Published 1st October 2012
ROCHDALE, GREATER MANCHESTER - A quick thinking signalman avoided a serious accident between a horse and train in north-east Manchester on September 6. The stray wandered onto the tracks at Castleton station just as a fast train was approaching. With seconds to spare, the train was brought to a halt just yards from the scared animal.
This is a busy section of line with at least eight trains per hour passing through, all under the control of mechanical semaphore signals from the Castleton East Junction ‘box.
The horse, a large Shire or Clydesdale type that can weigh up to a ton, appeared from a wooded field close to the station. It wandered in front of the signalbox, alerting the signalman and giving him seconds to change the signals from clear to stop.
The horse carried on walking along the tracks until it was penned in between the station’s two platforms. If the train, the 10.37 Leeds to Manchester Victoria, had not been stopped it would have sped through at 60mph with the horse having nowhere to go.
Railway staff tried to catch the frightened creature, but before they got near it turned and ran back to where it had come from. Trains were then allowed to proceed at slow speed until clear of the area.
It was an shocking accident narrowly avoided. If the horse had appeared slightly further down the line it wouldn't have been seen by the signalman; if the train had been slightly earlier there wouldn't have been time to change the signals and stop it.
Rail.co.uk’s Paul Bickerdyke was on hand to take these unique photographs.
Animals straying onto railway lines is not a daily occurrence but happens regularly. They have caused derailments and death in extreme circumstances if a one or two coach train collides with a large animal such as a horse or cow.
In the past, fox hunting created regular trespassing of railway lines by hounds and on occasions, followed by the horses when riders do not stop the chase.
Nature also causes trespass such as deer in many areas such as at the Chinnor Railway on September 14th. The picture was taken from the steam locomotive by Phil Marsh.
The Chinnor & Princes Risborough railway offers special nature watching cruise trains where deer, red kites and foxes can be regularly seen.
There is no doubt that the rail.co.uk team are generally to be found where the news is!