28th SEPETEMBER 1899





extracted and adapted from the report by



A collision occurred at 9.25 p.m. on the 28th September at Epsom station on the London and South Western Railway. The 7.10 London, Brighton and South Coast passenger train from Portsmouth to London when passing through the station with all signals off for it, came into collision with four wagons and a brake van, which were sanding on the London and South Western platform line foul of the London, Brighton and South Coast through line, on which the train was travelling. The speed at the time of the collision is to have been from 15 to 20 miles an hour.

Eight passenger and the guard of the train sustained slight injuries.

The London, Brighton and South Coast passenger train consisted of a four wheels coupled express passenger engine, six wheeled tender, and eight coaches, of which four were eight wheeled bogie stock, three others six wheeled, and one four wheeled. There was a brake van at each end and one about the middle of the train. The engine and the train were fitted 
throughout with the Westinghouse brake, which was in good order. The train was not derailed but it became separated between the second and the third coaches. The engine ad its chimney knocked off, dome casing damaged, leading buffer plate bent, besides receiving other trifling injuries. The carriages were practically undamaged, but three windows and one screw coupling were broken.

Two of the wagons were derailed and badly smashed, one other was slightly damaged, and the brake van had its windows broken.

The engine of the passenger train came to rest about 60 yards from the point of collision.


This station, which is the property of the London and South Western Railway, consists of two platforms, with four lines of rails between them. The lines adjacent to the platforms are the London and South Western lines, while the two other lines belong to the London, Brighton and South Coast, none of whose trains stop at this place. West of the station the four lines converge into two lines, which from here to Leatherhead are the joint property of the two Companies. The signal box is situated on the up side of the joint line, about 200 yards from the station in the direction of Leatherhead, and the facing points of the junction where the up joint line bifurcates into the up London and South Western and up London, Brighton and South Coast lines are 65 yards east of the box, that is to say between it and the station.

On the west side of the signal box and on the up side of the joint line there is a refuge siding, the outlet from which on the up line is nearly opposite the box. The goods yard is on the down side of the place.

The up home junction signals are 120 yards on the Leatherhead side of the signal box, the outer home signal is 375 yards outside the home, and the distant signal is 392 yards from the outer home/ Electrical bars are placed on the London and South Western and London, Brighton and South Coast up lines at the fouling of the two lines, the effect of which is to render it impossible to lower the home signal for one line, so long as any vehicle is standing on or passing over the fouling bar on the other line. The facing points of the junction between the two up lines are fitted with a locking bar, the distance between the electrical bars and the locking bar being 60 yards, and the point of collision was midway between the two.

The line from the direction of Leatherhead falls towards Epsom at an inclination of 1 in 110, nearly up to the facing points on the up line, and from here the inclination is 1 in 250 (still falling) through the station. There is an easy curve to the right of 65 chains radius.


W.T. England, signalman, Epsom West Box states: I cam on duty at 9 p.m. on Thursday 28th September, to work until 6 a.m. on Friday. The 7.15 p.m. goods from Guildford to Nine Elms arrived at Epsom at 9.11 p.m., and I shunted it into the up siding, west of my box. The engine was detached, came out on to the up line, and I crossed it over to the down siding. This would be about 9.15. After doing this, in accordance with the usual practice, I opened the points for the front part of the train to run out of its own momentum on to the up South Western line; the object of this being to allow the engine after picking up wagons in the down siding, to back them over on to the front part of the train on the up South Western line, run round the whole of the wagons to push them back into the up siding on to the rear portion. It was 9.17 when I opened the up siding points, and I then enquired of the Brighton Company’s signalman at Letherhead station box how the 7.10 p.m. passenger train from Portsmouth was running, to which he replied the it had just left Boxhill. At 9.19 he advised me that the train was just leaving Leatherhead, and concluding the wagons had run clear of the up South Western line, and the electrical fouling bar being free, and the junction points, which I had to reserve, clear, I lowered my signals for the train to pass. I accepted it from Epsom Common Box at 9.23. I saw the wagons come out of the siding on the up side, and pass my box at about the usual pace. After passing the up junction points, the wagons would necessarily actuate the electrical fouling bar on the up South Western line, which would cause a red disc to appear in an instrument in my box, but I did not see the disc appear. I was engaged at the time in making enquiries of Leatherhead as to the running of the South Coast passenger train. I looked out of the box towards the station, and could see the junction points, but did not discern any wagons standing foul. It is not the usual custom to get a signal from the men in charge of such an operation that the wagons are clear before reversing the points, and I did not wait for such a signal on this occasion, neither did I see any signal exhibited by the guard until the South Coast passenger train was approaching my home signal, which I immediately placed at danger, but it was too late to avoid the collision. At the time the collision occurred I has a stranger in the box with me a young man who had brought my supper, and who arrived at the box about 9.15, and did not leave until after the collision had taken place. I have been in the Company’s service about nine years, and stationed in Epsom West signal box 18 months. It is a nine box. There are two men who work nine hours each, and one man who works six hours. As the London, Brighton and South Coast passenger train approached my home signal. I saw the guard who was with the London and South Western goods wagons give a red light, and I immediately put all my signals to danger. There was no tail light on the South Western goods wagons. It was a dark. I looked out of my window before I cleared the road back to Epsom Common, but could not see the wagons. Before I cleared back to Epsom Common I looked at the electrical disc, which works with the fouling bar, and that showed clear. I did not clear the road after the arrival of the goods train until 9.21. I kept the block on because the up line was not clear during the shunting operations. The wagons seemed to pass my box at the usual speed. They were allowed to run out of the siding by gravity. It is done every night. There were four wagons and a van. It generally takes about two minutes for the wagons to run from the siding, as far as the South Western line,  clear of the fouling bar. The London, Brighton, and South Coast  train was running about 20 to 25 miles an hour. There is a regulation for the trains of this Company to reduce speed passing through the station.

