Sheerness-On-Sea Railway Disaster 1971

In this blog, I will write about the railway accident which occurred on 26th February 1971 at Sheerness-on-Sea railway station.  All relevant links to content are at the foot of this blog.

On the evening of 26th February, the 17:16, 10 car train from Victoria to Sheerness entered the station but failed to stop and the first carriage ended up careering into the station, demolishing most of the booking hall.  Unfortunately 1 person died and 13 injured, including the driver.  A more detailed look at the accident is contained below.

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Sheerness-on-Sea station 1971

The train itself was a 2-HAP built for the Kent Coast line between 1958 and 1963.  This particular train comprised of 5, 2-car trainsets, all steel construction on standard BR bogies.  The power to these trains was via a controller in the cab which requires it to be depressed at all times in order to take power.  If this handle is not depressed, the brakes will apply automatically, with around a 2-3 second delay.  This so called “dead man switch” still applies today, in various forms.

As noted by various eye witnesses, many of whom were railway staff, the train appeared to slow correctly when entering platform one, but was seen to be going too fast as it ran along the platform.  Indeed one eyewitness – railwayman M.Gordon remarked to a colleague “that train is not going to stop”.

A few seconds later, the leading cab ploughed into the platform 1 buffer assembly, at what is believed to be around 10-15mph.  The upper portion of the front coach detached from the bogie assembly and carried on over the concourse, demolishing most of the ticket office and taking out a centre beam before crashing though the front of the building and coming to rest, as seen below.

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(c) John Gamble – Via KentOnline

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(c)Kevin Ali – Sheppey Website

The fatality was a Mrs Joyce Carr, who had just bought a ticket from the office.  The 13 other injured were taken to Medway hospital, including a near term pregnant woman who gave birth 2 hours later.

The Official Report states the following conclusions to the accident.

The driver – Mr Rothwell, had suffered a head injury at Holborn Viaduct a year earlier, in which he was unconscious for around 8 minutes.  After extensive testing and evaluation, he was passed fit to drive again July 1970, and re-examined in October the same year.  Another test was planned for April 1971.

Mr Rothwell when interviewed stated that he remembered applying a slow brake to the train when entering the station, but that the next thing he remembered was being slumped over the cab after the accident.  This was in agreement with at least two other witnesses who found Mr Rothwell in the cab afterwards

The overall conclusion is that the driver had blacked out, slumping over the controls, thus still providing the connection with the controllers Dead-Man switch.  The train carried on at 10-15 Mph, before connecting with the buffers. This caused immediate application of the emergency brake, slowing the rest of the train.  Indeed, only the second carriage was further damaged, most of that ending up on the detached bogie of the leading carriage.

The following pictures show the extensive damage to the station after the wreckage was removed.  They are still images taken from 8mm footage, this can be viewed via a link at the bottom of this blog.

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(c) Graham White

Following the disaster, the station building was demolished, and a new one built to the side.

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(c) David Glasspool

The following are links to the original source for this blog:

KentOnline – Sheerness train crash remembered

Sheppey Website – Sheerness train crash

KentRail – Sheerness-on-Sea

Runaway Train – YouTube Video (c) Graham White

Official MOT Report 1971


Please visit my YouTube channel – Rainham Rail Enthusiast for videos of modern and vintage railway action.

Many thanks for reading – I’ll blog again soon.

Medway Stations 3 – Chatham

Part 3 of my small potted history of my local stations contained within the Medway area.

Chatham station on its current site opened on the 25th January 1858 by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway.  This only took the line towards Faversham initially.  The station at this time comprised of 3 running platforms, one serving the ‘down’ line towards Faversham.  The other was an island platform serving 1 ‘up’ line and the other serving trio of loop sidings.  Above the lines, a road bridge crossed, which has stairs down to the platforms and the station building, at this stage at platform level.  The picture below shows a train on the ‘up’ line in 1939 (c)David Glasspool.

chatham 1939

The station is situated in a tight cutting, and flanked either end by the Chatham and Fort Pitt tunnels, seen below in two photographs from 2004 and 2006 (c)David Glasspool (the top being Chatham Tunnel)

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Chatham_fort pitt

Full running from Victoria to Ramsgate was realised from 5th October 1863.  Around this time a major remodelling of the station took place.  The main change was the addition of a main booking hall over the tracks on the road bridge, and the demolition of the original booking hall on the platform.  The sidings were mostly removed at this time, however two still remained adjacent to the ‘up’ and ‘down’ platforms respectively.

