Click on the icon above for 

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches



10th December 1890 

Involving New Cross Enginemen

 Driver Wiliam Muzzle and his Fireman George Breach

& Driver John Lee and his Fireman William Monks

from the report by C.S. Hutchinson Major General R.E.



On the 10th December, 1890 a collision occurred at Stoats Nest Goods, during the prevalence of a dense fog, the 5.40 p.m. down passenger train from Victoria station, for Brighton and Eastbourne came into violent collision with an empty wagon which had (unknown to the Signalman) been improperly left standing on the down main line 328 yards on the down side of Stoats Nest signal chin, 4 miles 12 chains n the Brighton side of East Croydon station, where the train had last stopped.

Complaints of injury have received from 18 passengers.

The train consisted of engine, tender, and 16 vehicles, including a Pullman car (counting as two vehicles), two brake vans, and three third class brake carriages, and in it the engine, tender, and seven front vehicles were thrown off the rails, with the right wheels in the 4ft space the nine rear vehicles remaining on the rails.

The empty wagon was completely broken up, its wheels having been broken off the axles, which later fell on to the 4ft space underneath the train.

The collision occurred at about 7.3 p.m.


At Stoats Nest Goods Station, 4 miles 12 chains on the downside of East Croydon station, there are sidings on each side of the main lines and a cross-over road, of which the points on the main up line are about 80 yards on the up side of the signal cabin; the sidings adding the down line are connected with it also by trailing-points, but these, being about 235 yards on the down side of the cabin, are not worked from it, but from a ground frame locked by a lever in the cabin, which lever is interlocked with the down home and down distant signals; the ground frame is placed at the safety points of the down sidings about 53 yards on the up side of the trailing points on the down line. From this ground frame a disc is worked in the signal cabin to inform the signalman when the use of the siding points has ceased. The Stoats Nest cabin is a block post situated on the up side of the main lines, the next block posts being Purley towards London and Coulsdon (belonging to the South Eastern Railway) towards Redhill.

The line is straight for some distance on each side of Stoats Nest, and the down line falls towards Redhill on a gradient of 1 in264.


James Knight, Signalman; 13 years’ service, 10 years signalman. I have been employed at Stoats Nest nine months, and I came on duty there on the 10th instant at 2 p.m. to remain till 10 p.m. The up goods train due at 2 p.m. arrived at 5.18 p.m., and was cleared into the sidings next the up line at 5.20 p.m. After shunting in the up sidings the engine with 11 empty trucks came on to the up main line about 6.42 p.m. to cross from the up to the down main line, and then to put the trucks into the sidings joining the down main line; in order to do this the ground frame would have to be used. For this operation I had blocked the up line to Coulsdon at 6.42 and cleared it at 6.46, after the engine and wagons had crossed to the down line. The down line stands blocked normally. On the train being ready to go into the down line siding the asking disc was worked from the ground frame, and in reply I pulled over No.9 lever, which locks my down signal and releases the ground frame levers. This was about 6.48 p.m. In about a minute after this the asking lever was put back, intimating that the train was off the down line, and I then restored lever No.9 to its normal position. In about a minute after this, at 6.50 p.m., I received a warning signal from Croydon South to Purley, and then on, meaning the 5.40 p.m. down passenger train was leaving or about to leave Croydon East. I acknowledged the signal, and at the same time gave “Line Clear” back to Purley, the next block station, 1 mil 12 chains distant. The Coulsdon instrument at this time indicated “Clear” on the down line. The train was given on from Purley at 7.1 p.m., and I at once put my needle to “Train on Line” and lowered the three down signals, viz, the distant, home, and starting signals, the advance signal standing off, it not bing used in foggy weather. The train passed at 7.3. p.m., when I gave it on to Coulsdon and at the same time gave the arrival signal to Purley. The train was not running  usual, not more than 30 or 40 miles an hour. I heard no crash shortly after the train passed, and the first I knew of the collision was from Guard Bourne, one of the passenger guards, who came outside the cabin about 7.9. and called out to me to block both lines as his train was of the rails. I was alone in the cabin when the collision occurred. The weather at the time was foggy. I could see as far as the down starting signal, about 100 yards, but on the ground the fog was thicker. I could see the tail lights as the train passed. Neither of the goods guards had come to the cabin while the train was shunting. The fog was much the same when I came on duty at 2 p.m. as when the collision occurred. There were frogmen attending to both distant signals, and there was South Eastern plate layer attending the Coulsdon down distant signal which is on the same post as my down advance signal. I saw that there was no red light on thereat wagon as they left the sidings, but this a frequent occurrence, and I did not think it necessary to draw attention to it.


