IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

 

THE HISTORY OF THE

  BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

 

  

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A SECOND COLLISION AT ARUN BRIDGE

ON THE 30th JANUARY 1861


H. W. TUEB, The Secretary,

Board of Trade,Whitehall. Capt. R.E.


On the 30th January, 1861, near the Ford Station of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. To the east of that station there is a sliding bridge over the River Arun, carrying only one line of rails; and the points which connect the double lines with the single line of rails at the two ends of that bridge are under the charge of two pointsmen, one to each pair of points.

A double semaphore signal on the east of the bridge is considered as the governing signal, employed for the protection of the bridge and the single line passing over it. There are distant signals, working in each direction; and the station signal is not permitted to be lowered for the passage of a train from the westward, excepting when the signal on the east of the bridge is lowered also. A small wire signal communicates from the station to the west of the bridge.

On the 30th January, the 6 a.m. passenger train from Portsmouth, consisting of an engine and tender, 5 carriages, and 2 break-vans, approached the Ford Station about four minutes late; and the driver found the signals lowered for him to pass the station and bridge in the usual manner. He proceeded over the bridge at 14 or 15 miles an hour, which is the greatest speed permitted at this point by the Company's regulations; and he saw the engine of another train waiting upon the down line of rails, for his train to travel first over the single line. As soon as he had passed the points on the east of the bridge, he became aware that the pointsman had turned him on to the down line, instead of allowing him to proceed along his own line, and that a collision was inevitable. He had just time to reverse his engine, but no time to whistle for his breaks, before he struck the engine of the cattle train. He remained on his engine, and was not much hurt. The fireman, after giving his break handle one or two turns, also tried to jump off; but he only succeeded in getting on the lower step of the engine before the collision occurred; and he was stunned, by being thrown upon the ballast between the two lines, and cut about the face.

The guard who was riding in the leading van, Alfred Moore, remembers having passed the Ford Station, but nothing more. He was found senseless in his break-van after the collision, and was evidently much hurt. There were fortunately only 3 passengers altogether, 2 soldiers and a pensioner, in the passenger train; and they do not appear to have suffered much from the shock. There were some butchers also in the cattle train, who were some of them hurt; so that about 6 persons, besides the above fireman and guard, may be said to have been injured, more or less, from the effects of the collision.

The pointsman, who occasioned this accident, is an old servant of the company, with an excellent character, and he had been at the same post for 12 months. He saw the cattle train approaching from Brighton, about 5 minutes late; and he says that the driver passed the distant signal with his steam on, and he was a little afraid that he would not stop short of the points leading to the single line. He also saw the passenger train approaching from the opposite direction, and he lowered his signals, according to his usual practice, for this latter train, while he kept his signals at danger against the cattle train. He admits his mistake in turning on the points for the up line, and in thus causing the passenger train to run the wrong way through them; and he says that he did so unwittingly, while looking round, with. some anxiety to see whether the cattle train had come to a stand sufficiently far from them to allow the passenger train to pass in safety. He did not perceive his error until after the engine had passed through the points; and he then considered, wisely, that it was better to keep them in the wrong position, rather than to alter them, and throw the passenger train off the line.

The driver of the cattle train denies having run past the distant signal with his steam on, and he is corroborated in his evidence in this respect, by his fireman and his two guards. He states that he brought his train to a stand about 100 yards short of the points, and had been so standing for about 3 minutes before the collision occurred. He and his fireman had time to jump off and get out of the way, after they saw that the passenger train bad been turned the wrong way through the points. His tender wheels, and two or three of his cattle trucks were thrown off the line, in consequence of the road having been burst out on one side.

The first breaksman of the cattle train also had time to jump out of his van, after perceiving that the passenger train bad taken the wrong line; but the guard at the tail of the cattle train had not time to do so, and be received a contusion on the forehead.

It is admitted by the pointsman that this accident was caused by his mistake; and, as it appears that he only altered the points when the passenger train was within about 30 yards of him, it is plain that any indicating signal which might have been attached to them would not, in this instance, have been of much use. At the same time, it is desirable, in cases of this sort, in which points have to be constantly altered for the passage of trains in different directions, either that they should be worked in connection with a main signal near them, according to the system which has of late been carried out so judiciously at the junctions upon this Railway, or else that they should be attached to a small indicating signal, so placed as to inform an approaching driver of the direction in which they are set, and whether it is safe for him to proceed through them.

The best remedy, in this particular case, would be the construction of a new bridge, and the doubling of this portion of the line; a measure which the company are anxious, I believe, to carry out as soon as possible; and it would be a prudent course in the meantime to make some such alteration (by working the points in connection with a signal) as that which I have above referred to.

* Depot of loco-men not known.

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