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Forum Home > Dead and Buried. > Brierley Hill Train Crash.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Brierley Hill, Round Oak, Railway Accident.


In the 1850s, the region aquired something new, The Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton Railway Company. The company had a shaky start, not just finacially, but were under a Government directive to build the line to a 7 foot gauge. Yes, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the great victorian engineer had put his oar in. This line was expensive to build, and like other companies, they took every opportunity going to make money. On the 12th August, 1858, they issued an advertisement for an excursion Train, for Sunday Schools only, starting from Wolverhampton Low Level Station. The trip was to Worcester, and the advertised fares were 1/- Adults, and 6d for Children from Wolverhampton or Stourbridge. From Hagley or Kidderminster, the fare was 8d for Adults, and 4d for Children, and from Droitwich, 6d and 3d. These fares were for the return trip as well, and were set deliberately low to attract customers. The instructions to the Stations along the way, were that only Sunday Schools would be allowed to book. Many Stations and individuals ignored the instructions. So on the 23rd of August, happy and excited Children, hurried to their local Stations for a nice day out in Worcester.



The Train, comprising 1 Engine and Tender, 24 Carriages, and 1 Guards Van, left Wolverhampton at 9.41 am, with 37 Adults and 37 Children on board. At Priestfield, it picked up 12 more Adults, and already the pattern of what was to come was clear. Tickets had been sold to anyone. The next stop was Bilston, and 110 Adults and 110 Children climbed aboard the train. Daisy Bank was one of the few places where the rule on ticket sales had been kept, here, 25 Adults and 95 Children took up their places. Princes End was a real shocker, where 266 Adults got on, and only 60 Children. Tipton played fair with just 2 Adults and 15 Children. with Dudley loading 89 Adults and 79 Children, Netherton contributing 9 Adults and 7 Children, and Round Oak with 9 Adults and 43 Children. By the time the train got to Brettel Lane, an extra Engine and Tender and a further 8 Carriages had been added, including another Guards Van. ( Vital for safety, as the Vans were the means of Braking the train to a halt ) 10 Adults and 24 Children got on here, and as the train set off, a coupling chain broke, was replaced and the train, now a bit delayed, set off for Stourbridge to pick up the 30 Adults and 6 Children waiting patiently on the platform. The next stop was Kidderminster, and there must have a rush for seats, as 144 Adults and 260 Children scrambled in. Another coupling chain broke at Hagley, and while repairs were carried out, a further 5 Carriages were added. At Droitwich, yet a third coupling broke, although this time the safety chains held. The Excursion Train finally arrived at Worcester, now with 42 Carriages, 767 Adults, 739 Children, a total of 1,506, and over 400 yards long, at 12.32pm. ( the figures were supplied by the OWW, but a conservative estimate from the subsequent inquiry, put the figure at just over 2,000 ) It was reported they all had a good day.


For the return trip, due to the huge length of the train, and the lines gradient in places, ( 1 in 75 ) it was decided to split the Carriages, and form two Trains. The first Train now comprised 2 Engines and tenders, 28 Carriages, and 2 brake Vans, one at the front the other at the rear. The other was made up of an Engine and tender, 14 Carriages, a brake van, and left Worcester 15 minutes behind the first which departed at 6.25pm. This train had an extra Engine added at Stourbridge to cope with the steep gradient from Brettel Lane. The first Train arrived at Round Oak, at 8.10pm, it was by now very dark, and the wind was blowing smoke from the many factories across the line. This may have why, in the Station, the train crew failed to spot that yet another coupling had broken, and 17 Carriages, containing over 450 pasengers, and the brake van were now heading back down the line towards the Station they just left, Brettel Lane. A Telegraph message was sent to Brettel Lane, but went unanswered as the second Train was now just leaving the Station, a supposed 11 minutes behind the first. The first hint of any trouble for the driver of the second Train, as the Engines struggled with the weight up the incline, was the sight of the oncoming lights of the runaways guards van. Slamming on the brakes, the train was down to about 2 mph when the van and carriages smashed into it at 16 mph, at a spot called the " Bug Hole ", just beyond Moor Lane Bridge.  Doesn't sound much does it, but with all the weight behind it, the van and the last 2 carriages of the runaway were shattered into a million pieces.


Following the ear shattering crash, there was silence for a few seconds, then a terrible pitious cry went up, from over 150 wounded passengers. Panic stricken passengers milled about everywhere, some unable to comprehend what had occured, and it was few more minutes before the injured were dragged clear of the wreakage. People living near Moor Lane Bridge, heard the crash, and rushed to the scene. The line was strewn with debris and sadly body parts as well, for 12 people were killed in the impact, and 2 of the more seriously wounded would die later of their injuries. The Swan Inn, The Red Lion, The Crown, The Royal Exchange, The Cock, and The Whimsey, were filled to overflowing with the injured and the dead, some so badly mutilated they were unrecognisable. It's something of surprise to learn, that once the track was cleared, several hours later, both Trains continued onwards and completed their journeys. Apart from having the buffers ripped off, the second Trains leading Engine was virtually undamaged, although the driver was just a little shaken. All the dead came from the runaway coaches, as did the majority of the injured, quite a few of whom got back on board and simply went home. So what did go wrong that day on the " Old Worse and Worse, the nickname that the Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton Railway could never shake off. The victims are listed below.



