King's Cross railway accident
|Date||4 February 1945|
|Location||London King's Cross railway station|
|Rail line||East Coast Main Line|
|Operator||London and North Eastern Railway|
|Cause||Mishandling of engine by driver|
|List of UK rail accidents by year|
The King's Cross railway accident occurred on 4 February 1945, at London King's Cross railway station on the East Coast Main Line of the London & North Eastern Railway. Two passengers were killed and 25 injured, as well as the train attendant.
The exit from Kings Cross is through Gasworks Tunnel, which has three bores, each of which had two tracks at the time of the accident. The centre bore had the No. 1 down main line on its western side, and the up relief line on its eastern side. Trains from platforms 5, 6 or 7 gained the no. 1 down main line via a crossover from the up relief line, which was controlled by points no. 145. One end of this crossover was inside the tunnel. When points 145 were "reversed", the no. 1 down main line could be reached from platforms 5, 6 or 7; when points 145 were "normal", this line was reached from platforms 8 to 17. The signal box controlling this was situated at the end of platforms 5 & 6.
The track is level through platform 5; it then dips at 1 in 100 (1%) for 146 yards (134 m), to a point 51 yards (47 m) inside the tunnel, where the line passes beneath Regent's Canal; it then rises at a gradient of 1 in 105 (0.95%) through the tunnel for a total of 1.25 miles (2.01 km). Because of the gradient in the tunnel, it had been the practice since December 1943 for heavy trains to be assisted for the first 100 yards (91 m) by being propelled by the locomotive which had hauled the empty coaches into the platform.
During the night and morning of 3–4 February 1945, the worn rails of no. 1 down main line had been replaced with new ones, as part of routine maintenance; this line had been in use since 12:45 on 4 February. The newly laid rails had lower adhesion, and the first (empty) train to travel on them slipped to a standstill on the bank.
The rearmost coach was a Vestibuled Brake Composite, no. 1889, which had been built at Doncaster in 1941 as part of an order for ten (authorised in 1939 against order no. 999). The design, known as Diagram 314, used a steel underframe 60 feet (18 m) long, mounted on two bogies each having a wheelbase of 8 ft 6 in (2.59 m), spaced at 43-foot (13 m) centres. The body was 61 feet 6 inches (18.75 m) long, 9 ft 3 in (2.82 m) wide, and built largely of wood, principally teak. It consisted of two first-class compartments in the centre seating six each, flanked on one side by three third-class compartments also seating six each, and on the other side by a brake section for the guard. There was a side corridor, and unlike other pre-war designs of brake composite on the LNER, the external doors in the body sides were in vestibules close to the ends, instead of in the compartments; a feature which had been gradually introduced from 1930.
The train left platform 5 at King's Cross station five minutes late, and entered Gasworks Tunnel. On this occasion, the train was not assisted out, because the coaches had been propelled, rather than hauled, into the platform, and so there was no locomotive at the rear. On the uphill gradient in the tunnel, the locomotive came to a stand, and then began to slide backwards; in the darkness, the driver did not notice that the train was no longer moving forwards. Meanwhile, the points (no. 145) had been altered ready for the next departure, which was to be from Platform 10. The coaches for this departure, the 19:00 Aberdonian service to Aberdeen, were already in the platform. The signalman became aware of the 18:00 train sliding back, and attempted to alter the points again in order to send it into an empty platform; but he was slightly too late and moved the points between the two bogies of the rearmost coach, BCK no. 1889, causing the two bogies to take different tracks. The rear of the train collided with the front of the coaches in platform 10. In the collision, the rear coach rose in the air and collided with a signal gantry, which crushed one of the two first-class compartments in the middle of the coach, killing two passengers, one of whom was Cecil Kimber, who had controlled the MG car company.
After the accident
The signal gantry, which was demolished in the collision, did not just carry signals, but also shunting discs and platform indicators. As an emergency measure, main line trains from platforms 6 to 17 inclusive were controlled using hand signals, as were movements to or from the locomotive yard, whilst suburban services terminated at Finsbury Park.
Coach no. 1889 was so severely damaged that it was written off. It had been scheduled to be renumbered 10153, but that number then remained blank.
The Inspecting Officer, Col. Wilson, concluded in his report that the main fault lay with the driver. Although it was difficult for him to tell which direction he was moving in the tunnel, he should have anticipated the possibility that he was sliding back after the prolonged slipping. He did not realise for some minutes after the train had stopped that a collision had occurred. 
A similar accident occurred at Glasgow Queen Street in 1928, involving a lighter train but on a much steeper gradient.
- the present-day platforms 4, 5 & 6
- Wilson 1945, pp. 3,14.
- Hughes 1987, p. 125.
- Wilson 1945, p. 3.
- Wilson 1945, p. 14.
- Wilson 1945, pp. 1,3.
- Boddy, Neve & Yeadon 1973, p. 94.
- Wilson 1945, p. 2.
- Harris 1995, p. 151.
- Harris 1995, pp. 34-36,151.
- Harris 1995, pp. 48,151.
- Harris 1995, p. 42.
- Wilson 1945, p. 1.
- Cooke 1958, p. 512.
- The Railway Magazine 1945, p. 176.
- Cook 1993, pp. 34,42.
- Cook 1993, p. 42.
- Boddy, M.G.; Neve, E.; Yeadon, W.B. (April 1973). Fry, E.V., ed. Part 2A: Tender Engines - Classes A1 to A10. Locomotives of the L.N.E.R. Kenilworth: RCTS. ISBN 0-901115-25-8.
- Bonavia, Michael R. (1985) . 3. The Last Years, 1939-48. A History of the LNER. London: Guild Publishing/Book Club Associates. CN 5280.
- Cook, Jean (1993). "The Man who Lived His Dream". In Haining, Peter. MG Log: A Celebration of the World's Favourite Sports Car. London: Souvenir Press. ISBN 0-285-63144-6.
- "Notes and News: A Collision at Kings Cross". The Railway Magazine. Westminster: Railway Publishing Company. 91 (557). May–June 1945.
- Cooke, B.W.C., ed. (July 1958). "The Why and the Wherefore: Collision at Kings Cross". The Railway Magazine. Westminster: Tothill Press. 104 (687).
- Harris, Michael (1995). LNER Carriages. Penryn: Atlantic Books. ISBN 0-906899-47-8.
- Hughes, Geoffrey (1987) . LNER. London: Guild Publishing/Book Club Associates. CN 1455.
- Wilson, G.R.S. (29 May 1945). "Report on the Accident at King's Cross on 4th February 1945". The Railways Archive. Retrieved 9 February 2010.