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This accident happened on the complex & extremely busy set of tracks in & out of Paddington station, on some of which trains travel in both directions. A light train (by which I mean one of those that is occupiable all along, with small engines under the floor – ‘multiple unit’ trains, they are often called) had just left Paddington station; and for reasons that will never be known, passed two danger signals at the Ladbroke Grove junction until it was on one of those bidirectional tracks, on which a ‘high-speed train’ (HST), pulled by a heavy diesel locomotive at the front & pushed by another at the back, was travelling at high speed in the opposite direction – that being the reason why the just-passed signals were at danger. The two trains collided head-on at a combined speed of about 130mph; and the fuel-tanks of both trains ruptured in such a way as to disperse the fuel in them finely, resulting in the extreme blaze seen in the photograph.
The total death-toll of the accident was 31; and many more were injured – some very severely. Survivors can be seen in the image standing at the trackside watching helplessly as the carriage that infamously took the brunt of the fire – carriage ‘H’ – the foremost carriage of the heavy HST – blazes out-of control.