F. Aylwin, guard, states: I was in charge of the 7.15 p.m. goods from Guildford to Nine Elms on September 28th, which, on leaving Ashstead, consisted of engine, 19 wagons, and two brake vans. We arrived at Epsom station at 9.11 p.m., and the train was shunted back into the up siding at the West box. I then uncoupled behind two Epsom wagons which were between the engine and front van, and these were taken out and crossed over to the down side. After doing this, and finding the signalman did not open the up siding points, I concluded he intended keeping my train in the siding until after the passing of the 9.24 London, Brighton, and South Coast train and departure of the 9.35 (South Western) from Leatherhead. I therefore left my train, and crossed over to he down side to assist my mate in dealing with the wagons there, but just as I got near the West box I heard the up siding points open. I immediately went back to my van, released the brake, and allowed it, with four next wagons wagons, to run out on to the up South Western line. This was between 9.20 and 9.21. The wagons were bad runners, and soon as I found they were not in clear of the junction points I applied my brake and ran back to shout to the signalman, but to my surprise, I saw the Brighton Company’s passenger train approaching. I at once waved my lamp violently, showing a red light, and although the driver of the passenger train saw it, and applied his bake, he was not able to stop in time to avoid the collision. 

This is the usual method of shunting, and I have always made a practice of showing the signalman a white light to indicate to him that the wagons are clear of the junction points. I have been in the London and South Western Company’s service 25 years, and I have been for six years a goods guard. On the 28th September I came on duty at Waterloo at 5 p.m. to work until 3 a.m. next morning. I looked at my watch when the siding points were opened, and it was between 9.20 and 9.21. The wagons were bad runners,  and came to rest just over No.26 facing points. I had a brake stick, and tried to get them to move with it, but failed. 
I had no tail light on them. It has never been the custom to put a tail light on the wagons on to those already on the up South Western line. The wagons usually come to a stand at the platform. I had no time to do anything more to attract the signalman’s attention. I am quite sure that I did not touch my brake until I put it on after the wagons had come to a stand of their own accord. 

I ran backwards the  box as fast as I could when I saw the Brighton Company’s train approaching, and I got nearly up to the box before the collision occurred. The train appeared to be travelling at 20 miles an hour.

F. Baverstock, brakesman, states: I have ben in the London and South Western Company’s service about 10 years, and I have been brakesman four years. On the 28th September I came on duty at 5 p.m. ay Waterloo to work until 3 a.m. next day. I was brakesman of the 7.15 p.m. goods ex Guildford. It consisted of 19 wagons and two vans, and I was riding in the rear van. When the two front wagons and engine went across to the down sidings, I accompanied them. We left these wagons in the sidings and picked up 12 others. The engine then drew out of the sidings with these wagons on to the down line, and came to a stand nearly opposite the signal box. We were waiting to be put across to the up London nd South Western line. I asked the signalman to open the points of the cross over road and let me across. He then told me the Brighton Company’s train had just left Epsom Common, I then saw the train passing the signals, and on looking road I saw my mate swinging a red light violently. I at once guessed there was something wrong and did the same. My train arrived at Epsom at 9.11, which is right time. So far as I know the front van with the four wagons attached was let out of the up siding at 9.20. I have heard the evidence given by my mate and correlate it. I should like to add that when our train arrived at Epsom I noticed the signalman had a stranger in the box, and that during the shunting operations he seemed to paying more attention to the conversation with him, than looking after the shunting operations.

