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Harrow and Wealdstone Train Crash Newsreel

Newsreel footage of the aftermath of the 1952 Train Crash at Harrow & Wealdstone Station, which claimed the lives of 112 people and injured hundreds more.

View of the platforms from the north after the crash. The scene looking south over the aftermath of the Harrow and Wealdstone train crash on 8 October 1952.


The Harrow and Wealdstone rail crash was a three-train collision at Harrow and Wealdstone station in London during the morning rush hour of 8 October 1952. 112 people were killed and 340 injured (88 of these being detained in hospital); it remains the worst peacetime rail crash in the United Kingdom.

An overnight express train from Perth crashed at speed into the rear of a local passenger train standing at a platform at the station. The wreckage blocked adjacent lines and was struck within seconds by a "double-headed" express train travelling north at 60 mph (97 km/h). A subsequent Ministry of Transport report on the crash found that the driver of the Perth train had passed a caution signal and two danger signals before colliding with the local train. The accident accelerated the introduction of Automatic Warning System – by the time the report had been published British Railways had agreed to a five-year plan to install the system that warned drivers that they had passed an adverse signal.


The station[]

The location of the disaster. The fast WCML (London Midland/Virgin Trains) platforms 4 and 3, looking south on the 26th of August, 2008.


The station was opened by the London and Birmingham Railway (L&BR) as Harrow on 20 July 1837 in what was then rural Middlesex. At the time the station was built, the area was fields and the nearest large settlement was at Harrow on the Hill about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) to the south. Wealdstone was a collection of houses at the north end of what is now Wealdstone High Street, about 1 mile (1.6 km) north of the station. The station buildings on the south west (Harrow) side of the station are the older part of the station, located beside what were the fast lines until the platforms were used for the later Euston to Watford DC Line and the main line tracks were re-routed through the previous slow line platforms and new platforms (numbers 5 and 6) to the north east; a new, larger, station building was also erected on this Wealdstone side of the station. The station footbridge was originally constructed with a full-height central barrier with passengers using the "London" side and railway and postal staff using the "country" side to move goods and mail via lifts which were removed in the early 1970s, leaving two parcels elevators serving the DC line platforms for the remaining postal traffic.


On 18 December 1890, a short branch line was opened by the London & North Western Railway (LNWR, successor to the L&BR) to Stanmore to the north-east of the main line. In 1930 an intermediate halt was constructed as Belmont to serve the developing residential areas locally. The train was known affectionately as the "Belmont Rattler".

By the end of the 19th century Wealdstone had developed in size and the station was given its current name on 1 May 1897 to reflect more accurately its location.

On 16 April 1917, Bakerloo line services were extended from Willesden Junction to Watford Junction running on the newly electrified local tracks (the "New Lines", which were originally steam-worked) and calling at Harrow & Wealdstone from that date.

On 15 September 1952, the passenger service to Stanmore, by then renamed Stanmore Village to avoid confusion with the Metropolitan Railway's (later Bakerloo, and now Jubilee line) station opened in 1934 were withdrawn. Freight traffic (particularly the storage of bananas) continued sporadically until about 1960.

During the early 1960s, as part of the West Coast Main Line electrification, the bridge carrying the A409 road (The Bridge/Station Approach) over the railway was rebuilt easing the previous severe road gradients and offering higher clearance over the tracks to allow for overhead catenary cabling.

On 6 July 1964, all services on the branch line to Belmont were withdrawn as part of the cuts of the Beeching Axe. The permanent way north of Harrow and Wealdstone station was removed but the disused platform 7 on the eastern side of the station was left in place as a siding for a further few years until it too was removed.

On 24 September 1982, Bakerloo line services to Harrow & Wealdstone ended when services north of Stonebridge Park were ended. However the closure was short-lived, and the Bakerloo line to Harrow & Wealdstone was reinstated on 4 June 1984 with the station acting as the terminus.

