on 27th FEBRUARY 1879

Involving South Eastern Enginemen 

and L.B.S.C.R. Enginemen

Driver David Dixon & his Fireman Charles Allison

Driver George McClary & his Fireman Harry Verrall

Depots not known

Extracted & adapted from the report by

W. Holland Colonel

A serious collision which occurred on the 27th February, between a passenger train and a pilot-engine, both belonging to the South-Eastern Railway Company, at the Forest Hill station of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

Thirty-four passengers have complained of having been injured on this occasion, and five of the South-Eastern Railway Company's servants were hurt., some of them seriously.

The two engines and four of the seven vehicles which were in the passenger train were much damaged. The details of the damage and a list of the persons injured are given in the Appendix.


Forest Hill station is situated about three miles south of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company's station at New Cross, from whence there is a long rising incline of 1 in 100, which terminates just before Forest Hill station is reached. The line between London Bridge and Red Hill belongs partly to the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, and partly to the South- Eastern Railway Company, and it is worked over by the trains belonging to both railway companies.

In consequence of the long incline of 1 in 100, rising from New Cross station, it is customary to assist goods trains up this incline, by means of a pilot-engine behind but not attached to the goods trains. On this occasion the South-Eastern Company's 11.20 p.m. down goods train from the Bricklayers' Arms station to Dover, was assisted up the incline by a pilot-engine. The pilot-engine usually stops when the goods train has reached Forest Hill station, and it then returns to the Bricklayers' Arms station, or is placed in the sidings at Forest Hill.

There are four lines of railway at :Forest Hill station ; the two centre lines are the main down and up lines, and the two outer lines are the local down and up lines.

The traffic is worked upon ihe absolute block system, there being block telegraph signal-boxes at New Cross and Brockley stations, No. 9 bridge, and Forest Hill; the signal-box at Forest Hill is an elevated box, and is situated on the western side of the railway, about 85 yards south of the south end of the down main line platform.

The trailing points on the down main line of the cross-over road from the down to the up main line, by which the pilot-engine, after it reahed Forest Hill, would cross over and return to the Bricklayers' Arms station, are situated about 49 yards south of this signal-box, and the trailing points connecting the down main line with the sidings lying on the eastern side of the railway, are 204 yards south of the signal-box.

The signalmen who are employed in the several signal-boxes between New Cross and Forest Hill in working the block system are required to record any cases in which the pilot-engine which is employed behind the goods trains, in assisting them up the incline from New Cross to Forest Hill, fails to carry tail lights.

The collision is stated to have occurred nearly opposite to the up home or rear signals at Forest Hill station, or 154 yards south of the signal-box, and tail lights on an engine standing at this spot can be seen from an engine running on the down main line while it is passing the Forest Hill down platform, at a distance of about 280 yards.

The greater portion of the evidence had been taken down by the officers of the two companies concerned, within a day or two of the occurrence ; it was read over to the men when they came before me, corrected whore required, and the alterations and additional evidence subsequently taken arc printed in italics.


