on 27th SEPTEMBER 1881

Involving Driver Charles Shipp

Depot not known

Extracted & adapted from the report by


A collision occurred on the 27 September at Merton Abbey station, on the joint London and South Western and London, Brighton, and South Coast Line, between Streatham junction and Wimbledon.  

In this case the 10.13 p.m. London and South-Western down passenger train from Ludgate Hill to Kingston, consisting of tank-engine (running tank first), third-class carriage with break compartment, two second-class, and three first-class carriages, and third-class carriage with break compartment, when approaching Merton Abbey station, at about. l0.49 p.m., came into collision with the rear of the 6.43 p.m. London, Brighton, and South Coast down goods train from New Cross to Wimbledon, which had arrived at Merton Abbey station at 10.17 p.m., and was standing upon the down line, with the rear break-van about 15 yards inside the down home-signal, the engine being at the time detached, and engaged in shunting operations on the up line.

The 11 goods waggons and two break-vans composing the goods train were driven ahead for about. 25 yards. 

The trailing wheels of both break-vans, which were at the rear of' the train, and three of the goods waggons were thrown off the rails, but the engine and all the vehicles in the passenger train remained on the rails.

Five passengers and three servants of the Company were injured; the most. serious injury being that of the fireman of the passenger train, whose thigh was broken, and who is still in hospital. 

The damage to the rolling stock was almost entirely confined to the goods train, in which one break-van was broken up and the other considerably damaged, and the axle-boxes, end pillars, and buffer cylinders of four goods waggons were broken.

In the passenger train the trailing end of the engine, which was running in front, was damaged.

Description .

Merton Abbey station is situated 73 chains west of Tooting, and it is an ordinary road-side station, with sidings on the up side of the line and  a cross over road. 

The signal-box is at the east end of the up platform, the cross over road points on the down line are opposite to the box, and those on the up line are 56 yards east of the box, the trailing points of the siding connection with the up line being 27 yards further east.

The down home signal is 187 yards east of the signal-cabin, and it can he seen for nearly 600 yards, and the down distant-signal is 570 yards east of the home-signal, and it can be seen very soon after a train has left. Tooting.

The line is upon a curve up to a point 50 yards outside the down home-signal, and is then straight, through the station, and it falls towards Merton Abbey on a gradient of 1 in 356 as far as the home-signal, whence it rises on a gradient of 1 in 300 through the station,

At Tooting the down starting-signal is about 115 yards from the point where the engine of the passenger train was standing before it started from this station, and about 285 yards from tho signal-box, which is at the cast end of the station.

The line is worked upon the block-telegraph system.

The available break-power on the passenger train was as follows :-On the engine a hand-break working blocks on each of the four coupled wheels, and on the rear third-class break-carriage an ordinary screw hand-break.


MrJohn George Young station master at Merton  Abbey, in joint service, states.-At. about 10.17 p.m. on the 27th September the 6.43 p.m. London, Brighton, and South Coast goods train from New Cross to Wimbledon arrived at Merton Abbey, and stopped on the down line, with the tail of the train about under the middle of the over bridge east of the station. There was some work to do in the yard on the up side of the line, and some trucks to pick up, so the engine only was detached, and put through the cross­ over road on to the up line,' and so into the goods yard. The remainder of the train remained on the down line. his was at 10.17 or l0,18, The next down train was due at 10.46, and there was no other up train that night. I was myself attending to the shunting. The engine came out ab back to it's train once or twice (I cannot say which), and at the time the collision occurred there were 13 vehicles on the down line, the engine being then on the up line. Finding that there would not be time to complete the work which had to be done, I ordered the guard of the goods train at 10.40 to shunt from the down road to the up road. The engine was then in the yard shunting, and it come out on to the up line. There were some waggons which had, during the shunting operations, been put upon the up line and were foul of the crossing, and, before the engine could be got across from the up to down line, these waggons had to be pushed clear to enable the cross-over road points to be shifted. After these waggons had been pushed clear by the engine, it went ahead of the cross over road points on the up line, collisions the signalman was pulling over the cross over road point (No. 5), the man at Tooting called on the speaking instrument "Gone," or "Goods," we could not understand which. We heard the passenger train leave Tooting about the same time about 10.46 or 10.47. There was no time to do anything, at the collision occurred almost immediately. I was in the signal-box when this happened, as I had come up there after giving orders for the train to shunt, so that the signalman might go to the platform ready to attend to passenger train when it arrived, as he acts also at times as porter. There were no signals whatever sent on the block instruments from Tooting. With regard to the passenger train, nothing, except the message on the speaking instrument,"Line clear,'' was given, and the home and distant signals were both kept at "Danger." Neither had been lowered at all after the goods train arrived, nor had the distant signal been lowered for the goods train. It was a foggy night. I could see the signals, and I could see the lights in the yard of Mitcham gas factory, about half a mile away. The shall in the station consists of myself and two signal porters, who are employed alternatively on duty in the signal-box. They are also employed for about three hours on the platform. There is an assistant porter during the day. The signal·box is shut at night. The collision was pretty smart. The goods train was driven ahead for three or four carriage lengths. The two break vans at the rear and three of the trucks were off the rails. None of the passengers train left the rails. Four of the passenger stated they were injured, and I took the addresses of three others who said they did not know. The driver and fireman of the train were also injured. I at once took all necessary steps to protect the line, and had the passengers attended to.

