IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

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

 

 

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CLAPHAM JUNCTION

24th DECEMBER 1900

INVOLVING DRIVER STEPHEN UPTON AND 
HIS FIREMAN WILLIAM GROVES (DEPOT UNKNOWN)

DRIVER REUBEN SLARLEY (DEPOT UNKNOWN)

DRVIER JOHN BLISS (DEPOT UNKNOWN)

extracted and adapted from the report by
P.G. Von Donop Lt. - Col., R.E.

On the 24th December 1900, a collision occurred between two passenger trains at Clapham Junction at 8.53 a.m., on the London, Brighton, and South Coast line. In this case, whilst the 8.52 a.m. down train from Clapham Junction to London Bridge, consisting of an engine and 15 vehicles, was standing at No. 8 platform, Clapham Junction, it was run into the rear by the 8.34 down train from Victoria to London Bridge, consisting of an engine and 1 vehicles.
Fortunately the speed of the latter train at the time of the collision was very low, and consequently but little damage was cause thereby. Both trains were carrying a few passengers, but no complaints have been received from any of them of personal injures sustained, not were any of the railway staff in any way injured.
The rear carriage of the 8.52 a.m. train a 3rd class brake van was badly damaged, but no other vehicle of the train was at all injured, and noe of the wheels off the line. Neither the engine of the 8.34 train nor any of its vehicle were at all damaged. The engine of the 8.34 down train was a four wheels couple tank engine, running chimney first, and fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on the six wheels, and with a hand brake working the same blocks. The train was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake, working blocks on four wheels of each vehicle. All the brakes are reported to have been in good working order.

DESCRIPTION

This collision occurred on No.8 platform line, Clapham Junction Station, on the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.
On the up side of this station there are seven lines running into the station in a direction which is north and south. This accident is solely concerned with the outside line on the eastern side known as the down local. It runs into the station alongside No.8 platform.
The signals controlling this line are worked from the Clapham Junction North signal box, which is situated on the east side of the line just to the north of the northern end of the station platforms.
The next signal box in the up direction is Pouparts Junction signal box. The following distances from the Clapham Junction North signal box are noted:-

To Pouparts Junction signal box 931 yards
To Pouparts Junction down local starting signal 819 yards
To Clapham Junction down local distant signal 819 yards
To Pouparts Junction down local advanced starting signal 549 yards
To Clapham Junction down local home signal 167 yards

All the above mentioned points are to the north of the Clapham Junction North signal box, while the point of the collision was just 100 yards to the south of it, alongside No.8 platform. The Clapham Junction down distant signal is on the same post as, and underneath the Pouparts Junction down starting signal.
The line runs nearly straight from Pouparts Junction to Clapham Junction, and on a clear day a driver of a train on the down local line has an excellent view of his signals which are close to thine on his left hand side. The line is on a slightly rising gradient up to Clapham Junction station.
On the morning on which the collision occured it was foggy, and the Clapham Junction fog signalmen had been out since about 4 a.m.
There was a fog signalman stationed both at the Clapham Junction down distant signal post and at the down home signal post. The duty of the fogman at the latter post was to fog the home signals of both the down local and the down main line, which os the next linnet it. For this purpose a fogman’s pit is constructed in the six foot way between these two lines, and the fogman was in this pit when the 8.34 a.m. train passed him on the morning of the collision.

EVIDENCE

William Mitchell, signalman, states: I have been 21 years in the employment of the Company, during 19 years of which I have been a signalman. I am employed at Clapham Junction North signal box, where I have been seven years. I came on duty on the 24th December at 6 a.m. to work till 2 p.m. I came off duty at 10 p.m. on the 22nd. I remember the 8.34 a.m. train Victoria to London Bridge arriving at my box, it passed my box at 8.51. a.m. At that tim the 8.52 a.m. train from Clapham Junction to London Bridge was standing on the down local line at Clapham Junction, it had been there about three minutes. ay 8.49 a.m. the Pouparts Junction offered me the 8.34 a.m. train; I accepted it at once. The rule at Clapham Junction is that if a train is going to stop at the station it may be accepted up to my home signal, even though the station is blocked. The 8.34 a.m. was due to stop at Clapham Junction, and therefore under the above mentioned rule I was justified in accepting it. At the time I accepted the train my home and distant signals were both at danger, and I did not take them off at al as I intended the train to stop at my home signal. The train ran by my box at a speed which I approximately estimate at 15 miles per hour. I did not see the train until it got close to my box, and I had no time to endeavour to attract the driver’s attention. I did not see the collision occur and I did not hear the noise of it. There was a thick fog, it was so thick that I could not see any of my signals from the box. I had two fogmen out for the down local line, they were out when I came on duty at 6 a.m.; one was stationed at the distant signal and one at the home signal. I did not notice whether the driver was trying to stop his train when he passed my box.

