IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE 

BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F. 

 

 

 

 

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LONDON BRIDGE 

16th JULY 1931

Involving Acting Motorman W.J. Gulliver (Depot unknown)

(Dual Link Driver?) 

extracted and adapted from the report by
E.Woodhouse Lt.-Colonel. 


This accident occurred at 8.21 a.m., on July 16th at, London Bridge Station on the Southern Railway. The 7.44 a.m. electric train from Epsom Downs collided with the buffer stops at the end of No. l7 platform, at an estimated speed of from 4 to 5 miles an hour. The train was well filled, and telescoping to the extent of about 2ft. 4ins. took place between the second and third coaches. As result, 17 passengers had to be treated for shock or minor injuries-9 at Guy’s Hospital and 8 by the Company’s staff, of whom 17 at London Bridge are trained in ambulance work. Fortunately none of these cases was of sufficient severity to necessitate detention in hospital. In addition, complaints of minor shock effects were subsequently received from 21 other passengers.

The train was composed of 8 bogie compartment coaches marshalled as under from front to rear:-

No. 8826 compo. motor coach, 9340 Compo. trailer, 8212 3rd class motor coach = Motor unit No.1691

8985 3rd class trailer, 9219 3rd class trailer = Trailer set 1131

8730 3rd class motor coach, 9465 Compo. trailer, 8889 Compo motor coach = Motor unit No.1754

Motor unit No. 1691 was first put into service on 30th June, 1928, trailer set No.1131on 5th June, 1928, and motor unit No. 1754 on 10th January, 1930.

The length of each motor unit was 193 ft. 10 ins. and of the trailer set 113 ft. 8 ins., giving a total train length of 501ft. 4ins.over buffers. The tare weight of the train was 260 tons and the probable passenger load about 45 tons, making the total loaded weight about 305 tons. The train was fitted with the Westinghouse brake, operating blocks on all the wheels, the brake efficiency being 80 par cent. of the tare weight.

As a result of the collision the rear end of the under frame of trailer No.9340 mounted the front end of the under frame of motor coach No. 8212. roof of the former vehicle overrode that of the latter of about 2 ft. 4 ins., its central buffer penetrating the body of the latter coach about four feet, namely a.s far as the edge of the further seat of the end compartment. 

The buffer-stops, of the bent rail type with a plain wooden buffer beam, were forced hack about. 4 ins. and the leading wheels of the motor bogie of motor coach No.8826 were derailed by the inclined rails which tie the buffer stops down to the track. Some of the fastenings of the rails forming the buffer stops were broken, and the timber decking of the platform behind was slightly damaged.

The weather was fine and bright at the time of the accident, though there had been some rain a few hours previously.


Description 


No. 17 platform is one of me shortest in the former L.B. & S.C. terminal station. It is approached on a right-hand curve of 27 chains radius, easing to 67 chains about 70ft. inside the head of the platform ramp, and continuing at that radius to the buffer stops.

Approaching London Bridge Station from Bricklayers’ Arms Junction, approximately two miles distant. the line is on a rising gradient, varying from l in 114 to 1 in 588, for 333 yards. This is followed by a falling gradient of 1 in 141. easing to 1 in 943, for 667 yards, succeeded by a rising gradient of 1 in 852 for 1,650 yards easing to l in 2.047 and l in 2.160 for the last 500 yards, before reaching the end of platform 17. Thence to the buffer stops the line is level.

The running signals concerned are of the 3-aspect colour light type, with route indicators situated immediately over the track to which they apply, and all points are electrically worked. No question of signalling arises in this case, however. 

Evidence.


1. The train concerned was manned by acting motorman W. J. Gulliver and passenger guard A.W. Staines. Prior to the journey on which the collision took place the eight vehicles, made up as described, formed the 6.5 a.m. " round- about ' ' from London Bridge via Norwood Junction to London Bridge and afterwards the 7.2 a.m. from London Bridge to Epsom Downs. Staines had tested the brake in the prescribed manner before starting with the 6.5 a.m. train. After noting that all couplings were connected and train pipe cocks open, he saw that 75 Ibs. pressure was registered in the rear brake compartment. He reduced the pressure by the guard’s valve there to about 50 lb. and observed that the train pipe was recharged to 75 lbs. When changing ends at Epsom Downs, prior to starting on the 7.44 a.m. trip, he saw that 75 lbs. train pipe pressure was shown on the gauge in the rear brake compartment and also noticed that the isolating  cock of the driver’s valve at the rear end of the train was closed. Neither Staines nor Gulliver noticed any irregularity in the action of the brake on the three journey prior to the collision and all stops were made at the proper points.

The train left Epsom Downs, according to Staines booking, at the right time, 7.44 a.m.,and ran in accordance with schedule throughout. It is booked to stop at eight stations before reaching London Bridge at 8.41 am. The average speed by the working time table is 30.6 miles per hour including, and 33 miles an hour excluding, stops. From Bricklayers' Arms Junction, which the train is booked to pass at 8.17 a.m., London Bridge, the booked speed is 32.4 miles an hour.

