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.

83watfordcrash0175r.jpg83003 after righting on January 24th 1975. A British Rail phot

86watfordcrash0175r.jpg86209 at the foot of Bushey bank, she was to remain here for 4 months. A British Rail phot

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Thanks to..

Watford Observer Archives

Modern Railways Mag

Railway accident archive