Walter Thomas West, signalman on duty at Forest Hill last night, 27th February states: I have been in railway service 27 years, 11 years on the Great Northern Railway, and 17 years on the Brighton line. I have been signalman the whole of my time on the Brighton Railway. I have been a signalman in the Forest Hill signal-box over nine years. I commenced duty at Forest Hill at 10.0 p.m; at 11.46, I received a signal from No. 9 bridge for the 11.20 p.m. down South-Eastern goods train from Bricklayers' Arms. The train passed my box at 11.50 p.m., and as the engine and front part of the train passed I was looking out of the windows at the north end of the box, the sash being open ; but before the whole of the train
had passed I went to pull off my up main and local line signals, the up mail train being due, and a train from the Crystal Palace being nearly due. Having pulled off my signals, I looked out to see if the down goods train had passed complete. I saw the tail lamps of the train when the last vehicle had passed my box about 20 or 30 yards, and I then gave the "clear " signal back to No. 9 bridge box, at 11.51 p.m. I could not see any engine at the rear, and I am positive there were only the lights on the last brake visible. After the goods train had passed I stood at my signal lever and looked towards Sydenham for the purpose of seeing if the goods train had brought the pilot behind, but I could not see one; to make certain I went to the window and looked out, at the south or Sydenham end, the sash being open, but still I could not see any signs of a pilot-engine, and finally l concluded that the goods train had come down without an engine behind. That does not often happen. The up mail train passed my box at 11.59 p.m. The next train signalled was the 11.40 p.m. down passenger train from London Bridge, given on from No. 9 Bridge box at 12.0 midnight, given inn by me to Sydenham at 12.2, cleared back to No. 9 bridge at 12.4 and cleared from Sydenham at 12.7 am. That train was running on the down local line. The next train signalled was the 11.53 p.m. from the Crystal Palace, given on from Sydenham at 12.4, given on by me to No.9 bridge at 12.7 a.m.; this train passed my box just about the time the collision took place; and Mr. smith, station master, immediately after came to my box, and told me to block both up and down lines, consequently I did not give 'line clear' back to Sydenham until 1.36 a.m., but the train was cleared back as having passed No.9 bridge at 12.12 a.m. The next train signalled out was the 11.53 p.m. South Eastern train from London Bridge, given on from No.( bridge box at 12.5 a.m., given on by me to Sydenham at 12.7 a.m., when the engine of the train was at the south end of the down platform. After the train passed my box I saw the tail lights complete, and I then gave the clear signal back to no.9 bridge, which is booked at 12.7. On the question being put to West by Mr. Sears, as to whether this train had one or two tail lamps on, West wished to qualify his previous statement as to the tail lamps being complete, as he could not be positive as to whether the train had two lamps alight or one, but West is positive he saw one. I was told by Mr. Smith the station master, after the collision, that this train 
had one tail lamp only alight. Immediately after I had given "clear" to No. 9 bridge, and the down Dover train had passed my box, I heard a noise, which sounded to me something like a fog-siglnal going off, or not so loud, but I had no idea that it was a collision after I heard the noise. I also heard an engine whistle; there were three whistles, similar to what is given for breaks to be put on; and I noticed the train still going forward, and I saw it come to a stand, as far as I can say, close to the footbridge over the line. As I was looking out of the box to see what was the matter, Mr. Smith, the station master, came down the line from the station, and I said to him, "I think there is something the matter with that train, Sir," and he replied, "I think there is, I will go and see." I did not hear any whistling from the pilot engine after the goods train had passed until the collision took place. It is usual for a pilot engine to assist this goods train to Forest Hill, but exceptions have occurred when it has not come. I don't recollect any instances since the beginning of this year when this goods train has not been accompanied by a pilot engine. After the train had come to a Stand near the bridge before mentioned, I could see a red light, which I concluded to be the tail light of the passenger train. I will not be positive there were not two. I cannot say how long it was after the collision before an engine was ent down to bring the train back to the station. About a minute, it might be a little more, after I heard the noise, the fireman of the pilot engine came back opposite to the signal box, and called out "That I had done a very pretty thing in having nearly killed his mate and damaged their engine," and I asked him what he meant, he said "Our engine was standing there," and I asked "What engine?" He replied, either "the pilot" or the "pilot of the goods," or words to that effect, and he added, " We had our reds on." This was said all in one breath. I said, "You had not." he rejoined that "They had." I replied, "I will swear you had not." I think he answered "We had," and I then told him the matter would be inquired into elsewhere. I believe that Mr. Smith, the station master, was not there when this conversation commenced, but he was there before it terminated. I forgot to mention to Mr. Williams that about 5.10 a.m. the fireman of the South Eastern down passenger train engine came into the signal-box, and he said that " He saw no red light, and my driver says the same." There was nothing further. When a pilot engine accompanies a down goods train, sometimes the pilot-engine whistles to indicate that it wants to cross to the up main line, sometimes it does not whistle. I show a green light towards the pilot-engine by night as a signal for it to cross after I nave blocked the road back to Sydenham for the up main line. The pilot engine more frequently whistles for permission to cross, than it omits to whistle. It was a very dark night, and rather misty, but I could see the back lights of the up rear signals, and also the back lights of the up distant-signals, and also the back lights of the Sydenham down distant-signals. I saw all these lights when I was looking for the pilot engine. I had not received any signal from No. bridge for any other down train on the down main line, about the time when the collision occurred. The next down train signalled, at 12.36 a.m., was for the Portsmouth down goods train.

Walter William Field, surveyor, states : I was at the Sydenham end of the shelter of the up platform at Forest Hill station on the night of the collision. I got to the station at six minutes to 12 o'clock, and I left the station for New Cross by the up train, about 12.6 a.m. I was very anxious about my train, as I had to catch a South-Eastern train at  New Cross for Blackheath, and in consequence I was looking out in the direction of Sydenham for lights, together with. Mr. Smith, the station-master, and I saw no lights. 1 did not see a goods train pass towards Sydenham during the time I was there, but I saw an express train going towards London about 12 o'clock, and I asked what train it was, and was told that it was the Brighton express; soon after that another expressed passed, ad I was told that it was the down Dorking express. I remarked to Mr. Smith that it was very late for an express train to leave London, and he told me that it only ran one day in the week, on Thursdays, - I think he said Thursdays. I watched this down express train past the platform, until I heard a report of a collision, and saw sparks fly from the funnel or some other part of the engine, and then I heard a prolonged white for the first time. I had not heard any short whistles before that. I did not notice any light, white or red or green, though looking for them, ahead of the engine of the down Dorking express train just before I heard the noise of the collision, but immediately afterwards I saw the light of the engine of the up train which I was waiting for. I think it was red. I did not notice any tail lights on the Dorking express train. I attend here today at the request of Mr. smith, the station master, to state what I had observed while standing on the up platform on the night of the collision. A train to Penge or the Crystal Palace left the station about 12 o'clock; that was a stopping train and not running on the same line as the down Dorking express. I did not watch that train particularly. I did not see the tail lights on that train. I did not see any signal lights when looking down the line for any train. I called Mr. Smith's attention to the collision. He remarked that it was some train shunting. I was not aware that there had been any collision before I left the station in my train.

