on 23rd JANUARY 1904


Driver Charles Young and Fireman Unknown

Driver William Colbran and Fireman Thomas Cass

Depots Unknown

Extracted and adapt from a report by 


Lt.-Col., R.E.

On the 23rd of January, near Peckham Rye Station on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway, between two passenger trains. In this case, while the 11.50 p.m. clown passenger train from London Bridge to Streatham, consisting of an engine and seven vehicles, was standing alongside the Peckham Rye down platform, it was run into from the rear by the 12.15 am. down passenger train from London Bridge to Victoria, consisting also of an engine and seven vehicles. 

The shock of the collision must have been considerable, and the Company have received about forty complaints from passengers of personal injuries sustained; it is understood, however, that not more than three of these are of a serious nature. 

Four of the vehicles of the 11.50 p.m. train were seriously damaged, and the remaining three slightly so;  in the 12.15 a.m. train the damage was confined to the engine.
Details of the damage done to the rolling stock are given in the appendix; that to- the permanent way was practically nil.

The engines of the two trains were each four-wheels-coupled tank engines, fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on the four coupled wheels, and with a hand brake working the same blocks. 

Both trains were fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on 32 out of the 40 wheels of the 11.50 p.m. train, and on all the wheels of the 12.15 a.m, train. The brakes are all reported as having been in good order. 


Peckham Rye Station, where this collision occurred, is on the London, Brighton and South Coast line, between London Bridge and Victoria. There are three lines running through the station in directions which are approximately east and west, the down line with which alone this accident is concerned being on the south side.

The Peckham Rye down platform is 170 yards in length, and the signal-box, which is on the north side of the line, is situated 60 yards to the eastward of the east end of that platform. The down home signal is on the south side of the line, situated 120 yards to the east of the signal-box, and the down distant signal is about 820 yards to the eastward again.

The next stations to Peckham Rye in the up direction are Queen's Road and Old Kent Road, distant respectively 1,034 and1,884 from it. There are signal-boxes at both of these stations, but at the time of the collision the box at Queen's Road was closed, so that the block section in this direction extended from the Old Kent Road signal-box to the Peckham Rye signal-box, a distance of 1,884 yards.

The next block box to Peckham Rye in the down direction is Peckham Rye Junction; the block section between these boxes is only 500 yards in length.

The gradient for a clown train running from Queen's Road to Peckham Rye is a rising one of in 200, and the line is mostly on a slight curve to the right.

There is an overbridge of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway crossing the London, Brighton and South Coast line nt a point situated 165 yards to the east of the Peckham Rye down home signal.

In clear weather the driver of a down train would obtain a good view of his signals when approaching Peckham Rye Station, but it is universally admitted that at the time that this collision occurred there was dense fog.

The point where the collision occurred was situated 203 yards inside the down home signal.
The following extracts from the Company’s rules are connected with this accident :-

(a)  Peckham Rye Station signalman can give the Clear Signal to Queen’s Road for a Down Stopping train timed to call at Peckham Rye if the Down line is clear to the east end of the Down platform, about 200 yards inside the Down Home Signal.” 

(b) Unless special instructions are issued to the contrary, in foggy weather or during falling snow, until the fogmen arrive at their posts, the ‘Line clear ‘ signal must not be given to the signal-box in the rear until the Train out of section signal has been received from the box in advance. 

(c) Drivers must run with extra caution and at reduced speed during foggy weather or snow storms, approaching all junctions, stations and places where fixed signals are known to exist with extreme caution.

(d)At all signal boxes where fog signalmen are appointed but have not arrived, the signalman, when he requires to stop an approaching train, in addition to keeping his signals at Danger, must place, when practicable, two detonators on the line to which the signals apply, sufficiently apart to give two distinct and separate reports.” 


