Long-lost photos of crash that closed a rail line

PUBLISHED: 12:30 03 April 2016

Photo's which show Knowle Hill crash in 1931

Photo's which show Knowle Hill crash in 1931


New photographs have come to light of the moment, 85 years ago, the train line between Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth was brought to a standstill when a truck crashed through a bridge on to the track below.

Alan Deller, a former Budleigh Salterton resident, found the images, believed to have been taken by his grandfather, William Gooding, of the accident in 1931.

According to an article printed in the Journal at the time, a steam wagon crashed through a parapet on Knowle Hill and landed upside down on the train tracks.

The driver and passenger on board, who jumped out before it crashed through the wall, warned staff at Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton train stations - and an even bigger disaster was avoided.

Mr Deller, who is now involved with the National Railway Museum in Yorkshire, sent the images to friend Nick Loman, of Swains Road.

When he was given the pictures, Mr Loman went to site of the crash to get a feel for the events of that fateful day.

He believes the quick-thinking of the two people aboard the lorry could have saved many lives.

He said: “What I realised is that if the train had come down the track, it could have been an absolute disaster.

“The problem was that if the train had been coming from Exmouth, the visibility around that corner was quite poor. They wouldn’t have seen the lorry until the last minute.

“The railway was a big thing at the time. There were around a hundred people looking at the upside down truck.

“I think the incident is something everyone can relate to.”

On a Wednesday afternoon, control of the six-wheeled vehicle, which had two people and a dog on board, was lost, while heading from Westleigh Quarry towards Woodbury Common.

The vehicle, which was carrying several tons of tarred stones, was travelling at 20 miles per hour when it started to travel backwards towards the parapet.

Driver James Rowe, and his ‘mate’ Leslie Dunn, managed to jump from the lorry before it fell 30 feet to tracks below.

The dog, believed to be a ‘small’ terrier, was seen escaping the wreckage shortly after the fall.

A 20-foot hole in the wall on the bridge was created as a result of the crash.

It happened at around noon and, realising a train was due to leave Exmouth for Budleigh at around that time, Mr Rowe and Mr Dunn warned people at the two stations and the trains were stopped.

Among the photographs is one of three men posing in front of a Budleigh Salterton station bus, one of whom is believed to be Mr Gooding.

The photographs may form part of planned exhibition in 2017, which will mark 50 years since Budleigh Salterton’s train station closed.

Mr Loman would like to know who are the other people in the picture. Anyone who might know is asked to email nickloman1944@hotmail.com

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