7th JULY 1900


Driver Alfred Nicholas & his Fireman William Parslow &

Driver William Kitchingman & his Fireman William Parkinson

extracted and adapted from the report by

P.G. VON DONOP Lt - Col., R.E.

A collision occurred about 10.25 p.m. on the 7th July, near West Norwood station, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, between a passenger train and the rear of portion of goods train. In this case, as the 9.55 p.m. down passenger train from Victoria to West Croydon, consisting of an engine and 12 vehicles, was proceeding from Streatham Hill to West Norwood, it ran, at a speed of 6 or 7 miles an hour, into the rear portion of the 9.20 p.m. goods train from Battersea to Norwood Junction, consisting of 19 trucks and a brake van, which had broken away from its front portion, and had been left standing on the line.
A large number of passengers in the Victoria train have complained of personal injuries received, but none of them appear to be very serious nature. The driver and fireman of the passenger train and the guard of the goods train were also slightly injured.

The engine of the passenger train was severely damaged, and all the vehicles of it were more or less injured, though none of them were derailed. The brake van of the goods train was smashed to pieces, and the six wagons were severely damaged, though only one of them was derailed.

The passenger engines was a six wheels coupled radial tank engine, fitted with the Westinghouse brake working blocks on the six coupled wheels, and with a hand brake working blocks on the same wheels. 

The train was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on 56 out of the 60 wheels of the train. 

The brakes are reported to have been in good working order.

The engine of the goods train was also a six wheels coupled radial tank engine fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on the six coupled wheels, and with a hand brake working blocks on the same wheels. The train consisted of 31 wagons and a brake van, the latter being fitted with usual hand brake.


The collision occurred between Streatham Hill and West Norwood, which are two stations about 2,500 yards apart on the Victoria - Crystal Palace branch of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

There are four signal boxes, all of which are connected with this accident, viz., Streatham Hill, Leigh Junction, West Norwood Junction, and West Norwood Station; it was between Leigham Junction and West Norwood Junction boxes that the collision actually occurred. 

The distance apart of these boxes areas follows:-

Streatham Hill Box to Leigham Junction Box 1,423 yards
Leigham Box to West Norwood Junction 635 yards
West Norwood Junction Box to West Norwood Station Box 485 yards
The line is a double one, and runs nearly straight from Streatham Hill to Leigham Junction; at this point a curve, which is right handed to down trains, commences, and continues up to West Norwood Junction Box; the line is then straight for a short distance, and then runs through West Norwood station on a gentle curve to the left.

The gradient for down trains at Leigham Junction Box is a rising one, varying from 1 in 494 to 1 in 168, and it continues so for a distance of 450 yards. It is then on a slightly falling gradient for about 100 yards, and then falls at a gradient varying from 1 in 112 to 1 in 254 into West Norwood Station, from which point it again commences to rise.

The Leigham box down home signal is situated 99 yards on the up side of its box and the following are the distances from the Leigham Junction box of the other signals and points with which this collision is concerned, all of them being on the down side of this box:-

To West Norwood Junction down distant signal 143 yards
Point where collision 352 yards
West Norwood Junction down home signal 487 yards
York Road over bridge 500 yards
West Norwood Junction signal box 635 yards
West Norwood Station down distant signal 638 yards
Landsdown Hill over bridge 640 yards
West Norwood Station down home signal 987 yards
West Norwood Station signal box 1,120 yards
West Norwood Station down starting signal 1,186 yards.

At Leigham Junction and West Norwood Junction there are double connections with the Leigham Tulse Hill spurs respectively, but these connections are not in any way concerned with this collision.

The driver of a down train when passing Leigham Junction box gets a clear view of the line front of him well up to and slightly beyond the point where the collision occurred, viz., 352 yards from the box, but on account of the line being, as stated above, on a curve, he would not get as good a view of the til lamps of train as he would otherwise do. Beyond this point his view is restricted by the overbridge and other obstructions.

The night on which the accident occurred is reported as having been dark but clear.


