IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

 

THE HISTORY OF THE

  BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

  

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  COPYHOLD CUTTING TRAIN CRASH


THE FIRST RECORDED ACCIDENT ON THE NEWLY OPENED LINE


2nd OCTOBER 1841


Involving Driver Charles Goldsmith


EXTRACTED AND ADAPTED FROM THE BOARD OF TRADE REPORTED

 BY EARL OF RIPON

  

This disaster occurred at Copyhold cutting, where the fatal over throw occurred on the 2nd of October, which involved the 

10.45 a.m. down train from London Bridge to Brighton. The train left London Bridge with nine first class carriages, one 

composite carriage and two private coaches on trucks, holding a total of 97 passengers. The firemen of both engines were 

killed together with two passengers, (servants of a Doctor).


I was then supplied with a special engine and carriage and was accompanied by Mr. Rastrick, the engineer-in-chief of the 

line, to the Hayward Heath Station; our driver being the man Jackson, who had charge of the second engine (Loco No.22) on 

the day of the accident, and whom I had thus the means of questioning on the spot, as I had also the labourer Copley, who had 

made the signal to indicate the necessity of caution the moment before the first engine was thrown off the line. I also saw at a 

beer shop the guard Hitchens, who was so severely injured, but he was too ill to be able to give me any information. I saw this 

man again the next day; he then appeared better, but could give me no account; all that he knew was the accident was 

momentary. The driver of the first engine (loco No. 17 was to pilot the train to Haywards Heath),  Charles Goldsmith, I only 

saw at the Brighton Station. Although in a weak state he is fast recovering, but his evidence amounts to little more than that of 

Hitchens. He saw the signal given by Copley, but too late to be of any service. He states the awe d to have been, on entering 

the cutting about 30 miles per hour but could a sign no caused for the accident.

On examining the place of the fatal occurrence nothing could be seen, or expected to be seen, after the lapse of six days, to 

indicate its immediate cause, although there was sufficient evidence of the extreme violence of the concussion. Four of the 

rails, weighing 75 lbs. per yard, or 375 lb. each, which had sustained the shock of the engine, were bent and twisted in all 

directions, and one of them had on one side its flange stripped off for about two feet of its length, as if out by the moat 

powerful shears; hut these rails having been replaced by other immediately after the accident, I could form no opinion from 

the appearance of the mad that could lead me to any conclusion, although from other circumstances I feel not the slightest 

doubt on the subject.

The place where the accident occurred is near the 36½ mile post from London, within about a mile of the north end of the 

Hayward Heath Tunnel, which is a little below the Hayward Heath Station. The soil in this cutting, and for some distance 

down the line, is of a very absorbent and treacherous character, becoming in its wet state nearly semi-fluid, mud yet when dry 

or well drained it appears be perfectly sound; and I am bound to state that I stood at this and observed trains passing with 

considerable speed both up and down the line, and that their motion was exceedingly steady, that is, free from rocking, which 

is generally in obvious where a line is defective.

I have watched this effect, and have experimented upon it on several lines, and I am not aware that I ever saw less oscillatory 

motion. But it must be observed that at this time everything that could be done had been hone to car off the water. For a day 

or two before the accident the rain had been very heavy, and I have no doubt, from the nature of the soil, and the evidence of 

Copley, that the road was at the time in what he describes "as a light state," which he afterwards explained by saying-when 

there is much rain the wet pushes up the rails and makes them uneven, but that was not the case on Saturday.

I asked him, "If the road was not in that date on Saturday, and the speed not greater than usual, why he gave the signal;" hut 

all I could learn was they had done so for two or three days.

Weighing these circumstances, viz., the nature of the soil, the great quantities of rain that had fallen, the admission that a 

caution signal was made, and has been made for some days before, I feel no doubt whatever that the unsound bearing of some 

one or more of them sleepers at the time was one cause of the accident.

