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25th SEPTEMBER 1873



A collision between two passenger trains which occurred on the 22nd ultimo at Eastbourne station, on the London, Brighton, 

and South Coast Railway. One passenger had her neck dislocated and died in consequence soon after, and 10 other persons were 

more or less seriously injured.

Eastbourne is a terminal station which has lately been considerably improved and enlarged. The points and signals are all 

interlocked, and the levers concentrated in a raised cabin situated on the downside of the line, and about 120 yards from the up 

end of the proper departure platform. There are passenger lines on both sides of this departure platform, the inner line being for 

the most part used for the starting of trains for London, and the outer line chiefly for the arrival and departure of trains working 

between Hastings and. Brighton, the majority of whirl trains run into and out of Eastbourne. To enable these incoming trains to 

run direct to the platform there is a cross-over road between the up and down main lines, with facing-points on the downline 50 

yards on the up side of the cabin. These facing-points, as well as those in which the two platform lines terminate (55 yards from 

the trailing points of the cross-over road just referred to), must be in their proper position before the signal applicable to the 

incoming train (which signal is the lower arm of two Placed on a post 110 yards on the up side of the cabin) can be lowered. 

From this description it may be understood that for a distance of 55 yards theProper up or outgoing line is used by down or in-

coming trains running to the proper departure plat-form, and the up line is obstructed by the crossing of such down trains for 

further distance of some 90 Yards.

For the starting of trains from the departure platform lines there are two starting signals as its up end interlocked with each other 

and with the in-coming signal. The view of these starting-signals from the footplates of engines standing on either line is 

somewhat impeded by the roof of the shed protecting the departure platform. The departure platform is 230 yards long; it is 

level for about half its length, and then falls slightly towards the signal cabin. The traffic as regards following trains is worked 

upon the absolute block system, the block station next to Eastbourne being Willingdon junction, two miles distant.

At 2.3 p.m. on the 22nd ultimo, as the train from Hastings to Brighton, due at Eastbourne at 1.59 p.m., and consisting of engine, 

tender, four coaches, and two break-vans, was entering the outer line of the departure platform at that station with the signals 

right for it to do so, its engine came into collision with the engine of the 2 o'clock train for London (which had started against its 

signal from the inner line of the departure platform) at the junction of the two platform lines, at a point about 45 yards beyond 

the starting-signal post. The collision was not a violent one, the speed of the Hastings train not having been more than five miles 

an hour, and that of the London train nothing at all. No wheels left the rails. The engine of the Hastings train had its buffer-beam 

broken. The other engine was slightly damaged, but was able to take on the Hastings train to Brighton. The fatal injury 

occurred, I understand, owing to the deceased, who was riding in a carriage next or next but one to the engine of the Hastings 

train, having been thrown forward so that her neck came in contact with the edge of the opposite seat and was dislocated.

The evidence bearing upon the collision is as follows :—

The signalman, who had served in that capacity for nearly two years, states that on the Hastings train being signalled on to him 

from Willingdon junction, shortly before two o'clock, he set the points and lowered the signals for the train to run into the outer 

line of the departure platform, the one to which it generally proceeds ; that as the train was passing the signal post (110 yards on 

the Hastings side of the cabin) he heard the engine of the London train whistle, and on looking towards it, saw that it was in 

motion. That he held out his red flag to the driver of the London train to try and stop him, but gave no hand signal to the other 

driver. That it occurred to him to turn the Hastings train through the facing-points into the proper arrival platform, but he 

thought there was not time to do so ; that it has never been the practice to start trains by hand-signal, and that he has never 

before known a driver start against his signal. He furthermore declared that he had not in the present instance lowered the 

starting-signal shortly before two o'clock and then raised it again to danger on the Hastings train being signalled from 

Willingdon; he also stated that the London train had generally started before the arrival of the Hastings train.

The driver of the Hastings train, of 12 years service: as such, states that on approaching Eastbourne he found the signals right 

for him to run into the outer road of the departure platform; that although he saw the engine of the London train in motion along 

the main platform line as he was running in, he at first thought it was merely doing some platform work preparatory to starting, 

and became aware of danger, and that it was actually starting, only when about an engine length off from it, at which time the  

London driver gave the break whistle; that he then tried to reverse, but had not time; that the driver of the London train told him 

that he did not see his signal at danger till too late to stop ; that the signalman was looking towards the engine as it passed the 

cabin, but gave him no hand-signal of any kind. 

The fireman of the Hastings train confirms the driver's evidence and adds that his tender-break was on at the time they saw there 

would be a collision, and that he had just time to give it an extra screw.

The guard of this train knew nothing of what was about to happen till he heard a break whistle, and as he was going to look out 

of the window the collision occurred and knocked him down.

