Who was the lady on the train… was she a ghost?
The 24 August this year will mark the 93rd anniversary of a dramatic train crash just outside Sevenoaks which claimed the lives of 13 people. Several years ago, former Dunton Green resident Anthony Perry, a retired Facilities Manager with the NHS, had a strange encounter he believes could be connected with the accident. He has kept quiet about his experience but has now decided to tell his story here in his own words in the hope someone can shed some light on the incident
I had a very strange experience on Tuesday, 5 June 2007. It is 13 years ago since the incident occurred, however it has continued to enter my thoughts regularly over the years and I feel that I need to find out certain information to be able to put this experience to rest.
I am aware that most people are sceptical on the subject of what is to follow, but I can only express how it happened on that day.
My work for the NHS at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London meant I would catch the same train from Dunton Green to Cannon Street and back every day from Monday to Friday, except when I was on holiday.
For my return journey I caught the 5pm service but always arrived at the station a little earlier as I preferred to sit in the same carriage and the same seat. The carriage would normally be full when it departed, but gradually empty at stations along the way and by the time the train reached Knockholt there would usually only be three passengers in the carriage, including myself, who would travel on to Dunton Green and Sevenoaks.
I would always get up from my seat in the long tunnel between Knockholt and Dunton Green to stand at the doors ready to depart from the train.
On this particular day, as I prepared to get off, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. I assumed it was someone sitting in a seat at the end of the carriage to my left, with their legs in the aisle. As we approached the end of the long tunnel under Polhill, I heard a lady with a soft polite voice say: “Excuse me.” I turned around and there stood a lady who was approximately 5ft 2ins tall, slim, with silvery grey hair and a pale complexion. I guessed she was approximately 50- 55 years of age.
The lady was wearing a long black or dark blue skirt, grey cardigan and a white blouse done up to the neck. She didn’t appear to have any luggage and stood with her arms at her side. Once she had gained my attention, she continued: “Could you tell me where this train is going?”
I informed her the train was going to Sevenoaks and asked where she wanted to go to? She replied: “Sevenoaks of course.” She then added: “I have been going up and down on this train all day long.
I was surprised and so asked: Why all day long? Would nobody help you?
“No one would listen to me,” she said.
As we approached the station, I explained that the next stop was Dunton Green followed by Sevenoaks. The train stopped, the doors opened, and I stepped off the train.
I turned around immediately to look at the lady again – but she had disappeared. It wasn’t until I started to go over what had happened that a couple of other strange factors became apparent.
I remembered as I was talking to the lady, the train was rocking more than usual, particularly when I first stood up in the tunnel to get ready for my station. This meant I had to hold onto a bar above my head to steady myself. It then struck me that when I was talking to the lady she had been standing absolutely still and was not holding on to anything to steady herself.
Having gone over this incident many times in my head the only conclusion I can come to is that the lady was a ghost!
I assume when the lady claimed nobody would listen to her, it was perhaps because no one could actually see her – until my encounter with her. To this day I feel such an idiot that I did not realise at the time that I was experiencing something strange.
After doing some research, I discovered that on the 24 August 1927 there was a train crash between Dunton Green and Sevenoaks Station in which 13 people died. Five of the victims were women. The train was the 5pm from Cannon Street.
So far, I have not been able to find the names and ages of the female victims to see if any of them were around the age of the lady I spoke to.
If possible, I would like to contact some of the descendants of the victims to see if they have any photographs that were passed on down the generations. I have never forgotten the lady’s face and would recognise her immediately. It would help prove that I had experienced something extraordinary.
That evening changed my whole outlook on life, and I think to myself why did it happen to me? Why, on a June evening in 2007, did I see someone who at that time would have been dead for 80 years?
* Despite searching online, My Sevenoaks Community has not been able to find a list of names of those who perished in the accident. Does anyone have any ideas where Anthony could find such a list? Has anyone had a similar experience on the Cannon Street to Sevenoaks train?
The Sevenoaks Railway accident
The tragic accident on 24 August 1927 happened between Dunton Green station and Sevenoaks station. The River Class tank engine train, called the River Cray, was Southern Railway’s former afternoon express from Cannon Street to Deal.
Survivors of the crash gave evidence to say they noticed the train rolling more than usual on curves during the journey.
Trains could reach speeds of around 60mph going through the Polhill tunnel but when questioned during an enquiry into the crash, the driver claimed that as he passed Knockholt station he decided to keep the speed down for the four mile descent to Dunton Green because there had been three recent major storms and it was still raining that day.
Despite the drop in speed, passengers giving evidence during the enquiry said were aware that the rolling motion had become quite frightening.
Just beyond Dunton Green Station the railway line curves and goes through a cutting under the road bridge in Shoreham Lane between Riverhead and Sevenoaks. The train rolled so excessively that the cab of the locomotive hit the bridge, derailed, but still carried on for about another 100 yards before turning onto its side
Three of the passenger coaches directly behind crumpled into the locomotive and a fourth coach was smashed against the middle strut of the bridge. As well as the 13 fatalities, many other passengers suffered serious injuries. Amazingly, the driver escaped with cuts and bruises. His fireman also survived but did not regain full consciousness for two days.
The River Cray was one of 21 locomotives named after rivers by Southern Railway. There have since been claims that this was possibly an accident waiting to happen because of several incidents involving similar locomotives in the same year.
In March 1927, a three-cylinder A890 derailed at Wrotham and in August an A800 locomotive did the same at Maidstone. The same month, just four days before the Sevenoaks accident, the A890 and its whole train came off the rails near Bearsted,