Alfred Nicholas, engine driver, states: i have been in the service of the Company 19 years, during the last six years of which I have been a driver. I came on duty at 12.45 p.m. on the 6th July to work till 12.10 a.m. on the 7th. I book off at 1.30 a.m. on the 6th. I was the driver of the 9.20 p.m. goods train from Battersea to Norwood Junction, and we left Battersea at 9.45 p.m. My engine was six wheels coupled radial tank engine, fitted with raw Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on the six coupled wheels, and a hand brake working blocks on the same wheels. I was stopped on the main line at Balham Station to enable a passenger train to precede me from the local. I left Balham, and when I arrived at Leigham Junction the signals were off for me, so I ran past the signal box without sopping. The distant signal West Norwood Junction, which is just ahead of the Leigham Junction signal box, was against me, accordingly I checked my speed, but before I reached the down main home signal it was off for me, so I did not come to a standstill there at all. I passed the home signal with the train going at not much more than walking speed, and I found the down distant from West Norwood station was at danger. I was going to stop my train, and actually turned off steam, but just at that moment the distant signal was pulled off, so I gave the engine steam again. Almost immediately after turning on steam I notice a slight snatch, and I at once thought that part of my train had broken away. I remarked to the fireman that I was afraid we had not got them all. I steamed on at a slight increased speed through West Norwood station, and I intended to stop clear of the station, where I should have got a good view of my train. I remarked to the fireman the there was a porter on the platform, and he would surely show us a red light if we had not got all our train. After we had passed through West Norwood station, my fireman looked back and said to me We have not got them all. I came to a stand with the eleventh wagon from the engine clear of the platform. I sent my fireman to the signalman at West Norwood station box to borrow a lamp so that he might go back and find out where the tail part of my train was, and that he might then signal me back on to it. I remained where I was, and the fireman returned and told that he was afraid the signalman had allowed a passenger train to run into the hind portion of my train. I then sent the fireman back to examine the link on the rear wagon and to find out for certain what he could about the rear portion of my train. He returned about quarter of an hour later, and told me about the accident. My opinion is that the division must have taken place when I gave my engine steam at the West Norwood Station distance signal. When I arrived at West Norwood Station I found both home and starting signals off for me.

William Parslow, fireman states I have been 12 years in the service of the Company, during nine of which I have been fireman, and have been passed driver for the last six months. On the 6th July I was acting as fireman to driver Nicholas. I came on duty at 12.45 p.m. to work until 12.10 a.m. on the 7th. I had booked off duty at 1.30 a.m. on the 6th. I was firing on the 9.20 p.m. goods train from Battersea to Norwood Junction. I remember sighting the West Norwood Station distant signal, and it was against us, at the time we were going very slowly. The driver kept the train moving quite slowly until the signal came off. I saw it come off and said to him right away mate. The driver gave the engine steam very gently until we felt the  couplings tight, at that point we just a snatch, but it did not appear to be anything out of the way. We quickened speed a bit, but the train seemed to come very easily, and the driver remarked to me I do not think we have got all of them all. When had got about half way down the platform I looked back and I said to the driver We have not got them all. I also saw a porter on the opposite platform giving me a red light. We proceeded on a short distance, however, so as not to be run into the rear portion, and came to a stand a little way out side the station. After standing there a few minutes I went back to the signal box to borrow a lamp so as to ry and find the missing wagons. When I was at the signal box fetching the lamp the signalman said to me I believe the other signalman has let another train into the rear portion of yours. These are his words as near as I can remember. At the moment I saw my wagons coming down the incline. I went and put their brakes down; this was right opposite the signal box in the middle of the platform, and seven wagons of my train arrived at this point. I then gave my mate a light to come back on to these wagons; he did so, and I coupled them on. There was no brake van on the rear of theses wagons. I then went and told my mate what the signalman said, and he sent me back to see what had really happened. Accordingly I borrowed the signalman’s lamp again and went back to West Norwood Junction box. I could see nothing. I went into the signal box, and the signalman said to me I thought that you had gone, and I gave the other train on. I was going back further and met the head porter, and he told me that a collision had taken place. He said he did not require my services, and I went back and rejoined my mate. I did not actually see the vehicles which had been in collision. When approaching the West Norwood Station distant signal the driver turned off steam just before that signal was lowered. I noticed the coupling on the front van of the seven vehicles which ran down into the station. It was a Midland Company’s box wagon, No. 7459. I noticed that the middle link was missing from it, and I also noticed that the other link of the coupling was on the hook of the rear wagon of the front portion of the train.

