14th APRIL 1899


Driver William Pogmore and 

his fireman Stephen Hackett (depot unknown)

and New Cross Driver Arthur Lock and 

his fireman Thomas Horne 

extracted and adapted from the report by 

G.W. Addison Lieut-Col., R.E.

A collision occurred at 9.32 a.m., on the 14th April 1899, at New Cross, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. In this case, the 9.20 a.m., London Bridge to Victoria passenger train was entering New Cross Station, on the down local line, it came into collision with a light engine which was being shunted from the down main line, across the local line, into the goods sidings.

One passenger is reported to have complained of shock and injury to the nose, the front guard was bruised and cut, and the enginemen of the train also sustained slight injuries. The two men on the light engine appear to have jumped off, or have been thrown down on to the ground, and although they fortunately escaped severe injuries they were shaken and bruised a good deal.

The passenger train of a four wheels coupled tank engine, running bunker in front, and 14 vehicles; the train being fitted throughout with the Westinghouse continuous automatic brake. The proper left hand side of the engine, and the right hand leading corner of the third class brake next to the engine, were rather badly damaged. The train became divided between the seventh and eight coaches.

The light engine, No. 139, was a six wheels coupled tank engine, also with its bunker foremost when the collision occurred, and considerable damage was done to it. Immediately before the collision the driver had reversed the engine, and it then ran away down the main line to South Croydon, a distance of about 8 1/2 miles where the signalman brought to a stand on the ballast by half opinion a pair of facing points.


There are four passenger lines through New Cross Station, running approximately from north to south, viz., up local on the east side. The locomotive sheds and yard are on the west side of the railway, and on the other side there is a parallel for some distance of the down local, known as the Deptford line, which also gives access to the goods yard; the Deptford line has trailing connections with both down lines, at the northern end of the station.

Between the up and down lines there is a siding, known as the middle siding, which has trailing connections with those lines.

The admission of down trains into the station is controlled by the Yard signal box, which is situated between the up and down main lines, about 100 yards north of the end of the down platform. The home signals for the two down signals are carried on a gantry, 220 yards north of the Yard box, these signals being also slotted from the South box, and they have the distant signals for the latter underneath them; the Yard box down signals are 480 yards north of the home signals.

The next box of the Yard box is Bricklayers’ Arms Junction box. The following distances may be noted from the Yard box southwards:-
To the point of collision 90 yards about.
To the points on the down main line, leading to the Deptford line 120 yards about.
To the points on the down main line leading to the middle siding 150 yards about.
To the South box 470 yards about.

The following special instructions to the signalman in New Cross Yard Signal box were issued in September, 1897:-
New Cross Yard Signalman must not give Line Clear to Bricklayers’ Arms Junction for down, main or local lines unless the respective line is clear to the north end of the down local line platform about 300 yards inside the down stop signals.

After the signalman at New Cross Yard Box has given the Line Clear Signal for a down main or down local train to leave Bricklayers’ Arms Junction, he must not allow a train or engine to cross the down sidings to either the up main or up local lines or up sidings, nor an up train to cross either from the up main, up local or the up sidings to the down sidings, unit the train from Bricklayers’ Arms Junction has arrived the down local or main platform, or been brought to a stand at the New Cross Yard down stop signals (main and local section).

