Rescue workers surround an overturned engine after a railway accident on the London, 

Brighton & south Coast Railway at 

Pouparts Junction near Clapham Junction, London, 19th February 1868.

 Original Publication: Illustrated London News - pub. 1868 


19th FEBRUARY 1868

Extracted and adapted from the report by

H.W. Tyler Captain

On the 19th February, 1868 a accident occurred at Poupart’s Junction, this junction, between the high level line from the Victoria station and that which was in use previously to its construction, is about half a mile to the north of the Clapham Junction station. The high level line was constructed at great expense, partly to avoid th sharp curve at the Stewarts Lane Junction, and it joins what was the previous main line of the West End and Crystal Palace Railway, on a curve of which the radius varies from 22.72 50 21.21 chains. This curves passes over a portion of embankment about 20 feet high and 93 yards long, between the junction and a viaduct to the north of it. One the south of the junction the line is  straight, passing by a bridge over the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway, and then over a further portion of embankment south of that bridge. 

The gradient falls 1 in 159 from the northward to a crossing 33 years north of the cabin, which forms part of the junction, and then rises 1 in 190 towards the south.

The 8.58 a.m. passenger train from Victoria to London Bridge, started from the former station at 8.59 on the day in question, consisting, in the following order, of an engine and tender, a third class (break), a third class, a second class, a composite, three first class, two second class, a composite, three firs class, two second class, a third class and a third class (break) carriages. It travelled without stopping, and in due course, until it approached the Pouparts Junction at a speed of about 20 miles an hour. As it rounded the curve above described on the north of that junction, the leading wheels of the engine dropped off the rails to the right, on the outside of the curve, 33 yards to the south of the viaduct, and 60 yards not of the junction cabin. The engine ran along in this condition to the crossing, 33 years from the point at which the wheel first mounted, and 27 yards north of the junction cabin. The right wheels were thrown over to the left of the rails, and as they passed through the junction they strained the points and bent the connecting rods. After crossing the bridge over the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, and tearing up the permanent way, more less in its course, the engine turned to the left, 80 yards south of the junction, and ran down the embankment. It fell on its left side at the bottom of the slope, with its wheel partly in the air. The tender followed it, remaining on its wheels on the side of the slope. The leading break carriage came to a stand behind it, at right angles to the line, also on its wheels, on the side of the slope; and the remaining vehicles stood in their proper order on the embankment, but off the rails.

The engine was not so much damaged as might have been expected. The funnel, feed pipes, and draw bar were broken, as well as the tank and two springs of the tender, and the hook of the draw bat behind the tender. The total damage to the engine and tender. The total damage to the engine and tender is estimated at 60/., and to the carriages at 40/.

The whole distance, from the paint at which the leading wheel of the engine first mounted the rail to the spot where it lay, was only 200 yards. The engine driver notice nothing unusual until he felt a “twist” when the engine dropped off to the right of the rails, and the the crossing turned the wheels over to the left of them. While the engine rolled about subsequently, and as it run down the bank, he kept hold of the regulator handle and the spring balance, and as it turned over he let go and fell upon the hedge at the bottom of the slope. He was severely shaken and much pricked in the hedge. As he approached the spot where the engine first left the rails he notice some platelayers at work here.

The fireman also noticed a gang of platelayers standing by the line as he approached the Poupart’s Junction, and felt the engine “give a jump” as he passed them. As the engine ran down the slope of the embankment and fell over he was thrown across the hand rail with his feet against the fire box; and was shaken.

The guard, who rode in the leading break carriage next behind the tender, was standing app and looking at the engine when the accident occurred. He “the fore part of the engine begin to jump,” and noticed all that followed. He suffered, as well as the the guard in the hind van, from the effects of the shock; but out of about 30 passengers who were travelling in the different carriages three only have as yet complained of injury.

The engine, No. 40, was a six wheeled engine, built by Messrs Sharp, Stewart, and Co., of Manchester. The leading wheels, coupled together, 5ft 6ins. in diameter. Te wheel base measured 6ft 6ins., between the driving and trailing wheels. The flanges of the leading wheels were rather thin, but the tyres had recently been turned up, with shoulders under the flanges, and had only been running after that operation for four days.

I heard of this accident on my way from Hampton court to London, and was put down on the spot an hour and twenty minutes after it occurred, through the courtesy of the officers of the London and South Western company, from the train in which I was travelling. A mark was then plainly visible on the outer rail of the curve above referred to, where the right leading wheel of the engine had passed over it. After procuring a spirit level, I found the super elevation of the outer rail of that curve, measured at short intervals from the viaduct north of the junction varied from 5 1/8ins. to 1 1/6ins., where the engine wheel mounted, and 1 5/8 ins. where it dropped off to the right of the outer rail.

The understanding between the inspector of this portion of the permanent way and the foreman platelayer appears to have been that the outer rail should be kept 3 ins. higher than the inner rail on this curve, running down to 2 ins. at the crossing, and nothing at the bridge south of the junction; and there can be no doubt that if 3 ins. had been regularly maintained from the viaduct to the spot where the engine wheel mounted the accident would not have occurred. The platelayers began to lift the inner rail of the curve at 8.30 a.m., rather more than half an hour before the accident, and working by the eye only they lifted it too much. There had been for some tine a gradual subsidence of the embankment on the inside of the curve; and, the foreman platelayer was no doubt induced to raise the inner rail more than he would otherwise have done in order to allow for such subsidence. But he did so to an imprudent extent, and the accident was the natural result of the unequal and unsafe condition of the curve as shown by the measurement above recorded.

Looking to the position of this curve and the difficulty of maintaining a sufficient super elevation of the outer rail at the rear junction crossing, I have recommended, as a useful precaution, and with a view to the prevention of any accident to this description for the future, that a check rail should be added north of the junction; and I have further recommended that printed rules should be issued for guidance of the platelayers in regard to the maintenance of the various curves on the line. I am happy to report, in conclusion, that the engineer of the Company is prepared at once to carry these recommendations into effect.

*The L.B.S.C.R. began place check rails not only at Pouparts Junction, 
but also on similar curves at other parts of the line.

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