RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTH WEST BLACK COUNTRY

 
 

 

 

 

Birmingham Daily Post


FRIDAY, 1st., OCTOBER, 1858

THE RAILWAY CATASTROPHE NEAR DUDLEY

 

The enquiry, before T. M. Phillips, Esq., coroner, into the circumstances attendant upon the late unfortunate accident on the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway resumed yesterday, at the Bell Hotel, Brierley Hill. William Fenton, Esq. chairman of the Company, and J. S. Pakington, Esq., on of the directors, were present. Mr. W. G. Craig, locomotive engineer of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway; Mr. Markham, locomotive engineer of the Midland Railway; Mr. Blackmore, superintendent of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway; Mr. Sherriff, the general manager, Mr. Adcock, the secretary, and Mr. Wilson, the engineer of the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway, were also in attendance. James Burchell, Esq., solicitor, London, and Charles Pidcock, Esq., solicitor, Worcester, were likewise present. Mr. King, of the firm of Collis, Bernard, and King, of Stourbridge, attended as the legal adviser of the Company; Mr. J. E. Underhill, Wolverhampton, for Cook; Mr. Nelson, of the firm of Southall and Nelson, Birmingham, on behalf of the Skeldings family; Mr. Burbury, for the friends of Marshall and Mills; and Mr. Homer, on behalf of Mr. Harley, of Dudley. The Rev. E. C. Perry, of Copperfield, and Mr. Chellingworth, civil engineer, of West Bromwich, were also present.

Thomas Brett was the first witness examined. He said: I am a blacksmith, and live near Daisy Bank Station. I went by the excursion train from Daisy Bank to Worcester on the 23rd of August last. I rode in one of the carriages, not in the van. As we were going two stoppages occurred in consequence of chains breaking. One was at Brettell Lane, but I do not know where the second was. I do not know who were the guards of the train. We arrived at Worcester at a little after twelve, and we left in the evening about six o’clock. I returned in the first train, and rode in the van with Cook, the guard. I tried to get into several of the carriages, but they were full, and Cook told me I had better get into the van. There were two boatmen in the van besides myself and Cook; one named Marshall, and the other Williams. A little boy and a porter also rode in the van part of the way. Cook had the care of the break. I had some rum and water—a quartern of rum, and some water in a pint bottle. Cook had some of it. There was no light in the van between Worcester and Brettell Lane. It was sufficiently light to see what was going on. There was a light between Brettell Lane and Round Oak. I did not perceive any shock before the accident happened. I have not been tampered with by anyone, nor have I been asked any questions at all by any person in reference to this occurrence before coming here to-day. I believe the train stopped at Round Oak station. I was then in the van, and Cook was there also, He did not get out of the van when the train stopped at Round Oak. Williams and Marshall were also in the van. Cook looked out several times between Brettell Lane and Round Oak. I believe he stood on the step of the van when the train stopped at Round Oak, but did not get off. He came into the van immediately. I did not perceive that we were going back for some time. I fancied something was wrong, because Cook kept looking out. I cannot say positively whether he had the break on at Round Oak or not. He did not say anything until a very short time before the accident happened. He then said, “My good fellows, you are in danger; you had better jump.” I got up from my seat, when I heard the break begin to “screech.” That was just before Cook spoke. When Cook told us to jump, he leaped out of the van and I followed him. The collision took place instantly. I do not think we were three yards from the second train when I jumped out. I was rendered insensible, and did not regain my faculties for a week. No person besides the guard used the break between Worcester and Round Oak. Before the guard told us to jump out he blew his whistle and waved his light. He did not blow his whistle when the train broke loose, nor until just before we jumped out. I believe he was perfectly sober.

By Mr. Wheeler: I do not know whether there was any other light in the van than the lamp which the guard held in his hand. If there had been one I should have seen it. I was sober. I was neither drunk nor in any state approaching drunkenness. Mr. Osborne attended me while I stayed at Brettell Lane, and since I have been at home Dr. Walker has attended me. I have not been settled with exactly. I have received £50. from the Company, and I have been promised £100. more. The promise is not contingent upon the verdict to be given. Mr. Underhill, of Tipton, has not attended me.

