Remembering the Harrow & Wealdstone Disaster

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Next month it will be the 60th anniversary of the Harrow and Wealdstone rail accident, Britain’s worst civilian rail disaster.

We wrote extensively about the accident last year, but for those unfamiliar with the consequences, Harrow represented a milestone in railway history, effectively marking the point from which Automatic Warning Systems (AWS) became inevitable countrywide. It also had a wider effect on the country at large, playing a crucial role in the creation of the modern ambulance service. The role played on the day by a young black American Nursing Lieutenant, Abbie Sweetwine, means it is also holds an oft-forgotten place in the history of race relations in Britain as well.

Harrow Council are currently looking to hold a short ceremony of some kind to mark the anniversary, and to take the opportunity to gather more information related to the disaster that is worth recording for posterity and sharing with future generations.

As part of that, Harrow Council enquired as to whether we’d consider running a short appeal on London Reconnections to help them gather any memories readers, or their family members and friends, may have of the accident. We share Harrow Council’s belief that the disaster is a tragic and important event in the history of both London and the country at large, and one most definitely worth commemorating, so we happily agreed.

So if any readers have anything they would like to contribute on the subject of the Harrow disaster, please feel to add it to the comments on this post or – if you’d prefer not to communicate it in such a public fashion – to email us directly at [email protected]. Please feel free to use the comments to discuss the disaster in general as well.

Our thanks in advance,


Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.