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Streatham Common

23rd January 1915

Three trains in one crash which involved two Brighton crews, and loco crew from unknown depot,

Driver Henry/Harry Funnell (his fireman is not named), 

of the 12.5 p.m. down passenger train from Victoria to Brighton

Driver Thomas Godden and his Fireman William Routledge, 

of the 9.45 a.m. up passenger train from Brighton to Victoria 

Driver Jack Baignet and his Fireman Edward Booth 

of the 6.18 a.m. goods train

extracted & adapted from the Board of Train report

by P.G. Von Dunlop L.T. Col. R.E. 

 photo from the  book The Brighton Line, a pictorial survey” by Bradford Barton

In this case, as an up goods train, consisting of an engine, four wagons and a brake van, was standing on the up main 

line between Streatham Common North and South signal boxes, its rear end was run into by the engine of the 9.45 a.m. 

up passenger train from Brighton to Victoria, consisting of an engine and eight vehicles.

The speed of the passenger train at the time of the collision was between 15 and 20 miles an hour. The engine and one 

vehicle of the passenger train were slightly damaged, but none of the vehicles of it were derailed. The brake-van and rear 

wagon of the goods train were practically demolished, and the three other wagons on this train were derailed and 

considerably damaged; the engine of the train was not, however, damaged at all, nor was it derailed.

Almost immediately after the above collision took place, a down passenger train, consisting of an engine and seven 

vehicles, arrived on the down main line. The engine of this train ran into the wreckage of the goods train, which was 

fouling the down line, and the engine and two leading vehicles of that train were derailed; the engine became uncoupled 

From the train and fell over on to its right side. The engine and leading vehicle of this train were both very considerably 

damaged, and the remaining vehicles of it were all slightly damaged.

Nineteen passengers have notified the Company of personal injuries sustained, but it is not thought that any of these is of 

a serious nature. Driver Jack Baigent (depot unknown) of the goods train, however, was unfortunately caught between the 

down train and the derailed vehicles of his own train, and he was found lying dead near the leading wagon of his train.

The engine of the goods train was a six-wheels-coupled tank-engine, with one pair of radial trailing wheels, and at the 

time of the collision it was running chimney first; it was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on 

all the coupled wheels, and with a hand-brake working the same blocks. The train consisted of four loaded wagons and a 

brake van; the latter was a 7-ton, four wheeled van, and it was fitted with a hand-brake working blocks on all  its wheels.



Streatham Common Station near which this accident occurred, is situated on the Victoria-Croydon section of the Company

main line from London to Brighton. The station, which lies approximately north-west and south-east, has four passenger lines 

running through it, viz., the up and down main lines on its south side and the up and down local lines on its north side, the up 

line being in each case on the south side of the down line. The up and down main lines lie between the up platform on the south 

side of the station and a centrally situated island platform ; it is solely with these two lines that this accident is concerned.

There are two Streatham Common Signal-boxes, viz., the north box situated on the up side of the line at the north end of 

the station, a few yards to the north of the north end of the station platform, and the south signal-box situated on the up 

side of the line, 642 yards to the south of the south end of the station platform. These two signal-boxes are 846 yards 

apart; they are each provided with the usual distant, home, and starting signals for both up and down main lines.

On the down side of the station there is a Goods Yard situated on the up side of the line, and at a point situated 25 yards 

to the south of the south end of the up platform there is a trailing connection on the up main line leading to the north end 

of the Goods Yard. The points and signals of this connection arc worked from a shunting signal-box, which is situated 

opposite to it between the main and local lines. This shunting box is controlled from the north signal-box; the levers in it 

cannot be made use of until a release lever in it has hen released from the north signal-box, and when once that has been 

done the signals for the up main line are locked at danger, and the block instrument between that box and the south 

signal-box is thrown out of use. Until all the levers in the shunting-box, including the release lever, have been put back to 

their normal positions, and until a plunger in that box has been actuated releasing the block instrument in the north 

signal-box, no train can be admitted on to the up main line from the south signal-box, nor can any of the north signal-box 

signals be lowered for it. There is also an exit to the running lines from t h e south end of the Goods Yard ; this exit is 

situated 180 yards to the north of the south signal-box and the points and signals relating to it are worked from that box. 

The first of these collisions occurred on the up main line at a point situated 90 yards to the north of the south signal-box, 

and the second collision occurred at almost the same spot.

At the time that the collision occurred there was a thick fog, but it appears from the evidence of various witnesses that 

signals and other obstacles could be discerned when at a distance of from 40 to 60 feet from them. 

