Wigan rail crash

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Wigan rail crash
Date 2 August 1873
Time 01:20
Location Wigan North Western station
Country England
Rail line London and North Western Railway
Cause Derailment due to excessive speed
Trains 1
Deaths 13
Injuries 30
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Wigan rail crash was a railway accident which occurred at Wigan North Western station, England, to a northbound excursion train in the very early morning of 3 August 1873. Thirteen passengers were killed after derailed carriages collided with station buildings.


In Victorian times annual holidays to Scotland were popular amongst the affluent; inspired by Queen Victoria's visits to Balmoral. The 'Tourist Special' which left London Euston at 20:00 on 2 August 1873 drawn by two locomotives consisted of 25 vehicles by the time it left Crewe including many private family coaches. Many of the passengers were aristocrats travelling north for the opening of the grouse season.

As the lengthy train ran through Wigan North Western station the driver glanced back and saw sparks flying to the rear of the train. After drawing to a halt he walked back to find an appalling sight at the south end of the down platform. The first 15 carriages of the fast-moving train had passed safely through the station, but two wheels of the 16th coach had derailed at a set of facing points. Next came a luggage van which derailed completely, demolishing a lineside shunter's cabin and losing its side in the process. The couplings held on both these two vehicles and they travelled the length of the platform and were rerailed by a crossing at the north end. However the following carriages were not so fortunate and had all been derailed on the points, had broken away from the train and lay in shattered confusion at the start of the platform and on the passing loop behind it, leaving 13 dead and 30 injured. Only the last coach and rear brake-van were undamaged. The front portion of the train continued to Scotland 90 minutes later.


The lengthy enquiry failed to find any fault with the offending points which indeed had suffered virtually no damage. However almost all the passengers stated that they had been alarmed by the speed of the train and the rocking of the carriages on the journey up from Euston. The conclusion of the enquiry was that the speed of the train had been excessive, especially considering its motley collection of carriages. However, an extra tie-bar was added to points so as to increase their strength and stability, a design modification which remains in current points on the national network.


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Coordinates: 53°32′33″N 2°37′50″W / 53.54239°N 2.63061°W / 53.54239; -2.63061