RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTH WEST BLACK COUNTRY
Birmingham Daily Post
WEDNESDAY, 25th., AUGUST, 1858
FRIGHTFUL RAILWAY COLLISION NEAR DUDLEY
The most serious catastrophe that has ever occurred on a railway in the Midland district took place last night (Monday) on the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton line, between Round Oak and Brettel Lane Stations, a few miles beyond Dudley. By it eleven persons were instantaneously killed, another died a few hours afterwards, several more were so severely injured that their recovery is despaired of, others are maimed for life, and a great number were more or less injured. The accident took place under the following circumstances: Yesterday there was “a very cheap Sunday school excursion to Worcester.” A special was announced to leave Wolverhampton for Worcester at 9.15, “calling at all stations for the express purpose of conveying the teachers and children of the various schools to Worcester and back.” The fare from Wolverhampton and Stourbridge and all intermediate stations to Worcester and back was one shilling for adults and sixpence for children; from Hagley, Churchill, Kidderminster, and Worcester it was 8d. for adults, and 4d. for children; and from Droitwich and Fernall Heath 6d. for adults, and 3d. for children. This extraordinary low rate of charges naturally attracted a large number of passengers, and by the time the train arrived at its destination it had been augmented to forty-five carriages, computed to contain nearly 2,000 passengers. The return train was announced to leave Worcester at 6.15 p.m. Those having charge of the arrangements determined to divide the train, and instead of having one monster train propelled by two engines, to have two trains each drawn by one engine. Accordingly, about twenty-five minutes after six o’clock, the first train left Worcester station. It consisted of twenty-nine carriages, closely packed with passengers; and was followed in a quarter of an hour by the second train consisting of 16 carriages. Each train called at all stations, and all went well with the first until its arrival at Round Oak, which took place about 8.5. There, either just before the train arrived at the station, which is situated on a steep incline, or when it was put in motion to leave the station, twelve or thirteen of the last carriages became detached from the former part of the train by the breaking of the couplings of two of the carriages, and rolled back down the incline towards Brettel Lane with ever increasing velocity. The guard who occupied the van at the extremity of the train applied his break with all the force of which it was capable, but its power was insufficient to check the retrograde motion of the carriages, which soon attained a very high rate of speed. On arriving at the Bug Hole, a little more than half way to Brettel Lane, they dashed into the second excursion train, which as before stated, was despatched from Worcester only fifteen minutes after the first, and being a lighter train, naturally gained upon it during the journey. The driver of the second train, perceived the carriages running back upon him down the incline, and had nearly succeeded in bringing his train to a stand at the time of the collision, thus considerably mitigated the severity of the crash. But as it was the consequences were fearful. The guard’s van and the carriage next to it were split into matchwood, and the second carriage escaped little better. The guard jumped out before the collision occurred, and escaped without injury; but the effect upon the passengers crowded in the two shattered carriages was dreadful. The scene that ensued it is impossible to describe. Fragments of the crushed and broken carriages, mutilated human forms, some still in death, some writhing in their last agonies, others seriously but not fatally hurt, shrieking with pain and terror, were commingled in a generally melee, hardly distinguishable amid the darkness and the dust occasioned by the collision. The terrified passengers who escaped without serious injury, ran hither and thither in bewilderment, and for a time none knew what to do. A few of the more self-possessed, however speedily bestirred themselves to render all possible assistance to the unfortunate sufferers, and remove them from the wreck that bestrewed the line, and messengers were despatched for medical and other aid. It was soon apparent that the loss of life was lamentably great. Eleven lifeless forms were discovered amongst the rubbish, in addition to many frightfully mangled and disfigured. As speedily as possible the latter were conveyed on stretchers, furnished by the shivered coaches, to the various hotels in the neighbourhood; and the next duty attended to was the removal of the dead in like manner. Many of those only slightly injured proceeded onwards by the train, and it is probable that a complete list of the casualties resulting from this sad affair will never be obtained. The removal of the wounded was effected under the superintendence of Mr. Wall, assistant to Mr. Norris, the company’s surgeon at Brierley Hill, who was first upon the ground; but other medical men soon arrived, and took charge of cases at the inns, to which the sufferers were conveyed. Amongst these were Dr. Walker, Brierley Hill and his assistant; Mr. W. E. Johnson, surgeon, of Dudley, and Mr. Horton, assistant; Mr. Osborne and Mr. Harding, of Stourbridge; Mr. Tomlinson, from Mr. Freer’s; Mr. Evans, from Mr. Giles’s, of Stourbridge; &c. Information of the occurrence was instantly telegraphed to Worcester, and about half-past nine o’clock Mr. Sherriff, the general manager, with Mr. Adcock and Mr. W. Carden, and Mr. Everett, surgeons to the company, arrived by special train from Worcester. The two former gentlemen immediately directed their attention to the clearing of the line and preparing it for the resumption of traffic, and the two latter visited the wounded located in the neighbourhood. There is a feature in this case which is not presented by railway accidents generally. The train to which the accident happened being a special one from a particular district, all the persons injured and it is feared all those killed also, but up to two o’clock this morning none of them had been identified, resided within a limited area, within which all the distressing consequences of the calamity are concentrated, instead of being distributed over the whole country as in the case of an ordinary train conveying passengers to and from various parts. The bodies of some of the dead are fearfully mangled, and their identification, except by the dress, will in some cases be difficult. The features of one poor woman, whose body lies with four others at the Swan Inn, Moor Lane, are wholly undistinguishable, her head being crushed into a shapeless mass. The legs of a man lying at the same place are fearfully crushed, and his head and face shockingly contused. The gentleman had been expensively dressed, and even in death had the air of a person who has been accustomed to move in superior society. Most of the other appear to have belonged to the working classes. We append a list of such of the casualties as we were enabled to obtain particulars of, and have no doubt but in the course of to-day it will be known who were the unfortunate individuals who were killed. We may mention that the particular spot at which the collision occurred is a short distance beyond the junction of the Kingswinford branch railway, in course of formation, with the main line, and that the line was cleared for traffic by twelve o’clock, but little damage being done to the permanent way. From the list appended it will be perceived that all the serious casualties were sustained by persons resident at Princes’s End, Coseley, Tipton, Dudley, and the immediate vicinity of those place; and with one exception all are adult persons.