George Davidson, signalman, states : I have been in the service of the Company 19 years, during 13 of which I have been employed as a signalman; I am now employed at Old Kent Road box where I have been nearly five years. On the 22nd January I came on duty at 10pm. to work till 6 a.m. on the 23rd ; I had previously come off duty at 6 a.m. on the 22nd. I remember the 11.50 pm. down passenger train passing my box at 12.21a.m. At 12.27 a.m. I received "Train out of section " signal from Peckham Rye Station for that train, and the next train I dealt with was the 12.15 a.m. London Bridge to Victoria ; this train passed my box at 12.30 a.m. and it came to a stop at Old Kent Road Station. At 12.27 a.m., immediately on receipt of the “Train out of section" signal from Peckham Rye for the 11.50p.m.train, I offered the 12.15 train to Peckham Rye; “Line clear “ was received by me for this train forthwith. As soon as I received the "Line clear "signal I lowered my starting signal, but the train did not leave my station until 12.32 a.m. ; at 1.22 a.m. received the Train out of section signal it was very foggy indeed at the time when both these trains passed my box. had not got the fogmen out did not ask for them the reason why did not ask for the fogmen was that these were the last two passenger trains and the men would not have arrived in time. Up till a quarter to twelve did not consider there was any necessity for fogmen, but at that time the fog came on much thicker.

Joseph Stacey, signalman, states have been 14 year 8 in the service of the Company, during six of which have been signalman am now employed at Peckham Rye signal box, and have been employed there six months, and consider myself fully acquainted with the working of that box. came on duty on the 22nd January at 10 p.m. to work till a.m. on the 23rd had previously come off duty at 6 a.m. on the 22nd. remember the 11.50 p m . passenger train arriving at my station this train had been offered to me from Old Kent Road at 12.19 a.m., accepted it forthwith, and at 12.21 a.m. received the Train entering section “ signal, and it passed my box at 12.25 a.m. and came to a stop at Peckham Rye Station. cannot say exactly where the tail end of this train was when it came to a stand but I was past the east end of the down platform. sent the Train out of section signal for this train to Old Kent Road at 12.25 a.m. The next train that I dealt with was the 12.15 a.m. train from London Bridge to Victoria. This train was offered to me by Old Kent Road at 12.25 a.m., that is just after I had given the “ Train out of section signal for the previous train, accepted it forthwith and received the “Train entering section signal from Old Kent Road at 12.50 a.m. The train passed my box about 12.37 a m . and came into collision With the previous train which was still standing at the station. After the11.5O p.m. train had passed my box I put back my home and distant signals to “ danger “ am quite sure that did so I did not lower the signals at all for the 12.15 a.m. train, and they were both at “ danger “ when the train ran past them. am allowed to give “ Line clear” for a down stopping train provided the down line is clear to the east end of the platform. The 12.15 a.m.train was due to stop at my station, so it was under this rule that accepted it. It had been a misty night up to about 11.35 p.m., but at that time a thick fog had come on and it was very foggy when the 11.50 p.m. train arrived at my station. had not got the fogmen out. had not asked for them as did not think it necessary to do so as there were only two more trains and the men would not have arrived in time. admit, however, that it was foggy enough to want the men, and if could have got them in time should have called for them. am aware of the rule that in foggy weather, until the fog- men arrive at their posts, the Line clear signal must not be given to the signal-box in the rear until the ''Train out of section signal has been received from the box in advance. did not carry out this rule on this occasion acknowledge did not carry out this rule, and regret that omitted to do so, and admit that it was an occasion on which ought to have done so. At 12.37 a.m., when the second train arrived, the fog was sufficient to prevent my seeing the tail end of the 11.50 p.m. train standing in the station, but could just about see the east end of the platform. could not, however, see my distant or home signals. When heard the 12.15 a.m. train approaching my box thought from the noise that it was not going to stop at my home signal, so ran down at once and put two detonators on the line, they both went off as soon as the train passed over them. had not thought previously of putting down detonators. At the time the train passed me was standing close to where had put down the detonators and showed a red light to the driver trying to stop him as soon as the driver passed me he appeared to be pulling up quickly. The train passed my home signal at about the usual speed for a train that is going to stop at the station. From the point where put down the detonators could not see the lamps on my home signal post. admit having received the Special Traffic Notice of the 23rd January calling my special attention to the necessity for the observance of the fog-signalling rules. 

