IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

 

 

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LONDON BRIDGE
14th FEBRUARY 1861

extracted & adapted from the report by
W. Yolland Colonel R.E.

A collision that occurred at the Crystal Palace platform at the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Station at London Bridge on the 14th February. There are three platforms belonging to this company at London Bridge, one allotted to the Croydon, a second to the Brighton, and the third to the Crystal Palace traffic; and there are separate lines of rails on each side of each platform. In consequence of the large amount of traffic and the crowded state of the yard, it is usual, as regards the Crystal Palace traffic, and when there is very great pressure in reference to the other traffic, when a train arrives at the platform, to permit it to remain until it is required to leave again; 80 that, especially in respect of the Crystal Palace traffic, that which is the arrival side of’ the ,in coming train becomes the departure side for the next outgoing one; and thus a portion of the lines in the yard are sometimes used as up lines, and immediately afterwards as down lines. The Crystal Palace platform is also of considerable length (695 feet), and it sometimes happens that two trains are placed in it on the same side of the platform.

The whole of the up traffic is governed by signals placed on a high box 233 yards south from the end of the Crystal Palace platform, and these signals are in charge of a servant of the South Eastern Railway Company; and after the up trains of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company have passed this box they are considered to be in their yard, and under the control of the Company's own servants. The South Eastern signalman is guided, as far as up trains are concerned, by the indications of the single arm of a semaphore signal, placed about 153 yards nearer to the end of the platform than his own box, where two pointsmen attend at box No. 1 to the distribution of the up trains towards the three platforms, and they indicate to which side of each platform the trains are to be turned. These pointsmen have a low distant signal near the end of the Crystal Palace platform, which signal is used to stop trains from coming out of the west side of the Crystal Palace platform; and intermediate bet.ween No. 1 box and the high box there are two or three sets of facing points for diverting the traffic towards the Croydon or Brighton platforms, and at No. 1 box there is a three throw set of facing points for turning the traffic towards the Brighton platform, and to the east and west sides of the Crystal Palace platform.

The single arm of the semaphore at No. 1 box is used to sanction the passage of all up trains beyond the high box, and from thence they are distributed, partly by the acts of the pointsmen at No. I box, and partly by those of other pointsmen acting under the control of those at No. 1 box, to the several platforms and to the different sides of the platforms.

The out-going or down trains are entirely controlled by the South-Eastern signalman at high box, and thus the responsibility as regards the arrival and departure of trains is divided.

On the morning of the 14th February, the 8h 35m. down train from London Bridge to Victoria Station, contrary to the usual practice, bad on its arrival from Victoria Station been placed by one of the two pointsmen at No. 1 box at the west side of the Crystal Palace platform, in consequence of some platelayers being engaged in loading a truck of ballast on the line leading to the east side of the platform ; and when the 7h. 45m. a.m. up train from Victoria Station to London Bridge Station, due at 8h. 85m. arrived at its proper time, the other pointsman turned it towards the west side of the Crystal Palace platform, at that time occupied by the 8h. 85m. down train, then about to start, without having previously put on the distant signal to prevent the 8h. 35m. from starting. This pointsman knew that the 8h. 35m. train must be at the west side of the platform, but be bad forgotten it, and there was a fog at the time which prevented him from seeing the train at the platform. The pointsman made a mistake, and in consequence the stopping and the starting trains, both proceeding at a slow rate, came into collision about 110 yards further in than the south end of the platform. Both trains consisted of a tank engine and 9 vehicles, including 2 break-vans, one next the engine and the other at the tail of the train. The up train is said to have been travelling at the rate of 4 or 5 miles an hour, and the down train at about 2 miles an hour. Twenty-seven passengers in the up train received slight injuries, or have claimed compensation; but the collision appears to have been a very slight one.  

The collision was evidently occasioned by the forgetfulness of the pointsman in permitting the down train to start; and it appears to me that when platforms are alternately used as arrival and departure platforms, it is important that additional mechanical arrangements should be adopted, to prevent signalmen and pointsmen from making such mistakes. I think the Directors of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway would find that such accidents might be prevented in their London Bridge yard by establishing up and down signals for each line at a stag-carried over the several lines on the site of No. 1 box, and working the facing points for distributing all traffic to the Croydon and Brighton up lines by means of levers, as well as those adjacent to the Crystal Palace platform; such signals to be fitted up according to Saxby’s method, now folly in use on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, by which signalmen are prevented from exhibiting at the same time two signals that might lead to a collision. If this were done, I believe the work in the yard would be more surely and certainly done, and probably by a lesser number of signalmen. 

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