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25th APRIL 1872

Involving driver Bill Redding (Depot Unknown)

extracted and adapted from a report by
C.S. Hutchinson

A collision between a pilot engine and a passenger train which occurred at East Croydon station, on the Brighton Railway, on 

the 25th April, 1872. No personal injuries are reported to have been sustained.

On the evening in question a pilot engine, in charge of an experienced driver, of 14 years’ service, named Redding was waiting 

in a dock on the east of the main down line at East Croydon, attached to a horse box, which on the arrival of the up train from 

Hastings and Portsmouth, due at 7.28, was to be drawn on to the down line, and then pushed through a cross over on to the up 

line attached to rear of the train. After this operation the pilot engine’s work would have been finished for the night, and it 

would have followed the train to Norwood Junction, where it was kept.

On the arrival of the train, which was a few minutes late, a shunter, after uncoupling the front or London Bridge portion from 

the rear or Vitoria portion, was told that there were two horse boxes at the tail of rear portion to be left at East Croydon. On 

reaching the tail of the train he found the pilot engine already there with the horse box to be attached to the train; he hooked on 

this one to the other two, and said the driver, Redding, “Across the road,” by which Redding understood that these two horse 

boxes were to be put into the same dock from which he had brought the one. The signalman at the south end of the station then 

let him through the cross over road with the three horse boxes. On reaching the down line, the shunter, who had accompanied 

the horses boxes, uncouples the two, and, after they had received a push from the engine sprigged them back into the dock. 

Redding then again pushed the original horse box back through the crossing to the up line, but by his own confession entirely 

forgetting the fact of the train being still there, was under the impression that he had to push the horse box to the north end of 

the station to be attached to a Victoria engine, a mode of proceeding of frequent occurrence . He was accordingly coming along 

at a smarts pace, and after passing the signal cabin, about 50 yards from the tail of the train, gave a double whistle, that for the 

signal at the north end of the station. This attracted the attention of a porter on the platform, who shouted out “Hod on, Bill;” 

upon which Redding had time to get three turns at his break, steam having been previously shut off, and then struck the tail of 

the train (which consisted of eight vehicles) at a speed of about five miles an hour. His fireman was at the time of the collision 

between the tender and horse box changing one of the lamps in readiness for the journey to Norwood. He was not knocked off, 

although the collision took him unawares, showing that it could not have been very serious. The train engine had happily not yet 

joined the front of the train, which was knocked forward about two carriage lengths; no damage done either to it, to the horse 

box, or the pilot engine.

The version of the cause of the collision as given by the driver may, I think, be accepted as the true one, viz., that it was owing 

to an act of forgetfulness on his part. He is a man of excellent character, and there is no suspicion that he was under the 

influence of drink at the time.   

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