Saturday, January 22, 2011

1862 - Fatal Accident at Wolverton

The Times, Wednesday, Feb. 26th 1862


An inquest was held on Tuesday morning at the Ratcliffe Arms, Wolverton, before Mr. John Worley, coroner for the County of Northampton, to ascertain the circumstances attending the death of Mr. Edward Oliver, a cattle dealer, who lost his life by a collision which took place on the London and North Western Railway on Saturday evening last. Two other persons were also seriously injured, and are now in the Northampton General Infirmary. John Labrum said he was a guard of a special cattle train on the night of the accident. They left Rugby at 9:58 pm., and on arriving at Hanslope point they slackened speed, knowing a goods train was in front. As they turned the curve he saw the red signals on at the Wolverton station. The driver of the train shut off the steam, and he put on his break. It was then 11:30, and on turning round he saw a train coming up. He immediately jumped out of his break and ran back, waving his hand-lamp to and fro, also putting down fog signals. Three hundred yards back he met the train; it was a coal train, proceeding at the rate of 15 miles an hour. He believed the steam was shut off. The man Oliver was taken up quite dead, and two other persons with him in the same carriage with him were severely cut about the head, and also much bruised. The cattle train had its proper lamps at the tail of the train, which was visible half a mile off. John Pike, pointsman at Hanslope, deposed that the coal train passed about eight or nine minutes after the cattle train. His danger sign was on, but the driver did not appear to take any notice. He did not slacken speed. Neither the driver nor fireman seemed to be looking out. Mr. Edward Robinson, travelling inspector on the railway, said that if the engine driver had been looking out when he got past the curve beyond the Hanslope point he would have seen the tail lights of the cattle train in sufficient time to avoid the collision. Anthony Tomlinson, the engine driver, volunteered a statement that after getting through the cutting past the Hanslope point he saw the tail lights of a train ahead, and he shut off the steam, put on the break, and reversed the engine, but "she quickly flew into fore gear," and in a few seconds the collision took place. The coroner summed up, and the jury, after a long deliberation, returned a verdict of "Manslaughter" against Anthony Tomlinson, the engine driver of the coal train.

A few points here. There appear to be many more safety measures in place  after the accidents of the early years. Trains now carry a guard van at the back to try to forestall shunts from the rear. Obviously it did not work in this case because the attention of the driver in the coal train was elsewhere. Accident continued on the railways, but they became more infrequent as the years passed and safety improved.

The Radcliffe Arms is still much in use at this period, but it was north of the canal where the Wolverton Park is. Access was properly only from the Old Wolverton Road, but many of the pub's customers must have come from Wolverton over the railway bridge to reach it. I wonder that there were never any reported accidents here.

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