19th DECEMBER 1898


T.W.W. Driver Edward Herriett & 

his Fireman Arthur Hartfield

Driver John Okell, his Fireman & depot unknown

extracted and adapted from the report by


Lieut Col R.E

On the 19th December, 1898 a collision occurred at about 8.17 a.m. near Bermondsey intermediate signal box, on the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway. The 8.7 train from London Bridge to Victoria was standing at the down starting signal of the Bermondsey intermediate box it was run into in rear by the 8.10 a.m. train from London Bridge to Oxted. Two passenger were killed by the collision; four railway servants, three of whom were travelling as passengers in the Victoria train, were severely injured, and complaints of personal injuries sustained have been received from about twelve passengers.

The brake van at the rear of the Victoria train and the next carriage to it were badly smashed, but the rest of this train was practically uninjured. The engine of the Oxted train was somewhat damaged, but the rest of the train sustained but little injury.

The Oxted train consisted of a four wheels coupled bogie tank engine, with the following vehicles attached to it in the order given:- Brake van, composite, third class, third class, third class, bogie composite, brake van. Both engine and train were fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, which is reported to have been in very good order.

The Victoria train consisted of a four wheels coupled tank engine, with the following vehicles attached to it in th order given:- 

Third class brake van, third class, second class, composite, first class, first class, first class second class, third class, third class, brake van. Both the engine and train were fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake.


Bermondsey intermediate block box, opposite which this collision occurred, is situated just about three quarters of a mile to the south London Bridge railway station; it is a block box, and the adjoining block boxes to it, are London Bridge south box to the northwards and Bermondsey box to the southwards. The distance between the Bermondsey intermediate box and the London Bridge such box is 1,115 yards. The distance to the Bermondsey box is immaterial as regards this incident.

There are nine lines of rails passing in front of the Bermondsey intermediate box in directions which are approximately north and south, but the only one with which this accident is concerned is the L. B. S. & C. Company’s down south London line, which is the third in order from the front of the box. The following are the Bermondsey intermediate box signals relating to this line, with their respective distances from that box.

Down Distant signal 660 yards north of the box
Home signal 119 yards north of the box
Starting 143 yards south of the box
Advance starting signal 441 south of the box

The London Bridge south box is situated 150 yards out of the platforms of the London Bridge station, and the following are its signals relating to the down south London line, with their respective distances from that box.

Platform starting signal 148 yards north of the box
Girder signal 20 yards north of the box
First advance starter signal 174 yards south of the box
Second advance starter signal 455 yards south of the box
The second advance starter of the London Bridge south box is on the same post and immediately over the distant signal of the Bermondsey intermediate box, and the latter is, as usual, controlled by the former.

The system known as lock & block is also in use on this line in its complete form, and in connection with this accident it may be mentioned that there is a treadle fixed just to the south of the Bermondsey intermediately box starting signal which prevents the London Bridge south box second advanced starting signal from being lowered for a train until the previous train has passed over it.

The line between the two boxes is nearly straight, and on a clear day drivers have an excellent view of their signals.


Edward Hatton, states; I am 51 years of age have been in the Company’s service 31 years, 26 years signalman, and the rest as porter and switchman. I am now stationed at London Bridge south box as signalman in charge, and have been in charge about five years.

Previously I was assistant signalman in the south box for about 15 years. I came on duty on the 19th December at 6 a.m. till 2 p.m. I was not on duty on the 18th at all after 6 a.m. The 8 a.m. train to Horsham was warned to me at 8; it passed me at 8.2 a.m. and I gave it on to Bermondsey intermediate box at the same time. I received Clear for it from Bermondsey intermediate at 8.5 a.m. A light engine was warned on to me at 8 a.m. following the Horsham train. I accepted it about 8.2 a.m.; it passed me at 8.5, when I received Clear from Bermondsey intermediate box for the Horsham train. I received signal from Bermondsey intermediate of the engine having passed out of the section at 8.8 a.m. The 8.5 a.m. empty train, London Bridge to Norwood Junction followed the engine, and approached my at 8.7, and it entered the section behind the engine immediately that the engine was clear of the section. The empty train passed out of the section at Bermondsey intermediate at 8.11 a.m. The 8.7 a.m. South London train approached me at 8.10 and passed my box at 8.11 for Bermondsey intermediate. I received line clear for this train from Bermondsey intermediate  box just before 8.11. Before I received clear for that train, the 8.10 a.m. train to Oxted, leaving No.5 platform, was warned on to me. The platform starting signal is held by a slot from my box. I took the slot off and the signal was lowered; I also lowered the girder signal, also my stop signal, in order that the train should run up to my advance starting signal. The train passed my box about 8.12. I did not book it because I had not received train out of section for the South London train from Bermondsey intermediate. my advance starting signal was electrically locked from Bermondsey intermediate and I could not lower it until the South London train had passed the starting signal on the down line at Bermondsey intermediate and the signalman had freed my instrument by plunging for another train. At the time the Oxted train came out I could see all my signals except possibly the second advance starter. I could also see the signals at the ends of the platforms in London Bridge station. There were no fogmen out and I had not asked for any as I did not think they were needed, but in the course of an hour it came on very thick. When fog comes on and the fogmen are needed, it is my practice, as well as that of the other signalmen to send for the fogmen, but this morning the fogmen came out and took up their positions at the signals after the accident without being sent for, although at the time I could see into the station and all signals between me and the starting signals at the end of the platform. I do not think that the fogmen were necessary at 8.30 a.m., and why they came so soon I am unable to explain. After the 8.10 Oxted train passed by my box I did not watch it any more and did not notice that it did not stop at my advance starting signal. I know the rule that in foggy weather the train should not be allowed to go to the advanced starting signal, but should be kept at the starter. On the morning in question I considered that it was sufficiently clear to justify my allowing the train to proceed to the advance starter.

