RAILWAY AND INDUSTRIAL HISTORY OF THE SOUTH WEST BLACK COUNTRY

 
 

 

 

 

County Express
incorporating
BRIERLEY HILL, STOURBRIDGE, KIDDERMINSTER & DUDLEY NEWS
SOUTH STAFFORDSHIRE & EAST WORCESTERSHIRE CHRONICLE


No. 156.] SATURDAY, 25th., DECEMBER, 1869 [ PRICE ONE PENNY

Local Intelligence

RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT BRIERLEY HILL STATION.— On Saturday evening last, and accident occurred at Brierley Hill Station, but was happily unattended by loss of life, although it caused inconvenience, by impeding the traffic for several hours. A goods train, heavily laden with upwards of fifty trucks, chiefly coal and coke, left Round Oak Station a few minutes before half-past eight for Stourbridge. It had hardly reached Brierley Hill Station before the guard felt there was something wrong from the jolting of the trucks, when he communicated with the driver, applied the break, and the stopped in Brierley Hill Station. Upon examining the train it was found that the centre of one wagon had got an axle-box and spring broken which caused another wagon to be thrown off the line. Some difficulty was experienced in getting it on again. Messengers were sent to Dudley and Inspector Butler and a number of plate-layers soon arrived who got the broken wagon out of the way. The effect of this was that the single line down line had to be used from Round Oak to Brettell Lane until the up line was cleared again, which was not before one o’clock the next morning. Mr. Corfield the station master, rendered every assistance.

 

District Intelligence

WOLLASTON

ACCIDENT ON THE RAILWAY INCLINE.— An inquest was held on Tuesday evening by Ralph Docker, Esq., coroner, at the Britannia Inn, King Street, on the death of Edward Beech, aged 66 years. It appeared deceased was sent from the Stourbridge Ironworks to fetch a man from the top of the incline at Amblecote. He had got onto the East side of the street, when some wagons were going up, and upon the wagon reaching him he attempted to get onto one of them to ride, unfortunately he did not secure a firm grasp, but fell and one of his legs slipped between the spokes of a wheel. The result was his foot was smashed, and his leg was amputated by Mr. R. L. Freer, surgeon, but deceased did not survive the injuries and died on Friday, the 17th., inst. A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.

STOURBRIDGE

SHOCKING ACCIDENT AT STOURBRIDGE
A MAN CUT TO PIECES.

An accident took place at Stourbridge Railway Station, on Saturday night, between ten and eleven o’clock, by which William Wooldridge, a man 67 years of age belonging to Stamber Mill, came to a most dreadful death. It appears that the deceased attended his club at the Labour-in-Vain public-house, Oldswinford, about seven minutes walk from the station. He left the club for home at about a quarter mast ten o’clock, and the last that was seen of him alive was going towards the station, where he must have arrived just after the express had left at 10.30 pm. Immediately that the express had gone out of the station a goods train that had been standing in a siding to allow it to pass, began to shunt. This train had moved on the down line up to the water tank at the further end of the station, where the fireman of the engine discovered something that had the appearance of a human being entangled in the engine tender. He called out to the pointsman that a man was killed, and the train was of course stopped. All the persons about the station immediately ran to the place indicated by the fireman, and there a sight presented itself of a most harrowing character. One of the wheels of the tender rested upon the mangled chest of a man. Further inspection showed that both the legs had been crushed off, the heart, lungs and the whole of the abdominal viscera had been torn out, while the head was attached to the trunk only by a fragment of skin. A foot still in the shoe was found in one place, and the other foot with the part of the leg below the knee in another. The flesh had been torn from the thighs, and pieces of it were found about the rails and chairs. Singularly enough, the arms were still attached to the mutilated trunk. On Sunday morning Police-sergeant Jones picked up on the line what he thought was the poor man’s tongue. It is impossible to say where the deceased became entangled with the train but blood was found as if he it had been squirted onto the down platform, so that it is not improbable that he had made the attempt to cross the line at or near the crossing used by the passengers. The remains were gathered together as carefully as possible and taken to the Railway Station Inn (Mr. Wm. Hanbury’s), where they await an inquest. Wooldridge was a married man and has left a wife and a grown-up family.
The deceased was not seen at all in the station, nor was any cry heard - nothing, in fact, was known of the affair till the fireman, happening to look toward the rear of the train, saw the deceased among the wheels of the tender. It is obvious for a man of the age of the deceased to cross a railway on a level at a busy station after dark, is a thing fraught with danger under the best of circumstances; the deceased might have taken a road which would have led him along by that side of the …
bottom corner of page is torn, an increasing amount of each line missing from the left edge.
… (without crossing the line) to where he… get or he could have continued along… -hich he was, and got to the other side… -sing under a bridge which spans… the road that he wished to… would have taken him 100… -nd. Whether it is the case… neighbourhood have the… road across the rail-… Certain it is that… point are never… has been so much… opening of the… -ractice is exceed-… between the… th ere is an… will be carried… Western Com-… -hat will be no… in the near… -ly crosses a… steps from… the road… There… Company… -sgraceful… -at it is.
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If the public have no right of way across the line, there ought to be a notice board announcing that persons found crossing the line who have no business at the station will be prosecuted; and if the public have a right of way over the line the bridge above mentioned ought to be carried over without delay. The level crossing for passengers at the station, too is a matter of common and daily complaint; and unless it be remedied soon the public need not be surprised to hear of some casualty not less horrible than the above. The danger is very real; and that this is the case will be seen when it is stated that there are sometimes and 600 and 700 wagons in the station at one time, and this exclusive of the passenger traffic.

