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Norton Fitzwarren Rail Disasters

Recalling the Norton Fitzwarren rail disasters of November 1890 and November 1940 and the outstanding efforts of the local community

Red Wheel Site:
Transport Mode(s):

Norton Fitzwarren Village Hall

Station Rd

Norton Fitzwarren



Visitor Centre:

About Norton Fitzwarren Rail Disasters

Station Road, Norton Fitzwarren was the scene of two horrendous railway accidents in 1890 and 1940.

In the 1890 incident the residents of Station Road did what they could to help. The Railway Hotel, next to the site opened its' doors to the injured and dead.

In 1940 local residents again went to help. The Railway Hotel opened its doors, and The Manager of The Village Club (now the Village Hall) built in 1895, opened up The Club and offered help. According to tradition the dead were laid out in The Club Skittle Alley.

Norton Fitzwarren Station was closed and demolished many years ago. The Railway Hotel has also gone. The Village Club/Village Hall is the only surviving building associated with the events of 1890 & 1940.

This Red Wheel heritage plaque commemorates those who lost their lives in the crashes, the heroism of the Station Road residents who went to help, and the role played by the Railway Hotel and the Village Club in providing assistance.

11th November 1890 accident

In the early hours, one of the worst accidents in the history of the Great Western Railway took place at Norton Fitzwarren, just west of Taunton on the GWR main line. A narrow-gauge goods train with a broad-gauge pilot engine was being shunted at Norton Fitzwarren and the signalman, forgetting it was there, allowed a broad-gauge special bringing passengers from an ocean liner from Plymouth Millbay Dock to Paddington to plow into the goods train at over 50 m.p.h. Ten passengers were killed and a number seriously injured. The broad-gauge locomotive was ex-B&ER 4-4-0ST No. 2051, while the narrow gauge engine was 0-6-0 No. 1100.

See fully account on Wikipedia: Rail crash of 1890. Also see further research carried out by John Baker - published in the Bibliography section of this entry

4th November 1940 accident

Between Taunton and Norton Fitzwarren, Somerset,  the driver of a train misunderstood the signalling and track layout, causing him to drive the train through a set of points and off the rails at approximately 40mph. 27 people were killed. The locomotive involved was GWR King Class King George VI which was subsequently repaired and returned to service.

See full account on Wikipedia: Rail crash of 1940Also see further research carried out by John Baker - published in the Bibliography section of this entry



 TV News report on the Red Wheel Plaque unveiling at Norton Fitzwarren:



Extract from BBS News article 17 November 2018:


The victims of two rail crashes that happened in the same village 50 years apart have been honoured with a plaque.

In 1890, 10 people were killed and 11 seriously injured when a passenger train and a goods train collided at Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton.

In 1940, a sleeper train carrying 900 people went through a set of points and off the rails at 40mph, killing 27 people and injuring 75 others.

The idea to mark the crashes came from local historian Mary Hayward.

Her research revealed newspaper reports from 1890 and 1940 which said people from the road next to the crash site rushed to help, with bed linen from a nearby hotel being used for bandages.

The village club was used as a casualty clearing centre, and the dead were laid out in the hotel skittle alley.

"I thought it would be an interesting project to create a memorial, recognise the heroism of the Station Road residents and recall the role of the demolished Station Hotel, and the village club in assisting with the injured and dead," she said.


David Heaton remembers rescuers coming to his house in 1940 when he was a child.

"They called on the house to collect tools to hack their way into the coaches," he said.

"We knew they were getting on with retrieving everybody from the scene."



John Baker of Silver Moor Business Consulting has researched the two railway accidents that happened at Norton Fitzwarren. He previously wrote a short article on the 1940 accident, but the accident of the 11th November 1890 was also blamed on 'human error'. In this accident the signaller, George Rice, forgot that he had left a goods train standing on the main line and allowed an approaching fast passenger train into the same section. The passenger train collided with the stationary goods engine, killing 10 passengers and seriously injuring many more.
John's research revealed several new facts about both accidents and also documented more about the victims and those involved. This research has been published on posters that will be displayed inNorton Fitzwarren Village Hall and are available below for download:

1890 Norton Fitzwarren Poster - part 1

1890 Norton Fitzwarren Poster - part 2

1940 Norton Fitzwarren Poster - part 1

1940 Norton Fitzwarren Poster - part 2


The late Phil Ouseley (Deceased Feb 2019) insisted that the Red Wheel heritage plaque should be mounted on piece of seasoned oak.  He hunted round various timber merchants to find the right piece, and created the memorial which was subsequently installed outside the Village Hall. The Plaque now commemorates the Railway accidents, and Phil's skills as a craftsman.

National Transport Trust, Old Bank House, 26 Station Approach, Hinchley Wood, Esher, Surrey KT10 0SR