Benjamin Tinsley, goods guard, states: I have been 18 years in the service of the Company during nine years of which I have been a goods guard. I cam on duty on the 6th at 8.50 p.m. to work till 2.0 a.m. on the 7th. I came off duty at 5.50 a.m. on the 6th. I was guard on the 9.20 p.m. goods train from Battersea to Norwood Junction; the train consisted of engine, 31 wagons, and a brake van. We left Battersea at 9.45 p.m., arrived at Balham at 10.6 p.m., and remained there till 10.11p.m. We passed Leigham Junction at 10.23 p.m. After passing Leighsm Junction was gradually reduced speed, and came to an actual standstill outside the West Norwood Junction home signal. We stopped gently, and I noticed nothing unusual about it. Before we came to standstill I looked out and saw that the West Norwood Junction home signal was off for us. About two minutes after we came to a standstill I looked out again and then saw that it was against us. I thought we had been brought to standstill on the account of the down distant signal from West Norwood station being against us, though I could not see this signal. I thought that the driver was waiting to get the signal to start. I heard a train approaching and looked back and saw a passenger train running into us. I had no time to get out of my brake, and I do not know what happened afterwards. I was terribly shaken and bruised, and my legs were cut. I had not the slightest idea that my train was divided. I had had my brake on, but as soon as we came to a standstill I took it off. My brake was fitted with a hand brake. My brake van had one rear lamp attached, and when I looked out of the brake just before the collision it was burning brightly. Just after passing Leigham Junction box I had put on my hand brake gently, and my brake remained on gently until we came to a standstill. When we came to standstill I took my brake off because, as several of the wagons had not reached the top of the incline, they by their own weight would keep the couplings of the other tight.

William Kitchingman, engine driver, states: I have been 20 years in the service of the Company, during eight of which I have been a driver. i came on duty on the 6th July at 1.15 p.m. yo work till 11.46 p.m. I had signed off duty about midnight on the 5th. I was driving the 9.55 p.m. passenger train from Victoria to West Croydon; my engine was a six wheels coupled, and a hand brake working blocks on the same wheels. These brake were in good working order. We left Victoria at 9.57 p.m., and sopped at Streatham Hill. I cannot say exact time we left Streatham Hill. I remember approaching Leigham Junction signal box; the distant signal for Leigham Junction at the entrance to the tunnel was off for us, and when we arrived at the home signal that was off also, so we ran on towards West Norwood Junction. The next signal we came to was the distant for West Norwood Junction; that was against us. We ran past Leigham Junction signal box at a speed of 10 or 12 miles an hour, and on finding the distant signal against us I shut off steam. We ran forward from the distant signal with steam turned off. I fancied I saw a red light on a brake van in front of me. I moved over to the fireman’s side to get a better view of it. I at once realised that it was a tail light on a brake van, so I at once put on the Westinghouse brake. When I first discerned the light we were about 15 yards from it, and we were within seven or eight yards of it when I first applied the brakes. My brake appeared to act well. I estimate our speed at the moment of the collision at six or seven miles an hour. I was only shaken. The only reason I can give for not having seen the tail light sooner is the sharpness of the curve. I was keeping a good look out all the time. My fireman had just ceased firing when I moved across the engine to get a better view of the light.

William Parkinson, fireman, states: I have been seven years in the service of the Company, during three of which I have been fireman. On the 5th and 6th July I worked the same hours as driver Kitchingman, and was with hm on the 9.55 p.m. train from Victoria to West Croydon. I remember passing Leigham Junction signal box; both distant and home signals for Leigham Junction box were off for us, and we passed the signal box at a speed of about eight or nine miles an hour. The next signal is the West Norwood Junction distant signal. I noticed it; it was against us. On passing the driver promptly shut off steam, and we ran towards Wet Norwood Junction at reduced speed. At the distant signal I was firing, and when I had completed doing so I looked out. The first thing I knew of anything being wrong was seeing the driver jump over to my side, and he at once jumped back and put on the Westinghouse brake. The collision occurred immediately after that. I myself did not see the red light on the brake van at all before the collision occurred. I account for my not having seen the tail light on the brake van when I first looked out from the fact that I had been looking into the fire box. I am sure that the driver was keeping a good look out; as far as I know the Westinghouse brake acted all right. I cannot say how far we were from the brake van when I saw the driver jump over to my side of the engine. I was not seriously injured by the collision. it was a fine clear night, and there was no trouble in seeing the signal lights. I cannot say whether the West Norwood Junction home signal was off for us or not.

John Wellbelove, guard, states: I have been 20 years in the service of the Company, during 18 of which I have been a guard. I came on duty on the 6th July at 7 a.m., and worked till 12.30 p.m. I came on duty again at 2.30 p.m. to work till midnight. My regular booked hours that week were from 2.30 p.m. till midnight, but on this date I was working an excursion from the Midland Company as well, so it was an exceptional circumstance for me to work such long hours. I had signed off on the 5th at 12 midnight. I was guard on the 9.55 p.m. passenger train from Victoria to West Croydon.

The train was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake. I remember passing Leigham Junction signal box, and I estimated our speed at about eight or nine miles an hour, and when passing the West Norwood Junction distant signal we slackened speed. 

