Chronography of rail disasters,� socio-economic effects of railways
Page last modified 1/8/2022
See also Rail Travel worldwide
See also Rail Travel GB
See also Rail Tunnels
The destructive effects of High Speed Railways,
For coal price and railways see 1825 below (click here for general coal industry)
(for general price level changes over time click here)
For football and railways see Sports-Football (23/3/1888)
For effects of low pay and underqualified railway staff on the accident record see 1878 below.
Rail Accidents & Disasters
12/8/2020, Three died when a train derailed south of Aberdeen, heavy rain was blamed, which had caused a landslip onto the track.
3/7/2006, 34 died and 20 were injured in a train accident on the Valencia Metro, Spain.
17/10/2005, The Rail Accident Investigation Branch came into existence. The creation of such a body was recommended by Lord Cullen in the inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove rail disaster of 1999.
19/4/2004, Major train crash in North Korea, 2 fuel trains collided and exploded, causing 3,000 casualties.
10/5/2002. 7 were killed and 70 injured in a train crash at Potters Bar station, Hertfordshire. The crash was due to missing bolts at a set of points 200 yards north of the station. This caused the last carriage of a 4 car train to break loose and mount the platform as the train passed through Potters Bar station at 100 mph.
28/2/2001, The Selby rail crash. 10 people died.
17/10/2000, Major rail crash at Hatfield, Hertfordshire.� A faulty rail derailed a Kings Cross to Leeds train on a curve, killing 4 and injuring 107.� Faulty maintenance by Railtrack was blamed.
5/10/1999. A serious rail crash at Ladbroke Grove, outside Paddington, London, killed 31 people. Over 100 were injured. The 8.06 from Paddington to Great Bedwyn, Wiltshire, was cut in half by the express from Cheltenham at 8.11 am. The newly-privatised rail companies were criticised for not spending enough on signalling.
19/9/1997, An inter-city express collided with a freight train at Southall, west London, killing 7 people.
18/11/1996. Serious fire on Channel Tunnel train. The train was 12 miles inside the Tunnel, and the open latticework of the lorry carriages may have had a blowtorch effect on the fire which could have started before the train entered the Tunnel. Eight people suffered smoke inhalation injuries and the Tunnel was closed for months.
13/11/1994, The first passengers travelled through the Channel Tunnel.
4/3/1989, Train crash at Purley station, London, killed 5 and injured 94.
12/12/1988. A major train crash at Clapham Junction, south London. 38 died and 113 were injured as two morning rush hour trains collided. An express train ran into the back of a London commuter train that had stopped on the line to report a faulty signal. A third train was derailed and a fourth was stopped in time to avoid a further collision.
27/6/1988, Train crash at Gare de Lyons, Paris, 57 killed.
18/11/1987. The worst fire in the history of the London Underground killed 31 at King�s Cross. An accumulation of rubbish and fluff under a wooden escalator had been ignited by a cigarette end. Sprinklers had not been installed despite a recommendation in 1984 for them, and administrative errors meant passengers were still disembarking from Piccadilly Line trains as the fire spread. A �no smoking� rule came into force across the London Underground on 24/11/1987.
18/1/1977, The worst rail disaster in Australia occurred when a Sydney bound train derailed, killing 82 people.
28/2/1975. A London Underground train from Drayton Park crashed through the buffers at Moorgate, killing 42 people. The driver, Leslie Newton, was bringing in his 8.37 train when instead of braking he accelerated into a 72 metre blind tunnel. The front 4.5 metres of the leading carriage were crushed into 60 centimetres.
1/2/1970, In Buenos Aires, a passenger train crashed into a parked commuter train, killing 236.
5/11/1967, 49 people were killed at a rail crash at Hither Green, south London.
