Year
1947

Commuter trains collide in England

Two rush-hour commuter trains collide in South Croydon, England, killing 32 people on this day in 1947. Heavy fog and a serious mistake by a signalman caused the deadly crash.

The fog was even thicker than usual on the morning of October 24 outside London. The train from Tattenham Corner to London Bridge was full, carrying passengers taking their daily trip to work. The train from Haywards Heath into London was also full and the two trains were sharing the same track at certain points in the journey.

In 1947, keeping trains from colliding with each other was the job of signalmen using semaphone signals. A more effective colored-light system was not used in London until shortly after this incident. On this day, the Haywards Heath train stopped at the South Croydon station and was held up there for five minutes. Although the signal system indicated to the signalman on duty that the Tattenham Corner train should stop, the signalman forgot about the Haywards train and the heavy fog obscured his vision of the South Croydon station. Thinking it was safe to proceed, he overrode the system—contrary to procedure—and gave the Tattenham train the all-clear signal.

The Tattenham train came through the South Croydon station at 40 miles per hour, slamming right into the back of the Haywards Heath train. The powerful collision did serious damage to both trains, especially the Tattenham train, the first car of which was crushed. In addition to the 32 people who lost their lives, another 183 were seriously injured and required hospitalization.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

U.N. formally established

Less than two months after the end of World War II, the United Nations is formally established with the ratification of the United Nations Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council and a majority of other signatories. Despite the failure of the League of ...read more

Thirty Years War ends

The Treaty of Westphalia is signed, ending the Thirty Years War and radically shifting the balance of power in Europe. The Thirty Years War, a series of wars fought by European nations for various reasons, ignited in 1618 over an attempt by the king of Bohemia (the future Holy ...read more

The Concorde makes its final flight

The supersonic Concorde jet makes its last commercial passenger flight, traveling at twice the speed of sound from New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to London’s Heathrow Airport on this day in 2003. The British Airways jet carried 100 passengers, including ...read more

Burton buys Liz a diamond

Movie star Richard Burton dazzles wife Elizabeth Taylor—and their legions of fans—when he buys her a 69-carat Cartier diamond ring costing $1.5 million. It was just another chapter in a tempestuous marriage that began on the Ides of March and continued thereafter in the public ...read more

First barrel ride down Niagara Falls

On this day in 1901, a 63-year-old schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor becomes the first person to take the plunge over Niagara Falls in a barrel. After her husband died in the Civil War, the New York-born Taylor moved all over the U. S. before settling in Bay City, Michigan, ...read more

The United Nations is born

On this day in 1945, the United Nations Charter, which was adopted and signed on June 26, 1945, is now effective and ready to be enforced. The United Nations was born of perceived necessity, as a means of better arbitrating international conflict and negotiating peace than was ...read more

Rosecrans replaces Buell

On this day in 1862, Union General Don Carlos Buell is replaced because of his ineffective pursuit of the Confederates after the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, on October 8. He was replaced by William Rosecrans, who had distinguished himself in western Virginia in 1861 and ...read more