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GWR Route: Banbury to Wolverhampton

Knowle & Dorridge Station: gwrkd1954

View of one of the cranes lifting debris from the site whilst other traffic continued on the adjacent lines

View of one of the cranes lifting debris from the site whilst other traffic continued on the adjacent lines. The fatal train collision occurred when the Signalman there gave a ‘Line Clear’ to Bentley Heath Box allowing the London bound Birmingham Pullman express to proceed on the up main line. Although the up main home at Knowle was at danger and its associated up main distant at caution, the braking distance (902 yards) on a falling gradient (1 in 262) was insufficient for the diesel hydraulic locomotive D1040 ‘Western Queen’ and nine heavy coaches. This limitation was known and under the provisions of Regulation 4A the ‘Line Clear’ indication should not have been given until the Signalman at Knowle and Dorridge had confirmed the next section was also clear. Unfortunately the Signalman had also initiated the movement across the up main line in that section by a freight train, which needed to collect several car transporter flat wagons loaded with Land Rovers. This shunting movement was occurring just beyond the up main home signal and unable to stop, the Pullman express ploughed into the rear of a freight train. On impact, the cab of the Diesel was completely crushed killing the two train Drivers and Second-man. The guard and shunter who were on the verandah of the freight train's brake van managed to jump clear just in time. The official report in to the accident can be found at the Railways Archive website.

In the aftermath of the accident, the ex Great Western Railway 2-6-2T 5101 class, large prairie No 4111 arrived with the Tyseley breakdown train under a class A lamp headcode. In this photograph the breakdown train's steam crane can be seen clearing the tracks of the remains of a car transporter flat wagon, while the freight train's derailed ex GWR brake van (telegraphic code name TOAD) can also be seen in the foreground. The up main line home signal, which had been set to danger can be seen on the left.

Locomotive No 4111 was built in October 1936 at Swindon Works as part of lot 292. These locomotives were an updated version of the successful 31xx class, the first of which had been designed and built in 1903. Externally the 5101 class differed from their predecessors by having curved drop ends, flanged motion plate and outside steam pipes. The cab roof was lowered and the coal bunker extended to hold four tons. The water tank capacity remained the same at 2,000 gallons. The class were adorned with copper capped chimneys and brass safety valves. The superheated standard No 2 long coned boiler operating at 200 lbs produced a tractive effort at 85% of 24,300lb, placing the locomotive in power class D. The maximum axle weight was 17 tons, 12 cwt, which limited the locomotives to main lines and some branch lines (Route colour Blue). The power, speed and particularly the acceleration of these locomotives made them ideal for the Midlands suburban passenger duties where there was a requirement for frequent stops with heavy loads. As a result many of the 5101 class were allocated to the Wolverhampton division, but their useful life was curtailed by the introduction of DMUs in the late 1950s.

No 4111 was initially allocated by the Great Western Railway to Tyseley shed (TYS), was known to be there in January 1938 and prior to nationalisation in December 1947. During the British Railways period, No 4111 was known to have been at Tyseley shed (84E) in; August 1950, March 1959 and was withdrawn from there in September 1965.

Robert Ferris