William Pogmore states: I have been 23 years in the Company’s service and 10 years a driver. On April 14th I came on duty at 5.30 a.m. to work until 3 p.m My engine, No. 224, is a six wheeled tank engine with four coupled wheels. On the above date I left London Bridge at 9.24 four minutes late for Victoria via Norwood; we were running bunker first. I had 14 vehicles behind the engine, and the train, which was of the usual length, was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake. The first booked stop was at New Cross station. Approaching New Cross, on the down local line, the distant signal for the Yard box was at danger, but I did not see the home signal until I was within 50 or 60 yards of it, owing to steam from a goods pilot engine on the Deptford Wharf line. The latter, home, signal was fully “off,” but the distant for the South box was “on.” I could not speak positively as to the position of the down main line signals. My speed would be about 15 to 20 miles an hour at this time. I had shut off steam at the distant signal. When I got close to the end of the line platform, just as I was commencing to apply the brake, I saw an engine crossing from the down main to the Deptford line across the line which we were running on; we were more than four or five engine lengths apart at the time, and the other engine was in motion coming towards us. I immediately put my brake fully on, and we came to a stand when a bout half the train  was alongside the platform. The two engines met buffer to buffer, overlapping a few feet: no wheels of the train or engine left the rails. I was slightly bruised on the knee. I got off my engine on to the platform, and on looking back I could see our signal still off. I take trains on the down local line very frequently: I do not think we are more often stopped at New Cross signals than at any other in the neighbourhood of London. I am positive it was not doubtful signal I saw, and that it was off when we stopped at the platform.

Stephen Hackett states: I have been eight years in the Company’s service, and a fireman about six years. On the 14th I was firing for driver Pogmore, and my hours of work would be the same as his. Running from London Bridge, with the 9.20 train, I was on the left side of the engine. Approaching New Cross I saw the Yard box distant signal on as we passed it, and soon afterwards I could see the home signal off. The distant signal for the South box on. I should say our speed passing the Yard box would be from 15 or 20 miles an hour steam had been shut off before this. My hand brake was not on. I had not seen the light engine shunting across, ahead of us, until the collision occurred. I was hurt slightly on the thigh. I did not look back after the accident to see the position of the home signal.

William Bampton states: I have been 17 years in the Company’s service, and a passenger guard for 13 years. On the 14th I came on duty at 7.5.0 a.m. to work until 7.40 p.m. On the above date I left London Bridge at 9.24 four minutes late for Victoria via Norwood Junction. I had 14 coaches on the train, and I rode in the front, third class, brake carriage. We had a clear road Bricklayers’ Arms. I then saw the distant signal on for New Cross Yard box, and passing that signal I could see the home signal near the Yard box on. My compartment was next to the engine, and I was standing up looking out through the end window on the left hand side. When we were quite close to the home signal I looked up again and saw it was off. We were still far enough away to have enabled us to stop at the signal if it had not been off. I did not see the light engine before the collision, which threw me forward and my head went through the window in front of me. I was bruised on the head and my hand was badly cut. I was also stunned to some extent. I did not look back at the signal afterwards. Nothing was off the road. I received no complaints from any of the passengers.

Ernest Nash states: I have been about nine years in the Company’s service, three years a guard. On the 14th I came on duty at 7.15 a.m. to work until 7.40 p.m. I left London Bridge with the 9.20 a.m. train, riding in the rear brake carriage there were two third class carriages behind me. The train was composed of 12 closed coupled, four wheeled coaches and two spares. 

Approaching New Cross, the distant signal for the Yard box was on, but the home signal was off for us when I sighted it; at that time the engine had certainly not reached the signal, and I should say it was quite 50 or 60 yards away from it. I was on the left hand side of my brake at the time. I saw nothing of the light engine before the collision. I was knocked up against the corner of the brake, but I was not hurt. After the collision I looked back, and I could see signal still off;  I got my flag and was going back to protect my train when the signal went up. I was about opposite the Yard box when it we stopped. The train was divided 
between the seventh and eight coaches, and I should think there would 15 to 20 yards interval between the two portions. No passengers complained to me of injuries.

