1862

EAST CROYDON


17th NOVEMBER 1862


extracted & adapted from the report by

W. Yolland Colonel R.E.

A slight collision that occurred on the 17th November 1862 on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway near East Croydon station, between an empty engine and a passenger train, both belonging to the South-Eastern Railway Company, which collision was reported by the latter company with a request that the circumstances under which it happened might be investigated. No person was hurt and scarcely any damage was done to the rolling stock.

A pilot engine which had assisted a goods train from the Bricklayer's Arms to Red Hill, left that station for the Bricklayer's Arms about 10.45 a.m. It was checked and nearly stopped by a signal against it at the Stoat's Nest telegraphic signal station, and it came to a standstill and stopped for about two minutes at Caterham station 7 3/8 miles from Red Hill, and three miles from East Croydon, and then the semaphore arm was lowered, and it proceeded about 11.10 a.m. When the engine got within sight of the East Croydon up distant signal, which is about 640 yards south of the platform, the driver says he found it on against him, and he shut off the steam and told his fireman to apply the break, and then he steam the reverse way, the fireman put on the heard a knocking beneath the engine and he walked tender break, and he whistled for the guard’s round the gangway to ascertain what it was, and he
found that he had lost the bolt of one of the eccentrics. He says the engine was still going slowly ahead, and never actually stopped down the falling gradient of 1 in 264, towards the station, and when he ascertained what was the matter, he told the fireman to put on the steam, so that ho might see how the engine travelled without the bolt, and found that she went all right travelling slowly ; but the fireman had told him that the distant signal was all
right before he directed the steam to be turned on, and he proceeded onwards all right towards the station, and heard the distant signal go to danger, as the engine passed over the treadle that released it, and allowed it to go to danger, as he still stood on the gangway, and when he had passed the distant signal 20 or 30 yards, he heard another train coming behind him, at which time he states he was travelling nearly 10 miles an hour. He says he directed the immediately took place. The pilot engine was travelling with the tender foremost, and the buffer beam was sprung from the effects of the collision, and it was knocked forward, and ran down to the station. The engine-driver and fireman who had also jumped off; running after the engine, and the driver got on to it again, he says at the station platform, but other evidence says, before he reached it. The fireman states the semaphore signal was not lowered for them at Caterham ; but the signalman came out and told thedriver that it was all right, and his other evidence is in close accordance with that of the driver ; and both, am sorry to say, I believe to be untrue in many particulars. Thus it appears certain, that the collision took place upwards of 80 yards outside or south of the up distant signal. There is strong evidence to prove that the engine had actually stopped (under which circumstances it was the duty of the fireman to go back and warn the next up train) ; but that when they heard or saw the train coming, or perhaps before they did so, the steam was put on, and the engine set in motion towards the station, before the collision occurred, which probably diminished its  effects. Both driver and fireman gave their evidence in a very unsatisfactory manner, and it left the impression at the time that it was full of false statements, which were proved to be so by the evidence of other men.

The train that ran into the pilot engine was the 9.10 a.m. South-Eastern up train from Hastings, which consisted of engine and tender, and seven vehicles, including one break van, and the driver informed me that he found the distant and station signals against him at Caterham station ; that he could see the distant signal 500 or 600 yards before he got to it, and that he passed inside the distant signal without its being taken off, and was pulling up when these semaphore signal was lowered to "caution," at which time he thinks he might be running four or five miles an hour, and was about 100 yards distant from the semaphore signal; he says he saw the signal- man at Caterham when he went to lower the semaphore signal, but got no hand signal from him, and when the signal was lowered he put on the steam and proceeded, but does not know at what time he passed the signal box.

He also stated that when he approached the cutting south of East Croydon station he found there was steam in the cutting and he thought it was owing to a Brighton train coming out from the East Croydon station ; but presently ho perceived that there was an might on the up road ; that before he entered the cutting he had shut off the steam between the wooden bridge and the brick one, in order to stop at East Croydon station, and when he saw the other engine, he reversed his own engine and applied the steam the reverse way, the fireman put on the tender break, and he whistled for the guard’s break; he say he was travelling 10 or 12 miles an hour when he first saw the engine, it might be a little more, and the pilot engine might be 300 or 400 yards off when he first saw her, but he could not speak to the distance, and he thinks he was running six or seven miles an hour when the collision took place. He says the collision was not a violent one, and only broke two links of the screw coupling between the tender and the carriage next to it, the draw bar, and the spring of the coupling between the engine and tender. 

