IGNITING THE SUSSEX BEACONS
THE HISTORY OF THE
SUSSEX BRANCHES OF A.S.L.E.F.
EVERY PICTURE TELLS A STORY
One of the main reasons for doing these web sites is to try and explain to everybody the history of the footplate grades, the conditions they had to work in and the creation of the A.S.L.E.F. branches within the Brighton & Sussex area.
I am therefore very grateful for people sending me personal photos from their personal collection and for allowing me to display them on the web sites. But unfortunately what is missing, are the stories that accompany them. What I want to do is to try and remedy this by starting to record the remaining stories that are still out there, before they too are lost in the midst of time.
I have added some information about some of the drivers that I know and the comments that have already have been sent to me.
If you too have any stories about your own working life on the footplate, the people that you worked with and the conditions you had to work in please send me and I will post, on the web site.
If you are interested in helping me in capturing these stories by any means possible please let me know.
BURNT OAK BRIDGE 5th APRIL 1916
Extracted and adapted from the Board of Trade report
and involving Driver John Paige and his fireman P. Savage
The 8 a.m. down passenger train from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton, consisting of an engine and six vehicles, was running between Crowborough and Busted, the whole of the train, with the exception of the rear vehicle, was derailed to the left of the line on which it was running. The engine turned completely over, and was found lying upside down by the side of the line. The three leading vehicles were completely derailed, and were found standing on their wheels, but leaning over in either direction; the three rear vehicles came to rest standing upright, the leading one being completely derailed, the second one having only its front bogie off the line, and the rear one having all its wheels on the rails. The engine and three leading vehicles were considerably damaged, and the fourth and fifth vehicles to a less extent.
Five passengers have notified the Company of personal injuries sustained, but it is believed that none of these is of a serious nature. The driver and fireman were also injured, and in the case of the former the injuries are of a serious character.
The engine of the train was a four-wheels-coupled tank-engine, with one trailing pair of wheels. It was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on all the six wheels, and with a hand-brake working the same blocks.
The train consisted of the following vehicles, attached to the engine in the order given :-
1 Third Class Bogie Brake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 wheels.
1 Bogie Composite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8 ,,
1 Third Class Bogie Brake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 ,,
1 Brake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ... .6 ,,
1 Bogie Composite . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 ,,
1 Brake . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . ... 6 ,,
These vehicles mere all fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake, working blocks on all the wheels except the centre pair of each of the six-wheeled brakes.
All the brakes are reported as having been in good order.
Crowborough and Buxted, between which stations this accident occurred, are situated 4 ½ miles apart, on the Tunbridge Wells and Lewes branch of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. The line, which is n double one, runs approximately north-east and south-west, the down line from Crowborough to Buxted, on which the train concerned in this accident was running, being on the south side. At a point situated just over two miles from Crowborough there is a bridge over the line, known as the Burnt Oak bridge, and it was immediately after the train had passed under that over bridge that its derailment occurred. For a down train approaching, this over bridge the gradient is a continuously falling one, carrying from 1 in 66 to 1 in 80 for over l ¾ miles, and for the last 350 yards before reaching the bridge the line is on a gentle right-hand curve of 65 chains radius.
The line is laid with bull-headed rails, 30 feet in length, weighing 84 1bs. to the yard, and secured in chairs weighing 41 lbs, each. The sleeps are of the usual dimensions, and there are 12 of them to each rail length. The ballast is of gravel the soil in the vicinity of the line being of clay. The line approaching the over bridge was in excellent condition. The curvature was regular, and the outer rail was provided with suitable super elevation.
The positions in which the various vehicles of tile train were found lying after the accident were as follows:- The engine was lying on the left-hand side of the line at a spot situated 181 yards on the down side of the Burnt Oak bridge ; it was turned completely over, and was lying nearly at right angles to the line, its bunker end being a few feet from the rails. The next three bogie vehicles were all also completely derailed to the left of the line, and were uncoupled from the engine and from each other; they were all found standing nearly parallel to the line, but were all leaning over to one side or the other ; the leading end of the first vehicle was close up against the bunker end of the engine. The fourth vehicle, a six-wheeled brake-van, was completely derailed, but was standing partly over the line and partly to the left of it. The fifth vehicle, a bogie carriage, had its front bogie derailed to the left of the line, but the wheels of its rear bogie were still on the rails. The sixth vehicle, a sis-wheeled brake-van, was standing upright on the rails ; its rear end was just 75 yards beyond the first derailment mark. The three rear vehicles were still coupled together.