Arthur Lock states: I have been nearly 20 years in the Company’s service, five years a driver. On the 14th I came on duty at 8.50 a.m. to work until about 9 p.m. My engine, No.139, is a six wheels couple goods tank engine. I joined the engine on the above date in the engine sheds at New Cross at 8.50. I left the loco yard at 9.20 and soon afterwards came out on to the up main line, and then at once went into the siding between the up and down main lines. After two or three minutes the disc signal was pulled off for me to go out on to the down main, which I did. By the time I had stopped on the latter line and reversed my engine the disc signal had been pulled for me to go off the down main on to the Deptford line, and to the goods sidings where my train was. I probably went three or four engine lengths beyond the points of the middle siding on the down line before I stopped. I ran bunker first when proceeding from the down main to the Deptford line. I have the engine steam at once and went ahead as quickly as possible so as to be clear the roads. I have worked on the same tens on and off for about three tears. I generally cross through 52 points from the main up without going into the middle siding, sometimes before and sometimes after the 9.20 down local has passed. I was on the right side of the engine when we were running bunker first. I noticed the local train running into station at a speed of about 12 to 15 miles an hour when I was only a few engine lengths away from it. I was then on the crossing. The signal box, and train shunting on the down main, would interfere with my view of a train on the down local very far away. As soon as I saw the passenger train I put the reversing lever over. I do not think I shut off stem/ The bunker was fully loaded up, and I had gone outside the cab to get a view ahead, when the collision took place; the next thing I remember was that I found myself lying on the ground. I was severely shaken and I had a few scratches on my hand. I did not look at passenger train signals. My engine had disappeared when I picked myself up.

Thomas Horne states: I have been about 14 years in the Company’s service, nine years a fireman. On the 14th I was firing driver Lock, and my hours of work would be same as his. When we came out on to the down main we did not stand there at all, the disc signal to proceed to the Deptford line being pulled off at once. I saw the passenger train on the down local when it came past the box, and I tried to get my brake on, but I cannot say whether it was on or not before the collision; I do not think I had sufficient time to get it on. I saw the driver put the reversing lever over, and then I found myself on my back on the ground. I was standing with one foot outside the cab, on the left  hand side of the engine as we were running. I think I was on the down main line when I picked myself up. I saw the engine going away and I ran  after it through the bridge. I was shaken was bruised. I did not see my mate until I came back.

Luther Mitchell states: I have been 34 years in the Company’s service, 31 years a signalman, and employed for the last nine years in the Yard signal box at New Cross. On the 14th I came on duty at 6 a.m. to work until 2 p.m. On the above date engine No.139 came out from the loco yard on to the main up line and then went into the middle siding at 9.27, and it is booked out of the middle siding on to the down main and thence to the Deptford Wharf road at 9.31. The 9.20 down passenger train was described to my box from Bricklayers’ Arm at 9.26. At 9.29 I cleared a down empty train back to Bricklayers’ Arms and the signalman there then offered me the 9.20 passenger which I accepted by plunging on the block instrument so as to enable the Bricklayers’ Arms man to pull of his signal. We should receive a bell signal to intimate that the train was entering the section as it passed Bricklayers’ Arms box, but there is no dial signal for train entering section, and we do not book the receipt of the bell signal. I was at the station end of the signal box, and I was in charge at the time. At 9.32 the empty train was cleared back to me by the South box signal man, and the passenger train should then have been warned on that box by my mate. There appears to be no entry in the train book, which is kept by a boy, so I cannot say whether it was warned on or not. When the train was still running between my distant and stop signals having shut off steam, as I could plainly see and both signals being at danger, I set the road for the light engine to go into the goods sidings from the down main. I know I should not have done so without first bringing the passenger train to a stand at the home signal. 

Directly afterwards I saw the passenger train passing the box and my home signal off for it. I could do nothing then to avert the collision, as the light engine was already on the crossing. I looked at No.71 signal lever in my box, which was in the normal position. The indicator in our box in connection with that signal showed that the slot from the South box had been taken off. When the 7.15 a.m. train arrived previously from London, the same signal (71) did not go back to danger when I replaced my lever, and I had to pull it a second time and put it back quickly and then the signal acted all right. I called linesman Stoddart’s attention to the signal at once. I did not see him go to it. It failed again 35 minutes after the accident, i.e., the arm not go “on” when we put our lever back. We did not alter the adjustment of the signal wire at all after the accident. For a long time back the signals have worked well.