By Mr. Holcroft: I should say I had about three pints of ale in Worcester. I had not any spirits before I partook of the rum in the van. I had not seen Cook at all previous to getting into the van. No person at all has spoken to me about the accident—neither clergyman, policeman, nor any one else—nor have I made any statement respecting the occurrence.

By Mr. Haines: Cook put on the break as soon as the carriages began to recede at Round Oak. I have not seen Cook since the accident.

By Mr. Underhill: I heard the noise of the break about half the time that elapsed between my being aware that the train was receding and the period when the collision occurred. He first came to the break as soon as I was aware were going back. I did not hear any noise then, but he came again to it twice, and screwed it on with all his might. I heard the noise the second time he came to it. I do not know whether he had any means of fastening it down. He looked out at the door after putting on the break. It was after screwing it on the third time that he told us to jump out.

By Mr. Holcroft: I believe Marshall and Williams were sober. I did not see them have any drink in the van.

By the Coroner: Cook did not make any complaint about the break; did not say it was defective or would not act.

By Mr. Haines: I do not know why the whole of the £150. to be paid to me by the Company was not paid down at once. I received the £50. previous to leaving Mr. Done’s, at Brettell Lane.

By Mr. Sherriff: Dr. Walker and Mr. Everitt have promised me the additional £100.

By Mr. Haines: I gave a receipt for the £50. paid to me, but do not know whether it was in full satisfaction of all demands upon the Company.

By Mr. Wheeler: I recollect putting my mark to a paper while at Mr. Done’s. I became insensible after the accident, but discovered I had lost my watch the same night. I should not know the paper to which I put my name if I were to see it again. A policeman came and questioned me about the accident while I was at Mr. Done’s.

By Mr. Homer: Five or six persons partook of the rum and water I had in the van.

Mr. Fenton requested that Dr. Walker might be examined in reference to the negotiations with Brett; but the Coroner said it was irrelevant to the enquiry.

Mr. King then enquired from the witness whether he was settled with before being asked to give evidence. The witness replied that he was.

Mr. Chellingworth, civil engineer, West Bromwich, stated that he could give evidence to the condition of the break immediately after the accident.
Jonas Lockwood was then examined. He said: I am an engine-driver, and drove the engine of the second train from Worcester on the night of the accident. I live at Dudley, and went with the train, on, the morning of the 23rd. from Wolverhampton to Worcester. We left Worcester in the evening at 6.45. The first train had been gone about a quarter of an hour. We arrived at Brettell Lane a minute or two after eight o’clock. We remained at that station four or five minutes. After leaving Brettell Lane about 500 or 600 yards, I saw the tail lights of a train in advance but could not tell whether it was standing, or on which line of rail it was. I, however, supposed it was on the down line. I immediately shut off my steam, whistled for the breaks to be applied, and I reversed my engine. The stoker also applied his break. I did all I possibly could to stop my train, and get it into reverse motion, but the time was not sufficient. I should think that the train which ran back was coming at the rate of ten miles an hour. I should say my train travelled 120 or 140 yards after I saw the lights of the other train. I jumped off just before the collision took place. The carriages attached to my engine were unhooked by the collision, and when I saw them going back I sounded the whistle to the guards, and the breaks brought them up. I have been on the line three years, and travel over it from Wolverhampton to Oxford and back four or five times a week. In descending the hill between Round Oak and Brettell Lane, an ordinary train might be stopped by applying the breaks in 300 or 400 yards, if the rails were dry. If the rails were slippery, I do not think a train could be stopped in less than three or four times the distance. I have had occasion to stop a train on the incline between these stations. We had three breaks, and day was fine, and the rails dry. I should say that on that occasion we pulled up in seven or eight hundred yards. We were going at twenty-five miles an hour when I saw the signal to stop.

By Mr. Holcroft: The train consisted of eight carriages and two break-vans. When I saw the train coming down the bank on the night of the accident, I saw fire flying from the wheels of Cook’s van, which showed that the break was on. I saw Cook after the accident, but he did not then say anything about the cause of it.

By Mr. Rooker: I have had some conversation with him since.