Thomas Henry Moss, states; I am 26 years of age, have been in the Company’s service about 13 years, signalman seven years, and have been three years at Bermondsey intermediate box. Previously I was train signal clerk and porter. i was on duty on the 19th December at Bermondsey intermediate box from 6 a.m. till 2 p.m. I came off duty on the 18th at 2 p.m. The 8 a.m. train from London Bridge to Horsham was warned on to me at 8 o’clock; it passed my box at 8.5, when I cleared back to London Bridge south box. The train passed out of the section at South Bermondsey Junction at 8.9. A light engine was then signalled on to me from London Bridge at 8.5, it passed at 8.9 and I cleared back to London Bridge at same time. I received clear signal for it as having passed out of the section at South Bermondsey Junction at 8.11. At 8.9 I had the 8.5 a.m. empty train, London Bridge to Norwood Junction signalled to to me from London Bridge; it passed me at 8.11, when I gave clear for it to London Bridge south box. It passed out of the section at South Bermondsey Junction at 8.15. The 8.7 a.m. South London train was signalled out to me as having left London Bridge at 8.11. I had just previously accepted it; it ran up to my box arriving about 8.13, and I held it at my down starting signal because I had not received clear for the preceding empty train from South Bermondsey Junction.

The distance from my box to the starting signal is 146 yards, and from my box to the advance starting signal is 460 yards. I did not allow the train to proceed to the advance starting signal, as I could not see that signal, but I could see all my other signals except the distant. In the London direction I am sure that I could see 300 yards. The advance starting signal is frequently obscures by smoke and steam from factories immediately on the west side of the line, which blows across the line but this morning it was obscured more by steam from trains passing on the main line, and the practice has always been when we could not see the signal, not to allow trains to go to it, and this is the reason why I held the South London train at my inner starter signal. The weather remained fairly clear. I could see all my signals, with the exception of the distant and advance starting signal until nearly nine o’clock, and the fog signalmen came on duty at that hour. I sent for the fogmen, but not until 8.50, as I did not think that up to that time they were necessary. The 8.10 a.m. train from London Bridge to Oxted followed the South London train and about one minute after the latter had come to a standstill the former came into collision with it just outside my box whee the rear brake of the South London train stopped. I knew nothing about the approach of the Oxted train until I saw it just before the collision occurred. My down distant and home signals were both at danger, the latter being mechanically held by a lock on the inner starter signal. The advance starting signal worked from London Bridge south box must also have been at danger, as it could not be lowered until the South London train, which was being held at my inner starting signal, had passed the treadle in advance of that signal. I am certain that immediately the South London train passed my home signal I put that signal to danger. I am quite certain that the London Bridge south box never offered me this train, and I am also quite sure that, it ran past my home signal at danger. I am also quite sure that it was not in the power of the South London box to lower his advance starting signal.

John Okell states; I have been 39 years in the of the Company, 29 years a driver. I know the road Bermondsey very well. I came off duty on the 18th at 7.15 p.m., and came on duty on the 19th at 5.5. to work till 2.30 p.m. I was working the 8.7 a.m. train from London Bridge to Victoria. My was D1 Class engine, No. 244 'Hassocks', four wheels coupled tank engine, fitted with Westinghouse brake, working blocks on the four coupled wheels. On approaching Bermondsey intermediate the distant was against me, as was also the home, but the latter was lowered when I whistled, so I passed it, but stopped at the advance, which was against me. Almost immediately after stopping, we were run into by a train in rear. My knees was slightly hurt, but my engine was not damaged. My engine was pushed forward less than a yard. The weather was foggy. I had difficulty in seeing my signals, and I do not think I could see them until I was within 10 yards of the post. I think that fogmen ought to have been out. When I did see my signals, I had no difficulty in knowing whether they were on or off.

