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Windmill Bridge Junction 

13th November 1922 

Involving Driver Walter White and his Fireman Peters

Driver John Scutt and his Fireman Lawes

extracted and adapted from a report by

G.L. Hall, Major

A accident which occurred at about 9.25 a.m. on the 13th November, at Windmill Bridge Junction, near Croydon, on the main line of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. In this case, while the 8.42 a.m. train from Coulsdon to Victoria was travelling over the junction, the engine and the first three coaches were derailed at the movable diamond crossing over the down line. Two pairs of wheels were derailed in the case of the third vehicle, and in the case of the other coaches and the engine all wheels were derailed. There were fortunately no personal injuries as a result of the accident.

The damage to the engine and stock was not serious, but included a bent bogie me in the third vehicle, a broken axle box, two broken bolster springs and the body shifted of the second vehicle, and two headstocks bent and two side-springs buckled in the first vehicle.

The train was drawn by engine No. 172, 0-4-2 type, with six-wheeled tender, al weight in working order 68 1/4 tons, and consisted of eight eight-wheeled bogie coaches weighing in all 164 1/2 tons. It was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake.

There was another train concerned in this case, although not involved in the, accident, namely the 8.10 a.m. train from Brighton, drawn by engine No. 330, 4-6-4 type tank; running chimney first, and weighing in working order 98 1/2 tons. is train was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake, and consisted of seven eight-wheeled bogie coaches, one eight-wheeled Pullman car and one six-wheeled brake; the last named being marshalled fourth from the engine. Its total weight s just 200 tons.

There was a thick fog on the morning in question.


The railway in the locality runs approximately north and south. Between East Croydon and Windmill Bridge Junction the railway consists of five running roads and the alignment is on an easy curve eastward. These roads, from east to west, as follows :-down relief, down main, up main, down local and up local. The and down local lines are continued on a curve westward to form the up and down main lines to Victoria via Selhurst, and the down relief and the up and down main lines continue on a curve eastward north of the signal box in the direction of Norwood Junction.

Among other connections controlled from the junction signal box are the following :-

(a)A double junction south of the signal box between the up and down local lines, and a double line diverging westward towards Gloucester Road Junction, thereafter passing under the up and down main lines to Selhurst on a curve eastward.

(b) A double junction between the up and down main lines and the up and down Selhurst (local) lines, with facing points upon the up main line south of the junction signal box and upon the down Selhurst line north of the signal box. These double junction lines cross the down (Selhurst) and up (Norwood Junction) lines by way of a pair of worked diamond crossings.

The junction up home signals are carried on a bridge astride the running roads immediately south of the Gloucester Road Junction points, and the up distant signals are also carried upon a similar signal bridge a short distance north of East Croydon Station. 

Measured from the centre of Windmill Bridge Junction signal box, which is situated between the up local (Selhurst) line and the down Gloucester Road Sun line, the approximate distances to the various points, etc., concerned, are as follows:-

Double junction between Selhurst and main lines. 

Facing points on down Selhurst line (No. 20) 70 yards North

Trailing points on up Selhurst line (No. 22) 70 yards North

Worked diamond crossings over down Selhurst and up Norwood Junction lines  70 yards North

Facing points on up main line (No. 23) 74 yards South

Trailing points on down main line (No. 21) 74 yards South

Front of the engine of the derailed train after coming to rest straddled between the up and down Selhurst lines 57 yards North

Leading end of the engine of the Brighton train after coming to rest-on Gloucester Road Junction line 73 yards South

Double junction between up and down local lines and Gloucester Road Junction line. 100 yards South

Facing points on up local line (No. 26) 100 yards South
Trailing points on down local line (No. 25)
100 yards South

Up home signal bridge 107 yards South

Junction distant signal bridge 700 yards South

East Croydon North signal box 830 yards South

The normal lie of the points mentioned above is as follows:-NO. trailing and No. 23 facing points lie normally for the straight run on the lines, that is, towards Norwood Junction. No. 20 facing and No. 22 tra points lie normally for the straight run, that is, from the local to the Selhurst KO.25 trailing and No. 26 facing points lie normally for the Gloucester Road Junction line. The worked diamonds are in both cases controlled by the same lever as relative trailing points, that is, Nos. 21 and 22, and therefore lie normally for straight run. Traffic on this section of the road is worked on the lock.

In addition there are the usual facing point bolt locks and bars worked separate levers, with the normal interlocking between these and the signals will be seen, the junction locking is such that there is no lock between the up to Selhurst home signal and No. 23 facing points.

