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 Buttevant Rail Disaster was a train crash that occurred 137 miles from Heuston Station on the Dublin to Cork mainline at Buttevant Railway Station, County Corkin the Republic of Irelandon 1 August 1980. At 12:45 the 10:30am Dublin (Heuston) to Cork (Kent) express train entered Buttevant station carrying some 230 bank holiday passengers. The train was diverted off the main line across a 1:8 temporary set of points into a siding. The locomotive remained upright but carriages immediately behind the engine and generator van jack-knifed and were thrown across four sets of rail line. Two coaches and the dining car were totally demolished by the impact. It resulted in the deaths of 18 people and over 70 people being injured.

The accident happened because a set of facing points, operated by hand, were set to direct the train into the siding. These points were installed about four months previously and had not been connected to the signal cabin. The permanent way maintenance staff were expecting a stationary locomotive at the Up platform to move into the siding and had set the points as such, without obtaining permission from the signalman. Upon witnessing this, the signalman at Buttevant manually set the signals to the Danger aspect and informed the pointsman to reset the points but the train was travelling too fast to stop in time. The derailment occurred at around 100 km/h.

 

The train consisted of 071 Classlocomotive number 075, a generator van and 11 coaches. Six of the coaches consisted of wooden bodies on steel underframes. Four of these were either destroyed or badly damaged in the impact, the two which survived were at the rear of the train. The remainder of the coaches were light alloy Cravens stock; most of which survived the crash. The generator van, a modified BR Mark 1, was severely damaged. All of the vehicles were coupled using screw shackle couplings.

Locomotive 075 (1976), Front plates damaged
Generator/Boiler & Guards Van, No. 3191 (1971) Severely damaged
Open 1st Class, / Timber Body No. 1145 (1963) Body destroyed
Buffet Car / Timber Body No. 2408 (1953) Body destroyed
Self Service Car / Timber Body No. 2412 (1954) Body destroyed
Standard Carriage / Plywood Body No. 1491 (1961) Badly damaged
Standard Craven / Light Alloy Frame No. 1529 (1964) Badly damaged
Standard Craven / Light Alloy Frame No. 1527 (1964) Body damaged
Standard Craven / Light Alloy Frame No. 1508 (1964) Both ends damaged
Standard Craven / Light Alloy Frame No. 1542 (1965) One end damaged
Standard Craven / Light Alloy Frame No. 1541 (1965) No damage
Open Standard / Timber Body No. 1365 (1953) No damage
Standard Class and Brake Van / Timber Body No. 1936 (1959) No damage

Aftermath

70% of Irish rail deaths over a 28-year period occurred as a result of this event (and the subsequent Cherryville junction accident which killed a further seven people)[1] . CIE and the Government came under severe public pressure to improve safety and to modernise the fleet. A major review of the national rail safety policy has held and resulted in the rapid elimination of the wooden-bodied coaches that had formed part of the train.

The passengers who were most severely injured or killed were seated in coaches with wooden frames. This structure was incapable of surviving a high speed crash and did not come near to the safety standards provided by modern (post-1950s) metal-body coaches. The expert bodies that reviewed that accident discovered that the old timber-frame carriage bodies mounted on a steel frame were totally inadequate as they were prone to complete collapse (the "accordion" effect) under the enormous compression forces of a high-speed collision. While the steel underbody remained structurally intact, other carriages could "mount" the frame, completely compress and destroy the wooden frame body.

The more modern steel-framed carriage bodies survived due to their greater structural rigidity. On this basis the decision to purchase a new fleet of modern intercity coaches based on the British Rail Mark 3 design was quickly made. The Mark 3's longtitudinally corrugated roof can survive compression forces of over 300 tonnes. These coaches, an already well proven design, were built by BREL in Derby, England and, under licence, at CIE's own workshops at Inchicore in Dublin between 1983 and 1989.

 Relatives mark anniversary of Buttevant rail disaster:

01/08/2005
Around a thousand people gathered in North Cork today to remember the 18 victims of the worst railway accident in Irish history.
Eleven Irish people, three Britons, two Americans and two Austrians died in the crash, which happened at Buttevant Rail station on August 1, 1980.

On the 25th anniversary of the disaster, relatives of the Irish victims lit memorial candles at a special ceremony outside the station, while locals lit candles on behalf of the foreign victims.

The event was organised by the 12-member Buttevant Disaster Commemorative Committee, which has been tracing relatives of the victims in recent months.
“A fantastic day, really, it was absolutely brilliant,” said spokeswoman Terri O’Donovan.
“All the representatives were represented. People travelled for miles and they were so glad to be here.”

Among those lighting the candles at the special memorial service was the 25-year-old-daughter of Dublin man John O’Connor, who died when she was just six weeks old.

The driver on the day the Dublin-Cork train crashed into a siding at 70mph at the Buttevant station also attended.
“His nephew said it was so good for him. He has lived with this for 25 years,” said Ms O’Dononvan.

A CIE investigation report published in 1981 found that badly set points were to blame for the crash.
A bronze sculpture in the shape of two crossing train tracks was unveiled alongside a plaque commemorating the names of the victims at the Buttevant Railway station.
“Where the monument is placed will be passed by, so people will be stopped beside it and they’ll say a prayer and think of the people who died,” said Ms O’Donovan.

The commemorative committee almost failed to track down the family of Seamus Coffey from Tallaght but one of his brothers in Tipperary spotted a newspaper article about the ceremony two weeks ago and the entire extended family turned up.

The open-air ecumenical service was followed by a reception in the local GAA hall, which was used to treat victims of the crash in 1980.
The disaster, which also injured 62, still ranks as the worst modern transport tragedy in Ireland.
Carriages immediately behind the non-stop train’s engine jack-knifed and were thrown across four sets of rail-line. Two coaches and the dining car were totally demolished by the impact.

The accident sparked the biggest civil emergency operation in Co Cork’s history and led to a massive review of rail safety.
Representatives from the gardaí, the Red Cross, the fire services and the Civil Defence all attended the event.