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STREATHAM HILL

30th DECEMBER 1969

INVOLVING DRIVER J. HEARN

extracted and adapted from the report by
C.H. HEWISON

A collision occurred at about 01.20 on Tuesday 30th December, 1969 between the 00.55 Wimbledon to Streatham Hill empty coach train which was travelling along the down main and a rail travelling crane standing on the adjacent up main about a quarter of a mile to the west of Streatham Hill station.

The train, consisting of eight vehicles, had just left Balham Junction, where it been halted, and was travelling at about 20 m.p.h. when the right corner of the leading coach struct the tail of the crane which was projecting towards the down main, away from the direction of the on coming train. The coach was badly damaged along its off side, about a third pf the driver’s cab being destroyed, and I regret to say that L.E. Williams, the guard, who was occupying the guard’s compartment immediately behind the cab, received fatal injuries. The driver was unhurt. The rear of the crane sustained a good deal of damage but the crane driver escaped injury, and there were no other casualties. Neither the train nor the crane derailed and there was no damage to the permanent way. The weather was clear but it was very cold.
DESCRIPTION

THE SITE

Streatham Hill is a suburban station approximately six miles from the Victoria terminus, and one mile beyond Balham and Upper Tooting station.The line diverges to the right at Balham Junction and leads through Selhurst forms the main route to Brighton; the route through Streatham Hill carries local suburban trains and, mostly at night, a number of freight trains. The junction is controlled from Balham signal box and the lines are electrified on the third rail system.

THE CRANE

The cane, No.965288, belong to the Civil Engineer’s Department and was diesel powered. It was mounted on eight wheels, weighed 69 1/2 tons and had a lifting capacity of 15 tons; its was 39 feet in length and its tail radius was 12 feet. There were no other vehicles attached to it at the time of the accident.

NARRATIVE & EVIDENCE

THE WORK IN PROGRESS

The track work being carried out when the collision occurred consisted of renewing four lengths of the track known as the carriage siding, which at the site of the accident is separated from the up main by a space 14 feet in width. Two Engineer’s wagons, one loaded with four new track lengths and the other empty, had been shunted on to the carriage siding and it was the intention to lift the four lengths which were to be replaced and to put them on the empty vehicle, and then to put the new sections into position; the crane was to work from the up main, travelling to and fro under its own power in the course of handling the lengths.

EVIDENCE

Mr. H. Edwards, an assistant supervisor, said he was in charge of the relaying work and that he arrived at the site at about 10.30 p.m.; he had detailed some 30 men to be on duty with him. The crane and the two permanent was wagons arrived from New Cross Gate in an Engineer’s train at about 00.15. Mr. J. Waghorn, a relief signalman who had been appointed to act as the operating inspector for the duration of the night;s work, made himself known to Mr. Edwards and at 00.40 Mr. Edwards took possession of the up line between Streatham Hill station and Balhman Junction. He then had the permanent way wagons and the crane shunted and as soon as they had been positioned where he require them his men set to work on the carriage siding, disconnection the track sections and slewing the conductor rail aside. The crane jib was kept in line with the up track but when Mr. Edwards was almost ready to lift the first section Mr. Waghorn told him the road is clear and you can turn and go to work; all down trains have been diverted via Selhurst. Mr. Waghorn then added that if there were to be any more trains along the down line he would let him know in good time and Mr. Edwards accordingly told his crane driver to slew the crane jib round until it was over the first length of track to be lifted. The men were still making preparations to get the lifting tackle attached when the empty train, the approach of which none of them men on the ground had noticed, went by along the down line, striking the crane as it did so.

Mr. Waghorn told me he had been a relief signalman about four and that this was the fourth occasion on which he had acted as an operating inspector in attendance at a site where a crane was being used. He said he fully understood the regulations and also appreciated that he was required to act that night as the operating inspector in attendance while Mr. Edwards was supervising the work. When he saw that Mr. Edwards was very nearly ready to begin working with the crane he made contact with the signalman at Balham Junction signal box, using a telephone at an up signal, No.DC31, and asked him we haven’t anything come down until the 02.05 (a goods train), have we not ? Mr. Waghorn said that the signalman’s reply was all the freight trains are booked via Selhurst, and Mr. Waghorn then went back to Mr. Edwards and told him I’ve spoken to the signalman; all the freight trains are booked via Selhurst - you should be all right to carry on. He then told Mr. Edwards he was going back to the Engineer’s brake van which he been positioned on the up main nearer to Streatham Hill station when the shunting was commenced, in order to get a case in which he had packed food the night, and that he was then going back to the signal box; he also told Mr. Edwards that in the event of any down trains requiring to go by he would let him know in plenty of time. Mr. Waghorn then set off for the brake van and the accident occurred when he had almost reached it.

The signalman on duty in Balham Junction signal box at the time was C.L.Clarke. He described to me how Mr. Edwards had taken possession of the up main at 00.40 and he went on to say that at about 01.00 Mr. Waghorn spoke to him from signal No.DC31, asking whether there were any freight trans down from the London direction to Streatham Hill. Clarke said he told him by way of reply No, there aren’t any freight trains; they are all going via Selhurst, Mr. Waghorn did not say anything to the effect that the crane was going to foul the down line, or that his telephone conversation was in fact, an application for this to be done. The 00.55 electric train from Wimbledon left Balham Junction en route for Streatham Hill as scheduled and Clarke said that he heard the collision a few moments after the train had passed his signal box.

The driver of the electric train, J. Hearn, told me that in the darkness he did not see anything of the rear end of the crane which was standing foul of his path. As he left Balham Junction he saw the permanent way men’s lights but they were all around the carriage siding, well away from the down main, and he was proceeding past the site at about 20 miles an hour when Williams opened the sliding door which gives access from the guard’s compartment to the driver’s cab. Hearn said Williams had just begun to ask him something when the collision occurred; the train came to a halt in a few moments as the impact broke the Westinghouse train pipe. Hearn, although badly affected by shock, was able to get out of his wrecked cab by climbing through a window and to walk to a signal nearby, from where he told the signalman what had happened and asked for an ambulance; by the time he returned to the front of his train the permanent way men were on the scene, helping to get guard Williams free.

CONCLUSIONS

I can see no reason why signalman Clarke’s version of the events which led up to the accident should not be accepted, all the more so when Mr. Waghorn told me at my inquiry that he could not remember whether he had in fact told Clarke he wanted to arrange for the crane to foul the down line or not, although he said he thought he had done so. The accident was caused by the fouling of the down ain by the rear end of the crane without proper protecting having first been provided. There was no reason why Mr. Waghorn could not have gone to the signal box and made it quite clear to Clarke that he required to keep his down signals leading to the Streatham Hill line at danger so that the crane could be slewed in accordance with the permanent way men’s requirements; the signal box was only about 200 yards away from where Mr. Edwards was engaged. As soon as Clarke had given him permission to foul the down line with the crane, and not before, he would then have been in a position to tell Mr. Edwards that all was in order for the crane to be slewed. Responsibility for the accident must therefore rest with Mr. Waghorn who did not make the protection arrangement properly.

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