Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


28th JUNE 1971




The derailment of a passenger train that occurred at 07.19 on 28th June, 1971 at Copyhold Junction near Haywards Heath in the 

Southern Region of British Railways.

As the 06.41 Norwood Junction to Brighton 12-car EMU train was passing over the facing points where the Down Local line 

diverges from the Down Through line at Copyhold Junction, having passed the signal protecting the junction at a proceed 

aspect, the points moved under the leading coach, the leading bogie becoming derailed and the remainder of the train being 

diverted to the Down Local line.

The points were operated by the signalman at Haywards Heath who, mistakenly, thought that the train was held at the protecting 

signal on account of a points failure. However, the failure occurred after the train had passed the signal and had the effect of 

destroying the approach locking on the facing points, leaving them free to be moved under the train.

The speed of the train at the time of derailment was about 40 mileslhr. There were no casualties and only minor damage was 

caused to the leading coach and to the track and signalling. The weather was fine and clear.


I . Copyhold Junction, where the former branch line to Horsted Keynes, now a single line sidlng serving a quarry, joins the 

London to Brighton main line on the Down side is 37 1/2 miles from Victoria and 1 mile north of Haywards Heath. Between 

Copyhold Junction and Haywards Heath the line is 4-tracked with Up and Down Local lines flanking the Through lines. The 

line speed on the Through lines is 90 miles/hr. The speed restriction through the turnout leading to the Down Local line is 60 

mileslhr. The gradient is falling in the Down direction, generally at 1 in 264, from a summit at Balcomhe Tunnel (MP 32) to 

beyond Haywards Heath. The line is electrifiedon the conductor rail system at 750V DC.

2. The signalling in the area is on the Track Circuit Block System with colour light running signals, installed in 1932, since 

when the points and signals at Copyhold Junction have been controlled electrically from Haywards Heath. Train description is 

by means of magazine type train describers. The signalbox at Haywards Heath, located on the Up side of the line, contains a 60-

lever frame with full mechanical interlocking between the levers. Someof these operate signals and points 

mechanicallyandothers, as in thecase of Copyhold Junction, by electrical means. Above each of the levers controlling the colour 

light running signals, multiple aspect indicators are provided, displaying the actual aspect of the signal regardless of the position 

of the lever. In the case of points provided with electrical detection there are similar small indicator lights showing N or R as 

appropriate. In the event of any failure in the detection no light is shown.

3. Above the lever frame is a point and signal diagram of the layout with track circuit occupation shown by the illumination of 2 

bulbs in parallel in an oval display for each separate track circuit, located and numbered appropriately.

4. Those points and signals relevant to the accident are shown on the diagram opposite. When signal CH 54 is cleared for a 

movement over 58 points the route is approached locked as soon a s T C 23, beyond the overlap of Signal CA 18, is occupied 

and remains so locked until Signal CH 54 is replaced to Red by the occupation of TC 27, beyond the signal.

5. The approach locking is applied directly to the signal lever and while it is effective it is not possible to restore the lever fully 

to the normal position, though the aspect of the signal can be replaced to Red by moving the lever about 2 of its stroke from the 

reverse position where it is held by an electric lock, thus maintaining the mechanical locking hetween the signal and point levers 

until the approach locking is released by the occupation of TC 27. The occupation of this track circuit also locks the facing 

points directly, thus holding the route until the train has cleared the points.

6. The 06.41 passenger train from Nonvood Junction to Brighton was formed of three 4-car electric multiple units of 1963 main 

line stock. The leading unit, No. 7330, classified 4-CIG, comprised 2 driving trailer composites with a motor brake second and a 

trailer second saloon marshalled hetween them. The only damage it sustained as a result of the derailment was to the leading 

bogie on which the guard irons were bent, the shoe beams and shoe arms broken and the wheels grazed. There was no damage 

to the rest of the train.

7. The track in the Down Through line in the area of the derailment was CWR on concrete sleepers and the facing turnout to the 

Down Local line (No. 58 points) was provided with G type vertical switches of 113 lb FB rail. It was a new connection, having 

been laid in substitution for a slow-speed turnout some 3 months previously. The derailment caused the Down Local and Down 

Through lines to he slewed out of alignment and the conductor rails displaced over 150 yards; 60 concrete sleepers were 

damaged. Damage was also caused to the turnout switches and to an adjacent pair of adjustment switches in the Down Through 



8. The driver of the train involved was Driver C . Newton. He described his journey as far as Copyhold Junction as uneventful. 