Elizabeth Hyde, a girl ten or twelve years of age, slightly injured; Charles Turner, of Bloomfield, Tipton, suffering from injury to the chest, a large scalp wound, and many cuts about the head, fractured ribs on the left side, and perforation and protrusion of the left lung, recovery doubtful; Thomas Brett, of Daisy Bank, fractured shoulder, and injuries to he head and thigh, a serious but not fatal case; and Edward Jones, of Dudley Port, slight injury to the leg, are all accommodated at the Crown Inn.
Sarah Fisher, of Coseley, slight injury to the chest, is staying at the Royal Exchange.
Luke Stokes, slight injury to leg; William Skelding, Princes End, injury to tongue and nose; Eliza Lones, Princes End, a girl, suffering from general concussion, a slight scalp wound, and general contusion of knee; Thomas Lones, father of the last-named, slightly injured; and Mary Lones, mother of Eliza, and wife of Thomas Lones, sustained a fracture to the collar bone, and injuries of a very serious nature to the chest and abdomen. All these are accommodated at the Whimsey, Brettel Lane, where three dead lie.
Lydia Cox, Bloomfield,
very extensive scalp wound; Samuel Clark, concussion of the brain, and
extensive injury to the knee joint, very serious case; and Henry James,
Coseley, slight injury in the back,; these lie at the Cock Inn, Moor Lane,
where are also three dead, two men and a woman.
Sarah Ann Whitehouse,
of Prince’s End, injury to he arm and leg, not of a very serious
character, accommodated at a house next door to the Swan.
Mr. Johnson, of Coseley who arrived at Dudley Station, appeared so much injured that his recovery was considered doubtful.
Mr. Mooney put on special trains for the accommodation of persons residing on the lines of the South Staffordshire and Stour Valley Railways, who were detained by the accident until too late for ordinary trains.
Particular and minute enquiries yesterday tended to confirm the general accuracy of the foregoing statement. In a few minor details it is, of course, incomplete; but in all material particulars it is substantially correct. The number of killed is correctly stated, and the description given of the injuries sustained by those most seriously injured is generally accurate. As we ventured to anticipate, the bodies of all the deceased have been identified. They are a young man named Francis Mills, a furnaceman at the Bloomfield Iron Works; Joseph Baker, Prince’s End, Ironworker, thirty five years of age, single; Edward Matthews, Coseley, puddler; Benjamin Skeldon, of Prince’s End, baker and provision dealer; Harriet, his wife, and John, his son, a young man of seventeen; Mrs. Hildrick, wife of Mr. Hildrick, sawyer, of Park Lane, Tipton; Mrs. Harley, wife of Mr. Harley, tailor, Dudley; Henry Weston, labourer, Prince’s End, aged thirty-three, single; Richard Moore, aged thirty, Prince’s End; Henry Marshall, aged thirty-six, boatman, Worcester; and Benjamin Pitt, hay and straw dealer. Perhaps the case of the Skeldons is the most melancholy of the foregoing list of casualties. A sad gap has been made in that family, the husband, and wife, and eldest son, alike falling victims to the catastrophe: an unborn baby also perished with the mother. Mrs. Hartley has left a young family of children motherless, her husband being amongst the wounded. Amongst the seriously wounded are Joseph Webb, Prince’s End, puddler, leg broken and toe amputated, thirty years of age, married; William Kendrick, Prince’s End, leg and thigh fractured; Richard Wassell, Prince’s End, serious internal injuries and injury to the head, slight hope of recovery; William Harley, Stafford Street, Dudley, tailor, severely contused; Haden Smith, residing near Christ Church, Coseley, arm broken; Miss Bevan, Coseley Street, Bilston, toe cut off and otherwise injured; Mrs. Wycherley, sister of Miss Bevan, leg broken; Samuel Clark, external injury to the knee-joint, supposed spinal injury, and paralysis; Lydia Corser, of Burton-on-Trent, serious scalp wound; Henry Augustus James, son of the postmaster of Coseley, injury to back; Sarah Fisher, of Prince’s End, slight injury to chest, progressing favourably; Mrs. Mary Lanes, crushed internally, collar-bone broken, and otherwise seriously injured, progressing satisfactorily; Elizabeth Hyde, aged fourteen, Vicarage Prospect, Dudley, slightly injured; Edward Jones, of Dudley Port, hair-dresser, generally contused; Charles Turner, aged twenty-seven, Prince’s End, hurt seriously in the head and side; Thomas Brett, Daisy Bank, blacksmith, ribs and collar-bone broken, very dangerously hurt, &c., &c. It is of course impossible to present anything like a perfect list of the wounded, most of those who were able to bear removing having been taken to their own homes. We are informed that the surgeons of the Company have visited upward of seventy cases of alleged injury by the accident, and report that more than sixty persons have sustained damage by the collision. It is hoped that no further sacrifices of life may result, although the injuries of some of those who are wounded are so severe as almost to preclude the hope of recovery. The wounded are receiving every possible attention from the officers of the Company. and neither expense nor trouble is spared in endeavouring to lighten their suffering.
An inquest on the bodies of the deceased will be opened to-day. We shall give a full report of the proceedings in our impression of to-morrow.