By the Coroner: He did not complain that the break was defective. He said he had it on and tried all he could to stop the train.

By Mr. Elcock: When I first saw the lights of the train coming down the bank I should say it was 500 or 600 yards from me.

By Mr. Underhill: I saw sparks flying from the wheels of the van a moment or two after I first saw the red lights. In my opinion those sparks were produced by the wheels grinding upon the rails, and the break must have been on. We could have stopped the train of which I have spoken between Round Oak and Brettell Lane in half the distance if it had been necessary. In order to do that I must have reversed the engine. The breaks not hold so well early in the morning or at night as in the middle of the day, the rails being generally damp.
By Mr. Homer: I heard the guard’s whistle before the collision took place. I was going over the level crossing near Westwood’s bottle works, and saw the train coming down the line. I saw the van with the red lights, and the fire from the rails “contracted” my attention. It seemed to me to be enough to set the carriages on fire. It was tremendous when it passed me; and I could see it a quarter of a mile off. I heard the crash and immediately ran to the spot; I was there in less than a moment after. I then came up to Mr. Mills, the Superintendent of Police, and gave him information of the occurrence.

The next witness called by Mr. Underhill was Mary Thompson. She said: I live at Jone’s building, Moor Lane, close to the railway. My husband’s name is Daniel. He is a labourer. About half-past eight on on the evening of the 23rd ult., I was standing on Moor Lane Bridge, and saw the train coming down from Round Oak. It had gone up ten minutes before. It was going at about the rate of an ordinary train. It passed me, and went down the line towards Brettell Lane. In two minutes after it passed me I heard the crash, and immediately went to the spot. At the time the train passed, I heard a man say, “I have done all I can; jump.”

Mr. Williams remarked that he did not believe the witness’s statement, and considered it altogether unworthy of credit. It was impossible she could hear anything said by the guard while the train was going at ten miles an hour.
In reply to the the Coroner, the witness said she saw sparks flying from the wheels of the van, as the train passed.

Mr. Underhill proposed to call other witnesses to speak to the fact of sparks flying from the wheel of the van, but the Jury intimated that they did not think it necessary.

Mr. T. F. Chellingworth was then examined. He said: I was at Brettell Lane on the evening of the accident and went to the spot to see if I could render any assistance. I enquired of the engineer of the Company was there, and being told that he was not, I tendered my services, which were accepted by Mr. Hart. I then began to superintend the removal of the debris. I took particular notice of the break apparatus, so as to discover the cause of the accident. I had it removed to the side of the railway. I assisted to take the break-screw which has been produced here from under the carriages, and I noticed particularly the position of the nut. It was near to the centre. I also noticed the break blocks. They were about six inches thick in the thinnest part. They were in good condition, and had been worn a little. I noticed a mark upon the wheels of the break-van which may have been occasioned by their rubbing against the rails when locked, but the mark was not so great as it would have been had they passed over the rails locked any considerable distance. I should think they had not travelled, locked, more than 100 yards.

By Mr. Wheeler: The blocks had not been fired, and did not present any appearance of having been heated.

By Mr. Wheeler: The rails were in a very fair state. There was a slight fog, but not sufficient to make the rails very greasy.

By Mr. Haines: I think the break-screw must have been bent by the collision, and not in being removed from the wreck.

By Mr. Wheeler: I do not think sparks would be emitted from the wheels of carriages passing round a sharp curve without the break being applied.

By Mr. Underhill: If the rails were made of soft iron, and the wheels of hard iron, the rails would suffer more than the wheels. If the train were travelling very fast when the wheels were locked, the indentation in the wheels would be greater than if travelling slowly.

Mr. King: Thinking information respecting the general management of excursion trains would be useful to the Coroner and Jury, I have the general manager of the Lancashire and Yorkshire, and superintendent of the Midland Railway here, and I tender their evidence.