William H. Muzzle, driver; 24 1/2 hers’ service, 15 years driver. - I commenced work on the 10th December at 9.10 a.m. to sign off at 11.24 p.m., this being a long day, there being two of these in a week; the others being 10 and 101/2 and 12 1/2, and occasionally one day of 15 hours. I joined the  5.40 train for Brighton and Eastbourne at Victoria. My engine was a tender engine, No.210, a four wheel coupled engine and six wheeled tender, and the train consisted of 16 vehicles, including a Pullman car, which counts as two. The Westinghouse brake was fitted throughout the train, the working pressure being about 60lbs. We started 16 minutes late owning to the fog, which was very dense and uniform. We stopped at Clapham Junction and Croydon for regular work, and in addition to these stops we were delayed by signals 24 minutes between Victoria and Croydon, and left Crodon at 6.52 p.m., 40 minutes late, having been detained there four minutes more tan usual. After leaving Croydon I found no signals at danger, and passed through Stoats Nest at a speed of about 40 miles an hour, the next stop being Haywards Heath on account of the fog, the Eastbourne portion being slipped there in clear weather. After passing Stoats Nest cabin I notice a goods engine standing in the siding adjoining the down line, and a short distance after passing it I came into collision, without the least warning, with an obstruction on the line. I at once shut the regulator and put on the Westinghouse brake with full force. About two carriage lengths after striking, the engine left the rails to the left and came gradually to a stand after running between 80 and 90 yards. The engine, tender, and seven front vehicles were off the rails, with the right wheels all in the 4ft space, and the whole of the rest of the train was on the rails. In front of the engine, to the right, but clear of the up main line, the body of a wagon was lying about at right angles to the rails and with its breadth across the inner rail of the down line. The wheels of the wagon were all broken close off and lying under the train, and the two axles were also under the train. I was not hurt nor was the fireman; we both remained on the engine till it stopped. I could see the Stoats Nest signals as I passed them and I could see about 20 yards along my train. I noticed no other lights than those of the engine in the siding. I am not aware that any couplings gave way in the train.

George Breach, fireman; 10 1/2 years’s service, 9 1/2 years fireman. - I have been fireman with Driver Muzzle for about two years, and I was with him on the 10th instant with the 5.40 p.m. train from Victoria for Brighton and Eastbourne. I agree with the driver’s evidence, except that as I was firing I did not see the engine in the siding. I was not hurt. I went towards Coulsdon to protect the up road, not knowing it was not founded.


Alfred Miller, guard; 28 years’ service, 26 years guard.- I commenced at 5 p.m. on the 10th to remain till 10.45 p.m. I was in charge of the 5.40 p.m., train from Victoria for Brighton and Eastbourne. The train consisted of van, third class, first, second composite, third, third class brake, first, Pullman car, first van, third class brake, first, second, third, third-class brake, 16 vehicles in all, counting as 17, the Pullman being reckoned as two. I was riding in the fronted brake van. The Westinghouse brake was fitted to the whole the train. There were to other guards, one in the eleventh and one in the sixteenth vehicle. The Eastbourne portion of the train, which was in rear, was well filled, but the front portion not so well. We started at 5.56, 16 minutes late owing to the fog. lost seven minutes between Victoria and Clapham Junction and 17 minutes between Clapham Junction and Croydon, still owing to fog, and we left Croydon at 6.52, 44 minutes late, four minutes having been lost at Croydon. We were not stopped after leaving Croydon until just after passing Stoat Nest I heard a sort of smash, and then was thrown back by some sudden check to the speed. The van soon after left the rails, and stopped after running a short distance. The pressure gauge showed between 50 and 60lbs. at Croydon; I did not notice afterwards. When I got out I found seven vehicles next to the engine off the rails, and none of thereat of the train. No couplings had given way. I did not have to go on the sick list. The fog was dense. I could not see more than about 15 yards. The speed was between 30 and 40 miles an hour. I heard no passengers complain of being hurt. No glass in my van was broken, nor did I see any broken in the train.


