H.W. Tyler Captain R.E.

On the 22nd January, 1858 a accident occurred near New Cross station, soon after the 11h. 15m. passenger train from Croydon to London had left New Cross on the night in question, it came into collision at a speed of 9 or 10 miles an hour, with a goods engine, which was running towards, and had nearly arrived on the main line, out of a neighbouring siding.

The passenger train consisted of an engine and tender, six carriages, and two vans. The passenger engine had it’s buffer plan broken and six passengers and three servants of the company wee injured. The goods engine, the smoke box end of which faced the passenger train had it’s leading wheels thrown off the rails.

The blame is to be attached to the passenger driver. The signal were all right for him to proceed; he saw the goods engine shortly before he struck it, blowing off steam through its cylinders, but he did not suppose that it was going from the siding to the main line. The passenger train left New Cross two minutes late, at 11h. 38m. the goods driver had come on duty at 11 o’clock the same evening, to take two social coal trains to Croydon and Brighton, and was expected to his engine ready by midnight. When he reached New Cross at 11 o’clock to get his engine ready, the night foreman of the traffic department told him to be out in good time, because there was a great deal of work to be done; and he therefore made what haste he could, and brought his engine out to a set of three throw switches, 335 yards from the station platform, at half past eleven. He found the under guard close at hand in the switchman’s box, trimming his lamps, and he sent his fireman to ask if he was ready. The under guard replied that the driver had to come out too soon, and that he should not be 
ready for sometime. The driver then went into the box, and seated himself by the side of the guard.

Soon afterwards, the night foreman of the traffic department came into the box. He told the guard what he had to do, that there were two vans to be taken from a siding called the spare wharf road, and certain wagons from other places on the other side of the main line; and he observed that the Croydon train would soon pass, and that the main line would then be at liberty for the engine to go across.

At the three throw switches above referred to, one pair of points leads to the main line, and the other to the sidings called the wharf sidings, with our interfering with the main line; and the goods driver determined, as soon as the night foreman had left the box, to proceed with his engine to the spare wharf siding, and to take from thence the two vans that were waiting for him, so as to be ready to cross the main line after the passage of the Croydon train.

There was no points man in charge of the switches at this time of night, and the guard, whose duty it was to work them for the engine to pass, was engaged with his lamps. So the driver held them over himself, and caused his foreman to move the engine slowly forward, as he thought to the wharf siding. The night was very dark, and the driver, working the wrong lever, turned his engine on the main line instead of into the siding; and, unaware that he had done so, he was running forward to hold a second pair of points, when the Croydon train suddenly came round the curve that leads to the spot, and produced the collision that has already had been described.

The accident has clearly been caused by the mistake of the driver of the goods engine, who is a man of excellent character, and has been four years a driver, and thirteen years altogether in the Company’s service. He admits his mistake, and is exceedingly sorry for it; and he also admits that had previously been cautioned against working the points himself, which he had no right to do. It is clear that he was actuated solely by a desire to get through his work, and that he was instigated to make extra ordinary exertions by the night foreman; and it would appear, therefore, that a moderate punishment, for having disobeyed orders in working the points, is all that is required to be inflected upon him.

The special coal trains leaving New Cross at midnight run irregularly, according to the requirements of the traffic, and the points at which the present mistake was made are not used during the night for any other purpose. There are other points also, nearer to the station, under the charge of a points man by night as well as by day, through which the coal engines can cross the main line to the east sidings; and the company have wisely determined, that in order to prevent the possibility of another accident of this nature, the points through which the goods engine passed on this occasion to the main line shall in future be kept locked during the hours when the regular points man is absent.

I must add, in conclusion, that the night foreman of the traffic department appears to have acted indiscreetly in urging the goods driver to come out to his work before his proper time, and before his guards were ready for him.

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