4/12/1957, Major train crash at Lewisham, south east London, with 92 killed and over 200 injured. In thick fog, the 4.56 steam express from Cannon Street to Ramsgate missed two red signals and ploughed into the back of the stationary Charing Cross to Hayes electric train. The rear of the Hayes train telescoped whilst the tender of the steam train rose up and brought down a bridge carrying another rail line over the tracks. The 350-ton bridge crashed down onto the already-damaged carriages. Two minutes later another train was crossing the bridge; its driver saw the hole in the tracks just in time and stopped his train with the leading carriage leaning over the gap. Trains then did not have automatic warning systems if a red signal was passed.
1/9/1957, A train accident near Kendal, Jamaica, killed 175 and injured 400.
2/12/1955, The Barnes rail crash, SW London After a collision caused by a signal error, fire broke out, killing 13 and injuring 35
8/10/1952. 112 people were killed in a rail crash in north London. At 7.31 a.m. a commuter train about to leave Harrow and Wealdstone station was hit in the rear by a high speed train from Perth doing nearly 60 mph. A signalman changed all the signals to red but it was too late to stop� a third train travelling north from Euston to hit the wreckage, demolishing a footbridge. Carriages were strewn across six tracks; 112 people died and 200 were injured in the worst rail disaster since 1915 when five trains collided at Quintinshill in Scotland killing 227 people.
1/9/1947, 31 people were killed in the Dugald rail accident in Dugald, Manitoba, Canada.
25/7/1923, 100 killed in Bulgarian train crash.
26/1/1921, 17 people were killed at Abermule when the Aberystwyth to Whitchurch train collided with a train going the other way on a single track line. The train from Whitchurch (Shropshire) had been allowed to leave with the wrong tablet for this single-line section.
9/7/1918, America experienced its worst train accident.� 101 were killed in Nashville, Tennessee.
14/8/1915, A rail crash in Weedon, England killed ten people.
12/12/1917, The world�s worst train accident occurred, at Modane, France.� 534 were killed.
22/5/1915. The Gretna Green troop train disaster, the worst on Britain�s railways, took place; 227 died. Three trains had collided at Quintinshill, and 200 of the casualties were Scots Guards on the way to war. The shocked and dishevelled survivors were mistaken for German POWs and stoned by civilians.
1/1/1915, The Ilford rail crash in Essex, England killed ten people and injured another 500 passengers.
4/9/1912, The first tube train collision in London, 22 were injured.
16/7/1908, Fire at Moorgate tube station.
29/3/1907, A train derailed near Colton, California; 26 were killed and about 100 injured.
6/3/1906, An avalanche at Roger�s Pass in the US buried a train. By the time the train was dug out, 62 people had died.
1/7/1906, A train crash at Salisbury, UK, caused by excessive speed. Speed limits were now rigorously enforced and rail speed record attempts now ceased. The underyling cause was competition between the Great Western and London South Western railways fof the fastest journey between Plymouth and London. Both companies offered this link but along different routes, and as with Preston (14/8/1895) te crash was due to a driver running through Salisbury too fast.
5/12/1905. The roof of Charing Cross Station collapsed, killing six people.
15/11/1900, The Madrid to Paris express derailed, killing 17, including the Peruvian Ambassador.
15/8/1895, A train jumped the rails at Preston, Lancashire, carrying holidaymakers to Blackpool. It was speeding through the station at over 70 kph, on a curve that was supposed to be taken at 20kph, although train drivers regularly went through at 40. The railway compamies began to stop competing as to who could run the fastest trains, seeing that a rising accident toll was actually putting people off using the trains. Also such competitiveness often did not help the passengers, who simply arrived hours early at a station where they had to change, then faced� along wait for the next train.
12/6/1889, A train crash in Armagh caused 80 deaths and 250 injured. Again, an excursion train, taking 940 people, including 600 children, on a trip from Armagh to Warrenpoint, was involved. This was just a 25km journey but involved a 5km gradient of 1:75. The train was overloaded, could not make the gradient, and the last ten coaches were uncoupled, but these had just the guard�s van brake to hold them. This was inadequate and the carriages rolled back down the line, with passengers locked inside, colliding with an oncoming train whose driver had managed to halt, to reduce the speed of impact.. As a result of this accident the Regulation of Railways Act 1889 was passed. This Act made block signalling, continuous brakes and interlocking points compulaory for rail companies.