John Henry Lee, Driver; 20 1/2 years’ service 7 3/4 yea driver.-I commence work on December 10th at 4.30 a.m. to sign off at 4.45 p.m. In consequence of the fog the 5.15 a.m. train from New Cross for Horsted Keynes did not proceed beyond Ardingly, and did not arrive there till about 3 p.m., and came back about 3.30 p.m. We last stopped at Redhill for work before Stoats Nest, and on leaving Redhill had on a train consisting of a tank engine and about six wagons including two brake vans. We arrived at Stoats Nest at about 5.20 p.m., the fog vein very thick, and at once set back into the up sidings. After working in the sidings I came out with a train of empty wagons to place in the down sidings; this was about a quarter to seven. We at once went up after being stopped a short time at the catch points to the cross over road, passed through it on to the down line, and went down at once to the dwarf frame, which was attended to by guard James West. The points were immediately opened and I drew into the siding,when clear of the points set back towards Coulsdon till the engine was clear of the points, kick the empty wagons back along the siding. under guard Barker was riding on the engine from the cross over road down to the dwarf frame, and remained on the engine till we had crossed from the down road into it.Under guard Barker then uncoupled the engine from the trucks and then I kick them back. He then remained and coupled me on to some other trucks in another adjacent siding. I was still engaged in shunting in this siding when the down passenger train passed, and I soon after heard a rattling noise, and on looking round I saw that the train had stopped with its tail about 50 yards off the engine. I could just see the tail lights. At first I had no idea what had caused the sudden stop, till my mate found out it was owing to a collision with one of the wages which had been left on the down line. Thy were not damaged. The coupling must have come undone in setting back through the cross over road and along the down line. We were running back very gently and stopped very gently on the engine reaching the ground frame. The under guard ought to have been on the rear wagon going back, but I did not remind him he was in the wrong place on the engine. The damage end of the truck was towards Brighton when I saw it, and the coupling and draw bar were gone from it. I noticed no jerk in the operation, due to any defect in the permanent way. The brake in use for shunting was the hand brake, not the Westinghouse brake.

William Henry Monks; 12 years’ service, 3 1/2 years fireman.- I have been Lee’s fireman about 5 months, an I was with on December 10th. I agree with the driver’s evidence. I had stopped the train carefully with the engine hand brake when the empty wagons were being shunted. The Westinghouse was not used for shunting.     


James West, goods guard; 20 years’ service, 16 years goods  guard.- I commenced worked on December 10th at 4.45 a.m. to sign off at 4.27 p.m. We started from New Cross at 6.50 a.m., about 1 1/2 hours late, detained by traffic causes, for Horsted Keynes. We proceeded down only as far as Ardingly, not being required at Horsted Keynes. We reached Ardingly at 2.42 p.m., five hours late owing to traffic and not to fog. We started back at 3.10 p.m., and last did last did work at Redhill Junction, on leaving which the train consisted of eight wagons and two brake vans, both at the back of the train. On reaching Stoats Nest we came at once into the up sidings at 5.15 p.m., and were engaged in these sidings until about a quarter to seven, when the engine brought out 11 empty wagons to shunt them into the down sidings. I did not accompany these wagons, but had left them in charge of my mate, having gone with the station master into the down sidings to ascertain what work was to be done there. In accompanying these wagon my mate ought to have been on the first wagon with his hand lamp. On seeing the wagons crossing from the up to the down line I ran to the dwarf frame in order to be ready to let them through into the siding. When I got to the frame the engine had passed down beyond it and my mate was running towards the frame to work it. I did not see where he had ridden in going down. I then got permission from the signal cabin to open the siding points and told my mate to go on the engine into the siding and overlook the wagons when he had got in. I then shut the siding points and restored the lever which communicates with the cab into its normal position. i went on to superintend the shunting in the down sidings, and was coupling wagons together when the down passenger train passed. I did not hear the collision, but saw that the train had stopped some few seconds after it did so; I could see the tail lights 10 or 12 wagon lengths off. Soon after, as I was going towards the train, I met my under guard, who told me he had left a wagon on the down main line. I then went back to protect the up road. I know nothing about the coupling of the wagon which had been left on the down road. My mate, Samuel Barker, has been with me a little over three months. I thought he was a careful man.