James Fuller, train signal clerk at Forest Hill, who was on duty on the night of the collision, states: I have been in the service about 9 or 10 months, and have been a train signal clerk the whole time. I went into the signal box that night at 6 p.m. I have been working in that box about five months. The South- Eastern 11.20 p.m. goods train from Bricklayers' Arms was signalled out from No. 9 bridge at 11.46, given on to Sydenham at 11.50 p.m., cleared back to No. 9 bridge 11.51 p.m., cleared from Sydenham at. 11.53 p.m. I saw the train pass, and I noticed the tail lights on the goods train, but I did not sec the pilot-engine. I remarked to the signalman " that ever since I have been at this box this is the first time they have come down without a pilot behind." The ~Signal­ man said "Yes, it is funny they have come down without a. pilot," and he looked out of the window, and I looked as well, but could not see anything of the pilot engine. after the goods train had passed, the signalman went to the window and looked out, and when he came back he gave the "clear" signal to no.9 bridge for the goods train. I am not positive as to whether the conversation about there being no pilot on took place before he gave "clear" or after, but it was when the goods train was about six or eight trucks' lengths past the box, it may be more. I notice the train was going forward, and I could see the tail lights. The next train signalled was the Brighton mail on main line up, given on from Sydenham at 11.57 p.m., cleared back at 11.59, given on to No.9 bridge 11.59, cleared back from No.9 bridge at 12.0. The net train signalled out was the 11.40 p.m. from London Bridge local train, given on from No.9 bridge at 12.0, given on to Sydenham at 12.2, cleared back to no.9 at 12.4, and cleared from Sydenham at 12.7. Also at the same time, the 11.53 p.m. train from Crystal Palace was given on from Sydenham at 12.4, given on to No.9 bridge at 12.7, but not cleared back to Sydenham until 1.36 a.m., as the signalman did not give the "clear" signal back. The 11.53 p.m. South Eastern train from London Bridge was given on to Sydenham at 12.7, cleared back to No. 9 bridge at 12.7. I first put down this train as given on to Sydenham at 12.6, but when I looked up at the clock I saw 12.7 was the nearest time. The "clear" was not given from Sydenham till 3.0 a.m. in consequence of the block. When the South- Eastern 11.53 p.m. down passenger train was signalled on to Sydenham it was passing the box, and the "clear" signal was given back to No. 9 bridge when the signalman could see the tail lights. dill not notice the tail lights on the passenger train. heard the collision, and it sounded to me like a cannon going off, but did not hear the engine whistle. The whole of the signals in the book are in my handwriting. did not work the instruments either way. watched the signalman working the instruments, and the entries are made according to his working. The signal-man generally calls out to me main down " clear," or main up" clear," as the case may be. After the collision the fireman came to the box and said " You  have half killed my mate and knocked the engine about; we had two red lights on." The signalman replied " You did not have any red lights on ;" this was repeated two or three times. The signalman was looking about a good while to make sure there was no pilot-engine before the " clear" was given and after. The signalman did not nppear to be satisfied, and kept going to the window and looked down to see if he could see the pilot-engine. noticed when the passenger train had come to a stand after the collision that there was only one tail light on the passenger train. I did not hear any whistle from either of the engines, either immediately before the collision or after it. It was a rather dark night and misty. I looked out of the window for the pilot engine, but I did not notice the back lights of any of the signals. I don't know whether the up local train (the up Crystal Palace train) left the station before the collision occurred or afterwards.

W. Smith, nine years station master at Forest Hill, and 24 years in the Company's service, states: I did not see the South-Eastern goods train pass down. I was in my house at the time. I came on to the platform some two or three minutes before 12 o'clock to attend to the last up train from the Crystal Palace, due at Forest Hill at 11.59 p.m., at the train was a little late. I was standing on the platform watching for its coming, and looking downtowards Sydenham. saw no lights on the road; if there had been any could have seen them from any part of the platform. After I had been standing there some little time the 11.53 p.m. down South-Eastern train passed, and I noticed the off side tail light was out, and directly after that I heard a bang, and thought the engine had burst a tube. I got my hand lamp and made my way to the box, and West, the signalman, was looking out of the box, and he said, " I think there is something the matter with that train." I said "Yes, I believe there is; I will go and see ;" and with that the fireman of the pilot engine came across and called up to West, and said, "You have done something for us to-night." West said "What do you mean ?" The fireman then said, That train ran into our engine. We had our lights " all right." I said, "You had no tail lamps on your engine." I asked him were his engine was, and he said "I do not know, and l do not know where my mate is." then told West to block all roads, and went down to the train and met a lot of passengers running over the line; so I got them into the siding, and told West to keep the 12.0 midnight Crystal Palace train until I ordered it on, and as soon as I got the passenger" clear I got this train through; but previous to that I had sent for the platelayers and medical men, not knowing what injury or damage was done. I then telegraphed New Cross to make up a special train and send it on at once, and then I got the 12.20 down as far as the scene of the accident, and got the passengers into that train and sent them on to Sydenham, to prevent their walking back up the line. When the special train arrived, it picked up the passengers at Sydenham. I was engaged in conversation with a gentleman, Mr. Field, nearly the whole time from my coming on to the platform until I heard the noise of the collision. I am positive when the South Eastern train passed this station it only had one tail lamp alight. I did not afterwards notice how many it had on, but it was furnished with two when put back into the siding, and they were burning all right. Mr. Field left by the train due at Forest Hill at 11.59. The collision took place about six or seven minutes past 12 'clock, and it occurred before that rain had passed the Forest Hill signal box. I went on from the signal box to where the passenger train had stopped after the collision had taken place directly afterwards - one minute afterwards. I had no conversation with the driver of the pilot engine, nor with the driver of the passenger train. I heard a tremulous whistle after the collision had taken place, but none before. I heard conversation between the signalman and the fireman of the pilot engine. I believe I passed the up local train as I was going towards the signal box.