William A. Batchelor states.-1 am in joint service, and signal porter at Merton Abbey. My duties are partly in the signal-box and partly on the platform, turn about with another porter. l came on duty at 5 a.m. until 5.30 p.m. on one week, and from 12 noon till about 12 midnight in the next. On the 22nd September I was on late duty. I was in the signal-box when the collision happened. It was  slightly foggy that night, but I could see the signal lamps on both my up and down stop-signals. At 10.14 I received  from Tooting the departure signal for the London, Brighton, and South Coast goods train. The arrival of trains is not signalled back until the line is clear. The train arrived at 10.17 or 10.18. There was no signal at all seat for the passenger train. At about 10.40 the station-master came into the box, and at 10.42 I was called on the speaking instrument from Tooting. The beginning of the message was " G-O-" but I could not make out the rest of it. I sent back "Not understood" twice. The message commenced again, but I could make nothing more of it. I then commenced to attend to my points for the shunting of the goods train, and left my speaking instrument. The collision took place at 10.49. When the message came at 10.42 the whole of the goods train, except the engine, was on the down line. The engine was then in the goods yard, and there were some trucks on the up line, but none foul of the crossing. The engine was in the east end of the yard with some trucks beyond it, but none between the engine and No.6 points. There were two trucks on the crossing leading from the siding to the main line. The engine cam back to No.6 points, then out, pushing the trucks on the crossing, but when it got out there was then nothing to prevent the cross over road being set for it to get across. No.5 points were pulled over, and were set for the crossing when the collision occurred.

John Smith states.-I have been about 19 years in the service and 13 years a signalman. I am signalman in joint service at Tooting junction. On the 22nd September I came on duty at 3 p.m. for eight hours. At 9.53 p.m. the 6.13 p.m. London, Brighton and South Coast goods train from New Cross arrived, and after doing some work it left at 10.14. It was due at 8.29, but it is very irregular. At 10.14 I gave it on to Merton Abbey. I never received any arrival signal, and I knew that that meant it was blocking the line at Merton Abbey. The line stood blocked on my semaphore instrument. At 10.41 I got on the 10.13 down London and South Western train from Streatham junction south box. This train arrived at 10.41, being due to leave at 10.43. It stopped a minute at the platform, and then started. I saw it start, and at once called to the porter on duty that it was running against the signal. My down starting signal for the Merton Abbey line was standing at danger, and had been so for half an hour. Before the train came on I could see it plainly from the box, but when the train came in it was a little obscured by the mist. the mist was coming in drifts, and after the train started I could see the signal again. As soon as I received the signal for the passenger train from Streatham junction station at 10.41, I signalled on my speaking instrument to Merton Abbey, "Down South Western train is out from Streatham junction." He answered, "All right," at least he gave me "R.T." for right, as I understood it. I did not get understood it. I did not get any message from Merton Abbey to say that my message was not understood. After the passenger train had started I called Merton Abbey again, but got no reply. The line being blocked from Merton Abbey ever since the goods train had left, 1 had kept my down distant and home signals at danger, and only lowered the home signal to allow the train to come up to the platform, after it had come slowly up to it.

