“Regrettable as an Accident is…

“Regrettable as an Accident is, I maintain that we have provided the strongest type of stock which we can”. “I have built bodies of steel throughout, but they are not as strong as those of wooden construction”

Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer L.N.E.R. (13 December 1937)

Statement made to the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways on the opening day of the Ministry of Transport Inquiry in Edinburgh into the Disaster that occurred at Castlecary exactly one week earlier in which 35 persons were killed and 109 injured.

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2 thoughts on ““Regrettable as an Accident is…

  1. The history of the railways is peppered with deadly accidents like this but the fruit of the dreadful harvest is succeeding generations of safer stock, infrastructure and signalling. It’s telling that the only death at the Lambrigg accident in 2007 was of a lady suffering complications from an existing conditions.
    We can criticise the blandness of modern trains but there’s no denying their improved safety.
    Interesting comment from Gresley about the wooden vehicles being allegedly safer but perhaps the greater casualties occurred in the old NB stock of the stopper.

    • The spread of casualties is quite telling – of the 35, 22 died in the 5th 6th & 7th vehicles of the Dundee stopper (spread 9, 8 & 5) the first two vehicles being less than two years old – to Gresley’s latest designs, and the third an old NE! coach from 1906. Another 13 folk were lost in the 1st two vehicles of the Edinburgh train (spread 6 & 7) again one 1936 Gresley vehicle and an old GNR vehicle from 1907. Incredibly, the driver and fireman of the A3 Grand Parade on the Edinburgh smack in the middle of it all both survived. Gresley had been trying to make the point that in a rear end collision such as that the effect would have been catastrophic no matter what the vehicles construction – in fact he went onto say that if all of the vehicles had been made of all steel, considerably more lives would have been lost (arguing that the strong teak bodies absorbed much of the impact forces – sadly though to the cost of those lives that were lost). Shortly after his death and fortunately though all of the CME’s and the BTC decided that all steel was the way to go with the new “standard” stock – but of course adopting the best bit of the Gresley design, and which undoubtedly saved many at Castlecary – the buckeye couplers. Had AWS been adopted (further than just the ATC trials on the Western) you do wonder just how many more lives would have been saved.

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