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2nd OCTOBER 1899

Involving Brighton Enginemen 

Driver James Whiting & Fireman William Tasker

adapted from the report

By H.A. Yorke Lieut Col. R.E.

On Thursday 2nd November, 1899 a collision occurred at 3.05 p.m. at Lewes station, in this case while the 1.56 p.m. train from 

Tunbridge Wells to Brighton (Lyons Class No.312 ‘Albion) was standing alongside the up main (Brighton) platform, it was run 

into in rear by a light engine, which was admitted to the same platform line.

One passenger complained of slight injury.

The train which was fitted throughout with the Westinghouse brake, consisted of engine, tender, and 11 vehicles, including two 

brake vans and a carriage truck. Two of the vehicles, viz., a composite carriage and the carriage truck, were behind the rear 

brake van.

The light engine was a four-wheels-coupled tender engine, and it was running at the time chimney in front. It was fitted with the 

Westinghouse brake, working blocks on the couple wheels of the engine, and on the tender wheels. There was also a brake on 

the tender.

The engine was unhurt, but some light damage, consisting of a broken headstock and buffer casting, was done to the carriage 

truck at the end of the train, nd one coupling was broken on the carriage next to it.

The train was driven forward a foot or two by the collision. No wheels left the rails, and on damage was done to the permanent 



Lewes station is situated a few yards west of the junctions between the lines from London and Brighton, and between the lines 

from Tunbridge Wells and Hastings, respectively. The two junction are separated by an interval of about 10 yards, and the signal 

box, and the train which was run into was standing with its last vehicle 30 yards from the end of the platform, or 85 yards from 

the signal box.

No questions of signalling or interlocking is involved in this case, and the only signals which need be referred to, are the up 

home signals, viz., one for Brighton and one for London, on the up Hastings line, which are 130 yards east of the signal box, 

and a disc signal at the facing junction of the up London and up Brighton lines.

The light engine was standing on the up line, opposite the signal box, and clear of this junction. It therefore had only 85 yards to 

run before reaching the train on the up Brighton line.

The disc signal is not used for through trains, but is intended to control the movement of engines &c., through the facing points 

during shunting operations.

George Sandler, Signalman, states: I have in the Company’s service nearly 36 years, and I have been signalman nearly 35. I 

have been at lewes 25 years. I am stationed in Lewes Junction signal box. It is an eight hours box. On 2n October I came on 

duty at 2 p.m. At 3.3. p.m., the 1.56 p.m. train from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton arrived in Lewes station, and it stopped at the 

up Brighton main platform. The last vehicle was standing 50 yards from the east end of the platform. The engine of the 12.3 

from London Bridge to Lewes via East Grinstead had disposed of its train  in the sidings. It then went along the up London 

main line to transfer some coal from its tender to the bunker of a shunting engine. Having done this, the engine came back along 

the up London line, and stopped at the junction points opposite my signal box. This was about two minutes after the Tunbridge 

Wells train had arrived at the platform. There was a carriage truck at the end of the Tunbridge Wells train which I thought might 

have to come off. And I also wanted to clear the junction for the up Hastings to London train. I therefore pulled off the disc  to 

allow the engine to draw down along the Brighton main line behind the train from Tunbridge Wells. The engine had to go to 

Brighton light, and would have followed the train there, as soon as the latter and cleared the section between Lewes and 

Ashcombe. The driver gave the light engine steam as soon as I pulled the disc off for him. He seemed to be going very slow, not 

more than walking pace. I did not give the driver any caution, as I did not think it was necessary. I thought the carriage truck 

was to be taken off, and that the driver could see the train.

James Whiting, Driver, states: I have been in the Company’s service 23 years, and I have been driver 10 years. On October 

2nd, I came on duty at Brighton at 5.10 a.m. to work until 4.15 p.m. My engine was a Lyons Class No. 307 ‘Venice’ four-

wheels-coupled tender engine. it was fitted with the Westinghouse brakes, working blocks on the coupled wheels and all the 

tender wheels, and there was a hand brake on the tender. I worked the 12.3. train from London Bridge to Lewes via East 

Grinstead, and after arrival at Lewes at 2.26, I put my train away in the up sidings, and I was expecting to go back to Brighton 

with a light engine. After leaving the sidings I was told to go and give a shunting engine some coal. I went along the up London 

main line, and the other engine came on the down main line alongside of me. I gave the coal, and then came back along the up 

