On October 8 1952, one of the Britain's worst railway disasters took place at Harrow and Wealdstone Station. Now,more than 55 years later,official notes of the accident have been passed to Harrow Museum, which gave JAJA MARANAN an exclusive look.
DRAMATIC records documenting the horrific 1952 railway crash in Wealdstone have surfaced for the first time, after being saved from the bin.
The loose sheaves of papers, written by railway supervisors, provide an amazing account of the catastrophic accident that killed more than 100 people and injured dozens of others.
On the morning of October 8, a southbound Perth to Euston passenger train failed to stop at a red danger signal and smashed into the rear of a Tring to Euston train, which was unloading passengers at Harrow and Wealdstone station in The Bridge, Wealdstone.
A third train, heading from Euston to Liverpool, then collided with the wreckage, causing further destruction.
Now intricate details of that fateful day are being presented to the public, thanks to the emergence of previously private notes compiled by District Operating Superintendents.
The records include both handwritten and typed details of fatalities and injuries, accommodation notes, progress reports and the names and addresses of passengers, as well as a list of doctors who helped at the scene.
An extremely detailed aerial printed diagram of the accident remains practically undamaged and provides a shockingly clear representation of what the overall scene must have looked like.
The documents are now being kept at the Harrow Museum and Heritage Centre in Pinner View, Harrow, having been handed in by Frank Cheever, 58, of New Newbury, in Berkshire, in April.
Mr Cheever said: "I worked at Watford Station in the 70s and 80s and was partly responsible for Harrow. A colleague of mine, Bill Hay, rescued the files before they were thrown away and gave them to me for safekeeping when he retired."
The discoloured and delicate notes, torn and creased in certain places, list most of the names of the 112 people killed, although a few remain unidentified. It provides a full description of the types of injuries incurred by the 340 casualties including severed joints, broken bones, bruising, fractures and most commonly of all, shock; those who had lost consciousness could not remember anything until moments just before the crash.
Another sheet reveals that of the 112 who died, 102 were pronounced dead at the scene and eight died in hospital. The other two go unmentioned.
Mr Cheever, who was only two at the time of the crash, was told that the efforts of the local community were 'magnificent'.
Though difficult to read, smudged notes listed a host of local businesses that provided their premises and staff to police and emergency services, including W Harold Perry Ltd, which gave up space for casualty enquiries, and Boots, which offered medical supplies.
Local residents set up an emergency canteen and also offered accommodation.
A single piece of torn paper stated that local doctors provided their services, some of whom wished to remain anonymous, and that most accident and emergency services arrived almost immediately after the accident occurred.
Thirty four witnesses are listed in the notes, some who described the scene, with 'glass and debris everywhere'.
One chilling piece of evidence is the list of missing staff members, which includes civil engineers and commercial and operating superintendents; subsequent papers do not mention whether they were found.
Though the documents state that the clear-up started on October 9, structural repair of the footbridge above the tracks, where fatalities also occurred because of a pile-up of carriages 9m high, commenced on the 12th.
Despite the level of devastation, the station was returned to normal within three to four days, thanks to the local and national services which, Mr Cheever explained, 'had just come out of war and were used to dealing with catastrophes'.
The most significant parts of the documents, which were also the most stained, but luckily, still comprehensible, were several inquests into the cause of the accident.
Several railway staff commented on the weather; it was a typical October day and slightly foggy, but W H Darton, a train driver, judged the visibility on the day 'to be 500 or 600 yards, I did not think it was too bad'.
Mr Cheever said the local community at the time believed that train driver Jones, of the Perth to Euston train, had failed to react to the second and third danger signal.
Notes of Jones's post mortem examination describe him as having no diseases, which could have affected his performance, at the time. Similarly, his colleague J Hampton, said: 'He was normal on the day'. The reason he did not stop at the danger signals therefore remains a mystery.
Even so, Mr Cheever said, the accident sparked an improvement in the emergency braking systems installed, on trains to try to ensure that no similar horror ever occurred again.
The superintendents' notes are being kept in a private area of the museum, but will be on exhibit in the near future.