1945: Inquiry into tragic 2 September Railway accident at Haywards Heath

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Mid Sussex Times - Wednesday 12 September 1945


RAIL CRASH INQUIRY AT HAYWARDS HEATH

“DEATH BY MISADVENTURE”

A RIDER BY THE JURY


“Deaths by misadventure” was the jury’s verdict at the inquiry on engine driver, Reginald George Scrase, aged 43, of 4 Geraldine Road, East Hill, London S.W. 18, and fireman Cyril Percival Bartlett, aged 17, of 154 Putney Bridge Road, London, S.W. 15, who were killed as the result of a train smash at Haywards Heath at 5 a.m. on September 2. The train was an empty one travelling from London to Newhaven to pick up a British Army of occupation leave-party, and instead of stopping just outside Haywards Heath Station, the engine crashed through protecting buffers on a dead-end goods line and became embedded in the tunnel wall.


The inquest was held at Haywards Heath magistrate's Court on September 4, and a jury added a rider that in future, in all cases where there is work of major importance taking place on the railway, written instructions should be given to the drivers and guards before commencing the journey.


Articles belonging to the deceased men were identified by MARGARET ELIZABETH SCRASE, the driver's widow, and STUART ALBERT BARTLETT, the fireman's father.


WAVED A RED LAMP

HAROLD PACKHAM of Sunny Bank, London Road, Patcham, a relief signalman, told how he had been on duty on Number 1 platform at Haywards Heath on Sunday morning and was acting as flag-man owing to the single line working, the main line down being blocked as it was required by engineers at work between Haywards Heath and Keymer Junction. He knew that the train ought to be stopped, and as the train raced through the station he waved a red lamp as a warning. The driver would have seen that the lamp had he been looking out. In answer to Mr W.J.CLEAVER (representing the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen), witness said he did not see the driver in the engine cab as the train passed through.


Dr C.W.L.DODD (Haywards Heath) said that the death of the driver was due to a fracture of the base of the skull and laceration of the brain, plus several other injuries, the chief of which was the crush injury of the chest. Fireman Bartlett's skull was also fractured at the base, and he sustained multiple injuries. The injuries to both men suggested tremendous violence, and death in each instance was instantaneous


SIGNALS WERE FOOL PROOF

STANLEY EDGAR PACKHAM of 38 Sydney Road, Haywards Heath, the signalman on duty in the Haywards Heath North box, said that he operated the signals at Copyhold Junction, and when the driver came to these signals, which were electrically controlled, he should have known that he was coming in to a goods road. The electric signals were fool proof. If anything had gone wrong to them they would have automatically switched to red for danger. The signals must have been working correctly, otherwise the train would have arrived on the main line and not on the goods road. In reply to the jury, foreman (Mr A.H.H. KING) witness said that the driver would not have been given any verbal instructions before he started on the journey about the change in working, but would rely on signals. Witness added that the train passed his box at a fast speed, and he realised that the driver had failed to notice he was on the goods reception line.


HAROLD WILLIAM PRINCE of 1 Montacute Road, St. Hiliers, Morden, the guard of the train said that he saw a yellow light indicating that the training was being switched over to the local line. The train slowed down from about 60 to between 40 and 45 mph. He did not see the signals which showed that the train had been switched to the goods line owing to the small lookout in his van “the size of a penny”. There was


NO FOG

and he did not know whether or not the driver had seen the signal switching him over to the goods line. After leaving Clapham Junction to join the train he expected a special working notice, but saw no reference on it to single line operations at Haywards Heath. He was positive that the driver had no idea that he would be required to stop at Haywards Heath and switch to the main up-line owing to the single line working, otherwise he would have undoubtedly have told him. “There was a notice which was shown to me afterwards, but neither the driver nor I had seen it", added Prince. When passing through Haywards Heath Station he did not see the flagman on duty wave the red lamps as his van possessed wooden windows. It never occurred to him at any time that something was amiss. If it had done, he would have broken up the train In three or four places by means of the vacuum break. The driver was familiar with the route, as he had travelled from London to Lewes with a goods train. When the train crashed he was


THROWN TO THE FLOOR.

ERNEST GEORGE AKEHURST (Area Inspector of the Traffic Department) explained that the driver should have realised from the signals at Copyhold Junction and just beyond the junction that his train was being diverted to the down-siding at Haywards Heath and that he would be required to slow down, stop and eventually shunt.

PC R. LATTER (Haywards Heath) gave evidence concerning the recovery of the bodies of the driver and fireman from the engine cab 13 1/2 hours after the accident. The fireman had a tea can in his right hand and the driver an oil rag in his left-hand. Other than a timetable, no paper of instruction was found on the driver. The watches of both the driver and fireman had stopped at 5 AM. The faces of the deceased men were extremely burnt and scalded.

In his summing up, the Coroner (Dr E.F. HOARE) said there was no doubt about the cause of death. Neither the driver nor the fireman could have known that the train was on the dead-end line and the guard did not know whether or not the driver had seen the signal indicating that the train was entering the goods yard. The driver relied on his signals to tell him his route, and whether or not he made an error of judgement would remain a mystery. People's lives were dependent on railwaymen reading their signals correctly, and the jury might be of the opinion that additional instructions should have been given

Following the verdict, the FOREMAN said that the jury expressed sympathy with the widow of the driver and the relatives of the fireman.

Mr G. A. CONNOLLY (representing the Southern Railway) and Mr H. E. AGGETT (National Union of Railwaymen's Representative) associated themselves with the jury’s expression of sympathy.

The jury handed their fees to the Amalgamated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen's Orphan Fund.

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