Horrors of train crash unfold at Clapham Junction

It was estimated 50 to 100 passengers were still trapped in the wreckage when this final edition of The News went to print

It was estimated 50 to 100 passengers were still trapped in the wreckage when this final edition of The News went to print

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It was a normal, drab Monday morning in the run-up to Christmas.

Newsrooms across the country were just gearing up for the week ahead when the Press Association national news agency flashed the news of a train crash near Clapham Junction.

Here at The News journalists cast each other anxious glances. Many knew of family and friends who commuted into London, via the busiest junction in the world.

By the time this final edition of the paper hit the streets in the afternoon it was believed there were between 40 and 53 passengers dead and 200 injured in what became known as the Clapham rail disaster. It turned out that 35 were killed and 500 injured.

And among them were hundreds of commuters from Hampshire.

As this edition went to press there were still estimated to be between 50 and 100 people trapped in the twisted wreckage.

The crash happened at 8.20am between Spencer Park and Wandsworth Common. It involved the 6.14am from Poole, which had called at Southampton and Winchester, and the 7.18am from Basingstoke. Both trains were heading for Waterloo.

Witnesses said both rush-hour trains were packed as usual with many passengers standing in the crowded carriages.

The disaster happened as the Poole train ploughed into the back of the one from Basingstoke. Seconds later an empty train from Waterloo to Haslemere smashed into the wreckage.

Eyewitnesses spoke of scenes of carnage, with badly injured passengers wandering dazed and weeping, unable to comprehend the scale of the crash.

An assistant chief fire officer described the scene as the worst he had seen in more than 20 years’ service. He said: ‘It was sheer bloody hell.’

Hundreds of people were rapidly taken off the remains of the trains and railings were ripped down to allow access.

He added: ‘It is the worst crash accident I have ever seen because there were three trains involved and getting into the various places where people were trapped has been very complicated.’

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