Steele, the driver of the London train, who has been driver altogether 26 years. and 22 years in theBrighton Company's service, 

states just before " 2 o'clock, at which hour the train was due to start," I was putting some tallow in the tender axle-boxes on the 

off side, and on getting up to the platform to put it in on the near side I was under the impression that saw the signal down for 

me to start;" my engine was standing about half-way down the " platform (110 yards from the signal) ; just after " this some 

luggage came along the platform andthat having been put in, Bennett (the head " porter) blew his whistle, and said ‘right 

away? " then opened my whistle, put steam on and started. " The steam was blowing in my face between mo " and the signal, 

and I did not see that it was against  me until was close upon it, directly after which " I caught sight of the Hastings train 

passing the signal-cabin (120 yards off). I at once shut off steam, reversed my engine, applied steam the reverse way, blew my 

break whistle, and had just " stopped when the collision occurred at a point 451, yards beyond the signal.

Steele's fireman states that he was on the platform side of the engine a minute or two before two, and is almost sure he saw the 

starting-signal lowered ; that after the train started the steam obscured it till they were close upon it, when they found it at 

danger and immediately after saw the Hastings train ; that the driver was the first to speak, and said " stop," upon which every 

effort was made to do so, and that he himself got his break on.

The head guard of the London train which consisted of 11 vehicles, including three break-vans, was in charge of the break-van 

next the engine; he states that being busy with luggage up to the moment of starting (2.3) he did not notice the signals, but asked 

Bennett (the head porter) to see that the doors were shut, and that as he turned to jump into his van he saw the Hastings train 

coming round the curve beyond the signal-cabin ; that he thought as they were so close to the signal the best thing he could do 

was to apply his break rather than try to attract his driver's attention, and that he accordingly did so, and that they had stopped 

when the collision occurred.

Bennett, the head porter on duty in place of the station-master who was on temporary leave of absence, states I have been 23 

years in the service, and 12 1/2 years head porter at Eastbourne. was acting station master for a fortnight, about two months 

since on the afternoon in question we were busy loading the London train up to 2 o'clock, and there were still several more 

barrow loads of luggage to bring up. I walked front the engine to the tail of the train to see that all was right for starting, and got 

back to" the front break as the last luggage was being put in.”It was then 2.3, and seeing that the train was all right" I blew my 

Whistle for it to start, just as the guard was" closing the doors of his van, not having previously" looked up at the starting-signal. 

The guard then" asked me to look to see that the doors were shut," and this caused me to turn my back to the signal," otherwise I 

might have seen it at danger, and should" then have given the driver the alarm whistle to" stop him."

The station-master stated that he should never give a driver a whistle to start if he saw that the starting-signal was against him, 

and that if he had accidentally done so and saw the driver starting against his signal, he should try to stop him by sharp 


The Company's service time book contains the twoThe fireman of the Hastings train confirms the following rules applicable to 

the starting of train from terminal stations 


Page 108.

Starting of Trains.—General Rule 159.—"Trains " to be started from terminal stations by station-master " or deputy."

" Note.—This rule applies also to junction stations " and staff stations on single lines."

Page 109.

" Starting of Trains from Terminal Stations.— " Guards and drivers are warned not to start their " trains from terminal stations 

until the proper signal " is lowered for them to do so. When the guard gets " the allright' hand-signal from the officer in charge” 

of the station or platform, he must tell the driver to" sound his whistle, and the engine must not be" moved until the proper 

signal is given for the driver" to start his train."

The first of these two rules is a very old one, and appears to apply to stations unprovided with starting-signals, whereas the 

latter, of more modern date, should be the one in force at stations provided with starting signals. This later rule up to the time of 

this collision did not appear to have been in force at Eastbourne, as the station-master or his deputy always started the train by 

whistling to the driver, and though this, of course, did not absolve a driver from the necessity of seeing that his signal was 

lowered before starting. it may have somewhat tended to put him off his pant.

This collision is primarily attributable to the neglect of driver Steel in starting his train before he had assured himself that the 

starting-signal was lowered, and this more particularly as he was running towards a portion of single line upon which he knew 

(or ought to have known) that a train was then due to arrive. He is a man of previously unblemished character, and the fact of 

his getting an all right starting signal front, the head porter may be taken as some extenuation of his conduct on the present 

occasion. The head porter was to blame for giving the starting whistle without first ascertaining that the starting signal was 


The signalman might, I think, have done more than he did towards the prevention of the collision, as he acknowledges to have 

seen the London train in motion when the Hastings train was still some yards from his cabin; it would only have been prudent in 

him in to line called the Hastings driver's attention by hand signal even had he not had time to turn the train through the facing 

points in to the proper arrival line.

The occurrence of this collision should lead to a revision of the rules as to the starting of trains from terminal stations so that 

any possible misinterpretation of these rules may be avoided. 

It would also be desirable that such alterations should he made in the Eastbourne station as to prevent the necessity of incoming 

and outgoing trains running over the same portion of single line; for although this is a practice very customary at busy terminal 

stations and is safe enough so long as properly interlocked signals are obeyed by drivers, it is nevertheless better to avoid any 

chance of collision from single line working when, as at Eastbourne, this may be done as regards the ordinary traffic without 

causing any serious inconvenience. The general manager informs me that he hopes to have these alterations shortly effect and 

also that the position of the starting signals is to be improved.

As long, however, as the present arrangements are continued, it would seem only wise to give a larger margin than one minute 

between the nominal arrival and departure of trains both using this single line. 

Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

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the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


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