14th JULY 1875



Extracted and adapted from the report by

C. S. HUTCHINSON, Licit—Col. R.E.

A collision which occurred on the 14th ultimo, at West Croydon station, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. In this case as the 6.48 p.m. passenger-train . from the Crystal Palace to West Croydon was entering the station it came into collision With a shunting engine drawing a train of empty carriages through a crossover road. 

Two passengers complained at the time of having been shaken. 

In the Crystal Palace train the engine hid its, right step taken off and the front break compartment its step and door handle carried away.

In the empty train four carriages had their sides, frames, and steps injured. 

The close approach to West Croydon Station from the direction of London and the Crystal Palace is round a sharp curve which prevents the drivers of incoming down trains from seeing the state of the lines in the station for but a, short distance ahead. There are two platforms for down trains, one principally used for main line through trains proceeding to Dorking, &c., and the-other ending in buffer stops, used principally for local trains. The home signals for these platform lines are placed upon two; high posts situated 140 yards from and upon the up side of the new signal cabin, which again, is about 10 ,yards on the up side of the old cabin, which was in use when the collision occurred, The centre of the cross-over-road through which the train of empty carriages was being drawn is, about 200 yards from the site of the old signal,- cabin, and its points were not, at the time of this collision, interlocked with the signals, nor worked from the cabin, though alterations were then going on with a view to the concentration and interlocking of all the points and signals, and these improved arrangements came into use two or three days after the occurrence of the collision. The line is worked upon the block system, but in consequence of the down home signals being a considerable distance—viz., about 200 yards—from the cross-over-road in the station, "line clear" is allowed to be given to St. James's junction, the next block signal-post towards London, &c., while this cross-over road is in use. The line in the station is, I understand, nearly level. 

At about 6.54 p.m. on the day in question, the 6.15 p.m. train from Victoria to West Croydon, consisting of an engine and eight coaches, arrived on the main platform line. It was ten minutes hoe, having been five minutes late in starting, and having lost another five minutes from detention by signals. As soon as it arrived the signalman permitted a shunting engine to cross to its rear to put it away into a siding as soon as it had discharged its passengers, and at about 6.58 or 6.59 this engine began to draw the empty carriages through the cross-over road, the signalman looking on from his cabin and signifying his permission by placing a white flag in the window. 

The driver of the shunting engine, Jarvis Naylor, of 18 years' service, says "I had just passed through the down line points of the cross-over road with the empty coaches, when my mate, who was on the right side of the engine said There's the Palace train corning in. I at first thought it was going across as usual into the dock platform line, and accordingly shut off steam, but immediately afterwards seeing it coming along the main line I put on steam again, hoping to he able to draw clear of  it, but its engine struck the fifth coach, then the sixth and seventh, and remained fixed in the eighth  or last coach. I could have stopped in time had the Palace train crossed, as I first thought it was going " to do, into the dock line."

The evidence of the guard and of the switchman holding the points of the cross-over-road confirms that of the driver. The down home signals were visible to none of these men, so that they could not speak as to their position. 

The 6.48 p.m. train from the Crystal Palace to West Croydon, where it was due at 6.56 p.m., consisted of a tank engine, running coal-box first, and seven coaches, the first and last having a break compartment, with a guard in the rear one. It started punctually, but was detained at Norwood junction three minutes by signals. The driver, John Waller, of four years' service, who had not previously run with this train more than four or five times, says that on approaching West Croydon he found both the distant and main line home signals off for him; that he did not think much of the main home-signal and not the dock-signal being off, but concluded there was some good reason for it; that he was running in very steadily, the rails being greasy, with his steam off and his breaks rubbing, when, on rounding the curve, and just before reaching the signal-cabin he saw about 150 yards off the engine with the empty carriages in motion towards him; that he at once used every means in his power to stop, and had nearly done so, when he struck the fifth coach from the front of the empty train; that nothing left the rails in his train, and but little damage was done; that he spoke to the signalman after the collision, who acknowledged that he had omitted to restore the signals to danger after the arrival of the train from Victoria. 

The fireman's evidence corroborates that of the driver. 

The guard of the train, who had frequently worked with it on previous occasions and had always been in the habit of running into the dock, thought it very singular to find the main line and not the dock'. signal lowered for them, and accordingly applied his break earlier than usual, expecting the driver to whistle and get it reversed; but finding he went on he released his break to permit them to run into the station. - He then seeing a white flag in the signal cabin window next the station knew that something must be wrong, flew to his break and was is the act of applying it when the collision occurred. 

The signalman, Henry Martin, of 20 years' service, of which lie had spent 184 years at West Croydon, came on duty at 6 p.m. lie had 12 levers and three wheels in his cabin, three block instruments, and one speaking instrument. He was assisted in his duties by a telegraph boy. He lowered his signals for the Victoria train, and cannot account for his not having restored them to danger on its arrival at 6.54, though he took the Crystal Palace train "on line" directly he had given "line clear" for the Victoria train, and had intended to stop the former at the home signals and turn into the dock as soon as the latter had been shunted; he had thought it best to clear the main line before admitting the Crystal Palace train, as another main line train to Dorking was due at 7.3. He was watching the empty train shunt and had no notion the other train was approaching until it was passing the cabin, when it was too late for him to move the points and turn it across into the dock. 

This collision then was caused by the mistake of an experienced signalman in not restoring his signals to danger after the arrival of the Victoria train, and, with his signals still off, in allowing this train to be shunted after having taken a following train, that from the Crystal Palace, "on line." It was also an error in judgment to have allowed the empty train to cross before admitting the Crystal Palace train; besides avoiding delay to this latter train it would also have been less likely to have caused delay to the following main line train, as the block section between St. James's junction and West Croydon would have been sooner clear. The signalman was under no particular pressure as regarded his duties at the time, and his mistake only affords another proof of the great advantage arising from the proper interlocking of points and signals. 

Had this state of things existed at the time of this collision it would doubtless have been prevented, and it is satisfactory to know that the points and signals are now interlocked, and that a collision cannot occur again from a similar mistake. Had the Crystal Palace train been fitted with continuous breaks in the driver's hands the train might, notwithstanding the signalman's mistake, have been stopped in time to have averted the collision. 

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