James William Sare states: I have been 22 years in the Company’s service, a signalman for 15 or 16 years, and for the last eight years employed in the Yard box at New Cross. On the 14th I came on duty at 6 a.m. to work until 2 p.m. I had not given the 9.20 down passenger train on to the South box before the accident happened. I was waiting until a light engine had gone into the goods siding from the down main. I was at the London end of the box. I was also dealing with some empties off the down main into the up sidings. I noticed the passenger train when it was between 100 and 150 yards on the far side of the stop signals, and the signals were then at danger. Shortly afterwards I heard the movement of the disc in our box which showed that the South box had taken the slot off the down local home signal. It is not unusual for them to do so before we warn a train on, so that I did not think anything of it. Very shortly afterwards the train came past the box, and I saw the signal was off. I could do nothing at that moment to avert the collision. At about 7.25 the down local signal did not go back to danger when we put back our lever, which was reported to the linesman. The same thing happened again about 10.10.

Edward Constable states: I have been 23 years in the Company’s service, a signalman 21 years, and for the last four years employed in the South box at New Cross. On the 14th I came on duty at 6 a.m. to work until 2 p.m. At 9.32 I cleared a train of empties from the down local back to the Yard box. Bricklayers’ Arm box had described the 9.20 down passenger train to me at 9.26, to run on the down local. Immediately I had cleared the empties I pulled off my slot on the down home signal of the Yard box. We can see a down local train when it arrives a the up end of the platform, but there is no view of the down main line without leaning out of the window a good deal. I was unaware that any shunting was going on between the two boxes across the down line. The arrangements are the same they have been ever since I came to New Cross. I only did on this occasion what I have often done before to save delay. I noticed the light engine go forward on the main down, and directly afterwards I was told there was no one on the engine. I telegraphed the fact to Forest Hill box at  once.

Thomas Stoddart states: I have been 12 years in the Company’s service, and for 10 years signal linesman at New Cross. At about 7.15 a.m., on the 14th, signalman Mitchell asked me to look at his down local home signal, which was not working properly. I and one of my men went down to the signal and tried the wires at intervals between the box and the signal post and they appeared to work well. After the accident I went to the box and the signalman told me his signal had hung off. I tried the wires again as before, and I also got on to the gantry and examined the slot arrangements. I could not find anything wrong, and I did nothing. I did not go on to the gantry until I got report from Mitchell, about 10 a.m., that the signal was still not working well. I found nothing wrong then, nor afterwards. There was nothing wrong with the adjustment of the signal wires in the box. I have had no complaint of the down local signal before, but during high wind some time ago the down main stuck off very slightly; it was not enough to make it a doubtful signal.

John Philpott state:  I have been 25 years in the Company’s service, and a signalman 20 years. For the last 16 years I have employed in South Croydon Junction box. On the 14th I came on duty at 6 a.m. to work until 2 p.m. About 9.41 I got a telephone message from East Croydon North box to tell me that a runaway engine was coming forward on the down relief road, it had been turned on to the relief road from the down main, at East CroydonNorth box. I had better try to throw the runaway engine off the road, so I pulled the points leading to the down Oxted line half over and held them there. The engine probably passed me at a speed of about 10 miles an hour. It left the metals at the facing points and came to a stand on the ballast in a very short distance.


The circumstances leading up to the collision, as detailed in the foregoing evidence, are as follows:-

At 9.27 engine No.139 was brought out of the locomotive yard on to the up main line, and it was then put into the siding between that line and the down main: at 9.29 the 9.20 passenger train was accepted from Bricklayers’ Arm Junction on the down local; and at 9.31 the light engine was moved out of the middle siding on to the down main line. The engine had to go into the goods sidings to join its train, and to get there it was necessary for it to be crossed from the down main on to the Deptford line, which also involved passing it over the down local line.