With respect to the speed of the engine at the time, there are considerable discrepancies in the evidence. Jackson, the driver, 

states that the speed did not exceed 20 or 23 miles per hour, although he admits that he has frequently passed this spot at 32 

and 35 miles per hour.

Copley, the labourer above alluded to, says, that he 

observed the engine at its usual speed. Hinge, the policeman 

on the viaduct, says he gave the signal "stead," because he 

observed the train was going rather faster than usual. Now 

the question is, What has been the usual speed on this part 

of the line. The average speed on the whole line for this train 

is 25 miles per hour, including the time lost at four 

intermediate stopping places, besides the stoppage at Horley 

to attach the assistant engine.

This will require an average speed of at least 28 miles per 

hour when travelling. Now for the first two miles  after 

leaving Horley the line ascends 

PHOTOGRAPHER UNKNOWN 

Ouse Valley Viaduct  

1in 460 and then for four miles before reaching the Balcombe Tunnel it ascends 1 in 264, and thence descends for nearly six 

miles to the Hayward Station at the same rate, that is 1 in 264. 

From the notes and memoranda made by Sir Frederick Smith and myself in travelling together over some thousand miles of 

railway, and over every variety of gradient. I have no doubt that to preserve an average speed of 28 miles per hour though 

this12 miles would a speed of 32 miles per hour on the descending side.

Now it is admitted that the train was behind its proper time, a strong reason for not going slower than usual. Jackson denies 

having seen the signal “steady" on the viaduct, he seems therefore to have had no good motive for going slower. and he states 

that he has frequently passed this place at 35 miles per hour; and yet he asserts that just on this particular occasion, when 

such a Frightful accident occurred, he was not proceeding at more than 20 or 23 miles per hour. His statement on this head is 

certainly supported by the opinion of John Hardy. Eq.. M.P., who was a passenger, but it is greatly at variance with 

probability, and with other evidence.

It has been seen that the usual speed down this plane is about 32 miles per hour, and Hinge admitted in his evidence before 

the jury that he thought the speed was greater than, usual. It appears also that he made use of expressions soon after the 

accident, which would simply that the speed was much greater than he stated before the coroner.

Since I have been engaged on this inquiry, I have had communication with two of the gentlemen on the jury, who met me 

afterwards by appointment, and whose statement throws great doubt on this man's evidence. I quote the following from their 

two letters.

“I beg to state that, although on the evidence brought before them the jury would come to no other conclusion than that at which they arrived, I felt, and still feel, by no means satisfied at the statement made by John Hinge, the policeman, on the highly important point of the speed with which the train was travelling at, or immediately before. the time of the accident. I was at the Copyhold bridge about two hours after the accident happened, when this police-man addressed m e and said, that when k first saw the train coming towards him he was sure something would happen from the speed at which it was going. He said he held up his hand to signal ‘ steady.' but that his heart was up in his mouth as they passed him; that he ran to a point in the mad where he could watch them farther, and in a very short time the accident occurred. He was heard to state this by other persons also, who have, I believe, informed you of the same thing The man, however, when called as a witness denied having made any such statement. Whether he had really forgotten what he previously said, or in the excitement and alarm occasioned by the accident had stated that which was not the fact, I am unable to say; but it is obvious, that the effects on the minds of the jury would have been very different if the original account of the policeman had been substantiated before them."

The other gentleman states as follows:-" Soon after the accident occurred I went to the spot, and accompanied one of the 

inspectors and a gentleman, who is a stranger to me, to the shed where the bodies of the unfortunate victims had been 

deposited. A policeman was in attendance, who volunteered the following remarks:-He said that he observed the train 

approaching him near the viaduct (where he was on duty) at such a rapid rate that he was much terrified; that he fully 

expected some accident to happened in consequence of the great speed with which they were proceeding, and was only 

surprised it did not occur sooner than it did; that he held up his hand as a signal to slacken speed, but that no notice was 

taken of it. Being one of the jury on the inquest held two days after, I insisted upon this man's evidence being heard. It was not 

until after much delay had taken place, and the coroner more than once called for him, that he made his appearance. On 

questioning him as to his former statement he totally denied having used such expressions as those which I had attributed to 

him, declared that he had not been the least frightened, nor had entertained any apprehension of fatal consequences arising 

from the speed, Which h he then said was not extreme; yet he allowed that he held up his hand as a caution, but could not be 

certain that the signal ad been seen by the driver."

