on 27th OCTOBER 1881

Involving Driver Charles Collman

Depot not known

Extracted & adapted from the report by


A collision which occurred on the 27th ultimo, between a goods train belonging to the South Eastern Railway Company and a passenger train belonging to the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company at Red Hill station, which is used by both of these railway companies.

Four passengers are returned as having been injured on this occasion, and some damage was done to tho tender and break-van of the goods train, the latter having been knocked off the rails.


The South-Eastern Railway Company's line from Ashford and the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company's line from Brighton unite at the south end of the Red Hill station, which is about 20 3/4 miles from London Bridge station.

There are two main lines (an up and a down line) which run through the centre of the station, and the up and down platforms lie alongside of loop lines, which are outside of the two main lines, one on each side.

A signal-box is placed nearly opposite to the junction at the south end of the station, and another signal-box, called the north end signal-box, is placed at the north end of the station, and from which the signals that control the traffic at this part are worked.

The north end signal-box is about 361 yards north of the south end signal-box, end opposite to the points which connect the loop line lying alongside of the up platform with the up main line, and 57 yards north of the up platform starting signal.

There is also an up stop-signal for the up main line 100 yards north of the north end signal-box. 

There are sidings off the up and down lines at the north end of the station, but the siding off the down line is not mixed up in any way with this collision.

The first siding adjacent to the up main line is entered by a pair of trailing points on the up main line, worked from the signal-box, and which are distant from it about 184 yards ; and a second siding, called the "long siding," and lying west of the first; siding, is entered by another pair of trailing points on the up main line, distant about 307 yards from the signal-box. Those points arc wire-locked by a bolt from the signal-box, but worked on the ground.


Godfrey Blackford, signalman, nearly 6 1/2~ years in the service of the South-Eastern Railway Company, and about 12 months at the north end signal box, Red Hill, states,- I came on duly on the 27th October at 2 p.m., for an eight. hour shift. A part of the 11.20 p.m. up South-Eastern goods train from Ashford to London Bridge station passed my box about 5.52 or 5.53, and the rest of the train slopped outside the­ south signal-box. I lowered the signal for a portion of that train to pass my box, and to run to the long siding, immediately after it arrived, and as soon as the portion of the train which was to be put into the long siding had been disconnected; and as the train was passing my box I took off the lock, so as to allow the points at the long siding to he opened. I do not know who held open those points; I suppose it was the guard. It was very dark at the time. I do not know how many trucks passed my box. The guard called out "long siding" as the train was passing my box. I dill not hear him say anything more. After the train had arrived at the points of the long siding I blew my mouth whistle, and showed a red light towards the guard. I threw up the up stop-signal for the main linens the train passed my box, and then I took off the lock, so that the points of the long siding might be opened. I showed him the red light, that the train might go right into the siding, and clear of the main line; but I had no conversation with anyone, telling them what to do. Some one answered my red light (with my hand lamp) by a green one; and I understood that that green light signified that the train had been put into the long siding, clear off the up main line. As soon as my red light was answered by a green one, I locked the long siding points, and then I pulled off the platform starting signal for the 4.35 p.m. up London, Brighton, and South coast passenger train from Eastbourne, which had been standing alongside of the up platform for not more than two minutes. When I did this I was not aware that a part of the up South Eastern goods train was standing on the up main line, and was about to be backed along the up main line towards the station. I did not know that a collision was likely yo take place until after it had occurred. The up platform train from Eastbourne passed my box about 5.55 p.m.; and the collision occurred immediately afterwards. I did not hear the collision.

