30th MARCH 1866

involving Driver James Prevett

Depot unknown

extracted & adapted from the report by

F.H. Rich Captain R.E.

A collision occurred on the 30th March 1866, at New Cross station of the London, Brighton, 
and South Coast Railway. 

Numerous special trains were run on that day (which was Good Friday) between the Crystal 
Palace and London. One of these special trains travelling from the Crystal Palace to London 
Bridge was drawn up at the platform of New Cross station about 11.22 p.m. Whilst it was 
standing there another special train, which left the Palace a few minutes before 11, and which had stopped at Sydenham and Forest Hill, stations, to set down passengers, ran into New Cross station and came into collision with it.

The train that was standing at the platform, consisted of an engine and tender, two guard’s 
break vans (one of which was at the tail of the train) and eleven carriages.

The light at the tail of this train had gone out, between Forest Hill and New Cross stations, 
and the guard was in the act of renewing it when his train was run into.

The train that ran into the one standing at the station consisting of an engine and tender and 
11 carriages. Two of these carriages had break compartments with guards in them, one guard 
been in the carriage next to the tender and the other in the carriage at the tail of the train. As 
this train approached New Cross station, the auxiliary as well as the station, signal were at 
danger. Under these circumstances it was the duty of the driver, to pull up outside the station, and not to enter the station, till he had received a signal to do so. 

The driver of this second train, admits that he observed that both the auxiliary and station 
signals were at danger, and he states, that he pulled up, or very nearly so, outside the station, 
but that when he got within 100 yards of the platform, he looked forward, and believing that 
there was no train standing at the platform, he allowed his train to run slowly in. 

The approach to New Cross station from the south is on a falling gradient of 1 in l00, which 
changes to a level gradient at the over bridge at the south end of the platform.

Owing to the lamp at the tail of the train which was standing at the platform having gone out, the driver of the second train did not perceive his mistake, till they got within 18 or 20 yards of the standing train.

The first thing that he noticed, was the reflection of a white light on the back of the van. He 
reversed his engine, put on steam, and desired his fireman to apply his break, but he could not prevent his engine, from striking the hind van of the standing train, at a speed, which he 
estimates at about two miles an hour, but which judging by the effects, was probably three or four miles per hour.

The London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway in providing for such contingencies as 
lamps being extinguished, always have two ready at New Cross station to replace any that 
may not burn properly. 

There were two such lamps at New Cross on the 30th March, and one of them was handed to the guard of the train by one of the men on duty at the station.

The guard did not consider that the fresh lamp was very bright. He put it on the tail of his 
train and then opened it, and stood in front of it to prick up the wick. Whlle he was doing so, 
a man shouted to him "to run, that the train would be into him." He did so, just in time to 

None of the carriages in either train, were knocked off the line, nor were either the engines or tenders.

Some of the glass windows of the carriages were broken. The bodies of three carriages were 
shifted on the frames   and the head stocks and pillars of the break vane were broken.
The standing train was knocked forward three or four carriage lengths.

About 50 passengers are known to have received cuts and bruises, but 100 have sent in claims for injuries. No bones were broken.

James Prevett, the driver of the second train, has been 26 years in the Company's service.- He has been a driver for about 17 years, and for the last 14 he has been driving between London and Epsom, so that he knows the line thoroughly.

His only excuse for coming into New Cross station against the signals, and in direct 
disobedience of the Company's rules, is, that he has often done so before, when he saw that 
the platform was not occupied with another train.

As New Cross is the station for collecting the passengers' tickets, trains are constantly 
stopped outside the station, particularly on such holiday occasions as Good Friday, The rule 
of the Company is, that, after being stopped they shall enter by hand signal from the 
signalman, whose box is above the over bridge at the south end of the platform. Trains are so frequent, that it is not considered desirable that the signalman should lower his signal to admit them, unless when the line is clear at the time of their arrival.

It appears that a little laxity has crept in at New  Cross, owing to the great number of trains 
and the anxiety of all the servants of the Company to expedite them as much as possible.
The practice has been, consequently, that some- times the signalman gives the hand signal to 
admit the trains, sometimes the station master, and sometimes the head porter, and it naturally follows, that frequently the drivers and guards depend on their own observation, and come in without a signal from anyone.

James Prevett states that he has frequently done so before at New Cross station, and his 
practice appears to have been followed by others, but to have been confined to New Cross 

Neither the signalman or station master have reported these disobediences of the Company’s 
regulations, which they should have done if they had been aware of them, but they do not 
appear to have come directly under their notice, for the simple reason, that when trains come 
in, the station master could not see what the signal man was doing, nor the signal man what 
the station master was doing, and they therefore supposed, that one or other had given the 
hand signal calling in the train.

The present accident has been caused by a driver of great experience and bearing a most 
excellent character having gene on in direct disobedience of the signals, believing that ha was able to judge for instead of being guided by the signals and regulations of the Company he was serving.

I recommend that the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company should provide 
the South signalman at New Cross station with some indicator or small signal for admitting 
trains to New Cross station after they have been stopped by the auxiliary or station signals, 
and that such small signal shall be visible to the station master or other person in authority on the platform.

If they think it necessary and desirable, the station master or platform superintendent may be 
furnished with the means of communicating with the signal- man, but I think it essential that 
the responsibility of admitting trains to the station shall be placed under the control of one 
person only, and the most person appears to me to be the signalman. 

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