Jarrow rail disaster: Calls for memorial on 100th anniversary

Alex Abernethy is calling for a plaque to be placed at Simonside metro station. This year marks the 100th anniversary of a crash which killed 17 people.
Alex Abernethy is calling for a plaque to be placed at Simonside metro station. This year marks the 100th anniversary of a crash which killed 17 people.

A train enthusiast is calling for a plaque to mark the 100th anniversary of a South Tyneside rail disaster.

Eighteen people lost their lives, and dozens more were injured, on December 17, 1915, when a passenger train, a goods train and a tank engine collided at St Bede’s Junction, between where Jarrow and Bede Metro stations now stands.

The exact spot of the collision is thought to be where the bridge crosses over Leam Lane, between the Lindisfarne and John Reid Road roundabouts.

However, Alex Abernethy, from Jarrow, who has been an train lover since a child, would like to see a permanent tribute to those who lost their lives.

The 82–year–old who used to be a compositor for the Gazette until the 1980s, said: “It’s coming up to the 100th anniversary of this disaster and there’s no memorials or plaques to commemorate it.

“I think it would be lovely if a plaque could perhaps be placed at one of the nearest Metro stations.

Not many will be aware this ever happened.

Alex Abernethy

“I recently read about the disaster in one of my railways magazines and I thought I bet not many people, especially younger ones, are even aware this ever happened.”

Reports at the time said the accident happened after a goods train ran out onto the main line past St Bede’s signalbox having been banked in the rear up the incline by a six-coupled tank engine.

The banking engine, uncoupled, dropped away from the goods train and came to a stand on the up main line, but was not seen by the signalman.

Shortly afterwards, the signalman accepted the 7.05am passenger train from South Shields to Newcastle on the up line and the 6.58am empty stock train from Hebburn to South Shields. The passenger train collided with the rear of the banking engine at 30 mph.

Almost immediately the empty stock train collided with the wreckage, killing the fireman. The gas-lit passenger coaches were consumed by fire, killing 18.

A Nexus spokesman said: “We have no connection with the tragic events of 100 years ago but it has been fascinating to see some of the research which has been done in recent months. It is up to the local history society and the local council to consider erecting a permanent memorial.”

A spokesman for the Council said: “We have been contacted by another individual on this issue, not Mr Abernethy, and have already met with local heritage groups to explore what heritage and charitable funding sources could support his project.”