25th OCTOBER 1869

extracted & adapted from the report by 

W. Yolland Colonel

On the 25th October 1869 a collision occurred at Stewart’s Lane Junction on the London. Brighton and South Coast Railway, between a passenger train belonging to the London, Western Railway Company and a goods train of the Midland Railway Company, on which occasion four passengers are stated to have received injury of been shaken, in addition to the guard of passenger train who was also hurt.

Stewart’s Lane Junction is about half a mile of the south of the Battersea Park station and Junction at the Victoria Railway Bridge, and the line depends to it for the half of the distance on a very steep incline of 1 in 52.its approach from the Battersea Park Station side is protected by a distant signal 670 yards from the junction, and placed within about 160 yards, of the Battersea Park Junction signal box and signals; by a stop signals 166 yards north of the junction signal box and by the junction signals. The distant signal is well seen from the Victoria Bridge, and Stewart’s Lane Junction signals can also be seen from the bridge and at the Battersea Park station before the distant signal is reached, when the weather is clear and the no there is no steam or smoke from the Battersea goods yard or thereabout, situated at the foot of the incline, and on the western side of the line. But the junction signals are lost sight of as a train descends the incline, being hid by certain railway and road over bridges, and the stop signal cannot be seen, owning to these bridges, until an engine is only about 140 yards from the stop signal. 

This stop signal has been placed in its present position to prevent down train travelling on the main down line from running into trains proceeding to or leaving the Battersea goods yard, by lines of way that pass across the main up and down lines, to the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway lines and yard. Another stop signal is placed about 64 yards north of the Stewart’s Lane Junction down stop signal, to prevent trains from leaving the Battersea goods yard without the sanction of the signalman.

The signals and points at Stewart’s Lane Junction signal box are well arranged and fitted up with proper locking apparatus to prevent the signalmen from making mistakes.

It appears from the evidence that a Midland goods train is appointed to leave Battersea goods yard at 8h. 0m. p.m., and which usually leaves by 8h. 5m. p.m.: but, on the evening of the 25th October it was late, and the driver of this train only whistled for permission to come out of the Battersea goods yard and to go to the London, Chatham, and Dover yard at 8h. 22m. At that time, according to the signalman at Stewart’s Lane Junction, an engine was going into the London, Chatham, and Dover yard, so that he could not then lower the signal: but as soon as the Dover engine was clear, he signalled the Midland goods train on to the London, Chatham, and Dover signal box at Stewart’s Lane station, and this signal was answered by the London, Chatham, and Dover signalman pulling off the disc signal which works into the Stewart’s Lane Junction signal box, and that gave permission to the signalman to let the goods train enter the yard.

The Stewart’s Lane Junction signalman then shifted the points, and lowered the Battersea yard stop signal before referred to, and the semaphore signal over his box, and having done this it was then impossible for him to lower the signals, for a London and 
North Western passenger train, appointed to leave Victoria station at 8h. 22m. p.m., which was telegraphed forward from Battersea Park Junction at about 8h. 25m., at the same time as the Midland goods train commenced moving out of the yard.

The London and Not Western passenger train which consisted of a tank engine, running with the chimney behind and six carriages with a guard riding in the last carriage which was fitted with a break continuously coupled to the two carriages in front of it also fitted with breaks, left Victoria station at 8h. 23m., or one minute late. It passed Battersea Park Junction signal box where it got a caution signal authorising it to proceed at 8h. 25 1/2m.; and the driver and fireman both assert that the Stewart’s Lane Junction distant signal was “all right” for them to proceed, showing as it did a white light; but the evidence is perfectly conclusive as to the state of the signal, and I think they either did not observe this signal at all, which, from the circumstances, appears to be the most probable supposition, or their assertion is directly contrary to the fact.

The driver of the North Western train also states that “he shut off the steam before he got over the Victoria Bridge, and did not put it on again at all: that he thinks he was running about 10 to 12 miles an hour when he left the bridge, which was not as fast as they 
usually travel: that he did not looked for the Stewart’s Lane Junction signals on passing over the river bridge: that he looked for them, but could not see them, as there was steam from South Western trains passing the over bridge at Stewart’s Lane Junction in each direction at the same time: that after passing the distant signal and railway bridge they came to the road bridge, where he caught sight of the stop signal, which showed a red light, and he opened the whistle he believes before he passed from under the bridge, and kept on whistling: that the fireman put on his break as well as he could, and he reserved his engine, but had not time to put steam on the reverse way before they came into collision with the Midland goos train (which was in the act of crossing the line on which he was running) at a speed which he estimates at 10 or 12 miles an hour, and ran right through the goods train and cut it 
into two parts.

