King's Cross Voices
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Born in 1951, Ray Knight was King's Cross Station Supervisor in November 1987 when fire broke out in the station. Thirty one people lost their lives. Ray shared his memories of this night with King's Cross Voices Oral Historian Alan Dein on 17th June, 2004.

Andrew Fontenelle
Ray Knight on the Platform
at King's Cross Station
Photo Credit: Sarah Weal

Duration: 5 minutes 53 Seconds. Size: 5.39mb

Ray Knight: That was from '81 'til '87 and then came back to King's Cross. I was station supervisor at King's Cross '87 'til '90. That was my second escape. There was the underground fire. I was on duty that night.

Alan Dein: Where you?

Ray Knight: Yeah. Yeah. I'd swapped me shift, I should have been going home just about that time 'cause I lived at, by that time, I got my home station where I live was on Caledonian Road and I'd swapped to do a late turn and I remember that night pretty well. It was, the trains were running were a bit, a bit of delay and, and the trains were diesel then, 125s were diesel engine each end and we were trying to find out, do quick turn rounds and you know, in those ... everybody mucked in and helped with the cleaning. I was supervisor, we all did a bit of cleaning, helped with the seat reservations and the one thing we had to check was which train had enough fuel to make it back to I think Leeds or Newcastle. And while we were on the train, I was helping out with the cleaning and that and then all these people suddenly started comin' on, it was all very confused. I said well you can't come on here we're still cleaning. They said well somebody said told us to come on down get on the train quick there seems to be some sort of fire up there. I looked out the platform and I could see a bit of smoke and I thought it was oh, one of the litter bins has caught fire which they used to do regularly. You know, somebody's chucked a dog-end in the bin and, but we were getting nothing over our radios, no information at all. And somehow you get a sixth sense about these things, you think oh, perhaps this is a bit more serious than I thought and then the call came back to me that the train on the opposite platform was the one that had enough fuel to get ... but the one we just cleaned didn't. But by that time it was becoming, you realise that this was a more serious ... we were told just to get everybody out of the station and get them on a train and so I managed to find a driver and guard. You know, emergency can you take that train there. It's got enough fuel to get to Leeds or wherever. Then can you just take the train out. We'll get everybody on take the train out, I don't know, not sure where it's going to go but just take the Finsbury Park and we'll get you, we'll get you a message there where, where you're going to go and where you're going to stop. And again, whereas before, you know, the crew might have argued, again people seemed to pick up there was something going wrong even though we didn't know exactly what it was and yeah, okay, and we got everyone out in, it didn't seem that long and by that time when I got back to the concourse you could see then it was serious, there was smoke. I just managed to, I just clearing, we were clearing' everybody out and one bloke was still in the - You know where the body shop is on the King's Cross, behind the indicator well that used to be a through thing with telephones in there and I said to the bloke, for Christ sakes get out, can't you see the smoke? You know, then I thought I had better ring my Misses up and tell her. So I rang her very quickly you know just let her know, didn't know if it was on the news yet, I'm okay, I'm fine, blah, blah, blah, but I might well be home late tonight. So, I just put the phone down and the smoke came and then there was side entrance on the west side of the station, you know where you come up from the underground facing the hotel and the smoke was just coming out like a furnace, you couldn't stand it, it was just roaring out there. It was ... it was absolutely phenomenal.

Alan Dein: Incredible. And, and, and, the the exit and the entrance for the tube was that, was that there then? The one we know today?

Ray Knight: Well there was one, yeah, the one in the middle of the concourse, by that then the whole concourse was full of black smoke and you know it was coming adrift but the entrance to the side was actually roarin', it was like an exhaust, like an exhaust from a jet engine it was coming out that fast. That powerful. I never seen anything like it. And all I could see at the front, I didn't go out the front much, I didn't know the reason, I didn't want to go through the smoke but I think at one point, I, the entire Euston Road, Gray's Inn Road and, and Pentonville Road was just wall to wall fire engines. There was nothing but fire engines. And, it was just a matter then of, by then, you know we're getting messages through the radio. One thing that will always haunt me forever and a day is that at the time the Thameslink Station, it was there but it was originally, the original thing was when the Bedford, what they call the Bedpan, along the Bedford St. Pancras used to go through to Moorgate to the main terminus and that was, they were closing it early each night because they were getting ready for when Thameslink came in. And, it was only afterwards I found out that the firemen didn't know that you could get in there and get into the tube station that way. I just assumed they knew. I just assumed they had plans and you know, I remember the firemen talking to the station, to the Assistance Station Manager that night. And even if they'd known nobody knew where the keys, you know. So that, they could have got to it down there and people could of come up there. Horrible thought when you think about it.


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ай2004 King's Cross Voices Oral History Project