REALLY SideTracked - Hixon Halt and level crossing
We have Motorway Mayhem. We have A-Road Anarchy (cos there aren’t many Motorways in Wales!). But what about public transport users? SideTracked Caches are intended to provide quick Cache-and-dashes at railway stations.
The station at Hixon was opened on the Colwich-Stone line in 1849, and lasted nearly 100 years, closing in January 1947. Twenty-one years after it closed, on 6 January 1968, the adjacent level crossing became infamous as the site of the worst level crossing accident in British history. A very slow moving low-loader, transporting a 110 ton transformer, was making its way from Stafford to Hixon airfield at very low speed, escorted by police. The route took it across Hixon level crossing, which at the time was a fairly new type of crossing, known as an Automatic Half Barrier (AHB), worked automatically by the approach of a train. The warning time from the start of the red lights to the arrival of a train was twenty seconds. Neither the police, who were new to the area, nor the transporter driver were aware of this type of crossing, so started to cross over at a speed of about 2 miles per hour. At that speed, it would have taken about a minute to cross.
When the transporter was about half way across, the warning lights and alarms started. The transporter driver attempted to speed up, but there was insufficient time to clear the crossing before the train, an express from Manchester to London, reached the crossing at a speed of 100mph. There was no chance of it stopping, and it hit the transporter, derailing the train. The train driver was killed, along with eight passengers and two other train crew in the cab.
The accident led to a full judicial enquiry, the first in Britain for a rail accident since the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879. The investigation led to better signs for road users, instructing drivers of long or slow vehicles to phone the signalman before crossing, and also longer warning times and the introduction of amber lights. The modified crossing remained at Hixon until 1999, when it was replaced by the bridge on which the cache is situated. The crossing can still be seen, though no evidence remains of the old station.
I'm not going to give too much away about this cache, other than it is a camouflaged container, containing a log only. Bring your own pen/pencil. The cache should be accessible by wheelchair users, though a bit of dexterity may be needed. There is a good tarmac footpath from the parking spot to the cache site, though it is up a slope. The road can be busy at times, so keep an eye on geo-kids and dogs. Good luck!