2. Guard Staines stated that the train, which ran without stopping from Norwood Junction to London Bridge, a distance of about 8 1/2 miles, was checked at. Brockley and again at the New Cross South distant signal. When approaching London Bridge it was running at its normal speed until nearing the outer home signal, here the driver applied the brakes. A further brake application was made by the driver when nearing the inner borne signal, and this appeared to be quite effective. Staines considered that the train entered the platform at the usual speed, of about, five or six miles an hour. He was certain that the brake was never fully released after passing the inner home signal, and was under the impression that it was not completely released after passing the outer home but did not notice the train pipe pressure then recorded ohis gauge. He did not notice the wheels " picking up " before the impact. He was looking out on the platform side as the train entered the station and stated that many of the passengers had already alighted when the buffer stops were struck. The collision was scarcely pereptible at the rear of the train 

Staines has 20 years experience as a guard and has been working on electric trains for five years. He has also had praticcal experience as a motorman. He had worked with motorman Gulliver on the day previous to the accident, and considered his handling of the train to be quite normal.

3. Acting motorman W . J . Gulliver has 24 years’ service, and has been an engine driver (steam) since 1927. He was passed to act as motorman in August, 1930, since when he has been occasionally so employed, usually at intervals of' about a fortnight, the day of the accident being his 24th turn of duty in this capacity.

He stated that although he normally drives a vacuum fitted engine, he is throughly conversant with the working of the Westinghouse brake and sometimes works goods engines fitted with it. He also stated that he was accustomed to working into London Bridge station sad had worked the 7.44 a.m. train from Epsom Downs into No. 17 platform on the day previous to the accident.

Gulliver considered that the brake on his train was working normally. When approaching London Bridge he shut off power at the coasting board at Bermondsey, the usual point, and did not apply it again. When he sighted the outer home signal it was showing a yellow light, so he applied the brake, making a train pipe reduction of 5 to l0 Ibs. The signal changed from yellow to green before he reached it, and he therefore released the brake, afterwards returning the brake valve to the running position. He estimated his speed when passing the outer home signal at about 15 miles an hour. Some 400 yards further on, when nearing the inner home signal, he made a second application of the brake which, he stated, brought down the speed to five or six miles an hour as he was entering the platform, his usual speed when running into this station. After this application he did not release the brake, and when about half a coach length from the buffers he made a further application, which caused the wheels to pick up, and the train collided with the buffers as already stated. The motor coaches are not fitted with sanding gear. Seeing that his last brake application was not having the desired effect, Gulliver also released the dead man’s handle. He also stated that though. No. 17 platform is used for fish traffic at night, he has never had any difficulty previously in making a proper stop when running into it; he did not examine the rails after the impact. - He was not injured' by the collision.

4. Signalman Bray and signal lad Poulter, who were on duty in London Bridge signal box, which is close to the outer end of No. 17 platform, confirmed that both the outer and inner home signals were at green when the train passed them. They stated that the train was running to time, but that they did not actually see it pass the signal box.

Inspector Clifton was some 20 or 30 yards in rear of the buffer stops of No. 17 platform, and watched the train draw up. It appears to him to be entering the platform at its usual speed and he did not anticipate that the driver would have any difficulty in making a normal stop. After the collision he telephoned for ambulances, which arrived in a very few minutes.

Mr. Enves, the Stationmaster at London Bridge, said that Nos. 17 and 18 platforms, which are of equal length, are only used for passenger traffic during rush periods, and that the fish traffic handled at them is not of great magnitude. He stated that all passengers were able to alight from the train within one minute of the accident, and without recourse to the emergency tools kept at the station. The first ambulance arrived four minutes after the accident, and the last of the nine cases sent to Guy’s Hospital for treatment left the station 15 minutes later, at 8.40 a.m.

5, Westinghouse Brake Inspector Fox examined the brakes of the train about an hour after the collision, before the vehicles had been moved. He tested the five rear vehicles, namely the trailer set and motor unit No. 1754, independently, and found their brakes were working satisfactorily. He was unable to test the brakes on the front motor unit at the time as the shoe fuses had been removed for safety, but did so later and found the brakes on the front and rear motor coaches in good order. The train pipe on the centre coach of this motor unit was broken by the collision, preventing a test of the brakes on that vehicle, but these, too, appeared on visual inspection to be in a satisfactory condition. Inspector Fox also examined the rails, and found indications that some of the wheels had slid for about a yard; the rails were quite clean. In his opinion the picking up of the wheels was caused by the emergency brake application resulting from Gulliver's action in releasing his hold of the dead man’s handle.


Report.

6. As telescoping would not be expected to result from a collision atse low a speed, I examined the three coaches composing motor unit No. 1691at Selhurst on 23rd July. These have wooden bodies, formerly in use w S.E.&C.R. steam-hauled stock, mounted on steel under frames newly constructed when conversion to electric traction took place about three years ago. Side buffers of the usual type are fitted to the outer ends of the two motor coaches, and central buffing has been adopted between the inner ends of the motor coaches and the trailer.