John King, plate layer, states: I have been three years in the service of the Company, during which time I have been employed as a platelayer. On the 24th December I was employed as a fogsignalmal at the down home signals at the Clapham Junction North box; I came on duty there at 4.30 a.m. I remember the 8.34 a.m. train from Victoria to London Bridge passing me, it was a little before 9 that it passed me on the down local line; at the time I was in a fog pit between the local and main down lines. At the time the train passed me the down home local signal was at danger, and directly I saw the train going towards me I held up a red flag. The driver did not appear to see me but the fireman did and I shouted to him and waved my red flag. I am quite confident it was the red flag I showed him; I estimate the speed of the train at about 20 miles per hour. It did not appear to slackening speed at the time it passed me. The weather was thick at the time, but at the moment the train passed me I could see all the signals which were opposite to me. The main line down home signal was off and just at that time I could clearly see both it and the local down home signal. At the time the train arrived I was standing facing it, and I held out the red flag in my red hand to stop the 8.34 a.m. train and a green flag in my left hand for the down main line. I had the detonator down on the down local line opposite to me and the train went over local line opposite to me and the train went over it. I am quite certain that my fog signal exploded. When the 8.34 a.m. train passed me, in addition to waving a red flag in my right hand I shouted out “Whoa” as loud as I could several times; the fireman was looking at me but I could not say whether he heard. I remember taking up the red flag the moment I saw the 8.34 a.m. train approaching; previous to that I had only had a green flag in my left hand for the light engines.

Stephen Upton, driver, states. I have been 16 years in the service of the Company, just over two years of which I have been a passed driver. On the morning of the 24th December I was driving the 8.34 a.m. train Victoria to London Bridge. My engine was a four wheels coupled tank engine, running chimney first, fitted with the Westinghouse brake working blocks on all six wheels, and with a hand brake working the blocks of the same wheels; the brakes were in good working order. I remember my train arriving at Pouparts Junction signal box a little after 8.50 a.m. I remember passing Pouparts Junction starting signal; the signal was off for me, but the distant which was under it, was against me. It was very foggy at the time but I was able to see both of the above signals. I saw the frogman at that signal post and I heard a detonator go off; I knew the detonator meant that the distant was against me. After running over the detonator I brought my train very nearly to a standstill and allowed it to run on to the advance starting signal. The advance starting signal was off when I approached it, I could see it myself. I then gave the engine steam and travelled on slowly to the home signal; I could not see the home signal myself on account of the fog, nor did I see the frogman although I looked out for him. Just before I got to the signal post my mate said to me “All right mate, I have a green flag,” I did not see the green flag myself but I accepted my fireman’s word and removed the brake and let the train run steadily on into the station; when we passed the down home signal I estimate the speed at about 5 or 6 miles per hour, and I think my speed was about the same when I passed the north box. When I passed the down home signal I did not hear a detonator go off, none did go off; I am certain on that point. Just after I had passed the signal box a porter shouted out “Look out,” and I at once applied the brake. By the time I applied the brake I could see a train on front of me, but before I could bring my train quite to a standstill I struck the rear van of it; at the time of the collision I was nearly at a standstill. No damage was done to my engine nor to myself. It was the Westinghouse brake that I applied and my mate applied the hand brake; the brakes appeared to act well. I came on duty on the 24th at 3 a.m. to work till 2.45 p.m. I had not been on duty on the 23rd at all. After I had passed the down home signal I looked back and I was then able to see one of the down signals was off, but which of the two I could not say. Having heard a detonator at the distant signal I was on the look out for one at the home signal but did not hear one go off. I estimate that I was about 60 feet from the train in front of me when I saw it.