Evidence given by the Enginemen involved in the accident

Edward James Booth (depot unknown), fireman state: I have been about 17 years in the Company’s service, and have 

been fireman for 12 years. I have also been passed as a driver. I came on duty at 11.20 p.m. on the 22ndJanuary to work 

until about 10 a.m. on the 23rd . I had previously been off duty for 20 hours. I was working as fireman on the 6.18 a.m. 

train with Driver Jack Baigent. My engine was a six wheels coupled tank engine with one pair of radial trailing wheels, 

and at the time of entering Streatham Common station it was running chimney first. My engine was fitted with the 

Westinghouse automatic brake, working on all the coupled wheels, with a hand brake working the same blocks. As far as 

I am aware, my brakes were in good order. I remember arriving at Streatham Common station about 12.45 p.m. we came 

to a stand at that station. We were brought to a stand because we had work to do in the sidings. It was very foggy at the 

time and there was steam hanging about, but just we were under our signal we were able to see them. My engine was 

standing between the two platforms. After we came to a stand I noticed the guard walking towards the shunting box from 

his brake van. We could see the brake van from our engine. Whilst we were standing there a train passed through, the 

guard came back to my engine and said to me, “All right, Ted, shove back.” He also told me he had set the road for No. 2 

siding. The guard then remained on the engine, standing on the footplate. I then said to the driver, “All right, Jack, set 

back.” The driver then started to push back. We shoved back a certain distance and came to a stand. Before we came to a 

stand had not heard anybody shouting at me, and I do not think that the driver had heard anybody shouting. I thought we 

were entering No.2 siding. There is a disc signal for entering that siding. I did not see that disc signal as we passed it. 

When the engine is travelling chimney first I am on the right hand side, so that while the engine was backing I was on the 

left hand side in the way we were going. I was not specially engaged in work whilst my train was being backed. I was on 

the look out for the signal. I attribute my not seeing it to the steam from the engine on the down main line and to the fog. 

The driver was also engaged in looking out while we were backing. The driver was looking out of his side of the engine. 

When we came to a stand I was still under the impression that we had run through on to the siding. I did not notice that 

we had not run through the connection. When we came to a stand the guard got down to look for the lever working the 

points. The guard shouted out, “he has altered the road, and turned us up No.1.” I did not see any more of the guard, but 

I think he went away to look for the lever. The guard had previously release the coupling at the rear of the second or third 

vehicle of our train. The next I heard was shouting from man who I believe was a ganger. He shouted, “What are you 

doing back here. You are on the main line.” And my mate and I shouted, “What!” not half-a-minute after, the crash came. 

I saw the engine of the passenger train approaching when ot was from 15 to 20 yards from the rear of my train. Neither 

the driver nor I had time to jump off, and we were on the engine when the crash came. I do not know whether the driver 

was injured, but I was not injured at all. I myself was holding on to the hand brake, but did not see what the driver was 

holding on to. My engine was not derailed at all, and was still coupled up to the vehicle immediately in the rear of it. I at 

once applied my hand brake full. My hand brake had been slightly applied at the time of the collision. I do not know 

whether the Westinghouse brake was applied at all at the time of the collision. I saw my mate put the engine out of gear, 

and I went across to his side and got down on to the ground. I then went back to the engine of the passenger train, and 

my mate followed me and asked the driver whether he had any detonators. He gave the four, and I gave two to my mate. I 

shouted to my mate. “You run that way” (that is, towards Streatham Common) “and I will run in the other direction” 

(that is, towards Norbury). I cannot say what became of my driver. I did not see anything more of him. I went nearly to 

the rear of the passenger train and saw the guard getting out of his brake and shouted “Protect the rear of your train.” I 

cannot say what the guard did. I turned to go back to my engine, and when about half way along the train, another crash 

came. I looked up to see whether there was anything falling down, stumbling and rolled right down the bank. I scrambled 

up as best I could, and rushed along the other portion of the train to where the wreckage of the first smash was – that is, 

my engine. When I reached the brake-van, which was in rear of the engine of the up passenger train, I saw that there was 

somebody lying underneath that brake-van. I crossed the line by crawling underneath the brakevan, and saw a gentleman 

who looked like an Army man attending to a man lying on the ground. I did not know at the time who the man was on the 

ground. Somebody then said, "Go and see if you can find a doctor," and I went down to the Pullman car, where I thought 

I might find one. I could not find one, and returned again to where l came from. They had then got the person on a plank, 

and l helped to lift him on to my engine. I got on the engine with him, and the Army gentleman got on as well. He undid 

his shirt and I believe was sounding him, and he then turned round and said, He is dead." He then said, "Get him down 

to the station." I said," I must not until I find my mate on account of him moving the engine." I stopped there from half-an-

hour to 40 minutes with him on the engine. The fireman of the Brighton train subsequently joined my engine, and I then took it 

down to the Streatham Common Station and the injured person was carried into the waiting room. I afterwards heard it was my 

driver. I never saw the down train at all until after the second collision had occurred. After the guard had told me that the road 

was set for me to set hack I should naturally expect the signal to be off without my looking for it. Whilst my train was being 

backed down the up main line 1 did not hear any detonators go off under the train.

