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31st DECEMBER 1888

Involving New Cross Driver John Turnbull & his Fireman William James Cook.

Driver Charles Butterfield & Fireman Henry Sawyers Depot Unknown


by C.H. Hutchinson

A collision occurred on the 31st December at Norwood Junction station, on the main line of the London, Brighton, and South 

Coast Railway. In this case, during a dense fog, while the London Bridge portion of the 7 p.m.down passenger train from 

London Bridge for Hastings was standing (unknown to the signalman) at the advanced-signal for the down main line at 

Norwood Junction station, the rearmost vehicle was struck by an unattached engine which the signalman was permitting to 

cross from a siding on the up side of the line to the down local line on its way from Norwood junction, where it had just finished 

its day’s work, to its home at West Croydon.

Eighteen passengers have complained of injury.

The driver of the unattached engine was also slightly injured.

The collision occurred at 7.40 p.m.

The passenger train consisted of a tank-engine (running coal-bunker· in front), two composite carriages, third-class carriage, 

brake-van, third-class carriage, composite carriage, brake-van, and continental luggage van, eight vehicles in all, fitted through- 

out with the Westinghouse brake, and in it the luggage van was knocked off the rails and damaged; a third-class carriage, two 

composite carriages, and the rear brake-van were slightly damaged.

The unattached engine, a tank-engine, running chimney first, did not leave the rails, but received some slight damage.


At the south side of Norwood Junction st:~tion, and 150 yards south of the down starting-signals, which are at the south end of 

the platforms, is situated the south signal-cabin containing 84 working levers properly interlocked, and six block telegraph 

instruments. ‘the cabin is placed between the down local line and down main line, to the west of which latter are the up main 

and up local lines, and a siding on which and nearly opposite to the cabin the unattached engine was standing. The starting-

signal for the down main line and the down distant-signal for Fork junction (the next block station to the south of Norwood 

junction), which is a lower arm on the same post, are 150 yards north of the signal-cabin, and the advanced signal for the down 

main line is· 250 yards on the south side of the signal-cabin, and is close to the south side of an overbridge, which prevents this 

signal from being seen from the foot-plate of an engine when nearer to it than about 30 yards. To make the road for the engine 

to cross from the up siding to the down local line involved the movement of three point- levers, of three disc signal-levers. and 

of the advanced signal-lever for the down local line, and the movement of these levers could not be commenced until the 

down advanced-signal for the main line had been put to danger after having been off for the Hastings train.

The collision occurred about 150 yards south of the signal-cabin, or l00 yards north of the down advanced main line signal, the 

unattached engine having travelled about 160 yards from the place whence it is started.

The fog ha.d been very dense during the day, and fog-signalmen had been employed, one at the down starting-signals, and 

another between the signal-cabin and these signals; but the fog having cleared about 5 o'clock, the services of the fog-signalmen 

were then dispensed with. On the fog again becoming dense, the signalman about 6.45 p.m.asked for the return of the man 

working between the signal-cabin .and the starting· signals. This man did not, however, make his appearance till nearly 8 


As the use of the advanced-signals is abandoned (except in special cases) in foggy weather, it is not customary Temploy fog-

signalmen at these signals.


1. John Turnbull, driver ; 43 years’ service, 40 years driver, 23 years on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway. I 

commenced work on the 3lst December at 6.30 a.m., to sign off nt 9.30 p.m. At 6.48 a.m. I took a train from London Bridge to 

Streatham and back, arriving at London Bridge at 7.53. Then at 8.48 took a circular train from London Bridge through 

Streatham and back by Norwood junction to London Bridge, returning at 9.16. I then took an empty train at 9.30 to New Cross, 

and was then engaged in shunting at New Cross from 10 a.m. to 4.30 p.m., standing idle sometimes an hour or an hour and a 

half. I then went light to East Croydon, arriving at p.m. ; remained there waiting for a train till 6.8, went thence to London at 