The fog-signalling arrangements are as follows :-

There are two fog-signalmen stationed at the up home signal bridge, upon which are carried the distant signals for the block posts concerned in the northerly direction and also the down distant signals for Croydon North. One of these two men is stationed on the east side of the railway, his post being about 77 feet north of the up home signal bridge. This fogging post is equipped with a two-lever Clayton machine with rodding running to detonator placers, (a) on the up main line 46 feet south of the signal bridge, and (b) on the down main line 62 feet north of the signal bridge. Upon the down relief line, for which this man is also responsible, detonators are placed by hand. The other fog-signalman at this location is posted immediately under the bridge west of the railway and is responsible for the up and down local lines, placing the detonators on the former by hand and upon the latter by a Clayton machine with a detonator placer 17 feet north of the signal bridge. The fog-signalman responsible for the junction up distant signals concerned is posted upon the west side of the railway.

The railway from East Croydon to the junction is on a continuously falling gradient, varying between 1 in 200 and 1 in 450 


The actual cause of the derailment was t'he fact that the train ran over No. 22 diamond crossing, which is of the worked type, when it was set for the straight road instead of for the direction from which the train approached it. Under these conditions derailment is practically inevitable.

The circumstances in which this state of affairs arose are described in the following narrative based upon the evidence of the men concerned.

The morning in question was sufficiently foggy to necessitate the calling out of fog-signalmen, who reported for this duty in the area concerned at about 9 a.m. Further down the line the fog appears at this time to have been denser than it was at Windmill Bridge Junction and the fog-signalmen were at their posts earlier. Up to and after the time of the accident the density of the atmosphere at the junction increased, the fog apparently advancing in a nortlierly direction from Croydon.

The two trains concerned in this case, that is, the 8.32 a.m. from Coulsdon which was derailed, and the 8.10 a.m. from Brighton, were both running late. At 9.19 a.m. the latter was offered to and accepted by signalman Timblick on duty at Windmill Bridge ,Junction on the up local line. At this time No. 26 facing points, leading from the up local to the Gloucester Road Junction line, were pulled, that is, they were lying for the straight run to Selhurst, in the position in which they had been set for the previous movement. The trailing junction points and diamonds (No.22 lever) were normal. At the same booked time Timblick accepted a down train from Victoria via Selhurst to Portsmouth on to the down main line, which necessitated the reversing of No. 20 facing points and also of No. 21 trailing junction points and diamonds. The locking in the frame, already described, necessitates also No. 23 (upmain) facing points being pulled for the crossing before No. 20 lever can be reversed. At 9.21 a.m., two minutes before this down train passed, the 8.42 a.m. train from Coulsdon vas offered to Timblick. Before accepting it he replaced No. 26 points to normal, leaving No. 23 points over ; and after giving the acceptance, pulled No. 22 trailing points and diamond, so as to accord with the setting of No. 23 facing points. At this stage, therefore, the roads were set as follows :-From up main to up Selhurst via, Nos. 23 facing points and 22 diamonds and trailing points both reversed ; and from up local to Gloucester Road Junction via No.26 facing points normal. The acceptance of the two trains together was therefore in order, and the roads were set so as to, give the train on the up main line precedence over that on the up local; both being eventually destined for Victoria via Selhurst. After the roads had been so set Timblick was advised by the signalman at East Croydon north box of the identity of the two trains, of which he was not previously aware. Realising therefore that the train on the up local line was the 8.10 express from Brighton, Timblick decided to alter the precedence which he had previously set up and to allow the Brighton train to go first over the junction to Selhurst. This alteration was then possible as the down Portsmouth train had just passed over thc junction. He therefore replaced No. 22 points and diamonds normal and pulled No. 26 facing points and the up local signals, including the distant. Be intended to complete the re-setting of the road by replacing No. 23 facing points normal, but at this moment was called to the telephone by a message, which proved to be from Selhurst in regard to the running of the next down train, which Timblick was not then in a position to accept. Just as he left the instrument, the Coulsdon train, travelling over the up main line, passed the junction home signal at clanger, and running over No. 23 facing points, which were still reversed, was derailed at the moving diamond, then set in the contrary direction. Timblick “I at once sent the “ bstruction danger" signal to East Croydon north box, and also, realising that it would probably be too late for the signalman there to stop the Brighton train, replaced a t danger the up local signals and restored No. 26 facing points normal, that is, so as to lie for the Gloucester Road Junction line. This train came to a stand with the leading end of the engine just beyond the home signal and over No. 26 facing junction points.

