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16th AUGUST 1853


Extracted and adapted from the Ministry of Department Report by


On the 16th August, 1853, a collision occurred at Forest Hill station caused by a passenger train of the South Eastern Railway 

running into a coal engine and van belonging to the Brighton Company; and the following are the circumstances under which 

the accident appears to have happened.

The Brighton Company's coal engine and van left the East Croydon station for New Cross at 9.45 p.m., the distance being seven 

miles and a quarter. At 10 p.m. the up Dover express train left the some station, being a few minutes after time. It was one or 

two minutes after 10, when the coalengine passed the Sydenham station (three miles and three-quarters from the East Croydon 

station) it is stated at five or six miles an hour; hut calculating time and distance it was more probably thirteen miles nn hour. As 

soon asit had passed the station, the red light was turned on 16r five or six minutes, end then a green light was shown, which 

signified,"Go slowly."

It appears that for the last two or three months, in consequence of works that have been in progress on this part of the line, the 

exhibition of a white light which signifies "Go on," has been discontinued, and a green light substituted, which means, as I 

before stated, " Go slowly." At nine or ten minutes after ten, that is, eight or nine minutes after the coal engine had passed the 

Sydenham station, the Dover express went by at a speed of forty miles an hour. The next station beyond Sydenham is Forest 

Hill, which is only fiD chains distant; the line between these two stations curves quickly, and for the protection of the Forest Hill 

station an auxiliary-signal is placed about half way. I should remark that on this part of the railway there are two up lines, the 

second one being for the Epsom and Croydon traffic. The driver of Dover express train states that as he passed the auxiliary 

signal he saw the two red tail lights of the van attached to the cool engine. Thinking they were on the Croydon line he only shut 

off steam, but as soon as he as certained that the lights seem from a train on the same line, lie reversed, and did all in his power 

to stop; but it.was too late, find he ran into the coal engine and van which hail not quite reached the station. He says, that had he 

known that the train was on his line, he "could have stopped twice in that distance."

The Brighton Company's printed code of regulations, page -I, Rule 60, says,

" Each train, after sunset, or in foggy weather, is provided with a white engine light, and two red tail lights, and one red tail light 

on the roast and branch lines. 

Of this regulation the driver of the South Eastern Company said he knew nothing, and that he was not supplied with the 

Brighton Company's rules and regulations that he was continually passing the Croydon train at night, and never recollects 

having seen a train with one red light. The driver of the Dover express train, in trying to defend himself; makes his case worse 

than if he simply admitted, (as I believe was the case) that lie was not keeping a good look out.; for, according to his statement, 

it would be quite a matter a doubt on which of:lithe up lines the two red lights were, and it was, therefore, most culpable of him, 

under such doubtful circumstances, not instantly to pull up his train.

The arrangements of the Brighton Company afford ample grounds for the doubt of which the driver of the Dover express train 

has made a point, though to his own damage; for it appears that in the face of their own regulation they allow one of their night 

trains to cross over at the junction on to the Croydon up line, for the purpose of stopping at Forest Hill, and this is done 

without making any change in the lights. It, was, moreover, admitted, that in the event of an engine passing the junction but a 

short time in advance of a passenger train, that it would be the duty of the switchman to turn it off the main line on to  the 

Croydon up line. Although the violation of the company's printed rule with regard to the different lights to he carried at the tail 

of trains travelling on the main and branch lines ought not in this instance to have led to any dangerous results, it was calculated 

to produce a collision on the Croydon up line; and the authority that sanctioned the infringement of the order is open to very 

grave censure.

The manager of the South Eastern Railway Company did not attempt to show that the driver of the express train had not 

disregarded the green signal; he only elicited from the Brighton Company's servant, who gave evidence as to speed, that it was 

habitual with the drivers of both companies to pass the green signal at a speed quite as great as that at which the express train 

was travel-ling: and I would myself here observe that this disregard of the green signal is not peculiar to the drivers of these 

two companies, but is generally prevalent on all railways; I am quite satisfied that there should be but two station signals, and 

these should he"stop"and"go on. Green hand lights and flags are necessary to show when a road is under repair, and that it is 

necessary to go slowly, and these are never disregarded by drivers, because they know they are never unnecessarily displayed, 

whereas it is just the reverse when green is shown as a station signal.

It may be very convenient, for the purpose of convicting a driver, after an accident, of reckless driving, to point to the green 

signal, and say it occurred in face of " that;" but this is not justice to the driver, the signal should speak distinctly to him,”There 

is danger,” or ”There is not danger." It is evident that on the occasion of the collision, the green signal was no safeguard against 

collision; neither could it be, according to the evidence that was offered, yet its being exhibited was set op as a defence by the 

Brighton Company.

The conduct of thedriver of the coal engine was very had. He admitted that he was supplied with n time table, but he said his 

watch had stopped; and the guard, who was supplied by the company with a watch, said his was under repair.

As every station is supplied with a timepiece, it would be very desirable that it should be placed outside the station, instead of 

inside the booking office, and that it should be illuminated at the principal stations and junctions; this remark would especially 

apply to a line over which another company has running powers. Many collisions occur front the attention of drivers flagging 

with regard to time, which suck an arrangement would tend effectually to arouse.

The management of the South hastens Railway Company is much to blame in not supplying their servants with a copy of the 

regulations of the company over which they have rosining powers.

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