Lewisham train crash
Fifty years ago on 4th December 1957, two trains crashed at St Johns Railway Station just outside Lewisham, in south east London. 90 people were killed and nearly 200 more were injured. Send us your memories.
The two trains had collided in dense fog, after one of the drivers had missed a warning signal to stop. The crash deflected one of the trains into an over-bridge, which then collapsed onto the packed carriages below that were carrying 2,000 evening rush hour commuters.
There have already been a few messages posted about the Lewisham train crash on the BBC's Memoryshare website.
I was 16 years old waiting with my mother for my father to return home for the evening meal. We lived in Newquay Road, Catford, a requisitioned property provided by the Council to give us a home when my father returned from the war in 1946. We had experienced the cold in 1947 and smog was the norm. This December night my father telephoned from Charing Cross Station to say there were many crowds and he would try to board the Hayes train, but it would be a fight to get on. My mother and I heard about the crash at Lewisham on the radio. We knew that the Hayes train was involved and would have been the train my father would have taken. We heard nothing more from my father and for many hours we thought the worst. He arrived home at midnight having had the Charing Cross platform gates closed against him. Taking the next train, which had come to a standstill near St John's Station, the passengers were eventually informed of the accident and left the train to walk along the lines. With all public transport in chaos, my father had walked home. He described the scene of the accident with stretchers being carried down the embankment to Thurston Road in thick fog. He gave assistance.
As a commuter to London for many years, and travelling now weekly to the City, every time I pass the "temporary" bridge steelwork at Lewisham erected after the accident, it remains unchanged to this day, I carry the memory of this disaster and a close feeling for those who lost their lives and were injured.
In fact, as a direct result of this accident I avoid travelling in either the front or rear portions of trains!
Since 1955, my father, a civil servant had worked in Kensington and travelled home each night by bus and then train. For the previous two years, regular as clockwork, he would catch the same train even if it meant running from the bus stop to Charing Cross station. On the 4th December he was again running for his train and for the first time he suddenly stopped running and said to himself 'Blow it (or words to that effect) I'll just get the next train'. His usual train, which he missed that evening, was the 5:18 to Hayes which minutes later was involved in the crash outside St Johns station where 90 people were killed.
Being a creature of habit he was never sure why, on that night, he acted out of character; we're just grateful that he did.
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last updated: 02/12/07