponder how he could have known and how many lives might have been lost if not for his intervention.
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