The first marks connected with this derailment which could be found on the line were situated just 16 feet on the down side of the Burnt Oak bridge. At this spot there commenced on the left-hand rail a very distinct wheel mark, about 24 feet in length, which ran from the inside to the outside edge of the rail. From this mark it is evident that one of the wheels of the train crossed the left-hand rail at that point. Immediately ahead of this wheel mark, marks commenced on the chairs both outside the left-hand rail and inside the right-hand rail, many of the chairs being broken ; these marks on the chairs, which continued for a distance of about 70 yards, appeared to be all made by one pair of wheels, but from that point forward the marks increased, the sleepers on the left of each rail, as well as the chairs, being also marked. At a short distance further forward the line was distorted to the left of its proper position, the sleepers were broken, and two 30-feet left-hand rails were torn out of the line. This condition of the line continued for about 80 yards up to the point at which the engine was found lying.
Fireman P. Savage states:-I have been in the service of the Company nearly eight years and I have been a passed fireman for nearly three years. On the 5th April I was acting as fireman on the engine of the 8.0 a.m. down train from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton. I was working with driver John Paige. My engine was a four-wheels-coupled bank-engine with one trailing pair of wheels. It was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on all six wheels and with a hand brake working the s a w blocks. My brakes were in absolutely good order. I came on duty that morning at 7.15 to work until about 7.15 pm. I had come off about 9.45 pm. the previous night. We left Tunbridge Wells punctually at 8.0 a.m. and Crowborough was the last station we stopped at before the accident occurred. Up to the time we left, Crowborough our brakes had been actin6 well and nothing unusual had occurred to the running of the train between Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough. We left Crowborough between 8.21 and 8.22 am. I work on the right-hand side of the engine. The first thing I noticed in connection with this accident was that the engine began to roll momentarily. The engine had commenced to roll just after we had passed the Burnt Oak over bridge. I had been working on engine 273 almost continuously for the last month. That engine has a habit of rolling when it goes round a curve. I thought that the roll which we felt on this occasion was the usual roll which we fee1 on that engine when going round a curve. The next thing that l knew was that my mate said to me “We are riding on the chairs." I at once turned round to apply my hand-brake, the driver at the same time shutting off steam and applying the Westinghouse brake. After going a few yards the engine left the rails, turned sideways, and overturned. My opinion is that at first it was not all of the engine wheels which were derailed. My impression is that at first it was only the four front wheels of the engine which were derailed. I estimate the speed of the train when passing under the Burnt Oak Bridge at 25 miles per hour. The brakes seemed to act well as soon as they were applied. I do not think that any of the vehicles of the train were derailed before the engine was derailed. No further conversation passed between me and the driver. I think I have probably run over this line on the same engine about half a dozen times and I have generally noticed that the engine rolled about when rounding the curve near Burnt Oak Bridge. I have been mostly employed on the same class of engine No. 273 was becoming a little rough at the bunker end and was therefore liable to roll. I do not however consider that the rolling was sufficient to derail the engine. Big engines also roll when rounding curves. Had the derailment not to occurred l should not myself have reported the fact of the rolling. About 100 yards before we reached the whistle board on the up side of Burnt Oak Bridge, the Westinghouse brakes were steadily applied. Steam was still on at the time and was never shut off until we found we were off the road. Before the brakes were applied I estimate we were running at about 30 miles per hour, that would be about the maximum usual speed between Crowborough and Buxted.
Conductor G. W. Bradley states:- I have been between 17 and 18 years in the service of the Company, and have been conductor about 2 years. On the 5th April I was acting as guard of the 8.0 a.m. down train from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton.
I came on duty that morning at 7.45 a.m. to work until 6.30 p.m. I had come off duty the previous night at 6.30 p.m. My train consisted of a tank engine and six vehicles attached to the engine.
