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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 o

the 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 o

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 dislpayed 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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