IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

 

THE HISTORY OF THE

  BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.


Compiled by Ivan Wilson & Paul Edwards

 

  

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During the pioneering years of the railways, a number of Enginemen were killed or seriously injured as a result of their locomotive’s boiler exploding, whilst they were trying to maintain steam pressure. 

Below are some of the early accounts of these locomotives exploding. 

 

 

Engraving on a commemorative snuff box, made from the brass dome of locomotive No. 10 'Mars'

 

 17th March 1853

THE DEATH OF DRIVER JOHN YOUNG, FIREMAN JOHN ELLIOT, 

AND LOCOMOTIVE FITTER RICHARD BAKER

DUE TO THE EXPLOSION OF LOCOMOTIVE No. 10 ‘MARS'


Brighton residents were dramatically reminded of the railway industry in their midst on 17th March 1953 when 'a loud report resembling the explosion of a large cannon' startled Mr. Craven (Locomotive Superintendent for the L.B.S.C.R.) as he was about to begin shaving. It came from the station, and witnesses reported that a mass of smoke and vapour enveloped everything, but as it cleared off it was seen that a large portion of the western most shed was blown off, and upon the remaining portions were fragments of an engine.' These were the remains of a a 'Rennie Single' tank engine No. 10 'MARS', whose boiler had blown up shortly before it was due to depart with an early morning train for Littlehampton. No. 10, said to have been cut down from a larger engine, had recently been through the works, and with the driver and fireman on this occasion was a fitter who was to watch its performance. All three were killed. an official statement quickly issued by the L.B.S.C.R. said that the Directors "had too much cause to believe that the accident arose from the driver having screwed down the safety valves shortly before the accident took place."

An inquested was held, and Craven was closely questioned by the jury over supervision in his works. No connection could be established between the work which had just been carried out on No.10 and the cause of the explosion but the jury was clearly uneasy about the number of changes that had been made since the engine was new in 1840. In a phrase giving a glimpse of methods, Craven explained that 'engines are like an Irishman's coat; they are patched and patched till they are nearly re-built.' 

Evidently the safety valves had been in order to start with. The assistant stationmaster had 'observed that driver John Young was standing up on the hand railing by the side of the boiler warming his coffee at the top of the safety valve, the steam from which was blowing off.'  Craven was further questioned about his encouragement to enginemen to save steam, which might have led them to tamper with the valve settings, but the line of inquiry proved inconclusive. On the other hand evidence from other railwaymen did show that driver John Young on that day had made adjustments. The inquest was adjourned after 6 1/2 hours. When it was resumed the next day the jury's verdict was 'that the death of the driver, John Young, was caused by his own reckless conduct in placing a higher pressure on the engine than it was fitted to bear.' Driver John Young was found guilty of manslaughter in causing the deaths of two colleagues on the footplate. All members of the jury concurred in and recommendation that 'in future a more frequent and rigid examination be made of the locomotive engines.'

 

 

Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches

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