12th MARCH 1869

Involving Driver Chris Barber (depot unknown)

extracted & adapted from the report by 

W. Yolland Colonel

A collision that occurred on the 12th March between a passenger train and an engine at the Victoria station of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, on which occasion one passenger was very seriously injured, having had his skull fractured; a second was much shaken; and the guard of the passenger train had his thigh broken. It is hoped that no fatal results may ensue.

It appears that a passenger train from Croydon ran into the north side of the Victoria station about 3.30 p.m. on No. 3 line, and as soon as it had stopped the engine was uncoupled, ran ahead to the end of the station, and then shunted back into what is called the middle road or No. 4 line, and stopped, waiting for a signal from the Eccleston Road signal box for permission to go out to No. 1 line, crossing in the act of doing so Nos. 3 and 2 lines, for the purpose of backing on to a line leading to the turntable, where the engine was to be turned prior to its leaving for its next trip at 4.11 p.m.

The engine driver and fireman who brought this train into the station and on to No. 4 line were relieved at 3.37 p.m. by another engine driver and fireman, but they had not quitted the engine when the signal was given for this engine to go to the turntable, two or three minutes after the relief had taken place.

The engine had been standing on No. 4 line, about 30 yards east of the Eccleston Road signal box, 130 yards east of the points on No. 1 line, leading back to the turntable, and 230 yards east of the junction signal box (hole in the wall), at the entrance of the station yard. The junction signalman works a low disc signal that controls the coming out of trains from the station on No. 1 line, and this low disc signal is about 30 yards west of the points leading to the turntable, and only seven yards east of the point where an engine standing on No. 1 line would foul a train running into the station for No. 5 line, or that next to the north of the cab stand platform. This .low disc signal, when at danger, should not, therefore, be passed hy any engine coming out from the station on No. 1 line, when requiring to go to the turntable, or it may run so far forward as to interfere with another train entering the station by No. 5 line; and this is precisely what did happen on the afternoon of the 12th March 1868.

The driver of the engine, who had just taken charge of it from the other driver, put it in motion when he got the signal from the Eccleston Road signal box, and did not stop his engine until it had run past the low disc signal, and had run so far beyond it as just to foul the road leading to No. 5 line, at the moment when the 3.5 p.m. train from Sutton was entering the station about 3.42 p.m. It is not quite certain that the light engine had actually stopped when the collision occurred, but as it was travelling tender first, the tender came in contact with the end of the buffer beam of the Sutton train engine, breaking off a corner of it, then in contact with a horse box which was next to the engine, and subsequently damaged two of the steps of a passenger carriage.

The Sutton train consisted of a tank engine, running with the wrong end in front, a horse box, containing two race horses and two persons riding in it, a third-class carriage, with a break in the leading compartment, two first-class, one second, and one third-class carriage, making six vehicles altogether without the engine.

The Sutton train was entering the station, it is said, at the usual speed of about 10 miles an hour, and when the tender came in contact with the horse box, it tilted it over or damaged it in some way, 80 that as it was passing the Eccleston Road signal box, 107 yards further east, it came against it, was shattered to pieces, breaking in the end of the signal box, and some of the broken fragments of the body of the horse box were carried against the leading compartment of the third-c1ass carriage in which the guard was riding, smashed it in, and seriously injured the guard. The two passengers who were riding in the horse box were both injured, and when the train stopped at the platform they had been thrown or had jumped out. The horses had their hind legs on the ballast and their fore legs on the floor of the horse box, between it and the break carriage, and both had received several cuts, but it is surprising that they were not more hurt.

The driver of the light engine, Charles Barber, accounts for having run too far ahead, by saying that he had been asking the other driver whether the engine was all right, and was looking into the fire; but the real facts connected with this man were, that he came into the station by a train from Battersea at 3.37 p.m., and immediately jumped on the light engine, whereas he should have been at the station at 3.30 p.m., when the train from Croydon was due; and if he had been there he would have had plenty of time to have made all the inquiries which are usual and necessary when one engine driver relieves another, before the light engine was signalled to leave No. 4 line. The collision was entirely due to a want of care on this man's part in allowing the engine to run a few yards too far ahead, and I do not see that any other person is to blame. I understand he has been 25 years in the company's service, 12 years as a driver, is well spoken of, and had only just received a premium for good conduct during the previous three months.

He committed a mistake on this occasion, which the best men may occasionally do, without any evil con- sequences resulting from it; but I do not consider his conduct so blameable as that of a driver who runs past a danger signal at high speed.

But the trains into Victoria station are so numerous, and the practice which has been adopted of using most of the lines for incoming and outgoing trains, renders the spot where the collision occurred a very dangerous one, owing to a sharp curve in the line that materially limits the view from the west, and if it were not for the manner in which the two signalmen are controlled by the interlocking of points and signals in the respective signal boxes, collisions would probably occur every week, if not oftener.

This collision would have taken place if there had been a pair of facing points into a blind siding immediately beyond the points leading to the turntable, and locked, open to the blind siding by the low disc signal when at “ anger," and although the introduction of such a siding will not remove the dangers which attend shunting on No. 1 line when trains are entering the station, it will prevent a collision with any trains proceeding to or from No• .5 line; and I recommend that it may be constructed. The signal box at Eccleston Road bridge is about 3 If. 10 in. from the rails, and as the width of the horse boxes do not apparently exceed eight feet, the horse box could not have come in contact with the signal box, if it had not previously been shifted on its frame by the collision with the tender of the light engine.

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