28/12/1879. The Tay railway bridge collapsed whilst the 7.15 Edinburgh to Dundee train was crossing it. The train plummeted into the icy river below, killing 90 people.� The bridge, between Fife and Angus, was designed by Thomas Bouch.
Low pay and underqualified staff causing ralway accidents
1878, Railway staff proved to be at greates risk from train accidents. In the 5 years to 1878, 682 rail workers were killed every year, 20x the number of passenger deaths. Some signallers routinely worked 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Poor pay also meant less able and decicated staff; in a train accident at Kentish Town, London, the signaller was a 19 year old partially deaf youth paid just 14 shillings a week for a 15 hour day as relief signaller. At a train crash at Radstock, Somerset, it was discovered that the telegraph clerk was an 18 year old, working from 6.30 a,m to 9.30pm, for 17s 6d a week, and the signalman was a novice who could not read the telegraph instruments.However., even an experienced train driver on the Great Western in 1867 received just 42 shillings a week. The London Brighton and South Coast railway paid (3/1867) its train drivers 7s 6d a day and its firemen just 4s 6d a day.
Low railway pay was to an extent moderated by low accommodation costs. A railway cottage could be rented at Wolverton for just just 1shilling 6d a week, but given the long working hours one just really needed a bed for the night. The railways could still recruit at these low pay levels because agricultural workers found the conditions better than farm work, with its periods of lay offs between harvests.
29/12/1876, 83 passengers were killed at Ashtabula, Ohio, as a 13-year-old bridge gave way under a train. A junior engineer had been fired in 1863 when he protested that the bridge, built by the railway�s chief engineer, was not strong enough.
8/1868, The Irish Mail train derailed and caught fire at Abergele, north Wales. The death toll of 33 was the highest so far in any Uk rail accident, and notably included an aristocratic couple., Lord and Lady Farnham. The accident also had a gruesome angle in that the passenger ytrain had hit trucks containing paraffin, and some of the dead had to be indentified from their jewellery and watches. This accident also greatly spurred on efforts to improive rail safdety.
9/6/1865, Charles Dickens was involved in a train crash at Staplehurst in Kent. He had to return to the wreckage to salvage the manuscript for a part of the story Our Mutual Friend. This crash had been caused because track maintenance crews were trying to renew a timber on a small bridge, in an 85-minute gap between trains. However they had failed to allow for a boat train whose timing was variable as the cross Channel ferry could only dock at high tide. The crew were aware of this train but misread its timing, thinking it was due at 5.20pm rather than 3.15pm. The bridge crew also failed to either placed warnigndetonators on the line or to station men far enough back to warn approaching trains. When Dicken�s train arrived, the bridge timbers had been replaced but not the rails, and the train ran off the bridge into the stream. Dickens, with his high profile as an author, later became an ardent campaigner for rail safety.
7/6/1865, A train derailed at Rednal, Shropshire, killing 13.
25/8/1861, The Clayton Tunnel crash occurred on the London to Brighton railway. Am excursion train had stopped in the 2.5 km tunnel due to defective signalling, and the next train ran into it.
6/1857, At Lewisham, south London, a train ran into the back of another. Both trains were full of daytrippers. Special� excursion trains were especially liable to rail crashes, as rail traffic volumes grew, and trains became faster, as signallers could easily forget these trains were inserted in amongst the ordinary regular traffic.
29/8/1855, An accident on the Camden and Amboy Railway near Burlington, New Jersey, USA, killed 21 and injured 75..
24/5/1847, A cast iron railway bridge over the River Dee at Chester collapsed as a train passed over it. The bridge�s designer, Robert Stephenson, came close to being convicted for manslaughter.
1842, Train crash at Versailles, France. 52 were killed in a fire, many because they had been locked into the rail carriages (this was done to stop them jumping out between stations).
12/1841, At Sonning, near Reading, a train ran into a landslip. Many of the passengers were workmen building the new Hoiuse of Commons returning� to their� families for Christmas. 8 were killed when they were thrown out of the open rail wagons, which had no roof in Third Class,
3/12/1836. Britain�s first fatal rail crash occurred at Great Corby, near Carlisle. Three people died.
