Dead man's handle incident in the mid 70s on the London to Inverness sleeper

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Keren

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In the mid 70s I was on the London to Inverness sleeper when there was an incident I can't find any record of.
Late in the night the driver died (of a heart attack or similar I believe) but he collapsed in such a way that the dead man's handle didn't stop the train. In fact it sped on, and for some reason the engine cought fire. (Yes, I know how improbable this sounds). I recollect a report in the Inverness Courier saying that a signalman noticed the train passing at speed with the engine on fire, and raised the alarm. I don't know how the train was stopped. I do recall waking in the night to feel the train travelling very fast, and then - later - being stationary for a long time.
No passengers were injured, which is perhaps why I can't find an official record. But I imagine this incident may have prompted improvements in the dead man's handle design.
I'm wondering if anyone can throw any light on this. It would have been between 1974 and 1977 (and early on a Monday morning).
Unfortunately the Inverness Courier doesn't have an archive for that period.
 
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delt1c

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In the mid 70s I was on the London to Inverness sleeper when there was an incident I can't find any record of.
Late in the night the driver died (of a heart attack or similar I believe) but he collapsed in such a way that the dead man's handle didn't stop the train. In fact it sped on, and for some reason the engine cought fire. (Yes, I know how improbable this sounds). I recollect a report in the Inverness Courier saying that a signalman noticed the train passing at speed with the engine on fire, and raised the alarm. I don't know how the train was stopped. I do recall waking in the night to feel the train travelling very fast, and then - later - being stationary for a long time.
No passengers were injured, which is perhaps why I can't find an official record. But I imagine this incident may have prompted improvements in the dead man's handle design.
I'm wondering if anyone can throw any light on this. It would have been between 1974 and 1977 (and early on a Monday morning).
Unfortunately the Inverness Courier doesn't have an archive for that period.
Never heard of this and I used to get all the railway publications at that time. During the time you mention the mainstay of the HML service was 26's and 40's both of which were steam heat and would have been double manned. Also the dead mans handle was a foot pedal
 

Trackman

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Found the date, Monday 29th December 1975.
Trying to find out more info, but there seems to be a second man involved who actually put out the 'minor' fire on the loco.
Fire was spotted at Larbert.
It did state BR would be holding an enquiry and the fire and driver's death were unconnected.
 

Gloster

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Despite sounding dramatic, the incidents were - in railway terms - relatively minor and probably would have had no more than the lowest level of internal inquiry. The ‘failure’ of the Deadman’s to do its job would have been looked at, but might just have been seen as one of the ‘can’t cover every possibility’ situations and ‘AWS will sort that out’. If there was a second man, even if he was a bit dozy and hadn’t noticed that the driver was dead, it is unlikely that the train would have continued for very long before he realised something was wrong and taken over. The fire would have been looked at by the loco department, but was probably seen as just another case of an all too frequent occurrence.
 

Keren

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Found the date, Monday 29th December 1975.
Trying to find out more info, but there seems to be a second man involved who actually put out the 'minor' fire on the loco.
Fire was spotted at Larbert.
It did state BR would be holding an enquiry and the fire and driver's death were unconnected.
Oh you brilliant person! I'm really thrilled. Thank you. The date makes sense, as I would have been travelling back to my job at Raigmore hospital Inverness after Xmas. When I was late in to work and told them the reason, people expressed disbelief. But then others who'd been coming back on the same train turned up with the same story, so it was accepted. It wasn't like today, when it is so easy to find out what's happening. I think it was probably the attendant bringing my tea and biscuits who told me; I don't remember hearing announcements on the train. But then it was in the local paper a few days later.
Thank you so much. I'll be v interested to hear any more you unearth.

Despite sounding dramatic, the incidents were - in railway terms - relatively minor and probably would have had no more than the lowest level of internal inquiry. The ‘failure’ of the Deadman’s to do its job would have been looked at, but might just have been seen as one of the ‘can’t cover every possibility’ situations and ‘AWS will sort that out’. If there was a second man, even if he was a bit dozy and hadn’t noticed that the driver was dead, it is unlikely that the train would have continued for very long before he realised something was wrong and taken over. The fire would have been looked at by the loco department, but was probably seen as just another case of an all too frequent occurrence.
Many thanks for that. It explains why I couldn't find it on the online database of railway accidents.
 
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hexagon789

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In the mid 70s I was on the London to Inverness sleeper when there was an incident I can't find any record of.
Late in the night the driver died (of a heart attack or similar I believe) but he collapsed in such a way that the dead man's handle didn't stop the train.
Probably because it would be been a footpedal not handle.
 

