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Weekly wins 11-year campaign to honour rail crash dead

An 11-year campaign by a weekly newspaper to honour the memory of 17 people killed in a rail crash on its patch has achieved its goal.

The Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer has been successful in installing a plaque to remember the victims of the Sutton Coldfield railway disaster, which happened 61 years ago last week.

On January 23 1955 the York to Bristol express derailed in the town, leaving 17 dead, 43 injured and countless lives of the 300 passengers and those that came to their aid permanently affected by what happened.

The Observer originally launched its campaign to remember the dead on the 50th anniversary of the crash, but the project didn’t get off the ground due to issues including rail regulation and health and safety.

The appeal was relaunched to coincide with the disaster’s 60th anniversary last year, with the newspaper finding the previous obstacles of the past decade easier to overcome.

The plaque was unveiled at Sutton Coldfield railway station on Sunday, and provided a front page for the Observer on Friday.

Sutton memorial

Editor Gary Phelps told HTFP: “It’s been 11 long years since we first called for a memorial at Sutton Coldfield railway station, but last weekend’s unveiling made it all worthwhile – it was an emotionally-charged day attended by many people who had been involved on the day of the crash in 1955.

“Our guest of honour was a gentleman who had survived the tragedy as a six-year-old boy, but had lost his brother, sister and aunt in the crash. Their names are on the monument we unveiled.

“The disaster made international news at the time, but has largely been forgotten about since, something we felt was clearly wrong, and our readers agreed.”

He added: “Eleven years is a long time, but we were willing to keep trying with this because we knew local people had waited even longer for a suitable memorial to be erected.

“The local community united to help us get the plaque put in place, which is apt because the memorial also recognises the many local people who rushed to the aid of the injured.

“I think this is a great example of a newspaper properly connecting with the community it serves, and persevering to get something done.”