In the 1990s major reconstruction of local roads made to by-pass High Street, Wealdstone sent a new road (Ellen Webb Drive) through what remained of the station goods yard and part of the forecourt of the eastern entrance (1917) to the station.

Accidents and incidents[]

  1. On 7 August 1838 Thomas Port was fatally injured when he fell from a train and was run over about 1.25 miles (2.01 km) south of the station.
  2. In 1870, a mail train was in a rear-end collision with a freight train. Eight people were killed.
  3. On 8 October 1952, the station witnessed Britain's worst train crash in peacetime when 112 people were killed and 340 were injured as a result of a Scottish express train colliding with the rear of a local train standing at platform 4. Seconds later a northbound express hauled by two locomotives collided with the wreckage causing further injury and demolished one span of the footbridge and the northern end of platforms 2 and 3. A memorial plaque was placed above the main entrance on the eastern side of the station to mark the 50th anniversary in 2002.

The station has undergone several improvements in recent years, with the footbridge (which links both entrances and all platforms) improved by removal of the central barrier to allow use of the full width, new lifts for the use of disabled persons, and newly painted and brightly illuminated waiting rooms. In recent years the two-track reversing sidings (used for turning Bakerloo line trains and occasionally for DC line trains) located between the tracks of the DC line at the northern end side of the station have been replaced by a single siding and the curve at the Down end of platform 2 eased using the space vacated by the removed siding; this in practice leaves the siding unavailable for use by LO trains except when Bakerloo trains are not running. Harrow and Wealdstone (with Willesden Junction) is one of the two stations on the DC line which can be used for turning or stabling trains clear of the running lines during reduced or disrupted services although trains can be reversed using crossovers at more stations.

Trains on the Fast lines pass this station through platforms 3 and 4, usually without serving this station; access to these platforms is now by staff-operated gates which are opened when necessary. Southern and London Midland stopping services generally use platforms 5 and 6 on the Slow lines but all can use either pair of platforms when needed since the four Main Line platforms were lengthened to take 12-coach trains. Platform 2 on the Up DC line has unusually been maintained at a length of 182m rather than the usual DC line length of around 125m, long enough for an 8-coach train; on rare past occasions in recent years involving total closure of the Fast and Slow lines, main line trains have been diverted over the DC line between Watford Junction and Euston but without stopping at intermediate stations.


Network Rail's July 2011 London & South East Route Utilisation Strategy (RUS) recommended diverting West Coast Main Line (WCML) services from stations between London and Milton Keynes Central away from Euston, to Crossrail via Old Oak Common, to free up capacity at Euston for High Speed 2. This would provide a direct service from the WCML to the Shenfield, Canary Wharf and Abbey Wood, release London Underground capacity at Euston, make better use of Crossrail's capacity west of Paddington, and improve access to Heathrow Airport from the north. Under this scheme, all Crossrail trains would continue west of Paddington, instead of some of them terminating there. They would serve Heathrow Airport (10 tph), stations to Maidenhead and Reading (6 tph), and stations to Milton Keynes Central (8 tph). 

In August 2014, a statement by the transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin indicated that the government was actively evaluating the extension of Crossrail as far as Tring, with potential Crossrail stops at Harrow & Wealdstone, Watford Junction, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted and Tring. The extension would relieve some pressure from London Underground and London Euston station while also increasing connectivity. Conditions to the extension are that any extra services would not affect the planned service pattern for confirmed routes, as well as affordability. 

Mk 1 carriages[]

Mark 1 Open First riding on Commonwealth bogies pictured empty in Tyne Yard, Gateshead, England. 12 March 2009.

British Railways Mark 1 was the family designation for the first standardised designs of railway carriages built by British Railways. Following nationalisation in 1948, BR had continued to build carriages to the designs of the "Big Four" companies (the Great Western, Southern, London Midland and Scottish and London and North Eastern railways), and the Mark 1 was intended to be the standard carriage design for use across all lines, incorporating the best features of each of the former companies' designs. It was also designed to be much stronger than previous designs, to provide better protection for passengers in the event of a collision or derailment.

