Birmingham Daily Post




It is with sincere regret that we add another to the list of thirteen persons who had previously died in consequence of injuries received in this lamentable collision. The last addition to the melancholy catalogue is Mrs. Sarah Rogers, a widow, seventy years of age, who resided with some relative at Prince’s End, Tipton. It appears that one or more of her ribs was broken, and her chest seriously injured by the collision; she was, however, able to be removed to her own home the same night. Her system was not sufficiently vigorous to sustain the shock she underwent, and she gradually sank, and died at nine o’clock on Tuesday night.

It affords us satisfaction to add that all the wounded still remaining in the neighbourhood of the accident are going on favourably, Richard Wassell, whose recovery was at first deemed impossible, is going on most satisfactorily.



The inquisition before T. M. Phillips, Esq., Coroner, touching the cause of the death of the thirteen persons who lost their lives in consequence of the melancholy accident on the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, on the night of the 23rd. ult., was resumed at one o’clock yesterday, at the Bell Hotel, Brierley Hill. The names of the deceased are Francis Mill, Henry Marshall, Richard Moore, Benjamin Skelding, Harriet Skelding, John Skelding, Mary Hildrick, Joseph Pitt, Joseph Baker, Edward Matthews, Henry Weston, Ann Harley and Samuel Clark; the latter of whom died at the Cock Inn, Moor Lane, on Tuesday morning last, as stated in our yesterday’s impression.

W. Fenton, Esq., the Chairman of the Company, was present, as were Edward Watkin, Esq., and W. Lewis, Esq., Directors; A. C. Sherriff, Esq., General Manager, Edward Wilson, Esq., Engineer, W. T. Adcock, Esq., Secretary, James Burchell, Esq., the London Solicitor of the Company, and Mr. Wood, from the General Manager’s Office. Mr. King, of the firm of Collis, Bernard and King, of Stourbridge, again appeared as the legal advisor of the company; Mr. Burbury, solicitor, of Brierley Hill, was again present on behalf of the friends of Marshall and Mills, two of the deceased, and Mr. Round and Mr. Caddick, for the Skeldings family, Mr. Ebsworth, of the firm of Duggin and Ebsworth, of Walsall, appeared for Mr. Hildrick, the Husband of Mrs. Hildrick, one of the deceased, and Mr. Sanders, of the firm of Bolton and Sanders, of Dudley, for the friends of Joseph Baker. Mr. Warmington, of Dudley, attended on behalf of Mr. Johnson, of Coseley, and five others who are injured. Mr. Dudley Parsons, Manager of the Stour Valley Railway, Mr. George Bentley, solicitor, of Worcester, and Mr. Hemmaut, of Birmingham, were also present.

A the commencement of the proceedings Mr. King rose, and said he was instructed by the Directors of the Company to express their deep sympathy with the suffers by this unfortunate accident.

The Coroner interposed, and stated that he was perfectly satisfied the Company were anxious to give every information in their power. The fact of something like twenty-four or twenty-five of their servants being in attendance for the purpose of giving evidence was sufficient proof of that. But, in addressing any observations to the Jury now, Mr. King might make some impression which had better not be made until the enquiry had terminated. He believed that the Jury perfectly understood that the Company were most desirous of affording all the information in their power.

Mr. King, stated that the Chairman of the Company would have been on the spot much earlier, but was away in the Highlands when the accident happened. As soon as information of the occurrence reached him, he immediately set out, and had travelled as fast as possible, in order to get here at the earliest practicable moment.

The examination of the witnesses then resumed.

Noden was first examined. He said: I am a roller, and live near Brierley Hill. On Monday, 23rd August, at about a quarter past eight at night, I was on Moor Lane Bridge. I heard an “explosion” near to the bottle-house of Mr. Westhead’s, down the line. I went to the spot. I found Francis Mills by the side of the rails. He was not quite dead. He was close against the rails, on the road. He was sensible, but in a dying state. He had a severe cut across the forehead. I carried him away from the rail, and he asked me for a drought of water. I told him I could not get any. He died in my presence in ten minutes or a quarter of an hour afterwards. I had not known him previously. There were broken carriages near to where he was lying.

