13 APRIL 1853

extracted & adapted from the report by

Douglas Galton

Captain Royal Engineers 

An accident which occurred near the New Cross Station, of the Brighton Railway, from a guard having been struck by a bridge whilst standing on the step of his break van.

The train in which the accident occurred, was the two p.m. down train from London to Brighton and Hastings. It consisted of fourteen carriages, of which the three rear carriages, and a break van which was in front of them, were to be detached at Hayward's Heath for Hastings ; the next carriage to this break van was a passenger carriage, with a break and guard's box, in which one of the guards of the through train rode, and another guard was in a break van next to the engine.

It appears that just after leaving the New Cross Station, the guard in the break van in front of the Hastings portion of the train, got out upon the step and handed a newspaper to the guard on the carriage in front of him, but as he turned round to get back to the door of the break he was struck by a piece of timber scaffolding which projected beyond the masonry abutment of a bridge. The line upon which the train was running has lately been relaid, and an alteration has taken place in the span of the bridge, to admit of four lines of rails being laid over this portion of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. The man in charge of the workmen, stated that his instructions were, that no obstruction was to be allowed to come nearer the line than three feet from the rails; which is (as I was informed) a minimum distance allowed by the Company's regulations, between the rails and the bridges on this railway. On measuring the distance of the rail from the bridge, found it to be 50 inches, and the distance of the side of the break van from the bridge is 30 inches. load.

But I was informed that the masonry of the bridge has been cut away since the accident ; and that when the accident occurred the rail was 2 feet 9 inches from the masonry, and that the scaffolding timber which the man struck, projected inches beyond that; and that therefore. the rail was 41 inches nearer to the bridge than it should have been, according to the regulations of the Company upon the subject. The distance at which the obstruction appear to have been was therefore 2 feet 71/2 inches = 31 1/2 inches from the rail ; or 5 feet 2 inches = 62 inches from the centre of the road. The width of the break vanfound to be 8 feet 2 inches, or the half width 4 feet 1 inch, and the side of the break van must therefore have been 13 inches from the piece of timber, or 17 1/2-inches from the bridge, assuming the distance of the bridge from the rail to be three feet. I was informed that the guard who was killed was a stout man, and it would therefore appear that 13 inches would have been scarcely a sufficient width for him, and that he could not, under the circumstances, have avoided being struck when standing on the step. A heavy responsibility must therefore rest with the persons upon devolved the duty of carrying out the regulations on this subject. I was informed that occasionally if a door is open the guards would pass along the steps of the carriages to shut it, although there does not appear to be anything in the regulation on the subject. It is, however, clearly the duty of a guard to look out of his van continually during the journey along the train, to see whether all is safe; and passengers occasionally put their head and even part of their bodies out of the windows, and hence it is absolutely necessary that the distance between the carriages and the bridges should be sufficient to allow of this being done without danger. The distance that a man's head can be projected from the window of a carriage will depend upon the height of the door. I found that with a door 2 feet 4 inches high a man could project his head and body from the window 20 inches, or by stretching out considerably 24 inches. With a door 3 feet high a man could project sixteen or seventeen inches with a door 3 feet 6 inches high a man could project 15 inches.

The doors of the first class carriages are about 2 feet 4 inches high ; the doors of the second class carriages are from 2 feet 10 inches to 3 feel 2:1; inches high ; the doors of the covered third class and Parliamentary are about 3 feet high ; the doors and sides of the open third class carriages are 3 feet 6 inches in height ; and the doors of the break vans are 3 feet high. 

The accompanying table No. 1 shows the width of the several descriptions of carriages in use on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, and the table No. 2 shows several instances of the width between the bridges and the adjacent rail on theLondon, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. With a distance of three feet from the bridge to the adjacent rail, the distance from the bridge to the centre of the roadway will be nearly 66 1/2 inches, the half-width of the widest first class carriage is 48 1/2 inches, which leaves 18 inches between the carriages and the wall with the first class carriage 7 feet 4 inches wide, the distance would he 23 inches. The doors of this description of carriage are scarcely above 2 feet 4 inches in height; and hence, as a man can project his head from the window 20 inches without straining, the distance between the sides of the widest of these carriages and the bridges does not appear sufficient for safety. The same remarkwould apply to the composite carriages. The wide second class carriages and Parliamentary carriages and break vans, although with windows at a great height from the floor, appear to be close upon the limits of safety.

With respect to the open third class carriages, although the sides are higher, yet their width is 8 feet 2 inches, and there are no rails or anything else to prevent the passengers from sitting on the sides or climbing about them; the distance of their sides from a bridge three feet from the rail would be 16 or 17 inches, and I do not consider that this width is sufficient for safety.

I have been informed that no accident has ever occurred to passengers from their being struck by bridges, &c. when looking out of carriages ; but with the small margin for safety which is allowed in many of the above mentioned carriages, an accident of this nature, which would probably be fatal, might occur any day.

Now, the same considerations will apply to the question of the guards passing along the footboards of the carriages. I have mentioned before that there is nothing in the Company's regulations upon this subject—but the safety of the train, as well as motives of convenience, may occasionally require that the guards should pass along the footboards ; and this could not be done with safety unless a space of at least two feet were allowed between the sides of the carriages and the nearest fixed work, which, with the carriages now in use of 8 ft. 2 in. wide, would require 3 ft. 6 in. between such fixed work and the adjacent rail; and then the guards ought to pass along the near side of the train.

The question as to the space required between the sides of carriages and the nearest adjacent fixed works is a very serious one, and has arisen in consequence of the very great increase which has been made in the widths of carriages since the completion of the works on the railway. With the existing spans of the bridges as shown in the accompanying table, this width of carriage appears to have been carried beyond the limits of safety ; and I am therefore of opinion that the serious consideration of the Directors of the London, Brighton, andSouth Coast Railway should be called to this question, which under the above circumstances would appear to involve either an increase in the width of many of the bridges, or a reduction in the width of the carriages.

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