The Mk 1 coaches were built in two distinct tranches: the early vehicles (1951–60) and the 'Commonwealth' stock (named from the type of bogie used) from 1961 onwards.

The design was used for hauled passenger stock, multiple unit carriages and non-passenger carrying stock. For passenger stock, construction continued from 1951 to 1963, while multiple units and non-passenger carrying stock continued to be built until 1974.

These were constructed in two lengths. Most had underframes 63 ft 5 in (19.33 m) long, with bogies at 46 ft 6 in (14.17 m) centres; the body was 64 ft 6 in (19.7 m) long if the coach was gangwayed, or 63 ft 5 3⁄4 in (19.35 m) if non-gangwayed. A smaller number had underframes 56 ft 11 in (17.3 m) long, with bogies at 40 ft (12.2 m) centres; the body was 58 ft (17.7 m) long if the carriage was gangwayed, or 57 ft 1 3⁄4 in (17.4 m) if non-gangwayed.[1] The shorter vehicles were intended for use where the track curvature was too tight to accommodate the longer vehicles, due to excessive overhang.


The steady building of Mark 1 stock to replace earlier vehicles was praised by the Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways, Lt Col I.K.A. McNaughton (Chief Inspecting Officer of Railways, Department of Transport), in the Sir Seymour Biscoe Tritton Lecture to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers in 1977. Speaking of the fall in fatalities since 1955, he put forward his opinion that a major factor in this improvement was "the introduction in 1951 of the BR standard Mark 1 passenger carriage, which, over a period of about ten years, replaced pre-war designed rolling stock on most principal routes. The damage-resistant qualities of this all-steel coach, mounted on a 200 ton end-load resistant underframe and fitted with buckeye couplings, have been evidenced time and time again. Only in a small number of very destructive accidents has serious body damage of the kind that inevitably leads to fatal accidents been observed and there have been several remarkable instances of high-speed derailments in which no personal injuries have occurred."

Although construction of Mark 1 passenger stock ended in 1963, multiple units and non-passenger carrying stock based on the Mark 1 design continued to be built until 1974.

The Hidden report into the 1988 Clapham Junction rail accident concluded that withdrawal of Mark 1 units was impractical and the design was not inherently unsafe: "The inventory of Mark I coaching stock is large, and much of it has not reached an end of economic life, nor will do so for another decade or more. Mark I vehicles have good riding qualities, and are not intrinsically lacking in collision resistance." British Rail was still using some 4EPB and 2EPB (classes 415 and 416) multiple units with underframes that had been constructed before World War II and these had priority for replacement.

During the late 1990s Mark 1 stock began to reach the end of its design life and it was becoming comparatively less safe to other, more modern, high speed passenger vehicles. The UK Health and Safety Executive issued instructions in 1999 to withdraw all Mark 1 carriages and multiple units based on that design by the end of 2002 "unless rebodied or modified to prevent, or reduce the potential for, overriding in the event of a collision". A proposed modification to extend mainline use beyond 2002 at the time of the 1999 HSE instruction was 'cup and cone', however trials were inconclusive and deemed expensive in comparison with the safety benefits. In October 2002 the Health and Safety Executive extended the permitted use of Mark 1 based rolling stock until 31 December 2004 with the proviso: "The exemptions are subject to conditions, namely that any Mark 1 rolling stock operated by the TOCs after 31 March 2003 must form part of a train fully fitted with a train protection system." The UK Train Protection & Warning System (TPWS) greatly reduces the chances of collisions.

Steam locomotives[]


A steam locomotive is a railway locomotive that produces its pulling power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fueled by burning combustible material—usually coal, wood, or oil—to produce steam in a boiler. The steam moves reciprocating pistons which are mechanically connected to the locomotive's main wheels (drivers). Both fuel and water supplies are carried with the locomotive, either on the locomotive itself or in wagons (tenders) pulled behind. The first steam locomotive, made by Richard Trevithick, first operated on 21 February 1804, three years after the road locomotive he made in 1801.