In consequence, I believe, of an accident that occurred during shunting operations at this station in August, 1897, instructions have been issued that ,after a train is accepted from Bricklayers’ Arms Junction, the New Cross Yard signalman must not allow an engine to cross from the up line to the down sidings until the train has been brought to a stand at the signals. No mention is made in the order of crossing trains from the down main line to the sidings, but signalman Mitchell, who was on duty in the Yard box says he understood the order to apply equally to this case. It would be well to amend the instructions, so as to place the matter beyond doubt in future.

Mitchell, nevertheless, set the points and pulled off the disc signal for the light engine to cross to the Deptford line while the passenger train was approaching the home signal, i.e. without waiting for the train to come to rest. When the train arrived at the home signal, it is stated, by the driver, fireman and two guards, that the arm was off for them, ad Mitchell admits this was so, although he was unaware of the fact at that time, and he had not taken the signal off. The locking of the signal frame would make it impossible for him to pull the signal off while the points were set for the crossing between the down main and the Deptford line, but the signal is slotted from the South box, and the main in the latter box admittedly pulled his slot lever just about this time. When everything is in proper order it requires the levers to be pulled in both boxes (South & Yard) before the arm can be lowered, but if, through any defect, the Yard box lever does not actuate the portion of the slot apparatus connected to it when putting the lever back then the man in the South box may be able to take the signal off, alone, at any time. It appears that Mitchell had noticed, earlier in the morning, some failure of this kind, the arm having remained off, instead of going to danger, when he put his lever back to its normal position in the frame, which in fact he reported to linesman Stoddart. I have no doubt but that the same fault had recurred, unnoticed by Mitchell, and, when the south box signalman pulled his lever, that the signal was lowered as the passenger train was approaching it.

The signal being off, the train, of course, proceeded into the station, and when it got to the outer end of the platform the light engine came across from the main line and the collision took place, with results already described.

I do not consider that the men on either engine can be fairly blamed, the proper signal being off in each car, although I am surprised that the passenger train was not seen sooner by the driver or fireman of the light engine, when they might have been able to pull up in sufficient time to avoid the mishap. They were, of course, quite aware they had to cross the lock line, on which the passenger train was running, but the trainmen would have no reason to suppose the other engine could cross their path if they had seen it in motion on the main line. It is only right to add that the train would probably be hidden from view until it passed the signal box, the box being about 90 yards from the points of collision.

Signal Mitchell had been on duty at the time about 3 1/2 hours. He has 34 years’ railway experience, 31 years as a signalman, and his departure from the mode of working laid down for his guidance cannot be excused, although he may have believed he was acting fo the best in clearing the main line and getting the light engine to its trains quickly as possible at this busy station, having a home signal to protect the operation, wit a clearance between it and the fouling point of the crossing of 300 yards. If the instructions in question have not hitherto been rigidly adhered to, others are to blame equally with, if not more than, himself, and the necessary steps should be taken to put a stop to such irregularities.

As linesman Stoddart says he failed to find anything wrong with the wires between the yard box and the signal post, or with the slot apparatus or signal arrangements generally, I am unable to say definitely where the failure occurred which enabled the home signal to be lowered without the lever in the Yard box being pulled; I am, however, satisfied the signal did come off in the way indicate above. The occurrence should be a warning to all those who are responsible for the maintenance of signals, &c., that when defects are reported to them, and they cannot at once ascertain the reason, they must carefully watch the working of the signal, or signals, until they either find out wha is wrong or satisfy themselves beyond doubt everything is all right. Stoddart evidently did not take very much trouble in this instance, for he says he did not go on to the signal gantry until a fresh report was made to him about 10 a.m. I understand there had been no previous difficulty with the signal, and it was working well on the day on which my enquiry was held and when I examined it agin subsequently.

Previous to the collision the light engine had been put in reverse motion, and it ran back on to the down main line and thence to Croydon without the driver or fireman, who were left behind on the ballast; at Croydon it was turned on to the down relief line, and at South Croydon it was derailed by the action of the signalman, who had been warned of the approach of the runaway and he deserves praise for disposing of it promptly and effectually.           

Make a free website with Yola