Mark Watson, driver of South-Eastern Company's pilot engine No. 63, has been 14 years in the Company's service, five years of that time a driver, states: I commenced duty at 5.0 p.m. on Thursday, February 27th, at London Bridge, taking the engine from George Weston I was the London Bridge pilot till 8.0 p.m. I went from London Bridge behind the parliamentary to Cannon Street, and then took the train from there to Charing Cross. I then stood as Charing Cross pilot till 9.35 p.m. ; the went light from Charing Cross to Bricklayers' Arms, arriving there at 10.25 p.m. The next thing I did was to coal and water the engine, and then I stood in the siding until we piloted out the 11.20 p.m. goods train. I came out of the siding three or four minutes before the starting time. I was assisted in the rear of the 11.20 p.m. goods train from Bricklayers' Arms to Forest Hill last night (27th February). We left Bricklayers' Arms about 11.20 or 11.22, had a clear run off the Bricklayers' Arms branch, but was brought nearly to n dead stand at the signals, north end of New Cross station, and we were again checked when approaching Brockley by signals, after which we had a clear run to Forest Hill. I gradually eased off from the train at the north end of the platform at Forest Hill, and shut off before I got to the signal box. I finally parted from the train about opposite the Signalbox, at the south end of the station, about 11.50 p.m. About five minutes before I left Bricklayers' Arms I went round the engine to oil the bearings, and I saw it had two tail lamps on showing red lights, and burning all right. I did not see these lamps after, and I have not seen them since. I think we stood on the main down line at Forest Hill about 10 minutes, and during that time I saw my mate go round the engine, as I suppose, for the purpose of examining the lights. We had a red light on the tender, which was in front going up the bank. My mate said, "I must change the red head light, because there is an up train coming." I said, "Yes, you must not leave the red one on at that end." During the time I was standing on the down main line with my engine I did not sound the whistle; it is not usual to do so. I have been driving the pilot engine, not every day, for a period of five years. While standing on the main down line my engine was opposite to the up rear stop signals, south end of the station. I saw the head lights of the down Dorking passenger train, 11.45 p.m. from Charing Cross, as it approached round the curve, and I think the train was about the centre of the platform when I first saw the lights. I immediately pulled over the lever to reverse the engine, put on steam to move towards Sydenham, and sounded the whistle, and I had moved, I should think, about 20 yards when the collision took place. After the collision I shut off steam, but the force of the engine and train behind pushed us along about 50 or 60 yards before we came to a stand, and the coals on the tender were pitched forward, nearly filling up the foot-plate. I could not get out until assistance arrived, and it was 15 minutes before anyone came ; the fireman of the next engine assisted me out. My mate had gone to examine the smoke-box end of the engine, and just as saw the train approaching, he called out, "For " God's sake put on steam; there is a main line train coming." did not see him again for 20 minutes. The weather was hazy at New Cross and Brockley, but clear at Forest Hill, and where we were standing I could see the signal-box clearly, and noticed the man working the levers. The engine, after the collision had taken place, stopped between the down distant-signal for Sydenham and the up distant-signal for Forest Hill - nearer to the down distant-signal for Sydenham than to the other. I think the passenger train was travelling, as near as I can say, at 30 miles an hour. I heard a whistle, I suppose from the passenger train engine, a moment before the collision took place. I was standing on the foot-plate of the engine when the collision occurred. The coals were thrown up to my waist. I was hurt in the left hand, leg, and hip. The moment I saw the lights of the passenger train I whistled, when it was at the platform. The passenger train engine had whistled before that train came in sight-the usual whistle when running through a station. That is my gauge glass. It was in a socket on the foot-plate, and I missed it before I was released from the coal. I had not noticed that my mate had the gauge lamp with him when he went round the engine. I don't know whether the glasss in it was broken before the collision occurred or not.

Charles Tombs, fireman to M. Watson, driver of south Eastern pilot engine No.63, has been in the Company's service about five years, two years of which as fireman, corroborates the driver's statement as far as running to Forest Hill, and states : On arriving there I said to my mate, " I must change our red head light, or it will show towards the up line," and I changed it to a white light. About two minutes before the collision took place I went to the funnel end of the engine, round the frame, to look to my two red lights, which were still burning all right. As I saw the passenger train approaching, I called out to my mate, "For God's sake put on steam, there is a train coming, we shall be smashed," and as I was stepping down from the engine on the off-side the collision took place, by the force of which I was shaken, and fell down. I got up and run across the up line. I did not notice an up train coming, but the engine of an up local train caught me on the side, and knocked me up against tho pale-fencing. I laid there for seven or eight minutes, and could not speak; but on recovering myself, I made for the signal-box as fast as I could, and called out to the signalman, when I was on the ground, "You have done a nice thing for us to-night." He said, "Done what?" I said, "You have let that train run into our engine." He replied, "You never had an engine." As I was walking back to my mate I found two engines and the train together. I called out to my mate, " Mark, are you dead or alive ?" and went round the other side of the engine and saw my mate. I should think we were standing on the down main line about 10 or 11 minutes, but we had not stood there two minutes before I changed the head light on the tender; after I had changed the head light on the tender and before going to the funnel end of the engine, I went on the foot-plate and shut off the feeds. The two lamps that were on the engine at the rear, going up the bank, were square pattern, round bull's-eye, called a "trumpet faced" lamp. I did not see these lamps after the collision, nor have I seen them since; me and my mate looked for them at Forest Hill. The lamp that I changed to a white light on the tender remained after the collision took place, and was again changed to a red light. When I went to the funnel end of the engine I had not the gauge lamp with me. It was broken before the collision occurred; the red glass was cracked. Sometimes my mate has whistled when standing at Forest Hill, and sometime he has not. I think we stopped five or six minutes after the up main line train passed. We are due off duty when performing the same work a little after 1 o'clock. This was the last work that we had to do that night. I was hurt in the left arm and on the right hip. I was off duty for two days. The tail lamps were on the lamp irons at the funnel end of the engine, and both were burning, showing red lights. I was not on the ground when the collision took place.

