RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTH WEST BLACK COUNTRY
Birmingham Daily Post
WEDNESDAY, 8th., SEPTEMBER, 1858
THE RAILWAY CATASTROPHE NEAR DUDLEY,
THE ADJOURNED INQUEST.
EVIDENCE OF THE GUARDS.
Yesterday the inquisition before T. M. Phillips, Esq., touching the deaths of thirteen of the persons killed by this unfortunate collision, was resumed at the Bell Hotel, Brierley Hill.
Mr. King was again in attendance as the legal adviser of the Company. J. S. Pakington, Esq., director; A. C. Sherriff, Esq., general manager; Edward Wilson, engineer; W. T. Adcock, Esq., secretary; and James Burchell, Esq., the London Solicitor of the Company; were likewise present; as were also J. E. M’Connell, Esq., Locomotive Engineer of the London and North-Western Railway; and W. G. Graig, Esq., Locomotive Engineer of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. Mr. Ebsworth was also in attendance on behalf of Mr. Hildrick, whose wife was killed; Mr. Nelson, of the firm of Southall and Nelson, of Birmingham, for Mr. Noakes, who was injured; Mr. Burbury, on behalf of the representatives of Marshall and Mills, who were killed; and Mr. Homer, of Brierley Hill, for Mr. Harley, of Dudley, whose wife was killed, and who sustained considerable personal injury.
The first witness examined was John Cording, who deposed:– George Cording: I am under guard of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway, and live at Worcester. I accompanied an excursion train from Wolverhampton to Worcester on the 23rd. of last month. Frederick Cook was the head guard. I did not hear any complaint as to any defect in the engines or machinery before leaving Wolverhampton. I cannot say how many carriages or passengers there were. Additional carriages were attached at Dudley, but I do not know how many. One engine only left Wolverhampton, but an additional one was attached at Dudley. I went to the front van, next to the engine. Three or four persons rode in the van with me from Tipton to Dudley. There was not room in the train at Tipton. Nothing particular occurred between Wolverhampton and Dudley. The first breakage occurred at Brettel Lane, just as we were leaving the station. I should think seven or eight carriages were attached at Dudley, but I do not know how many. As we were leaving Brettel Lane the shackle attaching two of the carriages broke. Jonas Lockwood was the driver of the engine. Cook gave me the signal, and I communicated it to the driver. The driver of the second engine was Thomas Benson. The chain broke as we were in the act of starting from the station. The breakage occurred to the fourteenth or fifteenth carriage from the engine, I should say, but I cannot speak particularly. I do not know the cause of the chain breaking. We had not got many yards from the station when the breakage took place. The bow of the shackle was pulled off the nut. A large goods chain, out of Cook’s van, was used to replace the broken shackle. There was another breakage at Hagley. It was not the same chain that broke at Brettell Lane. The breakage occurred after passing the station. The shackle that broke there was replaced by another that was hanging on the next carriage. No other breakage took place between and Worcester. It is the head guards place to make a report of anything that occurs. Mr. Charles Harris, assistant superintendent, had charge of the train from Dudley to Worcester. I do not know whether the head guard or Mr. Harris made any report respecting the breakages. I returned with the train in the evening. The chains that broke in the morning were repaired. I looked over the train before it started. The chains were repaired by a blacksmith. I cannot say whether the same chains were used in returning, or whether they were replaced by others. I consider it my duty to see that all the couplings are right before starting. The train was divided on returning. We left Worcester about 6.30. There were 29 or 30 carriages in the first train. I went with the first portion. There was only one engine at starting. Cook was head guard of that train. The engine-driver was John Bust. Another engine was attached at Stourbridge, on account of the incline. It was put in front of the train. The incline extends from Stourbridge to near Dudley. Robert M’Gee was the driver of the engine attached at Stourbridge. Nothing occurred between Stourbridge and Round Oak Stations. Just before we arrived at Round Oak Station I noticed that the lights of the last portion of the train were all right. The first intimation I received of anything having broken was from Bust the engine-driver. I put on my break at the station. The breakage did not occur until after we had stopped. I did not hear the breakage myself. Bust told me the train had broken, and part had run back. I immediately turned to look, and found the lights on the latter portion of the train had disappeared. I went and examined the shackle that had broken. It was attached to No.114, through Bristol and Liverpool carriage. This shackle was attached to the carriage. The side chains of that carriage were not broken, but the chains on the next carriage were broken; the hook of one was broken, and the other was pulled out of the buffer beam. I removed the shackle that broke from carriage No.114 at Wolverhampton on the following morning. I went back after the portion of the train that had broke away, and near the place at which the collision took place I met a man, who informed me what had occurred. Twelve carriages and a van remained attached to the engine. Eighteen ran back. I do not know how many were broken. I got as many persons into the first part of the train as I could, and went to Dudley by direction of Mr. Ivetts. Many injured persons went