I was informed that when the electrified stock was first put into service automatic Buckeye couplers were used for this purpose, but these proved unsatisfactory to as the lack of synchronisation in the driving effort of the motors at opposite ends of the train caused considerable wear of the couplers, which gave rise to objectionable jerks and noise when running. The system of the draw and buffing gear adopted to replace the automatic couplers was designed to entail as short a with drawl from service of the stock as possible. It comprises of a 2 inch drawbar located 2 ins. below the centre of the 12 inch headstock, an the same centre line as the automatic couplers previously fitted, and drawn u p tight hp a right and left handed turnbuckle between the coaches. A spring buffer, of the ordinary type, with a 12-inch face, is fixed centrally at each end of the trailer coach, above the drawbars, abutting against a wearing plate on the motor coach. Both the buffer and the wearing plate are carried on brackets projecting above the headstock, the centre of the buffer plunger being 3/8 in. above the top of the latter.

Though I was informed by the Company’s officers that this construction has given no trouble in ordinary running, it appears to be ill adapted to transfer the shock of an unusual impact from one under frame to another, especially in view of the tendency of the leading end of a vehicle to sink and of the rear end to rise, as the result of heavy brake application.

7, In my examination I found that the following damage had been substained by the coaches:-

(a) Leading motor coach No. 8826. Headstock slightly bent and left hand buffer slightly bent outwards and downwards, at leading end.

( b ) Between motor coach No. 8826 and trailer No, 9340: Headstock of No.9340 twisted slightly, and central buffer inclined upwards, the buffer face being about 1 1/2 ins. above its correct position.

(c) Between trailer No. 9340 and rear motor coach No. 8212: Headstock of No. 9340 twisted and central buffer inclined upwards, :having penetrated the end of No.8212 for a distance of approximately 4 ft. after over-riding the wearing plate. Headstock of No. 8212 twisted, the wearing plate and bracket carrying it being bent backwards. The under frame of No. 9340 had over-ridden that of No. 8212 for about 2 ft. 4 ins. forcing the end of the latter coach inwards, and the roof of No. 8212 had penetrated below that of No. 9340 for a similar distance.

(d) Rear motor coach No. 8212. One side buffer rod and headstock very slightly bent at rear end.

The tilting of the central buffers at the ends of the trailer coach and the bending of the wearing plate on the rear motor coach indicate weakness in the attachment of the buffers due largely to the thrust being applied above the level of the headstocks. The buffer plungers and casings appeared to be of adequate strength, and were undamaged.

I was informed that the train line fuses at both ends of this motor unit had blown immediately the telescoping took place, and that no arcing had followed the rupture of the power cables between the two coaches concerned, the damage due to this being confined to a slight singeing of the end panels of trailer coach No. 9340.


Conclusion

Though it is possible that Gulliver under-estimated the speed at which his train passed the outer home signal, and at which it entered the platform, it is evident that the collision occurred at a very low speed. The small amount of damage done to the buffer stops and timber decking in rear of them, and to the leading end of the train, supports this conclusion, as does the evidence given by Staines that many of the passengers had been able to alight from the train before the impact occurred. I am of opinion that the Westinghouse brake on the train was in good order, and that the collision was due to an error of judgement on Gulliver’s part in making the final brake application slightly too late. He has a good record, and had satisfactorily passed through the usual training in the handling of electric trains.

This accident bears a close resemblance to the buffer-stop collision which occurred at Charing Cross Station on September 19th, 1928, both as regards the speed at which it occurred and the damage sustained by the train.

In the present case the buffing arrangements at each end of the centre coach of the leading motor unit were the same as those criticised by Sir John Pringle in his report on that accident, and similar over-riding and telescoping took place as a result of the comparatively gentle impact. The Company is, however, making progress with the change in the position of the central buffers and wearing plates to which an allusion was made in the above mentioned report. In this alteration the buffers and wearing plates are lowered to the middle of the headstock, the drawbars being correspondingly dropped to 3 1/2 ins. below it ; as a result of the abolition of the brackets the space between adjacent headstocks is reduced from 2 ft. 2+ ins. to 1 ft. 10 Ins., the minimum dimension consistent with the curves over which the stock has to run.

These alterations were put in hand in, the latter part of 1929, but up to the date of the accident only 140 out of 323 motor units had been converted. Those still to be altered are, however, being taken out of traffic specially for the work to be carried out, in advance of their withdrawal for normal overhaul. I was also informed by the Company’s officers that occasional buffer-stop collisions in carriage sidings, and severe impacts due to rough shunting, to which some motor units have been accidentally subjected after alteration, have been satisfactorily resisted by the central buffers in their new position. In addition, I learnt that this type of buffing and draw gear is to be adopted for some, at any rate, of the new stock being constructed for the extended electrification to Brighton.

While, therefore, the altered pattern of buffing and draw gear appears to be satisfactory, more than half of the existing stock has still to be converted, and though I understand that this work is continuing at the rate of two to three motor units per week, 1 suggest that the Company be asked to consider the practicability of expediting the completion of the programme of conversion.

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the Brighton Motive Power Depots

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the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches

 

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