Norwood Junction rail accident

Norwood Junction rail accident
Norwood Junction rail accident
Date and time 1 May 1891
Location Norwood Junction railway station
Rail line Brighton Main Line
Cause Bridge collapse
Trains 1
Passengers ~200
Deaths 0
Injuries 1
List of UK rail accidents by year

The Norwood Junction railway crash occurred on 1 May 1891, when a cast iron under-bridge some 60 yards north east of Norwood Junction railway station fractured under an express train from Brighton to London in southern England.

The locomotive crossed the bridge safely with most of its carriages intact, but the brake van fell into the gap on the bridge. There were no casualties, apart from a dislocated ankle. However, the accident drew attention to the weakness of cast iron structures in under-bridges, especially as many had been installed in the 1830s and 1840s when locomotives were much lighter.


The subsequent Board of Trade investigation was carried out by General Hutchinson (who had been involved in the Tay Rail Bridge inquiry). He found that the single girder that cracked was seriously flawed with a very large (but hidden) casting defect in the flange and web. Even if perfect, the girder design did not meet current Board of Trade requirements for safety margins on cast iron girder underbridges; and this was already known from a previous accident.

The attention of the Brighton Company was drawn by the Board of Trade to this deficiency of strength after ... the accident on this bridge in December 1876 when two identical girders at a different part of the same bridge were broken by an engine getting off the rails, and they were then recommended to substitute stronger girders in their place, a recommendation to which unfortunately no attention was paid, or the present serious accident would have been prevented; the Brighton Company is therefore, in my opinion, deserving of much blame for having omitted to substitute stronger girders for the existing ones after attention had been thus specially directed to the weakness of the latter

In the meanwhile, another cast iron rail bridge girder had fractured under a passing train at Inverythan in Scotland in 1882, with five passengers killed, and many more injured. The accident report on the Inverythan crash had commented on the problem of latent defects, but had concentrated attention in the first instance on composite girders ( bolted together mid-span) and those of over 25 ft span. The Portland Road bridge did not use composite girders, and its span was 25 ft.

General Hutchinson recommended that all cast iron girder bridges on the Southern network be inspected. The task fell to Sir John Fowler, who recommended that many be replaced by wrought iron structures.

The accident led the Board of Trade to issue a circular requesting details of all cast iron under-bridges on the UK network. There were thousands of such bridges, and most were gradually replaced so as to reassure the travelling public. However, there are still many thousands of cast iron beam over-bridges remaining today, many with very low weight restrictions.


External links

Coordinates: 51°23′56″N 0°04′25″W / 51.39901°N 0.07369°W / 51.39901; -0.07369

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