in the train. My break was in good order, and I believe the other was in good order also. I used it in going to Worcester in the morning. I applied my break at all the stations between Worcester and Round Oak in returning. I saw Cook at the place where the accident occurred. He was quite sober, and did not make any complaint of any defect in the machinery. I did not make any enquiry as to how the accident occurred. I have been engaged on the line some time. I cannot say whether the break was applied to the van that ran back. I have been employed as assistant guard twelve months, and have perhaps made two or three journeys per week during that time. I do not think it would be possible for the guard to have stopped the carriages that ran back, because the night was foggy and his break would not bite. If it had been a dry night perhaps he might have stopped them. I cannot say in what distance one break would stop eighteen carriages filled with people on such an incline. Carriages laden with a dead weight would be easier stopped than if laden with people. I do not think it would be possible to stop eighteen carriages filled with living people on such an incline with one break. That is my opinion, having been employed as assistant guard on the line for twelve months, and having been in the habit of travelling over it three or four time a week. I knew the second train was to follow us from Worcester, but did not know at what interval. The head guard might know. It is usual to allow five or six minutes to elapse after the departure of one train before the despatch of another.
By the Foreman: I did not perceive any unusual jerking of the train in going to Worcester.
By Mr. Ford: I did not see Cook at Round Oak.
By Mr. Wheeler: I have been asked questions respecting the accident by Mr. King on two occasions, but by no other person connected with the Company.
By the Foreman: I am not aware that any telegraph message was sent from Round Oak to Brettell Lane within a few minutes after the breakage. We have passenger carriages with breaks attached. It is a rule that all such carriages shall be locked but rather than passengers behind, the guard would probably allow them to enter a carriage with a break attached. The break is in a separate compartment, into which the passengers are not allowed to enter.
By Mr. Haynes: I cannot tell the name of the blacksmith who mended the chains broken in going to Worcester.
By Mr. Bushbury: I have been employed on the Great Western Railway, but I have not been employed on any narrow-gauge except the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton. I cannot speak to the number of break vans used to any given number of carriages on any other line of railway. It was a third-class carriage of which the shackle broke. It is customary to use through carriages for ordinary purpose when required.
By Mr. Ebsworth: At the time I was acting as assistant guard I ranked as a porter, and was receiving 18s. a-week. The wages of a porter are 16s. a-week. I was raised 2s. a-week when I became assistant guard. I had never acted as assistant guard for any company besides the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton. When additional carriages were put on at Dudley, I directed the persons in my van to go into the carriages, and they did so. Other persons got into my van at Brettel Lane. It is a rule that guards shall not permit persons to ride in their vans, but at Brettell Lane the station-master, or one of the porters, said some boys must go in the van, and they did so to Stourbridge, were other carriages were attached. I dress as a porter, and I cannot account for Phillips, the station-master at Round Oak, not knowing me. I know him. I had two persons in he van in returning. I do not know whether Cook had any one in his van.
By Mr. King: I saw the carriage No. 114 and another carriage coupled together at the scene of the accident. Prickett coupled them. I proceeded to Wolverhampton with those carriages and other, and pointed them out to Drinkwater, the inspector. I took No. 114 to Worcester next day. I there pointed it out to Gransmore, the inspector of carriages, and also to Brown, the platform inspector.
Joseph Williams: I am a boatman, and live in King Street, Worcester. I rode in the van with the guard from Worcester, having gone there from Dudley by the excursion train in the morning. We left Dudley at about ten o’clock in the morning. I did not perceive any shock between there and Worcester. I did not know that any chains broke. We left Worcester in the evening, but I cannot say at what time; I did not take any notice. I rode with Cook, the guard, and Marshall, who was killed. I do not know Cook’s Christian name: Marshall’s was Henry. I got into the van because the carriages were full. Cook did not ask me to get in. There were several other persons in the van besides Cook, Marshall, and myself; but none that I knew. I did not perceive any shock in coming from Worcester until the accident occurred. When we ran back from Brettel Lane, Cook tried to stop the train with his break, and when he found he could not stop it he began to whistle. When he saw the other train he told us to jump out of the van, saying there would be an accident. I did not jump out, nor can I say whether Cook did or not. I did not see either Cook or any other person use the break in returning from Worcester until just before the accident. He did not use it long before the accident. I did not perceive any diminution in the speed of the carriage when he used the break. I was quite sober. I was injured by the collision. I was thrown out of the van and rendered insensible. I was not able to render any assistance to the wounded. I did not see any wounded at all.