E. Harden, porter, states: I had to attend the shunting of the 7.15 p.m. up goods from Guldford on Thursday, 28th September. 

The train arrived in the station at 9.11, and was immediately shunted back in the uo siding. I went down to the siding on the down side to wait for the engine to come over and do the necessary shunting. The engine of the up goods crossed over with two wagons for Epsom at 9.15, and after I had disposed of these wagons and attached the engine to some empty trucks that had to be  sent away, I shouted to the signalman right out, when he opened the points leading from the siding to the down main line. I then signalled the driver to pull out, and as we were leaving the siding I noticed the guard was then taking the front van and some 
wagons out of the up siding and running towards the West box. This would be about 9.20 p.m. I have been in the Company’s service about nine years, and have been all the time at Epsom.

Richard Jenkins, driver, states: I have been in the London, Brighton, and South Coast Company’s service 28 years, and I have been driver 21 years. On 28th September I came on duty at 10.30 a.m. to work until 10.15 p.m. My engine was No.180, four wheels coupled express engine, with a six wheeled tender. It was fitted with the Westinghouse brake, working blocks on the coupled wheels of the engine and on the tender wheels. I had eight coaches, equal to twelve, on the train and it was fitted with the brake throughout. The brake was in good order. I was working the 7.10 p.m. from Portsmouth to London. Everything went right till I reached Epsom Junction, when my fireman saw a red light being waved about. I did not see the home signal thrown up to danger. There is always some shunting going on at this place when my train passed through. The left hand leading corner of my engine struck the right side of the wagons that were foul of the line I was on. I was not hurt nor my mate. I had not steam on when my mate saw the red light being waved. I put off steam at the distant signal. I had reduced the speed of my train at the distant signal by the Westinghouse brake and then eased the brake off again. As soon as my saw the red light I applied the brake with full force. When I struck the wagons the speed was about 15 or 12 miles an hour. On approaching Epsom Junction, South Western Railway, all signals were clear for me to run through; when about 400 yards from the junction, fireman Eley said there is a red light waving about this side, but there being a South Western goods train shunting there I look it to be a signal for the goods train, but as soon as my fireman had spoken another red light was shown, I immediately applied the Westinghouse brake and had no sooner done so when the engine come into collision with some vehicles which stood on the South Western line, but foul of the road I was running on, being about 200 yards from the junction. I was travelling at the regulation speed, viz., 15 miles an hour in order to run through the junction at 10 miles an hour. The force of the collision threw two of the vehicles off the road completely wrecking them and also separated my train the second carriage from engine. Time of collision 9.26 p.m.

George Barker, guard, states: I have been in the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company’s service 30 years, and I have been passenger guard 25 years. On the 28th September, I came on duty at 3.30 p.m. to work until about 11 p.m. I was guard in charge of the 7.10 p.m. train from Portsmouth to London. My train consisted of eight vehicles, viz., brake van, triple composite, composite, third class, brake van, third class, composite, and brake van; four of  them, viz., two third class, one composite and the rear van being bogie stock, with eight wheels, the others were six wheelers except the third carriage from the 
engine, which had four wheels. It was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake, which was in good order. Approaching Epsom Junction we were then near the home signal. Shortly after this the collision occurred. I was thrown forward, and struck my head against the side of my van. I saw the signals and they were off. I did not see the home signal put to danger, nor did I see any red light being waved about. After the collision when my train came to a stop the rear brake was on the under bridge, and the engine was nearly opposite the down platform. As soon as I could I got out and asked the driver what was the matter, and he said he had struck something. I then went along my train, but no one made any complaint to me. My train was not derailed; and about 58 minutes later it was sent forward to London with another engine.


