Remembering the tragic 1904 Aylesbury train disaster in which four people died

An investigation found that excessive speed was the main reason for the major crash
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One of the most shocking incidents in Aylesbury’s modern history occurred when an express newspaper train veered of the tracks when it approached the town’s station.

Four people were killed as a result of the crash and four more people were left with significant injuries.

The fateful collision happened at roughly 3.40am on 23 December 1904.

A photo from the 1940 crashA photo from the 1940 crash
A photo from the 1940 crash

At the time The Bucks Herald reported the incident as: “a terrible disaster, the train being completely wrecked. The engine fell across the down platform and the carriages were dashed with terrific force against the brickwork of the platform”.

At least three of the carriages attached to the train clattered into Aylesbury Railway Station.

Reports state that most of the train smashed into small pieces and propelled out as far as 50 yards from the station.

Train driver Joseph Barnshaw was seriously injured and tragically died the next day.

Firefighters George Masters and Josiah Stanton also lost their lives and a man named David Summers was the fourth casualty.

The express train was travelling from London Marylebone to Manchester. But it never made it past Aylesbury, collapsing after its side clipped the town’s station.

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Further reporting revealed that a train heading in the other direction from Manchester narrowly avoided the vehicle and a further collision.

Thankfully, the driver was able to slam on their breaks and come to a halt before reaching the wreckage.

An investigation uncovered that a driving error was responsible for the crash as the train was moving at too fast a speed.

Beyond the excessive speed that the train was moving at, other secondary factors which led to the accident included: poor visibility in foggy conditions, inadequate signage, the driver’s lack of knowledge of the route, potential fatigue and stress and the track layout.

In the aftermath of the crash doubts were raised over how well Bradshaw actually knew the London to Manchester route.

Railway historians have since linked the collision to pressures placed on train services by newspaper groups to get their editions to Manchester as soon as possible to increase circulation.