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The bank holiday railway trip that ended in terror

By Folkestone Herald  |  Posted: June 06, 2013

  • DERAILED: About 250 people were on both trains

  • INCIDENT: The accident happened over the bank holiday weekend in 1963

  • CRASH: About 20 people were injured in the collision

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IN THE May bank holiday of 1963, hundreds of people eagerly clambered aboard the Marshlander train at Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, not suspecting their day would come to a premature end.

As the carriages, hauled by the eight-ton steam locomotive Hercules, pulled away from Hythe station at 2.50pm, all that could be heard was laughter and excited chatter. In a few minutes, the sounds were to be replaced by screams.

About a mile outside Hythe, the Hercules suffered a fault in its vacuum brakes, causing them to go on. Driver David Bastin, who had been with RHDR since 1957, went to check the connections and returned to the train, but just 350 yards later it happened again and it came to a halt.

Another train, the Winston Churchill, came alongside from the opposite direction and Mr Bastin told his fellow driver to inform Dymchurch station he would be late.

As the Churchill moved away, Mr Bastin heard another engine whistling from behind, getting closer and closer with every second.

Desperately he tried to get the stricken train moving, but the fault in the brakes meant he could only reach three miles an hour. He opened the regulator on full to gain a few extra yard but it was no use.

The 3.10pm Typhoon careered into the back of the Marshlander.

Passenger Ian Thompson described the collision. He said: "All I could hear was the sound of splintering wood when the train hit us, mingled with the screams of women and children."

As the dust settled, 22 people, including eight children, had suffered injuries ranging from cuts and bruises to cracked ribs and shock. Mr Bastin suffered two broken ribs.

Many of the carriages were derailed in the incident, while passengers were thrown around inside.

The two trains carried about 250 people.

Alan Tredwell, from Hythe, had been in the lead coach of the second train. He said at the time: "It was like hitting a brick wall.

"Our coach was derailed and we were all thrown forward. My wife was hurled from one side of the compartment to another. I was terrified for my family."

Lionel Read, of Folkestone, had been with his sister on the fateful day.

He said: "When we reached Willow Tree Farm the train stopped and we were told the brakes had failed.

"Some people clambered out onto the side of the track. When I joined them I saw another train just 150 yards behind us. It was going about 20mph.

"I screamed at my sister to get out as she and her friend were still inside.

"Then came the crash."

When news of the accident was received at the Friends of St John fete in Oaklands, a first aid party of St John Ambulance Brigade personnel immediately went to the scene. The injured were later taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone.

Mr Thompson added: "I knew there would be a collision.

"Our driver sounded several warning blasts on the whistle but the other train still crashed into the back of the train.

"The Hercules was pushed 20 yards along. The first carriage and guard's van were derailed.

"A coupling smashed and flying pieces of metal hit our train."

A spokesman for the railway said an official inquiry was to be held to investigate the accident.

Do you remember the Marshalander rail crash? Call 01303 851683 or e-mail antony.thrower@KRNmedia.co.uk

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