Mr. William John Humphries, station-master at the Low Level Station, at Wolverhampton was next called. He deposed: I am in the employ of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company, and have charge of the station generally. It is not my duty to inspect the carriages passing through the station. That is the duty of a person named Drinkwater. My duties are station-master, superintendent of part of the Oxford line, and have the general management of the station, and those employed there. I superintended the starting of the excursion train on the 23rd of August. I gave instructions for it to consist of twenty-four carriages and two guards’ break vans. It left the station at eighteen minutes past nine. It was advertised for the accommodation of Sunday School teachers and children. There was one engine to the train. I do not know the power. It is the duty of the locomotive superintendent, Mr. Wilson. I have not the control of that department. The train was managed by an engine-driver and fireman. Only ninty-nine persons, mainly children, left Wolverhampton. The engine was in front of the train, and was in perfect working order. I examined the train throughout myself, and everything seemed right. No complaints were made to me by the guard or any other person as to any defect in the chains. When a train leaves my station it ceases to be under my control.

By the Rev. J. Bailey, foreman of the Jury: I have printed rules defining my duty. Strictly speaking, it is not my own duty to see to all the trains. (The rules were then produced)

By the Jury: In the absence of the locomotive superintendent, the engine-driver became responsible for the engine being competent to draw the train attached to it. No man is appointed an engine-driver without his being thoroughly competent to undertake the management of an engine, and also having a complete knowledge of its part.

By the Coroner: I walked down the off-side of the train, and saw that all the couplers were on. I am very particular in that respect. I cannot swear that Mr. Drinkwater was at the station on the 23rd August. He is inspector for the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Line only. I am joint servant of that Company and the Great Western.

By Mr. King: I have seen an excursion train on the Great Western Line of fifty carriages. I cannot say with what number of break vans. The couplers used on the two lines are of comparatively the same strength. The Great Western is a broad-gauge, and the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton a narrow gauge line.

By Mr. Emsworth: There were two break vans to the excursion train, but I do not know the name of the guards.

By Mr. Burbury: All guards and other officials of the line are supplied with a printed copy of the rules.

By the Coroner: I cannot consider that an excursion train is a special train. It is an ordinary train, because due notice of its departure is given. A special train is one which follows another without previous notice. The rules of the Company apply to an excursion train as to an ordinary train.

By the Coroner (referring to the 10th rule): I cannot say that station-masters generally can leave their station without sanction of the superintendent. I am a joint servant, and under joint rules of the Great Western, and Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway. The general rules of the latter company do not apply to me. Guards are not allowed to take any one in their vans.

By a juror: Mr. Wilson, the engineer, was not present on the morning of the 23rd August at Wolverhampton.

By the Coroner: No complaints were telegraphed to me after the train had started of sufficiency of steam power. If there had not been sufficient steam power, or had the engine been defective, the engine-driver would have acted to the best of his judgment - he would have probably have complained to a station-master. If such a complaint were to be made to me, I should either order the train to be divided or an additional engine put on.

Mr. Phillips, station-master at Round Oak: I have known a chain break before on a train coming up the incline at Round Oak. It was an excursion train, on the day of Wolverhampton races. It was the centre chain or “shackle” which broke. I should have mentioned that it broke on the train departing from the station, and not on approaching it. no accident happened. We replaced the “shackle” with another from the guard’s van. The side chains, on that occasion, were sufficiently strong to prevent the carriages running back. I did not examine any of the chains during the confusion on the night of the 23rd August.

By the Foreman: I do not know whether I possessed a copy of the rules on the morning of the 23rd. August. I know most of them by heart. I did not instruct Mr. Boden, my assistant, to take my place when I went away. It is an understanding thing between us for him to do so. I did so at night. I am station-master at Primrose Hill as well as Round Oak. They are a mile and three-quarters apart. I have also charge of the goods department at Round Oak. My salary is £90. per year, with payment for a horse, and with the understanding that if I can manage the work I am to have an increase.

By Mr. Burbury: I did not make a report on the day of Wolverhampton races of the circumstances of the shackle breaking. I did not think it necessary, because I could replace it, and the guard knew of it.

By Mr. King: There is a competent person in my absence, both at Round Oak and Primrose Hill Stations.

Mr. Ebsworth: I do not know who had charge of the second part of the train on the return journey from Worcester. I was not at Round Oak Station when the trains passed by.

Mr. King here stated that the names of the guards in charge of the two divisions of the train were Cook and Cording in the first division and Prickett and Prestige in the second.

Examination resumed: I heard of the catastrophe and its cause before I got to the scene. I hastened to the spot as soon as I possibly could from Dudley. I did not examine any of the carriages, they were much broken. The porters told me about the broken chain. Mr. Hart, station-master at Brettel Lane, also told me about it. I went to the spot again the following morning, and did not then examine the carriages. I merely took a casual view of them. Deakin, a porter, told me on the night of the accident that he had a chain in his possession, and the following morning I asked him to produce it.

