16th JUNE 1872

extracted and adapted from the reported by

W. Yolland Colonel

On the 16th June, 1872, an accident occurred to an excursion train of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, returning from Hastings on the 16th June on the South Eastern Railway near London Bridge station, on which occasion 61 passengers are returned as having been injured; but the General Manager of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company (Mr. Knight) has informed me, that with a few exceptions, the injuries were not worse than bruises and shakes, more or less severe.

The trains of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company travel for some distance over the lines of the South Eastern Railway Company, on their approach to their terminus at London Bridge. At No.4 signal box, which is distant about 610 yards from the north end of the Brighton platform, up trains are turned off the up main line of the South Easter Railway, commonly called the up Dover road, on to the up Croydon, otherwise the up  local line, by means of a pair of facing points worked by a signalman placed in the elevated signal box No.4. The points are immediately below the box, and the signals are placed about 74 yards to the east of the signal box. The points and signals are interlocked according to Jefferies’ patent, but there is no locking bar of any kind to prevent the points from being moved by mistake or inadvertently, while the train is passing over them, if the signal which has been lowered to caution for the passage of a train be again placed at danger.

I appears from the evidence that as the returning or up excursion train from Hastings, which consisted of an engine and tender, and 18 carriages including breaks with two guards, was approaching the London Bridge terminal station of the London, Bridge, and South Coast Railway, the driver found that the signals exhibited from No.4 signal box were off for him to proceed on the up Croydon line; that he had whistled for the signals as he passed Spa Road staton, which is some distance to the east of No.4 signal box; and after he had whistled, the signal at the A.B. signal box which is about 285 yards nearer to London Bridge station than No.4 signal box, were also turned off, as other signals line side of A.B. box,  and thus the signals were all off for him to run into the London Bridge station. He stated that he was running about eight miles an hour, the usual speed as he passed No. 4 signal box; that the steam was off as he passed through the facing points, and after he has passed through them he put it on again, about mid way between No.4 and A.B. signal box; that he felt nothin unusual as he passed through the facing points, no check of any kind; but that as he passed A.B. signal box he felt as if the guard had put the brake on, and that the train was running heavy; and when they had gone a little further he heard the alarum bell of the communicator ring, which is rung when there is something the matter, and then stopped as soon as he could. He says that he was not aware that anything was amiss up to that time.

He went back with the head guard, and found that the 12th carriage from the engine was off the rails to the right; that all four wheels were off, but that it remained coupled to the carriage in front of it (the 11th), he says the passengers got out there; that some one unhooked the 12th carriage, and he then took the others on into the station. Afterwards he went back to the other carriages, but not so far back on the line as the facing points at No.4 signal box; and he found the end of one of the carriages broken, and another carriage was overturned and lying on its side, and the four last carriages were on the up Dover line, and he thinks they were all coupled together.

The head guard, riding in the break next the engine, confirms the driver’s statement as to the signals and the passing over the facing points, and he estimates the rate of speed at five miles an hour, or perhaps a little more, as they passed the points, and says that the first intimation which he got that anything was wrong was on hearing the engine bell ring, as the engine was abreast of A.B. signal box, when the driver called out to him, and asked if he had rung the bell.

This bell is rung by means of a communicator or chain passing through the whole length of the train from the engine to rear break, passing also through the front break, and the bell was probably rung when the chain snapped, and the train broke into parts. 

When the train stopped the head guard went to A.B. signal box, and told the signalman that he had lost six carriages of his train, and that he should block the lines; he then went back to the six carriages, and in three or four minutes afterwards to the points at No.4 signal box. He found those points set for the up Dover line, and both up signals were at danger; he thinks he was the first person who got to the points, and found that the second connecting rod of the points, or that nearest to the heel of the points, was bent.

The under guard of the train, who rode in the break, the last vehicle in the train, says that the first thing that he knew of anything being amiss was a sudden check to the communicator in his van; that he heard and felt it, and heard the chain snap, and it was so loose that he could pull the chain into his break; that he had passed, at that time, over the facing points (at No.4 signal box), and was on the up Dover line; he thinks he felt this when he had passed the points 10 or 12 yards, and he applied his break directly, and stopped mot more than 12 yards from the points. He was struck by the door as he was looking out of the window and nearly stunned.

The signalman who was on duty in No.4 signal box informed me that he came on duty at 10 p.m.; that he always takes the night duty, and had done so for 21 years in No.4 signal box; that has not so much to do at night, and he has 16 hours out of the 24 to himself. He states that he set the points right for the up Croydon road, and lowered the signal for the train to proceed; that there was a boy in the box with him, standing by his side, who has to book the times when all trains pass; that he shifted the facing points and lowered the signal himself, and did not allow the boy to do it; that he was not aware of anything unusual as the train passed, and was astonished to see it come to a standstill. He says that he did not alter the signal nor shift the points as the train was passing; that the boy gave him thirst intimation that something was wrong, by saying, as he was pushing the points over, after putting the signal up, there are some carriages standing there. He said they made it a rule never to put the signal up or shift the points until they could see the tail lights on the train, and he did not touch either of the levers until the train had passed, neither did the boy; that never allowed the boy to shift the points, or to touch the signals.