Edward Herriett, engine driver, states;  I have been 26 years in the Company’s service, 21 years an engine driver. I know the road between London Bridge and Bermondsey well. I came on duty on the 19th a.m. to work till 6.30 p.m. I came off duty on the 18th at 4.10 p.m. I was working the 8.10 a.m. London Bridge to Oxted train. My engine was My engine was D3 Class 0-4-4T No.388 'Emsworth', a four wheels coupled bogie tank engine, running chimney first. My engine is fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on the four coupled wheels. My train was also fitted with the Westinghouse brake. Both brakes were in perfect order. We started from No. 5 Platform at London Bridge. When I passed the platform starting signal it was off. The next signal for me was the girder signal; this was also off. The next was the first advance of the London Bridge south cabin; this was off also. The next was the London Bridge south advance starter; the signal I took to be off. From what the signalman subsequently told me I know that it could not have been off. My explanation of thinking that it was off is, that on account of the fog I could only just see it, and I took it to be off. I looked at it very carefully as I passed it, and I distinctly thought that it was off. I estimate my speed on passing this signal at five miles an hour. I could not see this signal until I was close on it. The distant signal for Bermondsey intermediate was on the same post, just underneath the last. I looked at that also, and I saw that it was on. I had no doubt about it. The next signal was the Bermondsey intermediate home signal.I kept a careful look out for this signal, but on account of the fog I could not see it at all, so I ran past it, not knowing whether it was on or off, but I did not know that I was past it all I saw the box. Soon after I passed the distant I shut off steam, and when I first saw the box I was going at about 10 miles an hour. Till I saw the box I had been looking for the signal, but on seeing the box I at once looked forward and just saw the train about 15 yards in front of me. I at once applied the brake steam was already off but the rails were greasy, so it did not act at once, and I could not stop my train before the collision occurred. There was not time for me to open the sanders. I was not injured, but my engine was damaged. Practically no other damage was done to my train, and no vehicles of my train were off the line. I clearly miscalculated my distance between the distant and the home. There were no fogmen out, which surprised me, as I thought that it was thick enough for them. I know the rule about proceeding cautiously in foggy weather, and, that if fixed signals are not clearly seen the train must completely sopped at any other place where signals are known to be fixed. I allow that I did not see the advanced starter clearly, that I was running at 10 miles an hour when I saw the box. I allow that this was too fast, but it was due to my miscalculating the distance.

Arthur Hartfield, fireman, states; I have been 10 years in the service of the Company, eight years a fireman. On the 18th and 19th I worked the same hours as my driver, and was with him on the train which left London Bridge at 8.10 a.m. I saw the platform, girder, and the first advance signals, and they were all off. It was very foggy, but I could see them clearly enough to be quite sure that they were off. I did not see the advance starter as I was firing at the time, and I do not know at what speed we passed it. I did not either see or look for the Bermondsey intermediate home signal, as I had only just finished firing. The first knowledge that I had of anything being wrong, was my driver calling out look out  mate. I then looked up and saw the train about yards or 20 yards in advance. I at once put on the hand brake, and saw the driver apply the Westinghouse, but they did not stop the train intake to prevent the collision. I do not think that we were going above eight miles an hour the we sighted the train, and this had been reduced to fiver when we struck it. The fog was such that you could not properly see a signal more than 20 yards away from you.

William Orchard states; I am 43 years of age, have been in the Company’s service 24 years, employed as porter and guard, and was inspector at New Cross three years. at my own request I was again made a guard 16 years since, and have remained a guard. I commenced duty at 7.15 a.m. December 19th, to work till 5.30 p.m. I was in charge of an empty train from New Cross to London Bridge. It was my duty to work the 8.10 a.m. train from London Bridge to Lewes via Oxted. The train consisted of vehicles equal to eight ordinary carriages, and I started in charge of the train without any assistant. I was in the rear brake. The brake was about half full of Parcel Post hampers, fish, and ordinary parcels. I gave the driver a signal to start from the platform, and the train left at 8.11. Before doing so. I had seen the platform starting signal was off. I got into my brake and commenced sorting the Parcel Post hampers, parcels, &c., preparatory to stopping at Norwood Junction, the first station at which the train had to call. I did not observe the signals after leaving the platform at London Bridge until the collision occurred at Bermondsey intermediate signal box, but I saw the starting signal off at the end of the platform when I gave the driver the signal. I consider from my own observation when the collision took place, and I got out of my brake, that the driver of my engine could have seen the signals though it was certainly rather foggy. My opinion is that my train, when the collision took place, was running about 15 miles an hour. 