Charles Young, driver, states have been 31 years in the service of the Company, during 24 of which have been a driver. On the 22nd January came on duty at 2.30 p. m. to work until about a.m. had previously come off duty about midnight the previous night. was driver of the 11.50 pm. down passenger train and remember stopping at Old Kent Road Station. The starting signal was lowered for us at Old Kent Road and was able to see it; the next signal came to was Peckham Rye distant signal, and could not see whether it was off or on I checked the speed of my train and drew np quietly to the Peckham Rye home signal, and just as I got under that signal was able to see that it was off, so then drew forward into the station. After we had been standing there about 10 minutes. heard an engine whistling, thought it was on of the Chatham and Dover engines, but immediately after the collision occurred. I was standing in the cab at the time, the shock of the collision knocked me down and hurt my back. My engine was a four-wheels-coupled tank engine running bunker first, it was fitted with the Westinghouse brake working the four coupled wheels and a handbrake working the same blocks at the time of the collision the hand brake was applied, but the Westinghouse brake was not applied. My engine was forced forward about a yard or so by the collision. 

There had been no fogmen out between London Bridge and Peckham Rye up till about 11.40 p.m. there had been no difficulty in seeing signals, but after that time the fog came over suddenly. 

Albert Croucher, guard, states have been about 13 years in the service of the Company, during seven of which have been a passenger guard. On the 22nd January came on duty at 4 p.m. to work till about 1a.m. had previously come off duty at 1a.m. on the 22nd. was guard of the 11.50 pm. down passenger train which consisted of the following vehicles attached to the engine in the following order :-

One brake, six wheels. Two composites, six wheels. One bogie third, eight wheels. One first-class carriage, four wheels. One second-class carriage, four wheels. One brake van, six wheels.

The train was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake working blocks on four wheels of each of the six-wheeled vehicles and on all the other wheels of the train. The brake was in good order. had seen the starting signal at Old Kent Road when we passed it and it was off for ussaw the Peckham Rye distant signal when we passed it and it was against us. was looking out for the Peckham Rye home signal but could only see it when we were just underneath it. We had run at about 10 miles per hour from Queen's Road and noticed that my train was checked at the Peckham Rye home signal. When my train came to a stand at Peckham Rye, the rear of the brake van was just opposite the crossing on the line. had the proper light at the rear of my train and it was burning well. After we had been standing about 12 minutes at the station, and when was standing at the nest coach to the brake van, heard the noise of a train passing over the bridge at the east end of the station it at once occurred to me that the train was running into the station, so ran back and held up red light and shouted, but the engine was almost on to the train at that time. estimate the speed of the incoming train at about five miles per hour; could see that every endeavour was being made to stop the train. Several of the passengers in my train complained of being injured, and several of the vehicles of my train were injured. At the time this collision occurred the fog was very thick, think could only see about a coach and a half from me.

William Colbran, driver, states have been in the service of the Company 24 years, during 11 1/2 years of which have been a driver. On the 22nd January came on duty at 2.50 p.m. to work till about 1.30 a.m. previously came off duty at 1.45 a.m. on the 22nd. I was the driver of the 12.15 p.m. down train. My engine was a four wheels coupled tank engine, running bunker first. It was fitted with the Westinghouse brake working blocks on the four coupled wheels, and with a hand brake working the same blocks. My brakes were in good order. I remember our leaving Old Kent Road Station. The starting signal was lowered for 
us, and was able to see it. We came to a stand at Queen's Road Station, and when we started from Queen's Road the starting signal was off. There is a lower arm on this signal, which saw, but could not see the top one. sent my fireman up the post to see if the distant signal was off for us, and he told me it was at danger." ran quite quietly from Queen's Road to Peckham Rye home signal, and my speed between these two points never exceeded 10 miles per hour. did not see the Peckham Rye home signal did not even see the post of it. heard, however, two detonators go off, and thought must then be passing the home signal, but still could not see it. My speed when went over the detonators was not more than 10 miles per hour. As soon as heard the detonators go off applied the Westinghouse brake fully. Before passed over the detonators had no brake applied to my train. had turned off steam when passing under the Chatham and Dover bridge, and did not turn it on again. My brakes did not act well on this occasionthey had acted well on every previous occasion. had used the Westinghouse brake to bring my train to a stand at Queen's Road, and the brake had acted quite well. estimate the speed of my train at the time the collision occurred at about eight miles per hour. had been driving the same engine all day since came on duty, and until this occasion had had no trouble with the brakes. My engine was slightly damaged, but was not injured myself, and my train was not injured in any way. The coal in my bunker did not interfere with my view of the signals. only saw the lights of the train in front of me when was a few yards from them. took my train on from Peckham Rye to Victoria, stopping at all intermediate stations, and made use of my Westinghouse brake at all of these stations. I t acted quite well. quite admit that after leaving Peckham Rye my brake acted excellently. am aware of Rule 78 (c) stating that drivers must run with extra caution and at reduced speed during foggy weather when approaching places where fixed signals are known to exist. knew when passed under the Chatham and Dover over line bridge that was approaching a fixed signal, but did not apply my brake until the detonators went off. That only explanation can give is that must have misjudged my distance between the over line bridge and the home signal.