I saw this signal when we passed it and it was against us. After passing the distant signal I went to the other side of my van to see if I could see the junction home signal. I saw that it was against us. I then crossed back to the left hand side of my van, and on looking out of the window there I saw a red light in front of us, and at that instant I felt the driver apply the Westinghouse brake; it seemed to act very well. At that moment the collision occurred. I do not think that our speed at the time of the collision exceeded four or five miles an hour. The shock of the collision was considerable. I was not at all injured myself. The buffers of 
my train were considerably damaged, but none of the vehicles were derailed. I got out of my brake van and went to see what had happened. I found the brake van of the goods train had been knocked off the road, it was laying across the six foot way fouling both lines, and there were a number of wagons belonging to the goods train standing in front of the brake van; they appeared to be unhurt, and only one of them either third or forth from the end, was derailed.

William Bastin, signalman, states: I have been nearly 20 years in the service of the Company, during 12 of which I have been signalman. I have been on duty in the Leigham Junction signal box about eight or nine months. I came on duty at 10 p.m. on 6th July to work till 6 a.m. on the 7th. I remember the 9.20 goods train from Battersea to Norwood Junction passing my box. The following are the times at which I received the signals concerning it.

Offered to me by Streatham Hill at 10.16. Accepted by me at 10.16. Train passed my box at 10.23 Offered to West Norwood Junction at 10.18. Accepted by West Norwood Junction at 10.18. Received train out of section from West Norwood Junction box at 10.25.

The train passed my box at a low rate of speed. I saw it pass round the bend towards West Norwood Junction signal box, but I did not notice that it came to a standstill, and when I received Train out of section signal at 10.25 p.m. I had no reason to doubt the accuracy of it. I also remember the 9.55. passenger train from Victoria to West Croydon passing my box, and the following are the times relating to this train.

Offered to me by Streatham Hill at 10.23. Accepted by me at 10.23. Offered to West Norwood Junction at 10.25. Train passed my box at 10.27. 

It passed my box at a speed which I should estimate between 12 to 20 miles an hour. I noticed that the distant signal for West Norwood Junction was at danger. When the train passed my box I saw the driver making indications of shutting of steam, but I did not notice whether the train slackened speed when going round the curve. I noticed when the goods train passed my box its tail lamp was alight, and was burning well. I heard the collision occur but I did not see it. When the passenger train passed my box I was looking out of the window, but I did not notice any obstruction on the line. It was a clear night and I had no difficulty in seeing my signals.

Charles Waters, signalman, states: i have been about five years in the service of the Company, during two years of which I have been a signalman. I have been employed  for 11 months in the West Norwood Junction signal box. I came on duty on the 6th July at 2 p.m. to work till 11 p.m. I remember the 9.20 p.m. goods train from Battersea to Norwood Junction passing my box. 

The following are the times at which I received the various signals regarding this train:-
Offered to me by Leigham Junction at 10.18. Accepted by me at 10.18. Offered to West Norwood Station at 10.18. Accepted by West Norwood Junction at 10.18. Train passed my box at 10.24.

It passed my box at a speed of about four or five miles an hour. When it passed my box I saw what I thought was a brake van at the end of the train, but I did not see any light on it. I remember receiving the signals about the 9.55 p.m. passenger train from Victoria to West Croydon. The following are the signals I received about it:- Offered by Leigham Junction at 10.24. Accepted by me at 10.24, but the train did not arrive at my box. I accepted this train after the goods train had passed without a light because in spite of my not having seen any light I though that the goods train was complete. There was an up train passing at the same time as the goos train passed me, and I had to attend to the up train, and owing to the box being situated close to the arch, unless you see the lamp when it passed you, you cannot see it at all afterwards. 

I admit that if one had nothing else to do one might turn and see a down train after it passed under the bridge, but on the night in question my attention was taken up with attending to the up train. The up train, which was the 9.46 p.m. from London Bridge to Victoria, passed my box at 10.24 p.m., simultaneously with the wagon train. I noticed that the 9.46 train had a tail lamp burning. 

During the 11 months I have been at West Norwood, when I have been on duty in the station box, I have had several cases of goods train, being divided, and in all those cases I have noticed the fact of the tail lamp being missing, and have acted accordingly. I was not astonished at the small number of vehicles on the 9.20 p.m. goods train, as I thought it must be the 10 p.m. goods from Battersea, which usually runs light. When I went into the signal box this morning (19th July) to get my book, it appeared to me that the view through the archway was clearer than it was at the time of the accident, but I cannot say definitely that it is so. It is customary for things to bet on the top of the shed in the archway, and sometimes there are more things than there were this morning. I have never noticed enough things put on there to seriously interfere with my view. If they had interfered with my view, I do not know whether I should have reported it to anybody I never have reported it.

