1862

NEW CROSS


6th OCTOBER 1862


extracted & adapted from the report by

W. Yolland Colonel R.E.


The inquiry into the circumstances which attended the fatal accident to William Lucas, miner, riding in a third-class carriage on the night of the 6th instant, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

The deceased had a third-class ticket from London Bridge to Gipsy Hill Station, in the train which leaves London Bridge at 8h. 30m. p.m. for Victoria Station, Pimlico; and it appears, that shortly after leaving New Cross Station he opened the door on the off side of the carriage, to release the dress of a female which had been shut in before the train left

London Bridge, and when he had done so he closed the door again, and turned the handle, and then he said " I may as well fasten the catch again," and it is supposed by the passengers in the same carriage that he had actually fastened it, and was in the act of lifting himself back into the carriage when his head came in contact with the pier of an overbridge. He was drawn back into the carriage by some of the passengers, and was ultimately taken to the hospital, but he never spoke and died the same night. His skull had been fractured.

In consequence of the tendency of the passengers to open the carriage doors on the arrival of trains on their metropolitan lines before the trains had actually stopped, the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company determined some time since to place a catch, or second fastening, lower down than the bundle of the door, which catch would require to be lifted and turned off, in addition to turning the handle of the door, before the door could be opened. The object was a desirable one; but it has not answered the purpose, and in this instance it has certainly led to the loss of a man's life.

In the third-class carriage the top of the till of the door, over which a person must lean in order to undo the catch, is 3 feet 7 inches above the floor, the handle of the door is 1 foot 5 inches below the top cull, and the catch is 2 feet 6 inches or 2 feet 7 inches be- lowthe top of the door, so that a person of moderate height must have nearly one half of his body outside of the door to enable him to lift the catch, and in so doing he must have his head 20 or 21 inches from the outside of the door.

The third-class carriages used for this suburban traffic are about 8 ft. or 8 ft. 1 in. wide, outside measurement, which dimensions would cause the outside of the carriages to project 1' 5 1/4 to 1' 5  3/4 beyond the outside edge of the rail.

The train was travelling on the outside line of rails used for the down tffic to Croydon, the West End, the Crystal Palace, and Epsom, and at the over bridge where the accident occurred there is a pier 5ft. 8 in. thick between this line and the down main line. The line of railway is not quite parallel to the face of the pier, and the distance between the outer side or the rail and the pier is 3 ft. at the north and 3ft. 1 in. at the south end cif the pier. This would allow, if the line were quite straight and no cant of the rails existed, of a space of about 1 ft. 6 1/4 in. or 1ft. 6 3/4 in. dependent on the carriages being 8 ft. or 8 ft. 1 in. between the outside of the carriage and the face of the pier. The line, however, is not straight at that part, but curves to the right, and there is a cant of the rails, so that the actual distance between the outside of the carriage and the face of the pier is only 1 ft. 4 1/2 in. ; and thus any person attempting to fasten or unfasten a catch 2 ft. 6 in, below the top of the till of the door with his hand when about to pass a bridge of this kind must suffer.

The deceased had done what any person riding in a railway carriage might be expected to do under similar circumstances, opened a door to release a female's dress ; but he was imprudent in attempting to put on the catch again, and lost his life in consequence of his imprudence, from the improper manner in which the line of rails was laid down with reference to the adjacent pier. This down line of rails was, I understand, opened for traffic in 1852 or 1853 ; but I cannot learn that it ever was inspected by an officer of the Railway department prior to its being opened for public traffic, and even if it had been inspected it is quite possible that he might have overlooked the nearness of the rails to the pier. To comply with the requirements of the inspecting officers, such as now have been circulated among railway companies for several years past, and ordered to be adopted by their Lordships' instructions of the 30th March 1859, taking into consideration the width of the third-class carriages, the rails should have been at least 10 in. further removed from the pier ; and there does not appear to be any difficulty in deviating the line to that extent at this bridge, which I should recommend should still be done. I do not know whether there are any similar bridges with narrow spaces between the rails and the piers or abutments of bridges further down the line, but that should be carefully looked to, as the space at this particular bridge has been proved insufficient to provide for the public safety.

I watched the arrival of some trains this morning at the London Bridge Station, and noticed that the catch on the doors of the carriages to which I have referred seemed to be useless towards preventing passengers from opening the doors before the trains have stopped, as they use sticks or umbrellas to lift the catches ; and in one respect these catches are certainly dangerous, as a passenger, after turning the handle of the door, if he next leans over the door to lift the catch, is very likely to fall out of the carriage while it is still in motion.

In my opinion these catches are a source of danger rather than of safety to passengers, end I think it would be desirable to remove them.

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