Samuel Barker, goods guard; 9 3/4 years’ service, 18 months goods guard; previously carriage shunter and porter.- I commenced work at New Cross on December 10th at 4.45 a.m. to sign off at 4.27 p.m. I have been under guard with West about 11 weeks. My first work on the 10th was to take a goods train to Ardingly, and I returned from there about 3.10, and after doing some work along the road we left Redhill with a few wagons and two brake vans, both at the tail of the train, and next stopped at Stats Nest. I accompanied the train into the up sidings,and after a good deal of shunting the engine was attached to 11 empty wagons to transfer them to the down sidings. West and I coupled these wagons together; the eleventh was already coupled to the tenth where we found the min the siding. We brought these wagons up to the safety points, when West went across to the down sidings to receive instructions from the station master leaving me in charge of the empty wagons. We were kept waiting for a short time at the safety points, then went out on to the up main line and along the crossover road; we were then crossed on to the down line, and set as far back as the dwarf frame, to which West was attending. During these operations I was on the engine, my proper place being on the furthest wagon from the engine. i rode on the engine instead of on the last wagon because I could not see the driver from the wagon on account of the fog. I went into the down siding on the engine, and as soon as I had got inside the safety points, and on getting a signal from West, I uncoupled the wagon from the engine and they were kicked back along the siding towards Coulsdon. I did not go back with them, but I think the last of them must have stopped about opposite to where the collision occurred. After this I was shunting in the down sidings, and when the down train passed I was standing near the ground frame, and heard a noise which I thought was like a train going off the road. I saw the train stop as I ran after it. I had seen the number of the last truck when they were going along the up line, and on running towards the engine of the passenger train after it had stopped I saw that the last truck in the down siding was not the one which had been the last to leave the up sidings, and I then thought t must have been left on the main down line, as I found was the case when I reached the engine. i could not say whether the damaged end of the truck was the one which the engine struck. There was no sudden jerk to the wagon as they were being set back from the cross over road, the driver stopping cautiously when he did so on two occasions. I do not know whether he was using the hand brake or the Westinghouse brake. The instructions are not different whether the weather is foggy or fine as regards my position on the wagons.



This collision between a down fast train and an empty wagon left standing on down main line was due to the neglect of his duty on the part of Samuel Barker, the under guard of a goods train, the engine of which had shortly before the collision been employed in transferring 11 empty wagons from the sidings on the up side of the line to those on the down side. 

The engine with the 11 empty wagons were brought out of the up line sidings by permission of signalman at 6.42 p.m., and were drawn along the up main line till they were clear of a cross over road, through which and along the down line they were then pushed back for about 40 yards till the engine was clear of the points (worked from a ground frame controlled from the cabin) giving access to the down line sidings. The engine and wagons were accompanied thus far by under guard Barker, who, however, instead of riding, as he ought to have done, on the sago furthest from the engine, with a red light in his hand, travelled on the footplate of the engine, his excuse for doing so being that he could not, on account of the fog, signal to the driver from the furthest wagon. The engine and wagon were then drawn into the down sidings, the head guard (who had been in these sidings with the stain master to see what wagons he had to deal with) attending, with permission of the signalman, to the dwarf frame and closing them and giving “Line Clear” to the signalman as soon as (according to the head guard’s belief) the  engine and all the wagons had gone clear into the sidings (whereas 10 only had gone in, the eleventh having been left on the down main line), Barker meantime going with the engine and uncoupling the wagons, which were then kick back along the siding towards Coulsdon so as to be clear of the siding connection.