John Hammond, goods guard, 4 1/2 years in the service of the South Eastern Railway Company, states. -- I was in charge of the 11.20 a.m. up South Eastern goods train from Ashford to London Bridge on the 27th October. The train consisted of an engine and tender, 52 trucks, and two break vans when it reached Red Hill at 5.45 p.m. The train stopped just outside the south signal-box. I uncoupled 10 trucks which were next to my van next the engine, and the engine drew them ahead, beyond the long siding points, the signal being lowered; and I was shown a green light by hand lamp from the north end signal-box. I told the signal man there 1 had got five trucks to knock off at the long siding; but I did not tell him anything more. I did not say what was to be done with the other five trucks next to the engine; but they were to be taken back to the after part of the train. The first five trucks next to my van were intended for Blackfriars, and the second five trucks for the long siding I held the points open at the long siding for the five trucks to be put in; and when the trucks had been placed in the siding I put some breaks down on them, so that they should not move. I was then going from there, to cross to the signal box, to tell the signalman where I wanted to go, when I saw the Brighton train coming out from the platform line. When my train had passed over the points on the up main line leading into the long siding, I gave signalman a green light for him to unlock those points. I cannot say whether the signalman had unlocked the long siding points before I showed him the green light; I had not tried them. My train was being backed along the up main line when the collision occurred. I had told the driver to come back steady. I had not had any signal f'rom the signalman to back my train along the up line. I did not show any red light with my hand-lamp on the last of the trucks as they were being moved towards the station, When I saw the Brighton train coming I showed a red light from my hand-lamp, to stop my own train, and I also showed a red light towards the Brighton train. The collision took place a little north of half-way between the signal-box and the long siding points. The Brighton train passed me just before it struck my train. The Brighton train might be travelling at a walking pace, or five miles an hour. My own train had stopped, and was just on the points of moving on. My break next to the engine was knocked off the road, and the buffers were bent round, and the break was broken. The Brighton train engine was not thrown off the rails, and no damage was done to the train. This occurred about 5.55p.m There is a rule that a red light should be shown from the last truck in a train when it is about to be backed , if there are no regular tails lamps on that truck. I did not see any red light exhibited by the signalman when I showed a green light showing that my train stood clear of the long siding points.

John Pullen, engine-driver seven or eight years states -- I was driving the I1.20 a.m. up goods train from Ashford to London Bridge on the 27th October and 1pulled up my train at the south end of the Red Hill station. The guard uncoupled 10 trucks at the front part of the train, and I got signals from the south and north end signal-boxes to draw ahead over the long siding points, and I stopped my train clear and north of those points. The guard uncoupled the five trucks at the rear of the train, and gave me a signal to set back. I gave them a shove, and those five trucks ran into the sidings. I did not enter the siding with the five trucks next tot the engine, but stopped clear of the long siding points. The guard gave me the signal to set back along the up main line by means of his hand lamp. I did not receive any signal from the north end Signalbox for me to set back my train along the up main line. I was not looking towards the signal box, but was watching the guard, and I did not observe any red light exhibited from the signal box while my train was north of the long siding points. The guard gave me the signal when he was near the points of the long siding, which he had been holding for the trucks to enter the siding. He gave me the signal to set back before he put the break on those trucks. I never saw any signal from the guard to stop me from setting back, but I saw the white and green light on the Brighton engine after it had got out on to the up main line; and when I saw those lights I reversed the engine and turned the steam on. My train had actually stopped, and was about to go ahead, when the collision took place. The tender of my engine was damaged, buffers broken, and one of the buffers of the break van ran into the tank of the tender. The break van was knocked off the rails and damaged. I started my train just as I was struck. I got a white light from the guard to set back, not a green one.

David Collman, engine driver, 10 years in the service of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, states.-I was driving the 4.35 p.m. up fast train from Eastbourne to London on the 27th October, I had a tender engine, seven carriages, and two break-vans, alfitted right through with the Westinghouse automatic break. We reached Red Hill station about 5.51 or 5.52, l gave a whistle when the train was ready to leave, and the starting-signal was lowered at once by the signalman in the north end signal-box. I had got about 200 yards from the station when I found that there was something ahead, and I did not find that out until I was about six yards from the trucks, when I saw the white light from my engine reflected back from the trucks. I think I was running at the time at from 10 to 12 miles an hour. I shut off' the steam and applied the breaks at once, and stopped dead as soon as the engine struck the trucks. There was no damage done to my engine, or' my vehicle in the train, not even a cracked glass. This occurred about 5.55 p.m. I think l should have seen a red light on the trucks, if there had been one, before the collision took place. I saw no red lights until it had happened.


From the preceding· statements it appears that on the 27th October an up South Eastern goods train from Ashford to London Bridge, consisting of nn engine and tender, 52 trucks, and 2 break-vans (one at each end of the train), reached Red Hill, and stopped at the south end of the station about 5.45 p.m., and the guard in the front van at once unhooked 10 trucks at the front part of the train, and proceeded with those trucks along the up main line, past the junction and north end signal- boxes, until the last truck stood clear of the trailing points leading into the long siding; the guard having, as he states, called out to the signalman on duty in the north end signal-box, that he had five trucks to knock off at the "long siding·," but he did not tell him anything more as the train passed the signal-box. The signalman admits hearing the guard call out "Long siding," but. did not hear him say anything else.

