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Haywards Heath tunnel

on the 2nd September 1945

involving Stewarts Lane Driver Scrace & Fireman Bartlett

By A.C. Trench, Colonel

On 2nd September 1945,the 2.50 a.m. special empty coach train, Streatham to Newhaven, which should have come to a stand 

in the down siding, prior to reversing across to the up line, over which single line working was in operation, failed to stop 

and collided at high speed with the buffer stops at the south end of this siding, and with the face wall of the tunnel portal 

immediately beyond these buffer stops. Both by Engineman Driver Scrase  driver and his Fireman Bartlett from Stewart’s 

Lane depot, Battersea were both killed and the guard suffered from bruises and shock. 

The train consisted of 13 bogie coaches, all having timber framed bodies on steel under frames, and all being fitted with 

buck-eye couplings and Pullman vestibules, with the exception of the trailing brake composite which had ordinary screw 

couplings. It was drawn by engine No. 1811, Type 2-6-0 with 6 wheel tender, weighing 100 tons in working order. The total 

weight of the engine and train was 517 tons. The engine was fitted with the steam brake controlled by the vacuum, and the 

tender and all the coaches were fitted with the vacuum brake, the percentage of the brake power being 71%

The leading end of the engine overrode the buffer stops and the filling in the rear of them until the engine buffers struck the 

brick work of the tunnel portal, becoming embedded to a depth of about a foot; the trailing end of the tender was lifted by the 

momentum of the coaches behind it, and the both bogies of the leading coach and the leading boogie of the second coach 

were piled underneath the tender. The left land sole bar of the second coach was torn off and town to one side, and the 

carriage roof was driven forward over the the engine, the remainder of the under frame being distorted and crumbled to an 

exceptional degree, as was also the body of the second coach was practically wrecked. It is a remarkable feet that the 

remaining 11 coaches of the train there was not a pane of glass broken nor were any wheels derailed, though there was on 

almost all the vehicles slight distortion of the heads tools, and the timber blocks in rear of the buffer castings of the last 

coach (screw coupled) were split.

After the accident medical assistance was available within a few minutes, but despite attempts with oxy-noctylen cutting 

apparatus it was found impossible to release the bodies Driver Scrace and Fireman Bartlett until the afternoon when a 

doctor confirmed that death must have instantaneous.

The weather at the time was clear and dry; it was still dark with no appreciable signs of damp.


The line through Three Bridges and Haywards Heath to Brighton and Newhaven runs approximately North and South. From 

the London side of Three Bridges there are four tracks, which are reduced to two at Balcombe Tunnel Junction, through 

Balcombe Tunnel and over the Ouse Viaduct. Beyond the South of the Ouse Viaduct the double line from Ardingly, North 

East, joins the main line at Copyhold Junction, the junction being provided with crossover connections so that South of 

Copyhold there are four tracks in order from East to West, Down Local, Down Through, Up Through and Up Local. These 

four tracks continue for about 1 3/4 miles through Haywards Heath station, again reverting to two tracks at the South end of 

the ration platforms and through the adjacent tunnel. There is in remittent and slight right han curvature from some distance 

North of Haywards Heath, and a general falling gradient of about 1 in 270.

Haywards Heath station has two island platforms, with verandah roofs over most of their length, served by these four tracks. 

One light was burning on the down platform at the time. There is a siding on the East side of the Down Local platform which 

commences some distance North of the station and continues through the station to the buffer stops adjacent to the tunnel 

portal, access to this siding is given by a trailing  connection in the Down Local and also by facing connection, Crossover 

No. 44, both of these connections being close to the North end of the Down platform. The line of No.44 is continued, with 

various slip connections, to form a trailing crossover, across  the running tracks to the Up Local line, at the South end of the 

down siding there is a facing connection, No.35, to the down line, and towards the South end of this sidings is a trailing 

connection to the Goods Yard.

The speed limit prescribed through the Copyhold Crossover to the Down Local is 40 m.p.h., and through crossover 44 to the 

Down Siding, 15 m.p.h.

