IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

 

THE HISTORY OF THE


  BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.


  

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 COLLISION AT ITCHINGFIELD JUNCTION


11TH AUGUST 1866


extracted & adpted from railway report

 

The Shoreham branch line joins the Mid-Sussex Railway at Itchingfield junction, which is 1,200 yards to the south of 

Stammerham Junction of the Guildford branch; and these junctions are between two and three miles to the south-west of 

Horsham. There is on the Mid-Sussex Railway a rising gradient of 1 in 100 for 32 chains, commencing at 2 miles 35 chains 

from Horsham; and this followed by a rising gradient of 1 in 146 for 26 ½ chains. The gradients on the Shoreham branch rise 

1 in 141.5 for 22.46 chains from Itchingfield junction, and then fall 1 in 293 for 48 chains. The Shoreham branch is being 

doubled, but is at present a single line, the point connecting the double with the single line being worked from the junction 

points are also worked from the same stage, as well as an auxiliary signal towards Shoreham, between the main signals and 

the distant signal in that direction, for the better protection of the diamond between the Shoreham and the mid-Sussex line. 

The distant signals as well as the main signals are interlocked with the points both of the junction and of the single and double 

line, and have been so ever since the branch was opened for traffic, some four years ago. There are, further, the means of 

communication by telegraph between the cabins f the Itchingfield and Stammerham junctions, by Tyler’s train instruments, 

and by a single-needle speaking instrument.

On the evening in question, the 7.27 p.m. train from Brighton to Horsham left the former station 12 minutes late. It was 

delayed 17 minutes at Shoreham, and 14 minutes at Partridge Green, waiting for other trains on the single line; and it left the 

latter station 43 or 44 minutes late. It ran as usual to Itchingfield junction, at 9.14 consisting of an engine and tender, a break- 

containing the guard, a second-class, a first class, and three third-class carriages. The engine driver found a dim white light 

at the distant signal post, and green lights at the auxiliary post and at the junction stage. He shut off his steam and prepared to 

stop his train in the first instance, on seeing no light from the distant signal, but he observed when he was about 40 yards from 

that signal, that the discs were at all right, and that it showed a dim white light. After he had travelled 350 yards to the 

auxiliary signal, his fireman directed his attention to a train running in the opposite direction which then came into view. The 

night was dark. He was within 150 yards of the junction stage, and not much more than 100 yards from the point of danger; 

and as he had no chance of stopping short of the diamond, he considered that his safest course was to endeavour to get 

through the junction before the down train reached it. He turned on his steam with that object, but the engine of the down 

train stuck his tender, separated it from the train, and broke the van behind it to pieces. The guard who rode in that van was 

stunned, and did not remember anything further for the time, though he does not appear to be materially injured. The fireman 

of the down train was killed on the spot by a blow on his head, and 14 passengers were more or less injured.

The signalman who was at the junction has done duty there for three months, and has been a signalman for upwards of two 

years. He came on duty at 6 o’clock on that evening. He heard the Brighton train coming about 9 and he states that he turned 

over the points between the double and single line, and the junction points, and lowered the signal for it to pass through, just 

before he received notice by telegraph from Stammerham of the approach of the down train. When the Brighton train was near 

the auxiliary signal, after he had thrown up the distant signal behind it for its protection, he heard an engine whistle for the 

breaks from the opposite direction. He shows an entry in his record book of 9.18, and asserts that he telegraphed at that time, 

and just before the collision, to the Stammerham cabin, to announce the Brighton train; but Stammerham signalman says that 

he did not receive any telegraph signals at that time, or until 9.24, when he received three beats from Itchingfield, as if for the 

Brighton train; and at 9.29 the engine of that train came forward to his cabin.

