LMS Route: Birmingham New Street to Lichfield
Sutton Coldfield Station: lnwrsc2339
Ex-LMS 2-6-4T No 42421 travels slowly through the accident
damaged remains of Sutton Coldfield station on Wednesday 26th January 1955. The
Sutton Coldfield train crash took place at about 16:13hrs on 23 January 1955.
Headed by ex-LMS Class 5, 4-6-0 No 45274, the 12:15 York to Bristol express
which consisted of ten carriages had approached Sutton Coldfield station at
about 55-60 mph. The speed, however, was not reduced at Sutton Coldfield in
accordance with the permanent 'Appendix' restriction of 30 m.p.h. which is in
force through the station on account of the severe left handed curvature, with
the result that when it reached the sharp curve immediately before the station,
the train derailed, colliding with the platforms.
There were about 300 passengers in the train, and 17 persons
lost their lives, twelve passengers, the conductor driver and the fireman were
killed outright, and two passengers and a driver travelling on duty
subsequently died of their injuries in hospital. In addition, 40 passengers
were taken to hospital, 17 of whom were discharged the same afternoon after
treatment; 23 passengers were detained, some with very serious injuries, also
the regular driver of the train, who was not on the engine at the time, and a
goods guard, who was travelling on duty. Twenty four others complained of minor
injury or shock."
The train had been booked to run between Wichnor Junction
(South of Burton) and Birmingham on the secondary line via Lichfield and Sutton
Coldfield, owing to routine permanent way renewals on the usual main line route
to Birmingham via Tamworth; the train driver, who was stationed at Gloucester,
was unfamiliar with the Sutton Coldfield route, so a local driver had joined
the engine at Burton to act as 'conductor' as far as Birmingham.
However, the driver, complaining that the rough riding of the engine was tiring
him, left the footplate and took a seat in the train, leaving the pilot driver
in charge. This action was later criticised by the Inspecting Officer, who
commented that even though he did not know the route, the safety of the train
was still his responsibility.
Although the excessive speed was
the major factor in the accident, the exact cause was never fully established.
The accident occurred in broad daylight and with a driver who knew the line
well. There was no evidence of mechanical failure on the train. The driver and
fireman died in the locomotive, so the reason for the excessive speed was never
established. Investigators identified several factors that could have
contributed to the excessive speed:
· The train was making up some time, running
· There was a gradient to
climb after the station which was best approached at full
· The steam locomotive
(like most at the time) was not fitted with a
· The engine was
riding roughly, which may have contributed to the driver's misjudging the
It seems therefore that the driver knew he was exceeding the speed
limit but did not realise the extent of the danger (similarly to the Salisbury
rail crash of 1906).
The number of casualties was
prevented from rising as a result of the actions of two local people who rushed
up the railway line to stop a train heading towards the crash site. Two railway
employees also raised the alarm to other stations, changed the signals to
danger and placed detonators on the tracks to warn oncoming trains. One of the
two had been injured and shocked by the accident, and both were awarded with
gold watches for their work. The scene was attended to by a mobile surgical as
well as forty additional ambulances from surrounding districts. RAF servicemen
from Whitehouse Common provided aid to the emergency services.
The above information is derived from the report supplied
courtesy of Railways