6.28 p.m., and was then attached to the 7 p.mHastings train to run it as far as Croydon, where I should have remained to bring 

up the 8.3 p.m. train to London Bridge, after which I should return light to New Cross, leaving work at about 9.30 p.m. This 

day's work only occurs once in three weeks, the week's work not averaging more than 60 hours. I left London Bridge with the 

London Bridge portion of the Hastings train at 7.2 p.m. two minutes late. My engine was No. 10, a six-wheeled tank-engine, 

with the leading nod driving wheels coupled, running coal-bunk first, the train consisting of eight vehiclesincluding 5 

carriages, two brake-vans, and a “Grande Vitesse'' van at the rear of the train. The train was fitted throughout with the 

Westinghouse  brake. I was first stopped at Bricklayers’ Arms junction, and after that at every signal. The fog was thick in 

London, and became thicker the further we went, but I found no fog-signalmen out, and exploded no fog-signals. I managed to 

see all the signals as far as Norwood Junction, where I arrived at 7.32 p.m., and, after standing new the starting signal for two or 

three minutes, it was lowered, and I at once went ahead, and after passing the signal-box the fog suddenly increased in 

thickness, and I could only just make out where I was when I reached the bridge. above which are the advanced-signals. I 

stopped with the engine under the bridge about a minute to try and make out the position of the down advanced main line signal, 

the distant-signal from Fork Junction, below the starting-signal having been at danger. The fireman got off the engine and 

walked back to see if he could make out the signal from the up side of the bridge, and I opened the whistle just as he did so to 

attract anybody’s attention ; the fireman had got back about three carriage lengths when the collision occurred, without any 

warning, I not having heard any movement or whistle of an engine previously. The blow moved my engine forward about two 

yards. The rear vehicle was knocked off the road. I scarcely felt the blow on the engine. The fog was so dense at this time that

could hardly see a yard. I aaware that as a rule the advanced-signals are not used in cases of fog, but I was anxious to make 

out what the present one was showing as the next signal was the home signal for Fork junction, which has a distant-signal below 

it from Windmill junction. I do not think more than three minutes had elapsed from the time of my leaving the platform at 

Norwood junction to the collision ; two minutes had been consumed in running down to the bridge. I saw the signal-box as I 

past it, but it did not occur to me till afterwards that I had better have stopped there to inquire about the road. I thought as I had 

seen the starting-signal so I should be able to see the advanced-signal, but this the suddenly increased thickness of fog prevented 

my doing.

2. William James Cook, fireman ; 11 years service, nine years fireman.- I have been with Turnbull seven or eight months, and 

was with him on the 31st December as fireman of No. 10 engine. I agree with Turnbull’s evidence up to our arriving at Norwood 

junction. We were detained at the starting-signal about three minutes, and I saw it drop, but the distant-signal from Fork 

junction, which is underneath the starting-signal, remained at danger. We then started nod went slowly on and stopped under the 

bridge trying to make out the advanced signal, but we could not see it on account of the thickness of the fog. As soon as we 

stopped I said, “ I had better get off and go back to see if I can make the signal out," and I had gone back on the left side as far 

as the back of the first carriage, when the collision occurred. I had heard no whistle or movement of the light engine before this, 

but Turnbull had whistled as I got off the foot-plate, and was walking back. We saw the signal-box as we passed it. I think about 

two minutes had elapsed from our leaving the platform to that of the collision. My train was moved forward about half a 

carriage length.