The vehicles were all fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on all the wheels, except the middle pair of the two six-wheeled brake vans. My brakes were in good order. I was riding myself in the third vehicle of the train, the bogie third brake. We left Tunbridge Wells punctually at 8.0 a.m., and left Crowborough at 8.214. Nothing unusual had occurred to the train between Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough. The first I knew of this accident was by looking out of the side window of my van, and I saw that the twin was beginning to roll a bit. I think that it was just before my van went under the Burnt Oak over bridge that I noticed the vehicles rolling. I estimate the speed of the train at that time at about 25 miles an hour. At that time the Westinghouse brake was applied. I think it had been applied about a quarter of a mile back. At the time I noticed the train rolling, the vehicle in which I myself was riding was not rolling. It was the vehicles in front of me which were rolling. When I first saw that the train was rolling I thought that it was only the engine which was rolling. I at once endeavoured to get to the Westinghouse tap to apply the brake. Whilst I was trying to get to the tap I was shot forward and hung on to the partition in the brake van. I could then feel that the vehicle in which I was riding was off the road, and in a very few seconds the vehicle came to a stand. When I first saw the engine rolling, I thought it had probably left the rails and at that time I do not think that any of the vehicles in front of me had left the rails. I am well acquainted with the line between Crowborough and Buxted. I have never known any trouble in running round this curve before. I cannot account for the derailment of the engine. I was looking out of the window on the near side of my van. It was a narrow window, so that I had not 8 very good view of the engine. I have been travelling for upwards of two years over this part of the line. I have never had any occasion when we reached Buxted to stop in order to lose time. Twenty-five miles per hour is the speed at which trains usually run when they reach the Burnt Oak Bridge.
Recalled later:- When I started from Crowborough I looked at my watch and it was 8.214. It was 8.27 when the derailment occurred. Directly I got on to the ground after the accident occurred I looked at my watch and it was 8.27.
Driver H. Payne states:- I have been 43 years in the service of the Company, and have been an engine driver for 35 years. On the 5th April I was the driver of the engine of the 7.30 &.m. down train from Tunbridge Wells to Buxted. I am acquainted with the Burnt Oak over bridge near Buxted. I remember passing it with my train that morning on my way to Buxted. 1 am well acquainted with the line. When 1 passed the spot that morning the men were at work, but I did not notice anything unusual when running over the line. I have never noticed anything wrong with the line under the bridge. I did not notice anything wrong with the line when I ran past. I noticed nothing whatever to account for the train which followed mina being derailed.
Assistant-Ganger Thomas Tidy states:- I have been 23 years in the service of the Company and have been assistant-ganger about 15 years. I am now stationed on the Crowborough tunnel length which takes in from Crowborough to about half way to Buxted and includes the scene of this accident. At the time this accident occurred I was working under the Burnt Oak overbridge. I was taking out clay from under the sleeper ends in order to put in ballast instead. I had been doing this on the down line and I had completed it at the time that this train arrived. I had packed up three sleepers under the down line in this way that morning. Two trains had run over the down lino before the 8.0 a.m. train arrived and I had completed my work before any of these trains passed the spot. l was standing near when the first two trains ran by and nothing occurred to these two trains. At the time that the 8.0 a.m. train arrived I was standing about 40 or 50 yards on the Buxted side of the Burnt Oak Bridge. I did not, however, notice that train at all until it was just off the road. At that time the engine of the 8.0 a.m. train was about 20 yards on the Buxted side of the bridge. I then noticed that the engine was off the line. I should say that it was the two front wheels that were off. I cannot form any estimate as to its speed. At that time I do not think any of the vehicles of the train were off the line. The engine ran on for about 90 yards and then the whole lot seemed to turn over together. I did not notice when any of the other wheels of the engine left the line. I was standing at the time on the outer end of the sleepers of the up line. The engine appeared to me to be derailed on the outside of the down line. It appeared to me that when the vehicles of the train left the line they all did so together. I cannot say why the engine was derailed. I considered that after I had packed up the sleepers, the line was in a quite satisfactory condition for a train to run over it. After the first train had run over that morning we were at work again on the sleepers under the bridge fettling up the line, and after the second train had run over we again packed up under the sleepers a little. About seven more trains ran over the line after the accident before any more packing was put under the sleepers at the overbridge. I had similarly dealt with eight sleepers under the bridge on the previous clay, leaving three to be done on the morning of the accident. The ganger had been present when we had done the others the day before. Trains usually run middling fast over this bit of line. The sleepers marked "A" on the plan shown to me are those which I packed up the day before the accident, and those marked " B " are those which I dealt with on the morning of the accident.
Evidence taken at the Inquiry, 11th May.
