IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY

THE HISTORY OF THE

 BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

 

 

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  KEMP TOWN 9th July 1902

Extracted and adapt from a report by 

into the buffer stop collision 

involving Brighton driver Harry Mitchell 

and his fireman Herbert Baldwin


In this case, as the 7.30 pm. passenger train from ,Brighton to Kemp Town  consisting of an engine and eleven vehicles, was entering Kemp Town Station, the driver failed to bring it to a stand alongside the platform, and it came into collision with the buffer-stops at the end of the line.

The speed of the train at the time of the collision was not great, so comparatively little damage was done either to rolling stock or to the permanent way, but seventeen passengers have complained of personal injuries sustained.

The engine was a six-wheels-coupled tank engine, running bunker first ; it was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on the six coupled wheels, and with hand brake working the same blocks.

The train consisted of the following- vehicles, attached to the engine in the order given :-

2 third-class carriages (4 wheels), 2 third-class carriages (6 wheels), 1 third-class brake (4 wheels), 1 third-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 second-class carriages (4 wheels), 1 first-class carriage (6 wheels), 1 third-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 third-class brake (4 wheels), &1 van (4 wheels).

These vehicles were all fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working on four wheels of each vehicle.

Description

Kemp Town Station, where this accident occurred, is the terminal station of the  Brighton to Kemp Town branch of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway.

The line is a single one from Lewes Road to Kemp Town, and it runs into Kemp Town Station in a direction which is approximately from north to south. The line terminates in buffer-stops, and there is a platform, 148 yards in length, running along the west side of it.

About 184 yards north of the station the line enters a tunnel, which is 946 yards in length, and the signal-box is on the west side of the line, close to the entrance to this tunnel.

The following distances from the buffer-stops at the end of the line are noted :

                                                                             Yards.

To the north end of the station platform ... ... ...148

To the signal-box ... ... ... . . ... ... ... ... ... .... ..280

To the south end of the tunnel ... ... ... ... ... ... .290

To the down home signal ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... 332

To the north end of the tunnel ... ... ... ... .... .1,236

To the down distant signal ... ... ... ... ... ... ...1,235

The line through the tunnel is on a gradient of 1 in 213, falling towards Kemp Town, and it is on a slight curve ; from the south end of the tunnel up to the buffer-stops the line is level.

The day on which the accident occurred had been a fine one, but heavy rain bad come on about 7.15 pm., and it was still raining at the time of the accident.

The next station to Kemp Town is Lewes Road, distant 1 mile 14 chains from it. 



 

Evidence.

Harry Mitchell driver, states: I have been 23 years in the service of the Company, during five years of which I have been driving passenger trains. Previous to that I was employed on goods trains. I came on duty on July 9th at l pm. to work till 10.45 p.m. I booked off at 10.45 pm. on the 8th July. I was in charge of the 7.30 pm. train from Brighton to Kemp Town. My engine was a six-wheels-coupled tank engine, running bunker first. It was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on the six coupled wheels, and with hand brake working the same blocks. The brakes were in fairly good order, the blocks wanted a little repair on one side; the brake-blocks on both sides were nearly worn out, but they had answered my purpose all that day, being dry weather. I started out at l pm, with that engine. I had 50 lbs. of pressure on my indicator when I started working. As soon as I took the 

Driver Harry Mitchell 

engine I ascertained that the brake-blocks were worn: I ascertained this by inspection. I do not consider that they were sufficiently worn to interfere with the effective working of the brake. I was quite satisfied with the condition of the brake for a light load, but I was not satisfied with it for the 11 coaches which I had on the 7.30 p.m. train. We started from Brighton at 7.40 or 7.42 p.m. There were 11 vehicles in the train. I considered that my brake power was not sufficient for such a heavy load as 11 vehicles. I did not take any steps at all in this matter; it is not my place to make any remonstrance in a case of this sort. I am aware of the rule which states that drivers have to satisfy themselves before starting that their engine is in proper order. As a rule I am in the habit of satisfying myself on this point, and if I find anything that is unsatisfactory I bring it to the notice of the foreman. On this occasion I did not bring it to the notice of the foreman when I did not consider my brake power sufficient for the train. I did not do so because there was hardly time, and I thought I could manage the train as I had managed the previous ones. After leaving Brighton we stopped at London Road and Lewes Road. I made use of the automatic brakes on stopping at both of these stations; the brakes acted fairly well considering the load. At Lewes Road I had a little difficulty in stopping the train, but not particularly at London Road. At London Road we picked up a large number of passengers and the train consequently became heavier. I cannot say exactly what time we left Lewes Road. On approaching Kemp Town the distant signal was off for me, as also was the home signal in the tunnel. I estimate my speed on passing the home signal in the tunnel at 10 miles per hour. I had turned off steam immediately on entering the tunnel and never turned on steam again. The first time after leaving Lewes Road that I applied the automatic brake was just when we were approaching the Kemp Town signal-box. When I reached the end of the platform I realized that I could not stop my train. I at once reversed my engine, gave her steam, then I applied the automatic brake full on. In spite of all this mp train did not stop, and we collided with the buffer-stops. We were going very slowly at the time of the actual collision, and we hardly felt the shock on the engine at all. It had been very fine all day up to about 7.15 pm., and it then commenced to rain heavily, and it was raining heavily at the time of the accident. I consider that the reason why I was unable to stop my train was on account of the brake on the train not being sufficient considering the number of passengers. I had made no remark to the guard about the brake power not being sufficient for so many passengers. The inefficiency of the brakes was due to the heavy load of passengers, which made the brake-blocks ride under the wheels instead of being on the centre of the wheels.

