27th NOVEMBER 1851

Extracted and adapted from the report by

Simmons R.E., Captain,


 The Ford telescope bridge over the river Arun, 

was the first ever bridge of its kind to be constructed

Ford drawbridge which strides over the river Arun near Ford station, was the scene of 
macabre incident on the 27th November 1851 when a passenger train hauled by ‘Sharp 
Brothers Singles' loco No. 81, ran into the rear of a cattle train and went over the 
embankment, dragging its train behind. Two passengers and the fireman of No. 81 were 
injured, the latter dying of his injuries a few days later. The driver of the cattle train on 
seeing collision was imminent jumped into the river to save himself, while the other driver on loco No. 81, who had been at fault for disregarding a signal, attempted to commit suicide, first by slit his own throat as recognition of his guilt; he failed, and then he too jumped into the river. He was rescued, presumably none to willing, by one of the guards involved in the incident.

 have the honour to inform you, that in compliance with your instructions, I proceeded to Arundel on the 2nd instant, to inquire into the circumstances attending the accident which occurred from a collision between a passenger and a goods train, near the Ford station, on the Brighton and Portsmouth section of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, on the 27th ultimo. The fireman of the passenger-train died on the 30th ultimo from the injuries he had sustained; and a coroner's inquest was held on the 2d instant, at which I attended.

The following are facts which I learned.- The passenger-train, due to leave Brighton at 
9.30 p.m., left on the evening of the 27th ultimo at its proper time, and is stated to have 
reached the Littlehampton station about a minute late; but It appears that on this line the 
times of departure from and arrival at the terminal stations alone are noted, and that no 
record is kept of those times at the intermediate stations, After the train had remained a 
minute there, it proceeded on its way. At 1 mile 54 chains from the Littlehampton station is situated the Ford station, at about 100 yards from which, on the Littlehampton side, is the river Arun, which is crossed by a bridge constructed to be drawn back, so as to leave a 
clear opening for the passage of vessels. “ .'he line is inclined upwards on each side 
towards the bridge; a single line of rails only is laid across the river, and on each side at 
point where a single line runs into double line, is a signal and switch- box. The signals 
always stand at “ danger"; but ten minutes before a train is due, if the line is clear, the 
signal for that train is placed at “ caution”; if, however, two trains are due about the same 
time, the signals are kept up at “danger” till the first train appears in sight, a “ caution” 
signal is then exhibited to it, the signal for the other line remaining at danger” till that train has passed over the bridge. On the day in question the goods train, which leaves 
Portsmouth for Brighton every day at 7 p.m. arrived at the Ford station at about 20 minutes to 10. The regular goods-train on this line, of which there are two daily, are stated to start at fixed times from the termini and to work their way to their journey's end as quickly as possible, no record being kept of the time of passing the several stations, This train having taken on some additional wagons (80 that it consisted in all of 42) at the Ford station, was ready to leave that station at about or 10 minutes past 10 o’clock. The passenger-train from Brighton was about two minutes over due, but as it was not signalled at the opposite side of the bridge as being in sight, the goods-train received the green light or cautionary signal, and :proceeded on its way, the red light being exhibited towards the expected passenger train, as 18 proved by the statement of the engine- driver of the goods-train. By the time the engine of the goods-train had reached the middle of the bridge, the passenger train appeared in sight, and approached without slackening speed. 

The engine-driver and fireman had, it appears, occupied themselves about the-fire after 
leaving Littlehampton station, and neglected to look for the signal at the bridge, although 
they came in sight of it within about 300 yards of Littlehampton - station. The guard was in a break-van next to the tender, and he states that in consequence of the steam from the 
engine obscuring the glass of his look-out window, he could -. not see any thing ahead. 
The passenger train arrived at the points near the bridge, where the double line of rails is 
turned into the single line, at the time when the goods-engine and six or seven wagons had passed; the passenger engine struck the side of the eighth waggon, and glancing off’ it went down the embankment, dragging the train after it. The fireman had his skull 
fractured, and remained insensible till his death. The engine-driver was not injured by the 
accident; but immediately afterwards cut his throat-as he did not, however. succeed in 
killing himself in that way he afterwards threw himself into the river, but was pulled out 
again by the guard, and has remained in a dangerous state ever since. He states, that after 
leaving Littlehampton, he had been looking at the fire, and that the glare from that 
prevented him for the moment from seeing the signals.

This is attributable to the carelessness of the engine-driver, who is without excuse, for 
having allowed himself and his fireman, on approaching the part of the line in question, to be occupied in any way which could distract their attention from the signalBut as this 
accident shows that signals may be neglected. and as the consequence would have been 
infinitely more serious had such neglect taken place with the bridge open for the passage 
of vessels: 
I would recommend that the line between Ford and Littlehampton be worked as a single 
line by means of the electric telegraph, no train being allowed to leave either station till the line has been signalled as clear from the other station, and that the bridge is not open. This arrangement may be adopted without inconvenience to the traffic.: there are eight
passenger-trains and one goods-train each way daily; the irregular goods, ballast, and coke trains which pass the stations, rarely exceed two or three daily, and the bridge over the Arun is opened on an average for the passage of vessels eight times per week.

An addition to the above recommendation, I would call attention to the fact that no record 
appears to be kept of the times at which the passenger-trains pass the several stations, and 
that the goods-trains are worked without fixed time-tables. Under any circumstances, it 
appears desirable that a record of the times of trains passing the several stations should be 
kept, to afford a check upon the speed of trains and the punctuality of the engine-drivers, 
even on lines where the limited traffic does not appear to render such record indispensable” and also to be a means, in cases of accident, of assisting to determine on 
whom the blame should rest. 

* Depot of loco-men not known.

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