A RENOWNED York historian was killed by asbestos more than 50 years after being exposed to the material while working on a railway line, an inquest has heard.

Hugh Murray, who amassed his own library containing thousands of books and photographs and had an encyclopaedic knowledge of York, came into contact with asbestos during his early career with British Rail. He later moved to managerial roles but developed mesothelioma symptoms last year, almost 25 years after retiring.

The 80-year-old, of Vyner Street, died in June after months of deteriorating health. An inquest has now heard he was exposed to asbestos dust and fibres in workshops while a British Rail graduate signals apprentice in the mid-1950s, and encountered asbestos between 1960 and 1962 while installing and testing signalling equipment on the London to Southend line.

Hull-born Mr Murray read physics at Oxford before joining British Rail, where he became divisional signals and telecommunications engineer at Norwich and later Leeds and ultimately moved to York to spend 14 years as signals engineer for the Eastern Railways region. He continued living in the city after retiring in 1988.

Mr Murray began showing symptoms of mesothelioma in spring 2012 and, despite treatment, his condition worsened and he died on June 8 this year. York coroner Donald Coverdale recorded a conclusion of industrial death.

Solicitor Daniel Wilson of York law firm Corries, which has represented Mr Murray’s family and others whose loved ones have died through asbestos exposure, said: “This is yet another sad case of a man from the railways industry who worked in an asbestos-contaminated environment.

“Despite his managerial role, in his early career he was unfortunately exposed to significant quantities of asbestos dust and fibre in employment. Little did he know this would cause his death more than 50 years later. His evidence shows that even those in management roles are not immune from developing asbestos disease and malignancy in later life.”

Mr Murray, who leaves a widow, Jill, began collecting books and old photographs once he retired, lectured on York’s history and wrote about 20 books. Following his death, tributes were paid by York Civic Trust director Peter Brown, the trust’s chairman Dr Peter Addyman and former University of York vice-chancellor and Reinvigorate York chairman Sir Ron Cooke, who described Mr Murray as “an extraordinary man”.