The driver also stated that the up distant signal was a bad signal to sec during the day time, and that that lie did not see it until after the collision had taken place ; that it was liable to be obscured by the steam of engines coming out, and that the disc signal cannot be seen so well as the semaphore arm. I think the driver is correct on all these points. The driver
would prefer working under the telegraphic system of signalling trains as followed on the South-Eastern Railway, and that he thought it safer for himself and the public.

The fireman and guard of the train confirm the driver’s statement that the semaphore signal at Caterham was lowered to caution and no hand signal was given; the fireman also says he think they passed it about 11.20 and that they were about the proper time, and due at East Croydon station at 11.24. Shortly after the collision took place the guard of the tran went back and succeeded in stopping a Brighton up train, which had been permitted to pass Caterham station before the pilot engine, or the 9.10 a.m. Hastings train had arrived at East Croydon station.

I do not think it is clear that the driver of the 9.10 a.m. up Hastings train was keeping a sufficiently good look out ahead as he approached East Croydon station, as the pilot engine could be seen upwards of 680 yards back from the spot at which the collision took place; but it must also be remarked that the train was not supplied with a sufficient proportion of break power, as one break van for 7 vehicles is decidedly inadequate for trains that ravel at high speed; and it must also be admitted that wherever the system of working trains by telegraph is followed it has a tendency to diminish the watchfulness with which a driver should at all times proceed. The driver will be sure to assume, no caution by word of mouth being given to him on passing Caterham station, in obedience to the regulations, that there was not up train or engine between Caterham and East Croydon in front of his train. The pilot engine was improperly travelling tender in front.

I stated in my report of the 15th instant on the collision which occurred on the 6th November on the incline between New Cross and Forest Hill, that the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company had in October 1857 determined to adopt a system of signalling trains by electric telegraph, between the Bricklayers Arms Junction, and Stoat’s Nest stations." The regulations were dated the 25th of that month, and, as I understand, they have never been altered or modified in any way up to the time of the collision on the 6th November as regards the portions of the line between Caterham and Croydon and Croydon and Norwood.

I have appended a complete copy of those regulation to my former report, so that it is unnecessary to repeat them in this report. The circumstances which were elicited in making this inquiry are very remarkable and somewhat difficult of belief, but the facts are indisputable.

The signalman who was on duty at Caterham station, on the day when the collision took place, informed me, that he had been a telegraphic signalman a little over three years, all the time at Caterham station, and that there was a copy of the instructions dated the 25th October 1857 in the telegraphic signalbox when he first went there, and he had read it. The 4th par. of these regulations is as follows ;

4. No second train or engine must be allowed to follow until the”IN” signal of the previous trains or engine at the next station has been taken; nor then, until the period of time allowed between trains or engines following one another on the same line has elapsed (according to general Rules and Regulations), but if from any failure of the telegraphic communication or other cause the “IN” signal of the previous trails or engine shall fail to be given or taken, and in the meanwhile a second train or engine shall have arrived, it may, after coming to a standstill and after the fixed time has elapsed,  and the signalman has warned the driver by word of mouth that the line in front is not signalled clear, be allowed to proceed wills caution, provided always that the " STOP ALL" or danger signal herein-after mentioned has not been communicated " from the next station.

The signalman who gave his evidence with great clearness and evidently knew what he was saying, stated distinctly that lie had never had any instructions to obey the regulations, dated 25th October 1857 ; that the book of regulations and those of October 1857 do not correspond, and that he always worked according to the Book of Regulations, and not according to Rule No.4 of the printed instructions dated 25th October 1857, because it says on the top of these last, that "the signalling of trains by " electric telegraph does not in any way alter any " of the common rules for working station and distant " signals." And he thought these telegraphic instructions were introduced to let them know that trains were coming, and so, he regularly telegraphed the various trains "OUT”and"IN,”and entered them in the trains signal book ; but he never detained a train until the”IN”signal had been received from the station ahead for the previous train, if the interval of five minutes prescribed by the Book of Regulations had elapsed between the two trains ; and never allowed a second train to proceed although the “IN " signal had been received for the previous train from the station in advance, if the five-minutes interval had not elapsed. Ho telegraphed the pilot engine forward to Croydon as passing Caterham at 11.8 a.m., the Hastings train at 11.18, and the Brighton train at 11.25. The line was blocked by telegraphic signal irons Croydon at 11,28 and reported clear again at 11.38.

