22nd DECEMBER 1879

Involving Driver John Taylor and Fireman Frederick Timmins

Depot unknown

extracted adapted from the report 

by F.A. Marindin Major B.E.

A collision which occurred upon the 22nd December, at East Croydon station, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

In this case, the London Bridge portion of the 12 o'clock up passenger train from Hastings, consisting of third-class break, two third-class, one first-class, one third-class, one second-class, and one first-class carriages, and rear break-van, while standing at the up platform at East Croydon station, at about 2.26 p.m., was run into during a dense fog by the engine of the Victoria portion of the 1.50 p.m. down passenger train, which, having been detached from its train, had been crossed from the down to the up main line, and was proceeding to the engine shed sidings.

One passenger complained at the time of being shaken, but has not since made any claim upon the Company, and the guard of the Hastings train was slightly injured. There was no damage to the rolling stock or permanent way, and no vehicles left the rails.


At East Croydon station, in addition to up and down main lines, there are up and down loop lines which run at the back of the platforms on either side.

The station south signal-box is upon the up side of the main line, about 64 yards south of the up platform, and immediately opposite to the box arc the facing-points of the up loop line. About 10 yards further south on the up line are the trailing points of a cross-over road, the connection of which with the down main line is about 64 yards south of the signal-box.

Upon the down line, about half-way between this connection and the signal-box, are the trailing points of the down loop.

The line is strait from the south as far as the signal-box, but curves slightly to the west through the station, and it is on a gradient of 1 in 264 falling towards the north. At this station the Victoria and London Bridge portions of down trains are joined, while up trains are divided. The practice in the former case is for the Victoria portion to be brought up to the platform upon the down loop, when the engine is detached and run ahead upon the down main line. The London Bridge portion, which is brought up to the platform on the main line, is then run ahead past the trailing points of the loop, and backed through them on to the Victoria portion. The Victoria engine is then crossed from the down to the up line, out of the way, and is sent to the engine shed sidings north of the station, either by way of the up main line or the up loop line. Up trains are usually brought up to the platform on the up main line, the Victoria portion being in front leaves first and is followed by the London Bridge portion as soon as the engine is attached and the line is clear. The line is worked upon the block system.


1. Edward Thomas states: I have been about five years in the service, 3 1/2 years a signalman, and eight months in East Croydon south junction box. Upon t.he 22nd December 1879 I came on duty at 2 p.m. for eight hours. The l.50 p.m. down train from Victoria arrived at 2.18 p.m. upon the down loop line, where it stopped. I then let the 2 p.m. down train from London Bridge run up to the main line down platform at 2.22 p.m. The engine was then, as usual, detached from the Victoria train, and run forward upon the down main line nearly as far as the advance-signal, where it waited. The 2 p.m. down train then came forward over the loop points, and set back on to the Victoria portion to which it was attached. At 2.23 p.m. the 12 p.m. up train from Hastings arrived upon the up main line, and stopped at the platform, at about the usual place. As soon as the 2 p.m. down train had set back into the loop line I brought the engine of the Victoria portion across through the cross-over road on to the up main line, with the intention of sending it into the sidings up the main line behind the 12 p.m. up train from Hastings. The disc-signal was taken off for this engine to come back through the cross-over road, and I did not give any other signal for it when it passed my box. It is not usual for me to do so. The engine follows the passenger train as soon as it starts. It was foggy at the time, and coming on much thicker, but I could see the tail lamps of the 12 p.m. up train where it was standing. The engine came past my box: at about the usual speed. I neither saw nor heard the collision. The engine might have gone to the sidings up the loop or up the main line. Sometimes it goes one way and sometimes the other. It depends upon ths way trains are running. Generally when it is foggy I stop engines and warn the drivers, but on this occasion I was very busy and omitted to do so. I thought the driver knew the train was there and could see it.

There are no special instructions in my box regarding this operation, which takes place with all the down trains made up here of two portions from Victoria and London Bridge. I had just sent for fogmen when the Hastings train arrived. The fog came on very suddenly.