Steam locomotives were first developed in Great Britain during the early 19th century and used for railway transport until the middle of the 20th century. From the early 1900s they were gradually superseded by electric and diesel locomotives, with full conversions to electric and diesel power beginning from the 1930s. The majority of steam locomotives were retired from regular service by the 1980s, though several continue to run on tourist and heritage lines.

General safety[]

Steam engines possess boilers and other components that are pressure vessels that contain a great deal of potential energy. Steam escapes and boiler explosions (typically BLEVEs) can and have in the past caused great loss of life. While variations in standards may exist in different countries, stringent legal, testing, training, care with manufacture, operation and certification is applied to ensure safety. Hot coals, hot metal, fire and steem are alll major issues with steam engins.

Over-pressurisation of the boiler ("fit to burst")[]

Insufficient water in the boiler causing overheating and vessel failure buildup of sediment and scale which cause local hot spots, especially in riverboats using dirty feed water

pressure vessel failure of the boiler due to inadequate construction or maintenance. escape of steam from pipework/boiler causing scalding

Steam engines frequently possess two independent mechanisms for ensuring that the pressure in the boiler does not go too high; one may be adjusted by the user, the second is typically designed as an ultimate fail-safe. Such safety valves traditionally used a simple lever to restrain a plug valve in the top of a boiler. One end of the lever carried a weight or spring that restrained the valve against steam pressure. Early valves could be adjusted by engine drivers, leading to many accidents when a driver fastened the valve down to allow greater steam pressure and more power from the engine. The more recent type of safety valve uses an adjustable spring-loaded valve, which is locked such that operators may not tamper with its adjustment unless a seal illegally is broken. This arrangement is considerably safer.

Lead fusible plugs may be present in the crown of the boiler's firebox. If the water level drops, such that the temperature of the firebox crown increases significantly, the lead melts and the steam escapes, warning the operators, who may then manually suppress the fire. Except in the smallest of boilers the steam escape has little effect on dampening the fire. The plugs are also too small in area to lower steam pressure significantly, depressurizing the boiler. If they were any larger, the volume of escaping steam would itself endanger the crew.

A safety valve[]

A safety valve is a valve which has the function of increasing the safety of a thermal-hydraulics plant. An example of safety valve could be a pressure safety valve (PSV), i.e. a pressure relief valve (PRV) which automatically releases a substance from a boiler, pressure vessel, or other system, when the pressure or temperature exceeds preset limits. Also pilot-operated relief valves could have the function of safety valves.

Safety valves were first used on steam boilers during the Industrial Revolution. Early boilers operating without them were prone to accidental explosion.

Vacuum safety valves (or combined pressure/vacuum safety valves) are used to prevent a tank from collapsing while it is being emptied, or when cold rinse water is used after hot CIP (clean-in-place) or SIP (sterilization-in-place) procedures. When sizing a vacuum safety valve, the calculation method is not defined in any norm, particularly in the hot CIP / cold water scenario, but some manufacturers have developed sizing simulations.

The earliest and simplest safety valve was used on a 1679 steam digester and utilized a weight to retain the steam pressure (this design is still commonly used on pressure cookers); however, these were easily tampered with or accidentally released. On the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the safety valve tended to go off when the engine hit a bump in the track. A valve less sensitive to sudden accelerations used a spring to contain the steam pressure, but these (based on a Salter spring balance) could still be screwed down to increase the pressure beyond design limits. This dangerous practice was sometimes used to marginally increase the performance of a steam engine. In 1856, John Ramsbottom invented a tamper-proof spring safety valve that became universal on railways.

Safety valves also evolved to protect equipment such as pressure vessels (fired or not) and heat exchangers. The term safety valve should be limited to compressible fluid applications (gas, vapor, or steam).

The two general types of protection encountered in industry are thermal protection and flow protection.

