An 8 carriage passenger train has derailed, colliding with a bridge and claiming 8 lives. This everyday journey has turned into a disaster, but what caused the train to leave the tracks?
Come and find out how they solved the mystery in this episode of Signals to Danger.
Signals to Danger
Season One – Episode 16 – Sevenoaks 1927
Hello again, and welcome to Episode 16 of Signals to Danger.
As ever, I’ll kick things off by thanking you all for likes, shares and subscriptions. Thanks also to those of you who interact with me on social media, remember, if you want to follow yourself you can find us on Twitter at @signalstodanger and also facebook as well.
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I don’t normally do trigger warnings, quite frankly because I believe that the subject matter of the podcast serves as a bit of a warning in itself, but I will this time for a very specific reason. This accident features a train derailing, and colliding with a bridge. On Saturday evening, the 13th March a Merseyrail train derailed and collided with a bridge. This seems to have been a far less severe affair than what we’re about to discuss, and the details are still very much emerging, but I thought it might be prudent to throw this in here this week.
Nice quick intro this week, it seems as though it’s time for us to get cracking on Episode 16.
This is Signals to Danger, A podcast where we look at major rail disasters which have occurred in the UK, explain what happened, how the investigation was carried out, and how each of these accidents shaped the industry going forwards.
I’m Dan, I’m work within the rail industry in my day to day life but today I’ll be the one taking you through this podcast.
If you’ve been with us before then you know the next part. Let’s look at what the world looked like at the time of this episode. We’re a little bit further back than the last cuple of times, in fact we’ve gone all the way back to the roaring 20s, 1927 to be precise.
1927 started on the 1st of January with the handing down of a royal charter to the british broadcasting company, turning it into the the british broadcasting corportation, an institution long standing till this day, although the media it delivered has grown and changed since then.
2 weeks later the first ever sports broadcast aired on the BBC. For those wondering, Rugby, not football. Rugby union, England vs Wales.
Fast forward to the 12th April, the Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act renames the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The change acknowledges that the Irish Free State is no longer part of the Kingdom, and remains the stylisation to this date.
May sees Saudi Arabia become independent of the UK and the UK sever its diplomatic ties with the Soviet union due to it’s espionage.
October brought a vote where the labour party agreed to nationalise the coal industry, and in November, if you can imagine a world without them, the countries first automatic traffic lights were installed in Wolverhampton.
The year closed itself out with what appeared to be some terrible weather, including a Christmas day blizzard in Wales, and on one day in December, 1600 people were hospitalised in London due to icy streets.
However the hazards we’ll be discussing took place a little earlier in the year, on the 24th of August.
This episode, as we have so many times before, we start our story in London, in fact in a familiar location. Cannon Street Station. You’ll remember that we visited Cannon Street all the way back in episode 5, when we looked into the the story of how a passenger train failed to stop before it collided with the buffer stops in 1991, causing 2 deaths and a mind boggling 542 injuries. If you haven’t heard that one I would of course recommend it, but we know that I’m biased. If you did listen to it you’ll know that one of the defining features of the station was the low, dark, artificially lit space above the platforms. This was due to the fact an office block sat above them. A lovely, not very aesthetically pleasing addition to the station. Luckily however, that is not the image we need to hold in our heads this time.
A long time before the brutalist office block, thrown up around the time the 50s turned into the 60s, the platforms had Cannon Street had a much nicer ceiling. This was formed by a single glass and iron arch, fully befitting a city centre terminus, and it is under this arch we start this story, although it was probably obscured by smoke and steam considering the era.
On this Wednesday evening one source of this smoke was the steam locomotive number 800, a River class tank engine, known as River Cray. The locomotive stood at the head of a passenger train waiting to take people away from the city and back to their homes to the south est of the city. Aboard the locomotive, preparing for departure was the footplate crew, fireman H.C Barter and Driver F.H. Buss. Many many things had changed in the 64 years between then and the cannon street disaster, instead of multiple units, driven by electric traction motors or diesel engines, the train was composed of 8 passenger carriages marshalled behind the locomotive. All of the power required to move them around at high speed was contained in the boiler and firebox of River Cray, an 84 ton living, breathing beast.
