At 12.30 pm on Friday 18th July 1980 a train bound for Waterloo derailed and crashed onto the embankment just beyond St Margarets station. There was extensive damage to the wheel bogies of the first two carriages but none of the 50 passengers on board were injured. The driver, John Linane, was less fortunate. He was taken to West Middlesex Hospital suffering from shock but later allowed home. Equally shocked - but in no apparent need of hospital treatment - were the women who worked for Martonair, a pneumatic control company. The ‘Richmond and Twickenham Times’ report of the accident included a photograph of them looking at the leading carriages of the train that had come to rest immediately outside their office window. If the train had travelled just a few yards further they would have been amongst the casualties. Martonair later relocated to the Midlands and its trackside premises in St Margarets pulled down… and who can blame them? Being pneumatic is one thing. Getting the wind up is another!
Two other local newspapers also covered the story. The ‘Surrey Comet’ took the commuter’s point-of-view reporting that main line services from Staines recommenced at 1.10pm, less than an hour after the crash. However services operating out of St Margarets Station did not restart until 8.45am the following morning. A temporary bus service was brought in while the branch line that linked the station with the main line was cleared by cranes. The ‘Middlesex Chronicle’ launched its own coverage with the dramatic headline “Two Coaches Hurtle On To Embankment”. In their account they reduced the number of passengers aboard from 50 down to 40. They added that preliminary investigations suggested it was mechanical failure that had caused the accident - possibly on the points that connected the St Margarets Station loop with the main line.
In the tragic annals of rail crashes the incident at St Margarets hardly figures. It is difficult to find any significant record of the event save for the observation that it was the first railway accident to involve one of Southern Region’s brand new electric commuter trains with automatic press-button doors, not dissimilar to the trains still working the line today. A Southern Region spokesman added that the impact of the crash was lessened because the train ran into a sand ‘drag’ track at the side of the line. “Passengers were able to walk back through the connecting doors to the station platform,” he said. By reducing the train’s speed the ‘drag’ track might also have saved the lives of the Martonair staff.
NOTE: The quality of the photographs is poor because they were copied directly out of the newspapers of the time.
– from Martyn Day