26 August 2009

Operation Smash Hit

RAIL's managing editor Nigel Harris managed to fill five pages recently with his memories of a day 25 years ago when, on 17 June 1984, when a Class 46 'Peak' was propelled at almost 100mph into a nuclear flask in a staged experiment by the Central Electricity Generating Board (CERB), to show just how secure the flask was and that the transportation of this highly-toxic substance by rail was safe.

As ever, Nigel's writing style is very fluid and passionate and it is a fascinating read. Reference is made at the end of the article to online links for video footage and conspiracy theories (yes, they existed back then, too!). We thought we'd have a snoop and see what is of interest.

First is the BBC's Six o' Clock news report on the evening of the crash. It is typically BBC - well-written and completely impartial.

Second is a more atmospheric version, which shows the crash in slow motion. Almost at the end, look at how spectators were permitted amongst the carnage - and none of them wore a hi-vis jacket!

Stills from the day can be viewed by clicking here.

More photos of the wreckage can be viewed by clicking here.

A 9 minute mini documentary, giving full details of why the crash took place is below:

Finally, what of the Peak involved? Well, 46009 was scrapped on site by Vic Berry's scrap merchant. It was to be scrapped anyway, and apparently broke down not long before she undertook her final voyage. A stand-by loco was on hand, though not needed in the event. 46009 was delivered as D146 during December 1961, built at Derby Works - delivered new to the nearby Derby depot. She was purchased by the Railway Technical Centre in 1984. Only 56 Class 46s were built. (GL)