1964 Cheadle Hulme Train Crash
Cheadle Hulme’s village grew up around its station, and as such we pretty much take it for granted – travelling into Manchester and Stockport in mere minutes, and also Wilmslow or Macclesfield as well as Crewe and ‘the South’. The ease and convenience of train travel and commuting is a major factor in keeping Cheadle Hulme’s properties sought-after.
However, on 28 May 1964, Cheadle Hulme and the station were touched by tragedy as a special train, afterwards known as the Lollipop Express, conveying over 230 school children from Staffordshire to York for a day trip to the Minster, castle and railway museum, derailed and crashed, leaving three people – two of them children – dead and twenty-seven injured.
Even now, the bend into the station on the line from Macclesfield and Stoke is a sharp one, and back then, the bridge was undergoing reconstruction work, necessitating a temporary speed limit of 10 miles per hour. An official hearing after the accident decided that the speed of the train – found to be approximately 40 miles per hour – had caused the Cheadle Hulme train crash, and the train driver had been unaware of the speed restriction.
Now, even over 50 years later, many local residents remember the events clearly, and those involved will never forget. John Gibson was just nine years old at the time and he was thrown towards the window of the carriage as it turned on its side. Although he was able to grab hold of a table, his head was banged repeatedly on the railway sleepers, knocking him unconscious, and his left arm was very badly injured and had to be amputated – when he came to, he was trapped under the wreckage which had to be lifted off him with a crane. John does count his blessings though – as he was sitting nearby poor Louis Stevens and Christine Heffernan who both sadly died, along with one of the organisers of the trip.
Of course, in the days before mobile phones or local radio stations, once news of the terrible accident reached Stafford, panicking parents rushed to find out how their children were, scrambling to their local railway terminal, desperate for news. Mr Gibson’s poor parents were initially led to believe their son had been killed, and were then sent to the wrong hospital.
One little girl lost a leg, and another, Mary Tiernan, was dubbed Sleeping Beauty by the press, after remaining in a coma for three months after sustaining critical head injuries along with burns and various fractures. Her parents alternated at her bedside in the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Defying all expectations, upon waking she recognized her Daddy and remembered her name. She took nine months to learn to walk again and it was a year before she was able to return home. Perhaps fortunately, she has no memories of the crash itself.
The official Report on the Derailment that occurred on 28th May 1964 at Cheadle Hulme Station can be seen at railwaysarchive.co.uk. Our thoughts are still with the victims and their families, and hopefully with modern technology and improvements in signaling and safety, such an accident could never happen here again.
Many thanks to Manchester History Revisited for the images