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24 September 2014
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THE LONDON NORTH EASTERN RAILWAY
Passengers arrive at York station Experience the conditions on the railways during the winter of 1947 when the LNER was hit by blizzards and storms which disrupted freight schedules and passenger timetables.

The snows of 1947

Mary Ferguson now lives in Beverley but as a young woman she travelled from Driffield to Malton on a wild winters night in 1947.

The following is taken from her account of the journey.

Mary Ferguson waited at Driffield for the 'Malton Dodger' train, so called because of the winding rail track between Malton and Driffield.

It was scheduled to leave Bridlington at 7.00pm, and arrive at Driffield at 7.30pm.

The train was late arriving at Driffield station. The guard ushered her on board stating that he had thought the train would be stuck in the drifts.

Snow continued to fall heavily and eight miles from Driffield it lurched and stopped dead, stuck in a snowdrift.

The Eye of the Storm

The guard came along urging the passengers to make themselves comfortable saying,

"... We may be here tomorrow at this time if this continues."

The Blizzard raged. The train was in open country with no trees for shelter. The snow drifts deepened.

The guard came back, knee deep in snow, asking how many passengers for York. When he learnt there were three passengers, he said,

"The train is being held at Malton for you. That is if we get out of this mess".

Some minutes later he informed them the train had gone on to York, because there was no sign of their release, and it could not wait any longer.

Blizzard Conditions

The driver, fireman and guard tried their best to dig out the train, but the more they moved the snow from Dodger's wheels, the more the blizzard sent it down.

To make matters worse, Dodger was not a corridor train. The passengers could not stretch their legs, and there was little heating.

Rail workers clear snow drifts off the line
Rail workers clear snow drifts off the line

Eventually railwaymen from Malton reached the snow bound train with a rescue engine, a snowplough and shovels.

At 3am the train moved, was set free and at 4am steamed into Malton station.

The passengers for York were making for the waiting room when a voice called out,

"Passengers for York, your train is standing at platform four."

LNER had not forgotten its stranded passengers.

At York, they were met by three railway officials giving them the freedom of the buffet, and taxis to their journeys' end.

Then the floods...

The whole of the Yorkshire river system was flooded in the spring of 1947, and to a historic height.

There is a plaque on the York City Wall near Tower Street which records the level of historic floods.

To discover one which reached a higher level than 1947, it is necessary to go back to 1831.

Flooded railway track
Railway tracks were flooded throughout the North

Railway officials described the situation as 'chaotic' and 'disorganised'.

Passengers on a Peterborough-Rugby service were stuck overnight and could not be rescued until 9am the following morning.

On the LNER main line the night 'Aberdonian' expected at 5.40am arrived in Peterborough at 10am.

Most trains from the north did not appear until the afternoon.

LNER experimented with a jet engine mounted on a wagon to clear the line but found it also blew the ballast away breaking windows in signal boxes and railway huts as well as destroying fences!

The cause of the Yorkshire floods in 1947 was an exceptional fall of snow in the hills during the first quarter of the year, and a sudden thaw during which all the accumulated water ran off into the rivers.

High seasonal tides did the rest!

Useful Contacts

Yorkshire Film Archive - 01904 716 550.

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