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 COLLISION AT STREATHAM COMMON

3rd NOVEMBER 1919

Involving Driver Stratton and Fireman Trigwell depot not known

& Driver May New Cross

extracted and adapted from the report

By J.W. Pringle


A collision which took place about 7.45 p.m. on the 3rd November, between a passenger train and an engine near Streatham, on the London Brighton & South Coast Railway. In this case, the 7.20 p.m. down passenger train (Victoria to Portsmouth) was approaching Streatham Junction South, under clear signals, when it collided with the light engine. Complaints of injury vere received from 40 passengers, of whom a few suffered seriously, and the remainder from bruises or the effects of shock.

The passenger train comprised 10 vehicles, including eight-wheeled bogie carriages, six-wheeled brake van, and 1four-wheeled horse box, in the order named, and was drawn by tank engine D Class No. 248, type 0-4-2. The engine and stock were fitted throughout with the air brake, working blocks upon all wheels, except the centre pair of the six-wheeled vehicle. Tank engine I3 Class No. 24, type 4-4-2, was the light engine concerned. It also was fitted with the air brake, working blocks on the coupled wheels only. Its length over buffers 40 feet 11 inches, and it weighed. In working order, 76 tons. Both engines, and the three leading vehicles of the passenger train, were considerably damaged.


Description.

Streatham Junction South signal-box is placed on the east side of the railway between New Cross, Streatham Station and Mitcham Junction. This double line has a general direction from North-east to South-west, and the eastern of the pair of lines is used for down traffic.

The signal-box controls four double junctions, two on the south and two on the north. The junctions south of the signal-box are with Eardley Carriage Sidings, which lie on the east of the railway, and with the L.B. & S.C. and L. & S.W. Joint Railway from Tooting, which comes in from the west. In both cases the up line junction points are trailing. The junctions north of the signal-box have facing points on the up line. They lead to Spur roads, known as Main and Local respectively, which run in a northerly direction and connect at Streatham North Junction with the up and down main and u p and down local lines of the Company’s main road from Victoria and Battersea to East Croydon.


Conclusion.

The circumstances leading to this collision arose from a misunderstanding, in connection with a telephone message, respecting the destination of light engine No. 24.

II. Shunter Trowbridge gave evidence that, about 7.32 p.m. he telephoned from Eardley Carriage Sidings to Streatham Junction South signal-box, that an engine for Battersea was coming out of the sidings, and that a second engine was following, to be hooked on to the first. He recognised the voice of the signal lad who took his message, and received an acknowledgment. Both engines were carrying a single white lamp, in the centre of the buffer beam, which is the code head light for engines travelling to Battersea. Trowbridge did not tell the driver of the first engine that a second engine would be coupled on to him, as the first passed him before he was aware that there was a second engine also going to Battersea. Yard foreman Smith stated that he heard Trowbridge send the telephone message, to the effect mentioned. Shunter Hyder, also at Eardley Carriage Sidings, heard a telephone message sent by Trowbridge to Streatham Junction South, that there was one engine coming up for Battersea. He only heard one message sent, which must have referred to the second engine (No. 24), of which he was in charge.

Signal lad Fuller, who took Trowbridge's message stated that it was to the effect- Battersea engine coming up, and New Cross engine behind." He did not understand from the message that the engines were to be coupled together, and gave signalman Forster the message as he received it. There was no one else but Forster and Fuller in the signal- box at the time.

Porster said that he received the message from the signal lad about 7.30 p.m. and soon afterwards offered the first light engine to Streatham Junction North, on the up Spur line,and got acceptance. He placed the exit signal (No. 43) from the carriage sidings a t danger immediately the first engine had passed it. This engine carried a single central head light, and passed his post under clear"  signals, without stopping.

