Last December a News item, copied below, appeared on Tracks through Grantham. Yesterday the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) published its report on an incident at Edinburgh last August which makes very interesting reading when considered in the context of the high speed derailment at Grantham in September 1906.
In the conclusions of his report on the 1906 Grantham disaster the Board of Trade Inspector discounted a problem with brake control or effectiveness as the likely, or even as a possible, cause of the accident. In fact the report was inconclusive as to the cause of the disaster. Nevertheless, it has since become generally accepted that - as some suspected at the time - the accident resulted from failure to properly connect and test the automatic brake at Peterborough immediately prior to the train’s departure. It also seems certain that a running brake test, which should have been conducted once the train got under way, either was not implemented or had been insufficiently rigorous to identify a serious lack of brake effectiveness.
It’s remarkable how comparable the circumstances were in Scotland last August. By good fortune, and through the availability of modern communication systems, a tragic outcome was avoided that morning. During the enquiry the evidence of the driver and the other members of the train crew, along with comprehensive data logging, enabled the sequence of events which led to the incident to be identified with certainty.
Conversely, following the 1906 Grantham disaster, in which the footplate crew were killed (along with 12 others) and most of the train was severely damaged by impact and fire, there was little hard evidence to prove or dispute the several theories put forward. If only GNR Atlantic No. 276 could have been equipped with an On Train Data Recorder!
The recently published report can be found on the RAIB website here.
Thanks to Phil Mason of the Grantham Railway Society for making us aware of the report.
In his column in the current (December 2019) issue of The Railway Magazine Consultant Editor Nick Pigott has picked up on a striking similarity between the most likely cause of the disaster at Grantham on the night of 19th September 1906, when 14 lives were lost, and the lead-up to an alarming incident which took place at Edinburgh Waverley station on 1st August this year.
In both cases the locomotive had been attached at an intermediate stop on the train's journey. Each train then seriously overran its next stopping point, apparently because the train's braking system was not properly connected to the locomotive.
In the Grantham 1906 accident the overrunning train derailed at high speed on a junction which began 135 yards beyond the platform. Fortunately, at Edinburgh in 2019 the train involved was brought to a stand using a manually activated emergency system without collision or derailment, having travelled 650 metres beyond its intended stopping point.
- Multiple Aspects with Nick Pigott in The Railway Magazine December 2019, page 12
- the Grantham 1906 accident: Grantham North signal box - people and incidents
- the Edinburgh Waverley 2019 incident: Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) website