- Note: It is not to be confused with the "Tamworth Triangle" business park, Tamworth, New Hampshire, USA.
In less than 1 year, 5 people have been killed inexplicably falling out of moving trains in the Tamworth area. The area has been dubbed the "Tamworth Triangle" by locals and train staff in a nod to the rather more glamorous Bermuda Triangle and in recognition that the incidents kept occurring within an area that lay between Alrewas, Tamworth and Lichfield.
The mid 1960s to mid 1970s BR Mk2 carriages were still in use and use doors that locked when slammed shut. Most EMUs and all DMUs built before the mid 1970s also had 'slam doors'. They could still be opens from with in or with out by pulling the interior latch or turning the exterior door handle hard enough whilst no one was about.
Deliberate door opening was used as a means of suicide in 3 incidents that took place in Greater London during the early 1980s.
Drinking alcohol on trains was common and the late 1980s saw a sharp rise in passenger drunkenness.
The Tamworth Triangle incidents
A couple of people had fallen out of unlocked train doors in Tamworth and died in 1990. Another person also fell out near to Tamworth, but was only badly injured in the fall. They later made a full recovery. There were also a few cases of people finding doors had come open of thire own accord, but that no one was injured, dead and/or had fallen out of the moving train.
May 11 / August 7, 1991 – The Tamworth Triangle incidents. Three teenagers and 2 adults fell out of unlocked doors on some of the older types of express trains and later died from their injuries. The first two deaths occurred near Tamworth, Staffordshire, the third near Nuneaton, Warwickshire a few days later. The last 2 occurred a few days later near Alrewas and Lichfield, in Staffordshire, shortly afterwards. There were also several dagerose, but not fatal or injuring accident door openings, in which no one actually fell out of the train, in the region at the time.
Several other people had also encountered serious faults with the unlocking of doors during the same period both in Alrewas in Staffordshire and Stafford, but no more serious injuries resulted.
A similar incident had also occurred in Cardiff, south Wales a few months earlier and in Didcot, Berkshire a few weeks later. These incidents lead to the Health and Safety Executive condemning 'slam door' trains.
A HST door was found left open on the train as it pulled out of Peterborough station in 1991.
The UK's historic list of mysterious deaths from falling out of train doors sine BR was founded had reached 325 and a local coroner demanded answers from British Rail (BR) about the latest spike.
A 1990 UK rail jornal, "TRANS-PENNINE", the magazeen of the Pennine Railway Society, No.74 of Winter 1990, had an article on it early stages entitled: "NOTES FROM THE COMMITTEE: TAMWORTH DEATH TRAP".
The former director of British Rail, Sir Bob Reid referred back to it in his retirement speech of 1997 and later in a 2002 interview by a business journal.
The American Journalist William E. Schmidt referred back to it in May 11, 1991 in the artical "London Journal; Commuters Underwhelmed by the Underground", which he wrote for the The New York Time.
Related incidents in Northumberland
Some similar incidents occurred on ECML north of Newcastle and south of Berwick in BR's closing years. A BR accident data trawl base collated that alcohol featured strongly and in one unfortunate case at or near Alnmouth the decedent's toxicology report was the highest ever recorded blood/alcohol rate ever recorded in BR records.
A person also fell out of a North East England Class 158 Pacer unit and on to the platform as it left the station in 1993.
A theory held that already drunk passengers staggering to the buffet car 2 to 4 hours into a journey. Passenger information, staff awareness and general dip in boozing on trains soon ended it.
The construction magazine CNpluss later published a report in to it, in part of an article called "Two into four will go" on 11 August 2005, which concluded that trying to move about a crowded buffet-car was so difficult that some people were knocked out of the carriage door or mistook it for an interior door.
A BR staff and passenger theory held that people would start drinking after getting on at London Euston and by the time they got up to Tamworth, which was roughly halfway between Euston and Liverpool Lime Street, they would then drunkenly stagger down the carriage towards the toilet and would simply mix up one door with another, thus falling out of the train to thire deaths.
A 2005 Dutch online travel guide for visiting the UK concluded it was the result of either overcrowding or louts fighting over booze knocking people against exterior doors was to blame.
A 2010 Portuguese online travel guide for visiting the UK concluded it was the result of either over crowding or violently swerving trains knocking people against exterior doors was to blame.
A 2008 blog on www.railforums.co.uk blamed drunk passengers trying to get to the toilet, passengers fighting, suicide or people flinging passengers from trains.
Passenger information, staff awareness and continuing general 1990s dip in boozing on trains soon ended it.
These incidents lead to the Health and Safety Executive condemning 'slam door' trains. Those who Mk1s, Mk2s and Mk3s that are preserved must have a steward on board each carriage to watch the doors and keep safety bolts engaged to stop the doors being opened by passengers.
All Mk3 carriages that are still in use have have a centrally operated door bolt system that only the driver and\or guard can operate from a service panel in a singel carriage and\or the engine's cab.
- William E. Schmidt referred back to it in May 11, 1991 in the article "London Journal; Commuters Underwhelmed by the Underground", which he wrote for the The New York Time.