Thomas Godden, driver, states: I have 37 years in the service of the Company, and driver for 17 years. I came on duty on 

the 23rd January at 8.45 a.m. to work until 7.50 p.m. I had no interval of rest in between. I had been 8 ½ hours off duty 

previous to coming on duty that morning. I was in charge of the 9.45 a.m. up passenger train from Brighton to Victoria. 

My engine was a four wheels coupled tank engine with and with a hand brake working the same blocks. My brakes were 

in good order. I am acquainted with the signals at Norbury and at Streatham Common South Signal box. The last station 

that we stopped at before the collision occurred was South Croydon. My train was checked at Norbury. When I passed 

the Norbury distant Signal it was at danger, but the home signal was off for me, and when I first sighted the starting that 

was off for me.  I estimate our speed at the time we passed Norbury Starting signal at 12 miles an hours. I was travelling 

at that slow speed on account of the fog. When I sighted the Streatham Common South Box Home signal, that also was 

off for me, and at that time I estimate we were running at 15 miles an hour. The first I knew of there being any train on 

front of me on my line was when my mate shouted to me “Look out.” At that time I was looking out for my signals. As 

soon as my fireman shouted to me I looked up and saw the brake van and at once applied the brakes, but I estimate our 

speed at the time of the collision at 15 miles an hour. Steam was very slightly turned on at time, and  I had no time to turn 

it off before the collision occurred. I do not think we were more than 5 or 6 yards from the brake van when my fireman 

first saw it. It was very foggy morning, and I do not think I could see my signals until I had got until 40 feet of them. I was 

not injured by the collision. My engine was not derailed, but it became uncoupled from the leading vehicle. The distant 

signal for Streatham Common South Box is under the Norbury starting signal. That signal was at danger when we passed 

it my train had been delayed by fog.

William Henry Routledge, fireman, states :-I have been nearly 14 years in the service of the Company, and was promoted 

fireman in June, 1907. On the23rd January I was working with driver Godden, and was with him on the engine of the 

8.45 am. up express train. I remember our train passing Norbury Station. The first warning I had of the collision was 

seeing a black object in front of me and hearing a man shouting. At the time I could not make out what the black object 

was. The man shouted "Whoa." I immediately turned to my mate and shouted " Whoa " to him. My mate at once applied 

the Westinghouse brake. The collision occurred almost immediately after my mate had applied his brakes. I estimate our 

speed at the time of the collision at from 10 to 12 miles an hour. The black object was only a few yards in front of me 

when I first saw it. It was a very foggy morning. We were able to see our signals when we got under them. I do not think I 

could see our signals that morning until within a distance of a bogie carriage from them. I am acquainted with the home 

signal for Streatham South Signal-box. That signal was off for us when we passed it. 

Henry Funnell, driver. states :-I have been 25 years in the service of the Company, and was promoted driver in l908. I 

came on duty on the 23rd January 6.5 a.m. to work until 4.30 pm. I had come off duty the previous day at 5 pm. I was the 

driver of the engine of the 12.5 pm. down passenger train. My was a four-wheels-coupled tank engine with a in 8 bogie 

and a trailing pair of wheels, and it was travelling chimney first at the time of the accident, it was fitted with the 

Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on the four coupled wheels, and with hand-brake working the same 

blocks. My brakes in perfect order. I remember running through Streatham Common Station. All the signals at that 

station, including the distant, wore lowered for me, and I estimate my speed in passing through the station at between 30 

and 35 miles an hour. We were running on the down main line. Both the home and ant signals for the Streatham Common 