By Mr. King: When I arrived at the scene of the accident, on the night of its occurrence, I found Mr. A. C. Sherriff, the general manager, and Mr. T. Adcock, the secretary and superintendent, both there. In the presence of superior officers it was not my duty to enquire into the cause of the accident. Their presence removed my authority.

By Mr. Ebsworth: I have been two years on the line, and knew Cook well. He is a properly constituted guard, and one of the best on the line. I do not know Cording - he is a stranger to me.

The Rev. E. C. Perry having expressed a wish as to give evidence as to the strength of the coupling chains, the Chairman proposed to examine him next.
Mr. King enquired whether Mr. Perry had received the education of a mechanical engineer. In order to qualify him to give an opinion on such a subject?

Mr. Perry replied, that up to twenty-two years of age he was engaged as a practical mechanic and considered himself competent to give an opinion.

Mr. King said he should call several eminent practical engineers on behalf of the Company.

The Jury, however, expressed a wish that Mr. Perry should be examined.

The gentleman then read a statement to the following effect: Forty-five carriages, the number in the train going to Worcester, weighing 5 tons each (taking that weight of course as an approximation) and two engines of thirty tons each (the weight stated by Mr. Sherriff), would require a force of 10lbs. per ton upon the whole weight to drive them along a level straight road at the rate of twenty miles an hour. An additional force of 2lbs. per ton would be required to drive a train of equal weight round a curve that was not inclined. Therefore the force required to drive the train in the most favourable circumstances, in the direction of Worcester, would be equal to 2,850lbs. The chains connecting the carriages together would, therefore, at the starting of the train, would have a strain upon them of not less than 2,850lbs., or 1 ton, 5 cwt., 3 qrs., 22lbs., which is only about 1-12th the tension of good iron, one inch square. Good rod iron, an inch square, will bear a pressure of thirty tons, but it is not considered safe to use it higher than fifteen tons, which would be about twelve times the pressure that would be upon the couplings in going to Worcester, in the morning. If, therefore, the iron of which the couplings were made had been of good quality, it would have borne twelve times the stain upon it. It is, however, quite possible to bring to bear upon the connecting chains ten times the amount of tension by putting on excess of steam. It therefore follows, all things being favourable to the train, that the iron was bad, or that excess of steam was applied. Coming to the train from Worcester, It consisted of twenty-nine carriages, weighing 5 tons each, and two engines of thirty tons each. Ascending an incline whose gradient was one in seventy-five a force of 40lbs per ton on the whole train would be required to maintain a speed of twenty miles per hour, overcoming, of course, the usual resistances, and the weight of each carriage and its passengers instead of five tons, the thirteen which became detached would weigh sixty-five tons. This weight having to descend an incline of about 1,520 yards in length, and with a gradient of 1 in 75, the distance due to gravity, or through which it fell, would be 61 feet, and by the time it came into collision with the other train it would strike with a force equal to 3,965 tons, supposing the break was not applied, and assuming that its effect on the train was nullified this force by one half, it would then strike with a force of not less than 1,9822 tons, and the velocity acquired at this point would be sixty feet per second. The force of 40lbs. per ton being required to take a train of 205 tons up an incline of 1 in 75 would be equal to 8,200lbs., or about 3 tons 16 cwt., which would be the strain on the connecting chains. This of course will be lowest pressure, and if the iron is of good quality is capable of sustaining with perfect safety four time the amount of pressure, showing that if everything had been favourable the chains were equal to bring up a train four times the weight. Therefore the chain that broke in ascending the incline must either have been of bad quality, or, as was my opinion the case in going to Worcester, too great a pressure was brought to bear upon them by putting on an excess of steam, which produces what is technically know a “back-lash.”

In reply to a question from Mr. King, Mr. Perry stated that the thickness of the shackle was, to the best of his knowledge, one inch and a quarter before the thread was put on it, and one-inch and one-eight at the bottom of the worm. There was no question as to the shackles being sufficient to bear the strain if all had gone on favourably.

Mr. Perry supplemented his evidence by a statement to the effect that having some knowledge of mechanics and the inclined plane, he had deemed it his duty to make these calculations.

