Shrewsbury rail accident

The Shrewsbury rail accident occurred on 15 October 1907. An overnight sleeping-car and mail train from Manchester to the West of England derailed on the sharply curved approach to Shrewsbury station, killing 18 people and injuring 33. The accident was concluded to be due to excessive speed on a dangerous curve.

Shrewsbury rail accident
Railway accident at Shrewsbury in 1907 02.png
From The Sphere, 19 October 1907
Date15 October 1907
LocationShrewsbury, Shropshire
LineWelsh Marches Line
Incident typeDerailment caused by excessive speed
CauseDriver's error
List of UK rail accidents by year


Those killed were the engine driver and fireman, two guards, eleven passengers, and three Post Office sorters working in the Mail train. Thirty-three other people were reported injured.[1]

The trainEdit

Speed was estimated at 60 miles per hour (97 km/h) on a curve limited to 10 miles per hour (16 km/h). The train left Crewe at 01:20, having had extra carriages added (originating in Glasgow, York and Liverpool) to form a heavy, 15-carriage train, hauled by LNWR Experiment class 4-6-0 No. 2052 Stephenson.[2]

Other derailmentsEdit

The accident was the last in a series of three derailments due to excessive speed at night in a 16-month period. The others were at Salisbury and Grantham (both in 1906). All three resulted in deaths, including the footplate crews; the cause in each case was recorded as 'driver error', but there has been much speculation since.

Possible explanationEdit

The day after the accident an official enquiry began, coinciding with an inquest into the driver and fireman. It was held in Shrewsbury and was attended by the President of the Board of Trade, David Lloyd George. It lasted three days, and the report was published on 12 February. No fault was found with the engine's brakes and reliability. After a detailed hearing into the health and sobriety of the driver, the finding was that alcohol and drugs were not present in his body from post-mortem examination and he had not suffered a seizure.[3]

The report concluded the most likely explanation of the Shrewsbury crash was that the driver had dozed off briefly, missing the signal, and therefore had not braked in time on the downhill entry to Shrewsbury.[4] The fireman was believed to have failed to recognize the driver's excessive speed until too late.

Literary referenceEdit

An anonymous poem about the disaster was printed in the Shrewsbury Chronicle newspaper. It had been written by a young Meole Brace woman, Mary Meredith, after she read an account of the accident. (She was better known after her marriage as novelist Mary Webb). Her brother had submitted her poem to the newspaper without her knowledge. It drew appreciative letters to the paper and it is now believed to be Webb's first published writing.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Francis, Peter (2006). A Matter of Life and Death, The Secrets of Shrewsbury Cemetery. Logaston Press. p. 38. ISBN 1-904396-58-5.The Post Office sorters and an Italian passenger were buried in Shrewsbury General Cemetery in Longden Road
  2. ^ British Railway Disasters, publ. Ian Allan, 1996
  3. ^ De Saulles, Mary (2012). The Story of Shrewsbury. Logaston Press. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-1-906663-68-1.
  4. ^ The Story of Shrewsbury. p. 212.
  • Rolt, L.T.C. (1956). Red for Danger. Bodley Head / David and Charles / Pan Books.
  • Hamilton, J.A.B. (1967). British Railway Accidents of the 20th Century (reprinted as Disaster down the Line). George Allen and Unwin / Javelin Books.
  • Nock, O.S. (1980). Historic Railway Disasters (2nd ed.). Ian Allan.
  • Railways Archive account

Coordinates: 52°42′47″N 2°45′1″W / 52.71306°N 2.75028°W / 52.71306; -2.75028