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HISTORIC DECEMBER

December 7th 1867 - Accident at Rosegill Colliery Junction

A collision took place between two mineral trains at Rosegill Colliery Junction, near Maryport, on the Maryport & Carlisle Railway. The following account was written by the Board of Trade Inspector - Lieutenant Colonel C.S. Hutchinson.

"The night was clear and moonlit, and the driver could see that the arm of the Rosegill distant signal post was at all right as he passed it. On previous occasions, after dusk, the arm had been at danger (though the lamp had not been lit), if a train had been stopping at Rosegill, and seeing this, he had been enabled to pull up in time.

On rounding the curve before alluded to as impeding the view of the main colliery signal, he found the latter against him, and immediately tried to pull up by reversing his engine, having his tender-breaks put on and whistling for the guard's breaks.

There is no reason to suppose that these appliances were not used, but, nevertheless, owing to the speed (from 20 to 30 miles an hour), the weight of the train, and the descending gradient, the engine struck the van of the first mineral train at a rate of about six miles an hour.

The breaksman of this train, hearing the other approaching at a faster rate than if it had intended to stop, had, fortunately warned the colliers to alight, and all except ten had got out before the collision occurred; he also gave the coming train a red hand-lamp signal.

As before stated, eight out of the ten colliers in the van were severely shaken and bruised, the engine buffers were broken, the van damaged, and some waggons broken."

The Inspector found that the accident would not have occurred had the distant signal been properly used, and a private arrangement with the signalman at Bullgill not been relied upon instead. He therefore held that the signalman at Rosegill should be held responsible!PGW 12/14

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December 1933 and 1955 - Accidents near Hellifield

December has seen two separate accidents near Hellifield over the last 80 years; one in 1933 and a second in 1955. The latter caused no fatalities, but the former led to two deaths.

In 1933, during shunting operations at Hellifield South Junction, a goods brake van ran away down the goods loop and onto the down main line, colliding head-on with the 11.15pm Ancoats (Manchester) to Carlisle freight train. Both the driver, J. Farrell, and fireman, W. Murphy, were fatally injured.

It was established that the previous train (the 11.55pm Huskisson Dock, Liverpool to Hellifield) had arrived in the goods loop earlier, and the brake van had been detached. The rest of the train was divided up, but one of the portions was shunted too vigorously against the detached van causing it to run away as its own brake had not been applied tightly enough. Rather than blaming the driver of the Huskisson Dock train, the yard "shunter", a man called Hoggarth, was held primarily responsible as the weather conditions were poor and care should have been taken to warn the driver to back up the engine more slowly. Criticism was also levelled at the signalman, F. Thompson, for allowing the Ancoats train to proceed along a section of track when he knew the goods loop was open.

The 1955 accident report again blamed a signalman, but the collision this time was very different. The 9.05pm express passenger train from St. Pancras to Edinburgh was booked to stop at Hellifield and as it was standing at the Down platform it was struck heavily at the rear by the 9.15pm express passenger train from St. Pancras to Glasgow, which was booked to run through the station. The latter train had been travelling at 50-55mph but the brakes had been applied and had reduced the speed to 25-30mph when the collision occurred.

Fortunately, the brakes of the Edinburgh train were off and the force of the impact was largely absorbed by the destruction of the two bogie brake vans at the rear, and by the forward movement which was imparted to the train. Consequently, the casualties were confined to two passengers in the Edinburgh train who proceeded on their journey after treatment, and three railway servants in the same train, only one of whom was detained in hospital.

The enquiry attached blame to the signalman who, due to "irregular working", had allowed the Glasgow express to enter the occupied platform.

PGW 12/13

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21st December 1886 - Yet More Trouble at Carlisle Station

On this day, the LNWR suffered an accident that proved to be decisive in the adoption of the automatic brake vacuum on passenger trains.

Up until 1882 the LNWR had been the only Company resisting the introduction of any vacuum system, having long been using the chain brake, which was neither automatic nor effective in making the carriages brake in unison. However in 1882 the Railway Inspectorate insisted and the directors, despite still in opposition, agreed, to adopt the simple vacuum brake, rather than the automatic version, as a cheap solution.

However, four years later, the LNWR found itself having to defend its decision in front of the Board of Trade Inspectors following a serious incident at Carlisle. One of the Company's down expresses ran through Citadel Station and struck a Midland engine standing 300 yards to the north. A simple vacuum brake was fitted to all fourteen vehicles on the train, but a plug of ice was found about one foot either side of the junction of the vacuum pipes, water having collected within them. Apparently this was not the first time the problem had been acknowledged, as freezing of the pipes had often been named in the LNWR's "vacuum returns", along with other types of obstruction such as cotton waste.

New rules requiring separation of vehicles, with differing types of brakes, into different train sections had recently come into force. These were causing the Company acute problems because of the widespread practice of conveying vehicles from many different companies, such as saloons, horse boxes, and so on, into one train However, the directors were by now concerned at the increasing number of brake failures, and it became obvious that the automatic vacuum brake would have to be adopted across the Company. This was duly commenced, and by the end of 1889 over 50% of all vehicles were fitted, with the task being finally completed in a further two years.

PGW 12/12

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24th December 1910 - Collision near Hawes Junction

At 5-19 in the morning of December 24th a very serious collision occurred a little way north of Hawes Junction, now known as Garsdale, on the Settle & Carlisle line of the Midland Railway.

Two 4-4-0 engines, nos. 448 and 548, had assisted southbound expresses up the climb through the Eden Valley from Carlisle and after being detached from their trains at Ais Gill summit, had proceeded to Hawes Junction to turn on the turntable there. They were then standing on the main line awaiting the signals to clear for their return to Carlisle. Meanwhile the 12-00pm sleeping car express from St Pancras to Glasgow was approaching from the south headed by 2-4-0 no. 48 and 4-4-0 no. 549. Pulling off the signals for the express, the signalman at Hawes Junction forgot he had two engines waiting on the main line, and their drivers started off.

Unaware in the dark of the danger ahead, and with any possible view obscured by Moorcock Tunnel, within minutes the express overhauled and collided with the two light engines just north of the footbridge near Lunds viaduct. In the resulting collision and fire, which destroyed almost all the wooden, gas-lit coaches, twelve passengers died and nine more suffered injury.

Many of the casualties are commemorated and buried in the churchyard at Hawes.

PWR 09/11