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Buffer stop collision involve driver Harry Sharp and his fireman George Young 

(depot not known) 

Extracted and adapted from the Ministry of Transport report 


On the Sunday 18th July as the 10.53 a.m. relief train from Victoria was entering this terminal station it came into collision with the buffer stops on No.7 platform road.

As a result of the collision 21 passengers complained of, shock or injury, the latter being for the most part of a minor character.

The engine of the train was unaffected, but some damage was done to the first four coaches. This damage was not serious and was mainly confined to broken buffer castings and bent head stocks. In regard to the permanent way the bolts of the last fishplate were sheared and the joint at this place opened about 2 inch. The buffer beam, which was directly secured to solid masonry backing, was crushed and the stone slabs over the backing slightly cracked and displaced.  

The train was drawn by engine No. B 315 4-1-0 type with six-wheeled tender.

This engine has a total length of 53 feet 7 inches, and weighs., with tender, 83 ½  tons. The train consisted of nine eight-wheeled bogie coaches of which the last seven formed close-coupled block train No. 952. The overall length of this train was 455 feet 3 inches, and its weight 188 tons 4 c.w.t.s., excluding the engine.

The train and engine were fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake operating blocks on all wheels of the coaching stock, on the four coupled wheels of the engine, and the six wheels of the tender. This stock is in: daily use in suburban services, and is utilised on main lines as required at week ends

The weather at the time of the accident was fine and hot and the atmosphere clear.


The railway approaching the terminus at Brighton, Station runs in a general southerly direction. No. 7 platform road is towards the east side of t h e station, and immediately on the east side of it is No. 8 platform road The platform entrance signals are situated 235 yards from the buffer stops at the end of No.7. For about the first 50 yards oil the terminal side of these signals the alignment is tangential, an from this point onwards:, there is a gradually increasing right-handed curve, which reaches its maximum curvature of 15 chains at a point about 70 yards from the stops, and thereafter gradually decreases, becoming almost tangential for about the last 10 yards. The alignment of No. 8 platform road is similar, but the terminal buffer stops are 40 feet beyond those on No. 7 road The signals referred to are at the foot of the platform ramp, and the total length of the platform from the top of the ramp to the buffer stops is 229 yards. 

The actual terminal movements are handled from Brighton South signal-box the centre of which is approximately 70 yards north of the. platform entrance signals The next block post is Montpelier Junction, situated approximately 210 yards north of the South box. The block posts north of Montpelier Junction are Lover s Walk, Preston South and Preston North.


From an examination of tile crushed buffer beam, and judging by the other Circumstances of the case, it appears that this buffer stop collision took place at a speed of between five and six miles an hour.

The driver of the train was Harry Sharp, a man of 33 years’ service, for l6 of which he has been driver. After leaving Victoria on the morning in question, the train, which is booked to make a non-stop run, was not checked by signals, nor had the driver any cause to use the brakes, until approaching Preston North, a short distance north of Brighton. The brake acted very well, and driver Sharp maintained the slight application which he had then made until he sighted the distant signal for

Preston South, carried under the Preston North home signal. This distant signal was off, and Sharp in consequence released the brakes altogether. The next application which he made was after sighting Montpelier Junction distant, which is carried under the home signal for Lovers Walk. This brake application was about the same in extent as that which he had previously made. He subsequently released the brake again as the following signals were all off. The next application which he made was about the time the engine passed Montpelier box. Sharp said that he was then running at the normal speed and continued to do so as he entered the platform. His account of what subsequently happened is as follows :- -

“As I was running into the station I was looking at the buffers on the road on my left, and I was taking the road I was running on to be as long as the other one. When I first caught sight of the buffer stops on my own road I made an emergency application, but it was not soon enough to act……I do not suppose the leading end of my engine was more than a yard from the buffer stops when I made this application."

Fireman George Young gave evidence to much the same effect, adding that the driver was reducing speed all the wav from Montpelier box to the terminus. As the engine entered the platform Young thought that it was running at the ordinary speed, but when they had got about three parts down the platform, the train was running to his knowledge a little too fast to stop short of the buffers. Young had already applied the hand brake partially as the train entered the station, and when he realised that it was running too fast he called out Whoa " to the driver, and then screwed the hand brake on hard. Young added that up to the moment when he first realised that the speed was too high there was nothing unusual in the way that his driver handled the train compared with other drivers with whom Young has worked.