Driver John Henry Paige states :- I have been for 26 years in the service of the Company, and have been a driver for 11 years. I came on duty on the 5th April at 7.15 a.m. to work until 7.15 pm. I had come off duty on the 4th April at about 9.45 p.m. On the 5th April I vas driver of the engine of the 8 am. down train from Tunbridge Wells to Brighton. My engine was a four-wheels-coupled tank-engine with one trailing pair of wheels, and it was running chimney h s t at the time of the accident. It was fitted with the Westinghouse automatic brake working blocks on all the wheels, and with a hand-brake working the same blocks. My brakes were in good order. The number of the engine which I m was driving was 273. I am well acquainted with that engine. I have driven that engine for three years, and there is no fault with the engine whatever. We left Tunbridge Wells punctually at 8.0 a.m., and we arrived at Crowborough at 8.20 a.m., which was two minutes late. Nothing unusual had occurred to my train between Tunbridge Wells and Crowborough. I received the signal from the guard to leave Crowborough at 8.21½. I work on the near side of the engine. I an1 acquainted with the Burnt Oak overbridge, and I remember approaching that overbridge that morning. When we reached that over bridge steam was still turned on. I had first applied the brakes when about 100 or 125 yards on Crowborough side of the whistle board. I had made a good steady application of the brakes at that point I had kept the automatic brake applied until just before reaching the overbridge, and then I had released the blocks, and 1 did not apply it again before passing under the overbridge. I should estimate the speed of my train at the time it reached the overbridge at about 25 miles per hour. That is about the usual speed at which we run past that point. Before reaching the bridge nothing unusual had occurred to my engine. Up to the time that, 1 reached the overbridge I did not know of there being anything wrong with my engine. I was quite satisfied with my engine up to the time that it reached the overbridge. When passing under Burnt Oak Bridge the engine dropped down wry much on the near side which was my side, then she gave a roll and I was on the verge of shutting off steam then, but she seemed to recover herself. She then seemed to me to be going along all right until the trailing wheels dropped off the metals. I then said to my mate, “We are running on the chairs. We are off the road." I immediately shut the regulator, and put, the Westinghouse brake fully on. It might have been 50 or 75 yards past the overbridge where I shut off steam. After I had shut off steam and put the Westinghouse brake fully on, the engine gave a lurch and immediately threw me head first into the bushes. I remember nothing more, but when I got up I found that the engine was turned over. I was lying about two coaches away from the engine. My impression is that my four leading wheels left the rails just after passing through the overbridge, but it was not until afterwards that the trailing wheels left the rails. I do not think that any of the vehicles of the train were derailed before the engine. I think that the derailment originated in the first place with the engine. I was not aware that there was any work being carried on at the overbridge at the time. I do not think that my engine ran over any obstruction on the line at the overbridge. Up to the time of the accident the brakes had acted very well, and they acted well when I applied them before reaching the whistle board. I estimate that we were running at about 30 miles an hour before I applied the brake before reaching the whistle board. After releasing the brakes before reaching the overbridge I did not apply them again until the overbridge was passed. I think myself that the accident was caused through the permanent-way; the rains had made a lot of difference I think to the permanent-may, and being a very clayey soil, it caused the engine to dip very much on the near side, and therefore caused it to be derailed. I am well acquainted with the line through the overbridge. I have occasionally experienced trouble with the permanent way at that point, more so in wet weather than m dry, and that is the reason why I always approach that spot with more caution than 1 do at any other point down the bank. I have never made any report of the condition of the line at that point. Before reaching the overbridge my engine had not been rolling about or pitching at all. The engine is not in the habit of rolling. When I said that the four leading wheels were off the rails, what I really thought was that the two near side wheels were riding on the rails and the off side wheels were riding on the chairs.
Evidence taken at adjourned inquiry 19th May.
Driver Paige's evidence is to the following effect: That he applied his continuous brake when he was from 275 to 300 yards from the overbridge, and he estimates that at that time his speed was about 30 miles an hour ; that he kept the brakes applied till just before reaching the overbridge, and he estimates his speed when passing under it at 25 miles an hour; that when passing under the bridge the engine dropped down on the near side and gave a roll, and that he was consequently on the point of shutting off steam; that the engine, however, seemed to recover itself and to be running all right until about 50 or 75 yards from the overbridge, when the trailing wheels left the line; that he then shut off steam and applied the brakes fully, but that the engine gave a lurch and threw him off into the bushes.
Fireman Savage confirms the driver's evidence as to the speed of the train and the application of the brakes; the first he knew of the derailment was that the engine began to roll, and this occurred just after they had passed under the over bridge; he states that that engine habitually rolled when rounding a curve, so at first he thought nothing of it, but immediately afterwards his mate said to him: “We are riding on the chairs." He then assisted his driver in making every endeavour to stop the train, but before they could do so the engine left the line altogether and was turned over.