Joseph Baker,35, from Princes End, Benjamin Skelding, Harriet Skelding, and their son John Skelding, 17, all from Princes End. Samuel Clark, Princes End, Mrs Sarah Rogers,70, Princes End, Henry Weston, 33, Princes End, Richard Moore,30, Princes End, Mrs Mary Hildrick, Tipton, Francis Mills,Tipton, Edward Matthews, Coseley, Benjamin Pitt, Dudley, Mrs Ann Harley, Dudley, and Henry Marshall,36, a Boatman from Worcester.


A man who had a lucky escape was the train guard, Frederick Cook, who in the event, escaped twice.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 30, 2012 at 2:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Brierley Hill, Train Accident, Railway Guard, Frederick Cook.


Frederick Cook had worked for the Old Worse and Worse, since it had come into being. ( Or so the Company claimed ) He was a trusted man,(or so the Company said )  which was just as well, as his job was to apply the brake either coming into a Station, and take it off when leaving. His main job was on Goods Trains, and it is doubtful if he was at all suitable for passenger service. For those not technological minded, these actions of braking, were designed to reduce the strain on the Trains couplings, by preventing that jerk a lot of the older readers will be familiar with, from the days of good old British Railways. The problem with the early trains being the rebound from stopping. He must have been having an off day on 23rd August, as the poor braking he had demonstrated on the outward trip, had resulted in three being broken. It was claimed he was a sober man, yet on the way to Worcester, and the trip back, he had allowed 6 men to share the Guards Van, ( Against O. W. Ws rules ) where they drank beer and played cards. He was also alleged to have allowed one of them to apply the brake as he joined in the beer drinking, which would explain the many jerks that broke the couplings. When the train had pulled into Round Oak, he was supposed to apply the brake, and report to the Station Master any problems he had encountered. It was proved at the inquiry, that he had not done so, and the extra strain on the coupling snapped it, results in 17 coaches becoming detached from the rest. The two Engine crews, having a train about 300 yards long, did not see the incident, indeed even after it had gone out of sight of those on the platform, the bit left was still over a 100 yards long. A porter, grabbing a lantern, ran after the runaway carriages, but soon they were going to fast to keep up, and he could only stand and hope that the guard, ( Frederick Cook ) could stop it in time. What he didn't know, was that Cook was still on the platform, and when someone ran past him as he turned to go back, in the dark, he failed to recognise the panic stricken Guard, legging it after his train. He claimed, at the inquest and the inquiry, that he had applied the brake, it had failed to stop the coaches, so he called out a warning to the passengers, and then, just before the crash, had leapt for his life from the van. When helping the injured at Moor Lane, it was noticed, that he didn't look like a man who had jumped off a train going at 16 mph, there wasn't a mark on him, and his clothes were clean. He changed his story at the inquiry when it was proved the brake had not been applied, and was in the off position at the time of the impact. Many tests were carried out, on how well the brake would work if it had been applied, and all proved the train should have been able to stop well short of the collision point. Indeed, it was pointed out, if Cook was in the van, and he had applied the brake when the train broke apart, the brake would have stopped it, before it rolled out of Round Oak Station. But he didn't, and 14 passengers lost their lives. Charged with Manslaughter by the Coroners Jury, the railway guard was put up at Stafford Assizies on 29th November, 1858. Now either the jury were bribed, or they were all mad, for they refused the Bill against Frederick Cook, and he was aquitted of the charge, free to go about his business. Whatever it was, and he was dismissed by The OWW immediately after the Inquest, he never worked on the Railway again. Not fit, even for " The Old Worse and Worse ".


There are two pictures of Engines from the period, in the Transport Album, in the Photo Gallery.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

April 30, 2012 at 4:30 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

Brierley Hill, Railway Accident, Frederick Cook.


A bit more information has reached me concerning Frederick Cook(e), the Railway Guard from the above topic. He was born in Worcester about 1826, although the Census details say 1831. ( This matches in with the enumerators rounding up dates, the residents were unsure of, and also the details on his death certificate, in 1891, which gives his age as 65. ) In 1851, he was a Porter on the Railway, and was living with his parents at 3, Windser Place, Worcester.  At the time of the accident, he was living in Mark Street, Worcester, presumable with his wife, the former Phoebe Baggot, who he married in Evesham, in 1856. Following his almost inevitable dismissal, he seems to have tried to hide a little, for in 1861, he is listed at being back at his famlies home, and is still a Railway Porter. He had in truth changed his job by this time, and in susequent Census Documents, he states his job as a Plumber. He must have been ill in 1891 when the details were taken as he says he is retired, but dies later on in the year in The Tything, Worcester. He seems to have been a better Plumber than a Railway Guard, and if they earned as much then, as they do now, he probably died a well off one.

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A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

May 5, 2012 at 3:07 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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