Herbert Baldwin, fireman, states: I have been about five years in the service of the Company, during two of which I have been fireman. I worked the same hours ns driver Mitchell on the 8th and 9th July, and was, with him on the 7.30 p.m. train Brighton to Kemp Town. Up till the starting of the 7.30 pm. train there was, as far as I could see, no fault to be found with the automatic brake. It had been used on several occasions and there had been no difficulty in stopping the train with it. Before leaving Brighton with the 7.30 p.m. train the driver made no remark to me at all about the condition of the automatic brake. On stopping at London Road Station the automatic brake was made use of, and there was no particular difficulty in stopping at that station; the driver made no remark to me at that point about the brake. The automatic brake was again made use of when we stopped at Lewes Road, and no difficulty was experienced there in stopping the train. The driver made no remark to me there about the condition of the brake. I should say that when we passed the home signal our speed was not quite 10 miles per hour. Steam was turned off about 50 yards after we had entered the tunnel and was never applied again. The automatic brake was applied soon after me passed the home signal. It was momentarily released and applied again. When we reached the end of the platform I realised that the driver would not be able to stop his train. I thought when we reached the end of the platform our speed was not more than 5 miles per hour. The driver reversed the engine and put on full steam. I had applied my handbrake directly we left the tunnel, and at the end of the platform it was on as hard as I could get it. I should estimate the speed of my train, when we ran into the buffer-stops, at 7 miles per hour. It seemed as though we had increased speed when running alongside the platform. We the shock of the collision on the engine, but not wonderfully much; neither the driver nor I hurt at all. I attribute he reason of our being able to stop the train to it's being heavily loaded.

Robert Sims, guard, states: I have been just five years in the service of the Company, and I been passenger guard from the first of this month I came on duty on July 9th at 1.45 pm. worked till 11.40 pm. I came off duty on the 8th July at 11.30 p.m. I was guard of the 7.30 pm. Brighton to Kemp Town train, train consisted of the following vehicles, attached to the engine in the order given :- 

 

1 third-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 third-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 third-class carriage (6 wheels), 1 third-class carriage (6 wheels), 1 third-class brake (4 wheels),1 third-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 second-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 first-class carriage (6 wheels), 1 third-class carriage (4 wheels), 1 third-class brake (4 wheels), & 1 plain van (4 wheels).

These vehicles were all fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on four wheels of each vehicle. My automatic brake was in good order; I had carried out the instructions about testing it before I left Brighton, and found everything satisfactory. The driver made no remark to me at all on the condition of the brake, and I have every reason to imagine that it was in first rate order. I had made four trips from Brighton to Kemp Town and back that day with the same engine before starting with the 7.30 train. The biggest load we had had on any of these previous occasions was seven vehicles. No difficulty had been experienced with the automatic brake on any of these journeys. We left Brighton at 7.45 p.m.; I cannot say exactly what time we arrived at London Road. No difficulty was experienced in stopping the train at London Road. I noticed there was a little difficulty in stopping the train at Lewes Road ; it was not that we over-ran the platform, but I applied my hand brake to steady the train ; the automatic brake however, appeared to me to be working all right The pressure on my indicator was over 50 lbs and when I entered the tunnel after leaving Lewes Road the indicator still showed over 50 lbs, Just as we were approaching the home signal in tunnel I looked out and saw that the signal was off for us, but it occurred to me that the driver was going rather fast. I estimate the speed at that point at 10 miles an hour. 1 was just going to put my hand brake on when the block were applied by the automatic brake. The automatic brake seemed to check the speed of the train a little, and then it seemed to go faster. I cannot say whether the automatic brake was ever taken off again. After applying my hand brake as hard, as I could I looked and saw that the automatic brake was then fully applied. When the train reached the end of the platform it seemed quicken speed, and I can give no idea of What our speed was when the collision occurred. I felt the shock of the collision severely; I was thrown from one end of the brake to the other. 1 cannot account for the driver being unable to stop his train. I only commenced running between Brighton and Kemp Town on the Sunday previous to the accident. I consider that the speed of the train when passing the home signal at Kemp Town was decidedly faster than they usually go at that point. I frequently do have to apply the hand Brake at Lewes Road, so there was nothing unusual in my doing so on this occasion.