John Richardson, district locomotive superintendent states: After the collision I had the line searched, and found a broken link of coupling on Midland Company’s van, No. 7459; it was broken and showed signs of a flaw, it looked as if it had not been properly welded together and had been drawn out. One link was found on the hook of the end wagon of the front portion of the train, and one link was found on the Midland wagon itself, which was the leading van of the second portion. It was the middle link that was missing which I found. I visited the scene of the collision about 12 o’clock with the breakdown gang. I found 12 wagons standing on the line coupled together, but one of them was derailed though not uncoupled. On the following morning I found that the draw bar hook on London, Brighton, and South Coast wagon, No.6338, which must have been the  eighteenth wagon on the train was broken and this was doubtless the cause of the middle lot wagons being separated from the rear ones. The iron of this draw bar was good and  sound, but ir appeared to have been broken by a heavy sudden shock. 


The circumstances under which this collision occurred were as follows:- 

The 9.20 p.m. down goods train passed Leigham Junction box at 10.23 p.m., and proceeded towards West Norwood station at a low rate on account of the signals being against it. As the train approached the down distant for West Norwood Station, that signal, which had up to that time been at danger, was lowered, and the driver, who had previously turned off steam, gave the engine steam again. There is no doubt that at that moment the train parted behind the eleventh wagon, a link in the coupling of the next wagon having broken. The front portion of the train ran on past the West Norwood and Norwood Station, but the driver, having suspicion that he had not got the whole of his train, brought it to a stand a short way up the rising gradient the further side of the station. The rear portion of the train consisting of 20 wagons and a brake van came to rest on the lins, with its leading wagon about 147 yards behind the West Norwood Junction signal box, and with its brake van 280 yards in front of the Leighham Junction box. This portion appears to have come to rest quite gently, and the guard had not felt any jerk from the parting, so he was quite unaware that anything had gone wrong.

The front portion of the goods train passed the West Norwood Junction box at 10.24 p.m., but signalman Waters, who was on duty in that box, failed to notice that the train had been left in the section. He accordingly accepted the 9.55 p.m. passenger train from Leigham Junction box, though, as he had not yet obtained line clear for it from the station box, he kept his home signal and distant at danger.

The passenger train passed Leigham Junction signal box at 10.27 p.m., but finding the distant signal for West Norwood Junction at danger, the driver, Kitchingham, shut off steam and ran forward slowly. He states that he was keeping a good look out, but he failed to see the tail light on the brake van in front of him until he was within 15 yards of it. He then took every step in his power to stop his train, but though the Westing house brake acted well, he was unable to reduce his speed to less than 6 or 7 miles an hour before the collision occurred. The force of the collision appears to have broken the draw bar on the seventh wagon, and the seven leading wagons ran forward into the station where they were secured by the fireman who had come back to look after the missing portion of his train. The remaining 13 wagons were pushed forward, and came to rest about 40 yards ahead of the point where the collision occurred.

The responsibility for this collision must rest primarily on signalman Waters on account of his having neglected to make sure that the whole of the goods train had passed his box. He admits that he saw no tail lamp on the train, but, having seen what he though was the brake van, he assumed that all the train had passed and accepted the passenger train. The only excuses which he can give for himself are firstly, that there was an up train passing his box at the same time which partly occupied his attention; and secondly, that on account of the overbridge near his box he does not get a good view of a down train after it has passed him. 
The latter statement is certainly correct to a limited extent, but, as Waters himself subsequently admitted, there is no difficulty in a signalman’s obtaining a good view of the tail of the train after it has passed the bridge, if he is really desirous of doing so.
There was nothing, therefore, to have prevented Waters from taking this most necessary precaution, and he must be considered chiefly responsible for this accident on account of his having neglected to do so.

Driver Kitchingham and fireman Parkinson must also take a share in the responsibility for the collision, as had they been keeping a careful look out after passing Leigham Junction box, they should have certainly have seen the tail lamp of the brake van in front of them in time to have prevented the accident. From Leigham Junction box to the point at which the accident occurred was 352 yards, and, though this portion of the line is on a curve, there is a clear view between  the two points. Their view of the tail lamp would undoubtedly not have been a very good one on account of the curve, but they should certainly have seen it long before they were as close as 15 yards to it, which they state to have been the case. These two men cannot, therefore, be absolved from all responsibility in the matter.

No blame appears, however, to attach to any other of the Company’s servants.   

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