The formation of the train, commencing from the engine was as follows:-
Bogie tank engine, No.388, Driver E. Herriett.
Brake van No.136 6 wheels. triple composite No.257 6 wheels, third class carriage No.340 4 wheels, third class No.1148 4 wheels, third class carriage No.465 4 wheels, bogie composite No.438 8 wheels & brake van No.28 4 wheels.

I felt the shock of the collision, and was thrown down. My engine was damaged, but my train only slightly. I got out to see what damaged been done. I found guard Peto lying on the ballast, and he was carried away. One injured passenger was put into the van, and he died at once. A second man was found nearly dead and subsequently died on the spot. Once other passengers complained of being shaken. The third class brake at the rear of the train was entirely telescoped, and the next carriage was slightly damaged. No other vehicles were damaged, or were off the rails.     


The facts of this case are clear. The 8.7 a.m. Victoria train had been brought to a stand at the Bermondsey intermediate starting signal on account of the section in front being blocked. There is no doubt whatsoever that, while this train was standing at this point, the second advance starting signal of the South London box and the home signal of the Bermondsey intermediate box were both at danger, but, never less, this train was run into in rear by the 8.10 a.m. train ex London Bridge. The collision was, therefore, primarily due to the fact of driver Herriett who was in charge of this engine of the Oxted train, having run past both those signals when they were at danger. Herriett does not dispute that these signals were at danger, and he attributes his running past them to his being unable to get a proper view of them, owing to the fog which obtained at the time. He allows that he he saw the South London box second advanced starter, but he asserts that, owing to the fog, he did not see it clearly, and that he though that it was off for him; though at the same time, he admits that he clearly saw the distant signal under it to be against him. The home signal for the Bermondsey intermediate box he states that he was never able to see at all owing to the fog, though he was looking out carefully for it, and he asserts that the first time he realised that he had passed it was when he saw the Bermondsey intermediate box, and that he was then running at a speed of 10 miles an hour. Immediately after seeing the box he saw the Victoria train about 20 yards in advance of him, and, though he then made every endeavour to stop his train, he was unable to do so before the collision occurred.

The evidence as to the state of the fog on the day in question is most contradictory. Driver Herriett states that it was so thick that he could not see the home signal, though, though he was looking for it. His fireman did not actually look for the home signal, but states the signals generally could not be seen from a greater distance than 20 yards. driver Okell, who was driving the engine of the Victoria train, supports these witnesses by stating that, when coming from London Bridge, he had had great difficulty in seeing his signals, and that he did not think that they could be seen till within 10 yards of them. Both these drivers state that they consider that fogmen should have been out on the line. Okell, however, admits that when he did see his signals he had no doubt at all as to whether they were on or off.

On the other hand, the signalman in London Bridge box states that he could see all his signals except the second advance starter; he could see his first advanced starter, which was 174 yards south of his box. The signalman in the Bermondsey intermediate box states that he could see all his signals except his distant and advanced starter; he could see his home signal, which was 119 yards north of his box, and he expresses himself confident of having been able to see 300 yards to the north of his box. Both these signalmen state that they had not at that time asked for fogmen, as they did not consider that they were in any way needed, though subsequent to the accident the fog thickened and they did ask for them.

Guard Orchard, of the Oxted train, states that he considered that after the collision occurred, though it was rather foggy, the driver could have seen his signals.

This evidence is certainly very contradictory, but even the witnesses who support driver Herriett do not go so far to site, as he does, that a signal could not be seen at all when actually going past it. It seems, therefore, probable that Herriett could have seen that the two running signals were against him if had exercised proper care. 

In any case, even by his own admission, Herriett is to blame; he allows that he was doubtful whether the London south box second advanced starter was against him or not, and that he distinctly saw the Bermondsey intermediate distant signal was against him. Under these circumstances, it was incumbent on him to proceed with greatest care up to the home signal, whilst, as a matter of fact, he arrived at the Bermondsey intermediate box, 119 yards beyond this home signal, running at a speed which he himself estimates at 10 miles an hour.

Whilst, therefore, it appears most probable that with due care driver Herriett could have seen that the signals were against him, even if this was not the case, proper caution on his part should have prevented the collision occurring. The whole responsibility for the accident must, therefore, rest on hiss shoulders, and no other servant of the Company appear to be in any way to blame.

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