The Charfield railway disaster was a fatal train crash which occurred on 13 October 1928 in the village of Charfield in the English county of Gloucestershire. The Leeds to Bristol London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) night mail train failed to stop at the signals protecting the down refuge siding at Charfield railway station. Thick fog obscured a red signal by the Charfield railway station, and the train crashed into a freight train, igniting gas cylinders and causing a fire.
Sixteen of the 60 passengers died in the crash, including two young children: a young boy and girl burned so badly that they couldn’t be identified.
No one came forward to claim the children, which was strange enough, but after a memorial was built for the victims of the crash, it got even stranger. Locals say that every year on the anniversary of the crash, a mysterious woman wearing a long, black robe visited the children’s graves, leaving behind flowers. She visited every year until the early 1960s. When a member of the media tried to approach her on the anniversary, she ran off … and hasn’t been back since. To this day, there are reports of sightings of the ghosts of the children, standing hand in hand near the site of the deadly crash. Was this mysterious woman their mother? We may never know..
The mail train collided with the freight train and was derailed, coming into collision with the up train underneath the road bridge to the north of the station. Gas used to light the carriages ignited, and four carriages were burnt out. The driver of the mail train claimed that he had seen a clear distant signal on approach to the station, and therefore had assumed that the home signals protecting the station were also clear; however, testing of the signals after the accident confirmed that the distant had been correctly in the yellow “caution” position. The driver was charged with manslaughter, but was subsequently acquitted.
In the aftermath of the collision, as in earlier railway crashes at Quintinshill, Hawes Junction and Thirsk, a fire broke out. It is believed that the gas cylinders of the first four cars were punctured and a cloud of gas quickly formed under the bridge and a fire broke out. Although many likely perished in the collision, it seems likely that the majority of the 14 passenger fatalities were due to the fire.
Seven of the 11 cars of the mail train were completely destroyed by the fire. In a combination of the fire and the collision, the ninth to seventeenth wagons were completely destroyed. Two of the GWR goods train’s wagons (the two the mail train clipped) were both completely destroyed.