Bushey collision January 23 1975
The derailment of an express passenger train and the subsequent collision with a train in the opposite
direction South of Watford Jn was triggered by an obstruction on the line consisting of part of a freight
train which had fallen from a wagon. The freight was 6M50 2012 Ford car-components train from Dagenham
to Halewood. 6M50 consisted of 17 pallet vans electrically hauled from Willesden by 85017 6M50 runs daily
conveying car part in pallets or specially designed steel stillages loaded by fort lift truck into the wagons at Dagenham,
after which the wagons are closed and sealed by company staff.
The initial derailment occurred when 1A81 1910 Manchester - Euston passenger train was accelerating away from
it booked stop at Watford Jn. It was running 59 late after a loco failure near Macclesfield when a second loco, 83003,
was attached in front of the failed 86204. Because of the delay an additional driver was acting as secondman and had
been at the controls until the derailment whilst the booked driver had a meal break. The train ran into 2 steel stillages
(large steel crates) lying foul of the up fast line on which the train was travelling, causing the lead loco to derail towards
the down fast line.
As it came to a stand 1S18 2215 Euston - Glasgow sleeping car train approached on the down fast line at an estimated
speed of 65mph and struck the leading loco of the Manchester train deflecting the loco (86209) and leading full brake of
the Glasgow train down a 50ft embankment. The rest of the train came to a stop more or less in line along the track.
In the collision the booked driver of the Manchester train was tragically killed, and 3 railway staff and 8 passengers
injured. The corner to corner impact caused very severe damage to 83003. 86209 and leading full brake was deflected
towards the cess and came to rest in soft ground of the steep embankment.
The second to tenth of 1S18's coaches were all derailed but remained upright but were not seriously damaged. 2 were
leaning at a dangerous angle and were deliberately put down the embankment to speed up the clear up. Seven of 1A81's
coaches suffered minor damage including broken windows
There was considerable dislocation to traffic and the slow lines were not reopened until January 26th (60 hours later) and the fast lines
a day later. There was limited "dragging" of some Inter City services the next day using 47's presumably via the DC lines.
It was fortunate that the derailment of the Manchester train cut the signal cables of the track circuits controlling
the down fast line signal approaching the site so that it reverted to danger in front of the Glasgow train and the driver was
able to make an emergency brake application reducing speed from approx 85mph before the collision.
When the Ford train 6M50 stopped at Rugby for a crew change it was discovered that the doors were open on three vans
and the 12th vehicle appeared to have been hit by something as there was damage to the brake gear. Parts of the brake gear
were missing and were found at the scene of the accident. Evidence from Ford and BR staff established that 2 steel stillages
had fallen from the 11th vehicle of the freight train and were found at the site of the derailment, which took place about
20mins after the freight train had passed. Since the doors of the pallet vans were fastened by Ford staff and sealed by wire
seal, and checks were made by Ford security staff and BR C & W examiners to ensure that doors were shut and fastened,
any open doors would have been noticed before starting. The freight was stopped twice for signals at Gospel Oak and
Finchley Road the former for about 10 mins. The guard taking over the train at Willesden had examined the right-hand
side but not looked at the left hand side in detail because of restricted clearances between the line on which the train was
standing and the adjacent running line.
Police reports strengthened suggestions that the train might have been interfered with irregulary, since thefts had taken place
from other trains waiting for signals at Gospel Oak. Lineside fences had been broken down in an area not overlooked by
buildings or a signalbox.
It appears likely that potential thieves opened some doors during one of the signal stops and left them open without taking
anything. On the Bushey curve approaching Watford vibration aided the cant causeing the stillages to slide towards the door
and fall onto the track. The pallet van concerned was not fitted with raves on the floor like later types which would have
prevented the stillages from sliding through the door opening. It was recommended that train examination at Willesden
should take place on a line where staff can safely walk down both sides of the train.
83003 was later towed the mile or so to Watford Jn derailing twice en route and dumped in Watford yard, sheeted over.
On February 17th 83003 was hauled North at slow speed to Crewe Works where the inevitable decision, considering the
severe damage was withdrawn on May 4th 1975. She was cut up 2 months later
86209 became a regular feature at the foot of Bushey's embankment, but was finally recovered on April 18th 1975
with a low loader providing road haulage to Crewe Works. By Nov 75 the loco was ex works and back in WCML traffic.
Full 86209 history here, she survived till 1998.
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