8TH MAY 1883



On Wednesday, 16th, Mr. J.G. Romisan, the Coroner for the Western division of Surrey, resumed an inquiry in the general waiting room at the Epsom station of the London and South Western Railway, as to the death of Charles Edward Martin, aged 32 years, late head order at the station, who was killed by a Brighton Company's down Portsmouth express on the evening of the 8th inst. The case was important, from the fact that it was alleged that the driver of the train which killed the deceased passed through the station at rate of 20 miles an hour, instead of 10 miles an hour, and that he neglected to sound his whistle.

Mr. Thomas James Lawes, station master at Epsom, said the deceased had been engaged at that station for seven years. he was a very steady man and temperate in his habits. On the evening of the 8th instant he left witness to go into the dining to shunt the up goods train. That was part of his duty. The siding being on a curve, the deceased would be obliged to stand on the down main line in order to signal to the driver of the goods train. The Brighton Railway Company had running powers over their metals, and the up and down main lines were leased to them. The platforms being at the end of a sharp curve, the South Western company had placed, at either end of the station, a large board, bearing age words. "Speed not to exceed ten miles per hour." This was for guidance of the drivers of Brighton Company's trains, all of which passed through the stations. All South Western trains stop there. Besides the board alluded to, which were places conspicuously, there were rules printed in the 'service time tables' setting forth the ever driver (Brighton company's) was to sound his whistle upon approaching the junction. For some time previous to the accident these rules had been frequently disregarded, and witness had had to report irregularities to his chief office. The last occasion of his having reported a Brighton company's driver travelling at an excessive rate of speed was in September last.

Charles Legge, signalman in the west cabin at Epsom Station, said he remembered the goods train arriving there from Leatherhead just before eight o'clock on the evening in question. Deceased was standing on the down main line, superintending the shunting, when the Portsmouth train was signalled. Witness warned him of its an approach, but he did not appear to hear him, and was knocked down. The train was travelling at from 30 to 40 miles an hour. Had the driver sounded his whistle witness must have heard it.

At the request of Inspector Howland, the train signalling books were produced in court, and they went to show the train in question travelled from Cheam to Ashstead (5 miles) in seven minutes.

The Coroner, addressing Daniel Smith, the engine driver, said the case presented rather a grave aspect, and would he like to ask the witness any questions?

Smith said he was not travelling at anything like the speed that had been mentioned. He had no questions to ask

Frederick Marriot, the driver of the goods train, who had had eight years' experience estimated the speed of the passenger train at 30 miles an hour, and he did not hear the whistle sounded until after the man had been killed.

At this stage of the proceedings, after a sitting of four hours, the coroner said there were several other points that ought to come out, and as he did not feel justified in curtailing an inquiry of that importance, he should adjourn the case.

The inquiry was then adjourned to Saturday, when Mr. Harford, acting general secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, appeared on behalf of David Smith, the driver of the Portsmouth express. On Smith being called, he was duly cautioned by the coroner against answering any questions that might tend to criminate him.

Mr. Harford, informed the coroner that he had been requested to watch the case on Smith's behalf, and that acting on his instructions, he was prepared to give any information that might be required to give any information that might be required of him.

Smith have been sworn, deposed -- I was driving the 7.25 p.m. train train to Portsmouth on Tuesday, May 8th. I shut off steam at Ewell Station, and ran to the end of the South Western Station, Epsom, where I again put on the steam. All the signals were clear; the night was rainy and dark. I gave two distinct whistles before approaching the junction (at the east signal box). I whistled again just past the west box, because I saw the goods train in the upsizing. I never felt as if I had run over anything in passing. I saw the speed indicator show fifteen miles per hour. I had the hand brake on from the east to the west box, and before that I had applied the Westinghouse brake. I was not aware of running over any one until Wednesday evening when I was told of the accident by my foreman; neither was any blood found on the when cleaned. He had been a driver 33 years, and in the service of the company for 36 years.

John Methven, deposed -- I was fireman of the engine of the Portsmouth express, of which Smith was the driver. I remember hearing the whistle blow from the time of passing the Brighton Company's Epsom Town Station. There were two whistles given for the junction. The next time the whistle was sounded was at the west box, as I saw the lights on the goods brake van, and thought there might be some shunting going on. I had the hand brake on at the time.

By Mr. Harford -- In giving the two long, distinct whistles, with the pause between each, they traversed the distance between the Brighton Company's Town Station and the East Box. With the block system in operation, the whistles for the junction had to be given at the preceding section.

The Coroner, in summing up, said it was only by making full inquiriy into cases of this kind that they got to know how the companies conducted their business, and whether proper precautions were taken for the safety of those they employed. Circumstances at the beginning of the inquiry looked bad against the driver Smith, so much so, that had he closed the inquiry at its first stage he should have felt inclined to direct the jury to return a verdict of manslaughter against him. But taking into consideration some of the facts the deposed to, in conjunction with what they had heard that day, he had modified his opinion. The goods guard had told them that deceased had no business on the line at all, as he had nothing to do with the shunting. The signalman, Legge, had also called to deceased to "look out," and the guard had also called to him to get out of the way. The fact that the express was a few minutes overdue must have been known to deceased. There was some conflicting evidence as to the speed of the train, and they might think the driver was not altogether free from blame; but there appeared to be some laxity on the part of the officials in seeing that the ten miles rate of speed at the junction was observed, and if the breach of this instruction was overlooked it could scarcely be expected that drivers would obey the instruction. As to the whistling, it had been shown that the driver sounded the whistle for the junction, but it was not clear that this had been done at the spot where the company's regulations said it should take place. The driver Smith, had given his evidence in a straightforward manner, and with such a record of service as thirty three years in the same capacity, he was not likely to be an individual who would recklessly kill a fellow creature.

The jury, after a long deliberation in private, returned the following verdict  -- "That the deceased contributed to the accident by being on the line after the express was signalled; and we are of opinion that the Brighton Company's do not adhere to the regulations in regard to their speed when passing through the junction; and the shunting accommodation at the Epsom Station (South Western Railway) is totally inadequate for the requirements of the station." The Coroner said he agreed with the verdict.            

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