James Ralph, ganger of plate layers, Forest Hill, produced two lamps found about 14 yards south of the up rear signal at that station; one was picked up on the down side of the line near the wall, and the other was pickP-d up on the up side of the line near the fence ; the gauge lamp was also found laying in the six-foot between the up Croydon and the up main line, near the spot where he found the engine lamps. I could not say when these were found, but it might be after 2 o'clock a.m. After the collision had taken place, I noticed tho train engine had two head lamps and one tail lamp on. The driver of the pilot-engine asked me for the lamps, but I did not tell him 1 had got them.

George Brown, driver of 11.45 p.m. train from Charing Cross, to Dorking, engine No. 113, has been in the service of the South-Eastern Company about 14 years, been a driver about three years, previous to which a fireman, states : On the 27th February I left London Bridge at the right time, and the signals were all right for my train as far as Forest Hill inclusive. I travelled up New Cross bank at a speed of about 25 miles per hour, and I was going a little faster when passing Forest Hill station platform. After passing Forest Hill signal-box, the first thing that attracted my attention was the sound of a whistle from an engine in front, which I found afterwards came from the pilot-engine; the collision took place almost immediately. l was looking on the local road, thinking it was an engine whistling there, until I caught sight of the funnel of the pilot engine. I did not notice any light on it. When I first heard the whistle I was behind the weather-board, and after I heard it I looked outside of the weather-board on the left-hand side of the engine. I pulled over the reversing-lever, but it flew back out of my hand again, and I think the collision took place when I was in the net of doing this. I had not time to shut off steam before the collision occurred, when I was knocked down by the force of it. Just as I had mounted the bank and was passing through the station I pulled the lever back a notch, which eased the blast, and the engine worked shorter. On recovering myself; as the engine was coming to a standstill, 1 got up and shut off the steam, which would only he partially on when passing Forest Hill station, the train being a light one, only about six carriages and a van. From the suddenness of the collision I could not see whether the lights were on the pilot-engine or not. When the train came to a stand, I sat down on the box on my foot- plate to recover from the shock, after which I got down to look after my fireman, and found him releasing the driver of the pilot-engine from the coal which had surrounded him on his foot-plate. The driver of the pilot-engine said, I expect my mate is underneath, and he said something, that he was in front of the engine, and as I understood him, doing, something to the lamps. I was asked by some one from the engine of a train on tho local line if 1 was hurt ; the train on the local line was at a standstill. I believe the man asked me my name. I do not remember being asked about the signals. Some gentleman came to me, with a considerable amount of whiskers, and an overcoat on, and said, our signals were all right, were they not driver? And I said, Yes. He went away again. I was looking out for signals ahead when passing through Forest Hill station, and I think if there had been tail lights on the pilot engine, standing opposite the up stop on the pilot engine, standing opposite the up stop signals, that I must have seen them in running over the distance between the platform and the spot where the collision occurred. The whistling occurred from  stated before was from my own observation, and not from what Adams told me. Townsend asked whether there were any tail lights on, as he had heard that the man at Forest Hill had said there were none. engine. Adams asked me if I had seen the tail lights, and I said that I had seen them.

David Dixon, engine-driver 33 years, and 36 years with London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, states: I was in charge of the 12.20 midnight train from London Bridge to West Croydon on the 27th February. On arriving at Forest Hill I was informed there had been a collision between the South Eastern Company's passenger train and a pilot· engine. After stopping at Forest Hill I was ordered on to the place where the South-Eastern Company's train was standing, to take up the passengers, and when I was at the spot I spoke to the driver of the South-Eastern Company's train. I asked him if the signals were all right for him, and he said he signals were right, he was positive. I asked him if he could see the engine, he said no, the first thing that attracted his attention was the pilot engine whistling. I said what is your name, and he Said "Brown;" my object in asking his name was to ascertain if I knew him, as I could not recognise him then, it being dark.

Charles Allison, fireman to driver Dixon working the London, Brighton, and South Coast Company's 12.20 midnight train, London Bridge to West Croydon, on the 27th February', states: On arriving at Forest Hill we heard there had been a collision, and our train was afterwards ordered on to the scene of the collision to take up the passengers from the South-Eastern train. While standing there opposite the two engines on the main line, I saw the driver of the South-Eastern passenger train and the guard. I asked the driver if he was injured at all or any of their chaps, and he said that he was injured and also his mate. My mate asked the driver how it occurred (meaning the accident), and he said that he did not know bow it was. My mate asked him if he had the signals all right, and he said he had, and then he asked him if he saw the pilot-engine, and he said no, his attention was called to him by his whistling ; the pilot engine tried to get out of his way, but it could not do so for slipping. When my mate asked him if he saw the pilot-engine lights, he said saw no lights; these are the exact words he said.

George McClary, 14 years in tile service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, and six months an engine driver, driver of engine No. 211, states: I was shunting in the goods yard on the down side of the line at New Cross on Thursday night, 27th February, when the 11.20 p.m. South· Eastern goods train from Bricklayers' Arms to Dover passed down. My engine was in motion at the time, and shunter Allen was riding on the step ; he said "That is the way to save oil" I said Yes, they have got no lights on (meaning the South Eastern pilot engine had no lights on). I could see the two lights on the last break of the train. I am not. 

