IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

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

 

 

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CATERHAM JUNCTION

22nd SEPTEMBER 1873

 Driver, Fireman & Depot Unknown 


extracted and adapted from the report by
H.W. Tyler

A fatal accident that occurred to Mr. Piekersgill-Cunliffe, at the Caterham junction station, on Monday, the 22nd of September 1873. This station belongs to the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway Company, but is also used for the traffic of the South-Eastern Railway Company running for five miles between Caterham and Caterham junction. The junction station is about 13 miles from London Bridge, and the line lending to it belongs to the South Eastern Railway Company from the London Bridge station nearly to the Bricklayers Arms junction ; and thence, for 11 1/2 miles to the Caterham junction, it belongs to the Brighton Company. The property in the immediate neighbourhood of the Caterham junction belongs to the Brighton Company ; and the Caterham- junction station is used by the South-Eastern Company on terms into the details of which it is not now necessary to enter.At the junction station there are  two platforms, with two lines of rails between them ; and on the east of the down platform there is a line connected with the Caterham branch. The station is employed, partly for passengers to and from the neighbourhood of Caterham junction, and partly for passengers running through between London and Caterham. Certain of the trains from London for Caterham run through the junction station on the down main line, and then back into the Caterham branch, at the south end of the down-line platform.In other cases, the passengers have to change from the down main line trains into the Caterham branch lines, using the down platform at the junction stationfor that purpose ; and such passengers are not required to cross the main line. But there are, on the other hand, passengers who, arriving from the Caterham branch at the down line platform, are compelled tocross the two main lines in order to proceed by trains stopping at the up line platform. There are alsoPassengers who, arriving at the down line platform, are compelled to cross the two main lines in order to go to their  residences or places in the neighbourhood of the Caterham junction. There are also passengers who, arriving by the up main line trains, have to cross the two main lines in order to proceed to Caterham by train.

On the south of the up-line platform there is a signal-cabin, which to some extent obstructs the view of persons crossing the lines from the up side. The approach from the road (which is about 35 feet below the railway) is by means of steps joining the up-line platform at the back of this cabin ; and passengers, on arriving at the top of the steps, are thus the less likely to see the up trains approaching, in consequence of the position of the signal-cabin. The platforms were not originally constructed for the large traffic which is at present accommodated at the Caterham junction station; and the down-line platform, which is 11 feet inches in width, is especially inconvenient, considering the number of people it has to accommodate, the exposure to the weather to which they are subjected, and the necessity for crossing both main lines in order to get to or to leave it. There is a wooden foot-way forming a level-crossing between the up and down line platforms ; and in connection with it, there is a break in the down-line platform, (forming also, as already described, the Caterham branch platform,) which is very inconvenient, and even dangerous, to passengers getting in and out of the trains on that side of the line.

At 10.1 a.m. on the day in question, the station master was walking, from the door of his booking office towards the signal cabin (which is 16 yards from it) when he noticed the deceased gentleman, Mr Pickersgill - Cunliffe (who he had known well for 15 or 16 years as a constant passenger), passing from the top of the approach steps, along the side of the signal cabin, on his was across the two lines of the rails from the up to the down platform, as he was in the habit of doing every morning, for the train leaving Caterham Junction at 10.9 a.m. for London. The branch train from Caterham had not then arrived at the junction, but Mr. Cunliffe was evidently about to cross the main line, in order to join that train on its arrival, with the intention of getting into one of the carriages destined for London, and of sitting in that carriage while it was shunted across from the Caterham branch to the up main line, to be attached to the 9.50 a.m. train from Redhill, due to leave Caterham junction at 10.9 a.m. for London. Mr. Cunliffe had a newspaper in one hand and an umbrella in the other, and was walking across, apparently watching a down excursion train, which was passing the station while he was at the signal-cabin. As he was emerging from the signal-cabin, the station-master noticed that before he reached the up line of rails, he suddenly threw his head and the upper part of his body backwards, and at the same moment his legs were struck by a foot-step on the Brighton Company's 7 a.m. train from Hastings, due to pass through the Caterham junction station without stopping at 9.54 a.m. The train passed on through the station at a speed of about 40 miles an hour, leaving Mr. Cunliffe lying on the ground with his legs very much injured. Mr Cunliffe was taken up and forwarded to London by the train, and was received as a patient at Guy's Hospital, where he died a fortnight later from the injuries which he had received.

The signalman who was on duty in the cabin at the south of the up platform saw Mr. Cunliffe come up the steps and approach the door of his signal-cabin.He handed to him the"Timesnewspaper, which had been left for him by the newspaper-boy on the station, and the boy was frequently in the habit of so leaving it when be failed himself to see Mr. Cunliffe.The signalman states that on receiving the paper Mr. Cunliffe turned round again, as if going backtowards the steps ; and the signalman, receiving on histelegraph-instrument notice of the approach of a trainin each direction, said to Mr. Cunliffe, "Look out forthe train ;" but Mr. Cunliffe did not make any reply,and did not apparently hear what was said to him,bemuse lie was too far from the signalman to do so.The signalman then went into his cabin to atteud tohis duties, and he did not again notice Mr. Cunliffeuntil after he had been struck down by the engine ofthe up train. It appeared to the signalman that Mr. Cunliffe must have seen the down train approaching, and have turned back towards the stops in order to wait until that train had passed.

