Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Friday 19 September 1919
How Railway Smash was Averted at Darfield.
The terrible express train disaster which occurred near Cudworth Station on January 19, 1905, when several people lost their lives through an Edinburgh express running into a fish train in the early hours of the morning, was vividly recalled when another railway catastrophe was narrowly averted Wednesday night, almost the identical place of the previous disaster.
Fortunately in this instance only a goods train was involved and there was no loss life, and as far can be ascertained, practically personal injury was sustained. A considerable amount of damage was done, however, and much delay in traffic resulted.
A “Sheffield Daily Telegraph” representative visited the scene of the smash, yesterday, and watched the breakdown gangs busy at work in clearing the debris of a number of waggons from the blocked main lines and the repairing of the much damaged permanent way.
It appeared that about 9.44 p.m. the 7.30 express goods train from Bradford to Birmingham was approaching the signal box at Houghton Main Colliery, which is about and a half above Darfield Station on the Midland main line, and as it drew near to the box it was noticed that one of the waggons was being dragged along the ground, while a number of trucks were derailed. The danger and obstruction signal was set against the train, but it was some little time before the engine was brought to a standstill.
Two other trains were approaching the scene of the disaster the time, and from what can be gathered, it was entirely owing to the promptitude and alertness of the signalman at the Houghton Colliery signal box, that a great smash up was averted. Although all the railway officials and employees were very reticent over the mishap, yet our representative gleaned the fact that when the signalman looked out of his cabin to see all was clear for the express goods tram, he noticed the trailing waggon and the other derailed trucks, and after stopping the engine with the danger signal, immediately warned the other two approaching trains, and so averted a triple smash, which would undoubtedly have followed, because the “up fast”, and the “down fast’’ passenger line and the “up fast” goods lines were all blocked with the debris of torn up sleepers and broken trucks.
About this time the passenger express from Sheffield to Leeds was due, while 10.15 express from Wakefield to Sheffield would have to pass that particular spot. There no doubt a situation was saved by the presence of the signalman.
Cause the Accident.
The cause of the accident is somewhat mysterious but two theories have been advanced as to the cause. For over half mile between the signal box at Houghton Colliery and Storrs Mill, the main lines were badly damaged and consequently, the accident must have happened soon after the goods, express left-the place. A pair of waggon wheels and an axle were found on the track on near to Storr Mill, and these points to the fact that an axle of one broke and thus caused the vehicle to be dragged thereby derailing a, number of other trucks which were later flung about all directions owing to the speed at which the tram was travelling at the time.
How the guard in the van escaped with his life is a miracle, for investigation of the line showed that hundreds of sleepers had been cut up and torn asunder by the wild careering of the rear part of the train and, it was stated, over 1,800 shoes had been broken away on the fast line alone.
The scene of the mishap is on the mam Midland track, which accommodates four sets of rails, two for passenger trams and two for goods. Onlv one goods set lines was undamaged, consequently all passenger traffic had to be deflected via Chapeltown.
This blockage resulted in the trains being considerably delayed, while the service to and from the south was impeded ail day yesterday.
Immediately word could got through Sheffield and other stations breakdown gangs were quickly dispatched to the spot, and busy scenes were witnessed until yesterday evening at 4.30, when the main lines were declared to be free from obstruction.
The derailed and damaged trucks, most of which were loaded the time of the accident, were removed from Darfield and other places, several of them having been reduced to matchwood. The big breakdown crane from the Sheffield Loco Works was employed in lifting the heavy framework of the smashed trucks throughout the night, while many sets of gangers and platelayers were engaged repairing the half-mile of damaged lines.
Pat The second reason which might account for the smash was that the train failed to properly take the points after leaving Storrs Mill, and after jumping the metals, simply ripped the track up all directions. A number of people living Darfield and in the immediate vicinity heard the tremendous noise caused the waggons as they were dragged over the metals in the night-time, and much alarm was caused.
It was noticed that a guard had some slight injury to his hand when he was at Darfield station, but, fortunately, this appears to have been all the personal injury sustained.