47296lastduff

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Later loco builds solved this by having a vigilance device. A buzzer sounds frequently, and the driver has to press a button to acknowledge this. Failure to do this causes an automatic brake application.
 

XAM2175

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The ‘failure’ of the Deadman’s to do its job would have been looked at, but might just have been seen as one of the ‘can’t cover every possibility’ situations and ‘AWS will sort that out’. If there was a second man, even if he was a bit dozy and hadn’t noticed that the driver was dead, it is unlikely that the train would have continued for very long before he realised something was wrong and taken over.
I can't help but notice some concerning parallels to the Waterfall accident in New South Wales in 2003. In that incident the driver of the train suffered an incapacitating cardiac event but had a dead weight sufficient to keep the deadman's pedal depressed, leading to the train entering a 60 km/h curve at 117 km/h (37 mi/h at 73 mi/h) and derailing. Six passengers were killed. The guard, travelling in the rear cab of the 4-car EMU, claimed to have been in a microsleep in the moments immediately preceding the derailment, and in any case was neither required nor expected by the operator's policy at the time to supervise the train's speed.

The introduction of time- and/or task-linked vigilance control, as @47296lastduff notes, is the mitigating measure for this mode of failure.
 

Taunton

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The "deadman's handle" was originally on electric Underground trains, where it was indeed a handle, part of the operating controls, to be kept pressed down. In fact the term came from the USA, where it originated on similar electric trains. The term seems to have stuck with the public, even though a foot pedal is more common on the more sophisticated systems nowadays, except on the London Underground itself, who have stuck with the original concept.

Was AWS even installed north of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line in 1975?
 

Gloster

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Was AWS even installed north of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line in 1975?
I have no idea whether AWS was fitted at the location at the time, but if it was then it might well have brought the train to a stand or alerted the secondman. If it wasn’t fitted, it could well have been programmed for installation and, “That’ll solve that”.
 

Trackman

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@Keren found a bit more out:
The fire was spotted at Carmuirs West signal box who telephoned Plean to stop the train.
The train came to a halt near Plean.
It was the second man who stopped the train.
Loco was declared a failure and a replacement was sent.
Was AWS even installed north of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line in 1975?
Good question, does anyone know? I'm guessing no.
 

hexagon789

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Later loco builds solved this by having a vigilance device. A buzzer sounds frequently, and the driver has to press a button to acknowledge this. Failure to do this causes an automatic brake application.
Certainly HSTs had vigilance from new, possibly 87s were the first? Not sure on that.

Was AWS even installed north of the Edinburgh-Glasgow line in 1975?

Good question, does anyone know? I'm guessing no.


I don't have a 1975 Scottish Sectional appendix but I do have 1977 and 1979.

Motherwell-Perth is listed under 'lines equipped with the Automatic Warning System.
 

Ashley Hill

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Don't forget DMU power handles had to be held down. On Hymeks you can either hold down the handle or press the foot pedal. The trouble I found using the handle on a 35 was when the gears changed up it felt like wheelslip and I instinctively reduced power. Resorted to using the pedal shortly after.
 

Keren

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@Keren found a bit more out:
The fire was spotted at Carmuirs West signal box who telephoned Plean to stop the train.
The train came to a halt near Plean.
It was the second man who stopped the train.
Loco was declared a failure and a replacement was sent.

Good question, does anyone know? I'm guessing no.
Thanks Trackman. And thank goodness for the signalman and the second man.

Every detail of safety refined by experience and passed on.
And then I suspect the thread of experience is broken, from time to time, when there is a great clear-cut of staff or overturning of custom or top-down cost-cutting. It must be heartbreaking for those with long experience to see that happen.

I hadn't thought much, till reading here, about the great burden of responsibility that each railwayman must have to carry, and how interdependent you all have to be if such systems are to work.


As a complete aside, when I travelled down to London that Xmas I was v ill with flu. A platonic male friend came with me, and we wanted to share a sleeper compartment so he could look out for me. When he went to buy the tickets, he found we couldn't share if we weren't married, so I had to travel as his wife!
 

Gloster

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As a complete aside, when I travelled down to London that Xmas I was v ill with flu. A platonic male friend came with me, and we wanted to share a sleeper compartment so he could look out for me. When he went to buy the tickets, he found we couldn't share if we weren't married, so I had to travel as his wife!
There are occasional advantages to the modern world.
 
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