Thomas Cass, fireman, stateshave been about five years in the service of the Company, during about three-and-a-half of which have been a fireman worked the same hours on January 22nd as driver Colbran, and was on the 12.15 a.m. train with him on the 23rd. remember starting from Old Kent Road Station, and remember that the starting signal was off when was at the station told my mate could not see the starting signal, so he sent me to the post to see it, and I went about half-way up the post and found it was off and came and told him so. Our train stopped at Queen’s Road and went up the post again and saw that the starting signal was off but that the distant was at ‘’danger" told my driver that that was the case. remember oar train passing under the Chatham and Dover over- line bridge, and just before we came to this point my mate shut off steam we had been running slowly from Queen's Road, should say at about half the ordinary speed. Up to the time me got to the bridge none of our brakes had been applied. The next thing that happened was that we went over two detonators; before we reached the detonators the driver had applied the brake. I feel we went over the detonators. We had both been on the look-out for the home 
signal, but we had not been able to see the post upon which it is fixed. The speed of our train had been only a little reduced before we reached the detonators can give no estimate of our speed when we passed over the detonators. Immediately the detonators went off my mate applied the brake fully, but we were almost into the other train and the collision occurred. We could not, see the light's of the train in front of us more than an engine's length we had, however, nearly stopped at the time the collision occurred. We had used the Westinghouse brake to stop at the other stations and think it had acted all right think it acted all right on this occasion it also acted satisfactorily for the rest of the run into Victoria. 

Anthony Odd, guard, states have been 10 years in the service of the Company, during four of which have been a passenger guard. came on duty on the 22nd January at 11.15 a m . to work till a.m. on the 23rd. was off duty, however, from p.m. to 4 pm., and was able to leave my train during that time. previoultly came off duty at a.m. on the morning of the 22nd. was guard of the 12.15 a.m.passenger train on the 23rd January my train consisted of the following vehicles attached to the engine in the order given :-

One third-class brake, eight wheels.
Two second and third composites, eight wheels.
One first-class carriage, eight wheels.
Two second and third composites, eight wheels.
One third-class brake, eight mheels. 

I was riding in the rear brake-van and my train was fitted with the Westinghouse brake working blocks on all wheels of the train the brake was in good order. remember our train leaving Old Kent Road Station could not see the starting signal on account of the fog. We stopped at Queen’s Road Station, but I could not see the starting signal here either nor the distant from Peckham Rye. I remember our train passing under the Chatham and Dover over line bridge we had run slowly from Queen’s Road and estimate our speed at about eight miles per hour. I did not notice whether the Westinghouse brake was applied before we reached the over line bridge, but, do not think it wascould not see whether steam was shut off. The speed of the train appeared to be checked when we passed the overline bridge and reduced to about five miles an hour, and no further check was made until the collision occurred. do not think that the Westinghouse brake was ever applied fully before the collision occurred, if it had been applied think should have noticed it. did not hear any detonators go off. The first warning received of the collision was to feel the shock of it. The fog was very dense at the time. think that we were still going at about five miles per hour when the collision occurred. My regular hours of duty for the week were from 4 p.m. to a.m. on account. of Lingfield Races, my hours were altered. 