The engine-driver of the 7 a.m. train from Hastings on the 22nd of September was approaching the Caterham junction station at about 35 miles an hour, when he suddenly saw, as he was passing the signal cabin on the south of the up-line platform, a gentle-man attempting to cross the up line. He noticed that he had an umbrella under his left arm, and a newspaper in his right hand, and was looking down towards the ground as he walked. The engine-driver noticed that the engine struck him in passing, and knocked his hat off. The steam was shut off, and the engine-driver whistled in the first instance for the breaks, after seeing that the gentleman had been knocked down, but he afterwards thought it better to run forward to Croydon without stopping. He therefore made a signal to the guard to take off the break again, and the train was not stopped short of Croydon, from which station it proceeded to London. The engine- driver did not whistle in approaching the Caterham junction, and he states that it is not usual for him to do so unless he sees special necessity for it, such as a train standing at the station, or people crossing the line.

The fireman who was on the engine with the above engine-driver, was on the off side of the engine as it approached the Caterham junction station. He heard from the driver, as soon as they had passed through the station, that a man had been knocked down, but he saw nothing of it from the position in which he stood.

The train was composed of an engine and tender, 11 passenger-carriages, a carriage-truck, and two break-vans. The guard, who rode in the break-van behind the tender, saw a gentleman walking from the signal cabin towards the engine as the engine approached the signal-cabin. He noticed that he had an umbrella under his left arm and a newspaper in his right hand. He was looking down, and he thought at the time that he was reading the newspaper. He saw the engine strike his legs, and also saw him fall down by the side of the line. The guard applied his break in the first instance ; but the train, which was travelling at a speed of from 35 to 40 miles an hour, was quickly past the station; and, knowing that aSouth-Eastern train was due shortly afterwards, and thinking it would he better to proceed to London, he gave the engine-driver a signal to go forward to Croydon, and took his break off again.

Mr. Roach, the station-master, who has been doing duty at the Caterham junction station for 17years, states that, as the traffic has very much increased of late years at the station, so there has been greater risk for the public in crossing between the platforms ; and that he has on several occasions seen very narrow escapes, and himself interposed to save people from being run over by the trains. There has, however, never been,

he says, any passenger injured at the station previously. He states that he has frequently as many as a hundred people at one time from Caterham on the down platform waiting for the up main line trains, and he is occasionally unable to get the passengers across the main lines before the arrival of a fast train not due to stop at the station. In such  case he is obliged to divide the passengers, passing a few of them across the main lines to begin with, then allowing the train to pass through the station, and then sending over the remaining passengers to the up platform ; and this has to be done in the dark as well as in daylight. He feels on such occasions very much the necessity for a subway, by means of winch the passengers might get from the down to the up platform without crossing the main lines.

The signalman has been doing duty at the station for 21 years, and be also has witnessed great many narrow escapes, and has himself saved people from being run over by the trains.

There is no doubt as to how this accident occurred.Mr. Cunliffe was evidently about to cross the main line from the signal-cabin. He noticed down excursion train approaching from the direction ofLondon, but he did not observe the up train, which was approaching at almost the same moment. Inwalking from the signal-cabin towards the main line,he was struck by the engine of the latter train, andhe received the injuries which lead to his death fromthe footstep of that engine. The station is not, either in point of safety or as regards convenience, what it ought to be for the accommodation of the large passenger traffic for which it is now employed.There is evidently much risk to passengers crossing from the narrow platform between the Caterham branch and the main lines to the up line platform, and vice versa. And there is a special risk in such a case as the present, when a passenger, approaching the up platform by the only means of access to it, up the steps previously referred to behind the signal.cabin, passes the signal-cabin, and proceeds directly across the main lines towards the down platform; and the risk must of course be increased when the attention of such a passenger is attracted by a down train, and when an up train is approaching the cabin from the south at the same moment or immediately afterwards.

In looking at the situation of the station, therewould appear to be no great difficulty in providing aremedy for this state of things. The down platform is in much need of being widened, which might be done by extending it over one of the lines of rails at present on the east of it ; and if it were so widened, there would be no difficulty in forming a subway under the main lines leading directly from it to the present approach steps to the up line platform. In connection with such improvements, shelter and other conveniences might be provided on the down line platform, and the position of the signal cabin might also be altered. The only difficulty, indeed, that appears to exist in the matter is the question of what company is to bear the expense of such alterations, or in what proportion the two companies ought to bear such expenses. The South-Eastern Company, although they were informed of my inquiry, did not appear at the Caterham junction station. The general manager of the Brighton Company attended with his officers, and pointed out that although the station and the ground in the neighbourhood belonged (to that Company, the extra accommodation required was more especially for the passengers of the SoutEastern Company using the Caterham branch, and that therefore the larger proportion of the cost osuch alterations ought to be borne by the South-Eastern Company. It is not for me to enter into this question, but I have no hesitation in stating that, in my opinion, such improvements are urgently, required with a view to the safety of the public.

I hope to receive at a later date details as to amount of passenger traffic conveyed by each company to and from this station,  and to forward this further information to the Board of Trade as soon as it is received.

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