Instead of a single driver, sat in the cab with his controls all at hands reach, Buss and Barter worked as a team, stood at the footplate, barter tending to the fire and Buss winding controls, throwing leavers and adjusting cocks… which isn’t anywhere near as bad as it sounds, look at the stopcock in your house for a quick explanation.
Like I said, many things have changed, but one thing hadn’t. The passengers.
At 5 in the evening, those approaching Cannon Street station, metres from the financial centre of the capital, those approaching the platforms and boarding the trains would have been businessmen, and those returning from days in the city, working and playing, back to return to their homes and families.
And so they swarmed into the station, boarded the carriages and settled in, and at 1700 and 30 seconds, half a minute late, whistles were blown, flags were waved, and Buss gently started to take his train out of the platforms at Cannon Street and out onto the bridge over the Thames.
The route the 5pm train was to take it from Cannon Street Station, all the way to the town of Deal on the Kent coast around 10 miles north of Dover. Which, as far as this podcast goes, means it introduces us to yet another line, not one that we’ve covered before.
This is the line which takes trains from the capital to the South East of the country, and following the naming convention we’ve seen on several occasions, you won’t get any prizes for figuring out that it’s known as the South Eastern Main Line.
After the line crosses the Thames, it runs down through the South Eastern suburbs of the capital, though places such as Hither Green and Orpington. It then runs down to Tonbridge before the line turns to the east, out to Ashford international, where nowadays, you can connect to international services, although at the time it was very much just known as Ashford, before heading on to Folkstone, Dover and the Kent coast.
Built in the 1840s, the line was envisaged to link the communities of Greater London to the Kent countryside and the boats which crossed the channel to the continent, particularly those out of Dover and Folkstone.
We’ve talked about the different eras of the railway before, working beackwards from now, we’ve seen privatisation, British Rail and the big four. Before this, was the era where the railways were created, where anybody with money and inspirtation could start out on the venture of creating a railway company, provided they could get parliamentary assent in any case. This meant that many, many companies existed, building their own lines and running their own trains. The South Eastern Main Line, had been built by the South Eastern Railway. As an aside, the line was always plagued by a bit of competition, due to the fact that around 10 years after the line was built, a second railway company, the London, Chatham & Dover Railway was formed out of the East Kent Railway, and the two competed for business to the coast.
But to go back to today’s story, it’s the first section of the line we need to think about, the section which leads southeast, down to Tonbridge, in Kent.
Along this section, as we said earlier, the line passes through the southern suburbs of London, and moves further down into Kent. Many of the services through here stopped at all of these stations, serving those who commuted into the capital, in fact half an hour before Buss and Barter took their service out of Cannon Street, a stopping train left Charing cross and travelled down the same route, calling at every station along the way, but for those who lived further out into Kent, there was another option, the express trains, like the 5pm from Cannon Street.
Driver Boss, at the controls of River Cray, had 40 years experience working for the South Eastern Railway, 30 of them as a driver of locomotives just like this one. He was also familiar with the route through to Kent and the coast, as was Barter, although he had only a quarter of the time on the job that Boss did. I’d hardly count a decade a new starter though. Barter had never been on the footplate of a river class though, and he did tell Boss this before they boarded.
Barter wasn’t concerned however, he’d heard good things about the class, their efficiency meant that a firemans job could actually be a little easier than on other locomotives, less hard work to keep the fire going.
With both men performing their duties, the train left the very heart of the capital. Because this was n express train, they didn’t really need to worry about stopping for the first hour of the jounrney, its first scehduled stop being Ashford, at 5 minutes past 6.
London Bridge, NewCross, Hither Green and Chisleton all passed without incident, as the train steamed on without being checked by any signals, clear aspects all the way. 10 miles and 19 minutes later however, on the approach to the distant signal at Orpington, Boss noticed an caution signal, but as they approached the arm dropped to clear. He did’nt apply the brakes and continued to steam on again, only seeing clear signals.
