Train derailed after late April snowstorm

Church Street station (Charles Smy)

  • Church Street station from which the derailed train had departed after an April snowstorm.

Luton and district was on Sunday [April 27th, 1919] “snowed under” by a storm which, for its duration, the abnormal size of snowflakes and the depth to which it laid, has not been equalled for many years so late in April.

The Luton Reporter said: “It followed a sharp frost overnight and continued practically throughout the whole day and was accompanied by a bitterly cold and piercing wind which at time made the downfall piercing and caused tremendous drifts.”

One large tree in New Bedford Road was broken down by the weight of snow and fell across the road, bringing down tramway wires. Another tree, standing in private grounds at the corner of Collingdon Street and Dunstable Road, also collapsed and obstructed the pavement.

The Great Northern Railway suffered worse, with all passenger and passenger traffic held up on the Monday morning by the derailment of the 5.50am first train leaving Dunstable for Luton. The Tuesday Telegraph reported that after leaving the Church Street station the train ran into a snowdrift at the Blow's Down siding, the engine and a coach being derailed as the train tried to force its way through.

Back at the station, it was found that the wires to Hatfield had been blown down, and it was not until well into the morning that a breakdown gang was able to set out for Dunstable, only to get snowed up en route.

In the meantime an SOS was sent by the stationmaster to the Army Signal School at Houghton Regis. Forty men arrived but, not having the expertise to do anything for the stricken train, proceeded to rescue the breakdown gang and help get the derailed train back on the line. The train eventually continued its journey at 11.45am.

The next train to leave Dunstable was then at 12.55pm, carrying as many as possible of a large crowd of passengers wedged into the compartments. Normal service was resumed thereafter.

The Tuesday Telegraph reported that people had made their way to church in brilliant sunshine on the Sunday morning, but left the services in a veritable blizzard that resulted in a foot of snow falling.

A warm sun on the Monday saw the snow disappear pretty rapidly.