3rd APRIL 1868

extracted and adapted from the report by

C.S. Hutchinson Lieut-Colonel R.E.

A collision of a passenger train with a pair of buffer stops at London Bridge station of the London, Brighton, and south Coast Railway on the 3rd April, 1868. Five persons are returned as having been cut about the face or shaken by the collision.

The train to which the accident occurred was a South London train from Victoria to London Bridge made up as follows:- a tank engine with the leading and driving wheels coupled, a third class break carriage with guard (10 in all). It had started from Victoria at 9, 47 a.m., two minutes late, and is stated to have stopped properly at all intermediate stations on its journey. On reaching the end of the London Bridge platform, which is 200 yards long, the driver, thinking his pace was rather too fast, told his fireman to apply his breaks, to which, however, the latter replied that he had already done so. At about 80 yards passing the end of the platform, according to the driver, or 140 yards according to the front guard, the driver reserved his engine, and, after another 30 yards, put steam against her; notwithstanding which appliances, the buffer stops were struck at a speed of about three miles an hour. The train slightly recoiled, but no damage was done to any part of the rolling stock. The wheels of the rear guard’s break were seen skidding by a porter, as it passed him while standing about 80 yards from the end of the platform; but there is no independent evidence as to those of the front beak until it ws about 25 yards from the buffers, when the head porter saw the front wheels skidding as the carriage passed him. The guard himself says that he his break hard on at the end of the platform (i.e. 200 yards from the buffer stops). The driver states that he saw putting it on just after he had reversed his engine, which would be considerably nearer the buffer stops.

The driver and guards were well acquainted with the South London Line, and frequently worked together in the same train. 

They stated that their break blocks all worked properly and were applied at the usual time in approaching the platform; those on the engine were comparatively new, and were arranged so that there were two blocks on the right hand trailing and driving wheels, instead of the more usual arrangement of one block to each of the four wheels; those on the trailing wheels were said to have acted more perfectly than the others, which, if the rails were at all greasy, would not always completely stop the driving wheels.

It was also put in evidence that the train was two minutes late leaving Rotherhithe, one mile 44 chains from the buffer stops at London Bridge, but came into the station at its correct time, accomplishing the distance in four minutes making an average speed of 23 miles an hour. Supposing, then, that steam was shut off at what was stated to be the usual spot, about 800 yards from the buffer stops, a high speed of about 40 miles an hours must have been attained before steam was shut off, instead of about 25 miles an hour if regulated time of six minutes had been occupied in performing the distance.

I think, therefore, that the cause of this accident must be attributed to the driver having run at a rate of speed considerably in excess of what was usual from Rotherhithe to where he shut off steam, and to the fact that, notwithstanding this high rate of speed, the means of stopping the train used when going at the ordinary rate seem to have been alone depended upon until too late to render the extra means, when resorted to, of much avail.

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