George Boyett, head porter, states: I have been just over 26 years in the service of the Company and am now employed as head porter at Kemp Town station, and have held that position for five years. I remember seeing the 7.30 pm. train from Brighton to Kemp Town running into Kemp Town Station on the evening of the 9th of July. I was standing on the platform about 40 yards from the buffer-stops when the train ran into the station. I first saw the train as it was coming out of the tunnel. I noticed nothing special about the speed of the train as it , came out of the tunnel. When the engine passed me I thought it was going so fast that it would not be able to stop before reaching the buffers. This thought only occurred to me when the engine actually passed me. As far as I can estimate, the speed of the train when it passed me was not more than three miles an hour. I saw it run into the buffer-stops. The train was stopping fast as it approached the buffer-stops. As far as I could see no steam was applied. As far as I could see the blocks were applied on all the wheels as the train passed me, but it appeared to me that the wheels were skidding. My opinion is that the accident was due to the fact of the driver not making sufficient allowance for the weight of the train he had behind him. I noted that the time at which the collision occurred was 7.59 pm.

Charles Rothwell, signalman, state: I have been in the service of the Company 30 ½  years, during 15 of which I have been a signalman. I am now, employed in Kemp Town Station signal-box, and have been there nearly 15 years. I came on duty on July 9th at 2.30 p.m. to work till 10 pm. I came off duty at 9.50 p.m. on July 8th. I remember the 7.30 p.m. train from Brighton to Kemp Town passing my box. Lewes Road offered me this train at 7.47 pm., and I accepted it at the same time. At 7.55 I received a train-entering-section signal for it from Lewes Road. The train arrived at my box at 7.58 pm. I did not notice anything unusual about the speed of the train when it passed my box. I estimated the speed on passing my box at from 12 to 14 miles an hour. When it passed my box I had no idea that it would be unable to stop before reaching the buffer-stops. I noticed that steam was turned off when it passed my box ; I noticed also that the brakes were applied immediately after the engine passed my box. I knew of the collision from hearing the sound of it, but I did not see the collision actually occur.

Frank Harman, signal porter, states: I have been two years five months in the service of the Company and have been signal porter for nearly 12 months, stationed at Lewes Road. I have been there all the time I have been in the service. I was in the signal-box at Lewes Road on the 9th of July when the 7.30 p.m. train from Brighton ran through. I did not book the time of arrival of train at my station, but it must have been about 7.53 p.m. I offered the train to Kemp Town at 7.47 p.m. and Kemp Town accepted it forthwith. The train passed my box at 7.55 pm. I did not notice anything unusual with the train. I saw the train stop at my station and the officials of the train did not appear to have any difficulty in stopping it. At 7.57 p.m. I received from Kemp Town the signal that the train had arrived there.

Charles Rothwell, signalman, recalled, states: I signalled to Lewes Road that the train had arrived at my box at 7.58 p.m. There is a clock in my box, and I took all these times from my clock.

Harry E. Constable, states: I am brake inspector of the London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway, to the whole of the railway, and have held that position 19 years. On Monday the 14th instant I myself examined the brakes of six vehicles of the 7.30 pm. train. These six vehicles had been taken to the shops immediately after the accident, but no alterations had been made to their brakes until I examined them. I found the brakes to be all in good working order, and in order to make a special test of them I loaded each carriage with 50 men, and I found that with that load and the brakes fully applied the blocks were all in good contact with the wheels ; in fact that with the carriages fully loaded the brakes were absolutely efficient. There is no doubt that the fact of the carriage being heavily loaded does make a slight difference as to the point of application of the brake blocks, but the difference is so small as to be practically inappreciable. It is thoroughly recognised in the service that no driver ever starts away on a journey unless he is thoroughly satisfied with the condition of his brakes, but I cannot recall' any case in which a driver has so complained. I am of opinion that the brake power on the train was amply adequate to bring the train to a stand, and I think that the driver must have misjudged his distance in applying the brake. From the evidence which I have heard I do not think that the train could possibly have been approaching the station at a hand-brake speed. I have now also examined the brakes on the other five vehicles of the train, and on subjecting them to the same tests as those previously inspected, I found that their brakes are absolutely efficient.

Robert Sims, guard, recalled, states: Directly after the collision occurred I took the time and found that it was 7.58.

