The Hixon Level Crossing Disaster – 1968

Malcolm Garner came on Thursday 17th February to describe the circumstances surrounding the “Hixon Level Crossing Disaster – 1968”. In the 1960s British Railways embarked on a programme of replacing the full, manually operated, level crossing gates with rising barriers which were activated by approaching trains. Many such crossings had barriers over only the entry side of the road (Automatic Half Barrier). Warning signs were poorly worded, the flashing red signals to road traffic were effective but gave slow moving road traffic little chance of clearing the crossing before a train whizzed past. In January 1968 a very slow moving heavy transporter crossing the railway at Hixon in Staffordshire was completely helpless in getting out of the way when the barrier sequence commenced followed just 24 seconds later by a Class AL1 (as it was then) electric locomotive appearing with its Manchester to London train. The train collided, at speed, with the truck resulting in eleven persons losing their lives. Following the crash – local residents were first on scene to assist with rescue and ever needed cups of tea for the passengers and emergency services. In 2018 a memorial garden was opened near the church in Hixon to commemorate the lives cut short. The Hixon incident ensured that the safety culture on the railway, particularly surrounding level crossings, was radically improved.