He received a Y aspect on Signal CA 16 and prepared to stop at Signal CH 54. He was just approaching it at 3 or 4 miles/hr and 

about a coach length from it when it cleared to Y, without the junction indicator illuminated, and then almost immediately to 

YY. He then started to pick up speed again and had reached about 40 miles/hr when he reached the junction and the derailment 

occurred. He immediately released the DSD and put the brake handle into the emergency position to bring the train to a stand as 

quickly as possible. He had not noticed the lie of the points as he approached them.

9. After informing the guard what had occurred, Driver Newton saw a train approaching on the Up Through line, so he ran 

forward to try and stop it since he was not sure whether the opposite line had been fouled. In fact the Up Through line was not 

obstructed. He then spoke to the signalman and told him what had occurred and asked him to stop traffic on the Up line. The 

traction current had been discharged by the derailment but he applied a short circuiting bar as an extra precaution.

10. In charge of the train was Guard V. Muller who was riding in the 6th coach. He had observed Signal CH 54 at Red through 

his periscope as the train braked on the approach to it and saw the aspect change, as described by the driver, first to Y and then 

almost immediately to YY without a junction indication. Shortly afterwards the train came to a stand and the driver told him 

over the Loudaphone that they were derailed. He checked that the opposite line was not obstructed before going back to protect 

his train in rear.

11. On duty in Haywards Heath signalbox at the time of the derailment was Special Clms Relief Signalman E. West. He was 44 

years of age and had 23 years experience as a signalman. He had been working regularly at Haywards Heath for 6 or 7 weeks. 

He had come on duty at 21.30 the previous evening and told me that he had not been kept busy through the night. There had 

been an Engineer's possession of the Down Local line between Copyhold Junctionand Haywards Heath which had been lifted at 

about 05.30and between then and the time of the derailment at 07.19 there had only been a few train movements. However, 

Signalman West admitted that he had not been absolutely sure about the sequence of movements and had allowed the 06.41 

Norwood Junction to Brighton to be checked at Signal CH 54 while he looked up the stock working diagram to see whether a 

train of empty stock to form the 07.35 Haywards Heath to Seaford should be brought across from the Middle Siding to the 

Down Local platform before or after the Norwood Junction train. Whilst he was making up his mind which train to run first, he 

cleared Signals CH 54 and CH 53 to allow the Norwood Junction train to come as far as CH 52, but, shortly afterwards, he 

looked up and saw the indicator for Signal C H 54 showing Red, although he was sure it had shown Y when he first pulled the 

lever, and no indication showing on No. 58 points.

12. At this stage Signalman West admitted that he had jumped to the conclusion that, because no indication was showing on No. 

58 points, he had not got detection and that the approaching train was at a stand at Signal CH 54. In this connection, the 

illuminated track diagram in the signalbox could possibly be misleading to the signalman because, though TC 24 extended from 

1077 yds on the approach side of Signal CH 54 to within 2 yards of No. 58 points, a total length of 1563 yds, the display on the 

diagram was located on the approach side of the signal. Signalman West admitted that, though he well appreciated that TC 24 

extended right up to the points he did not give a thought at the time to the possibility that the train could have already passed the 

signal when it went back to Danger. He therefore restored No. 54 lever to normal and, somewhat to his surprise, it went right 

back in the frame thus removing the mechanical interlocking between it and lever No. 58. Without stopping to think, he then 

pulled No. 58 lever to try and get a reverse indication on the points. It did not come up and, almost immediately the track 

circuits in the area of No. 58 points showed both Up Through and Up Local lines occupied, indicating that a derailment had 


13. Signalman West’s only explanation of his failure to act in accordance with the provisions of Rule 68(a) which required him 

not to replace the signal to danger until the last vehicle of the train had missed the junction points was that, as far as he was 

concerned, the train had not passed the signal. He admitted frankly that he had not stopped to think and that, having already 

delayed the train, he wanted to keep it moving.

