The first metropolitan subterranean railway system in the world was built in London back in 1863 when the trains that ran on it were still powered by steam.
In the mid 1890’s the subterranean system switched over from steam to electricity and the railway routes grew to expand over the whole of London and selected parts of the Home Counties.
What initially started off as a one-track-system (from east London to west) now consists of 11 separate railway tracks that spider the way underneath the historic city.
28 February 1975
On the 28th of February, 1975, something went horribly wrong in the underground system resulting in a full commuter train crashing inside a tunnel just outside Moorgate Station.
The tragic journey started off at 08:38 that morning when it departed from Drayton Park (apparently it was running about approximately 60 seconds late!).
By the time it reached Moorgate station it was estimated that around 300 commuters had boarded the train at various points in it’s journey.
All London Underground trains are advised to reduce their speed to no more than 15 mph when they are approaching a station. For some reason this particular train sped right through Moorgate at speeds of at least 30 mph.
It left a group of bewildered witnesses on the platform who were due to board the train.
The Sand Drag
The London Underground has a safety system in place that is called the Sand Drag. It basically works as a spare track which out of control vessels are led onto to be stopped safely.
On the day of the disaster this train managed to completely smash through this Sand Drag system and ended up being dislodged by the buffer struts. It finally came to an end by striking a solid concrete wall.
The first emergency services on the scene believed that a regular 4 car train had simply overshot the platform area. When they traveled deeper into the tunnel they soon realized the extent of the tragedy.
The first two and a half cars of the train had been telescoped by the force of the impact into half their proper length – the lead car had somehow ended up wedged into the tunnel roof system.
The rescue operation that followed consisted of over 1600 emergency personnel joined by hundreds of volunteers. The disaster resulted in 74 injured passengers and 43 fatalities.
The final body to come out of the train was the actual train driver – a 56 year old father of two called Leslie Newson.
The public needed to know why this disaster happened so the train wreck underwent an in-depth investigation by experts.
A number of faulty components were located within the train wreck but all of them were put down to the impact and the direction of the crash – none of them were thought to have caused it.
Investigators then decided to move onto the train driver, Leslie Newson. He had a clean bill of health – no signs of cardiac problems nor any conditions such as epilepsy.
Close friends to Newson also claimed that he was an extremely careful driver and had been a teetotaler for many, many years.
When the investigators first came across his body in the train there were no indications that he had done anything to prevent injury to himself.
The Mystery of Newson
In the aftermath of the crash, investigators came across a few red flags when looking into the recent history of the train driver.
The week before the crash, it was reported by another guard that Newson’s train also failed to stop at another station.
Witnesses (commuters) on this station reported that Newson seemed to be in some sort of trance – sitting upright and looking straight ahead. It was as if he had no idea he was passing through a scheduled stop.
Investigators ended up having to close the case only knowing what had happened but not WHY it had happened.
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