ROGER FROST: Cliviger rail smash of 1907

I HAVE had the picture we publish today for quite a long time but, as I have noted before, I am reluctant to write about aspects of our railways as there are a number of local experts better equipped than myself for the task.

However, this picture of the railway station in Holme-in-Cliviger, at a momentous time in its history, is worthy of your attention. I also publish it as part of my support for Mr Alan Scholes and his colleagues who have founded the Cliviger Archives and Photograph Group. What a splendid idea. If I can help, please let me know.

As reported in the Express of December 31st, 2010, an exhibition of old photos and newspaper cuttings was held in the village hall in Cliviger before Christmas.

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By all accounts the event was a great success and I am pleased to report, as Burnley’s Heritage Champion, that Cliviger is not the only local community to be involved in a project of this nature.

There is a similar project in Padiham, Worsthorne Parish Council and residents are collecting images of their area and the Briercliffe Society has an immense collection of postcards, photos, newspaper cuttings, maps and historical documents, the vast majority of which relate to Briercliffe, but the society also has material from all parts of the borough and further afield.

In last week’s article I mentioned that, this year, Burnley celebrates 150 years as a borough. One of the events being organised is a Local History Fair which will take place in October in St Peter’s Parish Church. I hope the Cliviger, Worsthorne, Padiham and Briercliffe Groups all feel they can participate in this event.

Burnley & District Historical Society, which has considerable experience in this field having organised several similar and successful events, will be responsible for putting the St Peter’s event together.

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Invitations to participate will be issued in the near future and let’s hope as many of our heritage organisations accept the invitation and work together to produce a History & Heritage Fair which will be representative of the whole borough.

The article in the Express is illustrated with a photo of the well-known railway crash which took place at Holme on September 27th 1907 and, as you can see, an image of the same sad event is reproduced here.

Those of you who have a copy of the late Titus Thornber’s “A Pennine Parish: The History of Cliviger” should consult pages 99-101 where photos of Holme station, before and after the accident, can be found. This will help you to put in context what follows.

In the past Burnley’s significance as a railway centre was based on the fact the town was at the junction of two important railway lines and one lesser one.

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The first of these concerns, in modern terms, is the Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Colne and Skipton line and the Todmorden to Burnley line which meet at Gannow Junction to the west of Burnley.

The other junction is that of the Great Harwood Loop line which serves Padiham, Simonstone and Read. This line meets the more important route below Rosegrove which, for many years, was something of a railway community in its own right.

Of the lines mentioned, the first two were under construction at the same time. The Preston to Skipton line was opened to Burnley by 1848 and, a year later, the Todmorden to Burnley Line, which passes through Cliviger, was opened to Thorneybank Station which was the original site for what we now call Manchester Road Station in Burnley. Thorneybank was on the other side of Manchester Road where Hollywood Park cinema complex now stands.

In 1850 a connection with the Preston to Skipton line was made at Gannow and thus was opened one of the more important cross-Pennine railway routes.

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The line carried numerous holidaymakers from West Yorkshire to Blackpool, connected an incalculable number of boat train passengers from Hull to Liverpool and this line was very significant to the Burnley coal mines as the material they produced found markets all over the country because of this Trans-Pennine route.

Well known as the line is (even today Burnley Council is campaigning to have it upgraded) many local residents do not realise the line has its problems.

These are associated with the gradient of the line which is one of the steepest of any of the more important lines in England. Mr Thornber remarks that the gradient is 1-69 and the section which concerns us runs from the Crossing of Dean in Cliviger to Thorneybank.

He adds that a number of special measures were designed into the line when it was constructed but accidents have taken place over a long period of time.

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One of the earliest, a crash at Thorneybank, resulted in the untimely deaths of two school children and a teacher, on a day trip to York. However, most of the accidents involved goods vehicles and the 1907 accident was one of these.

What happened was that a train of about 40 wagons, carrying goods which included coal and onions from Normanton in Yorkshire to Liverpool, came to grief at Holme-in-Cliviger station.

The date was September 27th, 1907 and it appears a draw-bar, or coupling, broke between the 13th and 14th wagons, the train separated into two sections coming together at the station with disastrous consequences.

Station buildings on the “Burnley” platform, which included the booking office, waiting rooms and station master’s quarters, were almost totally destroyed.

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Wagons and the locomotive came to rest in a huge pile besides the line but the most serious thing was that Mr William Pim, the popular and well respected deputy to the station master, was killed outright as the wagons careered through the station.

Bad as this was, had the accident happened only minutes later many more might have been killed as people were beginning to arrive to catch a train which was due at the station at 11 a.m.

We know the accident actually took place at 10-37 a.m. as the station clock stopped at that time as a result of the accident.

The only other thing to survive on the “Burnley” platform was the station’s iron safe. Everything else was reduced to rubble.

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The photo shows a site just beyond the main part of the platform. The building in the background is the old signal box and some of the partially derailed wagons can be seen in the picture.

Also, it is clear the photo was taken after a gang of 50 or so men arrived from Accrington to sort out the damage. They had the assistance of locomotives and heavy machinery to get the line open as quickly as possible.

Some time ago I wrote about an accident in Finsley Gate when a steam traction engine ploughed into some houses there.

Remarkably, the Holme incident and that at Finsley Gate are reported, side by side, in the Express of 28th September, 1907, only one day after the Cliviger accident. That is pretty good going for 1907!

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