ON THIS DAY: 14 dead, 12 injured in Doncaster train crash horror

It was one of the darkest days in Doncaster's history - the day when 14 people were killed in a horror train crash in our town.

Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 3:09 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th March 2016, 3:16 pm
The aftermath of the Balby Bridge rail disaster.

65 years ago today, on March 16, 1951, Doncaster, a town with a proud railway history, was plunged into the national headlines for all the wrong reasons when a train derailed at Balby Bridge causing untold carnage.

The 10.04 Doncaster to London King's Cross consisting of 14 coaches and a horse box at the rear and hauled by LNER's Cock o' the North locomotive left the station.

Cock O' The North - the locomotive involved in the disaster.

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Shortly afterwards, the train was negotiating a tight crossover with a speed limit of 10 mph.

The driver claimed he took the crossover at around 15 mph as he had done previously but the 3rd coach derailed.

The leading end of the coach followed the front of the train and went to the right of a pier supporting Balby Bridge, which carries a road junction over the line.

But the rear of the coach, propelled by the weight of the following train went to the left, wrapping the coach around the pier, killing 14 passengers and seriously injuring 12 others.

Cock O' The North - the locomotive involved in the disaster.

An investigation of the accident concluded that poor maintenance of the crossover was the primary cause with bolts supporting the crossover assembly missing or cracked.

The accident happened quite near to the scene of a similar disaster in 1947, but the two accidents had nothing in common.

On that occasion, on August 9 of that year, the 1.25 p.m. King's Cross to Leeds, was improperly allowed. to enter the occupied section ahead of Balby Junction under clear signals, and collided at a speed of about 40 m.p.h. with the rear of the 1.10 p.m. King's Cross to Leeds, which had stopped at Bridge Junction.

Each train was heavily loaded and carried approximately 700 passengers, a number standing in the corridors. On that occasion, 18 people lost their lives and 118 were injured.

At an inquiry into the 1951 crash, a young signalman who was working near the entrance to Balby Bridge said as the engine was passing him he saw its name, Cock o’ the North and then sparks coming from the bogies of the third coach.

He said: “I saw the coach sway off the rail. I shouted to my mate and the next thing I knew all the coaches were coming for us. I jumped into an alcove as the coach smashed into the stonework of the bridge pier The train seemed to be gathering speed and was pumping hard.”

It was from this third coach that most of the bodies were found and from which most of the injured were released.