Francis Joseph Weller, Inspector, states have been 28 years in the service of the Company and am now an inspector at Peckham Rye Station. was standing on the Peckham Rye up platform as the time this collision occurred and saw the collision actually take place. estimate the speed of the 12.1.5 a.m. train at the moment of the collision at 10 miles per hour. cannot say whether it was checking speed at the time, and cannot state either whether the Westinghouse brake was applied. but did notice that as soon as it struck. the Westinghouse brake was on. On account of the fog could not see the train but a very short distance from me heard it approaching before I saw it, it was running into the station at about the speed a train does when it is going to stop at it. had heard the dstonators go off, but had heard the train approaching before they went off. was in charge of the station at the time of the accident, the station master having gone off duty.


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

The 11.50 pm. down train from London Bridge arrived at Peckham Rye Station at l2.25 a.m., and was detained there pending the arrival of certain train from Victoria with which it was timed to make connection. It was brought to a stand with its rear end just 203 yards inside the gown home signal.

Immediately after this train had arrived signalman Stacey, who was on duty in the Peckham Rye signal box, was offered the 12.15 a m passenger train from Old Kent Road he accepted it forthwith, keeping, however, both his home and distant signals at danger.

At about 12.36 a.m. he heard the 12.15 am. train approaching his box, and he judged from the sound of it that it was not going to stop at the home signal he ran down at once in order to p1ace detonators on the line he had not time to reach the down home signal but he place two detonators on the line 84 yards inside it and then waved his red lamp to attract the driver’s attentionthe train, however, run past him and ran on into the station, coming into collision with the brake van of the 11.50 p m. train at a speed which is variously estimated a t between 4 and 10 miles an hour.

All witnesses agree that up to about 11.40 p.m. the weather had been misty but not sufficiently so to call for the presence of fogmen about that time, however, a dense fog came on and their presence was undoubtedly required. Both signalman Stacey and signalman Davidson who was on duty in the Old Kent Road box, fully admit that fogmen  were from this time necessary, but each of them refrained from asking for them for the same reason, viz., that there were only two more passenger trains to run and those trains would have passed their signal-boxes before the fogmen could have arrived at their posts. At the time of the accident therefore there were no fogmen on duty.

Under the special rule for block working at Peckham Rye signal-box quoted above- 
(a) Signalman Stacey would have been quite justified in clear weather in having accepted the 12.15 a.m. train while the 11.50 p.m. train was standing at the down platform of Peckham Rye Station. But Rule (b), also quoted above, definitely neutralizes this working in foggy weather, unless fogmen are at their posts. This was clearly the condition  which obtained at this time, and signalman Stacey honestly admits that under the existing circumstances he was not justified in accepting the 12.15 a.m. train.

Had he acted in accordance with the last quoted rule he would not have accepted that train until the 11.50 pm. train had left his station and until he had received the "Train out of section “ signal from Peckham Rye Junction signal-box for it. Delay to the traffic would undoubtedly have been caused, but this collision would not have occurred. Signalman Stacey’s omission to carry out this rule must, therefore, be regarded as the primary cause of this collision.

It must also be noted that in accordance with Rule (d), quoted above, it was Stacey’s duty on accepting the 12.15 a.m. train to have at once put down detonators on the line opposite the down home signal, where he required to stop that train. We had accepted the train at 12.25 a.m., and it did not reach his box till 12.37 a.m., so that he had had plenty of time to have carried out that duty. He did not, however, attempt to do so until he heard the train approaching his box, and he had then only time to reach a spot 84 yards inside the home signal. Had the driver received the warning when passing the home signal, the train would in all protability have been stopped before reaching the 11.50 p.m. train, so Stacey's omission to carry out this rule must clearly be regarded as having contributed to cause this accident.
It is not disputed that the Peckham Rye distant and home signals were at danger when the 12.15 a m . train passed them, and the responsibility of driver Colbran, who was in charge of the engine of that train, for allowing his train to pass the latter, must therefore be considered.