For liquid-packed vessels, thermal relief valves are generally characterized by the relatively small size of the valve necessary to provide protection from excess pressure caused by thermal expansion. In this case a small valve is adequate because most liquids are nearly incompressible, and so a relatively small amount of fluid discharged through the relief valve will produce a substantial reduction in pressure.

Flow protection is characterized by safety valves that are considerably larger than those mounted for thermal protection. They are generally sized for use in situations where significant quantities of gas or high volumes of liquid must be quickly discharged in order to protect the integrity of the vessel or pipeline. This protection can alternatively be achieved by installing a high integrity pressure protection system (HIPPS).


The coals in the boiler's furnace were of coarse burning and would set fire anything they toughed in a crash.

Momentum, kinetic energy and dead weight[]

It is obvious that ~400-500,000 lb of hardened metal hitting any thing at ~60-70 mph will be catastrophic. It would obviously be lethal to any person, beast, building or train it hit. Diesel locos, like the British Rail Class 35 locomotive, were about 66% lighter. 

The actual crashed locomotives them selves[]

One of the overturned locomotives of the Liverpool train, No.46202 Princess Anne.

The badly damaged locomotive of the Perth express train No. 46242 Coronation Class City of Glasgow which was involved in the Harrow and Wealdstone train crash on 8 October 1952. It later went on to be rebuilt and returned to service.

The locomotives hauling the Liverpool train were No. 45637 Jubilee Class 4-6-0 Windward Islands and No. 46202 Princess Royal Class 4-6-2 Princess Anne, both scrapped after the collision. The latter was a rebuild in conventional form from the experimental steam turbine Turbomotive and had been in service as Princess Anne for only a few months.  The Perth train had been hauled by No. 46242 Coronation Class 4-6-2 City of Glasgow, which was repaired.  The Tring train had been hauled by LMS Fowler 2-6-4T No.42389 running bunker first.

The nameplates from Windward Islands and Princess Anne were acquired by the Doncaster Grammar School Railway Society, and remain at the school.

The colision[]

The location[]

The location of the disaster. The fast WCML platforms 4 and 3, looking south in 2008 There are three pairs of running lines through Harrow and Wealdstone station, from east to west these are the slow lines, and the fast lines of the West Coast Main Line, and the DC electric lines.  In each case the "up" line is southbound towards London Euston, the "down" is northbound towards Birmingham.

The collisions involved these three trains;

  1. The 7:31 am Tring to Euston local passenger train - 9 carriages hauled by a steam locomotive - on the up fast line.
  2. The 8:15 pm Perth to Euston night express - 11 carriages carrying approximately 85 passengers hauled by a single steam locomotive - on the up fast line - this train was running about 80 minutes late because of fog. 
  3. The 8:00 am express from Euston to Liverpool and Manchester - 15 carriages carrying approximately 200 passengers, double headed by two steam locomotives - on the down fast line  

The sequence of events[]

On 8 October 1952, at around 8:17 am, the local train stopped at platform 4 at Harrow and Wealdstone station, approximately seven minutes late because of fog. Carrying about 800 passengers, it was busier than usual because the next Tring - London Euston service had been cancelled. As scheduled, it had traveled from Tring on the slow line, switching to the up fast line just before Harrow and Wealdstone to keep the slow lines to the south of the station clear for empty stock movements.  At 8:19 am, just as the guard was walking back to his brake van after checking doors on the last two carriages, the Perth express crashed into the rear of the local at a speed of 50–60 miles per hour (80–100 km/h). It had passed a colour light signal at caution, two semaphore signals at danger, and had burst through the trailing points of the crossover from the slow lines. The collision completely destroyed the rear three coaches of the local train (where most of the casualties occurred), telescoping them into the length of one coach, and drove the entire train forward 20 yards (18 m). The leading two vans and three coaches of the Perth train piled up behind and above the locomotive.