The boy employed in No.4 signal box to record the times of the passing of trains and to use the telegraph speaking instrument, confirms raw signalman’s statement in most respects. He states that the train passed at 10.34; that the signalman shifted the points and took off the signal, and he entered the 10.34 after the train had passed the box, and as soon as the signalman gave the in-signal to the Spa Road station; that he waited to give it till the whole of the train was passed, then he put the semaphore up, and then he shifted the points. He also said that he sometimes shifted the signal, but he touched the points, and he never shifted the signal when the signalman was in the signal box; that as soon as the signalman saw the tail lights on the up Dover road he put-up the signal, and pushed over the points; he thinks the last vehicle in therein stopped bout 20 yards from the heel of the points.

The station master of the London, Brighton, and South Coast London Bridge terminal station informed me that he got to the spot about quarter to 11 p.m. and found on carriage lying on its right side on the up Dover line, while the last carriage in the train, a second class break carriage, stood on the up Dover line nearly opposite to the crossing; that found the points open for the up Dover line, and the second connecting rod bent by pressure, not by a wheel; that he formed the opinion at once that the points had either been put over or had sprung over, between the 12th and 13th carriages in the train; and that the strain of the carriages on the up local line caused the second connecting rod to be bent.

It also appears that the 12th carriage ran for a considerable distance with the left the wheels inside the left rail of the up Croydon line, and the right rail of the up Croydon line, and that in doing so it passed over two connecting rods of two pairs of facing points, and broke them all, and also a large number of chairs.

When making the inquiry I was told that there was no appearance of any wheel having mounted at the facing points, or near them; that the first trace of anything being off the rails, as shown on the permanent way. consisted of a mark on the head of a spike, used for fastening a chain to a transverse sleeper, inside the right rail of the up Dover line, about 21 yards from the facing points at No.4 signal box, that a chair was found broken under the right rail  at the same place; and that there were marks of a wheel on a sleeper close alongside of it. Fifteen yards farther on five chairs were found broken under the left rail of the up Dover line; then immediately followed 18 broken chairs under the right rail of the up Croydon line, and 14 chairs were found broken where the overturned carriage lay on its side.
Thus, in this accident, the engine and 11 carriages took and kept to the proper road for which the signal had been lowered, i.e., the up Croydon line; the 12th carriage was still attached to the 11th carriage in front of it, but all its wheels were off the rails of the up Croydon; the 13 carriage, overturned, and lying on its side on the up Dover line, with its leading end towards the up Croydon line, and detached from the 14th carriages, which had had its leading end knocked in, and which was also off the rails of the up Dover road, and separated from the carriage behind it; the 15th, 16th, 17, and 18th vehicles remained all coupled together and standing on the up Dover line. The 13th, or overturned carriage, lay on its side somewhere about 97 yards from the facing points.

This accident could, in my opinions only have been caused, 1st, by some carriage after the 11th having mounted at the facing points and got off the rails of the up Croydon line, and was followed by all the other carriages; subsequently the last four carriages must have got on to the up Dover line in a space of somewhat under 60 yards from the facing points; 2nd, or the facing points must have been shifted by the signal man while the train was passing over them.

With reference to the first supposition, I may remark, that with the exception to which I have already alluded, that the second connecting rod of the facing points was found bent, the points and permanent way adjacent to them were undisturbed and in good order. There is also a check rail on the curve to the left from the heel of the facing points inside the left rail of the up Croydon line, which would offer a great additional impediment to any vehicle travelling on that line getting off the rails; and there is nothing in the present state or condition of the three carriages which got off, and were found off, the rails, to account for any of these vehicles mounting. The wheels were found correct to gauge, but with some of the flanges of the wheels indented, and two axle bolts of the left leading clip of the 12th carriage were out, these damages having, in all probability, been caused after these carriages got off  the rails. These is, in fat, no evidence in favour of the accident having been occasioned in this manner beyond the denial of the signalman and boy in No.4 signal box that the signal and points were not altered until the whole train had passed over the facing points. All the indications on the ground to be derived from the marks on the permanent way, fracture of chairs, etc., point decidedly to this having been done. Indeed, I have ascertained by actual experiment, that if the facing points of a road similar constructed to that of the up Croydon and up Dover lines were shifted while a train coupled up as that of the excursion train id said to have been in the night in question was in the act of passing over them, the first carriage that took the up Dover line would be lifted and pulled off the rails, at about the same spot where the first indications on the permanent way were traced after the accident; and that similar results for other carriages must follow, unless  the draw bars or couplings connecting adjacent carriages give way.

For the aforesaid reasons I have arrived at the conclusion that the accident ws occasioned by the facing points being shifted while the train was in the act of passing over them; and this could not have happened if they had been made secure by the addition of a good locking bar in front of them      

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