By the Foreman: I had not been drinking on that day.
By Mr. Wheeler: I am not a Sunday School teacher.
By Mr. Williams: I cannot say whether Cook had been absent from and got into the van just before applying his break
By the Coroner: Cook was sober.
By Mr. Wheeler: I have received £5 from the Company, as compensation for the injuries I received. I cannot tell whether there was any light in the van.
By the Foreman: I did not see the Round Oak Station at all.
By Mr. Ebsworth: I did not know the train was running back until Cook told us. Two or three minutes elapsed between telling us and the collision, Cook did not ask for any one to assist him in working the break. He was turning the break when he told us. He had not been smoking or drinking in the van.
By Mr. Nelson: We stopped at all stations in returning. I cannot say whether many passengers had got out at the stations.
By Mr. Homer: I cannot tell who asked me to come. I have not had any promise of payment.
Mr. King protested against such questions being asked. The Company had endeavoured to bring every person who knew anything about the matter; and having heard that Williams rode in the van, had brought him with the other witnesses. Such questions were most unprofessional.
By Mr. Homer: I received £5 as compensation, before I was asked to give evidence.
Frederick Cook was next examined. He said, I am a guard in the service of the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company. I was head guard of the excursion train to Worcester, on the 23rd ult. I live in Mark Street, Worcester.
The Coroner here cautioned the witness not to say anything that might criminate himself.
Cook said he would answer any questions that might be put to him, and deposed as follows: John Cording was under-guard. James Lockwood was the engine-driver. There were one engine at starting from Wolverhampton, twenty-four carriages, and two vans. I did not hear any complaints made of any deficiency in the engine or carriages until there was a breakage at Brettel Lane. Eight additional carriages and another engine were attached at Dudley. At Brettel Lane a shackle broke and two side-chains broke. It was on starting the train from the station that the breakage occurred. I should say it was about fourteen carriages from the van I was in. I was out of the van at the time. I fetched four big links from the last van. I put a spragg in the wheel and coupled them tight. I cannot say whether the station-master was aware of the breakage. The train proceeded onward, and at Stourbridge five more coaches were attached. At Hagley another shackle and two side-chains broke. The train was just starting from the station at the time. I went and examined the shackle, and saw a porter put on another. I proceeded with the train to Worcester, and at Droitwich I found there was another shackle gone. I cannot say how it had broken. I could not find the shackle; it was lost, and the carriages were attached by the side-chains only. There was no other breakage between Droitwich and Worcester. I did not take any persons in my van from Wolverhampton, but at Prince's End I allowed several persons to get in, because there was no room in the coaches. I am aware that this is contrary to the Company's rules to allow persons to ride in the van. I told our man to take the break off at Netherton and Round Oak, but I cannot say who he was. There was smoking going on in the van. The same person did not use my break all the way to Worcester; no one used it but myself. I did not make any complaints at any of the stations about the chains having broken. We arrived at Worcester at 12.32. I did not make any complaint, because Mr. Harris, a superior officer, was with me. He accompanied the train from Dudley, and rode in the van with me part of the way. In returning, I took the first train, and rode in the last van. The train consisted of twenty-seven coaches, two break vans, and one engine from Worcester. A second engine was put on at Stourbridge, to assist us up the bank. All went on well until we got to Round Oak. Six or seven people rode in the van from Worcester. All the coaches were full. We left Brettell Lane at 8.3, and arrived at Round Oak about 8.10. I put my break on, just before coming to Round Oak Station, to stop the train. When the train came to a stand, I took off my break and immediately perceived the carriages coming back upon me. I then put on my break again, but could not stop the coaches. Eighteen carriages ran back. The break appeared to draw up the coaches a little at first, but they got ahead of me again after, and gradually increased their speed until they obtained a rate of about 10 miles an hour. I should say my break acted very well, and a very good break it was; but the weight was too much for it to hold. I knew the other train was coming after. About ten minutes are generally allowed to intervene between two trains. When I saw the other train coming I called to the passengers in the van to jump out, but I do not think any of them did. I also held out my red light and whistled. I jumped out ten yards from the place were the collision occurred. I left the break on when I jumped. When the collision took place I ran back towards Round Oak to stop the line, and met the fireman, who told me the line was blocked. I then went towards Brettell Lane, and met Prickett, who told me all was right these, and I then went and assisted to get out the wounded. Since the accident I have made experiments as to the power of a break on the incline. I have been on the line eight years. When we go down the bank we always apply the break. I never found any difficulty in stopping a train down the bank except when the rails are wet. They were wet on that night in consequence of a fog that was breaking. I have taken thirty-five carriages down the bank with two breaks. There were two guards and an extra extra breaks man for Dudley in going. There was a break attached to one of the eighteen carriages that broke away, but there was no one to work it. Mr. Harris superintended the train at starting. I did not ask to have any man placed in charge of the break attached to the carriage.