The guard of this train states that he observed the Battersea Park Junction signals at caution for them to proceed and then he got down from the platform in his break compartment, and made an entry in his book of the time leaving Victoria station, and looked at some dispatches, and thus he did not see the Stewart’s Lane Junction distant signal, as they had run by it by the time he made the entry, &c. He says he knew that this distant signal was the regulating signal, and that he ought most decidedly to have seen it: and he also states that if this signal is on at danger the drivers usually open their whistles, but on this occasion no whistle was sounded, and he therefore believed the signal was at all right: he estimates the speed in passing  Battersea Park Junction at from 15 to 18 miles an hour: that he commenced to put on his break immediately after passing the distant signal in accordance with his usual custom, to slacken the speed in going down the inclines; that he did not put his break hard on, but only gathered up the slack before the driver whistled when about half way between the road bridge and the stop signal: he estimates the speed at the time of the collision at from 12 to 15 miles an hour, and he was thrown by the shock from his platform to the other end of the compartment and was hurt.

I do not think much dependence can be placed on this man’s statement.

A signalman, in the Battersea Park Junction box and another on the London, Chatham, and Dover line, at the same place, both state that the distant signal was on at danger before the London and North Western train passed it: that the train was going very fast, and the engine had the steam on; both observed the signal lowered for the Midland goods train to leave the yard before the London and North Western train reached the distant signal, and comments were made by one of them to the other, and to a telegraph clerk in one to the signal boxes, as to the speed at which the train was travelling, while passing the distant signal at danger.
The London and North Western  engine struck the seventh wagon from the rear break in the Midland goods train, which consisted of 18 vehicles, and carried it right ahead, and the engine stopped 96 yards south of the stop signal, the collision having taken place 
about 14 yards south of the stop signal; seven wagons and two break vans were damaged in the Midland train. The London and North Western passenger engine was a good deal damaged: the tank was stove in, and one end completely destroyed, one side plate was torn off, the buffer plank was broken, and the life guards knocked off; the two last carriages few also off the rails, and the brass work and every step of the carriages were swept off on the off side and the panelling damaged. But the prevailing opinion seemed to be that more serious injury would probably have resulted to the passengers if the North Western train had been travelling at slower speed.

As the result of my inquiry I should state that I have no doubt the collision was wholly caused by the neglect of the driver, fireman and guard of the London and North Western passenger train, in not having observed and attended to Stewart’s Lane Junction distant signal, which was standing at danger as they passed it.

Mr Bruyeres, the Superintendent of the southern section of the London and North Western Railway, took exception to the position of this distant signal, and urged that it should have been carried into the Battersea Park Junction signal box, and so connected by interlocking, that the signalman at Battersea Park Junction should not be enabled to give the signal for a train to proceed to Stewart’s Lane until the signalman there had sanctioned it. I agree with Mr. Bruyeres as t the propriety of making this alteration, as it coincides entirely with what I am so continually pointing out, viz., the desirability of not confusing the drivers by showing them contradictory signals placed very near to each other, and because it would virtually amount to working this portion of the line on the absolute block system.

Mr. Bruyeres also drew attention to the fact of the Midland goods train having been permitted to leave the Battersea yard when the London ad North Western passenger train was due; but the Superintendent of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway (Mr. Ray) explained that that the signalman at Stewart’s Lane Junction only carried out the company’s regulations in permitting trains to pass the junction in the order in which they approach it, and which regulation is in my opinion the proper one when trains belonging to various companies run over the same line.

The London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company no longer work passenger traffic over this line, but the London, and North Western and Great Western Railway Companies work passenger traffic, and the Midland and Great Northern work goods or mineral traffic to Battersea goods yard, so that the number of trains and engines running past Stewart’s Lane Junction on the London, Brighton, and South Coast and London, Chatham and Dover lines, amounts to 272 in the course of 24 hours.

Taking into consideration the nature of the lines, I recommend that the absolute block system of working should be adopted, and that there should be three reliefs of signalmen at Stewart’s Lane Junction signal box in the 24 hours, as there use to be.

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