Chelford Railway Accident, 1894
Looking out at the rain being driven against the window by strong winds reminded me that the Chelford railway accident took place exactly 120 years ago today (22nd December).
On a terrible, dark, wet and windy night, the stationmaster, John Hyde, was supervising shunting operations. Somehow, during the shunting, a wagon came to overturn and foul the up line in the path of the approaching Manchester to London express. On seeing what had happened, the stationmaster ran towards the oncoming train, waving a red lamp but the drivers assumed this was a shunting signal and did not brake.
The express was drawn by LNWR Waterloo class loco, 418, 'Zygia' and Experiment class, 520 'Express'. The leading engine struck the derailed wagon at around 60 mph and both locos left the track but stayed largely on the up line side. One loco (Express) struck the front of the Chelford signal box, demolishing it. Zygia fell on her side and the tender ended up on the platform.
Several of the coaches, which were a mixture of wooden GWR and LNWR stock were completely wrecked causing 14 people to be killed and at least 48 to be injured. The body of one lady, Miss Margaret Elks, was never claimed by friends or relatives and she was buried by the north wall of St John's church.
The enquiry concluded this to be a freak accident but advised that, in future, the brakes of all shunted wagons should be pinned down.
Dr Roycroft has conducted a thorough and fascinating review of the reports of the time and has drawn a different conclusion. Dr Roycroft's re-examination of the meteorological data shows the wagon was possibly blown over by the wind in combination with being knocked back too forcibly by the shunting engine and having collided heavily with the other wagons. When Dr R consulted the Met Office, their records for that night showed that a hurricane was blowing and the forceful kick-back plus the strong wind together caused the truck to go where it had no business to go.
On an awful night and in appalling working conditions at the time, it's highly unlikely that any of the railwaymen could have been absolutely sure how this came about.
Dr Roycroft's monograph contains many interesting details of events surrounding the accident, the press reports and also the local people who were involved in the rescue and the inquest. The monograph was only produced in a very small run, so if you would be interested in reading this well-researched and gripping publication, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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