Mr. W. T. Adcock, secretary and superintendent to the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton line, was then called to state the reason why the train had been divided at Worcester. He deposed: I am resident at Worcester, and was at the station on the 23rd of August, when the excursion train arrived from Wolverhampton. It was about half-past twelve in the day. The train consisted of about forty carriages, with two engines, and there were from 1,700 to 1,800 passengers. Frederick Cook was the chief guard, and John Cording acted as the second guard. When the train came into the station my assistant, Mr. Charles Harris, whom I had sent to Wolverhampton to supervise it, told me that there had been something the matter with the chains. Mr. Harris had the care of the train, and the guard would act under his orders. His statement was that the coupling had broken on the way to Worcester. I then directed that on its return the train should be divided; and that only one engine should be sent with each train. In accordance with those instructions the train was divided. The chain which had broken was submitted to Mr. R. Cransmore, inspector of carriages at Worcester. I cannot say whether the same chain was put on again after being mended. I heard no complaint from anyone but Mr. Harris. Neither of the guards said anything to me. It is the duty of Cransmore to examine each train on its arrival at Worcester, and again before its departure. Witnesses will be called who will depose to the fact of what chain was afterwards used.

By the Jury: Harris complained that the chain had broken twice. The stations up the line were not appraised of the division of the train at Worcester. The only intimation they would receive would be by a board attached to the first division. I was never more astonished when I found that, instead of school children and their teachers only, the train on its arrival at Worcester also contained a great number of adults. I consider that each station-master selling tickets to adults had acted indiscreetly. Mr. Harris had no control over that.

By Mr. King: The carriages used on the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway are built by one of the best makers in London, Mr. Charles Kay Williams, and a high price was paid for them. Those used in the excursion train were built by him.

By the Jury: The reason why the train was divided so unequally (nineteen carriages and twenty-six) was that one of the engines was a six-wheel couple engine, and was capable of taking more than the other, which was an ordinary passenger engine.

By the Coroner: The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton first-class carriages cost £365 each; second-class, £245; third-class, £205; composites, £320; and break vans £200 each.

By Mr. King: The carriages used on the Great Northern are some of the best in England, and those employed by the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Company, are built in the same manner, and are therefore equal to them.

By Mr. Ebsworth: Mr. Williams is a carriage builder, and supplies us at the prices named. We use all our carriages indiscriminately. The carriages used in an excursion train are quite as good as those used in an ordinary train, and would be used in ordinary trains. The majority of the carriages used in the excursion train were built by Mr. Williams in 1853 and 1854, and the minority in 1852. The coupling and side chains are charged with the carriages. There is no separate charge made for them. Every carriage and chain, before it is used on the line, is examined. Mr. Gooch was formerly examiner. He has now retired. The carriages used in the excursion train were examined and passed by him. I do not know that any test was applied. When Mr. Harris complained to me, I do not know that Cransmore applied any test. I was not present.

By Mr. Burbury: The first train in returning was under the care of Cook, the guard. Cook was not then under notice to leave.

By Mr. Wheeler, one of the Jury: The second guard on the train would be a porter considered deserving of promotion, and occasionally employed as an assistant guard. None of the station-masters have at present been rebuked for selling tickets to other than Sunday scholars or teachers.

By Mr. Burbury: It was Cook's duty on the return journey to have in his van fog signals and additional couplings, and also see that his break was in proper order, and report it to the Inspector before leaving Worcester.