The signalman then unlocked the points to admit of their being opened for the train to be run into the long siding, and the engine-driver, on receiving a signal from the guard then backed his train, and gave the five last trucks a shove to send them into the long siding, the guard having previously opened the pints to admit them. The guard then put down breaks on these trucks to prevent them from moving, and as soon as he had done this he then proceeded to have the engine, tender, break-van, and the remaining five trucks attached to the break-van and the remaining five trucks attached to the break van backed along the up main line, with out having come to any understanding with the signalman in the north end signal box as to what he was about to do, and also without having placed a red light on the last truck, by means of his. hand-lamp, so as to give warning that his train was either standing on the up main line or backing along it towards the station.

The guard further states that when he had placed the trucks into the "long siding," and had put down some breaks on them, he was then going towards the signal box to tell the signal man where he wanted to go, but unfortunately he had previously put his train in moving south- wards, and the signalman, in ignorance that there was any train or portion of a train standing on the up main line north or his signal-box or moving southwards towards it, had taken off the up platform starting signal, and the 4.35 p.m. up fast passenger train from Eastbourne, belonging to the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, at once started, and the driver saw nothing whatever of the South-Eastern goods train until he was about 6 yards from the tracks.

The 4.35 p.m. up passenger train from Eastbourne consisted of an engine and tender, seven carriages, and two break-vans, fitted throughout with the Westinghouse continuous automatic break. The engine-driver of this train, as soon as he observed the trucks in front of his engine, shut off the steam and applied the breaks, and the train is stated to have stopped dead as soon as the engine struck the truck, and no damage whatever was caused to any of the vehicles in the passenger train. The collision occurred about 63 yards south of the trailing points leading· into the "long siding." 

This collision was the direct result of the improper conduct of the guard of the South-Eastern goods train in having omitted to place a red tail light on the last truck of the five still remaining attached to the engine, after the other five trucks had been knocked into the" long siding,'' and also in having then proceeded to take his train back along· the' up main line, without baring previously obtained the permission of the signalman in the north end signal-box to do so.

It is fortunate that the collision was not attended with far more serious results, and as the practices followed at the Red Hill station, with reference to such goods trains, are most objectionable and dangerous, I am obliged to call attention to the system which is there followed.

A South Eastern goods train reaches Red Hill station from Ashford, and stops outside the south junction signals. Some trucks at the front part; of the train are unhooked, and are then taken ahead until the last. truck is clear of the trailing points on the up main line leading into the long siding, so that some of these trucks might be put into that siding, the remainder having to he taken on with the rest of the train to London Bridge. ·

No means are provided at these trailing points for protecting the operation on a dark night, of placing those trucks or the train in that siding, from an up train being improperly permitted to pass the north end signals by a mistake of the signalman in the north end signal-box, and no communication is made to that signalman by the guard of the goods train to tell the signalman whether he is going· to place the whole of the train of only a few trucks in that siding; neither is the signalman told that as soon as the trucks have been placed in that siding, the train will require to be backed on the wrong road along the up main to the after part of the goods train, which had been left standing on the up South-Eastern line, 246 yards outside of the junction signals, and making up a total length of upwards of 900 yards or line, which is thus converted for the time into a single line, and the traffic worked over it. without the usual precautions adopted for working traffic on a single line being resorted to.

Again no signal is provided at the north end signal-box to give permission for this goods train to be backed along· the up main line. The driver does not even look for any such signal, but he looks only to the guard of his train.

The public probably have no idea of the unnecessary risk to which they are sometimes subjected by such practices being followed, and in this instance necessarily followed, because the railway company has not thought proper to provide a sufficient amount of siding accommodation at this station to admit of such a goods train as the one in question, being shunted clear off the main line into a siding, to allow of an up passenger train leaving the station for London without risk to the passengers.

The Board of Trade are not  authorised to require that proper siding accommodation should be provided at this station, or to forbid that such a dangerous mode of working should continue to be followed.

Make a free website with Yola