Friday, 23 March 2012

"Terrible Collision at Hampton Wick" - Interview with the Signalman

On Monday 16 August 1888, a passenger train entering Hampton Wick Station on the London and South Western Railway was hit by a light engine that had been sent on the wrong line by the signalman. The accident caused the death of the driver, fireman and two passengers. The day after, the Pall Mall Gazette printed an interview with the signalman:

'A representative of the Pall Mall Gazette called on the pointsman, Thomas Parsons, this morning, in order to find out what explanation he had to give of the accident. he lives in a little cottage near the station. Parsons is a tall, burly man with a red beard and is about forty-one years of age. He stood with his wife and one or two children, and was evidently much affected at what had occurred.

"Can you given an explanation of your conduct in allowing the engine to run up to Hampton Wick on the wrong line?" asked our representative.
"I don't know as I can," replied the man despondently
"How long have you been a pointsman at Kingston Junction?"
"About seven years"
"And you have never had any accident before?"
"How do you account for this then?"
"It was a mistake on my part."
"But how do you account for the mistake?"
"It was a very busy time. I thought the driver of the light engine was going to the engine-shed having done for the day. I therefore fixed the points for another train from Waterloo. But instead of the driver going to the engine shed he shouted up to me saying, "I have got to go to Twickenham." "All right," I replied, "Look sharp!" I quite forgot for the moment that the points were wring. Of course he ought to have noticed that he was up the down line, and should have stopped."
"Could you see if he was sober?"
"He was quite so far as I was able to see"
"And yourself?"
"I was perfectly sober, having had nothing to drink since Saturday night"
"And had you had enough sleep?"
"Plenty, I came to work at five o'clock in the afternoon, but did not know how long I should have to stop. I suppose it would be till two. The night or rather morning before I got home at one, and had nine hours' rest before coming to work again. I also had a little nap before five o'clock."
"Did you see the accident?"
"It was dark, and it occurred round the corner the other side of Hampton Wick Station. I heard the crash: indeed, I was listening for it. I knew the engine was on the wrong line; but I found out too late to stop her. Some railway men came down and told me of the accident, I had to stop in the box till 3.30. On eof my mates remained there to keep me company."

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