on 31st MAY 1881

Involving William Squires

London & South Western Driver

Depot not known

Extracted & adapted from the report by


A fatal accident that occurred at level crossing on the Wimbledon, Tooting, and Merton Joint Railway on the 31st May last. On the arrival at Wimbledon station of the London and South Western Company's 10.13 p.m. down passenger train from Ludgate Hill to Wimbledon about 10.55 p.m., the fireman reported to one of the porters who was on duty, that he had heard the ballast fly at the level crossing close to the Wimbledon down distant-signal, and asked him to go there and see if there was any one there. The porter went to the spot, and found a man lying dead between the rails of the down line, about 11 yards nearer to Wimbledon station than the level crossing, and nearly opposite to the down distant-signal.


The level crossing referred to is that described as an occupation road No. 8 in the parish of, Wimbledon in the details supplied by the Tooting, Merton, and Wimbledon Extension Railway Company, now forming a part of a joint line belonging to the London and South-Western and London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Companies. It is situated about 487 yards from the Spot at the platform at which the train from Ludgate Hill stopped.

The. line at this part is double, and on a sharp curve of 15.12 chains radius, so that the view in either direction is very limited. The gradient is 1 in 330 falling towards Wimbledon.

The road is known as the Lower Worple Road and although it is treated as an occupation road, it is contended that it is an old bridle road and public footpath.


William Squires, fireman in the service of the London and South Western Railway Company nearly 6 years, states. I was on duty on the 31st May last as fireman on No.209 tank engine, which was attached to the front of the London and South Western 10.13 p.m. down passenger train from Ludgate Hill to Wimbledon. The train consisted of the engine, four carriages, and two break vans. The engine was running the chimney in front, and I stood on the left side of the footplate. It was a very clear fine night. all was right until we passed Merton Abbey station. We carried two lights on the engine, a green light at the head and a white on the buffer plank in front. As we passed the level crossing just against the distant signal, I said to my mate, "Did you hear that ?" and he replied, "Hear what?" I then said "We have run over something, or a cat has jumped out of the way, as I heard the ballast fly." The distant signal was on. We were both looking out as we approached the distant signal, and did not see any one. If any one had been crossing we could easily have seen him from the white light on the engine. When we got to Wimbledon I stated the case to one of the porters there, and I asked him if he would go back and look to see if there was any one there or not; and he said he would. There was no sensible check on the engine, no lifting up to indicate that we had run over anything. We were running at the time-out 10 or 12 miles an hour.

John Graham, porter at Wimbledon station, in the service of the London and South Western Railway Company, states. I was on duty on the night of the Tuesday the 31st May last, and I was on the platform of the Joint Wimbledon, Tooting, and Merton Railway when the 10.13 p.m. London and South Western train from Legate arrived, about 10.55 p.m. The fireman, Wm. Squires, of that train told me that he fancied he heard the ballast fly, by the distant signal on the Wimbledon and Tooting line. He did not know what caused it; and he said he had spoken to the driver the time, but the driver did not hear him. The driver examined the engine at the station, but he could not see anything on it, and I told the inspector on duty what the fireman had told me; and I and another man in the service of the London and South Western Railway company walked back along the line until we reached the distant signal, and a few yards beyond it we found a man's body lying in the 4 feet space of the down line to Wimbledon, with his head close to the right rail, lying on his face. He was quite dead when we found him. He had been injured in the face and head, and the flange of a wheel had cut a hole at the back of his head. There was a black mark on the calf of his left leg, but no wound on it. He was fully dressed; none of clothes were torn, and his hat was at the back of his head. There was a pool of blood just where the head lay; none was to be seen anywhere else. I was waiting there nearly half an hour, and I looked to see if there were any traces of blood between the crossing and where he lay, but there were none, and the ballast was not at all disturbed. I do not know in what direction he was going. The train consisted of a tank engine and several or eight other vehicles.


From the preceding statements it appears that nothing whatever is known respecting this accident; but the fact that the fireman of the London and South-Western down passenger train, 10.13 p.m. from Ludgate Hill to Wimbledon on the night in question, as he passed over this level crossing, said to his mate, "We have run over something, or a cat has jumped out of the way, as I heard the ballast fly;" and he reported the circumstance when they got to the Wimbledon station, and asked the porter on duty to go back to the level crossing.

The porter went back, and found a man lying dead between the rails of the down line, with his head close to the right rail. He had been injured in the face and head, and the flange of a wheel had cut a hole at the back of his head, and there was a black mark on the calf of his left leg, and a pool of blood under his head where he lay.

There was nothing to indicate what he had been doing, or where he was going. His hat lay at the back of his head.

The fireman states that he was on the look-out for the signals as they approached them, and he observed that the signal was on at danger, and he thinks he would have seen if any person was attempting to cross the line at the level-crossing.

It was surmised that the man had committed suicide by placing himself in the position in which the body was found, but there is no direct evidence beyond the undisturbed state of his clothes, and the ballast on the line, to prove that this was the case.

The Local Board of Health of Wimbledon will, it is understood, bring the subject of this level crossing and its dangerous nature again before the Board of Trade, for the purpose of ascertaining whether some arrangement cannot be made to do away with the level crossing by the building of a bridge to carry the Lower Worple Road over the railway instead of' crossing it on the level.

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