IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

 BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

  

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HORSE POWER

EAST CROYDON

11th FEBRUARY 1852

Extracted and adapt from a report 

by Geo Wynne, Capt. Royal Engineers


A collision occurred on the 11th February the East Croydon station on the Brighton Railway, caused by a passenger train othe South Eastern Company coming into collision with some trucks belonging to the Brighton Company, which were employed ballasting at the station.

The following are particulars which I have to report.
The Croydon station was formerly what is termed a four-line station, that is, having the 
platforms on sidings off the up and down lines lately Brighton Company have removed, these sidings, and have for some time back, between the intervals of the trains, had trucks drawn by horses employed carrying ballast to form the platforms on the sides of the up and. down lines; the drivers on the line were therefore quite aware that obstructions might 
occur at this station. 

The Croydon station as approached from London, is protected by a semaphore signal post, placed about 220 yards from the centre of the platforms on the London side, and 400 yards farther on in ‘the same direction there is a distant signal worked by means of a connecting wire by the man in charge of the semaphore signal. The distant signal consists of two discs set horizontally on a post. When it is turned on it presents the two discs painted red, and when off it presents a knife edge, and therefore only indicates” Stop" and “ All right." When the signal is turned on, it was stated to me that it could be seen on clear day half a mile oft: I ascertained personally that it could be seen certainly 500 or 600 yards off.  About 100 yards past the distant signal, approaching the station, a bridge crosses the line, which intercepts the view any obstruction beyond it.

About 1 P.M. of the day of the accident the foreman of works commenced ballasting with nine; or ten trucks; no train was due at station until 1.55. Before he took his trucks out of the siding he ascertained that both signals were on. At about 1.45 he states he moved off the trucks from about the centre of the station, where they were ballasting, to a siding on the north or London side of the station.  I ascertained that to get the trucks into the siding from where they were at work would take three minutes. While the trucks were in the act of going through the points into the siding they were struck by the South Eastern train which leaves London at 1.30, and which is timed to leave Croydon at l.57, and allowing for a stoppage of two minutes, its time of arrival would be 1.55. There is a preponderating amount of evidence, and in my opinion of a satisfactory character, to show that the collision occurred at 1.51, four minutes before the train was due, but guard of the train says it wanted seven minutes of two when the collision occurred If his statement is correct the Brighton Company would not free from charge of imprudence in permitting an obstruction on the line with so short an interval intervening before the time of a train being due, even though that train should be a stopping one; and the interval even of four minutes, which I believe to be the actual one, I consider sufficiently scant. But if the distant danger signal was duly exhibited, and run past by the driver, the circumstance of the Brighton Company having failed in prudence will not exonerate the driver of the South Eastern traifrom the blame of having caused the collision. His (the driver’s) statement is that when he sighted the distant signal he looked out and saw it standing “ All right”; he did not keep his eye fixed on it, and when. ‘within a few yards of it looked up and saw it was turned on, but when it was turned on cannot say, though positive that it was not on when he first looked; he whistled immediately for the, guards to put on their breaks, but he not reverse his engine until he had passed through bridge, when, seeing the obstruction, he reversed the gear of his engine. He also states that he was going at no higher speed than twenty-tour miles per hour. As the gradient an ascending now of 1 in 264, and the distance from the point of collision after the danger signal turned on, according to his own statement, was upwards of 400 yards and there were three breaks to the train, this statement of the speed appears quite improbable.

The fireman of the engine makes a statement nearly word for word the same as the driver, viz., that when he came in sight he looked out and saw it “All right,” and when within twenty yards he looked up and saw it turned on, but when it was turned on he cannot say. It is a little remarkable that both driver and fireman should have, looked off and looked at same time; and as it does not appear that they anything in particular to attend to about the engine, their look-out was a most negligent one in approaching a station where works were in progress. A plate layer who was working close to where the collision occurred, says, that whilst the trucks were ballasting he several times looked at the distant signal and saw that it was turned on, and he is  positive that it was on seven or eight minutes before the accident, and as nothing came down the line during the time the trucks were ballast till they were struck, the probability, as well as the evidence, is against the signal having been turned off.

The driver said he did not immediately reverse his gear, because he looked upon the distant signal as a caution signal auxiliary to the semaphore signal The superintendent of the South Eastern Company inclined to the same opinion. It no doubt is an auxiliary to the other, but it is meant to repeat what the station signal indicates at such a distance as will ensure safety, and as in the first page of the Book of Regulations of Brighton Company it is distinctly stated that “red is a signal to stop,” and “green, to go slowly;” whether, therefore, "red" is dipslayed by means of a flag, lantern, or disc, it must equally mean the same thing, and obeyed.

The day of the accident having been a fine clear day, there was no excuse for not seeing the signal. But I would observe, that though the double disc signal is of itself an excellent description of signal, that the one in question is not placed as conspicuously as it might be, as instead of being seen against the sky, it is backed partly be red brick houses and the bridge; this might easily be obviated by substituting a higher post, and doing so would be a  great improvement.

The South Eastern train consisted of ten carriages and was accompanied by two guards; first guards, the first guard rode in a carriage next to the tender, and the second in the fourth carriage for him. Although  the subject is irrelevant to the accident, I would remark that it is very objectionable, on many accounts, to leave the rear of the train without a guard.

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