3. George Higgs, guard ; 14 years service, 11 1/2 years guard.- I was guard of the London Bridge portion of the 6 p.m. train for 

Hastings on the 31st December. It consisted of composite, composite, third-class, brake- van, third-class, composite, brake-

van,’’Grande Vitesse” van, eight vehicles in all. I was riding in the seventh vehicle from the engine. We left three minutes late, 

were stopped two minutes at New Cross, had a clear run to Penge rear-signal, where we were stopped, and then again at Penge 

station and Anerley, and at Norwood junction we were stopped three minutes. The fog was very thick at Norwood Junction, 

having increased after leaving Penge. I could not see the starting signal at Norwood Junction, which we left at 7.36, and i 

thought we were going clear away; but instead of this the driver ran slowly down to the bridge and stopped there. About 1 1/2 to 

two minutes after this the light engine struck the end of the “Grande Vitesse” van. I could hear an engine moving, but did not 

know where it was till it struck. I was looking out of the near side when the collision happened. I was knocked down but not 

seriously hurt. The “Grande Vitesse” van was knocked off the rails, and my van was buffer locked with the carriage in front of 

it. At this time I could not see a lamp light more than two yards. I heard no whistle from my engine. The collision took place 

about 7.38 p.m.

4. Edward Vickery, signalman; 27 years’ service, 23 years signalman. - I have been employed 14 months in Norwood Junction 

south cabin, where I came on duty on December 31st at 2 p.m. to remain till 10 p.m. I have an assistant signalman, and a train 

signal clerk working with me. The fog when I came on duty was thick, and fog signalmen were employed as regards the main 

down line, one at No. 84 down starting-signal, one between No. 84 and the cabin for shunting purposes, but none at the 

advanced-signal, as it is not used in foggy weather. The fog cleared about o'clock, and the fog-men were sent away. It came on 

again about 6.20 p.m., but I did not think it necessary to ask for them again at once, thinking the fog might again disperse, but 

about 6.45 p.m. I sent a message to the north box, asking for the shunting fog-signalman, who did not turn up till 7.59 p.m. The 

train which left Norwood junction at 7.30 p.m. arrived aFork junction at 7.32 p.m. The Hastings train was given in a second 

time from the north box at 7.12 p.m., and it arrived about 7.33 or 3l p.m. I signalled the train on to Fork at 7.32 p.m., but it was 

not accepted till 7.35 p.m., and I lowered the starting-signal at that time; the advanced-signal being already off and not in use on 

account of the fog since 6.30 p.m. The Hastings train passed the box at 7.37 p.m., and I thought the train was going right away, 

and I supposed it had done so. At about 7.39 p.m. I prepared the crossing, for a light engine to cross from the up sidings and the 

down local line on its way to West Croydon, and to do this I put No. 83 advance-signal to danger, moved Nos. 25, 27, and 28 

points, .Nos. 53, 49, nod  22 discs, and No. 60 advanced-signal for the down  local line. I then went to the window, called to the 

driver, and told him to start, and the engine came across and struck the tail of the Hastings train at 7.40 p.m. I heard the noise, 

and at first thought the engine was off the line, till one of the goods foremen came and told me what had really occurred. I could 

just see the engine before it started across at a distance of from 10 to 15 yards. I think that the Hastings driver ought to have 

known the advanced-signal was off when he started from the platform, as the advanced- signals are not used in fogs. I have 

never known any other driver stop under similar circumstances at the advanced-signal. Drivers sometimes ask as they pass the 

box whether they may go on. Supposing the fog-signalman had arrived, I should not have used him for this operation with the 

light engine. did not hear any whistle from the engine of the passenger train just before the collision.

5. Charles Butterfield, driver ; 15 years service, 13 years driver.- I commenced work on December 31, at a.m., to sign off at 

p.m. This is my usual day's work for fiye days a week. have no time to myself during the day. I arrived at Norwood junction at 

about 6.40 p.m. with the 5.10 p.m. goods train from Epsom, and I was ready to start back for West Croydon, where the engine is 

stabled, at 7.20 p.m. At about 7.40 p.m. I found the road set for me to cross from the up sidings to the down local line ; the 

signalman shouted to me “ Start," and I did knocked off the rails, and my engine stopped dead with all its wheels on the rails. 

was hurt in the side, and was on the sick list for three days. The fireman was not hurt. could not cross clear of the van, but went 

back into the siding. could see the lights in the signal-cabin, and the signalman when I started: this would be a distance of 

about 12 yards. My engine was a six-wheeled tank-engine, running chimney first. heard no whistle from the engine of the 

passenger train just as I started.

