The Rail Accident
My days as a happy carefree teenager loving my dancing and acting with the St Johns Glee Party and the Revellers in the productions they put on to entertain the folk of Laindon, were soon to come to an end. On one dark foggy night 30th January 1958, I left my job in Fenchurch Street for the usual train journey home. It was very foggy, the thick heavy yellow smog hung in the air. I pulled my scarf over my nose and mouth to stop me from breathing in the smoggy air, as I made my way to the station. On arriving I found the friends I usually travelled home with waiting on the platform. We always got the 6:35 train home, I noticed that because of the fog the 6:20 had not left the station, but was about to leave. On a sudden impulse, I have long since regretted, I shouted to my mates, “Catching the early train, bye”, as I ran and jumped in the last carriage, Ladies Only.
The journey home was so slow we just crawled along. All the seats were taken so I had to stand until we got to Barking when I got a seat. I remember two ladies sitting opposite me one embroidering a beautiful table cloth as they shared a bar of chocolate, I felt very hungry and wished we would soon be in Laindon. Suddenly I became aware of a rumbling noise which quickly got louder and louder yet at the same moment there was an explosion and darkness, I was being squeezed tighter and tighter, crushed until I didn’t think I could take anymore. I think I must have passed out for a while because it seemed to me that all of a sudden I became aware of voices calling and people crying, moaning, burning steam and a strong sulphur smell was all around me. In the pitch darkness I couldn’t see a thing, I tried to move and only my right arm moved a little. My knees were under my chin I felt I was crushed under something very heavy, a frightning panic feeling hit me in the stomach took me over and I too was crying. I will not go on with the graphic details of what it was like for me and others trapped for hours in the nightmare of that night. They are just so horrible and maybe not for these pages. The relief I felt when I saw a small light through a gap at the side of me was so welcome. I heard a voice call my name and relised it was my friends I had left at Fenchurch Station, they were looking for me. They had been on the 6:35 which had run into us but thankfully they were unhurt. One of the boys Greg Smith stayed with me all the time it took for the firemen to get me free, then one fireman carried me in his arms with my badly broken back, up the step embankment at the side of the track and layed me on the ground.
Ambulance men arrived and I was painfully transfered in and ambulance for the slow journey to Oldchurch Hospital Romford. I was one month off my seventeeth birthday and the injuries I suffered have been with me all my life. In someways I was the lucky one there were meny others that didn’t make it.
See more of Jean’s memories of the accident