The intention was the train,which had crossed over to the Down Local at Copyhold Junction, should traverse points No.44 

into the Down Siding, and come to a stand their, prior to being propelled backwards across all tracks to the Up Local, and 

going forward along this line under the single line working arrangements in force. The train was too long to use the Down 

Local line for this reversal as coming to standing at the starting signal, its rear end could not have been clear of the track 

circuiting holding the crossover  over which it was to be propelled. On the night in question four Goods trains had followed 

the same procedure prior to the train concerned in this accident. Apart from the these special Single Line arrangements it is 

common practice in ordinary workings to divert empty passenger trains and goods trains into the Down Siding to enable 

other trains to pass on the Down Through or local lines, and no special warning is given to the drivers, other than the 

ordinary signalling arrangements.

The Haywards Heath Signal Box, which also controls Copyhold Junction, is located on the West side of the Up Local about 

opposite to the middle of the platforms. There is a large Goods shed on the East side of the down siding near the South end of 

crossover 44. The trailing connection to the Down Local with the Down Through at the South en of the platform is trapped 

with a sand drag.


The train, which was a special movement, only arranged on the proceeding evening, was booked to leave Streatham at 3.3 

a.m. but actually did not leave until 3.55 a.m. owing to late arrival of the engine, this being due to an occupation of the line 

on the route taken from Stewarts Lane Loco Shed to Streatham.

Guard Prince was travelling in the last coach, a brake composite, which had been on loan to another Company and had been 

returned only a few days previously; the glass of door windows and side lookouts was still covered with the millboard which 

had been fitted for blackout purposes, there being only a circle of a couple of inches diameter which was unobscured in the 

side lookouts. He said that, having tested the brake and obtaining 19 inches of vacuum before starting, running was quite 

normal and he recollected that his driver made a brae application at Earlswood prior to passing through the junction; he 

saw signal CA 16 Yellow, and his driver reduced the vacuum to about 10 inches and continued to slow past signal CH 

59,which also Prince saw Yellow, nd through the junction at Copyhold in accordance with restoring the vacuum to 19 inches, 

and increased speed again. Prince said he missed signals 57 and 46 and had no idea that the train was directed into the 

Down Sidings; he did not notice any abnormally violent jerk on passing through crossover 44, until he was thrown down by a 

violent bump with two more bumps immediately after. He did not notice any brake application immediately before the 


After the collision he went to the front of the train, but saw that he could not do anything to help the engine man and that the 

wreckage might be blocking the running lines, so he went forward through the tunnel, putting down detonators to protect the 

opposite road, and telephoned to the Signalman from the signal immediately South of the tunnel to block all roads, which had 

actually been done already.

Signalman S. Packham who was in charged of the Haywards Heath Signal Box, and Relief Signalman Scrace who was in the 

signal box supervising the single line working arrangements, both thought the train was approaching at an excessive speed, 

but from  their position in the signal box on the opposite side of the station they were not able to do anything except shout to 

the driver. Signalman Smith, who was acting as pilotman and was waiting on the West side of the up line at the end of the 

crossing over which the train should have propelled, also saw the speed was excessive and he estimated it at about 50 m.p.h. 

as the train passed him, i.e., just before the engine entered crossover 44; he could not say whether the engine was standing at 

the time, but he had the impression that it was and that the driver had opened his regulator as he was coming round the curve 

from Copyhold. He also shouted to the driver, but was, of course, the width of four tracks away.

Relief Signal R. Packham was standing at the North end of the down platform waiting to signal to the box after the end of the 

train had passed the points, in order that the road could be set for the propelling movement across the up line, and sub-

ganger Ruff was also close to him, waiting to clip and plug the points of the crossover for the propelling movement; both of 

them realised that the train was approaching too fast and they attempted to warn the driver by a red lamp and shouted, bur 

without success. They were surprised that the train passed through crossover 44 without derailment, and they offered the 

opinion that the driver appeared to open his regulator some little distance before reaching them. they estimated the speed at 

the time of passing them at between 50 and 60 m.p.h., and were satisfied that there was no sign of the brake being applied as 

the train passed them.

Sub Ganger Lipscombe was standing at the South end of the station on the down fast line in the immediate vicinity of the 

starting signals; he estimated the speed when passing him at 45 -50 m.p.h., he thought the engine was steaming at the time 

and he was confident that the brake was not applied . He also waved a red light above his head across the platform at the 

engine, but without success.

