IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

 

THE HISTORY OF THE

  BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

 

  

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NEW CROSS 

23rd JUNE 1869

extracted & adapted from the report by 
W. Yolland Colonel


A collision occurred on the 23rd June, 1869 between a passenger and a goods train at New Cross station. There were a very large number of passengers in the passenger train, and of these many received cuts, bruises, or contusions; one bad the small-bone of an ankle broken, two are returned as very seriously injured, 36 as seriously, and 49 as slightly injured. One of the number has subsequently died, but I am not enabled to say whether the death was due to the injuries then received. Out of 568 passengers ' which the train was supposed to contain, claims either for personal injury or damages have been received from no less than 350 passengers; and three of the company’s servants are also returned as being hurt, one of the number somewhat seriously in the back. 

New Cross station is situated at the foot of a long incline of about 1 in 100, which extends to within a short distance of Forest Hill station, 2 miles and 56 chains from New Cross. This portion of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company's system is worked with the assistance of the electric telegraph, but not on the absolute block system, by which two trains are prohibited from being on the same line, between two telegraph stations, at the same time, as the signalman in the advanced signal box is authorized by the regulations to give "line clear as " soon as a train has got quite within the protection " of the semaphore as well as the distant signal ;" and the signalman is further instructed, with reference to this rule, "not to clear the line until quite satisfied, “ by seeing the tail light or otherwise, that the train when passing is complete and entire.

There are two intermediate telegraph and signal stations between Forest Hill and New Cross stations. The southmost, or that nearest to Forest Hill, is called Brockley, and it is 1,540 yards from Forest Hill. The next, New Cross Bank, is 1,780 yards from Brockley, and 1,414 yards from New Cross station signal box. There are four lines of way between Forest Hill and New Cross, two up and two down; and the New Cross station up lines are protected by distant signals placed 1,252 yards south of New Cross station signal box, or about 162 yards north of New Cross Bank telegraph and signal box, and also by "stop" signals 140 yards south of New Cross station signal box. The New Cross station up distant signal can be seen close upon one mile and a half, and the semaphore up signal 730 yards, from New Cross station, while the tail lights on a train standing at the station can be seen 580 yards before the train is reached, if a good look-out be kept. 

On the night of the 23rd ultimo, a special passenger train, consisting of 16 carriages, including two third- class carriages fitted with breaks and with two left the Crystal Palace station for London at llh. IOm. p.m. It reached Forest Hill at Ilh. 22m., and left at Ilh. 24m. It got "all right" signals at Brockley and New Cross Bank, as it passed those signal stations without stopping, and reached New Cross station about Ilh. 3Om., 88 it appears that the line was telegraphed " clear" back to New Cross Bank at that time.

When this passenger train arrived and departed from Forest Hill station, an up Croydon goods train, consisting of engine and tender, 22 trucks (of which eight were loaded), and two break vans, was standing in a siding. This goods train usually shunts for and follows the 11h. 15m. p.m. up passenger train from Forest Hill, and is due to leave that station at 11h. 40m. p.m.; but if the line is clear, and all the work has been done at Forest Hill, it is permitted to precede the 11h. 16m. p.m. train, as it did this night.

According to the driver head guard of the goods train, it left Forest: Hill at 11b. 25m., but according to, the Forest Hill signalman at 11h. 28m., which agrees with the receipt of the telegraphic signal “train on line" at Brockley at 11h. 29m. and its passage past that signal station at 11h. 32m., the clock at Brockley being apparently one minute fast on the other clocks, and I have no doubt that 11h. 28m. was about the right time.

As it approached Brockley the distant signal was seen to be at “danger," but the signal was taken oft before it was passed ; it got an "all right" signal at Brockley, and the New Cross Bank up distant signal showed a white light, when the driver first saw it ; the New Cross Bank signal exhibited a green or caution signal, as the signalman had only just received “line clear" from New Cross station for the passenger .train. This signalman telegraphed" line clear" back to Brockley, showing that the goods train had passed at 11h. 33m., arid the collision is said to have taken place at 11h. 35m. The driver admits that the New Cross up station, up distant, and up stop signals were all on at "danger" as he passed them, and that he saw a red tail light on the train standing at the station when he came in sight of it. The driver and fireman both state that the steam was shut off just after passing over the brow of the incline of Forest Hill, and that it was not put on again until the driver had reversed his engine, on seeing, as he says, the tail light of the train standing at the station. The driver also declares that he whistled for the guard's breaks when he was about New Cross up distant signal, and that the tender break was applied before they reached it ; the fireman, on the contrary, says the whistle was only sounded as soon as they could see New Cross semaphore up signal, differing by about 500 yards from the spot at which the driver says he sounded the whistle. Both agree, as well as the head guard, in saying that the speed was not more than from 8 to 10 miles an hour when they passed New Cross Bank signal box, and not more than 5 when the collision took place. The head guard names four miles an hour, and to judge from the little damage that was done to the rolling stock, estimated at about :£40, I do not see any reason to question the rate at the time of the collision. 

The head guard says his break was on before they reached New Cross Bank signal, and that it was whistled for as they passed it ; he says also that his break was in good order, and that its wheels were skidded and fire flying from them. The under guard says the whistle was sounded for a signal to be taken off, and he looked out and saw that the New Cross station up distant signal was on at " danger," and he put his break on between the two over-bridges, which are bear together, but did not put it sharp on, (this was just inside the New Cross station up distant signal,) and when he heard the whistle for the breaks he put it hard on, and it was hard on when they passed the up stop signal.

He admits that he was eating his supper as they were coming down the bank, on looking out of his break after quitting Forest Hill, and on seeing that the signals were all right. The signalman at New Cross Bank says that the New Cross station up distant signal was at "danger" when the goods train passed his box, travelling at the rate of 20 miles an hour, but he could not say whether the steam was on or off; that trains generally run cautiously by the New Cross station up distant signal when it is on at danger; that they shut off the steam, apply the breaks, and slacken the speed; that either the driver or the stoker of the goods train had his hand on the break, but the train was going so fast that he could not say whether the breaks were on or not. He also states that the engine whistled three or four times sharply after it passed his box, and that he never saw a train go by at sueh high speed before with the New Cross up distant signal at "danger" and his own signal at "caution."

The driver says he did his best to stop, and he is said to be a very steady man.

The collision took place about 15 yards north of the New Cross station signal. No vehicle was thrown off the rail, and the number of persons injured is to be accounted for by the large number in the train, many of them standing up and in the act of getting out.

The collision resulted from gross neglect on the part of the company's servants in charge of the goods train, more particularly the driver, and I am not assured, by any means, that the guards were attending to their breaks. 

The collision would not have occurred if the traffic had been worked on the absolute block system; and here I to point out the necessity of carrying out that system thoroughly and not partially, because there can be no doubt that when drivers know that they.are working under a telegraphic system they do not pay' the same attention to the out-of-door signals as they would do if the telegraph were not employed ; and they run past the danger signals at a higher rate of speed in consequence; generally, of course, without causing a collision at the station under the circum stances detailed in this report. In fact the telegraphic and the out-of-door signals should tcll the same tale.

I ha.ve also to remark on the fact that the guards on this section are not required, under the company's regulations, to enter the times of the arrival and de- parture of their trains at the intermediate stations in their memorandum books, and there is in consequence great difficulty sometimes in arriving at the truth with respect to the speed at which they have travelled, or at what time a collision has taken place. 

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