South Box were off for me, and when I passed that home signal we were still running at the same speed. The first I knew 

of there being anything wrong with the line in front of me was receiving a hand signal from some man. He was standing 

at the back of the signal post of the South Box home signal. On receiving this warning I closed the regulator and applied 

the brakes. Immediately after applying the brakes it appeared to me that my engine drove into something. My engine 

appeared to rise up, and continued onward leaning over to its right,-hand side. It appeared to be derailed at once, after I 

cleared the obstruction the engine appeared to me to go on faster. The engine then suddenly stopped and turned 

completely over on to its right side. The fireman and I were both on the engine when it turned over. I was slightly injured 

and the fireman was also slightly injured. At the time we ran into the obstruction I think we were still going at, from 30 to 

35 miles an hour. It was foggy in patches on that, morning, but when passing through Streatham Common I could see my 

signals perfectly clearly. l could see the starting signal at the end of Streatham Common Station when my engine was 

about half-way along the platform. I think my engine was running along some rails after it first ran into the obstruction. I 

do not think my engine was uncoupled from the vehicle behind it by the accident.


Conclusion of evidence at the inquiry

The up goods train concerned in this accident arrived at Streatham Common Station at 12.32 p.m., and came to a stand on the 

up main line between the station platforms. Three of the four wagons on the train were to be detached at this station, so the 

train had; as is indeed usual with this train, to be backed into the sidings on the up side of the line at the down end of the 

station. Goods-guard Reynolds, who was in charge of the goods train,' accordingly went at once to the shunting-box, and after 

calling up the signalman in the North Signal-box, and being duly released by him, he pulled over the two levers setting the road 

for No. 2 siding, and the lever for the disc signal relating to that road. When Reynolds was just about to leave the shunting-box, 

Station-master Brown arrived, and told Reynolds to return to his train, and that he himself would look after the shunting-box, 

and would shut up the road when the goods train was inside. At that moment a train was on the down main line, so Reynolds 

was slightly delayed,; but he then at once returned to the engine of his train, and told the driver and fireman; to set back at 

once, as the road was set for them to go into the siding. Reynolds him self: remained on the footplate of the engine. The goods 

train accordingly set back, but before it reached the connection leading to the sidings, the points had been altered, and were 

lying for the straight road, so that the train consequently continued backing along the up main line, instead of going into the 


Station-master Brown admits that it must have been himself who made the mistake of putting back the levers before the goods 

train passed the connection; he saw the goods train run past the shunting-box, but even then he did not realise that the levers 

had been put back too soon. He has no recollection whatever of having put them back, though he knows and admits that he must 

have done so; he does, however, remember actuating the plunger which released the block instrument in the North Signal-box. 

No one else 'was in the shunting-box at the time, so there can be no doubt as to Brown having himself 'altered the road before 

the goods train reached the points.

Neither the driver, fireman, or guard of the goods train noticed, when they passed the disc signal for entering the siding, that 

that signal was at danger, nor did any of them notice that they did not run through any connection. They attribute the fact of 

their not having seen the disc signal to the fog and to the steam of the train which had just passed on the down line, but it 

certainly looks as if they were not keeping a very careful look-out. The train was accordingly propelled back along the up main 

line without any of the three men on the engine having the slightest idea that it was along that line that they were running.

Whilst so proceeding, the train ran past, in the wrong direction, the up home signal, for the North Signal-box. There was a fog 

man stationed at this signal, which was at that time at danger, so there was a detonator on the line; the fogman states positively 

that that detonator was exploded immediately that the first pair of wheels of the train, that is the rear wheels of the brake-van, 

reached it. The driver, fireman, and guard, however, all state that they did not hear the explosion. 

When the goods train reached the connections at the south end of the goods yard, the train was brought to a stand, Guard 

Reynolds got down, and lie then recognized for the fist time that the train was not on No. 2 Siding, bat he thought that it must 

have been put into No.1 Siding instead. Whilst Reynolds was trying to find out exactly where :no train was standing, a ganger 

shouted out to then1 that they were on the up main line. Reynolds at once started to run to the South Signal-box to van the 

signalman, but he had only just passed his brake-van when it was run into by the engine of the up passenger train.

Signalman Laker, who was on duty in the Streatham Common North Signal-box, confirms Guard Reynolds' evidence as to his 

having released the ground frame after he had been asked to do so. Two or three minutes later his slot was put back, his up 

main line plunging instrument was released, and the shunting-box called him up on the telephone and said, " All clear." Laker 

had therefore every reason to think that the goods train had been put into the sidings clear of the up main line, so at 12.35 p.m. 

he sent the " Train out of section " signal to the South Signal-box for the goods train, and at 12.37 p.m. he accepted the up 

passenger train from that signal-box.

Signalman Stow, who was on duty in the South Signal-box, confirms the above evidence is to the up passenger train having been 

accepted from him by Signalman Laker at 12.37 pm., and on receipt of that signal he at once lowered all his signals for it. He 

was unable owing to the fog to see anything of the goods train. 