None of the latter three men saw either of the engine crew on the footplate; but so far as they recollect the firebox door was 

closed, so that they might not be seen in the dark.

After the accident the regulator was found in the close position, but the lower lever of the regulator was broken and the 

footplate gear generally was so much damaged, including both the reversing gear and the brake handle, that it is impossible 

to draw any reliable deductions from the state of the equipment.

Driver Scrace’s body was found standing up on the right hand side of the footplate and Fireman Bartlett on the left hand 

side, the later having a can of tea in his hand.

Circumstances prior to departure of train

Driver Scrace was 43 years of age and had been with the Company since 1918 as cleaner and fireman; he became a Passed 

Fireman in May, 1944 and Driver in January 1945. He had signed the Knowledge of Route” book in December, 1944 for the 

route in question and last worked over it on the nigt of the 29/30th August, but had not been over it much during the three 

months prior to that date; for 10 years, roughly from the date of installation of the colour light signals in 1933, he had been 

working as fireman almost continuously over this route.

Scrase had been on duty from midnight until 8.10 a.m. on the Saturday morning, working on the Battersea Yard pilot; he 

booked on again on the Sunday morning at 12.5 a.m. also for the Battersea Yard pilot. It is a common practice for the driver 

taking this duty to be transferred to any emergency job which may arise, such as this special to Newhaven, which, as noted 

above, was an extra train which had been arranged at the last moment. Scrace had a good record and was considered a 

steady and reliable man.

Fireman Bartlett was 17 years of age and been with the Company as temporary Cleaner and Fireman since 1943; so far as 

can be traced he had not worked with Driver Scrace before. He had been on this type of engine, but mostly on local work and 

it seems doubtful whether he had been over this route before. The Fireman who was booked to work with Scrace did not 

report for duty; Bartlett was in the shed awaiting a later turn and was asked if he would take this turn with Scrace and he 

said he would like to take it. He was described as a keen young man and anxious to get on.

The special notice for Drivers which include such information as all prearranged engineering occupations, single line 

working etc., were, prior to the war, printed and issues fortnightly; in present conditions these notice are duplicated and 

issued weekly, being prepared on Thursday; the Company hope that it will be possible to resume printing fortnightly issue 

shortly. The notice dated August 30th contained an item notifying single line working on the up line between Haywards 

Heath and Keymer Crossing from 12.15 a.m. until 7.45 a.m. on Sunday September 2nd. Copies of this notice was received in 

Stewarts Lane Depot on Friday 31st for issue to Drivers concerned.

Time Keeper Henley at Stewarts Lane Depot said that the notices in question were received in good time and in sufficient 

number for a copy to be issued to each Driver. He said that the ordinary procedure was that each Driver asks for a copy of 

the notice, or notices (Stewarts Lane Depot deals with both Central and Eastern Divisions) and signs for them in a book, 

usually at the time he books on duty. A check of this book is made each week on mondays and if any Driver’s signatures is not 

in the book he is called up specially and given a copy of the notice. Henley said that on the Saturday - Sunday night he saw 

Scrace sign on duty and told him that his booked fireman was not available; he did not know whether Scrace might have 

taken a copy of the weekly notice when booking on or off duty on his previous shift (Saturday morning) but it was 

responsibility of drivers to ask for and obtain a notice. Subsequent to the accident he examined the register and found that 

Scrace had not signed as having obtained the notice for that week.

Guard Prince said that when booking on duty at Clapham Junction he looked for the Special Train notice of timing of his 

train but could not find one and he therefore obtained the times by telephone enquiry from Control. Subsequently he found the 

notice of Special Train timings waiting for him at Streatham; the single line working arrangements were not mentioned in 

this notice. These arrangements which involved an appreciable alteration of timings beyond Haywards Heath, should have 

been mentioned in this notice, but the clerk concerned in the preparation of the Special Train notice said that he must have 

omitted this by accident, owing probably to pressure of work; as noted above the movement was arranged at short notice.