Electrification arrived in July 1939, including electric lighting to the platforms.  The mechanical signals were removed in 1959, replaced by 3 colour aspect signals, controlled from the new power box at Rochester.  Two years later, new buildings on the ‘up’ platform were completed and the station has not really changed since, except the replacement of the signals during 2013-2017.  Here is the station building photographed in 2004 (c)David Glasspool.

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Chatham_2006

All photographs are not my own, but (c)David Glasspool.

For more detailed information on Chatham Station, head to Kent Rail Website.

To view my railway videos please visit Rainham Rail Enthusiast on YouTube.

I also have an Instagram account.

Many thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.

WW2 – Upchurch railway disaster

A short re-telling of a local story.

On August 16th 1944, a V-1 ‘doodlebug’ rocket was chased by a Spitfire pilot from Dover.  After many unsuccessful attempts to shoot it down, he eventually managed to tip it with his wing, but unfortunately instead of landing in an empty field, the missile landed under the bridge of the railway line at Oak Lane, Upchurch.

It was found that a railway worker sheltering under the bridge was killed instantly.  The bridge was totally demolished in the explosion, and unfortunately the 1535 Victoria to Ramsgate was speeding towards it, having just left Rainham.  Despite the best efforts of the driver, the train encountered the now demolished bridge.  Amazingly the main cab jumped the gap but the tender fell into it and the first few carriages were heavily damaged.  In fact the 4th coach ended up straddling the gap completely.

In total 7 passengers lost their lives, they came mainly from the from the front two carriages.  Many were severely injured, and were taken to several nearby hospitals.  Miraculously the driver and fireman survived.

Being as this was the mainline through to the coast and up to London, after the investigations and clear up were completed,  a new bridge was constructed in November 1944 at a cost of £3,800.

Four pictures follow, the first from the Daily Mirror (Dated September 14th 1944) the second which has come from Rainham History website . The third and fourth are (c) Bob Ogley, and show the locomotive being transferred back to the tracks, and the bridge as it is today (picture c.1990)

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Please also visit My YouTube channel for railway related videos, including Mistydale Model Railway .

Many thanks – I’ll blog again soon.

Medway Stations 2 – Gillingham

Continuing the potted series on my local stations, the next one on the ‘up’ line from Rainham is Gillingham.

The station was originally opened as ‘New Brompton’ in January 1858, the main station building being situated on the ‘Down’ platform, being similar in structure to the one at Rainham.  This was demolished in 1973 and replaced by prefabricated buildings, housing staff accommodation.

A goods yard was provided on the ‘down’ side, to the east of the station. This had two eastward-facing sidings, one which ended behind the ‘Down’ platform. The second passed through a 45ft long goods shed.  In 1877, after an act of parliament the previous year, a branch line to the north was provided to gain access to Chatham Dockyard.  This passed through a cutting and over a bridge, terminating at the Dockyard.  It was around this time that a substantial goods shed with 3 lines was placed adjacent to the ‘up’ line to the east of the station.

In 1912, the name changed to “Gillingham”, and a year later the first of many re-models started.  Firstly the addition of a third set of rails next to the “up” platform, creating the now familiar island configuration of the ‘up’ platform.  Below is shown the “A” signal box, next to the up platform.  This remained in operation until the early 1970’s.

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The Gillingham “B” signal box is below, next to the level crossing.  Also at this time the footbridge from which this photo was taken was built.  The spur to Chatham Dockyard can be seen on the right.