The wreckage from the first collision was spread across the adjacent down fast line. A few seconds after the first collision, the northbound express to Liverpool Lime Street passed through the station on this line in the opposite direction at approximately 60 miles per hour (100 km/h). The leading locomotive of this train struck the derailed locomotive of the Perth train and derailed. The two locomotives from the Liverpool train were diverted left, mounting the platform, which they ploughed across diagonally before landing on their side on the adjacent DC electric line, one line of which was short circuited by the wreckage; the other line had its electric current quickly switched off by the signalman, thus preventing any further collisions. The leading seven coaches, plus a kitchen car from the Liverpool train, were carried forward by momentum, overriding the existing wreckage and piling up above and around it. Several of these coaches struck the underside of the station footbridge, tearing away a steel girder.

Sixteen vehicles, including thirteen coaches, two bogie vans and a kitchen car were destroyed or severely damaged in the collisions. Thirteen of these were compressed into a compact heap of wreckage 45 yards (41 m) long, 18 yards (16 m) wide and 18 feet (5.5 m) high. The Perth locomotive was completely buried under the pile of wreckage.


The emergency services and the RAF[]

There were 112 fatalities, including the driver and fireman of the Perth express and the driver of the lead engine of the Liverpool express. 102 passengers and staff died at the scene, with a further 10 dying later in hospital from their injuries. Of the 108 passenger fatalities, at least 64 occurred in the local train, 23 in the Perth train, and 7 in the Liverpool train. The remaining 14 were unclear, but some of the fatalities may have been standing on the platform and hit by the derailed locomotives of the Liverpool train. A total of 340 people reported injury: 183 people were given treatment for shock and minor injury at the station and 157 were taken to hospital, of whom 88 were detained.

The first emergency response arrived at 8:22 am with the fire brigade, ambulance and police services being assisted by doctors and a medical unit of the United States Air Force, based locally at RAF Northolt. Help was accepted from the Salvation Army, the Women's Voluntary Service and local residents. The first loaded ambulance left at 8:27 am and by 12:15 pm most of the injured had been taken to hospital. The search for survivors continued until 1:30 am the following morning.

Political and corporate fallout[]

All six lines running through the station were closed including the undamaged slow lines to allow the injured access to ambulances that left from the goods yard. The slow lines reopened at 5:32 am the following morning. The electric lines were used by cranes to remove the Liverpool locomotive and carriages and reopened 4:30 am on 11 October. The fast lines were reopened, with a speed restriction, at 8:00 pm on 12 October and a temporary footbridge was opened the same evening.

There was a public outcry, union protests and some media activity. British Rail held a corporate inquiry and the government started an official report shortly afterwards.

The Official report[]

The Ministry of Transport report on the collision was published in June 1953. The local train should have been protected by two semaphore home signals; the Up Fast Inner Home about 190 yards (170 m) to its rear, and the Up Fast Outer Home a further 440 yards (400 m) back. A colour distant signal (the Up Fast Distant) would show green if the Outer Home was at ‘clear’ or yellow if the Outer Home was at ‘danger’ and was set 1,474 yards (1,348 m) before the Up Fast Outer home; this being the full braking distance for an express at 75 miles per hour (120 km/h), the speed limit for this section of track.

Tests showed no signalling equipment faults and the report was able to dismiss the possibility that the signalman had only changed the route after the Perth train had passed the caution signal. The driver of the Perth train had not slowed his train in response to this signal and had then passed two danger signals before colliding with the Tring train. All the evidence suggested that the driver had made no attempt to stop until the very last moment: Eyewitnesses on board the Perth train reported that an emergency brake application was made a few seconds before the collision.

On this section of line, the local ‘residential’ trains had priority over long-distance expresses at peak time, so the Perth express should have been expecting adverse signals. The driver ‘a methodical young man’ was in good health and there were no signs of a medical emergency or equipment fault that might have distracted the driver from looking for signals. The report discounted the possibility of green colour signals on the adjacent electric lines having been mistaken for the Up Fast Distant, or of signal sighting being seriously impaired by the low sun (9 degrees above the horizon and 17 degrees to the left of the track).