Further evidence as to the speed of the train at the time of the derailment is as follows:- Guard Bradley concurs with the driver and fireman in estimating it at 25 miles an hour. Ganger Tidy, who was standing about 50 yards from the overbridge, can-form no estimate of its speed, but platelayer Hart, who was standing under the overbridge at the time, drew platelayer Parsons' attention to the speed at which the train was coming, and said: " She will be off the road." Parsons states that the train was running at a higher speed than that at which trains usually run at that point, and that it seemed to him to be jumping about a bit. One witness, who was a passenger in the train, estimates its speed at the time of the derailment at 25 miles an hour, whilst another witness a farmer, who saw the train approaching the over bridge states that it was not running as fast as trains usually do run at that point.
The train had left Crowborough at 8.2 ½ a.m., which was l½ minutes late, and guard Bradley states that the derailment occurred at 8.27 a.m. ; so, according to his timing, the train had run from Crowborough to the point of derailment--a distance of 2 miles 94 chains-in 5½ minutes, giving an average speed of just over 23 miles an hour. This is a very moderate speed, and is in accordance with the evidence of the driver, fireman and guard.
The engine did not come to rest until it had run 176 yards beyond the spot where it was first partially derailed, and this would certainly point to a higher speed than 26 miles an hour. It appears, however, that the driver did not realise that the engine was derailed until it had run about 70 yards beyond that spot, and it was not till then that he set to work to turn off steam and to .apply the brakes ; under these circumstances, a speed of 25 miles an hour does not seem inconsistent with the facts. In spite, therefore, of the views expressed by the two platelayers, I consider that the evidence points to the estimate of 25 miles an hour being a fairly correct estimate of the speed at which the train was running.
The engine was a four-wheels-coupled tank-engine, with one pair of trailing wheels; its total length was 31 feet 74 inches, and its wheel-base was 16 feet. It is a class of engine which is not designed for very fast running, but for the speed at which it appears to have been running on this occasion it is quite suitable. The only defects which were subsequently found in it appeared undoubtedly to have been the results of the accident.
This derailment of the engine undoubtedly occurred when it was only a few feet past the Burnt Oak overbridge, and it must be noted that immediately previous to the occurrence there had been some work in progress on the line at that spot. Permanent way Inspector Walls, when walking along the line a few days previous to the accident, had noticed that the line under the overbridge was "a bit washy," and he had accordingly instructed ganger Tidy to take out the clay from underneath the sleepers, and to substitute for it some hard core and ballast. In accordance with these instructions, ganger Tidy and platelayers Hart and Parsons had been at work at this spot both on the day previous to the accident and on the morning on which it occurred. There were in all eleven sleepers under the bridge which had to be dealt with by them, and the work at eight of these had been duly completed on the 4th April, leaving the remaining three to be done on the morning of the 5th. Work on these three remaining sleepers had accordingly been started early that morning. Assistant-ganger Tidy, who was in charge of the work, states that it was only under the inner rail of the curve that new ballast was being laid, and that the work of placing the new ballast under the portions of the three sleepers immediately underneath that rail had been entirely completed before either of the two trains which preceded the 8 &.m. train had run over the line. The work, however, of packing up the line in the four-footway between the rails was still in progress right up to the time bf the arrival of the 8 a.m. train, and the packing was not actually completed until the morning of the day after the accident. Ganger Tidy and his platelayers all, however, assert that at the time of the derailment the line was in a thoroughly fit condition for trains to run over it, Nothing unusual had occurred to either of the first two trains, and driver Payne, who was in charge of the engine of the second one, states that he noticed nothing wrong with the line when his engine passed over it. Two witnesses, one of whom was travelling in the train and the other at work in the adjoining fields, state that two platelayers were still at work packing up the line under the overbridge after the accident had occurred, but both the platelayers fully account for their movements immediately after the derailment, and I think that the two witnesses must be mistaken. The condition of the line under the over bridge was carefully examined after the accident; it was found to be generally in good condition, but it was noted that for a short distance both rails were slightly low. The evidence of the driver and fireman points to the road under the overbridge having slightly given way when the engine passed over it, and this occurred at almost the very spot at which the men were at work; the work, too, was not actually completed at the time the train ran over it. In spite, therefore, of the opinions expressed by the ganger and platelayers, that the line was at that time in a thoroughly fit condition, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that this derailment, which fortunately had not more serious results, was connected with this work. I am of opinion, therefore, that it must be attributed to some weakness in the line, which was due to the work which was being carried out and which was not fully completed at the time.