Harry Verrall, 14 months a fireman to driver McClary, engine No. 211, states: I was on the engine at the time the 11.20 p.m. down goods train, Bricklayers' Arms to Dover, passed by New Cross. Shunter Allen was riding on the step of our engine, it being in motion at the time. He (Allen) remarked" That is the way to save oil," and I looked and saw the South-Eastern pilot-engine behind. The goods train had no tail lights on. I noticed one on the office side. I am sure Allen was on the step of the engine when he made that remark, and my mate replied to Allen, that there no lights on the engine. I did not see Shunter Phillips at the time but he was working with us in the shunting operations. I did not see any lamps on the pilot engine 

William Allen, goods guard, in the service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway at New Cross, states: I was on duty on the down side of the line between the Wharf Road, New Cross Road, and the down local, just by the down stop signals, when the South-Eastern Company's 11.20 p.m. down goods train from Bricklayers' Arms passed on the 27th instant. I noticed the rear break-van had two red lights, but there were not any lights on the pilot- engine behind the train. I said to the driver of engine No. 211, "That down pilot has not any lights behind ;" the driver replied, "That's how they save oil on the South-Eastern." I am quite positive there were not any tail lights on the rear of the pilot-engine. I could not see whether the lamps were there; it was too dark. I could not see whether the pilot engine had any head light, or not, on in front. There was only one line of rails between the Wharf Road, where I was standing, and the main down line on which the goods train was running. Tlw pilot-engine was close up with the break van of the goods train.

Georgc Phillips, goods guard in the service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company at New Cross, states: I was on the down side shunting at New Cross on Thursday night, 27th February. I saw the South-Eastern Company's 11.20 p.m. goods train pass New Cross about 11.40 p.m. I notice the pilot engine at the rear of the train. I observed the lamps (two) alight on the break van, but there were not any lights on the pilot engine. I did not mention it to any one, or take any steps in the matter. This train did not go through the station very fast; it was not stopped. I did not see the next train pass down. I was afterwards sent in charge of a train from New Cross, empty, to Forest Hill, to take on passengers to Red Hill. On arriving at Forest Hill, I asked Mr. Smith, the station master, the cause of the collision. He said, the pilot was standing on the main line down without lights on. I answered, I saw it come through New Cross without tail lights. I did not notice any head lights on the pilot-engine. I am quite certain the pilot-engine had not lights on when it passed New Cross. I did not see any lamps: I could not as it was so dark. I was on the step on the engine No. 211, driver McClary, who said, when the South-Eastern train passed down, that is the way they save oil on the South-Eastern. Allen was at the time 8 or l0·yards from the engine. I don't know that it was my duty to report the absence o f tail lights on the pilot-engine.

George Beard, 11 years a signalman, on duty at No. 9 bridge signal-box last night (27th February) states: When the South-Eastern 11.20 p.m. goods train from Bricklayers' Arms passed my box, I saw the tail lights on the last break-van. I noticed there was a pilot-engine behind the train, but I could not see that there were any tail lights on it, because they are lower down than the break lights. I am positive there were tail lights on the break, but I am not positive there were no tail lights on the pilot-engine. If I did not see the tail lights before they passed under the bridge, I cannot see them engine for nearly a quarter of a mile, and it was rather hazy last night. After the train passed under the bridge, I was engaged pulling my signals off for the up local line, and I did not look further to see if the pilot had tail lights on. When the goods train passed my box, I could see tail lights on the break ; but those on the pilot-engine being lower, I could not see where I stood. When the 11.53 p.m. South-Eastern train passed my box, I noticed that it had two tail lights burning ; of this I am not in any doubt. If I had failed to observe any tail lights on the pilot-engine, it would he my duty to enter a remark in the signal- box.

Edmund Peel, guard, but was acting as platform inspector at Forest Hill on the night of the 27th February, six years in the Company's service, states: I did not see the South-Eastern goods train pass down, being at the time in the collector's room. I came on the down platform as the 11.40 p.m. train from London Bridge was coming into the station. I attended that train. and came across to the up platform to give Mr. Smith, the station-master, a letter. He was at the south end of the shed over the platform, in conversation with a passenger. Mr. Smith instructed me what time I was to come on duty the following day; and as I was waiting there for the up

train, I saw the South-Eastern passenger train run through. When on the up platform, I looked towards Sydenham to watch the arrival of the train, 11.22 p.m. from Victoria, due at Forest Hill at 11.59. I did not see any red lights. The night was clear. I noticed the South-Eastern passenger train pass, and it had two tail lights on, one on each side of the upper part of the break ; both were burning. After the train had passed, I heard a slight noise, which sounded like a gauge glass or tube having bursted. I left duty, and came home by the up Crystal Palace train, and was not aware there had been a collision until the following day. If there had been any red tail lights on the pilot-engine I should have seen them. 1 could see the red light o fthe 11.22 up train.


From the preceding statements, it appears that the South-Eastern Company's 11.20 p.m. down goods train from Bricklayers' Arms station to Dover, wa.s assisted on the night of the 27th February up the bank from New Cross to Forest Hill station, by a South-Eastern Company's pilot.engine, No. 63, running on the down main line with the tender in front, at the rear of the goods train ; and while the goods train continued to run forward, the pilot-engine slackened speed, and finally stopped just opposite to the Forest Hill station up home or rear signals, 154 yards south of the Forest Hill signal-box, and 105 yards south of the trailing points of the cross-over road hy which it would have to cross to the up main line, in order to return to the Bricklayers' Arms station, where on arriving it would have finished its night's work.