At 7.40 p.m. he offered the second light engine to Streatham Station, believing it required to run to New Cross. As it was not immediately accepted, he decided to let the engine forward to his up advance starting signal (No. 19), on the Streatham-New Cross line, and lowered signals Nos.43 and 20. He watched the engine come out of the carriage sidings, saw it also had a Battersea head light, but decided to act upon the message he had received, and let it go forward on the New Cross road. He thought one of the two head lights, which the engine should have been carrying if it was going to New Cross, might have been blown out. He knew this engine came to a standstill outside his post, as the driver came into the signal-box, but he did not observe its position. The driver said he wanted to go to Battersea not to New Cross, and Forster told him to stand where he was for a minute, a s he was busy with the down Portsmouth train, and would see what he could do. Forster had previously (7.37 p.m.) been offered an empty carriage train from Mitcham Junction, and had received immediate acceptance for it on the up Main Spur line from Streatham Junction North. So, in order to save time, he telephoned, about 7.43 p.m., to Streatham North to ask the signalman if he would take the light engine (No. 24), instead of the empty carriage train. Palmer, the signalman in charge at Streatham North, agreed to do so, and kept the signals, which he had lowered for the empty carriage train on the up Main Spur road, clear for the light engine.

The up starting signal towards Streatham Station at Streatham Junction South (No.20), which Forster had lowered for light engine No. 24 to proceed to New Cross, is treadle controlled. In order to change the road for the light engine to travel via the up Main Spur line to Battersea, he had to use his release key to unlock the signal, as the normal release, by operation of the treadle, could not in this case be given. Having done this, he was able to replace No. 20 signal at danger, unlock, reverse, and relock the facing points No. 16, and lower No. 23, his up starting signal for the Main Spur. In accordance with Palmer's evidence he offered Porster the 7.20 p.m. down Portsmouth train on the Main Spur at 7.40 pm., but did not receive acceptance until 7.43 p.m. Forster appearsto have pulled off his down Main Spur signals for the Portsmouth train before lowering No. 23 for light engine No. 24.

III. Driver May, with this light engine, confirmed the evidence given by the shunters, that he was told in the carriage sidings to couple up to the engine which preceded him, but, as he approached the exit signal from the sidings, the first engine moved away, and the signal was put to danger. After a few minutes the exit signal was again dropped, and he Icftu the sidings. His engine was carrying a Battersea code headlight, and about 150 yards from the up starting signals for Streatham Junction South he saw that the right hand signal, applicable to the New cross road was off. He was running engine first, and drove from the left of the footplate. He stopped opposite the signal-box, before passing the gantry carrying the starting gnals, and 6rst of all shouted to the signalman that he was for Battersea and not for New Cross. He did not think it necessary to sound his whistle to attract the signalman's attention. Subsequently however, on account of the noise made by his engine blowing off steam, the youthfulness of his fireman, and because he thought there might be special instructions for him to go to New Cross, he decided to go to the signal-box himself. The signalman eventually told him it was all right for him to run to Battersea. He returned to his engine, saw the starting signal for Streatham Junction North was shewing green light, and gave his engine steam. Almost immediately he noticed the engine was not taking the curve to the left towards Streatham North. Then he saw the Portsmouth train approaching, pulled over the reversing lever, and was reaching for the brake handle when the collision occurred. He stoutly adhered to his statement that he stopped the engine before reaching and on the south side of, the gantry bridge carrying the up starting signals. Triggwell, his fireman, though unable to say definitely where the engine stood, thought it was exactly opposite the steps leading up to the signal- box.

Driver Stratton, with the Portsmouth train, stated that they were almost brought to a standstill at the down home signal for Streatham Junction North, before that signal fell. He gave steam, and the train had attained a speed of about 15 miles an hour, when the shock from the collision made him stagger sideways. His first impression was that his engine was off the road. The rapid retardation of the train, though he was not in a position immediately to use the brake, was due, he afterwards d'scovered, to the donkey pump being torn off by a blow received from the framing of the light engine. He thought the light engine was standing still when the collision happened. His fireman Martin, from the right of the footplate saw the light engine at a distance of about 20 yards, but thought, in the dark, it was standing clear of the road on which they were travelling.

