RAIL CRASH REMAINS RECOVERED AFTER 49 YEARS

Date: Saturday 20th March 2004

THE Stainmore Railway Company has rescued the 49-year-old remains of a railway truck which was part of a derailment close to Smardale station on the cross-country Pennine-Stainmore route.

On 20th May, 1955, two Q6 locomotives were returning from Tebay to Kirkby Stephen with a train of empty wagons when they derailed just outside Smardale station.

The locos were going in reverse at the time. The pilot engine turned on to its side and slithered down the embankment. The tender of the train engine followed, but, although derailed, the train engine remained upright, slewed across the track, precariously balanced on the high embankment.

The wagons which the the locos were pulling piled up behind and some ended up down the embankments. Cranes had to be brought from Darlington to clear the mess.

After the closure of the Stainmore line in 1962, the section of the line between Smardale and Ravenstonedale station was taken over by Cumbria Wildlife Trust and became a nature reserve in 1977.

In August, 2002, the Wildlife Trust held an open day to celebrate 25 years of the site. Members of the Stainmore Railway Company had a stall and were told of the remains of the trucks from the 1955 crash.

ROTTING THREAT TO REMAINS

Volunteer Mark Keefe began looking for the remains of the crashed wagons in October, 2002. The remains, two sections of wooden bodied trucks one with a buffer beam still holding a buffer, spring and wheel support, and the other a smaller L-shaped piece of steel, which wooden boards would have been slotted into to make the bottom and side of a railway truck were eventually located early in 2003.

Mr. Keefe said the condition of the remains was concerning. Although the metal components were holding up, the wooden sections were rotting away.

The Stainmore Railway Company decided to approach Margaret Albon, of the Upper Eden support group of Cumbria Wildlife Trust, to see if it was possible to remove the remains for eventual display purposes in Kirkby Stephen East station.

The request was passed on to Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s Andrew Walters. A meeting at the Smardale site was organised with Mr. Walters and, after an initial look at the remains, permission was granted to remove the wreckage.

The remains lay close to the boundary fence separating the nature reserve from the field owned by John Dargue, of Smardale Hall Farm. Mr. Dargue helped recover the wreckage with a load-all shovel with a telescopic arm, which enabled the large piece of the locomotive to be gently lifted out without removing the fence, while the smaller part was removed by hand and placed in a waiting tractor and trailer.

In recognition of his endeavours, Mr. Dargue was given a framed picture of the load-all lifting the wreckage as a token of appreciation by the Stainmore Railway Company.

The remains are now in safe storage to allow the wooden sections to slowly dry out and the metal work to be gently cleaned. James Popps, of Hartley Craft, near Kirkby Stephen, will be advising the Stainmore Railway Company on what can be done to treat and protect the wooden parts from further decay.

In giving the Stainmore Railway Company permission to remove the remains, Cumbria Wildlife Trust requested that the area where the remains lay be cleared of overhanging branches and bushes, which has already been done.

A sign will be placed on top of the railway embankment so that people can see where the remains used to be. The sign, which will be made by Mr. Popps, will hold some pictures of the accident and of the removal of the remaining wreckage, plus a small write-up.

Mr. Keefe said: “The Stainmore Railway Company would like to pass on its sincere thanks to Mr. Dargue and Cumbria Wildlife Trust for helping to make the project nicknamed Operation Q6 such a success.”