It appears that the pilot-engine was not seen by the signalman (West), nor by the train signal clerk (Fuller), in the Forest Hill signal-box, although it is distinctly stated that both looked out for the pilot-engine ; both saw the tail lights on the break-van of the goods train, and remarks passed between them as to the unusual absence of the pilot.engine. This goods train passed the at 11.50 p.m., and " line clear" was given back for this goods train to the signalman at No. 9 bridge box at 11.51 p.m., while the pilot-engine was standing on the down main line, opposit~ to the up home-signals.

The Brighton up mail train due to pass Forest Hill station at 11.55 p.m., was signalled forward from Sydenham at 11.57 p.m., and this train, travelling on the up main line, passed Forest Hill station at 11.59 p.m.

The next train signalled was the 11.40 p.m. down passenger train from London Bridge, which was running on the down local line, was cleared from Forest Hill signal-box back to No. 9 bridge signal-box as having passed at 12.4 a.m. .

This down train was followed by an up train, 11.53 p.m. from the Crystal Palaoo, signalled on from Sydenham at 12.4 a.m., and forward to No. 9 bridge signal-box from }.,orest Hill at 12.7 a.m.

The next train signalled was the 11.53 p.m. South·Eastern Company's down passenger train from London Bridge (11.45 p.m. from Charing Cross) which only runs on Thursdays, which was signalled on from No. 9 bridge signal-box at 12.5 a.m., and was given on by the signalman, West, to Sydenham at 12.7 a.m., when the engine of this train was at the south end of the down platform; the station signals being all off for this train to run through Forest Hill station without stopping. This train consisted of an engine and tender, six coaches, and one break-van, with a guard riding in it, and it appears to have been running at the rate of 30 miles an hour when the driver's attention was attracted to the sound of a whistle from an engine in front, which he afterwards found came from the pilot.engine, and the collision took place almost immediately. The driver states that he was looking on the local road, thinking it was an engine whistling there, until he caught sight of the funnel of the pilot.engine, and he did not notice any lights on the pilot-engine.

When he first heard the whistle he was behind the weather board, and after he heard it he looked outside of the weather board, on the left-hand side of the engine; he pulled over the reversing lever, but it flew back out of his hand again, and he thinks the collision took place while he was in the act of doing this ; he had not time to shut off the steam before the collision occurred, when he was knocked down by the force of it, and was seriously hurt. Neither the driver of this train, nor his :fireman, saw any tail lights on the pilot-engine, the driver stating very distinctly, in reply to my questions, that he was looking out for the signals ahead when passing through Forest Hill station, and he thought if there had been tail lights on the pilot-engine standing opposite to the up stop signals he must have seen them in running over the distance (280 yards) between the platform and the spot where the collision occurred.

The line is on a curve to the left at this part, and the Sydenham down distant- signal, for which the driver was keeping a look-out, would be seen a little to the left of the spot where the pilot-engine stood. The driver saw the Sydenham down distant-signal; his fireman did not, but he was riding on the wrong side of th~ engine (the right side) for seeing that light.

The Forest Hill station-master and a passenger were standing on the up platform, the latter looking out and waiting for an up train ; both declare that no red lights were to be seen where the pilot-engine was standing immediately before the collision took place.

Similar testimony was given as to the absence of tail lights on the pilot-engine by the driver and fireman of the Brighton Company's shunting engine, and two guards of a goods train who were engaged with them at New Cross station, who all noticed the pilot-engine at the rear of the South-Eastern Company's goods train as it passed that station, and who remarked on the manner in which "oil was saved, on the South-Eastern Railway.

The signalman on duty at Brockley station, however, stated that the pilot-engine had tail lights on, when the train passed ; but his testimony was contradicted, or rather weakened, by another servant of the Brighton Company asserting that this signalman had made a different statement when first questioned on the subject; the train signal clerk at Brockley confirmed the evidence as to the Brockley signalman having varied in his statement, but he also said that there were tail lights on the pilot-engine as it passed Brockley. A large amount of testimony was forthcoming, although the men were not brought before me, as to the fact of the pilot-engine having had tail lights on and burning, when the goods train left the Bricklayers' Arms station, including that of the driver of the pilot-engine, and yet such evidence would not prove that these lights were burning at the time the collision took place at Forest Hill.

I should state that the effect of the collision was to drive the pilot-engine (which had previously been put into slow motion Ly the driver when he saw the 11.53 p.m. passenger train approaching) ahead, and it stopped with the passenger train rather more than 460 yards from the spot where the pilot-engine had been standing. When the engines and train were brought to a. stand~till no vehicle was found off the rails, but the wheel of some vehicle had apparently been off the rails inside the right rail, and had broken two chairs, had struck a check rail, and had apparently got on to the rail again at the trailing points of the through crossing road from the sidings lying on the eastern side of tho line to the down main line. The driver of the pilot-engine was found on the foot-plate of the engine, embedded in coals. His fireman wai not with the engine when it stopped, and his statement of what had occurred is as follows :

About two minutes before the collision took place, I went to the funnel end of the engine to look to my two red lights, which were still burning all right. As I saw the passenger train approaching, I called out to my mate' For God's sake put on steam, there is a train coming; we shall be smashed;' and as I was stepping down from the engine on the off side, the collision took place, by the force of which I was shaken and fell down. I got up and ran across the up line ; I did not notice an up train coming, but the engine of an up local train caught me on the side and " knocked me up against the pale-fencing. I laid there for seven or eight minutes, " and could not speak, but on recovering myself I made for the signalbox as fast as " I could, and called out to the signalman, when I was on the ground, ' You have " done a nice thing for us to night,' he said, 'Done what?' I said, 'You have let that " train run into our engine;' he replied, 'Y ou never had an engine.' " He also informed me "that the tail lamps were on the lamp irons, at the funnel end of the engine, " and that both were burning, showing red lights, and when I went to the funnel end " of the engine I had not the gauge lamp with me. It was broken before the collision occurred, the red glass was broken."

