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Victims of Solihull train crash 50 years ago remembered

It's 50 years since a horrific railway crash claimed the lives of three men right here in Solihull. Reporter Cathrina Hulse looks back on the almost-forgotten disaster of August, 1963

"As fireman worked to free them, a Roman Catholic priest crawled into the wreckage to administer the last rites."

Stark words taken from newspaper reports 50 years ago of a train crash which claimed the lives of three railmen at the tiny Knowle & Dorridge railway station.

The tragedy unfolded on August 15, 1963, after a signalmans error saw a luxury Pullman express run into the back of a goods train.

The dead men were all from Wolverhampton.

Driver Sidney Bench, 63, of Ringwood Road, Bushbury, co-driver Thomas Morris, also 63, of Winchester Road, Fordhouses, and fireman David Corkery, 31, of Stafford Road, were all in the cab of the Pullmans diesel engine. One was rescued immediately, but died.

The others were trapped for 25 minutes before being carried out.

Tragically, Corkery was only on the train to cover for the sickness of another fireman. The Birmingham to Paddington express, pulling nine coaches with 100 passengers, crashed seconds after approaching the station at about 40mph.

It then hit the back of a shunting engine which was loaded with export Land Rovers.

Inside the cab, the three men were trapped and rescue workers, using oxy-acetylene equipment, battled desperately to free them.

Our sister papers, the Birmingham Evening Mail and Birmingham Post, reported on the crash.

The Mail spoke to Donald Holland, one of the conductors on the Pullman.

He said: "There was no warning. We were speeding between 40 and 50mph and had just started to slow down when there was a crash and a succession of two or three further shocks before the train came to a standstill."

None of the passengers were hurt but chef Peter Harrold was severely scalded when he was thrown across his kitchen by the impact.

Two more employees were treated for shock.

A crash enquiry later heard two young train spotters give evidence. Peter James, then 14, of Torrington Avenue, Coventry, said the Pullman came round the bend towards Knowle Station at 30 to 40mph and said the signal at the far end of the platform was at danger.

His friend, then-15-year-old Paul Sliwinski, of Templar Avenue, Coventry, said the train had slowed to 20mph when the crash happened.

Signalman Evan Jones, 55, said he had started a shunting move which brought the freight train into the path of the Pullman

"I did not appreciate that I had given a line clear call for the Pullman," he said.

Do you remember the accident? Were you on board the train?

Email or write to the usual address.



Cathrina Hulse
Multimedia Journalist
Annette Belcher
Multimedia Journalist
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