Rare prints of 1876 Huntingdon train crash on sale

RARE prints of a train crash near Huntingdon more than 125 years ago are being sold on the Internet.

A series of images depicting the double collision at Abbots Ripton appeared in The Illustrated London News are now being sold by Old Images.

The accident happened during a snow storm on January 21, 1876, when the Special Scotch Express, later renamed the Flying Scotsman, travelling from Edinburgh to London left Peterborough at 6.18pm.

As the Express reached Abbots Ripton it was travelling at full speed - around 45-45mph - when it crashed into a coal train, that was being shunted into sidings. The fast train hit the coal wagons and derailed, pulling its carriages into the northbound line.

The guard of the Scotch Express headed towards Peterborough with a red lamp and stopped another train. The signalman at Abbots Ripton tried to telegraph the Huntingdon signal box but couldn’t get a reply.

The fireman of the coal train placed detonators - used as signals in fog - on the tracks from Huntingdon but didn’t get far enough before a London to Leeds and York express crashed into the Scotch Express.

This is when, according to Norris Museum curator Bob Burn-Murdoch, 13 people were killed and 69 more were injured.

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He said: “The accident was caused by a snow storm affecting the old-fashioned ‘semaphore’ signals which were weighed down by snow. Exacerbated by the custom in those days of leaving signals at ‘clear’.

“The signal levers had been put to danger to stop the express until the goods train was off the main line, but snow meant that the signals themselves stayed at clear – showing a white light, not a red one, even though the semaphore arms themselves were probably invisible to drivers through the snow.

“A northbound express came past more jammed signals and the driver didn’t realise anything was wrong until he set off the detonators. He slammed his engine into reverse but there was no time for this to take effect before he ploughed into the carriages of the Scotch Express.”

Dion William Boucicault was among the dead, and his father Dion Boucicault, a famous dramatist, contributed to the restoretion of Huntingdon Grammar School, now the Cromwell Museum, to commemorate his son.

An inquest into the accident recommended the design of signals was improved, signals were kept a ‘danger’ in normal circumstances and proper braking systems were fitted to trains.

INFORMATION: The prints, ranging from �12.56 to �22.50, are on sale at www.old-print.com or through www.amazon.co.uk