1855



MITCHAM

24th OCTOBER 1855

extracted and adapted from the report by

W. Yolland Colonel R.E.

An accident occurred to the 4..48 P.M. train from Croydon to Wimbledon, on the Croydon, Mitcham, and Wimbledon Railway, on the 24th October, which resulted in the death of the engine driver.

The place of the accident is about one mile and a half from the Croydon junction. When I visited the spot, shortly after the occurrence, and before the line had been repaired, I found ivery much thrown out of its true position, the rails being bent in and out for a length of about 63 yards. The first appearance of bending in the rails was very slight, and hardly to be detected ; but proceeding along the line in the direction the train was going, the distortion of the rails rapidly increased, until at the end of the distance named, the line assumed quite a zig-zag appearance, the rails, however, preserving their parallelism and continuity, and the chairs remaining unbroken and retaining their keys; but at this point, no doubt from the extreme bending of the rails, the end of a meeting rail at the joint was forced out of its chair and became entangled in the right hand driving-wheel, around which it wound itself breaking across somewhere about the middle of its length; the engine here left the rails, running off to the right and upsetting. The line was broken up for o further distance of about 23 yards.

Close to the spot where I detected the first bending in the rails I had the line opened out, and of the two first sleepers exposed, one had but 2 inches of ballast under it, and the other almost none. I had then a number of other sleepers cleared out, and the quantity of ballast under them varied from 5 inches to 7 inches, which would give the total depth of ballast on the line at this place from 9 to 15 inches; the quantity given in the details of the line which were furnished by the chief engineer is stated to be 2 feet in depth. It was slated to me, when I was examining the line, that at this spot the railway occupied the site of an old tramway, which to all appearance it does, and that that would account for the apparent deficient amount of ballast, the consolidation of the old tramway rendering a large amount unnecessary; but. when I came to examine the substratum I found it to be soft athat of a ploughed field, and it appeared subsequently in evidence at the inquest that this part of the line had been sold to a landowner, who had brought it into cultivation; other evidence given by the servants of the Company went to show that after the opening of the line 'the sleepers had slewed from a straight line in several "places," that'' the rails sank with the weight of the engine," that" the rails " always gave a bit of a shake when the train passed on them between Mitcham and Wimbledon, and that there had been a sunken rail near the Croydon  unction. Whilst I was examining the line the agent of the contractor denied, in the presence of the chief engineer, that he was bound to put two feet of gravel on the line. I must be permitted to say that, from my knowledge of the engineer, he is quite incapable of wilfully making a mis-statement, but the error was an unfortunate one, as it tended to mislead the inspecting officer. The evidence which I have obtained with regard to the speed of the trains is, that they were timed to do the distance (6 miles) in 12 minutes; but the locomotive superintendent having learned, I presume, the state of the line, directed the driver not to mind his time-table. but to drive steadily; this order does not appear to have been much attended to, as the distance appears frequently to have been done in 13 minutes. and in one instance in 12 minutes : this would give a speed of 30 miles nn hour, but if the stoppage which all trains had to make at Mitcham, and the reduced speeds required in passing the junction and approaching either end of the line, be taken into consideration, the speed will be found to be full 36 miles on hour over some parts of the line. This speed, which, on an ordinary well consolidated line, would be quite safe and nothing unusual, must, on a line in the condition which this one appeared to be in, have been highly dangerous.

To account for the line being in this condition, when it is stated to have been in good order at the time of its inspection, I am informed that it was ballasted during perfectly dry weather, and, moreover, that the ballasting was done by horses and not with locomotive power; the latter is of great service in consolidating a line and detecting weak points before the line is opened for traffic; a few days before the line was opened there was a heavy fall of rain, and the line became in the condition described.

In my opinion, all things point out the cause of the accident to have arisen from a high speed over a line deficient in ballast, and imperfectly consolidated; and as from the position and circumstance of the line it is probable that high speeds will be maintained over it, I consider it incumbent on the Company to see that the line is amply ballasted, and that they a have a well consolidated permanent way before recurring to high speeds; more especially as the rail is lighter than ordinary, and the joints are not fished.

GEO. WYNNE,

Lieut.· Col. Royal Engineer.,


WITH reference to Lieut. Colonel Wynne's report of the 4th instant, on the circumstances connected with the accident which 
occurred on the Wimbledon and Croydon Railway on the 24th October, I beg to remark that an inspecting officer is furnished by the engineer with the details of the mode of construction adopted in making any new lice of railway, and he accepts those details as correct, unless there be any circumstances calculated to throw doubt on them. If, however, when making his inspection, from the appearance of any part of the line, or from the oscillation or unsteadiness of the engine, he has reason to think that the line has not been properly made, or that there are any errors in the details supplied to him, he makes particular examination of that which has attracted his attention; but in the generality of cases the unevenness in the motion of the engine would be more likely to have resulted from the line being badly packed, than from a deficiency of ballast; and it would be quite impossible for him, as he travels over the line on any engine:', to detect all the places in which on insufficient supply of ballast has been laid down.

In the present instance, there was nothing, to create any suspicion that the details were not strictly correct; for, although I believe it was only the second time that an engine had passed over the line, I found the motion very even and smooth. From what has subsequently transpired, it is probable that this smoothness was partly due to the line having been made during a very dry season, and had I considered that the line was in n different state from all new lines, I should have reported the fact, as an additional reason for their Lordships' assent to the opening for traffic being withheld, besides those given in my reports of the 11th and 29th September.

Subsequent to my inspections, but prior to the opening of the line for traffic, a very large quantity of rain fell: and it is well known that all new lines require to be very carefully looked to after they are completed, more particularly after heavy rains. 
I am unable to state whether any persons were employed on the line subsequent to these rains, but prior to the day on which it was opened.

W. YOLLAND,

I.ieut.- Col. Royal Engineers.

Make a free website with Yola