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 London Bridge 

1st May 1857

extracted & adapted from the report by

W. Yolland L.t.- Colonel, R. E.

On the 1st May, 1857, an accident occurred to a passenger train at the London Terminus of the L.B. & S.C.R. About 160 yards from the east end of the Crystal Palace platform are a pair of self actin facing points weighed to stand open for the straight road leading to this platform, and requiring to held open for all trains passing off to the left towards the main line platform. These points are of the usual description, 12 feet long, with a single rod. I enclose a trace showing the points and crossing at this spot. 

It appears from the statements of various persons, servants of the L.B. & S.C.R. and South Eastern Railway Companies, that, as the Wandsworth passenger train, due at the London Bridge Terminus at 9.15 a.m. was passing over this pair of facing points, the engine was observed to mount the rails when about the heel of the points, and after passing the point rails, and running for about double its own length between the two lines of rail, it then got on to the left road leading to the main line platform.

The train consisted of a six wheeled tank engine, four wheels coupled running with the trailing wheels in front, and nine carriages of which the first was a third class carriage with four compartments, a break being fixed  in the first next to the engine, and the second was also a third class carriage.

These two third class carriages (as well as the remainder of the train) were seen to take the straight road, and after they had passed over the points (the engine being at this moment not on the same line of road), as the train advanced the engine and the next carriage diverged from each other, and this leading carriage was in consequence dragged off the rails to the left and across the right rail of the left hand road, and after running rather more than 50 yards beyond the points, it was overturned on to its right side, and a good deal damaged. The second third class carriage was also forced off the right road, and ran against the overturned carriage lying across the other road. The speed of the train on passing the points is variously stated by different parties to have been from five or six to nine or ten miles an hour; but the engine did not run more than 60 yards, the whole of the carriages remained coupled together, and the remaining seven carriages were not off the road.

In the third class carriage which was overturned there were five persons in addition to the guard, who rode in the front compartment to attend the break; and one of these persons, when the carriage fee over on its side, unfortunately had his arm outside, and his shoulder was greatly injured, so that the arm had to be amputated, and he died on the following day. Altogether five persons were injured, including two that were riding in the overturned carriage, but none of the others were seriously hurt.

When the line was examined after the accident, one of the carriages stood over the points on the straight road, and as soon as the carriage was removed, the points were found to act perfectly well, but the left point rail was found bent inwards, about 15 inches from the heel, and the inner corner of the heel chair was found broken; the right point rail was very slightly bent inwards, and the heel chair split right through immediately under the point rail. The next rail, about nine feet in length on the right side of the left hand road, was not disturbed, but the adjoining one, 21 feet in length, had three intermediate chairs broken, the first occurring just opposite to a mark made apparently by the flange of the wheel on the right check rail at an angle crossing, and the two next on opposite sides of the left road on the third sleeper beyond it. A double chair, holding both rails on the next sleeper beyond the last, was also broken, and the rail itself slightly bent. Two heel chairs holding the points of a through road were also broken. All this damage I believe to have been occasioned by the engine when running off the rails between the two lines of rails. The tongues of the points were apparently untouched, and the road is stated to have been in good gauge and in order; and it is said to be now in the same state as at the time of the accident, with the exception of the broken chairs having been replaced. The only peculiarity that I noticed was that the right rail of the road leading to the Crystal Palace platform, on which the engine must at all events have partially passed, had some little vertical play in two of the intermediate chairs, occurring just where the engine is said to have mounted.

The engine, having inside cylinders 15 inches in diameter, and 24 inches stroke, was new in 1853, and had been repaired in the Brighton shops in March 1857. It had run altogether 83,202 miles. The diameters of the driving and trailing wheels coupled being 4ft. 9in., and that of the leading wheels 3ft. 4 in., with 6ft. 71/2. distance between the centres of the leading and driving, and 8ft 3 1/2 in. between those of the driving and trailing wheels.

When the engine is ;loaded with coke and water, the weight is distributed as follows:-

On the leading wheels 8 tons, 19 CWT 3 qrs 

On the driving wheels 9 Tons, 4 CWT, 3 qrs

on the trailing wheels 9 Tons 15 CWT 1 qrs

Total 27 tons,  19 CWT 3 qrs

And when the tank is half full of water and one half of the coke has been consumed, which was approximately its state at the time of the accident, the weights on the wheels are very nearly equal.

The wheels of the engine are said to have been in correct gauge immediately after the accident; the engine was uninjured and continued to work throughout the day. The engine driver stated that he was going in at his usual speed, having shut off steam and lightly applied the break between the distant and semaphore signals, which are both further out than this pair of points; that the break was not suddenly applied as he was passing the points, and that as far as he knew his engine had not quitted the rails, but he thought it had taken the left hand while the carriages kept the right hand road. From the way in which the roads at his part are interlaced by sleepers and rails, the driver might readily be mistaken as to his having been off the rails.

A Croydon train had passed over the same line of road towards the Crystal Palace platform eight minutes before, and nothing had gone over the points in an opposite direction during that interval.

The pointsman was at his post, not holding the handle of the points, but looking into the yard, and not at the train as it passed over the points. There are no instructions in the company’s printed book of regulations as to facing points being held or steadied when trains pass over them, which in my opinion is an omission; but verbal instructions are said to have been given to the pointsmen by the station master at London Bridge several years since, that this should be done when their other duties permitted. It does not, however, seem to be attended to, as the pointsman had no other duty at this time; but I do not think, had the points been held, it could have had any effect in preventing this accident, as I believe the engine and all the carriages took the right road in the first instance.

From the statements of the various persons who witnessed the accident, and the particular damage to the road, I have no doubt that the engine mounted the rails while passing over these points, and that the left leading wheel (in this instance the trailing wheel) dropped between the rail and the point rail, bent the latter inwards, and broke the left heel chair; but I am unable to offer any sufficient explanation of the cause of the engine mounting the rails. 

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