Charles Shipp states. - I have been 13 years in the service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, and 5 years a driver. On the 27th September I was driver of the 6.43 p.m., goods train from New Cross to Wimbledon. We were about two hours late when we arrived at Merton Abbey. I left. my train on the down line, and did some work in the sidings. The first order I got to go across and shunt my train on to the up main line was when I was standing on the up line just ahead of the cross over road points I got this order from the under-guard. I had to go and push back some tucks which were foul of the crossing, and then to come hack to the points, and, just as I was ready to go through, the collision took place. From the time when I got the first order to bring my train across to the time the collision took place was not more than two minutes. It was rather foggy. I could see the signal about 200 yards off. When I passed the Merton Abbey down distant-signal it was al danger, and was showing a proper red light.

Samuel Meares states.- I have been in the service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway since 1845, and have been a goods guard for 25 years. On the 27th September I was head guard of the goods train, the 6.43 from New Cross. We arrived at Merton Abbey at 10.18, about l hour and 23 minutes late. The train then consisted of tank engine, 12 empty waggons, and 2 break-vans. One waggon was taken across to the up line, and the other 11 and the break-vans remained on the down line, with the rear van against the over-bridge, just on the station side of it. The engine went to do some work in the sidings. At about10.46 or 10.47, near as I can guess, the station master came and told me to get my train shunted on to the up line. The engine was then in the siding near the signal box, with two trucks on the front of it and two on  the main line in front of the points of the siding connection, and four more near the signal-box foul of the crossing. The engine pushed out the two in front of it, the other two were then hooked on, and the engine went back and pushed the four others clear of the cross-over road. It then came back with the four truck, which were hooked on, and stood ready to cross over when the collision took place. I told my driver as soon as the station master told me that the train was to be shunted. He must have heard the station master as well as I did. It was a clear night about the station, but more foggy towards Tooting. We left New Cross at li.6.43, and had been delayed in shunting at Tulse hill, Streatham, and Tooting. The distant signal was showing a bright red light when we passed it.

Richard Hughes states - I have been about 20years in the service of the London and South Western Railway, and 7 years as a driver. On the 27th September I was driver of the 10.13 p.m. train from Legate Hill to Kinston, consisting of tank engine (running tank first) and seven coaches, including break van. We started at right time, and arrived at Tooting about half a minute late. We stopped under a minute there, and upon getting a green light and a whistle from my guard, I started, the starting signal being off for me. I did not actually see the signal when I started, as it was foggy; but I pulled slowly up to it and found it was off. I could not see it above 10 yards away. When I came in sight of the Merton Abbey up distant signal it was off. I could not see that either for more than 10 yards owing to the dense fog. It was showing a white light, with a little bit of red, but nothing to speak of. I shut my steam off as usual when passing the signal. My fireman also, as usual, applied his break slightly at the point, and we ran down at 12 miles an hour. We were running at about 12 miles an hour when we caught sight of the home signal standing at danger., I was then within about 10 yards of it, and I saw the tail lights of the goods train at the same time. I immediately reversed my engine and got back steam, and I opened all four sand valves. My fireman also applied his break, and got it on so that it acted well. I whistled for the guard's break. I did all in my power to stop my train. my engine did not leave the rails, and I and my fireman remained on the engine. My arm was hurt by the lever rack, and my fireman's thigh was broken. He is still in hospital. I was running at about 10 miles an hour when I struck the goods train. I am in the habit of running over this line by night as well as by day. I know that the Merton Abbey down distant signal shows a green light when it is offend is in order. I have often before see it show a white light. I have never made a report of it. My engine is a six wheeled tank engine with driving andtrailingh wheels coupled. The break worked one woodblock on each of the coupled wheels.

George Collins states. - I have been 17 years in the service of the London and South Western Railway, and 13 years a guard. On the 27th September I was guard of the 10.13 train. it was made up as follows:- Tank engine, third class break (empty); two second class and three first class carriages, and one third class break. We left at right time, and arrived at Tooting at 10.43 - that is, one minute late. We stopped there about a minute, and when ready, and having received the "All right" signal from the porter at the front of the train, I signalled to the driver, as usual, with my green light and whistle that the train was ready to start. I looked for the starting signal, but could not see it, as it was foggy. I was standing at the rear of my train. The train started, and I did not hear any one calling out after it. When my van passed the starting signal it was at danger. I cannot say how it was standing when the engine passed it. The Merton Abbey down distant signal was at danger when I first saw it. My van was then about two or three carriage lengths from it. It was foggy there, and I do not think I could have seen it much further than that. I at once applied my break, and it acted well. The speed of the train was reduced very little before the collision. I could see the home signal about a train's length off, and it was at danger. Some of my train left the rails. I was a little bruised myself. There were not many passenger in the train, and I think four or five were injured, The train was not much damaged. The only break power on this train was the break on the engine and that on my van.