William Groves, fireman, states; I have been 3 1/2 years in the service of the Company, during the last year of which I have been a fireman. On the 24th December I was on duty with driver Upton and was on the 8.34 a.m. train with him; I was working the same hours as he was and I had not been on duty the day previous. I remember my train arriving at Pouparts Junction, and I remember that the starting signal was off for us but the distant underneath it was against us. I did not see any frogman at that signal but I heard a detonator go off. Our train ran on to the advance starting signal with steam shut off; the brake were applied as we got near the signal. The weather at the time was very foggy, but I had been able to see the starting signal and the distant signal when we passed them, and I was also able to see the advance starting signal when we passed it. I calculate that we ran at about 10 to 12 miles per hour between the advance starting signal and the home signal; at all events the brake was being applied all the time. When we arrived at the home signal my mate nearly brought the train to a standstill. I looked out on my side of the engine and saw the fogman in a pit between the local line and the main line; the frogman was facing towards us and he was waving a green flag in his right hand which was nearest me. i do not remember what he was doing with the left hand, but I am quite sure he was waving a green flag in his right hand; I could not see the home signal on account of the fog. I turned to my mate and said “All right. the fogman is waving us a green flag”; the driver released the the brake and gave the engine more steam and we ran on to the signal box. I think we passed the signal at about 4 miles per hour. When we passed the fogman no detonator exploded, on that point I am quite positive. The first I knew of a train being in front of us was a porter shouting to my mate, the driver shut off steam and applied his brake and I applied my hand brake; we had very nearly stopped when the collision occurred. The brakes appeared to act very well. I was very close indeed to the fogman  before I could see him; he shouted out something to me but I did not know what he said; I told my mate that the fogman was shouting but I could not hear what he said. At the time I first sighted the train in front of me the engine had steam but we were not travelling at more than about 4 or 5 miles per hour. When I first sighted the train in front of me it was, I think about 14 or 16 yards distant. At this time the regulator was only slightly over.

Frederick Keates, guard, states: I have been 11 in the service of the Company, during 9 years of which I have been a passenger guard. On the 24th December I came on duty at 6.40 a.m. to work till 12.30 p.m. I was the front guard of the 8.34 a.m. train, Victoria to London Bridge, and I was riding in the front van which was the fourth vehicle of the train. The train consisted of an engine and 13 vehicles.
I was riding in the third class brake. All the above vehicle were four wheeled, and the train was fitted with the Westinghouse brake working blocks on all wheels; the brake was in good order. When we passed Pouparts Junction, I did not myself see the signals, and I did not hear any detonator go off. At the Clapham Junction home signal I did not see any signals at all, and I heard no detonator go off. I estimate our speed on passing Pouparts Junction at 10 miles per hour. I think we passed the Clapham Junction home signal at about 7 ,miles per hour. I did not see the fogman, and I did not look out at all; I was voting my waybills all the time. I am aware of the rule that the first duty of the guard is to look after the passengers, but I did nothing at all in that respect before arriving at Clapham Junction. I calculate that the speed of my train at the time of the collision was about 4 or 5 miles per hour. I did not feel the shock of the collision; I thought we had not stopped in the ordinary way. No damage was done to my train, and none of the wheels were off the line. I noticed that the driver applied the Westinghouse brake two or three carriage lengths before we stopped; I did not notice whether he applied it before that. We left Battersea Park station at 8.48 a.m., and arrived at Clapham Junction station at 8.53 a.m. I remember having a conversation with linesman Heasman on our arrival at Clapham Junction station. Heasman said to me “They shot you twice, I heard them,” I replied I heard nothing. I have heard linesman Heasman’s version of the conversation read to me, and I say it is absolutely false; there was nobody near at the time who overhead our conversation. I still maintain I did not hear a detonator explode on passing the home signal, nor on passing Pouparts Junction starting signal.