14. He could not explain why he had failed to heed the warning that should have been conveyed to him when the signal lever 

went right back in the frame after its having displayed a Yellow indication when it was first pulled. He admitted that, though he 

had never known this to happen before, he went straight ahead without waiting and reversed No. 58 points.

15. I asked Signalman West why, when the normal hours of duty for a signalman on night duty were from 22.00 to 06.00, he had 

signed on duty at 21.30 and was still on duty when the accident occurred at 07.19 the next morning. He told me that it was a 

mutual arrangement between the signalmen to fit in with train timings. His relief was actually travelling on the train that was 

derailed and he himself would have joined it t o travel t o his home at Brighton. This arrangement was not officially recognised 

and he had not asked permission to vary the rostered hours of duty; however, such an arrangement was already in force when he 

came to work at Haywards Heath and he assumed that it had been agreed.

16. I then asked Signalman West what his previous turn of duty had been and what actual rest he had been able to take before 

coming on duty on the evening of Sunday 26th June. He told me that he had worked the previous week on the 14.00 to 22.W 

shift up to Saturday evening. The actual hours he had worked each day were from 13.55 to about 21.45. On Sunday 27th June 

he was in the signalbox from 07.15 to 13.55and back again on duty at 21.30 that evening. He told me it took him about $ hour to 

travel each way between Haywards Heath and his home in Brighton. He said he was in good health, had no home worries to 

distract him and did not feel tired. He said that, as a signalman, he was used to night work.

17. I asked Mr. F. Paterson, Divisiotzal Manager, Central Division, who was present at my Inquiry, to comment on the hours of 

duty worked by Signalman West. He told me that in view of the critical shortage of signalmen in his Division many signalmen 

were having to work on their rest days and that where a signalbox was continuously open and manned by 3 signalmen without 

rest day relief, the alternate shift working on Sundays as described by Signalman West was designed, with the support of the 

railway management, to ensure that each man could have one weekend off in three. Mr. Paterson accepted that this short 

turnround was not a desirable thing, but in the present situation it was a means of giving a reasonable social life to the men 

concerned. He stressed, however, that it was in his view absolutely vital that nothing was done to shorten the 8-hour minimum 

period between turns of duty and that he expected signalmen. as responsible individuals, to ensure that they took proper rest.

18. Mr. H. L. F. Tuff, Assistant Sigual Engineer, British Railways, Southern Region, explained the nature of the failure that had 

allowed Signalman West to replace lever No. 54 to the normal position at a time when it should have been held by the approach 

locking. Because the switchblades of No. 58 points were very long and operated by means of a multiple drive, an additional 

point lock plunger was provided and proved in the point detection circuit. The subsequent examination had revealed a slight 

weakness of the spring in this detector which had presumably flexed as a result of vibration as the train approached. The 

inclusion of the point detection in the signal lock selection circuit for Signals 54 and 59 meant that the breakdown of the 

detection de-energised the signal stick relay, caused the aspect of Signal 54 to revert to Red, and so released the back lock on the 

lever. The normal way in which the approach locking was released was by the occupation of TC 27, a contact of the track relay 

for which was also included in the same circuit as the point detection, but the occupation of this track circuit would also directly 

lock the points, thus preventing their being moved under a train.

19. Mr. Tuff also pointed out that this method of releasing approach locking was obsolescent and, in a modern installation with 

route relay interlocking, the release would be a much more sophisticated one, requiring the occupation and clearance of one 

track circuit and the occupation of a second. In this way the approach locking would not be destroyed by an individual 

track circuit failure or by the failure of the detection on a pair of points.

20. I asked Signal Teclznician E. K. Dudeney, who was responsible for the maintenance of the signalling equipment at 

Haywards Heath, whether the detection on No. 58 points had given any trouble during the period between the new points being 

installed and the date of the derailment. He confirmed that he had some difficulty obtaining a satisfactory adjustment of the 

detection on the additional point lock plunger. This had resulted, on a number of occasions, in the signalman being unable to get 

detection on the points and hence being unable to clear his signals. However, Mr. Dudeney assured me that, during the 13 years 

in which he had been in the area, he had never known of a failure that had released the approach locking in this way. A number 

of cases had occurred in which the signal had changed in aspect from Green to Red, but in each case the cause was a failure of 

TC 27, showing occupied when it should have been clear.