2. John Taylor states: I have been 16 years in the service and 11 years a driver. Upon the 22nd December I was driver of the 1.50 p.m. down passenger train from Victoria, with engine No. 4. A 4-wheel coupled tank-engine, fitted with Westinghouse break, working one wooden block on each of the six wheels. I have also a hand-break working the same blocks. I was running chimney first. After stopping at the platform on the loop, I was detached, and I ran forward a little beyond the advance-signal on the down main line, and waited while the London Bridge train was brought forward and set back on to my train. I must have been 3 or 4 minutes in the loop before pulling out, waiting the arrival of the London Bridge train. I did not notice any up train pass while I was waiting on the down line. I followed the London Bridge portion of the train back as far as the cross-over road points, and waited until the disc-signal was pulled off, when I put on steam and crossed on to the down line. I came past the signal-box at about 4 miles an hour, and when I came to the loop points I found that they were set for the up main line. I did not see them before getting to them as it was very foggy. I did not think there was anything wrong in this, as we sometimes go to the sidings through the loop, and sometimes up the main line. Usually when there is a train on the main line we go up the loop, and vice versa. The fog had come on very thick at the time, and I could see nothing on the main line ahead of me until I saw the break-van of a passenger train within 5 or 6 yards of me. I had not put on steam again after I had shut off steam when I came through the crossing, so that I was going very slowly. I applied my Westinghouse break at once, but I had only about 40 lbs. pressure of air at the time, and it did not stop my engine or check it very much. My mate also went to his hand-break, and I went to reverse my engine ; but there was no time to do anything before I bit the train. I did not think the ahock very severe. I was not knocked down. My engine was not in the least damaged, and no vehicle.a left the rails. I do not think the train was driven ahead at all. I am certain I was keeping a good look-out, and that I could not see the train above or 6 yards. I suppose we were not going above a walking pace at the time. My break was in good order. Sometimes when I am put across in this way I have been turned on to the rear of an up train, to take off horse-boxes or other vehicles, so that l do not always have a clear run through. It is, however, always the custom for the signalman to warn us in foggy weather, if there is a train on the main line, and even in fine and clear weather when we go up the loop as we cannot see round the curve. I have very frequently had to do this operation, three or four times a day when working the main line trains, which I have done on and off for 11 years.

3. Frederick Timmins states : I have been 6 1/2 years in the service, and 3 1/2 years as fireman. Upon the 22nd December I was fireman to John Taylor. I saw the up train pass while we were standing near the down advance signal. I did not expect it was on the main line in front of us, as the signalman did not warn us, and I thought it had started. It was a very thick fog, and I do not think the break van of the train was more than 5 or 6 yards off when we first saw it. I went to my break handle at once, and my mate went to his reversing-lever. He did not apply his Westinghouse break. I am not quite sure whether he did or he did not. We were not running more than 2 or 3 miles an hour when we struck the van. I had time to get my break on, but the rails were very greasy and it did not do a great deal of good. We got no waming from the signalman, or signal of any kind.

4. Joseph Bignell states: I have been 14 1/2 years in the service and seven years a guard. Upon the 22nd December I was guard of the 12 o'clock up passenger train from Hastings. We had engine and tender, and eight vehicles on leaving Hastings, and when we left Polegate, having taken the Eastbourne portion, we had 17 vehicles, including three break-vans. I was riding in the break-van in rear of the train. We arrived at East Croydon about 10 minutes late. We are due at 2.7 I think. I was in my van preparing to take in parcels when we were struck. My break was hard on upon all four wheels, and I do not think we were driven far  ahead. I was knocked over and cut on the head. We must have been about five minutel at the platform. It was very foggy. I could not see so far as the signal cabin, but I think I could see as far as the end of the platform. That would be about 20 or 30 yards. I had not seen any fogmen out. The fog had come on very suddenly. No passengers complained to me of being injured. No vehicle left the rails. I do not think there was any damage to the train. The Victoria portion of the train had started, so that the portion which was left consisted of one third-class break, two third-class, one first-class, one third-class, one second-class, one first-class carriages and break-van.

5. Mr. William Ruxton states : I am station-master at East Croydon. I was on duty upon the 22nd December, and was on the up platform when the 12 o'clock train from Hastings arrived. I was about half-way along the train when the collision occurred. I heard it but did not see the engine. It was very foggy, and I do not think that the break-van can have been visible for more than 20 yards, if for so much. The fog had come on quite suddenly and was in banks, in one part of the station it was clear and in the other quite thick. I did not receive any complaints from passengers. I saw the guard and he was cut about the head. I spoke to the clriver of the engine, No. 4, and asked him how it had happened. He said that he did not see the train until he was close on to it, and that he was under the impression that it was in the loop, as he had received no warning from the signal-man. There was no person with him but his fire- man, and both were quite sober. He is a very steady man. I then went to the signalman, and asked him why he had turned the engine down the straight when he had the loop line clear. He made no reply, but he admitted that he had not cautioned the driver when I asked him if he had done so. The Victoria portion had started when the accident occurred. The Hastings train arrived at 2.24 and the collision happened at 2.26. The 1.50 down train arrived at 2.19 and the 2 p.m. down train at 2.22.


This slight collision was due to the carelessness of the signalman in Eaat Croydon south junction box, who, after crossing the engine of the 1.60 p.m. down train from Victoria off the down main on to the up main line, according to the usual practice, allowed the driver to proceed upon the up main line, without warning him that the 12 (noon) up Hastings train was standing at the platform upon this line, although there was at the time such a dense fog that, according to the evidence of most of the men concerned, it was impossible to see anything for more than 20 yards at the outside.

It is possible that the signalman intended to send this engine to the engine sidings at the north of the station by way of the loop and that therefore he did not wam the driver that the main line was occupied by the Hastings train, but if this be the case he is equally to blame for not having set the points for the loop line before allowing the engine to pass his signal-box.

There is some doubt whether or not the driver made use of his Westinghouse break, but the distance available for the stopping of the engine was so short that there was hardly time for any break to have taken effect, and I do not attribute any blame to this man.

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