Mr. E. W. Hart, station-master at Brettel Lane, next deposed: I was on duty when the excursion train from Wolverhampton to Worcester stopped at Brettel Lane. It was about eleven o'clock. There was about forty carriages, with two engines; and I believe there were two guards. I spoke to Frederick Cook the principal guard of the train. No complaints were made to me of anything having broken in the train between Wolverhampton and Brierley Hill. On its leaving the latter station the couplings between two of the carriages broke. I saw the train divide. The shackle was broken, and also one of the side chains. The other side-chain was drawn out of the buffer plank. Directly I saw that the train had parted, I held up my hand to the engine-driver, and he immediately stopped that portion of the train in front. The two parts were then run together. I told the guard to get another chain out of his own van. It was a very stout cable-chain and was sufficient to hold all the carriages. It was fastened on as the shackle-chain. The side-chains were not fastened. I do not know what became of the other chain. Only a link of the shackle-chain was broken. I have heard since that there was another breakage between Brierley Hill and Worcester. About five or six minutes to eight at night I was at my station, and heard the signal-man at the crossing give the whistle announcing that the train was in sight. It came up in about two or three minutes. I did not count the carriages, but I should say there were twenty-eight or thirty. There were two guards and two engines. Frederick Cook, the guard, was in the last van. No complaints were made to me about any breakage. The train had the usual red lamps, two side lamps, and a tail lamp. Several persons got out then. My night-watchman, Thomas Watton, who had been to Worcester, came by the train, and told me that another train was going to leave Worcester shortly after they left. The first train left my station about four minutes to eight, and the second train came up about three minutes past eight, and stayed five minutes. It left about seven or eight minutes past eight. The guard of the second train was a man called Prickett. The engine was in first. About two or three minutes after the train left I heard an engine whistle once or twice very sharp, and immediately after heard a loud report. I cannot describe it. I ran down the step and asked the signal-man “What was that?” He said he thought it must be the engine “skidding,” (i.e., the wheels not biting the rails). I said it was no “skidding,” it was a smash. I then told the signal-man to put the signals, and block both lines. He did so. I took a lamp, called to some men to go with me, and ran down the line. I saw a red light coming towards me; it was about 300 yards off, and was carried by Prickett, the guard. He said, “It’s been a smash.” I continued running and came up with the trains. They were about 500 yards distant. The engine-driver and stoker of the second train were clearing their engine. The chimney was knocked off, and part of the wood-work. I said to the engine-driver, “Where is the train you have run into?”. He replied, “In front.” It was dark. I passed to the front, and met the guard, Frederick Cook, coming along with a lighted red lamp. He said something about their having been a dreadful collision. I sent him to Round Oak Station to stop anything that might be coming on the up-line. The first things I saw and heard were the wreck of the carriages, and the cries of the injured persons. I sent two men I had with me in different directions for doctors, and went myself to my station and telegraphed to Mr. Sherriff, at Worcester. I was powerless to do any good on the spot, as I had no staff of men with me. I immediately returned to the scene of the collision, and saw Mr. Chillingworth, a civil engineer from near Birmingham, who said if I would place my authority in his hands he would do all he could to assist. I immediately did so, and having two bottles of brandy put into my hands, I did all I could to succour the wounded. I made no enquiry into the cause of the accident, because I knew full well that the first train had broke loose and had come back. The buffers of the engine of the second train were broken off, and the last van and two of the carriages of the first train were smashed to atoms. None of the carriages in the second train were injured, and as I passed by the passengers put their heads out at the windows, and enquired what was the matter. They did not seem to be alarmed. Every exertion was made to succour the wounded. The broken carriages, &c., were removed on Tuesday, under the direction of Mr. Heppinstall and Mr. Gill, of Dudley. I never remember any coupling chains breaking before, between Round Oak and Brettel Lane, nor any train coming back again.

By a Juror (Mr. Williams): As a general it is not allowed for a guard to take persons in his van; but with the case of a special train, sooner than let passengers be left behind, he had no doubt a guard would allow them to ride in his van. He observed some persons in the guard’s van in going to Worcester. I was distinctly understood that the excursion was for school children, teachers and their friends.

By the Foreman: I cannot say there were any lights in the carriages in returning. My reason for detaining the second train at Brettel Lane longer than the first was that I thought it well to allow a larger interval between the two trains than the rules specify. I cannot identify the carriage of which the coupling broke at my station in going to Worcester.

By Mr. Ebsworth: There is no particular person at Brettel Lane to examine the trains, and see that all the carriages are right before a train leaves the station. I am not aware that it is my duty; the station-master is not expected to be there always. I do not consider it my duty to examine all the couplings, nor is there any person appointed to do so. It is the duty of the signal-man to enter the times of departure of all trains from the station. The signal-man acts under my direction; but it is not my duty see that he does make the entries. I did not on the return journey ascertain whether the breakage which took place at Brettel Lane in the morning had been repaired.

By Mr. Sanders: I saw the guard Cook at Brettel Lane on the return journey, and I believe he was perfectly sober.

By Mr. Burbury: I would have been his duty to report to me if anything had happened to the train since leaving the last station. When I got to the scene of the accident I did not examine the van to ascertain whether the break had been applied. I do not know whether such an examination was made by any person; but I am of opinion that any person acquainted with breaks could tell by examining the wheels whether the breaks had been applied.
By Mr. King: On arriving at the scene of the accident, I immediately followed the dictates of humanity by attending to the sufferings of those injured, instead of wasting time by asking questions as to how the accident had occurred. It would detain a train too long for a station-master to examine every coupling, and it would be almost impossible to do so, especially at night. The shackle-chain put on at Brettel Lane, in place of that which broke, was of extra strength; it was the thickest chain I ever saw, and was a goods coupling, equal in strength to a shackle and side chains.
At the close of Mr. Hart’s evidence, the Coroner, at the request of the Jury, adjourned the enquiry until one o’clock on Tuesday next.