11 December 2016

5th-8th Nov 1947: brother Alb in a train crash, coach overturned, 4 killed, 101 injured - fog signalman to blame, gave a green at Motspur Park junction

5 Wed. Rather mild for season, very dull, foggy at night. Took Donald with me to get the groceries. Also took him when I went to the fish shop.  Bought Donald a rolled up paper tube which blows out long with a feather at the tip – and it squeaks. Weeded a side path in garden, dug over a bed ready for planting with bulbs.

6 Thur. Cold, thick morning fog which never really cleared, dismal, very thick fog later – visibility practically nil. To fish shop in morning; bought paraffin in afternoon. Got Ciss’ shoes from the repairer. Gwennie, Laurie and Donald called. Aunt Liza was taken into Wimbledon Hospital with internal pain and sickness. More work on tail of spar model. Was listening to the 9 p.m. news when it was announced that the 5.16 p.m. train from Waterloo to Chessington was in collision with an up train from Holmwood during a fog of extreme density and that 4 people had been killed and many injured. Ciss and I immediately remembered that that is the train that Albert goes home in and we had great misgivings.

7 Fri. Fog quickly cleared and a mild fine sunny day ensued. Did all the usual Fri. morning shopping locally. Aunt Liza was a little easier. Met Mrs. Conrade and she’s a little better. Laurie has chicken pox. Am stll concerned about Alb. Ciss will phone his office as soon as she gets to work. I went to Tolworth in afternoon to get the news. Dad told me that Alb was on the train and that he was in one of the crashed overturned coaches but that he was unhurt save for getting a knock on the side of the head. When the coach came to a standstill he found himself lying on the ceiling with the door above him and in total darkness. The occupants were unable to get out until the rescue party came with a ladder. He had to walk home from Motspur Park to Tolworth in a fog with visibility almost nil but he arrived at 8.30 p.m. He went to the office to-day so I did not see him at Tolworth. I took over the model milk cart for Anthony also the “bottle” imp.

8 Sat. Rather mild for season, quite a fine sunny day with a nice blue, green and gold sunset. Ciss had the morning off so did the washing in morning and went shopping in afternoon and thence to Mrs. Jordan’s for tea. Bought fish locally also a birthday card for Anthony and one for Helen Feihn. Also bought scouring powder and a cycle lamp battery. Planted crocus bulbs in a border on Mother’s grave. Made fin and rudder for new spar aero. Cleaned some windows. Cousin Maud called.

Explanation of train accident
On the evening of 6 November, 1947, Motspur Park was covered in thick fog, reducing visibility to the extent that drivers on the line between Raynes Park and Epsom couldn't see the semaphore signals guarding the junction with the branch line towards Chessington. Not sure whether to continue along the main line past the junction, the driver of a northbound Holmwood to Waterloo service was forced to rely on the fogman, who showed the driver a green light indicating that he should keep going. In doing so, the driver ploughed straight into a southbound train, which was crossing the junction to head onto the Chessington branch, killing four and wounding 34 in the process. The fogman had in fact given the wrong signal after having heard a noise similar to that of a semaphore signal moving into the 'off' position, but fortunately the collision occurred near to a new metal coach on the southbound train, thus saving the lives of other passengers on the Chessington train. Colour light signalling and the British Rail Automatic Warning System4 were later added to the junction in 1978. (Copied from )

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