On the approach to Knockholt, around another 3 miles along the route, Boss and Barter had the train at 35 mile an hour, slowed because of a rising gradient, but this was all about to change. Just after the Up distant signal at Knockholt, the gradient began to fall again.
650 yards late, the train plunged into Polhil tunnel, picking up speed as it did so, headed down the gradient, underneath the current path of the M25, although at the time, this wasn’t yet a feature, but it should give you an idea of where the tunnel is.
After the train burst out of the other end of the tunnel, it took two sweeping turns First to the left, and then the right, before it stormed through the platforms at Dunton Green. By this time the 35 miles an hour had become around 55, and the 8 carriage train was well and truly steaming through the countryside.
Shortly after Dunton Green the line enters a long, lazy turn to the left. With the engine still under power, steam being drive to the pistons, pulling along, Boss noticed something very unusual. he heard a knocking noise in front of the engine.
He knew this wasn’t right, wasn’t a normal sound, and so he immediately closed the regulator, this shut off the flow of steam to the driving gear, and, after the clattering noise which shutting off steam creates had subsided, he listened again. The noise started again.
Boss applied the brakes, fully applied them.
The reason he made this decision so quickly and acted so decisively was down to what he thought was the source of the noise. Boss thought that the Bissel wheels had derailed.
A Bissell truck is a single axle bogie, which pivots at the centre, normally carrying a single set of unpowered wheels on a locomotive. The help to guide the loco through curves more easily.
At the leading end of River Cray, directly behind the buffer beam, sat a Bissell truck, carrying the leading wheels of the locomotive. If these had derailed it put the 60mph loco in a precarious situation, not to mention the 8 carriages of passengers behind it, so of course Boss set the breaks and did so quickly.
But train breaks don’t always seem to have a swift response, and Boss didn’t feel as though the brakes had started to arrest the speed of the train until the train entered a cutting, and approached the overbridge at Shoreham Lane.
And this is the point that what may have been a simple derailment turned into disaster.
The bridge which carries Shoreham lane over the South Eastern Main line was quite steeply angled, almost 45 degrees when compared to the line. Instead of one large arch, as seen on some bridges, the road deck was supported at each end by the bridges abutments, and in the centre of the bridge, between the two tracks, was a stone pier, supporting the road deck in the middle.
What this essentially created, was two separate portals to the bridge, one for the Up line, and one for the down. And it was at the point that locomotive number 800 reached this bridge that everything changed.
Boss, stood at the driving position on the right hand side of the cab, saw and felt the top right hand side if the cab scrape the central pier as the locomotive passed underneath. This in itself said that something was very wrong, the bridge should have been well clear of the locomotive, even if it might have felt like you were going to hit it every time you drove a train through these portals, they sat outside of the loading gauges of the trains permitted to use this line. We’ve covered this before, in a couple of episode, but the short version is that both structures and rolling stock are built to templates which mean that they should never come into contact with each other.
So we know something had gone wrong, but it was worse than a glancing blow with the cab, a structure that will have sat at the outer limit of the gauge, because on the opposite corner of the loco, the front left hand corner, an even more violent impact had taken place between the driving cylinder and the bridges abutment.
River Cray exited the other side of the bridge, derailing to the left of the track and after 112 yards of running over ballast and track, the locomotive eventually came to a rest, leaning up against the side of the cutting to the left of the tracks, its front buffer buried in the soil which made up the cutting wall.
In the process of travelling underneath the bridge, the first and second coaches of the train had both collided with the bridge supports, and they ended up derailed piled up just behind the engine. The third carriage, dragged through behind them had separated from the leading three vehicles and now lay astride the down line. All three of these coaches had suffered extensive damage in the course of the derailment, with the 1st and third being irretrievable following the accident.
The damage however paled in significance to the damage caused to the fourth vehicle, carriage 5518. In the course of the derailment this vehicle had become trapped underneath the bridge itself. A considerable amount of the coach had been crushed as the accident took place.
