1856 : Fatal accident on the Croydon and Mitcham Railway

From the South London Journal – Tuesday 20 May 1856

FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE CROYDON AND WIMBLEDON RAILWAY.

— On Saturday last, the 17th inst., an inquest was held at the Fox and Hounds Inn, on the body of William Clark, a labourer late in the employ of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway Company.

John Jones deposed

— I am a ganger or foremen over men in the employ of Mr. Rigby, who is superintendent af the London, Brighton, and South-Coast Railway repairs of the permanent way. I knew the deceased man by sight, but did not know him by name. He was employed on the line. It was some time last week when I first noticed him, but I cannot say exactly when I saw him. It is between seven and eight days. On Friday morning he was assisting unloading some ballast waggons on the down road. The ballast was used for the purpose of what we call “boxing up the road.” It is for a new line which we have been making, being a third line from the Mitcham Junction to the Croydon Station. It is to prevent the Mitcham trains running on the Epsom main road. The metals of the new line are laid. I was engaged superintending the men who were engaged unloading the waggons which stood on the Epsom down road. There were between 30 and 40 men at work. The deceased was one of the men. He was down by the side of the waggon—the second from the Epsom end. When I heard the Epsom train coming up, I called out to the men to get out of the way. I knew that it was an express train and that it was due; it was about a quarter of a mile below the station (the west Croydon). It is usual to call to the men to clear the road when the train is approaching. The train was not in sight when I first halloaed. The deceased at that time stood by the side of his waggon; the space between the rails is six feet, so that he was about five feet from the off up rail. I then turned round to see if all the men were clear at the London side. I then heard a shrill sharp whistle, which was sounded by the driver of the approaching train; in about two moments afterwards I saw this man near the engine; the buffers caught him and he was knocked down, but at the time he was struck I could not see the position be was in. Had he stopped in his original position where I him no accident could have occurred. Why he attempted to cross in front of the approaching train I cannot tell. The buffers of the engine caught him and turned him right over. He was first knocked against two wires that lead to the distant signal and from there against a man who was washing his hands. The train passed on to the station. I have been fifteen years employed on the railway. I should say that at the time this man was struck the train was going at the rate of fifteen miles the hour. I had not heard him complain of any illness. I have no doubt the cause of his death was the violent blow he received. I am certain the driver of the train could not have presented the occurrence, and not anything further could been done to prevent it; had he not attempted to cross the line he might have been alive now.

Joseph Slater, engine driver, after being cautioned by the coroner that he not obliged to state anything that might criminate himself, volunteered the following evidence

— I was in charge of the train which left Epsom on Friday morning last, the 18th instant, at 8.40, arriving at Croydon at 9. It is an express train, and only stops at Sutton and Carshalton ; near 27 bridges I saw a ballast train unloading; there were men near it. I sounded my whistle when I got near. I saw a pick thrown upon the line, and a man attempted to pick it up; he came from the waggons at the time he first attempted. I was not 40 yards from him. I did not see him struck, or did I know a man wan killed until the next train arrived in London. The man when I saw him was in a stooping position. I did not feel any lurch.

Joseph Skinner deposed that he was a labourer, and that on Friday be was assisting with others in unloading ballast waggons as the Epsom train approached he left to wash his hands; having his back to the train. Shortly afterwards he was knocked down; he got up and saw the deceased laying in the ditch. He picked him up. He appeared quite dead. His head dropped back.

James Mallous deposed that he was a labourer, and was in the waggon with the deceased unloading the ballast. He saw him stoop, and saw him knocked down, but be could not go to pick him up, for if it had been his own brother that had been so hurt he could not have gone to help. He did not throw the pick out, or did he see deceased do so. He missed a pick.

The Coroner said he was now in the hands of the Jury, whether they thought it desirable that a post mortem examination should be made as to the cause of death, (Mr. Bottomley was present and they could ask him any questions,) but if they felt assured that death was caused by the blow that would be sufficient.

– The jury considered a post mortem examination was not required.

William Carr identified the body of the deceased. He was 37 years, of age.

— The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death.”

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