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Bentley Colliery Paddy Train Disaster - 1978 Page 3
My Grandfather, Donald Box, Died In The Paddy Accident - Those Who Died

Bentley Colliery Paddy Train Disaster
Doncaster Area. 21st November 1978

The Accident

The report for the Yorkshire National Union of Mineworkers stated:-
“After the accident the workmen, management and officials joined forces in an exemplary manner and applied themselves unflinchingly to the task of recovering and releasing the dead and injured. The Area doctor and nursing sister arrived on the scene and by 9 a.m. all the casualties were on the surface.”

Those who lost their lives were:-

  • Robert Aitchenson aged 54 years, face worker
  • Donald Box aged 39 years, faceworker
  • Kenneth Green aged 38 years, faceworker
  • David R. Hall, aged 21 years, face trainee
  • Geoffrey Henderson aged 39 years, face worker
  • Michael E. Hickman, aged 18 years, face trainee
  • James Mitchell, aged 55 years, face worker

The men who were seriously injured were:-

  • Thomas J. Rush aged 26 years, supply man
  • Paul Thompson aged 26 years, ripper
  • J. Butcher aged 57 years, shift charge engineer

The investigation was begun and one of the first at the scene was Arthur Scargill, the President of the Yorkshire N.U.M., the General Secretary,
O. Briscoe, the Financial Secretary, R. Horbury and members of the Branch Committee. Three Inspectors and the management also made detailed examinations of the scene of the disaster.

A detailed inspection of the rails over the whole section showed no defects. There were no skid marks and some dampness was found. The gradient of eight pairs of rails was steeper than the statutory limit of 1 in 15 although the average gradient was 1 in 16.1.
Locomotive No.18 was undamaged and the engine easily restarted after it was placed on the rails.  All three breaking systems were found to be functioning and further tests were carried out on it at the bottom when each of the braking systems were found to be capable of stopping the train within the recommended stopping distance. There was a 166m length of track available and it was decided to carry out tests at a gradient of 1 in15.2 using locomotive No.18 in the condition it was found after the accident plus its 4 Wickham carriages with a simulated load of 65 men. The tests proved that the train could be stopped with the available braking.
The damage to the carriages was then examined and it was found that some coupling pins had not been connected and there was no screw in the coupling pin retaining devices between the first and second carriages. It was established that there had been previous accidents on this section of track. In August 1978, a train of loaded manriding carriages ran back out of control into the Retarder after passing to the rise side of it and on 7th November 1987, just two weeks prior to this accident, a train of men had run out of control down the gradient and passed over the pegged down Retarder and negotiated the curve without a derailment but the incidents were not properly reported.

There was a large volume of evidence stating that the red and green warning light system on the side of the Retarder was frequently out of order and yet no official reports had been received by the Colliery Electrical Engineer and there had been only two such reports to the Colliery Manager in the 18 months of its operation.

It was clear that there was no single act or collection of acts by any particular person who was solely to blame for the accident and recommendations were made aimed at avoiding another occurrence.

The recommendations:-
1. “Despite the braking capabilities of locomotive manriding systems do not afford automatic overspeed protection as do other manriding systems and safe operations are dependent upon the skill of the driver and directly related to the gradient. It is therefore recommend that the maximum gradient on which these locomotives are allowed to operate be reviewed and reduced.
2. Full operation of the braking systems of locomotive manriding trains is dependent on correct coupling and testing by driver and conductor and upon application wheel locking and skidding may result. It is recommended that automatic speed sensitive track brakes are developed.
3. Drivers and conductors of locomotive manriding trains should not be confronted with the difficulties posed by marshalling, coupling, brake testing and moving off gradients. It is recommended that terminal manriding stations be established to provide level conditions or their equivalent.
4. The design of curves in roadways where locomotive manriding occurs and where there is a possibility of derailment should be examined. All means possible in terms of super elevation of the track and provision of check rails should be taken to reduce the risk of derailment. In addition a smooth sided finish to the roadway should be provided and any obstacle removed which would either impact with or tear the side of any manriding carriage.
5. The design concepts of manriding carriages should be revised to ensure the shape and strength of the body affords maximum protection to passengers.
6. The design of carriage coupling pins and safety chains should ensure ease and certainty of coupling and remove the possibility of uncoupling by accident.
7. Advantage must be taken of modern information systems so that the possibility of errors in deployment are eliminated
8. The use of friction type arrestors should be expanded and their operation conditioned to fully control approaching locomotives and to automatically reset after locomotives had passed over.
9. Locomotive drivers and conductors in manriding situations carry a heavy responsibility and their training and authorisation needs to be reviewed in terms of its duration, compatibility of equipment employed, status and discipline of instructions and its relationship to the particular track and its problems where they are eventually to work.
10. Manriding trains should be provided with direct and efficient means of signalling between conductor and driver.
11. No person should ride in a manriding train without the knowledge of its emergency stopping procedure and equipment.
12. Locomotive brake testing procedures should be reviewed to ensure the most onerous braking requirements are covered.
13. Management should be resolute in taking whatever steps are necessary to achieve high standards of discipline and adherence to Transport Rules and

Trade Unions should give full co-operation

More information on Pete's site, 'Yorkshire Main Colliery'