Western Daily Press
Thursday 7th January 1971

The runaway rail fear that grips a town
by David Taft

FIVE HUNDRED tons of runaway railway stock threatens to tear through a Somerset mining town every day. For there are no mechanical safeguards on the line.

Yesterday 24 eight-ton wagons ran out of control and crashed into a level crossing in the centre of Radstock. Brakes on the rolling stock did not operate, a British Rail official told me. Senior railwayman Ken Evans, manning the box at the junction, (Sic: That’s road junction !) said that if the runaway wagons had crashed in the rush-hour, there would have been a disaster.

As it was, no one was injured. But van driver Mr Cedric Brown, of Welton Road, Radstock, just managed to reverse his car off the crossing. This would have been impossible a few hours later when traffic queues form. I found that at 5.40 last night all six roads into the junction were blocked with cars, buses and lorries.

The crash sparked off a double row last night – from railway workers, and shopkeepers at the junction. RAILMEN demanded safety measures on the line which carries coal to (Sic: !?) and from nearby collieries. They want a catch-bind (Sic) point which would derail runaway wagons before they hit the town. As many as 50 are linked at a time. “Wagons haven’t got out of control here for more than 15 years until today. But it could happen again tomorrow if someone forgot the brakes” said one senior railman. SHOPKEEPERS complained about manning at the crossing


Said butcher Mr Norman Graham: “The signalman just can’t close the road properly when he needs to. With six roads joining the railway crossing the gates get stuck half open and half shut. Every rush-hour, it is chaos here.”

BRITISH RAIL promised an immediate enquiry into the crash. “I cannot discuss what caused it or might have caused it,” said district manager Mr Ray Nash. But I pieced together this picture of events:
- A 32 wagon train was brought from Westbury through Frome yesterday.
- Eight “crippled” stock due for repair were taken off at the siding in Radstock West.
- When shuntman Mr. Stan Tote arrived to move the others, they had vanished.
- Then newsagent Mr Malcolm Moon ran up the line out of Radstock to warn that they had crashed into the crossing.

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