Two ECS Cravens twin-units collided at about 40mph with the buffer stops at Royton Station at 6.12am. 5 persons injured. The leading unit comprised two motor coaches, each with a Rolls-Royce 238bhp engine and mechanical drive, built Sept/Oct 1959. The trailing unit was an AEC-engined power-twin, built March 1958. The leading coach, having destroyed the buffer stop and the wall behind it, dropped approximately two feet to the level of High Barn Street and continued across it entering houses Nos.13 & 15 and coming to rest with its front end projecting into their back yards. The leading bogie became detached and fell into the cellar of one of the houses. Damage was also caused to adjacent properties in the terraced row. Fortunately one of the two destroyed houses was a lock-up shop, unoccupied at the time, and due to the early hour the occupants of the other houses were upstairs. The leading end of the second car overhung but did not drop onto the street, although its bogie fell from under it. Though the leading car suffered from front/rear-end bodywork and underframe damage, the mainframe was not distorted and the buffers were only bent. The rear unit was undamaged. It was concluded that the driver mishandled the brakes, as well as unwittingly accelerating the train, during the 1 in 62 descent to Royton Station. (Information from Peter Mullen).
Richard Greenwood adds: "The leading car was M51701. The elderly couple in bed in the house which 51701 demolished were carried out into the open air on top of the unit." Many thanks are also due to Richard for supplying the following photographs on this page. The image on the right was taken soon after the incident.
The next five images were taken about 8.30am. Left: This vehicle was the second in the formation, and it is overhanging the wall on the right side, behind the woman with the umbrella. Right: To the right of the previous picture could be found the leading DMBS embedded in the house.
The first image below was taken from the opposite of High Barn Street, and the DMC seen in the first picture is on the right. The DMBS is on the left. The final two views are of the severely bashed front of the DMBS. The remaining roof and some more wall has been demolished from the house. The vehicle was rebuilt and returned to traffic using a spare cab.
These final two shots were taken about midday, when the DMC had been moved away from the wall and the DMBS has been partially dragged across the road. Note the 'ramp' to lift the vehicle back into the slightly higher yard level, which appear to be built using timber from the rubble!
Peter Dawson wrote the following for the Christmas 2003 edition of the STORM (Support the Oldham Rochdale Manchester line group) newsletter: "Despite what the Press will have you believe railways are considerably safer than roads, and accidents rare. When accidents do happen though, they tend to be spectacular. As was the case in Royton on February 8th 1961. At 6.12am on that morning, the 6.5am Shaw to Royton empty 4-coach dmu crashed through the buffers at Royton station at about 40mph. The stops and a stone wall beyond were destroyed and the leading coach (M51701), after dropping 3 feet into High Barn St, carried on and completely destroyed 2 houses and badly damaged 3 others. Amazingly, none of the 5 occupants of the tenanted houses were seriously injured, nor were the guard and off-duty fireman. The driver jumped onto the platform immediately before the collision and suffered a fractured skull and other injuries."
Mr Tom Whittaker told The Oldham Chronicle: "At about 6.15 I suddenly heard the noise of a diesel hooter. The driver must have been trying to warn us he was in trouble. The noise went on for 30 or more seconds; then there was a terrific crash".
At No. 9 High Barn St, Mr Tom Pollitt was also in bed when the train demolished the home of his neighbour, Mrs Greenwood. "I was wondering whether to get up or have another 5 minutes in bed, then I heard the diesel hooter. It didn't stop and I was just wondering what was the reason for all the noise when there was a terrific bang and the whole house shook. I shot out of bed and our little boy, Tom, was crying and shouting that there was a flying saucer in the back yard"
Royton was a terminus station with a single platform. The booking hall was parallel to the platfrom so the buffer stops were up against the boundary wall. The track was well above the road level. In 1961 it had 30 passenger and 3 freight trains each day. The line from Royton Junction was just over one mile long but very steep. In this short distance there were gradients of 1 in 62, 1 in 71 and 1 in 150. In a remarkable contrast to today, disruption was minimal. The first replacement bus ran at 7.15am, High Barn St cleared up by 6pm and normal rail services restarted with the 8.55pm train from Victoria!
An Inspector Calls
All major railway accidents have an independent formal inquiry aimed at finding out what went wrong and recommending preventative improvements. The Royton crash was investigated by Col. Robertson of the Railway Inspectorate, whose report was published on May 5th 1961.
"I am satisfied that the brakes on the train were in good order. I am also satisfied that if the train and brakes had been properly handled Driver Pearse would have had no difficulty in stopping the train short of the buffer stop. Driver Pearse was alone responsible for this accident."
"The approach to Royton is not unsafely steep for these trains provided they approach it at a reasonable speed and are brought under control in good time. In my view a driver should have his train fully under control, with his speed reduced to 30mph, by the time he reaches Turf Lane bridge. The Railway Officers have agreed to introduce a 30mph speed limit from this point into Royton station."