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Oct 08 2011

Harrow and Wealdstone Rail Crash – October 8, 1952

Today marks the anniversary of the Harrow and Wealdstone Rail Crash. The crash was the worst railway disaster in England and the worst peacetime railway crash in Great Britain, surpassed only by the 1915 accident at Quintinshill, Scotland, in which a troop train collided with a stationary passenger train and another express train ran into the wreckage.

The crash, which took place at 08.19, was a double collision involving three trains. The 07.31 local passenger train from Tring to Euston station, London was standing at the up fast platform of Harrow & Wealdstone station when it was hit in the rear at 50–60 mph by the 20.15 express sleeper train from Perth, Scotland.

Seconds after the first collision, the double-headed 08.00 express from London Euston to Liverpool and Manchester, which was travelling at about 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), ran into the wreckage strewn across the down main line. Its locomotives were deflected to the left, ploughed across the down fast platform and came to rest across the electrified local lines opposite. Its carriages, which overran the wreckage from the first collision, brought down part of the station footbridge. All six lines through the station were blocked by the collision.

Rescue work took several days, as survivors had to be extricated from the piled-up wreckage of three trains. 112 people died and 340 were injured in the accident. The dead included 108 passengers (including 39 railway employees en route to their jobs) and four on-duty railwaymen.

The first collision was attributed to the Perth express passing a colour light distant signal at “caution” and the outer and inner semaphore home signals at “danger”. The reason for this error is unknown, as the driver and fireman of the Perth express were killed. The crewmen on the down express were unable to avoid the second collision.

There are a number of photographs of this horrific accident here, and Wikipedia has a lot more details here.

A memorial plaque concerning the disaster was placed above the main entrance on the eastern side of the station to mark the 50th anniversary in 2002. A mural was also created along the bordering road featuring scenes from Wealdstone’s history. It was completed by children from local Harrow schools and dedicated to the victims’ memory.

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