Charfield Railway Disaster

At 4.28am on Saturday, October 13, 1928, the Leeds to Bristol night mail crashed under the road bridge at Charfield Station, some 20 miles south of Gloucester.

It had collided in fog with another train being shunted on to a station siding, and this threw it into the path of an oncoming freight train. But it is what happened then that turned it into such a disaster. The crash ignited the gas cylinders used to light the carriages, and within seconds the express was an inferno. The Charfield Mystery had begun.

A Leeds-to-Bristol night mail train crashed under the road bridge at Charfield station, South Gloucestershire on 13 October, 1928.

Rail archives show the train went through a red signal in thick fog.

Gas cylinders used to light carriages ignited on impact, and the ensuing fire hindered the identification of bodies.

Historian Ian Thomas, who has researched the crash, said the identities of the two small burnt bodies would probably always remain a puzzle.

The Charfield railway disaster was a fatal train crash which occurred on 13 October 1928 in the village of Charfield in the English county of Gloucestershire.

The Leeds to Bristol LMS night mail train failed to stop at the signals protecting the sidings at Charfield railway station. The weather was misty, but there was not a sufficiently thick fog for the signalman at Charfield to employ fog signallers. A freight train was in the process of being shunted from the main line to the sidings, and another train of empty goods waggons was passing through the station from the Bristol direction. The mail train collided with the freight train and was derailed, coming into collision with the up train underneath the road bridge to the north of the station. Gas used to light the carriages ignited, and four carriages were burnt out. Intense fire made identification of the dead, and even a complete body count, difficult, but it is believed that 15 people died and a further 23 were injured. (The official report lists 16 deaths and 41 injuries). The driver of the mail train claimed that he had seen a clear distant signal on approach to the station, and therefore had assumed that the home signals protecting the station were also clear; however, testing of the signals after the accident confirmed that the distant had been correctly in the "danger" position. The driver was charged with manslaughter, but was subsequently acquitted.