“As a juryman I did not think that I could also act as a witness; and not being aware at the time that the policeman had made 

similar statements to others, who could be called upon to give evidence of the fact, I thought I ought not to allow the 

policeman's previous assertions to influence the verdict, as they were not borne out by the evidence. But as it appears that 

Government has commissioned you to investigate the circumstances which attended the accident, I feel that, being no longer 

fettered by my position as a juryman, I should not be acting fairly towards the public if I withheld this statement from you."

These gentlemen, who have no wish that their names should be unnecessarily brought before the public, are, notwithstanding, 

quite ready, if called upon, to substantiate what they have thus stated.

It is not, perhaps, my place to make any comments in this report on the conduct of the policeman; but it is impossible not to 

conclude from these statements, and other circumstances, that the speed down the plane was excessive, and inconsistent with 

the then state of the road; or, perhaps, with common prudence under any circumstances.

Of course the above statements impugn also Jackson's evidence; and I am sorry that the jury seam to have given too much 

weight, in my opinion, to his explanations as to the probable cause of the accident This man states that he has been a driver 

for four years and a half, three years in the service of the London and Brighton Company, before which he belonged to the 

London and Birmingham Company. He states that he never met with any accident himself from the four wheeled engines on 

the latter line; but had heard of a case of one of those engines getting off the line near Harrow.

Now surely this is very slight ground on which to come to a conclusion that such engines are unsafe, and for attributing to the 

use of them two accidents on two successive days within about a mile of each other.

It appears from a statement I have received from Mr. Bury, the maker of these engines, and who is also the superintendent of 

the locomotive department of the London and Birmingham.

Railway, that since the opening of that line, in July, 1837, they have used no other than four-wheeled engines; that they have 

travelled more than three million miles, which is nearly equivalent to making thirty thousand complete journeys between 

London and Birmingham; and that they have in no instance met with a single accident that can be said to have been 

occasioned be the particular construction of the engine.

There is, however, as stated by Jackson, some difference between the Birmingham and Brighton four-wheeled engines. They 

have both the same stroke and the same diameter of wheels; but the former has smaller cylinders, viz., some having twelve-

inch cylinders, weighing, full of water, under 10 tons; others of thirteen-inch cylinders, weighing, under like circumstances, 

between 11 and 12 tons

On the Brighton line the four-wheeled engines have all fourteen-inch cylinders, and weigh, when charged with water and fuel, 

between 13 and 14 tons. This increased size of cylinder requires increased dimensions; and, the wheels being of the same 

diameter, necessarily raises the centre of gravity, and thus far they may be said to be more top-heavy, and are, perhaps, more 

liable to rock; but the difference must be very  inconsiderable.

In order to form some comparison of the top-heaviness of the two engines employed on that particular day when the accident 

occurred, Mr. Rastrick obligingly permitted one of his assistants to make me two outlined elevations of them, that is, of a four-

wheeled engine of precisely the same dimensions as that which was destroyed, and the other of the identical six-wheeled 

engine driven by Jackson. I forward with this report these two drawings, by which it will be seen, as nearly as it is possible to 

form an opinion, that there is little or no difference in the place of the centre of gravity in the two engines. The upper part of 

the boiler of the six-wheeled engine is the highest, but its water line is the lowest; as far, therefore, as relates to top heaviness 

on which much stress is laid by Jackson, I am of opinion there is little or no difference.