As the fourth carriage became lodged underneath the bridge it had an unexpected affect on the following vehicle. The Pullman Car directly behind it, named Carmen, was deflected to the right, and ended up upright, along the leading face of the bridge blocking both lines. The leading end of the carriage rode up the cutting lifting it above the tracks.
The sixth vehicle, another passenger coach ended up telescoping into the rear of the Pullman car, pealing a length of its side and roof panels like a wooden banana. Directly behind it lay the two rearmost coaches derailed but more or less upright, leaning to the right onto the gravel between where the running lines had been.
In a period of 30 seconds or so, which passed by without remarkable incident elsewhere in South East England, a passenger train had gone from nearly 60 miles an hour to a dead stop in a storm of splintering wood and screaching metal. And the toll was not just one of broken rails and battered rolling stock, 21 of the trains passengers had received serious injury, and 13 lives had been lost, the majority from the fourth carriage, crushed and lodged within the bridge.
<Big Musical Swell>
His Majesties rail inspectorate was on the scene in short order. As the breakdown cranes and rescuers carried out their grim task, Colonel J W Pringle and his team started the work of understanding the cause of this tragedy.
Of the 8 carriages of the Deal express, half were never recovered from the cutting. They were so severely damaged by the crash that they were simply broken up where they landed. It tells a horrific tale for those who had been travelling within them.
The investigators had a task ahead of them, they needed to answer a sequence of questions to explain the wreckage left behind in a Kent cutting.
Firstly, and this would form the bulk of the enquiry, what was it that had led to the train derailing in the first place?
Were there any other factors which influenced the accident?
And after this was all discovered, what could be done following the accident to prevent a reoccurrence.
<Brief Msuical Swell>
If you have listened to a derailment episode before, you will know that there’s a bit of a flow I go through when we discuss the possible causes of the accidents.
The phrase I have used several times before is that the straight and unbroken rail is very good at keeping track and train together. It sounds a little reptetive to keep saying it, but it is a good, strong factual statement. And it gives us a great starting point to interrogate these types of incidents.
So to use this flow, was the line between Dunton Green and Sevenoaks straight? No it wasn’t. But we now need to look at how not straight it was.
There were a number of curves in this area of the South Eastern Main Line, but they were long, sweeping curves without any excessive tightening, the curve the accident took place in, was between 50 and 70 chains, or half a mile to nearly a mile in new money.
This was a corner sure, but not one that screamed excessive curvature, not was it suddenly sprung upon a driver. More importantly, there were safety measures put in place to help trains negotiate this corner. The outside rail was raised higher than the inside one, what we call cant, but it’s referred to in the report at superelevation. This mitigates some of the effects of centripidal force and helps to guide the wheels around the corner. In addition, check rails were fitted on the curves south of Dunton, these additional rails help to provide an additional protection, designed to keep the flanges of wheels on the track. So, while the tracks here were curved, they were not overtly so, and mitigations were in place, so this was not the smoking gun.
So the next question, is whether or not the line could be classed as unbroken. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the rails have to be physically broken, we also look at the presence of switches or crossings too.
Were there any sets of points in the vicinity of this accident? The short answer is yes, just before the bridge that River Cray collided with was a set of catch points. These were provided due to the gradiant here, giving an opportunity for a runaway or uncontrollable train to be directed off the track, intentionally derailing it. It is clear that this sort of protection would only be used in an incredibly serious circumstance. If they were working correctly.
An intial glance could lead you to believe the catch points were the culprit, they were incredibly heavily damaged, the stock rails burst apart. To stand at the remains of them and follow the line between the stock rails and the north face of the Shoreham Lane bridge you would see a mess of destroyed rail, broken sleepers and damaged carriages. It became clear the the disintegration of the points here had led to the train running severely derailed beyond this point, and it was now clear that this was what had led to the locomotive being able to strike the bridge portal as it did. With such significant damage to the track there was very little hope of the train remaining in gauge.
You could look at this and think the mystery had been solved, something must have been wrong with the catch points.