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An extension to the electric section of railway, from the already electrified section as far as Swanley, was agreed in 1935.  This would bring third rail operations as far as Gillingham, and the works were completed in 1939.  As previously talked about in the Rainham section, it would be almost 25 years until the rest of the south and south-eastern network would be electrified.  An EMU (Electric Multiple Unit) depot to the east of the level crossing was established, and EMU stabling commenced shortly after, something it continues to do today.

The 2nd station building, situated on the bridge over the railway is seen below.  It remained like this until a major reconstruction in 2011, when a new glass façade was built.

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In the early 1990s, a scheme centered around the “Networker” program meant a new building was built to the west of the level crossing signal box on the ‘Up’ side.  This building was meant to contain a new signalling centre, however after its completion in 1994, the building remained empty, only to house a railtrack archive centre.  Eventually though, due to the start of the ‘East Kent Re-Signalling Scheme’ in 2012, the building was fitted out with equipment.  It is now the main signalling hub for the North Kent area, with only a few signal boxes on the fringes of the area operational (including Folkestone and Minster).  It is known as the ‘North Kent Operations Centre’.

Pictures used here are not my own, but are from the following site, and owned by David Glasspool : (except the new Gillingham Station façade, (c) Wikipedia

Kent Rail – Gillingham

Videos of the rail network can be seen on my YouTube Channel

Many thanks for reading and stopping by, I’ll blog again soon.

Medway Stations 1 – Rainham

A small potted history of the Railway stations in my home area, Medway, Kent.  I will start with my “Home” Station, Rainham.

The station was opened on 25th January 1858, as “Rainham & Newington”.  It formed part of the London to Dover route of the “East Kent Railway”.  The Station comprised of two platforms and two sidings adjacent to the “up” line platform (for those new to railway terminology, the “up” line is towards London, and the “down” away from London).  The station was re-named “Rainham” in1862 when Newington station was built to the east.  A further 400 yard siding was introduced beside the “down” platform in 1897, and a signal box was also added at this time, enabling the removal of the manual point system.

Ownership by the Southern Railway commenced in 1923.  This was to bring a few cosmetic changes to the station furniture, as well as a footbridge next to the level crossing to the east.

The next major change would not come about until 1957. The “Kent Electrification Scheme” was initiated in the area throughout what was now known as the “Chatham Main Line”. This comprised on a 750V third rail system, with line speeds up to 75mph initially, although this was raised to 90mph around 1962.rainham%20Station%201958.jpgThe advent of British Rail meant changes for Rainham, many not very good.  The major change was the demolition of the original station building, which was replaced by a one story prefab :

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New automated level crossing gates were  installed in December 1972.  At sometime in the early 1980’s the remaining siding was removed from behind the “down” platform.

When “Network South East” took over in 1986, the station was revamped in the familiar red and white chevrons, and in 1990 a new station building was opened.  This one was a modern brick structure with a glazed arched roof, and was a vast improvement on the 1970’s prefab :

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As part of the 2014-2017 “East Kent Re-Signalling Project”, it was decided that Rainham would have a bay platform added adjacent to platform one on the “up” side.  This involved lengthening platform one considerably to accommodate 12 car trains in this new bay, which was given a designation of “Platform 0”.  New pointwork to the west of the station was installed to service the platform, and new SPAD (Signal Passed At Danger) signal was placed at the eastern end of platform 1.  The new platform arrangements are seen below, facing to the west with the new platform 0 to the left of the picture :

Rainham_Bay_Platform_1

The future of Rainham Station is bright.  Since 2009, “Javelin” 395 units have stopped here, giving access to high speed services to St Pancras International.  In 2018/19, a Thameslink service is scheduled to start from the bay platform to Luton via Abbey Wood and St Pancras.  This will enable passengers to access the new Crossrail “Elizabeth Line” via Abbey Wood.

Pictures used in this piece are not my own, but can be found (as well as many others of the Station) in the following locations :

Rainham History – Rainham Station through the years

Rainham History – Rainham Station

A video I have taken of  37 800 travelling through Rainham Station can be found on my YouTube channel, just click the link below :

37 800 passes through Rainham Station

Thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.