THE INQUEST

An enquiry was held on Tuesday afternoon by R. Docker, Esq., at the Station Inn, Oldswinford upon the circumstances attending the death of William Wooldridge who met it in a shocking manner on Saturday evening. Mr. Holberton, of the firm of Messrs., Homfray and Holberton, attended to watch the proceeding on behalf of the deceases friends and Mr. Surman attended for the Railway Company. Mr. Phillips station master and several railway officials were present. The jury having been sworn, with Mr. John Hughes as foreman, the following evidence was taken:
Joseph Chance stated: I live at Oldswinford, and am by trade a fire clay miner, I knew deceased, he lived at Stamber Mill. He was a banksman employed by Mr. F. T. Rufford at a fire clay mine. He was about 67 years of age. The body the jury have just viewed is that of the deceased. I don’t know anything about his death, but he was in my company about twenty minutes before the accident occurred at his club, which is held at the labour in Vain, Lower Swinford, kept by Amos Valentine Carter. He was there about two hours. He left the room where we were, about quarter past ten o’clock as I supposed to go home, he did not wish me good night, I never saw anything of him after that until I saw his dead body lying at this house, I don’t think he was quite sober, but he was a little “elevated.” When I saw him again it was about twelve o’clock at this house.
Cross examined by Mr. Holberton: I was with him about two hours, we met there at half past seven, I observed he had two or three glasses of spirits. There were eight or nine more men in the room. The lodge night is every fortnight and last Saturday night was a committee meeting.
The Coroner: What ever he may have taken did you consider him sober when he left?
Witness: I considered him a little bit “elevated” he was not drunk, he would have to cross the railway to get to his home. There was a regular public road across the railway.
Francis Lea was next called and deposed: I live at Oldswinford and in the employ of the Great Western Railway Company as a porter at the goods station. I was on duty on Saturday night last the 18th inst., I met deceased as I was going home by the malt-house of Mr. Forrest, he was coming from the direction of the Labour in Vain.
Edward Roberts then stated: I live at Cannock Road, Wolverhampton, I am a fireman for the Great Western Railway Company. I was at Stourbridge Station on Saturday night last with goods train, I arrived there about 10.27. The engine driver and me stopped there to receive orders from the yardsman. Whilst there we received orders to draw off the main line and shunt on to the up line for the express to go by. We did so, and remained there until the express had passed, had received several orders from the yardsman, we afterwards drew ahead with the intention of going over the points to go onto the down line again. When the train was going by the middle crossing of the station, where the passengers go from one side to another. I saw a man he seemed to be in a kneeling position as though he was knocked down and was grappling for the platform on the left hand side of the engine. There was not much room for him to get out of the way, because he was between the engine and the platform, he was on the metals between the engine wheels. We were driving at about four or five miles an hour. We had gone about 100 yards when I saw the man. At starting the whistle to blow. The train was stopped immediately after going about 20 or 30 yards. I got off the engine and found deceased between the middle and last wheel of the tender attached to the engine. I called out for assistance and several persons were instantly on the spot, the remains of the deceased which were mutilated very much were gathered together by police sergeant Jones. Life was extinct, saw nothing of him before he was between the wheels.
Cross-examined by Mr. Holberton: There were lights in the station at the time, was sure the whistle was blown, but did not see him before the engine. Did not know whether there was a regular road through the station.
By the Coroner: Did not know anything about the rights of the crossings, as used by Stourbridge people. He knew there was a bridge partially built, but did not know whether there was any public road across it.
Edward Roberts fireman recalled: The accident he thought took place about 10.45. There was a white light in front of the engine and a red light behind, or a head and tail light.
George Bransome was next sworn and said: I live at Oldswinford, and am a porter at Stourbridge Station. I was on duty between ten and eleven o’clock on Saturday night last, I remember the goods train drawing up alongside the platform. It was the 10.44, I was attending to parcels left by the express. The goods train was brought gently to the platform to allow for the changing of truck, my attention was called by someone shouting there was a man kill. At the time I was standing near the parcels room door and the engine of the train was then opposite the water crane, when they shouted a man was killed, I asked where? and someone said this way, meaning towards the engine. I took my lamp and looked along until I saw under the tender a hand and arm of a man across the rails and between the wheels of he tender, the wheels were partly upon it, when the engine backed a little to release it I saw afterwards a foot and part of a leg, heart, liver and other contents of the chest were gathered together having been cut and strewn about from the body. The body was then brought to this house. Do not know whether the public have any right across the line, have seen a great many pass but could not tell whether they were going by train or otherwise.
By Mr. Holberton: I did not hear the whistle, the night was quiet and there was only the booking clerk and myself there. If persons coming from the Labour in Vain wanted to get to the other side of the line there was no fence or impediment to prevent them getting on the line. There was no notice board to warn people not to cross. On Sundays just before 11 o’clock there was a great many who crossed the line to Oldswinford church, but we cannot tell always whether they are going there or coming to the station as there is a train about eleven o’clock.
The Coroner: The question as to whether there was a public road across the line was either there was an established road or persons so crossing were trespasses.
Mr. Holberton: But they are not stopped.
Witness: Had never any instructions about stopping people who crossed.
James Hume Phillips, station-master, was next called and deposed: I have been station master about four years. I was not there on Saturday night when the accident occurred. There is no public road at the platform except for passengers. But at the end of the platform there was a bridge leading from Chawn Hill Lane and opposite a nail warehouse. Formally there were two level crossings one was from a footpath by Mr. Tinsley’s warehouse and the other across Mr. Rufford’s field, the former led across by the goods shed and the latter close to the passenger station. Those two roads were formally open to the public but were closed by application to the Court of Quarter Sessions and a bridge placed over the siding. The bridge was placed there by the company and then the roads were closed.
