Harrow Rail crash
The morning of October 8th 1952 had dawned with typical British autumn weather, patchy fog that would gradually give way to patchy sunshine as the day progressed.
The 7.31 Tring to Euston local service was standing at Harrow and Wealdstone station as commuters boarded, ready for their daily journey into the city. But at 8.19 the journey for many of them ended forever.
For reasons never explained, only speculated on, the 8.15 pm express sleeper train from Perth to Euston sped past signals indicating danger ahead, and that it should stop. But the driver of The City of Glasgow, the locomotive hauling 8 coaches and 3 vans either missed the signals in the fog, or was distracted, or most implausibly saw them and took no notice.
As the Scottish train came in sight of the stationary train the crew hit the brakes, but the remaining distance was far too small to make a noticeable reduction in speed before it smashed into the rear of the commuter train. Seconds later the London to Liverpool and Manchester express ploughed into the wreckage that had spread across several tracks. In the end all six lines at Harrow and Wealdstone were blocked by the debris.
In all 112 people died in the accident, four crew and 108 passengers and bystanders – for the force of the collisions had sent engines and coaches hurtling across nearby platforms scything down any unlucky enough to be in the way, and others died on the footbridge immediately above the point where the local train had been waiting, as rolling stock was forced upwards to career into the structure above. As well as the 112 dead, 340 were injured, many having to be cut free of the compressed wreckage.
The Harrow crash was the worst peacetime rail disaster in British history, the horrific death toll only exceeded by the Quintinshill accident in Scotland in 1915, when some 200 died in another three-train incident as fire raced through the wooden carriages carrying troops in one of the trains.
"My name is Terry McGrath, and I was a 12 year old school boy in 1952. I lived in Watford and used to get the 8.01 train from Watford Junction to Harrow to go to school at the Salvatorian College in Wealdstone. As usual that morning I caught the train and being a young boy as the train was drawing into the station I had already got the door open and jumped out before the train stopped. Just as I was getting to the steps to the footbridge there was a great explosion of noise and as I looked round and to my horror I saw the carriages rising up from the ground and also saw a lady disappear beneath them.I then ran up the steps at great speed and along the footbridge which fell away behind me as I reached the concrete steps out of the station.
What I remember most is the noise and utter chaos with people sceaming and running all over the place. I realise that I was very lucky not to be killed or injured probably because I was so young and had jumped from the train early"
More famous dates here
10677 views since 8th October 2007
From mark spratt on 13th October 2013
We all lived there I was born in 1960 we remember those that suffered my family lived by the bridge near the station my granddad rushed to help the picture you see has him as one of the men standing on top of the train
From Colin Turnock on 9th September 2010
As the anniversary approaches again I think of my Mother who was the wife of the fireman on City of Glasgow.My name is Colin Turnock same as his,I was born the following March.Whenever I pass through Harrow and Wealdstone on the train i think of the accident and all the people killed and injured