21. Mr. W .R. Tubb, Area Signal Manager, Redhill told me that the signalling in the area for which he was responsible, including 

the stretch of the Brighton Main line from Coulsdon North to Hassocks was generally similar to that at Haywards Heath. He had 

found the system of locking reliable and easilymaintained and, though they did experience a number of track circuit failures 

these were safety side failures and, he was unable to instance to me any previous danger side failure of the kind that occurred at 

Copyhold Junction.


22. This derailment, which fortunately had no serious results, was directly caused by the actions of the signalman on duty in 

Haywards Heath at the time, who reversed No. 58 points as the leading coach of the train was passing over them. He must have 

moved the point lever immediately before the train reached the points, but the switchhlades had not started to move when they 

were held by the leading wheels which continued straight ahead. The switchhlades then moved between the bogies of the 

Leading coach and the rest of the train was diverted to the Down Slow line. Had he moved the lever a moment earlier, the whole 

train would have passed without derailment on to the Down Slow line; a moment later the lever would have been locked by the 

occupation of TC 27.

23. The signalman was able to move the point lever because he had restored the signal lever which locked it mechanically. This 

he should not have heen able to do if the signalling equipment had heen in proper order because it should have been held by the 

approach locking. The approach locking, however, had been prematurely destroyed by a momentary failure which occurred 

some time after the train had passed Signal CH 54.

24. The premature release of the approach locking could he regarded as a danger side failure but it was not one which, in itself, 

could cause an accident. The signal and point levers concerned were mechanically interlocked and the position of the 

approaching train was indicated on the signalbox diagram. The signalman, in restoring the signal lever before the train had 

cleared the junction points, had failed to observe Rule 68 (a) (i) of the British Railways Rule Book, 1950, and then, having 

deprived himself of the protection afforded by the mechanical interlocking, attempted to move a pair of facing points when 

there was a train in the vicinity. He must bear the responsibility for the consequent derailment.

25. It is difficult to understand why such an experienced signalman did not realise something was wrong when, having seen the 

aspect indicator for signal CH 54 show Y when he first pulled the lever, he found that the lever went right back in the frame 

when he restored it. The first reaction of a man who was fully alert would have been to establish where the train was before 

attempting to reset or alter the route and, despite Signalman West’s insistence that he was not tired, I take the view that the 

effect of the alternate shift working that he had carried out over the preceding weekend had been to blunt his faculties to the 

extent that he did not react as he should have done when a possibly hazardous situation presented itself. Since leaving home the 

previous morning he had spent 16 1/2 hours on duty in the signalbox, 2 1/4 hours travelling and barely 6 hours at home to cover 

food and rest and I have little doubt that, despite his own assurances, he was insufficiently rested before he came on duty on the 

Sunday evening.

26. In view of the statement made at my Inquiry by Mr. Paterson on the shortage of signalmen, I asked him to let me have 

further details of the position as far as his Division was concerned. He provided me with a comprehensive statement which 

showed that there were 117 vacancies out of an establishment of 536 signalmen and that full rest days were only being taken at 

3 signalboxes out of a total of 132 in the whole Central Division. Approximately half rest days were being taken at 25 

signalboxes, a quarter at 12 signalboxes and none at all at no less than 83 signalhoxes, including Haywards Heath. In addition to 

the above there were 9 signalboxes at which 12-hour working was more or less continuous. He assured me that he was making 

special efforts to recruit more men into the signalling grade and that some limited degrees of success had been achieved. 

Nevertheless it seems likely that the general picture will not change significantly until the introduction of new power 

signalboxes has the effect of reducing the overall requirement for signalmen.

27. I accept that, where rest day relief signalmen are not available, the alternate shift working at weekends is a necessary 

arrangement if the men concerned are to have any sort of social life but, wherever it is adopted, it is absolutely essential that the 

intervening off-duty periods are not eroded by unofficial local arrangements to the extent that the signalmen do not have time to 

take proper rest. In cases where, as at Haywards Heath, signalmen have to use the rail service to travel to and from work and it 

is not convenient to work the standard 8-hour shifts, I recommend that the actual hours to be worked should be reviewed by the 

Area Manager who should personally ensure that adequate rest periods are provided between successive turns of duty. 

Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


Make a free website with Yola