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Signalman who averted major disaster at Carlisle station 25 years ago is honoured by Virgin Trains

Press Release   •   Dec 17, 2009 08:20 GMT

Virgin Trains has honoured a former signaller at Carlisle, whose quick actions averted a major disaster in the City 25 years ago.

Bill Taylor avoided disaster in the early hours of 1 May 1984 by his quick thinking when he realised that a freight train had become uncoupled and both portions of the train were rolling downhill towards Carlisle station.

A plaque was unveiled in the waiting room near platform 6 at Carlisle station on 17 December 2009, in memory of Bill Taylor by Peter Robinson, a railway historian who chairs the Cumbrian Railway Association.

Whilst on duty on 1 May 1984 Bill realised that something had happened to prevent the brakes automatically preventing the rear section of the train from running away. Recognising that in the darkness the driver was probably unaware of what had happened, Bill knew he had only moments to act.

The locomotive and the front part of the heavy freight train that was still coupled to it were allowed to run forward into Carlisle Citadel station. Still under the control of the driver, this part of the train was brought safely to a stand.

After the leading part of the freight train had passed, Bill switched the points to divert the runaway onto a freight-only line bypassing the station, where a passe4nger train for London was picking up passengers. There was significant wreckage when the errant wagons derailed on a bridge over the River Caldew, but thanks to Mr Taylor’s actions, nobody was hurt and the historic passenger station was saved.

After investigation, safety procedures were changed to ensure that such a runaway would never happen again, with brakes coming on automatically to bring all wagons to a stop in the unlikely event of a similar coupling breakage.

The events of 1984 are part of railway history, but the plaque will help ensure that the memory of Bill Taylor and his prompt action will continue to be remembered.

Virgin Trains Station Manager for Carlisle Ann Turner said: “Bill Taylor’s actions are well know in Carlisle and his quick thinking prevented a major accident in the station. When Bill’s son David approached us to commemorate the 25th anniversary we were happy to have a plaque displayed in a prominent place on the station.”

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