17/6/1831, The first railway engine boiler explosion in the USA. A fireman had held the safety valve down.
1650, In County Durham, England, two boys were killed by a railway wagon; the first recorded rail casualties.
Rail; socio-economic effects,
Some socio-economic changes associated with the railways
Speed of travel
Railway New Towns
Universal UK time
28/3/1980. The London Transport Museum opened in Covent Garden, London.
27/9/1975, The National Rail Museum in York opened.
27/3/1963, Beeching published his report, recommending extensive cuts to the UK rail network. He proposed closing a quarter of the rail network, closing 2,363 stations, scrapping 8,000 rail coaches, and axing 67,700 jobs. There would be no rail service north of Inverness, and most branch lines in north and central Wales and the West Country would close. Eventually, 2,218 stations were axed.
1948, Britain�s railways employed 629,000 people, up from 580,000 in 1938. In 1948, therefore, some 2 million people depended for their livelihood on railway work. Most rail employees were male; women�s work on the railways was (apart from wartime) restricted to office work, cleaning, catering, station announcements, and opening the gates at level crossings.
27/6/1935, The US Supreme Court ruled the Railways Pensions Act (1934) unconstitutional. US ongress then passed the Railway Retirement Act to achieve the same effect. Rail companies and their employees had to pay 3.5% of the first $300 earned each month to provide for a pension.
3/1934, The Great Western Railway began a fast air service between Plymouth, Cardiff and Birmingham. The railway companys� involvement in air services ceased with the outbreak of World War Two and was not recommenced afterwards.
1928, The London and North Eastern Railway opened the Railway Museum at York.
1924, The last steam locomotive was constructed at Stratford, east London. Most Great Eastern railway locomotives had been built at Stratford since 1878.
1920, The arrival of buses, with greater flexibility and not having to pay track costs, halted the development of UK rural branch lines. However some railway companies began running rural bus routes as feeders to their stations. Rail companies were given the right to run their own bus services in 1928.
19/3/1918, US Congress passed the Standard Time Act (see 18/11/1883) making the 4 US time zones official.
1910, Londoners now consumed some 180 pints of milk a year, compared to 48 pints in 1850. In 1850 Londoners generally obtained their milk from some 20,000 cows tethered in the back yard or even kept in a cellar. Milk brought in by rail was initially regarded with suspicion because it would be shaken up, copmpared to the fresh undisturbed milk obtainable locally. However after� an outbreak of cattle disease in London, and by 1870 half of London�s milk was being brought in by rail, from as far as pastures in Derbyshire 130 miles away. By 1910 96% of London�s milk came in by rail, from as far as 300 miles away.
12/1908, The London North Western Railway (LNWR) began a �city to city� service form Broad Street, a now demolished terminus next to Liverpool Street, London, through to Birmingham. Although 15 moiniutes slower than the Great Western service, it had the advantage of not terminating a long way from the City of London, at Paddington. The LNWR service also featured a travelling typist, so businessmen could be working whilst travelling.
1906, The UK�s rail companies now owned 1,138 miles� of canal out of the total canal network of 3,901 miles.
22/10/1902, The North British Hotel opened at Edinburgh�s Waverley Railway Station.
1892, The South Western Railway Company acquired ownership of the docks at Southampton. The railways of Britain had considerable investments in shipping, for cross Channel traffic. They pioneered turbine power for ships. From 1914 Southampton became the prime troop embarkation point tor Europe, also for war materials, because it was served by five lines from across Britain that all avoided London.
1891, The London and South Western Railway established its railway works at Eastliegh, Hampshire. Originally only carriages and wagons were built there; in 1910 the LSWR transferred locomotive building there from Nine Elms, London.
1884, The Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway bought 350 acres of land in Horwich, Lancashire, to establish a new locomotive works.