The report noted that whilst the fog had lifted in the vicinity of Harrow station, with visibility improving to 200–300 yards (180–270 m) witnesses estimated visibility at the Up Fast Distant to be 50–100 yards (46–91 m). At 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), this would be covered in four seconds or less.

"In these circumstances I can only suggest that ..the driver.. must have relaxed his concentration on the signals for some unexplained reason, which may have been quite trivial, at any rate during the few seconds for which the Distant signal could have been seen from the engine at the speed he was running in a deceptive patch of denser fog. Having thus missed the Distant he may have continued forward past Headstone Lane station (which was not on his own side), underestimating the distance he had run from Hatch End and still expecting to see the colour light and not the Harrow semaphore stop signals which were at a considerably higher elevation."

The report considered it surprising that there had been only eight deaths in the leading seven passenger coaches of the Liverpool train; some of these coaches were built to a new British Railways standard (all-steel construction, with buck-eye couplings and bodies welded to the underframe) and seemed to have fared better than older stock.

Railway safety depended on obedience to signals, and the report saw no need for more restrictive ways of working to accommodate driver error;

"...the Rules and Regulations for train working in fog have proved adequate in practice with the aid of the professional skill and care which is displayed by engine drivers throughout the country on the vast majority of occasions. The way to guard against the exceptional case of human failure of the kind which occurred at Harrow does not lie in making the regulations more restrictive, with consequent adverse effect on traffic movement, but in reinforcing the vigilance of drivers by apparatus which provides a positive link between the wayside signals and the footplate."

The report considered a system warning drivers that they had passed a signal at caution or danger would have prevented ten percent of the accidents (and 28% of the consequent deaths) in the previous forty-one years, thereby saving 399 lives, including the 112 at Harrow. British Railways had under development an "automatic train control" system that warned drivers of an adverse signal and automatically applied the brakes until this was cancelled by the driver and by the time the report had been published a five-year plan had been agreed to install this system on 1,332 miles (2,144 km) of line.

"The very occasional failures which have occurred give no grounds for loss of confidence in British railway engine drivers as a whole, and there is no reason to believe that the problem has become more urgent in the last few years, notwithstanding the exceptionally tragic results of one such failure at Harrow. All, however, are agreed that enginemen should be given their share of technical aids to safe working, and I consider that at this late stage there should be no reservations on the rate of progress once the apparatus has been approved."

Safety and legal legacy[]

Safety systems[]

The accident accelerated the introduction of the British Railways' Automatic Warning System (AWS) system, although some in the industry thought more lives would be saved by spending the money on installing more track circuits and colour light signals. By 1977 a third of British Rail track had been fitted with AWS.

After the accident there was criticism that the layout of the track at Harrow and Wealdstone was arranged with the junction between slow and fast lines to the north of the station so the Tring train had to wait on the fast line. This was to keep the length of the rods between the points and the signal-box to a minimum. The junction was changed in 1962.


A memorial plaque for the disaster was unveiled in 2002 to mark the 50th anniversary. A mural was painted along the bordering road featuring scenes from Wealdstone's history by children from local schools and dedicated to the victims' memory.


The Dutch pop group The Nits wrote a song titled "Harrow Accident" which is available on their 1979 album Tent.


  1. Date- 8th of October, 1952.
  2. Time- 8:19 am.
  3. Location- Harrow and Wealdstone Station.
  4. Rail line- West Coast Main Line.
  5. Operator- British Railways' London Midland Region.
  6. Cause- Signal passed at danger.
  7. Trains- 3.
  8. Deaths- 112.
  9. Injuries- 340.

Also see[]

  1. UK railways- 1945 to 1985
  2. Disasters
  3. "London's Burning" (the political epithet, not the UK TV show)
  4. Belmont (Harrow) railway station


  1. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/8/newsid_3075000/3075197.stm
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrow_and_Wealdstone_rail_crash
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Railways_Mark_1
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_engine
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Safety_valve
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_locomotive
  7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrow_%26_Wealdstone_station
  8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rule_55
  9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Signal_passed_at_danger