1877

BO PEEP TUNNEL


17th AUGUST 1877


Extracted and adapted from the Board of Trade report 

by  F. H. RICH, Colonel, R.E

An accident that occurred on the 17th instant the in Bo-peep tunnel, on the South-eastern Railway. The guard of the 5.5 p.m. London, Brighton, and South Coast train from Hastings to London was killed by looking out of his van and striking his head against the projecting observatory of the brake van of one of the Brighton Company's down trains, which passed the up train in the tunnel. 

Bo-peep tunnel is situated between Warrior Square (St. Leonard's) station on the South-eastern Railway, and the West Marina station, of the Brighton Company. The Brighton Company's trains run over this section of the line. The tunnel is about 3/4 of a mile long. It commences at the west end of Warrior Square station yard, and extends to a place about 30 yards east of the junction where the Brighton line to Lewes diverges from the South- eastern line to Battle and Tunbridge. This part of the line was opened for passenger traffic in the year 1851. The tunnel in question is of a parabolic form. It is about 28 ft. 6 in. wide at the level of the rails, and about 24 ft. wide at the level of the carriage windows. In the year 1860 a part of the tunnel, about 240 yards from the western end, showed signs of giving way, and it was lined with a ring of 9-inch brickwork for a distance of about 50 yards.

This reduced the size of this part of the tunnel at the level of the rails to about 21 ft. 10 in., and it is only 19 ft. 11 in. wide at one place. The distance between the outer rail and the side of the tunnel was thus reduced to about 2 ft. 6 in. on the one side, and 2 ft. 7 in. on the other, and the interval between the up and down lines of rail, for this length is only 4 ft. 4 in. to 4 ft. 7 in. wide. It was here that the guard unfortunately met his death on the 17th inst. He was travelling in the brake van next the engine, and must have been looking out on the side next the down line, as the marks of his hair were left on the side light or observatory of the leading van of the down train; blood and brains were found on the observatory of the brake van at the tail  of the down train, and a piece of his skull went into the window of this last brake van, which was open at the time.

It is supposed that the unfortunate man was looking out for the junction signals at the west end of the tunnel or that he was alarmed by the engine driver of the down train whistling as he entered the tunnel.

The up train consisted of an engine and tender and brake van (in which the unfortunate man who was killed was travelling), and five coaches. The brake van of this train was provided with a roof observatory, but not with side observatories. 

The down train consisted of an engine and tender, six coaches, two brakes together, with the assistant guard in one, and seven coaches, and then the rear brake with the guard in charge.

The trains were made up in the order in which the vehicles are given.

Both the guards in the down train heard blows at the sides of their van as they passed the up train, and at first they thought that the noise was occasioned by their having left their doors open when leaving West Marina station, where the down trains run to the platform on the up side of the line, but on examine their vans with a lamp they found their doors were closed all right. On reaching Warrior Square station and examine their side observatories they found the marks of a man’s head on them.

The station inspector with the foreman of bricklayers then went back through the tunnel, and on reaching the place described as having been narrowed by the lining, they found a part of the unfortunate man’s skull and brains in the intervals between the up and down lines.

When the up train passed the London, Brighton, and South Coast signal cabin at the east end of the West Marina station yard, the pointsman on duty observed the guard’s head and arms hanging down out of his van window, and bespattered with blood. He called the station masters attention by means of his signal bell to something being the matter, and the dead man was taken out of the van and carried into the  Station. His skull was split open from the forehead to the back df the neck. 

He had been 20 years in the Company's service, bore an excellent character, and had been in the habit of working over that part of the line where he met his death. 

The servants of both Companies appear to have been ignorant of the danger of looking out of the carriages owing to the tunnel having been narrowed in the place above described and in two other places further east for distances of 20 and 30 feet respectively. 

There has been one incident of a door being knocked off the carriage of an up train by striking the lining on the south side of the tunnel, and another case of a side lump of a goods van having been broken by striking the side light of a passenger brake van where the tunnel has been narrowed; but it never seems to have occurred to anyone that there was danger to passengers or to the servants of the Companies in passing through this tunnel owing to its being narrower than usual. 

With reference to the narrowing of the Bo-peep tunnel at the three places for the following lengths:- viz., one, 20 feet; one, 30 feet; and one, 150 feet by lining it with 9-inch brickwork in order to provide against the threatened danger of the tunnel giving way in consequence of the bad work originally done by the contractors, I am of opinion that it was a mistake to repair the tunnel in the manner in which it was done, and that the defective brickwork ought to have been cut out and replaced with new and sound work without altering the section of the tunnel, and I strongly recommend that this work be now done. 

I have carefully examined the side of the hill and the nature of the cliffs on each side of the tunnel. They consist of horizontal beds of soft sandstone intermixed with layers of sand and loam. 

There is very little water in the tunnel, and I do not foresee any difficulty if this work is properly carried out. It is true that there is a pond on the hill above the tunnel which has been formed by damming up a small watercourse so as to provide water for the works of a brickyard, but this pond appears to be 70 yards distant from tho tunnel, and as the tunnel is a little wet opposite to this pond the engineer of the South-eastern Company possibly preferred lining the tunnel (to avoid the risk of any run of loose sand and water into the tunnel) to cutting out the defective brickwork ; but there does not appear to me to be any reason for expecting much difficulty in reforming the tunnel to the same section that it was originally constructed and approved of by the inspecting officer of the Board of Trade. 

The projecting linings if allowed to remain will be a constant source of danger. 

The temporary risk of working single line while the repairs are being executed is one that has constantly to be dealt with on all railways, and is reduced to a minimum if proper arrangements are made for carrying on the repairs. 

The coroner's jury on the guard that was killed, recommended that notices should be issued, warning all parties of the danger. I understand that this very necessary precaution has now been taken by the Companies. 

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