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Lewisham_rail_crash

Lewisham rail crash

The Lewisham rail crash was an accident on the British railway system which occurred on 4 December 1957 just outside St Johns railway station in Lewisham, south London. Ninety people were killed and 173 injured, making it the third worst rail crash in the UK in terms of death toll.

Incident

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 to Ramsgate express (the "Man of Kent"), hit a 10-coach Electric Multiple Unit forming the delayed 5.18 pm Charing Cross to Hayes 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.

References

  • Hamilton., J.A.B. (1967). British Railway Accidents of the 20th Century (reprinted as Disaster down the Line).. George Allen and Unwin / Javelin Books. ISBN 978-0-7137-1973-4.
  • Nock, O.S. (1980). Historic Railway Disasters. 2nd ed., Ian Allan.
  • Rolt, L.T.C. (1956 (and later editions)). Red for Danger. Bodley Head / David and Charles / Pan Books.
  • Vaughan, Adrian (1989). Obstruction Danger. Guild Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85260-055-6.
  • Robert C Turner (1990) Black Clouds and White Feathers Chapter 8 Five Miles and 4 Seconds to Disaster Oxford Publishing Co ISBN 0-86093-457-8

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