A CHANCE email asking for information on what artefacts March Museum had on display concerning the Soham rail disaster of 1944, has resulted in a brass plate from the engine being donated to the Museum.
Richard Munns, vice-chairman of the museum, explained the donor can’t remember how he came by the plate but thinks that a member of the railway regiment had liberated the plate while the locomotive was being cut up.
Soham was saved from disaster by the actions of train driver Benjamin Gimbert and James Nightall as the first wagon of a train carrying munitions caught fire just outside Soham station and while attempting to move it from the remaining wagons, it exploded killing Nightall and signalman Frank Bridges.
In addition to Ben Gimbert’s medals, the Museum holds a lot of the original documentation from the disaster.
The plate donated to the Museum was made in 1943 by the North British Locomotive Company Ltd of Glasgow for number 25205, which was then numbered by the War Dept as 7337.
This engine was loaned to the LNER.
The engine, although badly damaged in the explosion, was repaired and shipped to France in 1945.
Eventually it ended up in Holland. After repatriation it was numbered 77337 and taken into stock at the Longmoor Military Railway and named ‘Sir Guy Williams’.
It was later renumbered and stopped working in 1965 but was retained in working order for a couple of years for instructional use before being cut up in 1967.