William chandler states. - I am in joint service, and am porter at Tooting. I was on duty on the down platform when the passer train arrived and departed. The engine stood about opposite to the name board. When the train arrived the starting signal was at danger. The train stopped at the platform for barely a minute. The guard, who was at the rear of his train, then gave the signal to the driver by green light and whistle that the train was ready to start. The train started at once, from the place where I was I could not see how the starting signal was standing as the train impeded the view. The driver gave a whistle as he started, and the signalman then shouted out, "They are running against the red light, and the goods is not clear at Merton Abbey." The booking clerk was on the other platform, and I called out to him to go and telegraph to Merton Abbey. I also called after the train and showed a red light. As soon as the train had cleared the view of the starting signal I saw that it was at danger. I was standing 50 yards behind the engine when it started. It was rather foggy, but I could see the signal lamp 200 yards off.


From the foregoing evidence it appears that the down goods train, which, owing to delays upon the road, was nearly 1 1/2 hours late, arrived at Merton Abbey station at 10.17 p.m.; that the whole of the train, except the engine and one waggon, was left. standing on the down line, with the rear break-van about 15 yards inside the down home-signal; and that it was in this position when the collision took place, at which time the passenger train was running at about 12 miles an hour.

The engine of the goods train was engaged in shunting operations on the sidings and the up line, and it was not until about 10.40, according to the station-master's evidence, or 10.46, according to the evidence of the guard of the goods train, that the former gave orders for the goods train to be shunted on to the up line out of the way of the passenger train due at 10.47. There was some delay, owing to some waggons having been pushed foul of the cross over road points, and these points had only just been pulled over for the engine to cross back to its train when the collision occurred.

It is certain that permission had not been given on the block instruments for the passenger train to leave Tooting, and the questions to be decided are whether the driver of the passenger train received the proper signal to start from Tooting, and whether the distant signal from Merton Abbey was or was not at danger.

The driver states that when his guard gave him the usual signal that the train was ready to leave Tooting it was so foggy that he could not see the starting-signal, but that on drawing up to it he found it off, and started away; but the evidence not only of the signalman and porter at Tooting, but to some extent that of his own guard, proves conclusively that he ran past this starting-signal at danger. He further states that the Morton Abbey distant-signal. was off for him, but here again his guard's evidence is against him. It is certain that by the interlocking in Merton Abbey signal-box the lever of this signal could not have  been pulled over; and the evidence of the driver and guard of the London, Brighton, and South Coast goods train proves that this signal was showing a proper red light when they passed it; but, more than this, the driver of the passenger train is condemned out of his own mouth, for he states that the signal was showing a "white light with a little bit of red," and afterwards admits that he knew that this signal ought to show a green light when it is all right; so that, even by his own admission, he ought to have treated the signal as a danger signal, as it was not showing the proper light.

As a matter of fact the signal does not show a white light under any circumstances, and it is clear that not the smallest dependence can be placed upon the word of this driver.

The evidence as to the fog is a little contradictory; but it was no doubt a thick night, the fog being partial, and probably preventing the signals from being seen for over 200 yards, or over less at places.

This collision was, beyond question, clue to the gross carelessness of the driver of the London and South-Western passenger train in running past two signals at danger; but the risk of such an accident ought never to have been run, There was no possible reason why the goods train should not have been placed upon the up line to do its shunting as soon as it arrived at Merton Abbey, and the conduct of the station-master in leaving it upon the down line until the passenger train was nearly due is deserving of censure. He states that it was at 10.40 that he first gave the order for the engine to go across to shunt the train clear of the down line, but the evidence of the guard and driver of the train is to that effect that this order was not given until some minutes later, and I suspect that no order was given until after the Tooting signalman sent the message on his speaking instrument to hasten the clearing of the line.

It is true that the accommodation at. Merton Abbey is very small, and that shunting is carried on under difficulties; but. that should have made the station-master all the more careful to take steps to have the down line cleared in ample time before the passenger train was due.

The driver of the passenger train might, perhaps, have lessened the speed of his train before the collision if he had had a continuous break at his command; but no continuous break will prevent collisions when drivers run wilfully past signals at danger.

It should be observed that the injuries to the driver and fireman of the passenger train would probably have been far less severe if the engine had not been running with the proper trailing end in front; and it is this additional risk to the men upon the engine which is one of the principal reasons for objecting to the running of either tank or tender engines in this position.

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