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DMU Accident

Bradford (Exchange) Station, NER - 03/06/64

On approaching Bradford Exchange Station, the driver of a 2-car Derby Class 108 DMU (M51944, M52059) suffered a severe heart attack with the result that the train ran out of control unbraked and gathering speed down a steeply falling gradient into the terminal station. The train ran past a series of signals at danger before colliding head-on into the steam engine of a Bradford - King’s Cross parcel train standing in Platform 4. The cab and leading compartment of the DMU were telescoped to a depth of 28ft and completely destroyed, killing the driver and a railwayman travelling in it as a passenger. One passenger later died in hospital and seventeen others were injured. This was “a most unfortunate accident . . . Such a coincidence is unlikely to occur again"

accident report

MOT; 15pp; location diagram, general plan and gradient diagram; sketch layout of driver’s and guard’s controls (J.R.H. Robertson).

The following appeared in one of the Bradford newpapers:-

"Three killed by runaway train, Wednesday, June 3, 1964

Considering Bradford's location, it's a wonder that there have not been more serious rail accidents.

The long, steep drag out of the old Exchange Station, taking trains south or east, was always a potential killer if brakes failed. Luckily it didn't happen very often.

But human frailty was another matter, and it was this that was ultimately blamed for a crash on June 3, 1964, which claimed three lives.

A diesel train, its hooter blaring, raced for a quarter of a mile out of control before running into a stationary mail train in Exchange Station. Two men - one of them the driver - died. And an 80-year-old woman was fatally injured, dying a day later.

One survivor said: 'Coming through Low Moor I thought we were going faster than usual.

'About 400 hundred yards from the station, the driver started blowing the hooter continuously. I gripped the seat as hard as I could and waited for the crash'.

He was helped from the wreckage uninjured but shaken, and began to help others from the damaged first coach.

'There were people lying across the seats bleeding and moaning with pain and others were badly shocked' he said. Thirteen people in all were injured when the train, travelling at an estimated 50mph, crashed. Some of those on board, realising that something was badly wrong as the train rushed toward the terminus, started towards the back carriage to be further from the impact.

The cause was never fully settled, but at the public inquiry which followed five months later, there was evidence that driver Joe Hansell had been suffering from heart disease for some time.

Bradford Collision

It was suggested that he was startled by finding signals against him at Bowling Junction. 'The mental shock of this to such a particularly conscientious and responsible driver might well have induced the [heart] attack in the way sudden and severe physical exertion might have done', concluded the inspector, Col J R H Robertson.

Driver Smith, still conscious but in extreme pain, would have managed to do some of the correct things, such as sounding the hooter, while failing to release the safety device known as the 'dead man's handle', which would have stopped the train.

Col Robertson said nobody was to blame for Mr Smith not being taken off his duties. His health problem had not been revealed in a medical examination only weeks before the crash.

His widow told the inquiry that a specialist had told her: 'There is nothing wrong with your husband's heart'. She said: 'My husband was so conscientious that if he had known he had some heart trouble he would have given up, and not risked his passengers'."

M51944 is listed as being withdrawn in November 1964, and cut up at Derby C&W Works in May 1965. (The withdrawal date five months after the collision suggests that it was moved to Derby for an assessment of the repairs needed). M52059 survived in traffic until 1992.

Bradford (Exchange) Station, NER

Involving Class 108 / Steam
Vehicles included: 51944 / 52059

Information from Bill Read, Malcolm Paul and Peter Mullen

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