2. Walter White, the driver of the derailed train, left Coulsdon in a very thick fog about eight minutes late. The train is booked to stop at all stations, and after several intermediate signal checks, which did not, however, amount in any case to complete stops, arrived at East Croydon at 9.10 a.m., 14 minutes late. The fogmen were at their posts throughout the run, but White was able to see all his stop signals before actually passing them. At East Croydon south box the train, which had been running on the local line, was turned on to the loop, and eventually left the station at 9.20 a.m. on the main line. White received a detonator warning at the Windmill Bridge Junction distant signal and also saw the fogman, though he could not see the signal, even when he was passing under the bridge, owing to the thickness of the fog. He was running at the time at about 5 to 8 miles an hour, with his regulator just open, in which position he left it as he ran up to the home signal. Knowing that the fogman at the Selhurst distant (Windmill Bridge Junction home) signal was stationed on the east of the railway, he then told his fireman, Peters, to keep a look out on his side-the right for this man. White approached the junction signal prepared, he said, to stop at it, remembering that he had had the warning by detonator at the distant signal. His speed as he approached the home signal may, he thought, have increased to about 10 miles an hour. As he was leaning out of his-the left-side of the cab looking for the signal, he exploded a detonator, which he realised applied to the Selhurst distant. Just afterwards he heard his mate call out “ All right," and concluded from this that Peters had received some intimation from the fogman that the home signal was off. He therefore ran on, but was unable, he said, to see the signal at all ; in fact, he did not see the bridge on which it is carried until he ran under it. Directly afterwards he heard some shouting and made a slight application of the brake. Immediately after he did so his engine was derailed and he then brought the train to a stand.

White's evidence is corroborated by that of Peters, his fireman. It appears that the latter also failed to see Windmill Bridge Junction distant signal as they passed it. In accordance with his driver's instructions Peters then looked out from his side of the cab for the fogman on duty at the next signal. He did not know exactly where this man was stationed, but apparently expected to find him in a pit in the six-foot and was, therefore, looking down as his engine approached the signal. When the detonator exploded Peters thought that the fogman must be in the immediate vicinity, and therefore called out “All right," meaning this as a question to attract the fog-man's attention. He was still in this position when he heard a man, who proved to be the fog-signalman in question, shouting, and looking up, saw a man to the right of the line and a short way behind the footplate holding out a red flag. Before he had time to give any caution to his driver the engine was derailed.

Meantime the Brighton train had passed the junction distant signal in the clear position. John Scutt, the driver, observed this signal and also received a verbal intimation from the fog-signalman. As he approached the home signal at ahont l2 miles an hour he heard a man calling to him to stop, and looking up, saw that the home signal had been reversed and was at danger. He had, he said, a view of about half an engine length of this signal. Scntt at once applied his brake and brought the train to a stand.

3. There are two distinct factors in this case which contributed to the accident: firstly, the setting of the road as the trains were approaching in such a way that the lie of the main line facing points not only did not accord with that of the diamonds but also had the effect, in conjunction with the lie of the local line facing points, of setting the roads for both trains so as to converge on to the Selhurst line; and, secondly, the fact that the train running upon the main line passed the signal at danger.

In regard to the latter point, driver White admittedly passed the signal without observing its position. I accept as correct his statement that he took the fireman's remark as an-intimation that a clear signal had in one way or another been notified by the fog-signalman, and this misunderstanding was the primary cause of his mistake. Whether, however, he should not have been able to supplement this message, as he understood it to be, by actual observation of his signal is doubtful. The evidence of the various witnesses concerned is in many respects conflicting in regard to the actual range of visibility. This conflict of evidence may to a large extent he explained by a feature of the atmosphere upon which all are agreed, namely, that the fog was patchy and constantly varied in intensity, with a tendency in the main to increase in thickness from the direction of Croydon. Driver White was emphatic in his statement that he was trying to pick up his signal up to the moment when he actually passed it and that it never came into view. Peters' evidence was to the same effect in respect of the density of the atmosphere, though it has no direct value as evidence in regard to the visibility of this particular signal, as Peters was at the time intent upon seeing not the signal but the fog-signalman from whom he expected to receive a message. The evidence of driver Scutt on this point, who came up almost immediately after White, has already been mentioned-that is, that the signal was visible from about half an engine length Lawes, his fireman, who also heard the verbal warning from the man on the ground to stop when the engine was about its own length from the signal, could, he said, see no sign of it. Dawes, the guard of the Brighton train, said that the fog at the junction was worse than it was at Croydon. He was not, however, in a position to judge of thc visibility of the signal as the train came to a stand with his brake van some distance from it. Driver White's guard, Offin, when he returned to his train after arranging for its protection, saw the home signal at a distance of "about six yards frorn the signal bridge."

Apart from the trainmen, there are three other witnesses on this point of visibility. Signalman Timblick said that he could see his home signals, a distance of about 100 yards, up to the time of the accident. Platelayer Chandler, who was fogging at the signals concerned, said that he not only saw the signals but also the engine of the Coulsdon train five or six yards to the best of his belief before it exploded the detonator, that is, at a total range of not less than 40 yards; and finaily Charles Everest, look-out man, who was acting as ground fogman to signalman Timblick and was on the spot when the Coulsdon train was derailed, said that the home signals were quite plainly visible from the signal box (or rather from the ground opposite to it), and that he saw from this point that the signals were off on the local line ; these being, of course, the signals pulled for the Brighton train. Everest's evidence on this point is directly corroborated by the action he then took to stop the Brighton train, it being from him that the enginemen received the warning that their signal had been reversed.