1883, The Midland and Great Northern Railway established a small locomotive repair yard at its head office at Melton Constable. MGNR locomotives were built there from1896 until 1910; after this, only repairs were carried on, until the entire MGNR closed in 1959. However Melton Constable was greatly expanded by the presence of the MGNR yards.
18/11/1883, In the US, Standard Toime Zones replaced nearly 100 �local times� observed by the railroad companies. This made rail timetabling much simpler. See 24/11/1858 and 19/3/1918.
Milk price and railways
1881, The railway now enabled Derbyshire farmers to obtain 1s (5p) per gallon of milk, consumed in the nearby urban centres, whereas before it had fetched just 8d (3.3p) a gallon sold locally as butter or cheese. However in some rrural regions e.g. Devon and Cornwall in the 1860s, so much milk was exported by rail that local dairy shortages developed. Urban cows, kept in backyards and even cellars, of which London had 20,000 even in 1850, disappeared as milk was now easily brought oin by train.
1877, Fleetwood Docks (Lancashire) opened in 1877, with capital provided by the railways. The fish trade was significant from here, and the railways were credited with reducing the price of fish in Manchester by almost 90%.
1871, Liverpool Lime Street Hotel was built for the London and
North Western Railway. It had over 200 rooms, also 37 bathrooms, which was
considered a lavish provision at the time.
1871, The UK Govermnent passed the Regulation of the Forces Act, allowing it to take over the rail network in times of war. They were to be handed back to the private companies after war ended in the same state as whenh acquired.
1870, The social revolution in travel wrought by the railways was evident in the growing importance of third class travel to the railway companies� revenue. In 1844 they had to be compelled to run �affordable� workmen�s trains�; this was because of the large-scale demolition of labourer�s housing caused by railway construction, causing the working class to have to move further out. In 1844 one third of railway journeys, and one eight of revenue,� came from third class; by 1870 third class accounted for two thirds of journeys and almost half of revenue.
5/5/1865. The world�s first train robbery took place, at North Bend, Ohio.
17/12/1858, The Geologists Association, London was formed. The newly constructed railway cuttings and tunnels had stimulated the science.
24/11/1858, A legal case in Dorset caused the UK Parliament to standardise time to GMT across the country. A judge in a land case in Dorset ruled against a man who had failed to turn up for a 10,00 am case, at 10.06. Two minutes later he turned up and claimed he was on time, by the station clock of his home town, Carlisle in Cumbria. At that time all towns set their clocks by their own, local, noon, meaning accurate rail timetables were problematic. By 1850 the rail companies all used London time, adding to confusion as provincial clocks often had two minute hands, one for local time, one for London time. The case was re-tried, and in 1880 Parliament ordered the entire country to keep Greenwich Mean Time. See French railways 1891, also standardised time.
1854, The North Eastern Railway opened its headquarters in York. The NER�s main locomotive works were at Darlington.
1853, The Great Northern Railway moved its engine works to Doncaster, from Boston, Lincolnshire. By 1900 the Doncaster works covered 200 acres and employed 4,500, and had 96 km of sidings.
1852, A rail passenger could travel from Exeter to Newcastle on Tyne on� two days, staying overnight at Manchester (see roads, year 1754, for typical UK journey times by stagecoach, 1700s, 1800s). However this would have involved using the services of five different rail operators; Great Western to Gloucester, Midland to Birmingham, London and North Western to Manchester, then the next day the Lancashire and Yorkshire to Leeds and finally the North Eastern to Newcastle on Tyne. Bradshaws Railway Guide, first published in 1842 and surviving until 1961, was invaluable in planning the trip. However a big issue was through ticketing between railway companies. Through tickets might be impossible to obtain. The Railway Clearing House was established to deal with this issue, and how the ticket price should be divided between companies. But the Great Western did not join the Railway Clearing House system until the1860s.
2/11/1852, The Dean of Exeter Cathedral ordered that the cathedral clock be advanced 14 minutes to conform wth Greenwich mean time. This was a result of the railways spreading across Britain, and operating on a standard time. Nationwide standardisation of time had begun when the horse-drawn Irish mail coaches began running from London to Ireland via Chester and Holyhead; the mail coach guard carried a watch set to Greenwich time, and was required to inform the innkeepers along the way of the correct time. In 1830 the Manchester and Liverpool railway operated on Greenwich time. But there was resistance to this nationwide time in the West Country and Wales.
