Southend Corporation Transport
Trams and Trolleybuses

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Newpaper report and photo of the crash of Southend Tram 57 in late 1941, from the Southend Standard of December 24, 1941.
A Corporation tramcar was, on Friday night, involved in an alarming accident, in which, however, the only injury was to the driver, who suffered severe shock.
The tram was proceeding from the Kursaal to Victoria Circus at about 9.30, when, at the junction of Southchurch Avenue and Southchurch Road, it left the rails, careered across the highway with a loud rumbling noise and crashed into the wall of Dr. P. C. Bennison’s house, Oakhurst, at the corner of Southchurch Road and Bournemouth Park Road.

After leaving the rails, the front of the tram swung to the right and the vehicle, striking the edge of the kerb, fell broadside across the wall, which remained practically undamaged. The upper deck of the tram, striking the wall, was badly dented, and for about half its length was pushed sideways away from its attachment to the lower deck. A good deal of glass on the near-side of the tram was smashed. It was fortunate that there were only two passengers in the vehicle, and that they escaped injury.

The driver, Mr. James Watkinson aged 59 years, of St. Andrew’s Road, Shoeburyness, was taken to the Southend General Hospital suffering from severe shock, but sustained no other injury. The conductor was unhurt”.

That was how the Southend Standard of December 24, 1941 described the accident that befell Southend tram 57.

The article goes on to describe the recovery, after the disabled tram had been “marked by red lights” during the night - remember, the blackout was in force at the time. It then added that “no apparent cause of the accident is known” and that “this is the first time one has been known to overturn”. Recognising that the car was traversing - or trying to traverse - a sharp curve, it was noted that “the track is pronounced in good order”. And “the tram did no damage to the track, or to the road”.

[and is there a prize for the reporter who managed to put no fewer than 6 commas in the first sentence?!!]

The accident was subsequently noted in the minutes of the Transport Committee on January 9, 1942, when “The Acting Manager reported with respect to the accident to a tramcar on the 19th ultimo when the vehicle left the rails in Southchurch Road near to Bournemouth Park Road, and stated that no injury was suffered by any of the passengers travelling therein”.

I’ve not traced any other references to the accident. The route northbound from the Kursaal is steadily uphill until the road crosses the LTS railway, then drops reasonably steeply to the junction and 90 degree turn into Southchurch Road. Was this a case of brake failure, either for mechanical/electrical reasons or due to driver error?

Given that the tramway was to be abandoned completely only 4 months later, it is obvious that number 57 was not repaired, although I have not traced a formal record to that effect.

The building "Oakhurst" is still there in very similar condition today, as I can attest as I visit it every 6 months - it's my dentist's practice! The wall is still intact and even today, you can see different coloured stonework which suggests where the repairs were made.

Richard Delahoy

Photo taken by Southend Standard, Richard Delahoy collection, Saturday 20 December 1941, Southchurch Road/Bournemouth Park Road, Southend

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