IV. Chief permanent way inspector Taylor examined the facing points leading to the u p Main Spur line at 9.25 p.m., and gauged them. This particular junction was entirely relaid in 1910 with granite ballast. The points were exactly to gauge, and there were no marks of any derailment, or of any sort of disturbance to the points or road. No repair work of any description was found t,o be necessary after the accident either to the points, locking bar, bolt, or detectors.

V. The main point for decision is the actual position of engine No. 24, when Forster reversed the facing points No. 16.  The locking bar for these points extends feet southward of the gantry carrying the up starting signals for Streatham Junction South, and has a total length of 45 feet. The facing switch rails are continuous-with no heels, and it would not be possible to reverse the position of the switches if any wheel were standing, either on the bar, or on the switch rails, within 19 feet of the points. Engine No. 24 has a total wheel base of 31 feet 2 inches, and the greatest interval between any two axles is feet inches The locking in the signal frame makes it necesssry to reverse No. 16 facing points before either the down junction trailing points. the down or the up Main Spur signals, are set. The evidence proves that these signals were lowered. For it to have been possible to reverse the facing points, therefore, the leading wheels of engine No. 24 must have been not less than feet south of the signal bridge, or the trailing wheels not less than 19 feet north of the points. In the first alternative, which is that vouched for by Driver May, when the engine again moved forward, after coming to rest, it would have run on to the up Main Spur line,and the collision would not have happened. The accident was only rendered posslble by engine No. 24 moving on the up Streatham Station line. There can be no doubt therefore that, when the points were reversed, engine No. 24 was standing north of the signal bridge. In fact, the 1encl;ngwheels of the engine must have been 50 feet north of the facing points.

Two alternatives were indeed suggested. The first, that the engine was derailed aft entering the up Main Spur line, and afterwards re-railed on to the up Streatham Station line. But the evidence of chief permanent way inspector Taylor as to the condition of the facing points etc., absolutely negatives this possibility. The second was that May came to standstill south of the signal bridge, but subsequently moved his engine forward before the points were reversed. Against this hypothesis, there is his own evidence, that he saw a green light shown by the starting signal for the up Main Spur road, before he moved his engine. This signal could not be showing a green light, unless the facing points had been reversed.

VI. It was signalman Forster's duty to observe the position of engine No. 24, before he reversed the points. He failed in this respect, and acknowledges his neglect. He observed the engine was carrying a single light, and might perhaps have recognized, from its position in the centre of the buffers, that it could not be one of the two lights carried by New Cross engines, which are placed at the extremities of the buffers. In the circum- stances, he should have stopped the engine, by keeping his up starting signals a t danger.

The evidence with regard to the wording of the telephone message received by signal lad Fuller is in favour of the account given by shunter Trowbridge, but it is not, think, altogether conclusive. An explanation for the contradiction in the evidence upon the point, may perhaps be found in the suggestion that Puller did not wait to hear the end of the telephone message, but assumed that "another engine followingwould necessarily be going to the other Depot-New Cross.

VII. My conclusion on the whole case is, that driver May and signalman Porster are responsible equally for this collision. The first, because he allowed his engine to run past a signal which he knew was not applicable to the direction which his engine required to take, and for his failure to recognized that he was standing on the wrong side of facing points which had to be reversedand the latter, for neglecting to observe the position of the engine before he reversed the road.

VIII. This case illustrates the fact that treadle control of signals, when compared with track circuit, affords little, if any, assistance in detecting the incorrect position of a vehicle, relative to points and signals. It is, think, for the consideration of the Company whether, at such a complicated and busy junction as Streatham, they will not be better served by providing track circuits and track locking.

Other points calling for attention, are minor irregularities in signalling, and arrangements for despatch and disposal of engines from Eardley Carriage Sidings.


 

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