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GB Railfreight names train after hero signaller Bill Taylor

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Logistics operator GB Railfreight yesterday named a locomotive after Signaller Bill (Willie) Taylor, 40 years to the day after his quick thinking prevented a catastrophic train crash.

At 05:30 on Tuesday 1 May 1984, Bill (a signalman at Carlisle Power Signal Box (PSB) realised that 4S55, a Liverpool (Garston) to Glasgow (Gushetfaulds) freightliner train had become divided south of Carlisle and both portions of the train were rolling downhill towards Carlisle Citadel station. It was carrying dangerous, highly explosive chemical goods, including toxic tetraethyl lead compound – the treatment used in leaded petrol – and 750 bags of oxalinic acid.

Using all his knowledge and experience, Bill quickly and calmly switched the uncoupled wagons onto the empty Carlisle Goods Avoiding Line, avoiding disaster. His actions divert the carriages into a bridge and the River Caldew, avoiding the station where passengers were boarding a train.

Speaking to the BBC yesterday , Bill’s son, David Taylor said: “My dad diverted a train which caused quite an incident, but averted a much bigger incident, and thankfully no-one was injured,”

“It is interesting to know that dad was on the ball at 5.30 in the morning after a night shift.

“He must have been a really dedicated signalman. He sadly passed away a year later and naming a locomotive after him makes it all the more poignant.”

A Youtube video shows all the 1984 TV news coverage of the derailment, including interviews with Bill, where he says he wasn’t a hero and was only going his job. He also says that he would do exactly the same thing again if required, and he would be back at work that night.

Bill also later said: “There was little time to discuss what would be the best course of action – I knew there was going to be some form of incident whatever action was taken, but the lesser of the two evils was to divert the runaway away from the station, protecting the station and Carlisle city centre”.

Rail Media’s Paul Darlington reported on the incident for the latest issue RailStaff.

Image credit: Paul Darlington

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