Silent tribute to mark 60th anniversary of Britain's worst peacetime rail disaster

 

A busy station came to a brief halt during rush-hour today for a minute's silence to mark the 60th anniversary of Britain's worst peacetime rail disaster.

On October 8 1952, 112 people were killed in a three-train crash at Harrow & Wealdstone station in north west London.

Today, at the exact time of the disaster - 8.19am - the minute's silence, organised by Harrow Council, was held as part of a commemorative service at the station.

Harrow councillor Keith Ferry read out the names of the dead, including their ages and occupations, before the observance of the silence.

The accident, on a foggy autumn morning, happened when a night express train from Perth crashed into the back of a London-bound local train which had stopped at Harrow en route from Tring in Hertfordshire.

Almost immediately, a London-to-Liverpool express train passing through Harrow struck the locomotive of the Perth train and derailed.

As well as the 112 deaths, 40 people were injured, with the search for survivors carrying on among the tangled wreckage for many hours.

Among those at the service today was 78-year-old Keith Cheyney who survived the accident as he was fortunate enough to be at the front of the Tring train.

Speaking at Harrow today, he said: "There was this tremendous bang. But we had no idea what had happened. I was lucky as, until a month before, I had travelled regularly at the back of the train from Tring.

"We were told to clear the area. I managed to get another train to London and it was only later that I learned how bad the crash had been and I was able to phone my family to tell them I was all right."

Mr Cheyney , a grandfather of three, had been living in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, at the time and was a student then. He now lives in Watford, Hertfordshire.

After the service, the Mayor of Harrow, Nizam Ismail, laid a commemorative plaque outside the station as actors dressed in 1950-style clothes sang the hymn Abide With Me.

Among those attending the service was London Underground Bakerloo line performance manager Dave Proffitt, as well as representatives of some of the organisations that helped with the rescue work on the day, including the St John Ambulance, the Royal British Legion, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

The service was particularly poignant for 84-year-old Edgar Webster, whose father, William, 53, was killed in the crash.

Mr Webster, a grandfather-of-three, from Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire, said today: "My father was travelling into London from his home in Stanmore. Three of his friends were also killed."

Also present today were John Hopson, 77, and his wife, Jean, 73. Mr Hopson, then at work, and Jean, a schoolgirl in 1952, both witnessed the scene of the crash.

Mr Hopson, who still lives in Wealdstone, said today: "It was a horrible mess, a really ghastly sight."

At a reception at Harrow Civic Centre for those attending the service, newsreel film showing the horror of the crash was screened.

PA

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