Driver Godden, who was in charge of the engine of the up passenger train, states that the South Box Distant Signal was at 

danger when he passed it, hut that when he sighted the Home signal it was off for him. At that time he had steam turned on very 

slightly, and he estimates the speed of his train when he passed the home signal at about 15 miles an hour. Owing to the fog, 

neither he nor his fireman saw the goods train until they were close to it, so, though he was able to apply the brakes, he had not 

time to turn off steam. The collision accordingly took place between these two trains, which were both on the up main line, and 

two, if not three, of the wagons of the goods train were derailed in a position in which they were fouling the down main line.

Driver Baigent and Fireman Booth, No. 410 were on the engine of the goods train, were prompt in taking steps to endeavour to 

protect the lines. Baigent went off in the of Streatham Common Station, with the intention of putting down detonators on down 

main line, and Booth went off in the direction of the South signal-box to make that the up line was duly protected.

Mean while, at 12.39 pm., Signalman Stow in the South Signal-box had accepted a passenger train on the down main line from 

Signalman Laker, and the latter had accordingly lowered all the North Box signals for it. The down train passed the North 

Signal-box two or three minutes before Signalman Laker received the " Obstruction signal from the South Signal-box, which 

was the first intimation he received of anything being wrong. Driver Funnell, who was in charge of the engine of the down train, 

states that all the signals through Streatham Common Station were off for him, and he ran through  that station at a speed of 

from 30 to 35 miles an hour. The first warning he had of that being anything wrong was a hand signal, which he received from 

someone who was standing near the North Box home signal he at once closed his regulator and applied his brake but 

immediately after doing so the engine ran into some obstruction and was derailed the engine, after being checked, seemed to 

him to run on faster for a bit, but then suddenly stopped and fell over on to its right side. There is no doubt that this second 

collision was due to the fact that the down line had been fouled by some of the vehicle of the up goods train, which had been 

derailed a very short time previous to the arrival I the down train.

The first collision was undoubtedly almost entirely due to the error of Station-master Brown in shifting the points of the 

connection leading to the goods yard before the goods train had passed through them. No doubt the fog prevented his seeing 

exactly where the goods train was at the time that he restored the levers and released the North Signal box ; he acted, however, 

with great want of care in doing so without first ascertaining for certain that the goods train was clear of the up main line. 

Brown has been Station master at Streatham Common for 28 years, and the Company state that he has always shown himself a 

very careful, painstaking official. His mistake on this occasion seen therefore inexplicable.

There is one other point, however, which calls for notice in connection with the first collision. The guard of the goods train, J. 

Reynolds, after instructing his driver and fireman that the line was duly set for their train to be backed into the goods yard, did 

not return to his brake-van, but remained on the footplate of the engine whilst the train was moving back. The following extract 

from the Company's Regulations bears on this point :-

" Shunting on running lines. Trains or vehicles propelled out of terminal station or from platforms to sidings at intermediate 

stations, must be accompanied by guard or shunter, who must ride on the leading vehicle, and warn anyone working upon or 

crossing the line."

In accordance with this rule, Guard Reynolds should have been on his brake-van when The goods train was being propelled, 

and it was especially necessary on this occasion, owing to the fog which obtained at the time. Had he been on his van, he might 

have had a better opportunity of seeing that the disc signal for entering the goods yard had been put back to  danger, and he 

would certainly have had a much better opportunity of hearing the noise of the detonator which was exploded under the wheels 

of his van. In either of these two events he would have received a warning that his train was on the wrong line, early enough t

have taken steps to prevent the collision. A certain amount of  responsibility must therefore rest on Guard Reynolds in 

connection with the first collision on account of his not having carried out the above regulation.

As regards the second collision, at the time that the down train was accepted and the signals lowered for it to run through 

Streatham Common Station no intimation had been received by either signalman that anything had gone wrong, or that there 

was anything fouling the down main line ; the driver of the down train had found all his signals lowered for him, and the fog 

prevented his seeing the obstruction on the line. 

Driver Baigent who was on the goods train, had, after the first collision had occurred, promptly started to stop the traffic 

on the down line; there was not, however, time for him to do so, an it was in making the endeavour that he lost his life. It 

was an unfortunate occurrence that almost immediately after the derailment had taken place on the up line the down 

train should have been passing the spot on the down main line, but under the circumstance the accident could not 

possibly have been prevented, and no blame rests on anybody in connection with it.




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