Driver Colbran states that on leaving Old Kent Road Station the fog was thick, but he was able to see his starting signal, and it was off for him. At Queen's Road, where the train stopped, he states that he could see that the starting signal was lowered for him, but owing to the fog he could not see the distant signal, so he sent the fireman up the post, and thereby ascertained that the’ distant signal for Peckham Rye was at danger. Colbran states that on account of the distant signal being against him he ran very slowly from Queen's Road Station, and he asserts that his speed never exceeded 10 miles an hour between that station and the London and Chatham over line bridge which, it will be remembered, is situated 165 yards from Peckham Rye home signal. In spite of the fog Colbran knew when he was passing under this overline bridge, and he realised, therefore, that he was quite close to the Peckham Rye home signal. He turned off steam when he reached this bridge, but he did not think it necessary to apply his brakes. He states that it was quite impossible for him to see the home signal, and that the first warning that he received was hearing the explosion of the detonators. The point where these detonators were placed on the line was, as stated above, 84 yards inside the home signal, i.e 119 yards from the spot where the collision occurred. Colbran states that on hearing the explosion of the detonators he at once applied his brakes, but that they did not act well, and he was unable to bring the train to a stand before the collision occurred. Colbran himself estimates the speed of his train at the moment that the collision occurred at eight miles an hour.

As regards the alleged failure of the brakes, Colbran admits that; both previous to the collision and subsequent to it he made frequent use of the same brakes, and that with this exception they had always acted satisfactorily it seems hardly probable therefore that there can have been anything wrong with than on this occasion.

It is unfortunate that no evidence is forthcoming as to the time of the departure of the 12.15 a.m. train from Queen’s Road Station, and driver Colbran’s statement as regards the speed of his train between that station and Peckham Rye cannot therefore be verified. But, after allowing for an evident discrepancy of two minutes between the clocks at theOld Kent Road and Peckham Rye signal-boxes, it appears that the time taken to run between those two stations, including the stop at Queen’s Road intermediate station was  seven minutes. This appears to be about three minutes in excess of the booked time, and it is probable therefore that the speed generally throughout this block section was not excessive.

It cannot, however, be overlooked that the speed of the train at the time that the collision occurred was considerable. The evidence as to the speed at that moment is as usual in these cases conflicting inspector Weller, who was in charge of Peckham Rye Station at the time, witnessed the collision from the up platform, and he estimates the speed at 10 miles an hour the guards of the two trains each estimate it at five miles an hour, while, as stated above, driver Colbran himself estimates it at eight miles an hour. The latter speed may, think, be accepted without doing any injustice to the driver and it appears to be consistent with 
the damage done to the 11.50 p.m. train.

Colbran admits that he knew that the distant signal was against him when he started from Queen’s Road he also reslized when he was passing under the Chatham overline bridge, and he knew therefore that he was then approaching a point where a fixed signal existed. It was therefore incumbent on him in accordance with Rule (c) quoted above, to run with special caution. 

Nevertheless, Colbran not only allowed his train to run past the fixed signal without ascertaining its position, but he did so at such speed that through detonators exploded under his engine at a point 84 yards beyond that signal, and though he then applied his brakes fully, the speed of the train at a point 119 yards beyond the detonators was eight miles :m hour. The gradient on which the train was running was, it should be noted, a slightly rising one. 

Under these circumstances there can, consider, be no doubt that driver Colbran allowed his train to approach the station at a higher rate of speed than the existing circumstance justified or the Company's rules permitted, and he must be held on that account largely responsible for this accident.

It is therefore to the want of care on the part of signalman Stacey and driver Colbran in not having carried out the Company’s rules for working during foggy weather that this collision must be attributed. Stacey had been on duty two and a halt hours, and Colbran just under 10 hours at the time the accident occurred. 

List of Damage Stock

12.15 a m . Train.
Engine So. 276.-Both trailing buffers broken ; coal bunker damaged ; back box smashed ; and gangway damaged.

11.50 p.m. train.
First-class Carriage, No. 643.-Two headstocks and four end panels broken ; one end bar split; and two bottom sides damaged.

Third-class Carriage, No. 609.- One iron headstock bent and three buffer castings broken.
Second-class Carriage, No . 103.-Two headstocks, one cross bearer, end panel, and end bar broken stepboard damaged four buffer castings broken and four buffer rods bent.
Passenger Brake Van, No. 5.-One headstock, two bottom sides, one cant rail, three end panels broken two stepboards damaged two buffer castings broken.
Composite Carriage, No. 285.-One headstock split.
Composite Carriage, No. 470.-One headstock broken.
Passenger Brake Van, No. 171.-One headstock broken. 

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