Heasman, telegraph linesman, states: I been between eight and nine years in the service of the Company, during six years I have been employed as a linesman. I was travelling, on the 24th December, in the 8.34 a.m. train Victoria to London Bridge; I was in a third class carriage next to the engine. I got into the train at Battersea Park station. When we passed Pouparts Junction starting signal I heard a detonator go off, I did not, however, look at the signal. I do not remember passing the advance starting signal. When we passed the Clapham Junction home signal, I remember hearing a detonator go off; I am quite certain a detonator went off, and I am quite sure we were passing the home signal at the time. I know this road well as it is part of my section, and travel over it a great deal. I did not look out of the train, so I did not see either the signal or the fogman, but I am quite certain that a detonator went off; the train did not appear to slacken speed after the detonator went off. I knew nothing about the collision until it actually occurred. I cannot give any idea as to what our speed was after passing the home signal, but it seemed to me to be the ordinary speed. I felt the shock of the collision slightly. I noticed that the train slackened slightly as it ran into the platform, but it did not come to a standstill before the collision occurred. As I jumped out of the third class carriage, guard Keates jumped out of the brake which was a few carriages behind. As he ran up I said to him, “Did you not hear the fogs go off?” And he replied “Yes.” We ran steadily from Pouparts Junction to Clapham Junction north box. I am absolutely certain that the detonator went off under our engine, and that no other detonator went off near there at the time.

George Ewbank, porter states: I have been seven years in the service of the Company, and I am stationed at Clapham Junction. On the morning of the 24th December I was walking along the permanent way towards Clapham Junction north signal box. I saw the 8.34 a.m. train approaching Clapham Junction station on the down local line, and I saw that the 8.52 a.m. train was standing on the down local line in front of it. I gave the driver a signal with both hands and called out to him to stop; he seemed to hear me, and I saw him apply the brake at once; I saw the collision actually occur. When I first saw the 8.34 a.m. train it was just passing the north box, and I sae it was at that time going about 10 miles per hour. At the moment when the collision occurred it had come very nearly to a stand. It was very thick at the time, and I could not see more than about 20 yards. I did not notice any fog signals go off at the time.

Reuben Starley, driver, states: I have been about 17 1/2 years in the Company’s service, during 1 3/4 years of which I have been a driver. On the 24th December I was driving a light engine which ran coupled with another light engine through Clapham Junction to Balham; we passed through Clapham Junction about 8.45 a.m. it was a very foggy morning, and my engine was in front of the other engine. As far as I remember the starting signal at Pouparts Junction was off for me as well as distant signal which was underneath it; I do not recollect seeing the fogman at that point. As far as I can remember the advance starting signal was off for me, and also the home signal at Clapham Junction, but I cannot recollect positively whether I saw a fogman at the home signal or not. It was foggy, in fact it was very thick, but I was able to see all my signals. I do not recollect there being a train on the down local line at that point.

John Bliss, driver, states: I have been 19 years in the service the Company, during 17 of which I have been a driver. On the morning of the 24th December, I was driving a light engine from Battersea Yard to Sutton; we ran as far as Balham coupled to a goods engine which was in front of us. I remember passing Clapham Junction; we passed Clapham Junction between 8.53 and 8.55 a.m. It was foggy, but not a dense fog, and I was able to see my signals all the way down from a distance of 50 to 100 yards. I remember passing the Pouparts Junction starting signal, which was off for me, as well as the distant signal which was underneath it. I remember also, passing the advance starting signal which was also off for me; all these signals I saw clearly. I did not see a fogman at Pouparts Junction, as I could see all my signals and did not look for him. When I arrived at Clapham Junction home signal both home and distant signals were off for me, and I could see them though not so clearly as I had seen the Poupart Junction signals. I did not see the fogman at this point either, as seeing the signals were all right, I did not look for him. When I was about 50 yards off the north signal box, I saw the tail of a train on the down local line. As we passed through Clapham Junction, we saw a train standing at No.8 platform, and both my mate and myself remarked at the same time “that man has run into the tail of the other one.”

