Scotch Express Crash 1895 at St.Neots

The incident known as ‘St. Neots Derailment 1895‘ happened on the 10th of November 1895 when Great Northern Railway’s Scottish Express was travelling from Kings Cross Station London. This train would have been travelling around 50MPH, and around 40 yards south of the St.Neots platforms and main station the train hit a broken rail which derailed the train , The hind part of the train veered to the left and struck a row of goods wagons in a siding to the north of the station. The forward part of the train came to a stand about a quarter of a mile further on.[2]

It was hauled by one of the GNR’s latest and largest of its 8 foot singles, number 1006. The consist was of eight vehicles: a guard’s van, a coach, a Pullman sleeping car (Iona), a corridor coach, another sleeping car, two further coaches and a final guard’s van. Fortunately it was only carrying twenty seven passengers.

Rolt, L.T.C. (2009). Red for Danger: The Classic History of British Railways. Stroud: The History Press Ltd. [1]

One person is recorded to have died in this incident, a lady called Louisa O’Hara, who was propelled out of the sleeping car and struck her head against a goods wagon. Some four to six passengers were more or less severely injured, the guard also having struck his head.

scotchexpressstnstation1895

Although the train crew became aware of unusual noises and movement within the train, it was impossible, in the darkness, for them to tell what was amiss. It transpired that a portion of the left hand rail had broken, derailing the coaches, which had scraped along the platform leaving a trail of debris. The coupling of the second sleeping car finally parted as it passed over the crossover to the siding, colliding with a row of coal wagons. It took the brunt of the impact, losing its roof, much of its body work being shattered, and the floor being driven back into the following coach.[2] The next two coaches were thrown partly over and telescoped together, but the guard’s van remained virtually undamaged.

Meanwhile, once stationary it was discovered that the front section of the train was also derailed. The first two carriages were undamaged (and were used to carry the uninjured passengers on to Peterborough) but the Pullman car had damage to its wheels and undergear, while the following coach had lost all its glass on the left hand side. It too appeared to have struck some wagons but, fortunately, stayed upright and passed beneath the bridge.

Though probably not as a direct response to this accident, the Stirling Singles were replaced in the next few years by Ivatt’s Atlantics. At this time also, cast, or wrought, iron rails were being replaced with steel and manufacturing processes were steadily improving. Serious accidents due to rail breakage, therefore, remained rare, though a full understanding of crack propagation from internal defects did not come about until the mid-twentieth century and the work of the British Rail Research Division among others.

scotchexpressstnstation1895Now

[1] Rolt, L.T.C. (2009). Red for Danger: The Classic History of British Railways. Stroud: The History Press Ltd.

[2] “Serious Accident To A Scotch Express”. The Times (34731). 11 November 1895. p. 11, column A.

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