CHARLESTOWN TRAIN CRASH - JUNE 1912
Express trains ran regularly from Rochdale to Halifax along the line that still runs through Charlestown taking 20 minutes (now taking nearly 40 mins on a good day!) On the 21st of June the 2.45 from Rochdale and Liverpool approached the infamous Charlestown curve at about 40 miles per hour and left the line, killing four passengers.
Although off the rails, the train was carried for a further 100 yards "tearing up the rails as if they were wire". The engine ploughed into the embankment on the North side of the cutting.
The first carriage was ripped off its bogies, but stayed upright. The second carriage took most of the impact and was described as "smashed into matchwood". It was in this carriage that the deaths and most of the injuries occurred. The remaining carriages were all damaged with broken windows and splintered floorboards.
The first people on the scene came from Callis Mill who helped people from the wreckage. People brought sheets from their houses to be used as bandages.
Crowds at the crash site.
The mission Church nearby was used a clearing station for the injured. When the wreckage was searched, they found a badly damaged coffin containing a corpse. A possible reason
for the presence of the corpse was that it was perhaps a victim of the Titanic disaster. Apparently it had been booked through to Harrogate in its own 4-wheel van, marshalled in the middle of the train, which was bad railway practice and may have also contributed to the seriousness of the accident!
A Board of Trade enquiry found the cause of the crash to be a defective coach and the train travelling too fast (although some claim that a missing spring on the front bogie of the locomotive was to blame). Twelve years later the same curve was the scene of another accident, but fortunately there were no serious injuries.
Finally, the line of the curve was subsequently changed to make it less sharp, perhaps indicating there was a problem (obvious some contemporary analogies here!). The line of the original curve can still be seen behind the Woodman and Fern Villas.