The problem comes if you were to turn around and look in the opposite direction. There was significant damage on the track approaching the points, over 1500 feet of it to be precise. This clear damage demonstrated that while a catastrophic interaction took place between the train and the catch points, this was not the factor that started the accident, yes, it had a disastrous effect on the outcome, but it was something that happened due to the derailment and worsened it, it wasn’t the cause of the accident overall.
So what actually caused the derailment?
Investigators traced the damage back to the furthest north of the marks, 560 yards back along the track. Understandably once they found the first marks they needed to see if any influencing features around there. Were there any catastrophic failures in the rail here? Any objects that had been obstructing the line, any points?
This did not shed the light that was hoped for. To look at the marks on the rails it appeared as though the derailment happened spontaneously, no mechanical trigger was evident. The point became known on the drawings and records as Point A.
At the point A a score, 23 feet 1 inch in length, was clearly visible across the left-hand rail head, made undoubtedly by the flange of a left-hand wheel crossing from the inside to the outside of the rail. The right-hand wheel on the same axle consequently dropped off the rail into the four-foot between the two tracks. There was no sign of any obstruction in the vicinity of point A, between the inside rail and check rail, to account for the left-hand wheel lifting but it was clear that at this point a pair of wheels had derailed.
It was also decided that it was most likely the leading set of driving wheels. From point A they had run derailed to the inside of the tracks for the 560 yards of the corner up until the catch points, destroying keys and chairs, the fixings designed to hold the rails to the sleepers, along the way.
This knowledge didn’t, on it’s own, shed any light over the actual reason that River Cray had derailed, just that at least one set of her wheels, had left the rails at this point.
If it wasn’t the track then what was next, the question became was it the train?
When investigators approached the wreckage of River Cray, lying up against the wall of the cutting, they knew immediately that the locomotive had suffered some serious damage, in fact it was even itemised in the 1st appendix of the report.
A wheel missing from the leading bissell truck, the truck itself badly damaged. The buffer beam badly bent, left hand cylinder smashed, the pistons and valves on that side badly damaged, along with the driving rods, and a great deal of damage to step plates, the cab and other parts of the bodywork.
Locomotive number 800 had been through the ringer, and it was abundently clear that the majority of this damage was as a result of the collision with the bridge, as well as the cutting side where the train came to rest. What remained to be seen was whether any of it had been the cause, and not the result of the derailment.
Unfortunately for those charged with explaining the injuries and deaths at Sevenoaks, the evidence of the locomotive didn’t bring the light bulb moment they had hoped. The damage was all the result of the collision with the bridge, and the brutality which is running derailed at 60 mile an hour. Even the missing front wheel was found inbetween the bridge and the final resting place, meaning it was a result of the derailment, and not the cause of the marks so many yards back.
Which yet again counted out another potential cause. We now know that neither curvature, broken rails, switches and crossings or a defective locomotive were to blame for the accident, so we find ourself asking the next question, was it the way the locomotive was driven?
Again, unfortunately a blank was found on this front, at least initially. The speed River Cray ran through this area, between 55 and 60 was within the permissible speed. Buss and Barter both survived the accident and were able to give testimony to this fact. Unfortunately, we’re about 50 years too early for the start of the age of the On Train Data Recorder so we cant use that to prove or disprove their claims. What we could use however, would be the records held at signal boxes up and down the route.
I think we’ve touched on this before, but in signal boxes up and down the country, signallers were obliged to enter every train into the registers as they passed, showing the exact time by the signal box clock. These timing logs could be used to work out average speeds between the boxes and provide a reasonably accurate indication as to whether or not the train had been, well speeding.
Funnily enough, there was no indication that the train had been speeding, in fact it seemed as though Buss had been driving conscientiously throughout the journey. Shutting off power where it was needed, asking Barter to operate the dampers in a way which made the job easier.
So that was out of the running as well.
It appears as though River Cray had just spontaneously jumped off the rails.