In making these remarks, I beg it may be distinctly understood that I am not advocating, Or giving a preference to, the four-

wheeled engines. My object in referring to the subject is, that the jury, by giving too much weight to W  at I consider to be an 

erroneous opinion, have lost sight of the main causes of the accident, which I feel the strongest conviction were over driving 

and a road partially injured by the heavy rains that had recently fallen. I think, moreover, that the withdrawing of those 

engines from the line, in compliance with the recommendation  of the jury, has a tendency to give a false confidence to the 

Brighton passengers, while it is calculated to give unfounded alarm to those travelling on the London and Birmingham and 

some other lines.

It now only remains, my Lord, to inform our Lordship of the result of my examination into the circumstances attending the 

falling o the front of the Patcham tunnel This was, I believe, occasioned by the chalk being left at a considerable slope, which 

caused the "backing in," when impregnated with the excessive heavy rains, to slide along the face of the chalk, and thus by its 

pressure overcoming the resistance opposed to it. Mr. Rastrick also apprehends that a pipe. intended for a drain, had become 

by some means choaked, which increased ' the evil. A slight crack, it appears, had been observed early on the Thursday 

morning; but no danger was apprehended till immediately after the passage of the 10h. 45m. morning train.

In the fall of the front of the tunnel, a part of the brick work of the tunnel itself, for about six feet, was fractured. It remained 

shored up the second day, hut was removed during the following night. The remaining part is an extremely fine piece of 

brickwork, and is perfectly safe, only requiring for the present a constant watching, to remove any fragments of chalk that may 

fall upon the line from the present nearly vertical face of the cutting. Steps will be immediately taken to reface the tunnel; and 

it is, I believe, Mr. Rastrick's intention to lengthen the brickwork of it a little towards Brighton.

In the further compliance with your Lordship's instructions, after making this examination I proceeded along the line with the 

special engine and carriage, accompanied by Mr. Rastrick, to Hayward Heath, stopping and examining everything that 

appeared to require it. Mr. Rastrick here left me to return to Brighton, having first appropriated m me the coupe of the 

carriage, in which I proceeded to Croydon ; and if I might venture to give a practical opinion relative to the construction and 

present state of the line, I should say that the engine has done, and well done, everything that could be effected; but he has 

had to deal in some parts with very treacherous materials, and time will be required for them to take up a firm and solid state. 

In other parts, where the soil is better, the line is very perfect. The bridges, the viaducts, and four out of the five tunnels, are, in 

regard of interior brickwork, in perfect condition; but the Hayward Heath Tunnel is much oppressed with water from the late 

excessive rains; but great efforts are being made to carry the water off, and a few d a p of fine weather will enable much to be 

accomplished. Those parts of the line which have suffered most from the rains are two short pieces of the embankment south of 

the Redhill Station ; another considerable portion south of the Balcombe Tunnel, and just beyond the Hayward Heath Tunnel 

southward.

Sir Frederick Smith, in his general approval of this line, has drawn the attention of the engineer to certain portions of it, on 

which he conceived the safety of the public called for specific precautions a d reduced speed. These precautions have been 

rendered more particularly necessary in consequence of the recent heavy rains, which have also produced some other weak 

points; and I conceive that it is most desirable that at present, and during the approaching winter, more time should be 

allowed for the journey, in order that great caution may be observed in those parts where the line has most sufferer.

I have ascertained that both Jackson and Charles Goldsmith were discharged servants of the London and Birmingham 

Company, but Goldsmith had never been a driver.

* On 6th June, 1851 a Driver Jackson died as result of the Newmarket Arch near Falmer derailment. It is wonder if this was the same driver who was involved the above train crash, Driver Jackson died as a result of this accident

Driver Jackson had previously been employed as an engine driver since the early part of 1837, by the London & Birmingham company. After being discharged from this company in c1838, driver Jackson later found employment with the L.B.S.C.R. having been an engine driver for about a year and half.

 

 

 

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