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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Kendal Train Wreck-1957

The second disaster in world history and the worst train disaster in Jamaica happened in 1957 at Kendal, Jamaica. Hundreds of people from the St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church boarded a train at the Kingston Railway Station for an all day excursion to Montego Bay under the guidance of their pastor, the Reverend Father Charles Earle.

The train also had on board were pickpockets and other crimminals. The tally for passengers totaled at least 1600.
At around 11:30 p.m. on the train's return leg, as the two diesel engines and dozen wooden cars neared the sleeping town of Kendal, Manchester, three shrill whistle blasts signalled the journey's abrupt and tragic end. Within minutes, the train had picked up speed and derailed. Fragments of human bodies were strewn among scores of twisted metal. Close to 200 persons lost their lives, and 700 sustained injuries in what was described as the worst rail disaster in Jamaica's history, and the second worst rail disaster in the world at that time.

The cause of the accident was later determined to be the accidental closure of an angled wheel (brake) cock that had been placed incorrectly. Some survivors reported that many of the hooligans had ridden on the platforms and steps and some had tampered with that angle cock while en route to Montego Bay. Others indicated they had seen the wheel in question tightened in Montego Bay. While neither of these accounts could be confirmed, some things were known for sure. The train was overcrowded - there were 130-150 passengers per car. Confidence in the rail service was shaken and much looting and robbing of the dead and injured occurred after the crash. The ensuing investigation found a number of deficiencies among the Jamaica Railway Corporation. Regarding the train in question - the general standard of maintenance of the brake equipment was deemed unsatisfactory.

In 2001, a monument in the form of a cenotaph was erected at a new cemetery (La Caridad) in Spanish Town. Inscribed in the monument are the names of the victims who had suffered that terrible fate on the night of September 1, 1957.


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