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11th May 1859

Brighton Driver Stephen Clark 

& his Fireman George Clare 

extract & adapted from the report

W, Yolland Colonel R.E.

On the 11th May, 1859, an instant to George Clare, a Fireman in the service of the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, from coming in contact with the post of a gate at a level crossing near Chichester. Iy appears that the 2.0 p.m. down train left Brighton for Portsmouth at its appoint hour, 3.15 p.m., and as the Fireman was engaged in the performance of the engine, with his left foot on the engine step, and his right foot on the tender step, holding on with his left hand to the upright rail or pillar of the tender, and having an oil can in his right hand with which he was in the act of pouring into the left leading axle box of the tender, the lid of which was held open by the engine driver with the tube picker, he was struck on the side by the post of a gate of a level crossing.

The level crossing is situated at Play Lane, about 1 1/2 ,miles west of Chichester station, and the train was travelling at the time, it is supposed, about 40 miles an hour. The Fireman dropped the oil can, and the engine driver, Stephen Clark, let the tube picker fall and succeeded in getting hold of George Clare, and pulled him on to the footplate of the engine, or it is probable he would have been killed on the spot. He was taken on to Havant station, and from thence sent back to Brighton by the next train, and then sent to the Brighton Hospital. I understood that he received severe internal injuries, and that is very doubtful if he will recover.

The line at this level crossing is perfectly straight for a considerable distance on either side. It is also perfectly level. It was opened in 1847, and there is every reason to think that the platelayers have not shifted the position of the rails from their original position. It was by no means a wide tender, as the side only projected rather more than one foot beyond the outer side of the rails, and the steps were 6 inches broad.

The posts of the south gates are 3ft. 0 1/2in. from the outer side of the rails, while those on the north side of the up line are 5ft. 8in. from the outside of the rails; and thus it appears this man has met with a severe injury which may be cause of his death while in the execution of his duty, from the gate posts at the side of the down line being fixed too near to the rails. It is possible that if the posts had been fixed at 3ft. 6in. from the rails the accident would not have occurred.

I am informed that the L.B.S.C.R. Company will, without delay, cause these posts to be shifted to a distance not less than 4 feet from the outer side of the rails, which distance is of course safer, and to be preferred to 3ft. 6in. usually stipulated for by the inspecting officers.

As similar accidents, to the servants of railway companies especially, and even to the public, are by no means unfrequent, and as it would be unreasonable to expect that engine drivers, firemen, and guards travelling with trains and having specific duties to perform which require them to move round the engine and to get outside the carriages, should recollect at all times what gates or works are placed too close to the rails, if they happen to be aware of the fact, and should exercise unusual caution at these spots. I beg to suggest that a circular should be addressed by their Lordships to all railway companies.

This circular might call attention to the fact that numerous accidents are occasioned in this way; and each railway company might be requested to have a careful examination of their lines made, and be recommended to cause all gates that are placed too close to the line to be set back, or the rails shifted further from the side walls of bridges or tunnels. Where the original construction of the works is such as will not admit of the proper space being obtained, then a notice should be placed on a board, or on the face of a tunnel or of an over bridge, calling to the nearness of the side walls and as a caution to drivers, fireman and guards.

I think it highly probable that if railway companies could be induced to take these steps many lines might be save, and the probable expense of carrying it into effect would be very inconsiderable.

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