5th OCTOBER 1926

FIREMAN RICHARD SWAN (probably Tonbridge?)


Extracted from the Kent & Sussex Courier





The Croydon Borough Coroner, Dr. H. B. Jackson, her an inquest at Croydon General Hospital on Saturday on Richard James Swan, a 25 year old fireman employed on the Southern Railway, and living at 53, Park Street, Tunbridge Wells, who was electrocuted by a live trolley wire bearing 6,600 volts.

Before removing to Tunbridge Wells a few months ago Mr. Swan resided with his mother at 97, Hectorage Road, Tonbridge. He was married and had one little child who died a few days ago.

Mr. R. D. Ross watched the proceedings for the Southern Railway, and Mr. Barton Wild, Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Fireman, appeared for the driver.

Mrs. Swan (widow) said her husband’s hearing and sight were good, and he was not subject to fainting fits. He was usually cheerful.

By Mr. Ross: witness had seen a book of instructions issued by the Company regarding the electrification, and recognised deceased’s signature on a receipt for the book.


George Stapely (Seniority Date 22/03/1892), 6 Pembury Grove, Tonbridge, the driver of the 3 a.m. goods train from Tonbridge to Croydon on Tuesday week, said it ran through the East Croydon station at 6.45, and witness stopped his train at the points 6.47. These points were north of Windmill Bridge, and about one to one and half engine from the Bridge - that was about 100 feet north. witness was looking was looking out for the guard’s signal to set back into the goods sidings, when his attention was suddenly attracted to flames and sparks overhead. He looked up and saw his mate’s alight. Deceased’s right foot was on the sand-box at the side of the engine, and the left foot on the water gauge just above the box. The back of deceased’s head was resting on the top of the cab, and the wire was on his forehead. The wire was not broken. Witness could not form any idea as to why his mate should have been there. When witness first stopped his engine deceased was sitting down, and witness thought he was going to have some food. Witness flung his arms round the body, just above the waist, and snatched it down, but there was no sign of life. Deceased had been burnt right through his cap and down the side of his forehead. As the guard was signalling him back, and witness realised he could do nothing, he shunted into the goods yard and summoned assistance. An ambulance man mounted the footplate and tried artificial respiration, but without avail. No one was on the engine from the time they left tunbridge to the footplate and had ridden back to the yard.

Witness: There was no one present but my mate and myself. A plate layer went to the engine, and saw he was going for assistance.

Further questioned by the Coroner, witness said that his mate’s hammer was beside the hand brake at the bottom of the cab. He could only think that his fireman was replacing a fire-iron - a pricker- that he has used at Redhill. Wether it was his idea that the tool was not properly in position, or whether deceased wanted to look into the tender, witness could not say. Witness did not see deceased move or mount the sand box. It had been said the deceased was breaking coal and raised hammer touched the live wire, but that was not so. The hammer had not been touched. As far as witness could see, the fire-irons were all in a safe position, but deceased was very thorough, and might have wanted to move it to suit himself. Witness did not make a statement to the police that deceased got up to replace the iron, but suggested that it might have been the case.

By Mr. Wild: Swan had been firing for eleven years, nd had been with witness about three months. Witness did not think he would place himself in any danger. He was a very careful man.

Mr. Ross: We are all liable to forget where we are at times, Are you supplied with the books of instruction re the electrification? - Yes, Sir.

Witness agreed that this contained a passage that no reason should touch any wire, also that fireman and drivers should not mount the box, as it was liable to have fatal results. There was a list of the safe place where the engines could be mounted.

The Coroner pointed out that either of witness’s suggestion were possible. Deceased must have been standing on the high part of the tender, if one foot was on the sand box and the other on the water gauge. He saw by the list that the spot where the accident occurred was not included in the safe places where the engine could be mounted.

Mr. Ross: If you had seen him mounting the box would you have stopped him? - Of course.

Witness added that deceased knew the danger, and the week previous, when at Ashford, had remarked to witness that they would have to look out for the wires when they got on that road.

Mr. Ross: You receive a shock in pulling deceased down? - Yes, Sir.


Sidney Herbert Hawkins, 66, Warren Road, Addiscombe, an underman, said he was sitting outside the plate layer’s hut at Windmill Bridge, waiting to commence work, when he saw the engine draw up just in front of him. He observed a flash from the high pressure type, and deceased dropped down into the cab. Witness ran to the engine and climbed on to the step. The driver was attending to deceased, who was badly burned about the face. Witness stopped on the engine until the driver got back into the goods yard. The driver seemed dazed and was very white, and though his nerves were upset.

By Mr. Wild: The driver noticed witness climb on to the engine for he turned and said, “My poor mate.” He then set his engine back.

Archibald David Hitchcock, 212, South Norwood Hill, a switch cabin inspector, said he visited the scene of the accident in company with a railway police sergeant, and took certain measurements. From the rail level to the live trolley wire it was 15ft. 1/4in. At the spot there were bits of cloth adhering to the wire. This was 100 feet from the face of the bridge. The voltage of the wire was 6,600 volts alternating current.

By Mr. Ross: The wires had to be taken under the bridge.

By Mr. Wild: The wire had not been broken at all.

Dr. C.J. Rush, House Surgeon at the Hospital, said deceased was dead when he saw him. There was a large burn in deceased’s trousers, and blood on his collar. There was a large burn on the right side of the scalp, the skull also being charred. The whole of the right side of the face was charred, and the right eye completely destroyed. The left side of the face was severely scorched, and the right arm was also burnt. The right hip was burned down to the muscle, and there were many small superficial burns. Death would be instantaneous.

The Coroner expressed him sympathy with the relatives in their bitter experience, and both Mr. Ross and Mr. Wild concurred on behalf of their clients.

The Coroner remarked that there was no suggestion that anyone was at fault. Deceased was apparently climbing up on to the tender, and two possible reasons for this had been put forward by the driver. Deceased was an experienced fireman, and alive to the of the danger of the live wire.

His verdict was “Death through misadventure.”

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