London line as far as the junction opposite the signal box. Directly i got there the points were reversed and the disc pulled off 

for me to go along the up Brighton line. I did not see the Brighton train when I started,as I had my eyes on the starting signal at 

the west end of the platform . I was very slowly down the platform, expecting that the line was clear to the starting signal. I shut 

off steam before I got to the end of the platform. Soon after reaching the platform my mate saw the train in front, and almost at 

the same moment I saw it also. He called out “Whoa! there is a train in front of us.” I immediately applied the Westinghouse 

brake, and he applied his hand brake. The brakes took effect, but there was not sufficient time to stop the engine short of the 

train. I think we were going about three miles an hour when we struck the train. It was a greasy day, and the brake blocks were 

of wood. The signalman gave me no caution signal. i did not see the train standing at the platform until I was within 20 yards of 


William Tasker, Fireman, states: I have been in the Company’s service about 13 1/2 years, and I have been fireman 10 years. 

On the 2nd October I was firing for driver Whiting. I have heard my driver’s statement read and I agree with it.

E. Suter Passenger Guard, states: i have been in the Company’s service about 19 years, and guard 11 years. On the 2nd 

October I came on duty at 7.24 p.m. to work till 7.24 p.m. I was in charge of the 1.56 p.m. Tunbridge Wells to Brighton train. 

We arrived at Lewes at 3.4 p.m., being eight minutes late. My train consisted of 11 vehicles, including two brake vans and a 

carriage truck in the rear of the last brake. It was fitted with the Westinghouse brake all through. The rear of my train was 

stopped just east of the end of the roof over the station. We had been there about two minutes, and I was in the van getting 

luggage out, when I felt the light engine run into my train. It was a sharp shock. I fell down, but was not hurt. My train was not 

hurt. My train was only driven forward a foot or two. I got out and then I continued the unloading of the luggage as soon as I 

could. The whole of my train went forward with very little delay. No wheels left the rails.


This slight collision under the following circumstances:-

The 1.56 p.m. train from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton arrived at Lewes at 3.3 p.m., and stopped at the the up main Brighton 

platform, the end of it being about 30 yards from the east end of the platform, and 80 yards from the signal box. Previous o this 

an engine had arrived with a train from London at 2.25, had, after placing its train in the sidings, been sent along the up London 

line, in order to transfer some coal to the bunker of a shunting engine, which had run short, and, when this operation was 

completed, it came back along the up London line as far as the junction, opposite the signal box, where it stopped. While this 

was going on the train for Brighton arrived at the platform. The engine had to return “light” to Brighton, and it was intended to 

let it follow the train thither. But in the meantime it was blocking the junction between the up London and up Brighton lines, 

and in our to get out of the way, and clear the junction for a train from Hastings to London, the signalman set the junction 

points, pulled off the disc signal, and turned the engine into the up Brighton line, on which the train was standing. He gave no 

instructions to the driver as to what he was to do, and the latter, seeing the disc signal off, gave his engine steam, thinking he 

was to go forward to the starting signal, to wait until the section ahead was clear. When he reached the end of the platform, 

which is about 50 yards from the place which he started, his fireman called out to him that there was a train 30 yards ahead of 

them. He at once applied the brake, having as he states, already shut off steam; but the brake had hardly time to take effect 

before the engine struck the end of the train. The speed of the engine, at the tme of the collision, is estimated by the driver at 

three miles an hour. It was probably somewhat higher than this, but, judging from the effects, it was not excessive.

The responsibility in this case must be divided between the signalman, the driver, and the fireman. Signal Sandler was wrong in 

turning the engine into the platform line behind the train, for block working is in force through the station, and a second train or 

engine should therefore not have been admitted to the platform, which was already occupied. And, though it may sometimes be 

necessary to depart from this rule for the purpose of attaching or detaching vehicles, the driver in such cases is told beforehand 

exactly what he has to do. On this occasion, however, nothing was said to the driver, and no caution signal given to him, and 

Sandler certainly committed an error of judgement in dealing with the engine in this way. 

On the other hand, driver Whiting displayed a great lack of care, for, had he been keeping a proper look out, he could have seen 

the train at the platform from th spot at which he was standing before he gave his engine steam. He says was watching the 

starting signal at the west end of the platform, and it is probable that his mind was more intent upon getting home than upon 

exercising the vigilance and caution which is more than necessary, when passing through large stations.

Fireman Tasker also is not altogether blameless in the matter, as he had a better opportunity for observation than his driver. But 

it may stand to his credit that he saw the train before the driver did so, and, by calling out to the latter, probably caused him to 

apply his brake sooner than he otherwise would have done.

Signalman Sandler had been on duty 1 hour 5 minutes, and driver Whiting and fireman Tasker 9 hours and 55 minutes, at the 

time of the mishap.  



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the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


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