24 November 2009

From the archives - accident at Saltash

Train accident at Saltash Station March 1905


Today we have this wonderful report on a train accident at Saltash Station 27th March 1905. The report gives a matter of fact view on what happened when engine 835 collided at low speed with its carriages injuring quite a few passengers.
Below are just a few details from the report which can be viewed on the link below the article. It all points to a very different world to what we have now. Its hard to imagine nearly 200 workmen waiting for the 6am train to Plymouth these days! Finally we end with a photo from Derek Taits collection showing Saltash Station as it was at the time this accident occurred.

SIR, I HAVE the honour to report, for the information of the Board of Trade, in accordance with the Order of the 5th April, the result of my inquiry into the circumstances which led to a collision on the 27th March 1905, between an engine and the carriages of a passenger train, at Saltash, on the Great Western Railway.
In this case six four-wheeled coaches, forming the 6.15 am workmen's train from Saltash to Devonport, were standing at the down platform in Saltash Station, when the engine, when setting back for the purpose of coupling, struck them with considerable violence.

The engine was a four-wheels-coupled, with trailing axle, tank engine, and was moving bunker first. It was fitted with brake blocks on the coupled wheels, operated by steam and hand power. All the wheels of the coaches were fitted with blocks actuated by the vacuum brake, which was in operation at the time the collision occurred. The coaches were filled with passengers, waiting for the train to start. Twenty-seven on these complained of injuries, but fortunately none were of a serious character. The damage to rolling stock was trifling.

Saltash Station, the scene of this collision, is on the single line between Keyham and St Germans. There is the usual loop pair of lines for up and down traffic, and similar up and down platforms outside the running lines. The lines through the station are level. The immediate approach from the single line at the east end is on a falling gradient of 1 in 106. The distance from the eastern end of the standing coaches to the east end of the down platform was about 33 yards and from the same spot to the east end loop points about 60 yards.

I was acting stationmaster at Saltash from 6 a m . on March 27th. The workmen's train is due from Plympton at 6.6 a.m. I was engaged booking passengers when this train arrived at 6.22 am., and after the train ran in I went round to the down platform, and after the workmen had entered the train I assisted in closing the doors. There were between 180 and 200 passengers in this train leaving for Devonport. I was at the west end of the train walking towards Royal Albert Bridge at the east of the station, when I saw the engine coming back to the train. When the engine was approaching the train at a distance of about 14 yards, it was moving at a higher speed than usual, and I became afraid there would be something the matter, but I could do nothing as the engine was then close to the coaches. The collision was very sharp, but it did not seem to me that the train moved much, as all the brakes were acting.

Alfred Williams, fireman, states : I have been in the Company's employ about four and a half years, and a shunting fireman for eight months. I booked on duty at 2.50 a.m. on the 27th March for 3 a.m. engine turning. At 4.15 a.m. I started to prepare engine No. 835 to work the 5.15a.m. workmen's train. It would be about 4.55 a m . when I was engaged in filling the tanks. To make sure both sides were filled I had a lamp, and in addition put my hand in each side and felt the water, which was to the top of the tanks. My mate asked me if both sides were full and I replied "Yes." On the journey to Plympton we were detained 24 minutes at Tavistock Junction signals. When at Plympton I noticed the engine wasted a considerable quantity of water by priming; this, however, ceased when we left with the 5.40 a m. workmen's train. On arrival at Saltash our engine was detached and run back over the points, when I applied the hand brake and checked the engine without difficulty. We then ran ahead over the up line points; after these points had been turned we started back at a speed of about eight miles per hour towards the train. My mate only put on steam whilst the engine made a few revolutions, and as he shut off steam I applied the hand brake; The rail was slippery and consequently the brake took but very little effect. Seeing this my mate applied the steam brake ; the wheels then picked up, but the speed had been reduced to about four miles per hour, and at this rate we struck the train, causing damage to coaches and injuring several passengers. Whilst at Saltash, by the injectors failing to work, we discovered the tank was empty. The water must have been all used up on the journey as I am positive both tanks were full before we left Plymouth shed. I did not apply sand when the wheels picked up - it was my duty but I had not had time to think of it. I cannot explain why the hand brake should not have acted efficiently in stopping the engine at the east end of the station.

View the full report HERE Saltash Railway Station early 1900s (by derektait)
© Derek Tait. Saltash Station early 1900's
The archived report comes from the excellent Railway Archives
Further Reading

Plymothian Transit May 2008: Happy Birthday Saltash Station
Recommended Links

Omnibuses: Parallels
Omnibuses: More from Phil
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