The signalman received “Line Clear” from the dwarf frame at about 6.49 p.m., and at 6.50 p.m. he received a warning signal sent from South Croydon that the 5.40 p.m. down passenger train was leaving, or was about to leave, East Croydon. This train was given on to him from Purley at 7.1 p.m., and the down line being, as he supposed, clear between his cabin and Coulsdon, he lowered the down distant, home, and starting signals for it, and it passed at 7.3., running, he thinks, not quite so fast as usual, probably at a speed of between 30 and 40 miles an hour. He heard a crash shortly after the train had passed, and at 7.9 p.m. was informed by one of the guards (who had come back) of what had happened, upon which he blocked both lines, not being aware at first that the up line was not fouled. At this time the signalman says the density of the fog was such that he could just see the light of the down starting signal, about 100 yards from the cabin, but that the fog was thicker on the ground.

The driver of the down passenger train, which was 44 minutes late owing principally to detentions from the fog, had found all signals off after leaving East Croydon, and was running past Stoats Nest at a speed of about 40 miles an hour, having next to stop at Haywards Heath, when without the least warning his engine came into collision with an obstruction of the nature of which he at first was ignorant; he at once shut of steam and applied the Westinghouse brake with full force; the engine left the rails almost directly, followed by the tender and seven vehicles next it, the whole train coming to a stand in from 80 to 90 yards from the place of the collision with the wagon, with the right wheels all in the 4ft. space, and without any couplings having been broken, the rear nine vehicles (including the Pullman car) being still on the rails. On getting off his engine the driver found the body of the wagon lying across the rails in front of engine; its four wheels were broken off at the boss, and they and the two axles were lying under the train.

The driver’s estimate of the density of the fog tallies with that of the signalman, viz., that it was possible to see signal lights about 100 yards off, but that the fog was denser near the ground.

The collision must then be attributed solely to the negligence of under guard Barker, in not riding, as he ought to have done in accordance with the provisions of rule 253a, on the gain furthest from the engine when he was in charge of the wagons on the way from the up line to the down line sidings, but instead of this going on the footplate of the engine. His excuse that the density of the fog would prevent a driver from seeing his signal if he had been in his proper place, cannot be accepted as a valid one, for the distance (about 70 yards) was not too great for him to have made himself heard, if necessary, by shouting. His bounden duty, at any rate, was to have assured himself that all the wagons had passed from the down line into the down sidings before allowing the head guard to signal to the cabin that the down line was clear.

Barker has been nearly 10 years in the service, and has been a goods guard for 18 months. He had been on duty 14 3/4 hours when the collision occurred, his proper day’s work consisting of about 11 3/4 hours.

The cause of the empty wagon becoming detached from the ten others is probably to be accounted for by the engine, after bringing the wagons from the up sidings to the London end of the crossover road, having made a sudden stop, and thus caused the coupling between the tenth and eleventh wagons to jump off the draw bar hook. The under gear of the wagon was fond entirely broken up by the collision, so that it is impossible to say whether or not anything was wrong with the draw bar or the coupling before the collision took place.

I am not aware of any practicable mechanics  means by which the fact of a wagon having been thus left on the main line could be prevent a signalman lowering the signals for that line. It might be possible electrically to prevent a signalman accepting a train under such circumstances by the insulation of one of the rails between (say) the home signal and advanced signals, and though I fear the collision are too unfavourable to permit of perfect dependence being placed upon such electrical arrangements, it might be at any rate worth while to give the system a trial.

I am sorry to have to call attention to the objectionably long booked hours of service of some of the servants of the Company concerned in this collision, viz:-

Driver Muzzle & Fireman Breach 14 1/4 hours

Driver Lee & Fireman Monks 12 1/4 hours    

These, it must be remembered, are the booked hours, liable, especially in the case of goods driver, fireman, and guards, to be constantly exceeded; thus driver Lee, fireman monks, and both goods guards had been on duty 14 3/4 hours at the time of the collision.

The continuous brake with which the passenger train was fitted was no doubt of great service in mitigating the effects of the collision.    



Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches

free templates
Make a Free Website with Yola.