CONCLUSION      

From the above evidence it seems quite certain that the Clapham Junction down home signal was at danger when the 8.34 a.m. down train passed it and this collision was there due to the fact of Driver Upton passing this signal at danger.
The circumstances however under which driver Upton did so, are not quite clear, the evidence on the subject is very contradictory.
Driver Upton himself states that owing to the fog, he was unable to see the Clapham Junction home signal, though he admits that he had been able to see the previous signals, and, that he was quite aware that the distant signal; had been against him when he passed it. On approaching the home signal, however, his fireman informed him that the fogman was showing them a green flag to proceed, so acting on this information he allowed his engine to go forward into the station. He positively asserts that no detonator exploded under his engine when passing the home signal, though one had done so at the distant signal.
               
Fireman Groves, who was on the right side of the engine, and therefore on the side of the fog signalman, states that on approaching the home signal, he looked out and saw that fogman was facing him and was waving a green flag in his right hand. He accordingly informed his driver of the fact. He further asserts that no detonator exploded under the engine when passing the home signal. He admits that the fogman shouted out something to him as he passed, and that he was unable to hear what it was, but seeing the green flag he considered that it was clearly intended for them to proceed.
On the other hand fog signalman King states that previous to the arrival of the 8.34 a.m. train, he had been standing in his pit facing the direction in which down trains would come. In this position he had the main line on his left and the local line on his right. The home signal on therein light was off for two light engines which were expected, and he had therefore a green flag in his left had ready to signal them on, but the home signal for the local line was at danger. He suddenly saw the 8.34 a.m. train approaching on the local line, so he states that he at once snatched up the red flag in his right hand and waved it. He positively asserts that a detonator was at that time on the local line, and that it exploded as the engine passed over it.
As regards the signal which the fireman received from the fog signalman, no further evidence than that of those two men can be obtained, and it is impossible to say which of them should be held responsible for the misunderstanding which occurred between them.
But as regards the explosion of the detonator there is also the evidence of telegraph linesman Heasman. This man was riding in the carriage next to the engine, and he states that he is thoroughly  acquainted with this portion of the line, as it forms part of his own section. He positively asserts that detonator exploded under the engine when it passed the home signal. He further states that on arriving at Clapham Junction station he at once jumped out of his carriage, and the meeting guard Keates, he said to him did you not hear the fogs go off? He asserts that guard Keates replied Yes.
Guards Keates, however, who was riding in the fourth carriage from the engine positively denies having made the above statement, and states that he did not hear any detonator explode at the home signal. As however he did not hear one explode at the distant signal, where one undoubtedly did do so, no importance need be attached to his statement. This witness, though he was in the front guard of the train, was unable to give any evidence at all concerning either the signals or the explosion of detonators, and though there was a fog on at the time, he did not take any steps at all to assist in looking after the safety of his train.
On the whole it appears to me to be most probable that the statements of the fog signalman and of the telegraph linesman that a detonator did explode under the engine, when passing the home signal, are correct.
It was though that possibly the driver of the two light engines, which passed the drivers of the two light engines, which passed the home signal on the main line just ofter the 8.34. a.m. had passed the same point on the local line, might be able to give some evidence as to the flag signals given by the fog signalman, who, it will be remembered, was in a pit between the two lines and was fogging the home signals of both lines. They were therefore sent for to attend the inquiry.
Neither of them could however give any information on the point mentioned above, but they both gave the same reason for not bing able to do so, viz., that the fog was not thick enough at the time to prevent them seeing their signals, and that therefore they had no need to look out for figments signals at all. These men were further from their home signals than driver Upton was, and their evidence is corroborated by fog signalman King, who states that the moment he saw the 8.34 train approaching he looked up, and  was at that time able to see that the down local home signal was at danger. There appears therefore to be no reason why driver Upton should not himself have seen that his home signal was at danger.
On the whole I cannot therefore help being of that if driver Upton and fireman Groves had carried out their duties with proper care, they would have known that the home signal was against them, and this collision must therefore be attributed to want of care on their part. They had both on duty six hours at the time of the accident.
No blame appears to attach to any other servants of the Company.       

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