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Driffield Staithes, 1981      
  Driffield Staithes 1981
by Ray State
Driffield Staithes 1981
what appeared to be a straightforward recovery turned out to far from simple.

Driffield Class 31 locomotive No 31242 balances on the dividing walls of the staithes at Driffield on the 11th September 1981 after the cast iron rails collapsed under its weight. The crew had ignored the rule contained in the Sectional Appendix that locomotives were not allowed on the staithes. It was not recovered until the 3rd October after the wall, seen on the right, had been demolished to lift the locomotive out sideways.

Not all accidents involve death or injury or even serious damage to rolling stock. A few are more memorable for their problems in recovery than in the incident itself. The circumstances surrounding the recovery of a class 31 locomotive from the staithes at Driffield in Yorkshire was just such an incident.
Driffield ZTO brakevan DB 950919 hangs over the end of Driffield Staithes
A close-up of the broken rail.
On 10th September 1981 a ZTO brakevan DB 950919 ran away down the gradient onto the staithes at Driffield and over the end of the rail stops. The mobile breakdown gang sent from Hull to attend had the bright idea of sending a locomotive down the staithes to drag the van back. Unfortunately, neither the gang or the locomotive crew took any notice of the prohibition order on locomotives on the staithes. Locomotives were prohibited because the structure, dating from the 1840s, had cast iron rails which would not take the 20 ton axle weight of a locomotive. As can be seen, the rails collapsed under the third axle leaving the locomotive balanced on the dividing wall by its second axle.

What appeared to be a straightforward recovery turned out to far from simple.

The recovery was set for the night of 18th September. Two 75 tons rail mounted cranes were booked one from Doncaster and one from Healey Mills. Unfortunately, on the morning of 18th September a train derailed at Blyton near Gainsborough and the Doncaster crane had to be diverted to that incident.

Recovery at Blyton on 18 September

BlytonDoncasterís 75 ton rail crane and a 100 ton road crane lift a 100 ton tanker back onto its bogies on the 21st September 1981. Beneath the jib of the road crane a 45 ton 4 wheeled tank wagon can be seen with its wheels in the air. This carried bitumen residue which had solidified. Shortly after this photograph was taken the tank wagon, without warning rolled completely over onto its wheels. Fortunately no-one was near it at the time.

Driffield - click to enlargeThe leading 45 ton wagons lie where they were thrown in the derailment. Despite being "empty" there was sufficient bitumen residue which had solidified to cause a problem in righting these tank wagons. The cause of the accident was overspeeding. Note the distortion in the track.

Having recovered the Blyton wagons, attention could again be switched to the locomotive at Driffield. The recovery was now scheduled for the 25th September. However, on the night, the Healey Mills crane broke down on site and again the recovery had to be aborted.

The next slot was the 3rd October. By now the wall alongside the locomotive had been demolished but the civil engineer considered that the 1840ís brick wall supporting the adjacent track would not take the weight of the cranes and the 110 ton locomotive so that lifting would be done from one track further away. This time the cranes used were the Doncaster and March, Cambridgeshire cranes both 75 ton rail cranes.

On the night the cranes were rigged but the ground was found to be so soft that the outriggers supporting the cranes disappeared into the ground as soon as weight was taken. Eventually, after several hours of packing sufficient stability was achieved to try a "snatch" i.e. a quick lift and swing in. The weight was taken and with the cranes teetering on the point of overturning the locomotive was swung inward towards the cranes and lowered onto the running track.

It had taken nearly a month to recover a locomotive from what should have been a simple incident.

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This file last updated: Wednesday, 09-Feb-2000 20:47:24 EST
Copyright © David Fry 1999