By the Coroner: As far as the public are concerned it enables them to pass although it is incomplete, they can, and do pass over it daily. The bridge was erected between where the two footpaths were formally. The roads were about 120 yards apart, and the bridge is about sixty either way from where they were, so the public were diverted about sixty yards either way. The public are supposed to cross the platform and to prove our rights we lock it on Sunday afternoon, when there are no trains. We cannot on week days as the trains are so frequent. No person ought to cross the line except a passenger.
To Mr. Holberton: There was nothing now to indicate where the old footpaths were. One of the footpaths was near the platform crossing. It was about two years since works were suspended at the bridge. The bridge did not cross the mainline, and persons crossing had the same risks they had formerly had; they had to look out they did not run under a train. Persons coming from Oldswinford through the fields might get onto the line near the goods station from the footpath, there being no fence. The goods train on the night in question was shunting near the goods station. It would not interfere with the proper point at which Wooldridge had to cross the bridge. There would be twenty yards between him and the train. Large numbers of people crossed the line by the level crossing on Sundays. They were not stopped; but the doors were locked occasionally to prove the right to stop the road. He would not say that more used that road than the bridge, because the bridge was being more used every day.
Mr. R. L. Freer, surgeon, of Stronbrige was called and stated. I have seen the remains of deceased. I recognised him by his face. He was disembowelled, and the contents of his insides were torn out. Death must have been instantaneous. The inquires were such as would be inflicted by the passing over of a train.
Mr. Holberton remarked as Mr. Freer was an old inhabitant he might inform them something about the bridge.
Mr. Freer said he had passed over the bridge many times and it was very inconvenient to persons crossing the line they crossed it obliquely. There was no fence, and a dark or foggy night it would be difficult for persons to get across, because they had to cross by going towards the station and they might easily go along the line and miss their way. It was very dangerous to cross on such nights near the bridge.
The following evidence was called by Mr. Holberton:
Thomas Hodgetts of Oldswinford, said he knew the deceased, and was with him on the night he met with his death. Deceased went to the Labour-in-Vain about seven o’clock and left about a quarter past ten o’clock. Deceased left witness in the room, he had two glasses of rum during the evening, and one of gin, but was sober when he left. He had been at work that day for Mr. Rufford. When rising from his chair he did not appear to be drunk. He considered him quite sober. Witness stayed half and hour after the deceased left but went under the Chawn Hill bridge.
In reply to Mr. Surman, witness did not advise him, neither did anyone else to his knowledge not to cross the railway that night.
James Carder: I live at the Labour-in-Vain, Oldswinford. Saw deceased on Saturday night coming from the Labour in Vain. I met him just past the other side of the station coming from the direction of Oldswinford, between ten and eleven o’clock. I spoke to him and stopped with him and we talked together. I said “Where are you going” and he said I have been to the club. In my judgement he was sober and could walk straight.
Francis Lea, recalled by the Coroner: I met him a little after ten by the malt house. Did not speak to him. He was coming towards the station. He seemed as though he was rather the worse for liquor because he staggered about the road. It was a light night.
The Coroner then summed up and said it was an enquiry into the cause of the death of William Wooldridge and the circumstances attending it. So far as that enquiry was concerned they would have no difficulty in coming to a conclusion. They had heard a great deal of evidence.
The gentleman who attended on behalf of the friends of the deceased had asked many questions which were with the view of proceeding elsewhere. But there were facts already placed before them which would assist them in forming their opinion. It appeared that deceased had been to his club at Old Swinford which he left between 10 and 11 o’clock at night for his home. He was said by some, not to have been sober, and by others to have been sober. Both spoke from their own judgement which led them to believe from the way in which he went home. In going home it appeared he had a right to cross the railway in the vicinity of the Stourbridge Station by a level crossing over the main line some distance from the station. There was nothing to throw suspicion on anyone. With regard to the level crossing he would just call their attention to it. On the line of railway formally there appeared to have been constructed two level crossing, one at a distance of 120 yards from the station, and the other nearer to the station or within a few yards of it. For some reason or other, probably for the convenience and safety of the public and to have a good road, some persons were induced to make application to the Quarter Sessions for stopping these roads and to have a bridge constructed. But the bridge was only partially completed. The public who passed over it would have to cross a level of the railway. This was done frequently at the risk of their lives. Whilst the Company erected this bridge by piecemeal the public were left to take care of themselves in reaching it. As regarded the responsibility of the Company relative to the completion of the bridge and the footpaths being closed that was a matter to be litigated elsewhere. What they would have to consider was that a road being across the railway some distance from the station, whether it would be possible for deceased to have mistaken his way and got into a dangerous portion of the line, where he met with the train. Whether he was sober or not there was evidence both ways it was not for him to impute anything. In his (the Coroners) judgement it was deceased duty, whilst crossing line, to look out for himself and keep out of danger.
The Jury then deliberated for a few minutes and returned a verdict “Accidental Death.” At the same time desiring to urge upon the Railway Company the necessity of finishing the bridge and placing lights upon it.
The Coroner then remarked he was unable to inform them, from the gentleman who appeared on behalf of the Railway Company, that the incompletion of the bridge was in consequence of some arrangements between the Company and the Town Commissioners with regards to the position of the station, as there had been some negotiations going on between the Company and the Stourbridge Town Commissioners to have it more conveniently situated.

