The ‘Lytham Railway Disaster’

At 5.46pm on 3 November 90 years ago this year, the 4.40 Liverpool Express careered out of control at a crossing, hit a bridge, tearing up the track, demolishing a signal box and rolled over, catching fire, like a scene from a spectacular disaster film. Although its referred to as the ‘Lytham’ railway disaster, it actually occurred at Moss Side, although a newspaper report refers to ‘Eastham’, probably close to Eastham Hall, off Saltcoates Road.

In 1924 a normal train ride for revellers and business folk turned into a nightmare. Travelling at 50 miles a hour, the Express shed a front left ‘tyre’, (the steel band on the outer edge of the wheel), and derailed. The engine ran into the signal box throwing out the Signalman and demolishing the Box, which caught fire. Some passengers, realising the train had left the track, jumped from the train and were crushed when the carriage rolled on to them. The Signal Box fire spread to one of the gas-lit carriages. The newspaper accounts of the accident were confused as to the number of dead, ‘The Times’ reported 5, ‘The Observer’ 8, with 3 trapped bodies in the wreckage. It reported a ‘Midnight search for the dead’. The official investigation report accounts for a final death toll of 15, including the Train Driver. The train was full although the number of injuries was relatively low at 10 with ‘more of less serious injuries’. The Fireman and the Guard were injured.

It wasn’t the first accident on the line near Lytham, nor the last. In 1849, at the station at Moss Side, the 9.20 train from Lytham was in collision with a Fleetwood train. Passengers were cut and bruised, but no fatalities. The Preston Guardian reported ‘many injured, hats staved in and coats torn’. The cause was put down to the Station Master’s signalling error. Ten years later in 1934 a car with a St Annes resident was in collision with a train at the crossing at Moss Side. The car driver, a cafe owner from Preston, was killed. Moss Side Station closed in 1961, reopening in 1983 it remains in use today, as is the crossing.

MPC Aug 2014

Sources and further information:

Foley, M., 2013, Britain’s Railway Disasters: fatal accidents from the 1830’s to the present day, Wharncliffe Transport (Pen & Sword Books), Barnsley Yorks, Available Online via Google Books, accessed 25/08/2014)

Newspaper account of the 1846 accident, Online at: http://www.amounderness.co.uk/railway_history.html

Video report of the 1924 Accident, Online at: http://www.amounderness.co.uk/lytham_accident_1924.html

Pathe News Report, Online at: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/terrible-rail-disaster-lytham-liverpool-blackpool

The 1846 Accident Investigation Report, Online at: http://ribblesteam.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/railway-accident-moss-side-lytham-1849/

The official Railway Accident Investigation Report, Online at: http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/MoT_Lytham1924.pdf

Brief account on Page 5 at: http://www.lythamheritage.co.uk/THE%20ANTIQUARIAN%20NO%2093.pdf

A single, copyrighted picture of the damaged Engine at: http://www.ssplprints.com/image/221015/steam-train-accident-at-moss-side-lancashire-3-november-1924

ADDENDUM:

Additional info supplied by ‘AMC’ on this Blog, in June 2015. The source reference is given.

The Times, 5 November 1924, Reported the full list of identified dead as follows:

Commander Charles H. GRAEME, 49, Lincoln Road, Blackpool.

Miss Emma PICKUP, 48, single, Weaver, 4 Park-road, Lytham.
Miss Margaret PICKUP, 56, single, from the same address.
William Charles CROOKES, The Engine Driver, 67, Buchanan Street, Blackpool.
William WALSH,. 33, married, Weaver, 42 St Chad’s Road, South Shore, Blackpool.
Mary MORRISON, 44, Weaver, single, 47 Watson’s Lane, South Shore, Blackpool.
Ethel COX, 32, Weaver, single, 151 Central Drive, Blackpool.
Ernest TONGE, 46, Advertising Contractor, 40 Leamington Road, Blackpool.
Isa GREENWOOD, 21, Weaver, single, 30 Thames Road, South Shore, Blackpool.
Annie GREENWOOD, 29, Weaver, single, Sister of Miss Isa Greenwood.
Thomas HARTLEY, 10 Montrose Avenue, Blackpool. (identified from papers in his possession).
Leslie DAWSON, 104 Church Road, Blackpool.
Ernest PICKUP, Goods Clerk at Kirkham Station, 11 Hall Avenue, South Shore, Blackpool.

In addition over 30 persons have been injured, but only three of them very seriously. They are the following:-
Mr. H. OLDHAM, 107 St. Helens Road, Blackpool, injuries to legs and arms. Mr. Oldham died on 6 November, bringing the death toll to 14.
Mr. R. H. Hull, 11 All Saints Road, St. Annes, Shock.
Mrs. RICHARDSON, 14 Eaves Street, North Shore, Blackpool, injuries to head and back.

(Source: http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/white-star-line/25463-news-1924-bardic-aground-lizard.html)

The Times, 5 Nov 1924 reports:

‘The Kings Message’
“The King has learned with deep concern of the serious accident at Moss Side last evening and asks that an expression of his regret and sympathy may be conveyed to the families of those who have lost their lives or who were injured.”

‘A Victim’s Bravery’
Many persons have spoken of the bravery of Commander Graeme, of whom Mr.A. Tarbuck, of Clifton-street, Lytham, says:-“If ever there was a brave man it was Commander Graeme, for he never made the slightest complaint
and directed his own treatment. Both legs were nearly severed, and all he asked for was a cup of tea and asked to be remembered to his people at Blackpool.” He died at midnight in Lytham Hospital, whither he had been taken after urging that others should be attended to before himself.

Commander Graeme, R.N., was on leave and travelling to Blackpool. Both of his feet were injured, and one had to be amputated.

Editors Note:

Capt Charles H Graeme, 49, had been the Master of the 8010 ton, Steamship ‘Bardic’, of the White Star Line. The ‘Bardic’ had run aground in thick fog in August 1924, avoiding a collision with another ship, off the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall. She was carrying a £97500 cargo of Wool from Brisbane, along with a large quantity of Frozen Australian Beef, bound for Liverpool, London, Newcastle and Antwerp. Capt Graeme had stayed aboard the ship whilst 80 of his Crew were rescued by Lifeboat, only leaving himself some 10 hours later, landing at Falmouth. He, and a couple of his Officers, returned to the ship later to secure the Cargo from Salvage. Some months later, the Bardic was towed to Dry Dock in Falmouth where she was repaired. As was the custom for Ships Masters at the time, Graeme resigned.

(Source:  http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/printArticlePdf/22879188/3?print=n)

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