Inspector Rampton was standing at the top of the ramp at the end of No. 7 platform, waiting for this train to come in. He first saw it when it was passing Montpelier ,Junction box, and thought then that it was coming in a little bit faster than usual. He still had this impression as the engine passed him where he was standing. He did not, however, think that it was going to run into the buffer stops until it had actually done so. The collision seemed to have practically no effect on the rear of the train, which came to a stand without any rebound. Inspector Rampton added that the speed of the train was reduced considerably between the time when he, first saw it and the time when it passed him.

Foreman Charles Kettley, who was at the time on No. 7 platform, fist saw the train when it was about three bogie lengths from the buffer stops. He thought that it was coming in extra fast, and that if the driver was not careful he would hit the buffers. In his opinion the speed was a little faster than a walking speed when the collision took place.

The approach of the train was also witnessed by brake examiner Wilson Webb, who was standing on No. 8 platform about three or four bogie lengths from the buffer stops. He also fist saw the train as it passed Montpelier box, and at that time was not struck in any way by the speed. As, however, it began to pass the place where he was standing, he thought that it was running in rather faster than the majority of trains do. When about half the length of the first bogie coach had passed him he saw that all the wheels of the coaches within his view had picked up. He saw the collision take place, and thought that the train was travelling at the time rather faster than a walking speed. Webb's duties are in connection with the Westinghouse and Vacuum Brake examination and he has, therefore, some experience of the working of these brakes. He though it that the driver had perfect control of the train and that if He had not picked up his wheels he might have stopped short of the buffers.

Guard Robinson was in charge of the train, and does not appear to have noticed anything unusual in the running until the final brake application, which no doubt resulted in the locking of the wheels. He added that the test of the brake before leaving Victoria was satisfactory.

Neither of the two signalmen at Brighton South box noticed anything unusual in the running of the train. They both remarked that there is a considerable variation in the actual sped at which trains coming into the terminus pass their box.

All the witnesses are agreed that the weather was bright and atmosphere outside the station roof quite clear.


The chief feature of interest in this case is Driver Sharp’s evidence regarding his misapprehension of the relative lengths of Nos. 7 and 8 platform roads. I am satisfied from my own observation from the cab of an engine of this class that, owing to the alignment of the track, the stop blocks on No. 7 road cannot in fact be seen by a driver controlling the Westinghouse brake on the left hand side of the footplate until the leading end of the engine is, quite close to them. I)river Sharp’s estimate of a yard is under the mark, but it would be safe to say that the view is to all intents and purpose restricted to an engine length. On the other. hand, the. stop blocks of No. 8 road, 40 feet ahead of those on No. 7, are in full view from the left-hand side of the footplate of an engine approaching the terminus on the latter road.

In my opinion driver Sharp's explanation of his error is the correct one, and it was his mistake in not realising the difference in length between the two roads rather than any mishandling of the train which was, the actual cause of the accident. It is true that all three eye witnesses expressed the opinion that the speed of the train was rather higher than usual, but I have little doubt that in spite of this no collision would have occurred if the extra 40 feet of length had been available, as the driver thought for the moment that it was.

Responsibility for the accident must rest upon Driver Sharp. It is due to him to say that he made no attempt to evade it , and admitted that , having signed as knowing the road, he should have realised the difference in the length of these two platform lines. He does not appear to know the station very well, and has in fact only had two turns of a week, each which included the driving of trains into this terminus. Sharp went so far as to say that he did not know prior to the accident that Nos. 7 and 8 platform roads were not of the same length, adding, however, that he should hare done so. I fancy that this statement cannot be taken too literally, and that it was rather a case of momentary forgetfulness than of actual ignorance of the true state of affairs.


The difference in buffer stop alignment of only 40 feet in the case of two adjacent roads is unusual, though there is at least one other example at Brighton in the case of platform roads Nos. 5 and 6. It is mainly attributable in both cases to the fact that Nos. 7 and 6 roads are used as, end loading bays, and the stop blocks could not be set further back without encroaching on the concourse. The unusual combination of this small difference in length with the heavy curve on which the stop blocks are approached warrants, I think, the adoption of some simple precaution against the undoubted difficulty of observing No. 7 stops until they are so nearly reached, and the consequent possibility of some such forgetfulness as resulted i11 this collision. I would suggest to the Company the desirability of erecting a marker board opposite the buffer stops, of No. 7 road in the six-foot way, between this and No. 8 road. This would be readily visible from the left-hand side of the footplate, and would act as a reminder of the position of the stops to the driver of an approaching train.





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