The facts in this case are plain enough. A London and South Western goods train from Guildford for London arrived at Epsom at 9.11 p.m., and was placed in the up siding, which is close to the signal box. The engine and two wagons were at once detached and crossed over to the goods yard on the down side, where the engine remained for shunting purposes, and to pick up some other wagons which were to be attached to the train. As soon as the engine was out of the way, signalman England in the West box again opened the up siding points, so as to allow the five rearmost vehicles of the goods train (viz., four wagons and a brake van), in charge of the guard, to run out of the siding by gravity (the siding being on an incline) into the London and South Western down platform line, the object being to facilitate the marshalling of the train, when the engine returned with the wagons which it had gone to fetch from the goods yard and which required to be placed behind the fourth wagon of the train. This it is said, is the regular way of working, and is done every night. The wagons on this occasion, for some reason or other, did not gain sufficient impetus to carry them as far as usual, and, instead of running into the platform line, they came to rest on the junction 
between the up platform and the up through lines, and foul of the latter.

Signalman England, however, without waiting for any signal or information from the guard, assumed that the wagons had travelled sufficiently far to be clear of the trough lines, and lowered the signal for the London, Brighton, and South Coast express passenger train, which was offered to, and accepted by, him at 9.23. England says that before doing so he looked out of his window and could not see nothing of the wagons which is not surprising. as it was a dark night and the wagons, which were nearly 100 yards from him, had no tail light. He also says that he looked at the electrical disc in the signal box, which works in connection with the fouling bar on the London and South Western up platform line, and that it showed clear. This instrument is normally at clear, and shows danger while anything is standing on, or passing over, the fouling bar. And the fact that it was at clear afforded no guarantee whatever that the wagons had passed over it, and were clear of the main line, as it would be at clear even though the wagons, as in this case, had not reached it. Even therefore, if England is correct in saying that he looked at this instrument, it would afford him no reliable information, and he must have been fully aware of this. In short, England took no steps worth mentioning to ascertain whether line was clear or not, before he accepted the London, Brighton, and South Coast train, and lowered his signals for it.

Goods guard F. Aylwin who was in charge of the wagons when they left the siding, and was riding in the brake says that, as soon as he discovered that the wagons has stopped before they had cleared the junction, he at once ran back towards the signal box in order to tell the signalman that the junction was not clear, when to his surprise he saw the Portsmouth train approaching. He thereupon waved  a red light violently and succeeded in attracting the attention of the driver, who at once applied the brake (steam being already shut off), and reduced the speed of therein to about 15 miles an hour before his engine collided with the 

It is apparent that the collision is to be attributed to the neglect of signalman England, who had only come on duty a few minutes previously, to take any steps to ascertain whether the line was clear before lowering the signals for the Portsmouth train. 

Instead of attending to his duty, this man seems to have been engaged in conversation with an acquaintance, whom he had, in contravention of the rules, admitted to his signal box, and he must therefore be held responsible for what occurred.

I was unable to ascertain how it happened that the wagons did not in this instance travel as far as usual when allowed to leave the siding. Guard Aylwin says they were bad runners, but it may be that he had not released the brake sufficiently when the wagons started, or more probably, that he reapplied his brake too soon, and so stopped the wagons in the wrong place. I cannot help thinking that this man was not sufficient on the alert, and that if he had been more prompt in giving the alarm, there would have been time for the signalman to put the signals to danger before the train reached them, and so to have given the driver 
earlier intimation of the obstruction; and though, perhaps, the collision would not in that case have been although averted, the violence of it would have been considerably less. At any rate, at least four minutes elapsed between the time the wagons left the siding the collision; and assuming that the wagons took two minutes to travel from the sidings to the place where they stopped, there still remained two minutes, if not more, available, in which guard Aylwin could have communicated with the signal box.

No blame whatever attaches to the driver of the passenger train, who was approaching the station at a moderate speed, and who as soon as he saw the red light waved by the guard Aylwin, did all he possibly could to stop his train.

Although there is no reason for objecting to the system adopted here of permitting the wagons to move from the siding by gravity, so long as steps are taken to prevent any risk of the wagons running away, there van can be no doubt whatever that a proper red tail light should be attached to them before they are let out on to the running lines. They should also be accompanied by a shunter or brakesman, in addition to the guard, possible for him to see whether the last wagon is clear of the junction or not. There should, therefore, aways be a second man present during the operation, whose duty it should be to signal to the guard and the signalman as soon as the wagons had cleared the through line; the former would then apply his brake, and the latter would be free to accept another train on the through line. 

The history of this collision, the results of which were, fortunately, not as serious as might have been excepted, indicates that the work at this place has not lately been performed with that degree of care which is essential for safety.

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