Which, as it turned out, wasn’t a million miles away from the truth. But to understand what I mean by that, we need to take a bit of a deeper look at the River class locomotive…
The river class was a steam locomotive, which I think we probably all understand, but a very brief version of what that means is that the heart of the locomotive was a horizontal boiler, which was used to boil water with the heat from a coal fire, located in the firebox, next to the cab.
Locomotives like this require a crew of at least two, a driver to control the train and a fireman to stoke and manage the fire. Hence the presence of both Boss and Barter on the footplate.
Steam evaporates and coal burns, so to keep the fire burning and the boiler pressure up means that the locomotives need to carry a ready supply of both water and coal to replenish along the way. Without this, they really wouldn’t get very far at all.
Most engines, well the larger and more powerful ones at least, carried this water and coal in what is known as a tender. A wagon semi permanently coupled to the locomotive. This carried a large amount of each, and actually provided a stabilising influence to the engine as it rocketed along the line.
But not every locomotive has a tender. Their isn’t always the need to carry such a large quantity of these supplies on a shorter journey, or when pulling lighter loads. Just in the same way that a 44 tonne lorry might not be appropriate for delivering door to door, the railway had smaller locos to fulfil the smaller needs. Tank engines.
Instead of carrying their fuel in a seperate tender, tank engines stored their coal in a bunker on the loco and their water in tanks, normally located either side of the boiler.
And this is one of the weaknesses of the design. Not having the tender removes one source of stability, but adding water into tanks either side of the boiler can add another element of instability.
For a start, these tanks mounted halfway up the side of the engine raises the centre of gravity. That could lead to an increased lean outwards into corners, and water moving around in the tanks could surge and cause movement of the locomotive itself.
If you want an example of surging, half fill a bottle, and put it on your work top, slide it along and watch what happens, quite often, as the water sloshes, it will slide the bottle along a second time. This can happen in a tank of water on a train as well.
One way of getting round this is to fit baffles, plates in the tanks that essentially make them into lots of smaller spaces and stop large movements and limit surging. It doesn’t completely do away with the problem though.
Some designs of tank engine were inherently less stable than other, particularly suceptible to side to side motion, a rocking that was actually known as rolling. And now we’re starting to understand what happened. You see, locomotive 800, the River Cray was a river class loco. And the crews that worked them had given them a name. Rolling Rivers.
Drivers and firemen who worked the trains were interviewed by investigators and they recalled, almost to a man, that above 50 miles an hour, these trains could roll heavily.
Even Boss on the day in question had driven the train in such a way on the day to minimise rolling in certain locations, such as on the exit to Polhil tunnel, it was a known issue with the class on this route.
And so this was the course the investigation took, and it finally yielded some fruit. The markings from point A towards the catch points showed a definate pattern of left to right rolls. Left and then right and then back again. They extrapolated this pattern backwards and then were able to come to the following conclusion,
the cause of this derailment must be attributed to the rolling movement of engine No. 800, initiated, possibly. in the first instance. when it passed over a trailing points connection on the down line, which was located just south of Dunton Green Station. This side to side tilting motion must have continued, and increased in amplitude on the left-hand curve until, at the spot A which was about 250 yards south of the trailing points.
At this point, as the result of a heavy roll towards the right, the right side of the engine frame dipped to the extent that the flange of a left hand wheel rose approximately to the level of the rail head. The lateral effect of the lurching from side to side, acted on the frame of the engine at the moment when the roll was commencing to alter from right to left,, resulted in the flange of the left-hand wheel being swung, or shifted, on to the head of the rail out of its normal position inside the rail head. The reversal of the roll leftwards carried the flange diagonally across the rail head.
Which is all a bit wordy, but essentially means that the locomotive bounced one of its sets of wheels into derailment. And this derailment continued until the catch points, where the derailment turned into disaster.
The answer to question one was found, the instability of the river class locomotive was to blame for the derailment.
Now the main cause was identified, it was important to see whether or not there was any other factors to influence the accident.
Short answer is yesm but I’m sure you don’t just want the short answer!
To investigate the instability of the River class, they were run and the rolling movement was measured, but this wasn’t just done on the South Eastern.