This discrepancy in regard to the telegraph signals is not, however, of importance as regards the cause of the collision. Both 

signalmen agree that the down train, of which notice was received at Stammerham from Horsham at 9 18, was telegraphed 

forward from Stammerham to Itchingfield at 9.13 or 9.14; and the collision appears to have occurred at 9.17 or 9.18. The 

signalman at the Itchingfield junction evidently had his points turned over to admit the Brighton train from the Shoreham 

branch, because that train was running through them in due course, and the signals could not have been lowered for its 

approach without their being so turned over. The locking apparatus further provided that when those points were in that 

position the distant signal as well as the main signal must have been at danger against the down train; and it is evident that 

the engine driver of the down train must have approached the junction in disobedience to those signals.

This engine driver, whose name was Reay, had been employed for eight years on the Great Eastern Railway, for 5 ½ years on 

a Spanish railway, and for seven years on the Brighton Railway. He was, however, suspended from November 1862 to April 

1863, in consequence of a collision at Findly Green. Since that time there has not been any complaint of any sort against him.

I was unable to take down his evidence in writing because, after I had tested the working of the points and signals in the 

junction cabin in his presence, and there heard what he had to say on the subject, his solicitor advised him to decline to 

submit himself for further examination. But he and the two guards of his train all asserted that the distant signal from the 

Itchingfleld junction showed a bright white light. The one guard, Alfred Ade, said that he saw it distinctly from near the 

Stammerham junction, and that he had passed it, at a speed of 25 miles an hour, before the driver whistled for the breaks. The 

other guard, William James, says that he also saw this light as he passed the Stammerham junction; that it was “bright and 

plain, fully on ;” that if the road had been straight "it might have been seen for three miles." He added "It was the brightest 

light I have ever seen since I have been a guard. I saw this light till after we had passed it, and it was not changed till I had 

passed it. I saw the main signals at Itchingfield when I was about 200ypards from them. They were both at danger. I 

then"applied my break, and while I was applying it, I heard Reay (the engine driver) whistling hard. I did not see the other 

train before we struck it I was riding in the last vehicle of the train." Strange to say, the signalman' at the Stammerham 

junction did not notice what light was shown from the distant signal from the Itchingfield junction,until about three quarter of 

an hour after the collision, though that signal was fully in his view. 

This down train left London for Portsmouth at 7.58 p.m., 18 minutes late, and Three Bridges at 8.58, 25 minutes late, and it 

did not stop between the latter station and the Itchingfield junction. It consisted of an engine and tender, three carriages, a 

break van in which the guard Ade rode, four other carriages, and a second break van in charge of the guard James.

If it had not been for the locking apparatus in the signal cabin, the positive assertions of the engine driver and the two guards 

of the down train would have gone far to convict the signalman of neglect of duty. But the mode in which that apparatus works 

completely exonerates him, and leaves them in the position of asserting what is, in fact, a mechanical impossibility. The wire 

of the distant signal in question had, it appears, been broken and repaired about three weeks before the accident; but I could 

not, when I examined it on the 16th instant, detect any symptom of any alteration having been made in it subsequently to the 

collision.. It appeared, as well as the locking apparatus, to be working perfectly well.

It did not occur to the signalman to turn the down train down the branch; and it would not, as the branch is single, have been 

safe for .him to do so. He might thus, instead of averting danger, have caused the engine of the down train to come into 

collision with some of the carriages of the Brighton train, in which case the consequences would have been more serious. And 

it was impossible for him to calculate, especially in the dark, what would have been precisely the result of such a course. But 

when the doubling of the line has been completed, the locking apparatus may be altered; the junction points on the down line 

may be locked for the branch when the junction points on the up line are open, and the signals lowered, for an up branch 

train; and a collision of this description, by the engine driver of a down train over running his signals at a time when an up 

train is properly passing through the junction from the branch may in this manner be rendered impossible.

I learn, with reference to the lateness of them trains, that nearly all the trains on the Brighton Company's system had been 

disarranged on that and the preceding day, in consequence of alterations in the yard at the London Bridge station There was 

much confusion in the working of that yard, until the men became accustomed to the improvements that had been introduced 

with a view to greater security.

I must not omit to point out in conclusion that this collision is an illustration of the importance of including the distant as well as the main signals in the locking apparatus in junction cabins.

 

 

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