The Lewisham rail crash
was an accident
on the British railway system
which occurred on 4 December 1957
just outside St Johns railway station
, south London
. Ninety people were killed and 173 injured, making it the third worst
rail crash in the UK
in terms of death toll.
The crash occurred in wintry foggy
conditions when all trains in both directions were either delayed or cancelled. Bulleid
Pacific 34066 "Spitfire" (SR Battle of Britain Class
), hauling the delayed 4.56 pm Cannon Street
express (the "Man of Kent"), hit a 10-coach Electric Multiple Unit
forming the delayed 5.18 pm Charing Cross
train and was deflected into an overbridge. The bridge collapsed on to the carriages, and this combined with the evening rush hour
crowding of the trains led to the high death toll. The locomotive was repaired and returned to traffic some time later.
The driver had missed the two preceding signals in the fog and was unable to stop in time on seeing the red signal. He was tried for manslaughter but the jury could not agree on a verdict; he was discharged but died a year later. The accident would have been prevented if Automatic Warning System (AWS) had been installed and, together with the earlier accident at Harrow, finally led to its universal adoption in Britain.
The accident happened just outside St Johns station on the Lewisham by-pass line, bringing down part of the Lewisham to Nunhead railway bridge. The collapsed overbridge was replaced by a temporary structure to facilitate restoration of services. The temporary structure is still in place today.
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