The testing was also carried out on the London and North Eastern, and a surprising result was found. On the LNER, the locomotives were found to be reasonably stable at speeds up to the 80s, so there must have been something more to play.
Perhaps the tracks between Dunton and Sevenoaks weren’t as good as they thought at first glance. The rails weren’t broken, but there’s more to track than that. In the conclusions of the report, Pringle tells us what else they found,
Examination however, of the down track in the vicinity of the scene of this accident, and the actual survey made of the gauge and level of the rails. leads them to conclude that there was an insuffiency of hard and clean ballast, foundation, a lack of proper drainage, and irregularity in thc lcvel and gauge of the rails, sufficient to set up serious rolling & lateral motion on tank engines travelling at high speed.
This means that the line was not adequately supported by the ballast, and the cant wasn’t quite sufficient as required by design in places around the corner. 2 inches in place where 3 was required by the specifications.
If the rolling motion was started by the points, the condition of the tracks here allowed the roll to continue, and propogate, continuing up until the point the wheels jumped clear of the lines.
The last point, what could be done to improve, was actually pretty easy to resolve. On the issue of the condition of the ballast, cant and drainage, the South Eastern Railway was handed some very easy to understand remarks as part of the report.
The necessity for permanently strengthening the road bed, on some sections of their main lines of railway, in order to meet present day traffic conditions does not appear to have been fully realised. Loading has been increased. and heavier and more powerful locomotives have heen designed and built, to haul these heavier loads at the same or higher speeds.
Advise was also handed down, directing the railway to pay better attention to maintaiing the permament way, not only the packing and supply of dry and well maintaind ballast, but also the cant of the line. Potentially advising that they may want to erect pillars in this sort of location showing the cant required.
The other contrinuting factor to this accident is the inherent instability of the River classes on the Southern Main line. A decision was made by the railway to actually convert these locomotives into tender engines. The tanks on either side of the boiler were removed and a tender was added, vastly imporving the stability of the locomotives, while also avoiding the bad press that the, well, questionable locomotives would bring to the company.
<Musical Swell into credits>
The legacy of Sevenoaks is a fairly quiet one, There is no memorial that I’ve been able to find a reference to, and its a shame, but this is a state of play that I’ve come across at the scene of several of these accident, especially the onese that occurred further back, at a time when they were, well, more common.
The one thing that I can tell you is that the bridge at Shorham lane has been rebuilt since the disaster. You can see it on cab ride videos along the route. No longer do you rocket through two small, dark portals, but now a single arch sweeps over the track, supported on the old abutments.
The last thing I will leave you with is a story I found while I was researching this episode.
A hopsital worker in London was on his way home from the city to Dunton Green.
As they prepared to get off, something caught their attention. As we approached the Polhill tunnel, They tell how they heard a lady with a soft polite voice say: “Excuse me.” The voice from a 50ish year old woman. She didn’t appear to have any luggage and stood with her arms at her side, she continued: “Could you tell me where this train is going?”
He informed her the train was going to Sevenoaks and asked where she wanted to go to? She replied: “Sevenoaks of course.” She then added: “I have been going up and down on this train all day long.
He was surprised and so asked: Why all day long? Would nobody help you?
“No one would listen to me,” she said.
As we approached the station, He explained that the next stop was Dunton Green followed by Sevenoaks. The train stopped, the doors opened, and I stepped off the train turning around immediately to look at the lady again – but she had disappeared. After the event he thought back, and remembered as he was talking to the lady, the train was rocking more than usual, particularly in the tunnel.
. It then struck him that when I was talking to the lady she had been standing absolutely still and was not holding on to anything to steady herself.
His conclusion, the woman had been a ghost? Who knows, if ghosts do exist, the railway has its fair share of untimely departures that might want to hang around as a warning to others…
Thank you as for tuning into episode 16, Once again, please like, share and review, come interact with us on social media, twitter or facebook, just search for Signals To Danger or Daniel Fox Rail.
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Until next episode, Travel Safe!