Friday, January 10, 2014

The Summit Tunnel fire, 1984

The fire occurred at 5.50 a.m. on 20 December 1984 when a goods train carrying more than a 1,000,000 litres ... of four-star petrol in thirteen tankers entered the tunnel on the Yorkshire (north) side. One-third of the way through the tunnel, a defective axle bearing (journal bearing) derailed the fourth tanker, which promptly knocked those behind it off the track. Only the locomotive and the first three tankers remained on the rails. One of the derailed tankers fell on its side and began to leak petrol into the tunnel. Vapour from the leaking petrol was probably ignited by a hot axle box.
Read more on the Fire West Yorkshire site.

1 comment:

Patrick Coleman said...

I was privileged to know Guards Inspector Stan Smalley as a work colleague at Manchester Victoria from 1981 to 1984 when I was an Assistant Station Manager (complete with uniform bowler hat) and he was the NUR Safety Rep for the Guards based at that station. I can't access Youtube from work, but I can get at the official Railway Accident report at In those happy days, such reports from the Railway Inspectorate always began "Sir, I have the honour to report for the information of the Secretary of State...", and combined structure, logic, detail and analysis with precise, illuminating language. The first page gives a flavour of the stoic and heroic attitude of Stan and his fellow traincrew - after this incredibly intense fire had been going for nearly 3 hours, the crew "re-entered the tunnel, and uncoupled the train between the third and fourth vehicle...then withdrew the three leading tank wagons using the train's locomotive. After inspection this part of the train went forward to destination." The courage brings tears to my eyes every time I think of it. No injuries, no fatalities, and the tunnel survived as well. 3 years ago, it was the scene of a passenger train derailment (again, no injuries) caused by a huge block of ice fallen from a ventilation shaft. A land of fire and ice indeed. The Rail Accident Investigation Board report on that accident is at