Another man was in the signal box learning the duty on that day, and both agree lu saying that the Hastings train was permitted to go forward by "hand" signal and not by the lowering of the "semaphore “signal arm as stated by the driver, fireman, and guard of that train. The difference is not material as affecting the collision, because both parties agree in saying that the train was permitted to go forward by the exhibition of a “ caution" signal, but differ as to the nature of that signal. It is not asserted that the train was brought to a "stand still,” or that the driver was warned “by word of mouth” as required by the fourth paragraph of the instructions of 25th October 1857, and thus the instructions were disobeyed altogether.

Now the remarkable fact to which attention must be drawn, is not that the signalman should make such a mistake in reading these instructions, but that having been in force for upwards of three years it should be discovered that they had never been obeyed at all by this signalman, and that the fact should not have sooner become known to the officers of the company.

The signalman at New Croydon Junction signal box, when closely pressed with reference to the entries in the telegraph book in which frequent erasures are apparent, admitted that they did not observe the printed instructions of the 25th October 1857, as regards observing the interval of time prescribed by the Book of Regulations (five minutes is therein laid down), as I found one train permitted to follow another at an interval of three minutes, when the “IN" signal for the previous had not been received. It also appeared that the train were not brought to a stand still and that the signalman worked according to his own judgement.

The same remark with reference to the want of knowledge of the officers of the company is applicable to the practice followed at New Croydon Junction, in opposition to the Instructions as was made respecting the Caterham signalman, except that in this instance there is no excuse for it the part of the signalman; it is mere disobedience of orders, and a want of discipline, and the two cases combined seemed to show that a greater amount of out of door supervision is urgently required on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

The distance between Caterham and East Croydon is, as I have already stated, three miles, and the telegraphic signal book shows that a large number of trains pass over this distance in three minutes, which is at the rate of 60 miles an hour, and the Caterham signalman informed me, that he recollected a Brighton train being signalled in in 2 3/4 minutes, which is upwards of 65 miles an hour, and the facts whichI have detailed relating to the practices followed at the signal stations at these two stations, and the disregard of the instructions coupled with the very high speed at which some trains travel over the line, and the very few collisions that have taken place on it, tell very strongly in favor of the watchfulness and care observed by the drivers and firemen of the engines of the two companies running over this length, and it is only right that I should draw attention to it.

At the same time, I am bound to say, that I do not think the instructions for telegraphic signalling and the position of the signals at East Croydon are adequate for this very fast traffic.

East Croydon station, as regards the up line, is covered by a semaphore signal 180 yards south of the centre of the platform, and by a distant signal, which as I have already said is not well seen by day, 460 yards south of the semaphore signal, and both are worked by the signalmen in the telegraphic signal box at New Croydon Junction, 580 yards north of the semaphore signal.

In my opinion, looking at the nature of the line, falling towards the station, and the speed at which trains travel over it, the semaphore signals should be replaced by a telegraphic signal box provided with the regular out of door station and distant signals; the down distant signal being placed at New Croydon Junction box, and the up distant signal at 800 yards south of the proposed East Croydon telegraphic signal box. The control of the Croydon yard being placed as at present in the hands of the signalmen at new Croydon Junction, and the means of communication by telegraph or by bell and arm being provided between the signalmen at East Croydon and New Croydon Junction.

I would also suggest for the consideration of the directors and officers of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway company, the expediency of adopting the block system of working trains over their portion of the joint line between the Bricklayers Arms Junction and Stoat's Nest. An interval of space, if observed, no matter how short, will always prevent a collision taking place between following trains. An interval of time, though it amounts to 10 minutes, is at all times uncertain, and, as has been proved in this instance, will not prevent a collision from taking place, which might have been a very serious one, if the weather had been unfavorable. Under the block system a much larger amount of traffic can, in my opinion, be safely worked than has hitherto been accomplished c.n two lines of rails, provided the signal stations be put up at appropriate distances from each other. I should not omit to remark that the telegraphic signal station at Caterham requires a speaking telegraphic instrument in addition to the train line instrument.     

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