The evidence as a whole goes to show that the range of visibility of the signals from the London side was considerably longer than it was from the Croydon side, from which direction the fog was evidently approaching. Driver White of the Coulsdon train is, however, the only witness who says that the junction home signals could not be seen at all frorn this direction. I do not include the evidence of his fireman, for the reason previously given, nor that of fireman Lawes, who does not appear to have looked for the signal afterJreceiving the verbal warning. On the whole, there appear to be :good grounds lfor concluding that, though the view of the signals from the Croydon side was at the time very restricted, it should have been possible for driver White to see them beforg he actually passed the bridge. After receiving what he thought was the ali clear intimation from his fireman, he must, I think, possibly without realising it, have momentarily taken his attention off the signal, to which he was then very close. I am satisfied tha,t the misunderstanding of his fireman's remark was a genuine one, but in view of the weather conditions and the importance of the junction which he was approaching, driver White was, in my opinion, too ready to accept this remark as a~thorit~toy pass a signal which he did not observe ; particularly as the weight of the evidence certainly tends to show that the visibility of the signal was sufficient to have allowed him to do so before he actually reached it. I do not therefore think, though I fully recognise the difficulties under which drivers work in conditions such as these, that driver White can be excused of all responsibility for the accident. He is a man of 12 years' total service with the Company and has been a driver for two years. His record is good and he served with the Army for the whole of the war.

4. The action taken by signalman Timblick immediately before the arrival of the trains raises certain points of considerablc importance. As has been mentioned earlier in this report, the original acceptance of the two trains was carried out in correct form, and had the setting of the roads been left as it then stood, no ill results would have been likely to follow the passing of the home signal by the Coulsdon train. Timblick's decision to alter the road so as to give the more important train precedence was a reasonable one. His action, however, in doing so before either train had arrived was, in the condition 01fog which prevailed, open to serious criticism, and the point will be referred to later. Apart from this question of principle, the order in which Timblick made tile lever movements in re-setting the road was incorrect. He should have restored the main line facing points normal as soon as the locking allowed it, and certainly before he pulled either the local line facing points or the signal. As the levers and connections were arranged it was impossible to avoid a stage when the main line facing points and diamonds were at variance, but this stage need only have been momentary. His action in leaving, this critical movement nntil the last, and answering the telephone with the road stdl in this condition, vas clearly one of the contributory causes of tile accident, for which signalman Timblick must take a share of the responsibility. He subsequently acted with commendable promptitude in diverting the Brighton train away from the crossing on which the derailment had occurred.

All the other men concerned deserve credit for their vigilance in the emergence I am glad of the opportunity of directing the Company's attention to the action particular of Charles Everest, the ground fogman at the junction box. Though l had only that moment returned from piloting duty, he grasped the situation direct the derailment occurred, and realising the potential danger implied by the lower( local line signal, without any hesitation ran up into the box for a further supply 1 detonators and out along the local line to stop the Brighton train, which he succeed in doing.


There are two points in connection with this case to which I wish to dra attention :-

(a) Worked diamond crossings.-As has already been mentioned, one of the ma contributory causes of the derailment was the fact that the lie of the diamond crossir did not accord with that of the facing points. It has, I understand, been the Corl pany's practice in more recent installations of the kind to arrange for movab diamonds to be worked with the facing instead of the trailing points, as they at this junction. The former arrangement appears to be distinctly preferable, a1 I understand that the Company has decided to make the alteration in this case.

(b) The alteration of a road after acceptance of a train.-The case is an example and by no means an isolated one, of the danger which may arise as the result I altering the setting of a road after a train has been accepted and before it has con to a stand at the home signal.

I understand that the Company permits the practice in principle, and that th permission is not qualified by any specific Regulation ; pro.vided, of course, that r signals have meantime been lowered. The point is one which has been much debate and has several times in the past been referred to in connection with accident repori and inquiries.

The practice of most, although not all, Railway Companies is, I understanc not to issue any defipite instruction on the point, and therefore to leave the questia to the discretion of signalmen in each case. It would appear desirable to qualif the discretion now allowed, so as to prohibit as a general rule the moving of facin points situated inside the clearing point of the signal up to which a train has bee accepted, at least in cases where the signalman's view is so restricted by fog physical conditions as to prevent a clea,rsight of the approaching train.

I suggest that the question should receive further consideration by Railway Companies upon these lines. 

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