1850, The spread of the railways began to popularise fish and chips, even in inland towns. Previoously this meal could only be bought in seaside towns, it would have gone off by the time the fish could be transported inland by road.
1/11/1848. W H Smith opened his first bookstall at Euston Station, London, the start of multiple retailing in Britain.
4/8/1845, Thomas Cook organised the first holiday excursion by rail, to North Wales, leaving Leicester at 5am.
1844, Milk reached Manchester (UK) by rail for the first time. Growing urban populations, distant from the countryside, could now receive fresh milk and other produce that was both fresh and cheap. Fresh vegetables, meat and fish supplies were now improved in cities.
1844, The British Government (Gladstone) legislated to force railway companies to run at least one train a day on all of their routes at a fare of more than 1d per mile, at at least 12 mph (overall, including stops); the so-called Workmen�s Trains. The carriages had to be covered and protected from the weather. Chuildren under 3 were to be carried free on these trains, and those between 3 and 12 to be carried at half-fare. Some companies ran such trains at unpopular hours such as 6am. However see 1870 above.
1843, The Grand Junction Railway inaugurated the locomotive works at Crewe. Crewe in 1841 had just 203 inhabitants. By 1851 the population of Crewe was 4,571. In 1840 Nantwich was the main town of the region, but canal interest predominated here and tried to prevent local landowners selling to the railways, saying the steam locomotives emitted dangerous fumes. Crewe, named after the local Crewe Hall, could offer the railway companies cheap land for their large workshops and marshalling yards. In 1861 a mill for rolling rails was built at Crewe. In 1901 Crewe had a population of 42,074.
1843, The London and South Western Railway started locomotive construction at its Nine Elms depot, London. This was also its London passenger terminus until 13/7/1848 when a more central terminus at Waterloo began operations.
1842, The Manchester and Liverpool Railway offered so-called �commutation tickets�; these were advance payment tickets for travellers who regularly used the line, for work journeys. The �commutation� was the exchange of payment for long term travel rights. From this derives the term �commuter� for anyone who regularly travels to work, even if not by train.
1841, The Great Western Railway began to develop Swindon as a railway town. From 2,000 inhabitants in 1841, its population grew to 40,000 by 1900, with 14,000 employed at the locomotive works and associated factories. However the usual problems of 19th century urban industrialisation were soon apparent. There was a lack of piped water and sanitation, Life expectancy at birth fell from 36 in Old Swindon in 1929 to 30 in Swindon in 1849.
5/7/1841. Thomas Cook, born 22/11/1808 in Derbyshire, introduced the first Cook�s Tour when 570 teetotallers took the train from Leicester to Loughborough to attend a temperance meeting, using cheap tickets, which he negotiated with the train company. See 1/5/1938.
1838, The London and Birmingham Railway (LBR) opened its workshops at Wolverton. In 1821 Wolverton was a village of 335 inhabitants. In 1854 the LBR buult more houses at New Bradwell. By 1851 Wolverton had a population of 2,070, rising to 3,600 by 1881. By 1901 Wolverton and New Bradwell together had 9,200 inhabitants. The railways created a market in mass personal travel that had never existed before. By 1845 1 million people were using the London to Birmingham line every year. This year the LBR used the word �timetable� for the first time, derived from the maritime �tide tables�.
Coal price and railways
1825, The opening of the Stockton and Darlington Railway more than halved the price of coal in Stockton; it fell from 18s (90p) a tone to 8s 6d (42.5p) a ton. Moreover the coal was of better quality, as larger lumps could be carried by railway than by pack horse. In London the coal price fell less dramatically, from 18s (90p) a ton in the 1850s to around 15s 7d (78p) in the 1880s; however the quantity brought in had doubled over that period, and the old Thames shipping route could never have coped with the 1880s volumes of coal.