100 ton locomotive in runaway collision on the Great Central Railway

Published: 8th June 2014

Second major accident in a year at Loughborough GCR

The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is investigating a collision that took place at about 1235 hrs on Monday 12 May 2014 on the preserved Great Central Railway near Loughborough station.

The accident took place when an unmanned train with a Network Rail owned Class 37 locomotive, which was coupled to a preserved Travelling Post Office (TPO) carriage, ran away and hit a set of five coaches. These had been stabled on the down main line a quarter of a mile away from Loughborough Central station.

There were no injuries in the accident but what RAIB says is ‘significant damage’, was sustained by some of the rail vehicles involved. The Great Central Railway was not open to the public at the time of the accident.

The errant train comprised of a Class 37 locomotive which ran away on the down main line behind a TPO carriage from a position opposite Quorn signal box for a distance of about 1.8 miles (2.9 km) before the collision occurred.

Just before it happened…

The RAIB’s preliminary examination showed that the Class 37 diesel was used in the morning of 12 May for shunting duties within a section of line, around 4.4 miles (7 km) in length which was closed to other traffic being under what is known as a ‘possession’.

The locomotive had been coupled to the TPO carriage but the continuous brake had not been connected. Just before noon, the train was stabled, unattended, on the down main line opposite Quorn signal box within the possession limits.

There is a slight gradient here of 1 in 330 descending towards Loughborough but the gradient increases beyond Quorn before reducing and eventually levelling out on the approach to where the collision occurred.

No crew, no brakes – no train

The train was left, as normal, unattended and the crew applied the locomotive’s air brakes and shut-down the engine but did not apply either of the parking brakes. These are applied by turning a large steel wheel in each cab up to 100 turns. The crew placed one wheel scotch underneath one of the locomotive’s wheels and it is worthy of note that the TPO carriage was not fitted with a handbrake, a normal situation though.

While the train was unattended it descended the gradient towards Loughborough and left the limit of the possession and as RAIB reported, fortunately, no staff were working on the portion of line over which the train ran away without warning. It would also have been running silently as no engine was running.

The five coaches hit by the Class 37 and TPO had been stabled on the down main line outside of the possession, within the station limits of Loughborough Central station. These had been secured by applying the parking brake of one of its coaches as per regulations.

The RAIB’s investigation is independent of any investigation by the Office of Rail Regulation and is to establish the cause of this, and any other rail accident.

They will publish their findings next year after a thorough investigation which will probably include some recommendations and learning points to improve safety, at the conclusion of its investigation.

This is the second vary serious incident at the Great Central Railway in just over a year. In April 2014 a steam engine went through a red signal and was derailed while exiting a siding at Quorn pulling the TPO train.

They said:

Actually they didn’t - and the GCR website makes no reference to this second accident in 12 months.

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