Thorpe rail accident

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Thorpe rail accident
Date10 September 1874
Location Thorpe St Andrew, Norfolk
Line Norfolk Railway
CauseSingle-line telegraphic working error
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Thorpe rail accident occurred on 10 September 1874, when two trains were involved in a head-on collision at Thorpe St Andrew in the English county of Norfolk. [1] [2]

Thorpe St Andrew village in the United Kingdom

Thorpe St Andrew is a small town and suburb of Norwich in the English county of Norfolk. It is situated about two miles east of the city centre, outside the city boundary in the district of Broadland. It constitutes a civil parish covering an area of 705 ha which had a population of 13,762 according to the 2001 census, increasing to 14,556 at the 2011 Census. It is also the administrative headquarters of the Broadland district council.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Norfolk County of England

Norfolk is a county in East Anglia in England. It borders Lincolnshire to the northwest, Cambridgeshire to the west and southwest, and Suffolk to the south. Its northern and eastern boundaries are the North Sea and to the north-west, The Wash. The county town is Norwich. With an area of 2,074 square miles (5,370 km2) and a population of 859,400, Norfolk is a largely rural county with a population density of 401 per square mile. Of the county's population, 40% live in four major built up areas: Norwich (213,000), Great Yarmouth (63,000), King's Lynn (46,000) and Thetford (25,000).


The accident occurred on what was then a single-track rail line between Norwich railway station and Brundall. The two trains involved were the 20:40 mail from Yarmouth and the 17:00 express from London to Yarmouth. The latter had left Norwich Thorpe at 21:30 and would normally have had a clear run on its way to Yarmouth, since the mail train should have been held on a loop line at Brundall to allow the express to pass. On this occasion trains were running late.

Norwich railway station Railway station in Norwich, England

Norwich railway station is the eastern terminus of the Great Eastern Main Line in the East of England, serving the city of Norwich, Norfolk. It is 114 miles 77 chains (185.0 km) down the main line from London Liverpool Street, the western terminus.

Brundall railway station Railway station in Norfolk, England

Brundall railway station is on the Wherry Lines in the east of England, serving the village of Brundall, Norfolk. It is 5 miles 60 chains (9.3 km) down the line from Norwich on the route to Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. Its three-letter station code is BDA.

Great Yarmouth railway station Railway station in Norfolk, England

Great Yarmouth railway station is one of two eastern termini of the Wherry Lines in the East of England, serving the seaside town of Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. The other terminus at the eastern end of the lines is Lowestoft, and the western terminus to which all trains run is Norwich.

In such circumstances, when the timetable was upset, drivers had to have written authority to proceed further. Due to a series of errors (primarily, the telegraph clerk sending the authorization message before it had been signed by the appropriate official), both drivers received their authority, and anxious to make up for lost time, set off at speed along the single track. The accident, when it occurred around 21:45, resulted in both locomotives rearing into the air, and carriages reduced to wreckage.

Both drivers and firemen were killed, as were 17 passengers with 4 later dying from their injuries. [3] 73 passengers and two railway guards were seriously injured.

Graves of mail train driver John Prior and fireman James Light in Rosary Cemetery, Norwich John Prior and James Light Rosary Cemetery Norwich.jpg
Graves of mail train driver John Prior and fireman James Light in Rosary Cemetery, Norwich
Sketch map from 1874 Board of Trade report (detail) Site of thorpe railway collision 1874.jpg
Sketch map from 1874 Board of Trade report (detail)

Prompted by the accident, engineer Edward Tyer developed the tablet system in which a token is given to the train driver; this must be slotted into an electric interlocking device at the other end of the single-track section before another train is allowed to pass. [3]

Tyer's Electric Train Tablet system is a form of railway signalling for single line railways used in several countries; it was first devised in Great Britain by engineer Edward Tyer after the Thorpe rail accident of 1874, which left 21 people dead. It was used in New Zealand for close to 100 years until June 1994. The system used a hard disk called a tablet, a form of token.

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The Canoe River train crash in Canada in 1950 also involved two trains, controlled by telegraphed orders, authorized to enter the same single-track section in opposite directions.

Canoe River train crash

The Canoe River train crash occurred on November 21, 1950, near Valemount in eastern British Columbia, Canada, when a westbound troop train and the eastbound Canadian National Railway (CNR) Continental Limited collided head-on. The collision killed 21 people: 17 Canadian soldiers en route to the Korean War and the two-man locomotive crew of each train.

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  1. Rolt, L. T. C.; Kichenside, Geoffrey (1986). Red for Danger (4th ed.). Pan Books. ISBN   0-330-29189-0.
  2. Tyler, Col. H. W. (30 September 1874). "Report of the Court of Enquiry" (PDF). HMSO. Retrieved 9 November 2008.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. 1 2 Derail: Why Trains Crash by Nicholas Faith, page 44, publ 2000 by Channel 4 books, ISBN   0-7522-7165-2.
BBC Radio Norfolk Local British Radio Station

BBC Radio Norfolk is the BBC Local Radio service for the English county of Norfolk, broadcasting since 11 September 1980. It broadcasts from the studios of BBC East in The Forum, Norwich on 95.1 FM, 104.4 FM, 95.6 FM, 855 kHz AM/MW, 873 kHz AM/MW, DAB and through the internet using BBC iPlayer.

Coordinates: 52°37′28″N1°20′31″E / 52.62436°N 1.34208°E / 52.62436; 1.34208