Harry Mitchell, driver, recalled, states: Before starting with the 7.30 train I had taken three trains from Brighton to Kemp Town and back with the same engine. The biggest load I had had before the 7.30 pm. was six coaches, and with that load I had had no difficulty whatsoever in stopping at any point. My rule on entering Kemp Town Station is that if I have plenty of time to run round my train I stop the engine just short of the buffer-stops, but if I have not much time I stop clear of the crossing. On this occasion I was going to stop just short of the buffer-stops because I wished to have all the carriages alongside the platform. The pressure in the brake-pipe after leaving Brighton was always .50 lbs., and I had no difficulty in maintaining that pressure. I am acquainted with, the rule which states that on entering terminal stations the automatic brake must not be used except in cases of emergency, but the speed of the train must be so reduced that it may be brought to a stand with certainty and at the proper place by means of the hand-brake alone. I generally adhere to this rule. On this occasion my mate applied the hand brake whilst we were still in the tunnel, and I applied the automatic brake to steady the train just as we were coming out of the tunnel. The state of the rails at the time of the accident was very greasy; they had been greasy the whole of the way from Brighton.

Herbert Baldwin, fireman, recalled, states: After leaving Lewes Road the first time l applied my hand brake was just after we emerged from the tunnel. 

Conclusion

The facts of this case are very clear. Driver Mitchell, who was in charge of the engine of the train, states that he passed the home signal, situated 332 yards from the  buffer-stops, at a speed of 10 miles an hour, with steam turned off ; that he applied, the automatic brake when just approaching the signal-box, 280 yards from the stops, he realized that when he reached the end of the platform, 148 yards from the stops, he realized that he was unable to stop his train, which accordingly came into collision with the buffer-stops, at a speed which is variously estimated at from 3 to 7 miles an hour. These facts are substantiated by the other witnesses, though signalman Rothwell, who was on duty in the Kemp Town box, estimates the speed of the train when it passed his box from 12 to 14 miles an hour.

Driver Mitchell had, before leaving Brighton with this train, taken three other train from Brighton to Kemp Town and back on that day, with the same engine; none of those three trains, however, had had a greater load than six vehicles. 

Driver Mitchell attributes his inability to stop the train to the fact of the brake power on it not being sufficient, considering the weight of the train, which consisted of eleven vehicles. He states that the brake-blocks were worn, and that before leaving Brighton at 7.40 p.m. with this train he considered that the brake power was not sufficient for such a heavy train. He admits, however, that in spite of having formed this opinion he took no steps whatsoever to report that he considered his brake power insufficient; the reasons he gives for not having done so are that there was hardly time, and that he thought that he could manage this train as he had managed the previous ones. He states that the pressure in the brake-pipe after leaving Brighton was 50 lbs. and that he had 110 difficulty in maintaining that pressure throughout the journey.

If driver Mitchell's statement, that before leaving Brighton with this train he realized that his brake power was insufficient, is correct, he is undoubtedly very greatly to blame for not having brought the matter to the notice of the foreman, which he admits. to be the course which he himself as a rule follows in such cases. This would, undoubtedly, have been the natural step for him to have taken, and his failure to do so makes it appear very doubtful whether his statement can be relied upon.

The automatic brakes were, it appears, made use of both at London Road Station and at Lewes Road Station before reaching Kemp Town, and the latter station is just at the bottom of a falling gradient of l in 100. Driver Mitchell and guard Sims both state that there was a little difficulty in stopping at that station, but that it was so slight that the train did not over-run the platform at all. If, therefore, the brakes sufficed to bring the train to a stand at Lewes Road Station, at the bottom of an incline of l in 100, it is difficult to understand why they should not have sufficed at Kemp Town Station, where the gradient is only 1 in 213, and where there is a length of 290 yards of level before reaching the buffer-stops.

Guard Sims states that he had satisfactorily tested his brake before leaving Brighton. and that the driver had made no complaint to him on the subject. Sims had been on the three previous trains from Brighton to Kemp Town and back on that day, and no difficulty of any sort had been experienced with the brakes, which he had every reason to imagine were in first-rate order.

After the accident the brakes of all the vehicles were thoroughly examined by Mr. H. G. Constable, the brake inspector to the Company, and he states that he found them all to be absolutely efficient.

The distance between Lewes Road and Kemp Town- 1 mile 14 chains-is too small for any definite conclusion to be drawn from the times recorded in the signal-boxes as to the speed of the train between those two points, but the average speed for the whole journey from Brighton to Kemp Town was not excessive.

Taking into consideration the above evidence and facts, I do not consider that there are grounds for thinking that this accident was due to any inefficiency of the brakes on the train; a11 the facts point to their having been in a thoroughly efficient condition I consider that it appears probable that driver Mitchell forgot that this train was a heavier one than any of those which he had previously dealt with on that day, and he also failed to take into account the fact that the rails were at that time mare slippery than they had previously been. Owing to his not making due allowance for these two facts the train got out of his control, and he did not realize that this was the case until it was too late. The responsibility for this accident must, therefore, rest solely on him. He had been on duty seven hours wt the time of the occurrence.   

 

 

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