Mr. Charles Markham was then examined. He said: I am assistant engineer on the Midland Railway, and have held that appointment between seven and eight years. I have examined the coupling which broke, and was produced here, and consider it of proper proportions, and the iron of fair average quality. I consider the primary cause of the accident was the defective weld in the eye of the coupling. I examined the break-screw and the break-nut, and am of opinion the nut was in the lowest position it could have been when the break was off. I believe the position of the nut has not been altered since the collision; and I agree with Captain Tyler, that the break was never on at all. I believe that the break was never screwed on in the right direction, but the guard, in the excitement of the moment, screwed it off instead of on. I attribute the sparks spoken of by the witnesses to the friction of the flange on the wheel pressing upon the outer rail of the curve. I have heard the evidence about the breaking of the couplings in going to Worcester, and I am of opinion that the Company, in dividing the train in returning, and renewing the couplings, adopted a safe and proper course, and one that would be followed on every railway in the kingdom. I consider carriage inspectors are more competent to form a correct opinion on the soundness of couplings and other portions of a train, which it is their sole duty to inspect, than a superior officer. From custom they become more au fait than superior officers. I consider twenty-nine carriages a very moderate excursion train, and have no doubt a much larger number can be worked with great safety. I think thirty-five coaches would be a fair train on the line in question. I know the gradients, and have been upon the line. It is the general practice to put two engines in front of the trains when a second engine is required. I have known the stock of this company ever since the line was opened; and from very general knowledge of it, together with an examination of their working expenses the last half-year, I am of opinion that the stock has improved in condition. Unless the stock is in a high state of efficiency the working expenses are invariably increased. With regard to what Mr. Chellingworth said respecting the mark on the wheels. I may say that in all probability similar marks will be found on every part of the surface of all break wheels in ordinary use; and I do not think it possible to point out with certainty any particular mark as the one occasioned by friction on the night in question, unless the wheel had run for a considerable distance down the incline in a fixed position.

By Mr. Wheeler: It is the duty of the assistant locomotive engineer of the Midland Railway in a great measure to conduct the management of excursion trains, in so far as related to engines and carriages, but not the traffic department. The eye of the shackle which broke is made in the ordinary way. I never saw an eye made in any other way. I do not think that punching a hole in the iron would be so safe as welding at the shoulders.

By Mr. Holcroft: I formed my opinion that the break was not screwed on from the position of the nut. I do not think the force of the collision would change the position of the nut. I believe that if the break had been screwed on the accident would not have happened.

By Mr. Underhill: I have frequently seen sparks emitted from the wheels of trains going over curves.

Mr. henry Blackmore Superintendent of the Passenger Department of the Lincolnshire and Yorkshire Railway was next examined. He deposed: We have various descriptions of excursion trains on our railway.

By Mr. Wheeler: We have never advertised a train exclusively for Sunday school children. Our custom is to get a guarantee for a certain number of scholars, and then to issue the number of tickets to the superintendent or person arranging for the train. We never put lights in the carriages of excursion trains at night. We never allow any passenger to ride in the compartment of a second-class carriage in which there is a break.

By Mr. Sherriff: I have frequently seen excursion trains with persons riding in the break-vans, on the tops of carriages, and on the foot-boards and the buffers, and it is impossible to prevent them.

By Mr. Fenton: My rule is to allow two break-vans to thirty carriages, and two guards.

By Mr. Holcroft: The steepest gradient on our line is 1 in 93.
By Mr. Fenton: We have carried upwards of 409,000 excursionists on our line since 22nd of May.

Mr. Wheeler: And have you ever had a fatal accident?

Witness: No.

Dr. Walker made a statement in reference to the evidence of Brett, as to the alleged promise that he should receive £100. in addition to the £50. he had already been paid. The fact was that it was agreed that he should receive £1. a-week while he was unable to work, in addition to the £50.; but on the day on which he left Brettell Lane he said that if the Company would give him £100., he would discharge them from all liability. He (Dr. Walker) promised to name the matter to Mr. Sherriff, and it had remained in abeyance since. It was totally untrue that £100. was promised.

There being no further evidence to be adduced, the Coroner proceeded to read over the depositions of all the witnesses who have been examined in course of the enquiry. This process being very protracted, and there appearing to be no probability of concluding the inquest before a very late hour, shortly after six o’clock the enquiry was again adjourned until Tuesday next, at two o’clock, on which day, it is hoped, a conclusion will be arrived at.