RAILWAY ACCIDENTS AROUND BRAYSTONES
At the moment, the title should really be "accident", singular not plural- but even in this one story there's a hint that this page will need to be expanded in the future.
The following is based on the reports in the Evening News and Star for 5 July 1977, and the Whitehaven News for 7 July 1977 (which has two large and dramatic photographs, sadly ruined by scratches on the microfilm copy I have seen) and the follow-up in the next week's issue.
South of Braystones station, there are several gaps in the row of beach bungalows. Most of these contain remnants of foundations, but there is one real oddity, the site of the two bungalows, with a railway bridge between them, shown here in a 1920s photo supplied by Muriel & John Henson (in my modern photos they would have been numbers 14 and 13):
True, the left-hand bungalow 'Northolme' fell into dereliction around the 1960s, but it's still most unusual for the foundations (of both that and the other bungalow, 'The Cabin') to disappear completely- and you won't find the bridge in 2006 either!
Early in the evening on Monday 4 July 1977, a train from the Marchon works at Whitehaven, bound for Essex, consisting of a diesel engine and ten 100-ton wagons filled with sodium tripolyphosphate (used in detergent manufacture), was crossing the bridge when it gave way under the enormous weight. A wagon came off the rails and slid down the embankment, crushing one of the beach bungalows. It derailed half-a-dozen other wagons, one of which, 500 yards further on, demolished most of another bungalow ('Seabright', belonging to retired couple Mr & Mrs Leslie and Hilda Vernon of Bransty, who reported that if it hadn't been for family illness- a sick relative they went to visit in hospital- they would have been relaxing there). Ambulances and three fire engines rushed to the scene, but luckily nobody was hurt.
The first bungalow had been occupied until just the previous evening by Mr John Tear of Whitehaven and his family. Though their boys had to go back to school on Monday, the family may have intended to commute to the bungalow during the fine weather; however, one of the two children (John, age 10, and Michael, 8) had an upset stomach, so they decided to stay within reach of a doctor. When this website was publicised on Radio Cumbria in September 2006, Stuart Flett, now of Barrow, who was a classmate and friend of John's at St. Bees School in 1977, rang in to say that the photo accompanying the News and Star report, showing a bedside cabinet intact among a mass of rubble, still haunted him because he had been a guest of the Tears, and that cabinet had been at his bedside the previous night.
This way to some photos from Bennie's collection.
The wagons also ripped up a long section of the track, and the line was closed for nine days (it took even longer to remove all the wagons); some holidaymakers interviewed by the Whitehaven News recalled a similar accidental demolition about five years earlier, just a few yards away. If I ever find a report of this- and believe me I have been looking- I'll let you know!
After discussions, it was decided that although the track through the bridge was a public right of way, it was acceptable to use the next bridge, a short distance to the south, as an alternative crossing. Hence, instead of rebuilding the bridge, the railway company simply created a new, stronger embankment, engulfing the sites of 'Northolme' and 'The Cabin'.