20th OCTOBER 1875

Extracted and adapted from the report by

C. S. HUTCHINSON, Licit—Col. R.E.

A collision which occurred on the 20th ultimo, at West Croydon station, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. In this case the 6.15 p.m. passenger train from Victoria to West Croydon came into collision with some empty carriages which had formed a portion of the 5.50 p.m. passenger train from London Bridge to West Croydon. 

Four passengers are reported to have been slightly injured. 

The buffer beam of the engine and some carriage steps in the 6.15 p.m. train were broken. 

In the empty train one carriage had its under frame broken up, another had two of its wheels thrown off the rails, and the two rear carriages were detached and knocked back along the line. 

West Croydon station has lately been completely resignalled, and the points and signals are now all worked from and interlocked in a commodious raised cabin near the entrance to the station, which is a terminal one for many of the local trains, these trains on arrival having in consequence to be shunted and re-arranged. For enabling this to be done without interfering with the main up and down lines, a siding has been put in, leading :from a dock platform line. But when this collision occurred the use of this siding had been temporarily given up, and the signalman had orders to turn nothing into it, as a wall was being built along it, and it was obstructed by scaffold poles. 

The points (No. 20 lever) which act as catch points for this shunting siding are about 40 yards on the down side of the cabin, and the collision occurred about 20 yards beyond them, or 60 yards from the cabin. 

Alfred Stanley, who has been a signalman for nearly seven years, three of which he has passed in Streatham north junction, and about two months and a half at West Croydon, came on duty on the evening n question at, 6 p.m., for a spell of eight hours. He was aware that an order was in force that the shunting siding was not to be used, and had been reminded of it by the signalman whom he had relieved. He took "on line" the 5.50 p.m. down train from London Bridge from St. James junction (the next block post) at 6.27, admitted it to the dock platform and gave back "line clear " at 6.31. At 6.36 he took " on line " the 6.10 p.m. down train also from London Bridge, and admitted it to the main line platform, giving back " line clear " at 6.41. The engine of the 5.50 train having meantime run round its train, he made the points for it to run into the shunting siding (forgetting for the moment that it was not to be used) and gave the driver the disc signal allowing him to proceed, which he accordingly did, but came in contact with a scaffold pole some 40 yards on the up side of the cabin at about 6.44., Stanley hearing the blow. At 6.46 Stanley took " on line" the 6.15 train from Victoria. He looked through his cabin window to see if the tail of the 5.50 train was clear of the catch points of the shunting siding, but not being able to make this out he tried No. 20 points, and finding he could pull the lever over, concluded without further inquiry or examination that this must be clear; he then lowered the signal for admitting the 6.15 train to the dock platform, as the 6.10 train was occupying the main line platform (the one to which the 6,15 train was usually admitted), the accident to the 5.50 train having prevented its being shunted. On the collision occurring, at about 6.51, Stanley first became aware that the empty train was foul of the line on which he admitted the 6.15 p.m. train. 

The driver of the 5.50 train, which consisted of 16 vehicles, arrived at West Croydon at 6.28, eight minutes late from detentions by signals, and when he had ran round his train, received the signal for taking it into the shunting siding, which he did cautiously (knowing that it had been under repair), until his engine struck a scaffold pole, bringing down some scaffolding with it. He stopped at once and though he thought that the tail of his train could not be clear of the dock road, he said nothing to the signalman ; as the whole thing having occurred right under his eyes, he considered he must be aware of the state of things. After examination of the engine and train, during which the station master and a shunter had come up, he heard the 6.15 train approaching and thought it must be going to the main lino platform; he however gave the driver a whistle with his fingers and shouted to him to go steady; it did not occur to him to look up to see which home-signal was off. He felt the collision slightly on the engine. 

The driver of the 6.15 train from Victoria, which consisted of engine, tender, and seven coaches, with a break compartment front and rear, a guard being in the rear one, was approaching West Croydon six minutes late (having been detained three minutes in starting and three minutes by signals) and found the signals off for running into the dock. Suspecting something might be wrong, as he ordinarily ran with this train to the main line platform, he approached rather more slowly than usual, and on passing the engine of the 5.50 empty train, he heard the driver shout, not whistle, something which be could not make out; he again looked up at the home signal, and seeing it still off for the dock ran on, and only saw that the empty carriages were foul of the road on which he was running a few yards before striking them. He had just time to reverse and put on steam and his fireman to get an extra turn at his break handle before his engine struck the third carriage from the rear of the empty train (which carriage was upset), and knocked the two rear ones back into the dock. 

The guard of the train was totally unprepared for the collision, which knocked him down, though without hurting him. 

No wheels were knocked off the rails in the 6.15 train, which was very little damaged. 

The station master was on the main down platform attending to the 6.10 p.m. train, when he was informed that the engine of the 5.50 train had ran into the scaffolding in the shunting siding. He at once went up to the spot, not noticing as he passed that the tail of the train was foul of the line leading to the dock; as he passed the signal cabin he asked the signalman why he had let the empty train into the shunting siding, who replied that he had forgotten the order. While examining what damage the train had received, the 6.15 p.m. ran past into the dock line and the collision occurred. 

This collision was the result, first, of the forgetfulness of an experienced signalman of the order (to which he had had his attention directed only half an hour previously) not to use the shunting siding, and secondly, of his want of care in not ascertaining that the tail of the empty train was really clear of the dock line, instead of assuming that it was so because be was able to move a set of points between the wheels of that train. 

It would only have been prudent in the driver of the empty train to have communicated to the signalman his impression that the tail of his train was not clear of the dock line. 

It is disappointing to the company to have had the occurrence of this collision shortly after incurring a costly expenditure in re-arranging this station with the latest improvements. They at any rate have the satisfaction of feeling that they have neglected no known means for ensuring the safety of the public using the station, and that the present collision is one which may fairly be put down to the item of human fallibility. 

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