6. Henry Sawyers, fireman; 14 years service, 12years fireman.-I corroborate my driver’s evidence, as read over to me.


This collision, during a dense fog which, after having temporarily dispersed, suddenly reappeared on the evening of the 31st 

ult., was brought about by Turnbull, the driver of the passenger train, having, unknown to the signalman, stopped his train at the 

down advanced main line signal. On starting from Norwood Junction station, where the train had been detained two or three 

minutes, Turnbull saw the starting-signal lowered, but the distant-signal from Fork junction (a lower arm on the same post as 

the starting-signal) at danger; under ordinary circumstances the next signal at which he might be stopped was the down 

advanced-signal, 400 yards south of the starting-signal. Turnbull knew that as a rule advanced-signals are not used in fog, and 

are therefore always kept off; but thinking that, as he had seen the starting-signal, so he would be able to see the advanced-

signal, forgetting that the latter was more difficult to be seen on account of the bridge to the north of it, he drew slowly down to 

it, and, failing to see it, stopped under the bridge, and sent his fireman back to try and get a sight of it; the fireman had got back 

as far as the rear end of the first vehicle, when the last vehicle in the train-a luggage van-standing foul of the crossing on which 

the unattached engine was running from the up siding to the down local line, was struck by that engine and was knocked off the 


One cannot blame Turnbull for his wish to make sure of the indication of the advanced-signal, as although these signals are 

ordered not to be used in fogs for the purpose of standing trains at them, there is no authority to drivers to pass them should they 

happen to be at danger. and there must always be an element of uncertainty as to whether the density of a fog is sufficient to 

warrant their disuse or not; and I certainly think that no advanced-signal should in foggy weather be passed by a driver unless he 

can see that it is off, or is so informed by a signalman or fog-signalman. Turnbull's wiser course would have been, instead of 

stopping under the bridge, to ask the signalman as he passed his cabin whether the advanced-signal wasoff; he should also have 

whistled more vigorously than he appears to have done whenstanding under the bridge, as the whistle he says he gave was heard 

by no one but his own fireman.

Nor can one attach much blame to signalman Vickery for allowing the unattached engine to cross before making sure that the 

passenger train was clear of the crossing. He had allowed sufficient time for the train to pass the advanced-signal before putting 

it to danger; and after this he had to move seven levers before permitting the engine to start across. Vickery would, however, 

have acted with more judgment had he sent0110 of his assistants to see that f.he crossing was actually clear before allowing the 

engine to cross.

Turnbull is an experienced driver of 23 years service on the Brighton railway; he had come on duty at 6.30 a.m., to sign off 

about 9.30 p.m , and had been at work , about 13 hours when the collision occurred. This long day's work occurs, he informed 

me, only once in three weeks, his week's work averaging 60 hours. It is much to be. desired that some arrangement could be 

made by which even for one day in three weeks a driver should not be employed for 15 consecutive hours, though even during 

these hours he may have spare intervals.

Vickery is a signalman of 23 years’ service, and had been on duty about five and half hours at the time of the collision.

There is no blame to be attached to Butterfield, the driver of the unattached engine.

The fog was admittedly so dense that he was unable to see the back lights on the rear van of the Hastings train before his engine 

struck it at a speed of about six miles an hour. .

Butterfield had been on duty nearly 13 hours (his ordinary day's work for five days in the week) when the collision occurred. 

Sixty-five hours' work in the week would be long even if equally spread over six days, but they are decidedly objectionable 

when divided between only five days.

To guard against the recurrence in fog of collisions of this nature it is desirable that no crossings should be allowed to take place 

while trains are running between block telegraph stations.

In consequence of the difficulty of seeing. the down advanced-signals at Norwood Junction when getting near to them, it is 

desirable that they should be supplied with lower arms for sight under the bridge, which now impedes their view.

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