This is, taken altogether, a somewhat remarkable statement. Two lamps, evidently those belonging to the pilot-engine, were found nearly opposite to the spot at which the collision occurred, one near the wall at the eastern side of the railway, and the other at the western ~ide of the railway near the pale fence. The gauge lamp was found near the same spot, in the six feet space, between the two up lines. The two tail lamps are stated to have been on the lamp irons at the funnel end of th(.' pilot engine, and they are said to have been found on the ground after 2 a.m. The red glasses were cracked, and they were otherwise slightly damaged. I cannot understand how the effect of the collision should have drawn these two lamps from the lamp irons, and thrown one a considerable distance to the right and the other just as far to the left, and the gauge lamp from a socket on the foot-plate.

The pale fence against which this man states that he was knocked, and where he laid seven or eight minutes, is about five or six yards from the up local line, and the wires from the signal-box to the signals stood quite close to the up local up line and are fixed high enough to have thrown him down. I do not comprehend how a man could have been knocked by a passenger train five or six yards across a cluster of wires against a pale fencing without being very seriously hurt.

The signalman (West) says that the fireman came back opposite to his box, about a minute, it might be a little more, after he heard the noise (of the collision), and the conversation took place to which I have already referred.

The Brighton up mail train passed at 11.59, and the driver of the pilot-engine admits that he took no steps, by whistling or otherwise, to attract the attention of the signalman to the fact of the pilot-engine being there and waiting for permission to return to the Bricklayers' Arms, or to be shunted into the sidings. He and his fireman differ as to the practice which prevails as regards whistling, but the signalman states that they more frequently whistle than omit to do so. The collision occurred about 12.7 or 12.8 a.m., and there was therefore abundant time for the pilot-engine to have crossed to the up main line after the up main line train had passed, and to have gone on its way to the Bricklayers' Arms station before the collision took place, if the driver had only made known to the signalman that he was standing there, and waiting to return or to be put into the sidings.

As the result of a careful consideration of tho whole of the evidence placed before me, and from an examination of the Forest Hill station, I have arrived at the conclu- sion that the driver of the 11.53 p.m. down passenger train could not have failed to see tail lights on the pilot-engine, if he had been, as he states that he was, keeping a look-out for the down signals, if these tail lights had been burning ; and I infer from this man's statement, combined with the evidence given by th~ signalman, signal clerk, station-master, and the passenger, :Mr. Field, that the pilot-engine had not, when it stopped at Forest Hill station, any tail lights burning. I think it probable that the fireman went to the funnel end of the engine, taking the gauge lamp with him, for the purpose of trimming and lighting those tail lamps, and that he had removed them from the lamp irons for the purpose of doing this shortly before the collision happened. On these grounds I do not consider that the signalman, West, was to blame for having given back " line clear" to No. 9 bridge box after the goods train had passed, at 11.51 p.m.

No collision need have resulted from the absence of these tail lights, if the driver of the pilot-engine had whistled for the points of the cross-over road to be opened by the signalman, as soon as the Brighton up mail train had passed the signal-box, and hence, in my opini:m, this collision was entirely due to the acts of omission of the 6ervants of the South-Eastern Railway Company in charge of the pilot-engine.

To avoid a repetition of the same kind of collision in future, it appears to me desirable that the pilot-engine should be stopped, and stand just south of the points of the cross-over road, 49 yards south of the }.,orest Hill signal-box, and the driver should, in all cases, make known the fact of his standing there, to the signalman in the signal-box, by sounding the engine whistle.

This collision was reported to the Board of Trade, by the South-Eastern Railway Company, on the day after it occurred, as being a slight one, and caused throngh a mistake of a signalman; that only two or three passengers complained, and that beyond the shock, there appeared to be no serious injury; whereas it occurred between a passenger train travelling at 30 miles an hour and a pilot-engine only just in motion, and it is impossible to read the statement of the damage done to the two engines and to four out of seven vehicles of which the passenger train was composed, together with the list of persons injured, 36 in number, given in the Appendix, without arriving at the conclusion that it must have been a fearful collision, and the most remarkable fact connected with it is, that it was not attended with any fatal results.

I had occasion to request that I might be supplied with a list of the persons injured, and a statement of the damage done to the rolling stock iD: this collision, which I had previously asked for at the time when my inquiry was held; and when this list and statement were first sent to me, the list of the persons injured did not include any of the Company's servants, and the statement of the damage to the rolling stock omitted all reference to the two engines which came into collision with each other, and mainly bore the shock. I returned both documents to be made complete, and on again receiving them I find that only two out of the five servants of the Company who informed me that they were hurt on this occasion, viz., the driver and fireman of the passenger train engine, are mentioned, and the names of the driver and fireman of the pilot-engine, and the guard of the passenger train, are omitted from this list. The driver and guard of the passenger train told me, 22 days after the collision had taken place, that they had not then been enabled to return to their work on account of the injury they had received.

The Board of Trade do not inquire into all accidents and collisions which are reported to them to have occurred by the railway companies concerned. It is therefore of importance that correct information on these occasions should, as far as possible, be forwarded to the Board of trade, to enable a correct opinion to be formed as to the necessity that existts, or otherwise, as regards inquiring into the circumstances which have led to such particular accident or collision.

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