THE LATE RAILWAY COLLISION AT CRADLEY
ADJOURNED INQUEST

On Tuesday at twelve o’clock, Mr. C. H. Bayley, deputy coroner, and a respectable jury, of which Mr. William Clayton Barker was the foreman, attended at the Vine Inn, Cradley Heath, to resume the inquest on the body of Charles Tasker, the fireman who was killed in the late collision near the railway station, the circumstances of which are well known, having been already published in detail in our columns.
Mr. George Crump, uncle of the deceased, was again present to watch the case on behalf of the widow and relatives of Tasker.
Mr. Surman, from the office of Messrs. Whately of Birmingham, watched the proceedings for the Great Western Railway Company; and Mr. Shakespeare, solicitor, of Oldbury, attended on behalf of William Marston and William Davies, the signalman and yardsman. Mr. Locke, inspector, and other officials of the railway were present. A number of other persons interested in the case also attended.
The Coroner and Jury waited more than an hour for the attendance of Captain Tyler, and shortly after he came, the coroner said the surgeon who was attending Richardson (the inquest having been adjourned the last time for his appearance) told him Richardson was not yet able to come to give evidence for three weeks. They would therefore be obliged to adjourn the inquest until January 17, at one o’clock in the afternoon. He should have adjourned before, but he had been waiting for Captain Tyler the Government Inspector, who had been making an inspection of he spot, to know if it would assist him at all in going over the evidence already taken, and taking additional evidence. As he had now learned it would not be needed, he should no longer detain the jury or witnesses, but at once adjourn the enquiry. The Jury and witnesses were then bound over to appear at the adjourned inquest.