Industrial disasters have largely passed the Dales by. A lack of substantial coal mines, enormous factories and major roads have helped keep the body count pretty low. A notable exception to this was the Hawes Junction accident that was the result of a simple case of human error. One man forgot the time and two others didn’t follow the rulebook. The results were tragic, especially since this took place on a Christmas Eve.
Incidentally, Hawes Junction was renamed Garsdale station after the line to Hawes and Northallerton from the Settle & Carilse Railway was discontinued. The signal box – the scene of the crime, so to speak – is still there on Garsdale station platform and continues to function.
On 24th December, 1910, in the small signal box at Hawes Junction station, Mr. Sutton, the signalman, was looking into the darkness beyond the row of brass levers. The rain was lashing at the glass and the sounds of engine whistles were lost in the noise of the storm. A little while earlier he had changed a signal so that two light engines could make their way northwards towards Carlisle but he forgot to change it back to warn any traffic that that section of line was in use. To make matters worse the engine drivers themselves, out there in the storm, didn’t follow regulations in reminding him, preferring to stay out of the rain.
Eventually there was a distant rumble from South. The wet shining rails quivered, the ballast beneath the track began to vibrate and distant lights showed through the falling veil of water. In no time at all, with a burst of crimson, steam and brass, the Scotch Express thundered through the station.
A few moments later the driver of a southbound train for Leeds pulled up at the platform and ran to the signal box, the words tumbling out: that he has passed two slow moving engines a little way up the line. And he has seen the express heading, at high speed, onto the same rails.
The signalman couldn’t believe the unfolding events. Before taking any action he scanned the pages of his train register, the awful truth dawning on him
When he finally lifted the telephone to call the signal box at Ais Gill this was the exchange:
Have two light engines passed north?
Has the express passed?
Mr. Sutton turned to the engine driver and said: Go to the stationmaster and tell him that I am afraid I have wrecked the Scotch Express.
Beyond Moorcock Tunnel the express ran into the two engines and was completely derailed. In addition to injuries caused by the collision, the timber-bodied coaches over-shot the ruined engines and the pipes for the carriage gas lights fractured. This resulted in a dreadful blaze as the coals of locomotive fireboxes ignited the gas. In addition to the large number of serious injuries twelve people died.
The area where this happened is one of the most remote sections of railway in England. Ais Gill is the highest point of the Settle & Carlisle Railway at 1,169 feet above sea level. You can see a panoramic view of the scene from the Garsdale to Hawes road, looking north towards Wild Boar Fell. It is hard to believe that something so terrible happened in a place of such beauty.
This story comes from:
Tales From The Dales
A major exhibition of new paintings based on stories from the Yorkshire Dales collected over the last two years. In addition to artwork the exhibition sees the launch of a book for children: The Penhill Giant, which is an illustrated retelling of events which took place on the hill overlooking the exhibition location. The exhibition will also see the launch of a book, illustrated with paintings created for the exhibition, which will include a collection of Dales stories, many of which will be appearing in print for the first time.
The exhibition will be on at:
Wensley Church, Wensley, N Yorks.
10 am - 5 am 27 July – 11 August 2013
Preview: 7 - 9 pm Friday 26th July
A chance to see the paintings and meet the artist.
Stories of the Dales: 5.00 - 6.30 Saturday 27th July
Four Yorkshire writers read from and talk about their work.
Open Mic Night: 7 - 9 pm Saturday 10th August
A great evening of music with musicians from the Yorkshire Dales.
If you would like to perform CLICK HERE
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