Shortly after 8.15am on this Tuesday, two trains full of people on their way to work, collided just beyond the platform on the Manchester side of Eccles Station.
Rescuers, worked by the light of fires built from wrecked coaches, toiled throughout the morning and recovered 16 bodies. Over 80 people were taken to hospital, three dying later.
The trains involved were the 6.53 am from Kenyon Junction to Manchester Exchange and the 6.5 am Workman's Special from Rochdale to Pennington.
The train from Kenyon had stopped at Eccles to pick up passengers and was moving slowly from the station when the collision occurred.
The Rochdale train ran into it sideways, missing the engine, scraping the first coach and then ploughing through several coaches before striking the embankment and toppling over onto its side.
A number of coaches on the train were wrecked and debris was strewn over the permanent way. Uninjured and slightly injured passengers immediately set about the work of rescue.
They were handicapped by the conditions. Rescuers used wood from wrecked coaches in order to make bonfires to see where the trapped were.
In the meantime, help had arrived and ambulances were kept busy conveying the injured to hospital. At the outset, pieces of the coaches were used as stretchers and splints. When the casualty service arrived they took control and the injured were quickly transferred to hospital.
Many who were trapped underneath had to wait for special lifting devices and breakdown gangs from Patricroft sheds. Some of the trapped were dead. It was well into the afternoon when rescue work was finally completed. One of the last to be released was a man who was located fairly early after the accident had occurred.
A red-bearded man who was trapped by the legs and in great pain was given sustenance by Councillor E Moore, a member of the Eccles casualty services by crawling under the wreckage.
Dr. G Leslie also gave the man an injection of morphia. The man was released after 4.1/2 hours and lived. He was part of a group of workmen who survived the crash.
In one instance, a nearby house was converted into a rest centre for those who were badly shaken. The scene shortly after the crash was indescribable. In the pitiful light of the fires men were engaged in stripping coaches to get to those who were trapped.
The injured were being pulled out by the score, receiving first aid treatment on the ground. There was a steady stream of stretcher bearers along the platform and up the station steps to the ambulances which waited at the station approach.
Hundreds of passengers who escaped with bruises and a shaking were standing amongst the wreckage. Doctors in white coats were administering morphia to the badly injured, whilst nurses in their uniforms were to be seen applying bandages and supplying stimulants.
Shouts of "Doctor here" were frequently heard amongst the din of creaking wood and the hissing of steam from the engine which had overturned. Later the work of rescue was made easier by the light of powerful lamps. A 16 year old member of the Eccles Casualty Service (Dept. 5) was one of the victims. She was of Anson Street, Monton and her body was recovered by a member of the casualty service. Two railway officials from Longsight were also among the dead.
The driver and fireman of the Kenyon train were also uninjured, but the driver of the Rochdale train and his fireman were detained in hospital. Passengers who had escaped injury and some of the slightly injured, also assisted in the work of rescue, as did the police and many others who were at the scene. In addition to the local ambulances there were ambulances from several neighbouring districts. The work of removing the injured to Eccles and Patricroft was carried out expeditiously.
Considerable difficulty was experienced in identifying the women victims, chiefly because they carried their identity cards in their handbags which were lost amongst the wreckage. By the afternoon of the same day practically all the male victims had been identified. When the last of the trapped passengers had been removed, breakdown gangs with cranes set to work clearing the track of the wreckage.
This went on throughout the night. By next morning sufficient progress had been made to permit traffic on certain sections of the track.
Officials of the L.M.S. Railway Co. visited the scene of the accident prior to instituting an enquiry
This story by Tony Flynn first appeared on the original SalfordOnline website on the 9th January 2003.