In the Company’s Rule book it is laid down that a copy of all relevant notices be supplied to both drivers and Guards, but 

during the war, owing to difficulties of printing and shortages of paper, it became necessary, firstly to duplication them 

instead of printing, and later, whilst maintaining n individual issue to drivers, to restrict issue for Guards to a depot basis, so 

that each Guard should be able to inspect all notices when booking on duty but would not himself have an individual copy. A 

copy of the notice concerned was available in the Inspector’s Office at Clapham Junction where Prince booked on and off 

duty, but he had not seen it; he could not account for this.

Prince had some conversation with Driver Scrace (whom he knew) when the engine arrived and gave him a copy of the 

outward timings. Scrace seemed fit and well; he did not mention the single line working and Prince is of the opinion that he 

containly would have mentioned it if he he’d been aware of it. Prince also saw Fireman Bartlett (whom he did not know) and 

notice him removing the tail lamp and affixing the head lamp to the engine.


This regrettable accident must be attributed to the coincidence of two factors,

(a) Scrace must apparently have misinterpreted the green aspect of the subsidiary signal CH 46, directing movement into the 

down siding, and  

(b) Neither Driver Scrace nor Guard Prince was aware of the single line working arrangement.

Considering (b) first, it is clear that Scrace had not taken a copy of the Weekly Notice, and no copy was found in his kit bag 

on the engine after the accident; moreover, I think that Guard Prince is probably correct in his opinion that Scrace would 

have mentioned the single line working to him if he had been aware of it. At the same time Prince had failed to see the copy 

of the Weekly Notice which was available for inspection in the Inspector’s Office at Clapham when he booked on, in addition 

to which the clerk responsible for the preparation of the Special Train Notice had failed to appreciate the single line working 

and to embody this in the notice.

Explanation of (a) is more speculative. Scrace had encountered two yellow signals and in obedience thereto he had duly 

slowed down through Copyhold crossover on to the local line; before this, he would have seen about 1/2 mile ahead, the two 

red signals 57 and 53 for the local and through lines respectively. It is a reasonable assumption that about the time he passed 

through the crossover he would have been able to pick up the subsidiary signal 46 alongside the down local signal, and that 

about the same time the sub signal may have changed from red to green but, both from a distance and from close up, the 

indication of this signal is definitely less conspicuous and from close up, the indication of a this signal is definitely less 

conspicuous and different from ordinary running signals, and it is difficult to understand why this difference was not 


It would also appear reasonable to assume that Scrace thought he was going to pass through the station on the down local 

line, re-joining the down line at the South end of the station but in such it becomes difficult to understand why he failed to 

notice the violent shock which the engine must have sustained when passing through crossover 44 at a speed much in excess 

of what was permitted. It is even more difficult to understand why, if he thought he was on the Down Local line he failed to 

pay attention to the red light of the down local starting signal at the South end of the platform, which, as noted above, with 

an immediate brake application, there would have been sufficient distance to come almost to stand before striking the buffer 

stops. A possible explantation of these latter questions is that, in passing through crossover 44, the violent jolt may have 

caused  Scrace to strike his head against the side of the cab with the result that he was momentary dazed; this is, of course 

pure speculation, but it would explain such surprising dual failure on the part of a reliable driver, and in the short period 

available and in the dark the Fireman would hardly have notice anything wrong with his driver.

The possibility of some defect having developed on the engine, which might have distracted the Driver’s attention, cannot be 

disproved, owing to damage to all footplate fittings in the collision, but this is rather discounted by the Fireman being found 

with a tea can in his hand and by other circumstances, and no indication of any such defect has been found.

I cannot but conclude, therefore, that all available evidence points to the primary responsibility for this accident being 

attributed to Driver Scrace in that he failed to obey the indications displayed to him by the signals. In lesser degree neither 

he nor the Guard Prince can be absolved from some share of the blame for their failure to study the weekly notice containing 

the intimation of single line working. It is to be regretted also that Prince failed to observe the aspect of signals 57 and 46, 

but having regard to the “Blackout” limitation of vision from his lookout windows, I hesitate seriously to criticise this failure. 

A minor contributory factor was the unfortunate omission from the special train timing notice of the stop and reversal at 

Haywards Heath.



For the full report into this accident, click 75A icon 



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