HOPEFULLY, the last of the train crashes at or near Winsford station occurred at approximately 8.45am on June 23, 1999.

Despite being quite a spectacular crash, there were no fatalities.

Imagine being the driver of a heavy mainline diesel hauling the Virgin Trains London to Glasgow express at around 110mph and seeing ahead a stopped diesel railcar. 

Driver Roy Eccles was alone driving Class 87 No 87027 Wolf of Badenoch, and the view ahead on his line was a truly frightening one. 

Knowing full well that he had no chance of stopping the heavy train with its 131 passengers, he managed to get the speed down to 50mph before slamming into the rear of the First North Western Pacer train that had stopped just South of Winsford station. 

Knutsford Guardian: The Wolf of BadenochThe Wolf of Badenoch

The accident could have been a re-run of the Harrow and Wealdstone catastrophe in 1948 with a Perth/London express running into the back of a local train. 
Debris covered the line in the opposite direction. 

In that accident, the London to Liverpool express ploughed into the wreckage and ended up on the platform with 112 dead and 340 injured; it was the second-worst train crash ever. 

The Winsford crash could have been the same. 

The Blackpool to Portsmouth Harbour express was heading for Winsford. That line, however, was clear of debris, and the train was stopped in time. 

Fortunately, the four coach Pacer train was empty travelling from Crewe to Manchester, but it was the cause of the accident. 

The driver had passed a signal on red (known as a SPAD meaning Signal Passed at Danger) and had left the slow line onto the mainline upon which Wolf of Badenoch was travelling.

Knutsford Guardian: The location of the crashThe location of the crash

The driver stopped the Pacer, and the express could not stop in time, although the speed was brought down from more than 100 to 50 before the impact. 

Driver Roy Eccles received a medal for his prompt action in bringing the express’s speed down. 

Both the locomotive and Pacer were separated from their mainframes, and the latter’s driving compartment and carriage were crushed. 

Had there been passengers in the Pacer, there would have been an inevitable loss of life. 

Fortunately, there were no fatalities, just 29 passengers, four of whom sustained major injuries while the remainder were slightly injured. 

The crash questioned the use and safety of Pacer trains built using Leyland bus bodies sat upon rolling stock frames, the bodies being strapped to the frames. 

The accident happened at Winsford South Junction at the point where the four-line West Coast Main Line becomes two lines. 

The official reason for the crash was driver error regarding the Pacer units and rear-ended impact.

As for Wolf of Badenoch, it lived to fight another day. Built in 1974 and released into service on May 31. It was scrapped on November 30, 2010.