By the Foreman: There were two break-vans in addition to the break attached to the carriage. There were persons in the carriage to which the break was attached.
By the Coroner: I did not know that a chain broke when an excursion train was going to Wolverhampton races.
By a Juror: Any person in the compartment in which the break was placed might have used it.
By Mr. Ford: I discovered the backwards movement of the carriages almost immediately. At first I fancied they were being pushed back by the engine.
By the Foreman: If the break was left on at the standing of a train, the couplings would be likely to snap. When I found the carriages going back down the line I screwed the break on as tight as possible.
By Mr. Holcroft: I was thrown down when I jumped out.
By Mr. Ebsworth: Any of the passengers in the carriage to which the break was attached might have played tricks with it. It was not protected in any way.
My salary as a guard is 24s. per week. I cannot say whether that is the usual remuneration of guards on other lines.
By Mr. Wheeler: I had not got out of my van at Round Oak, when I found the carriage was going down the bank again.
By Mr. Burbury: I am a regular goods guard, but have been employed running excursion trains all the summer. I did not tell any person the day after the accident that my break was out of order. There is not any one at Brettell Lane to inspect the break vans before they go up the incline. If I had known of the severance at the moment it took place, and applied the break instantly, I do not think I could have prevented the train from running back.
By Mr. King: I was present when the experiments were made as to the power of breaks on the incline by the Government Inspector and the Company’s servants, but I was not present when the experiments were made by Mr. Craig.
By the Coroner: I do not know the power of the break I used on the night of the accident. The experiments were made by the Government Inspector on the Saturday after the accident. John Prickett used the break on that occasion. I think the train to which the accident happened was much heavier than that with which the experiment were made. There were the same number of carriages in each; and the coaches with the experiment were made were loaded with iron.
By Mr. Ford: I am still in the employ of the Company; I have not been discharged.
Mr. Sherriff here remarked that the Company never discharged a man while an enquiry like the present was pending.
Cook’s evidence was then continued: He was questioned by the Coroner as to the nature of the experiments made under the direction of the Government Inspector, but did not give a very intelligible account of them.
Mr. King stated that evidence would be given of the result of those experiments.
By Mr. Burbury: The rails were perfectly dry at the time the experiments were made.
The Coroner here remarked that he thought it highly desirable that the Jury should have the benefit of the Government Inspector’s opinion.
Mr. King stated that he had no doubt the Government Inspector would attend if the Coroner or jury intimated a desire that he should do so.
A conversation then took place as to the additional evidence to be offered.
Mr. King, on behalf of the Company, stated that they had felt it their duty to cause all their servants who knew anything about the matter to be in attendance, and many of them had not been examined.
The Coroner said he thought the witness who had been examined had communicated all the facts it was essential for the jury to have before them, and all that remained to be done in his opinion, was, to give of the scientific evidence of which Mr. King had spoken. It then being near six o’clock it was arranged that the enquiry should be further adjourned until Tuesday next at 11 o’clock, when it is understood that Mr. Craig, Mr. M’Connell, and the Government Inspector, if he should be in attendance, will be examined.
Mr. Burbury then enquired whether the legal gentlemen who attended on behalf to the representatives of deceased persons, and those who had sustained injury by the collision, would be allowed to make any observations upon the case. He understood from the Coroner the last time they met that Mr. King would be permitted to make any observations on behalf of the Company, and in that case he thought it would be only fair that those who attended on behalf of injured persons should also be heard.
The Coroner said he had been misunderstood. He never intended to convey an idea that Mr. King would address the Jury, neither did he intend that any other gentleman should do so.
The enquiry was then adjourned.