(Henry b. 1834 and Henry b. 1822)

Inquiry into the death of William Skinner 17th July 1875

On Saturday afternoon Dr. Hardwicke held an inquiry at the Locomotive Department of the Great Western Railway Alfred-road, Paddington, respecting the death of William Skinner, aged 16, an apprentice in the engine fitter's department.

Henry Kirtley, a foreman engine fitter, stated that on Friday the deceased was working with him on the No. 4 broad gauge line. Suddenly the engine moved on a few feet, and witness got out to see the cause. He then saw the deceased had fallen into a pit and was caught in the arms of a labourer who was inside. On looking round he saw an engine with steam up—the Eupatoria, with Roscoe, the driver, on it.

Charles Woodrows, an engine fitter's apprentice, said the engine came and crushed the deceased between the buffers. The engine having backed he dropped into the pit. The moving engine came along the line so quietly that witness did not hear it. Had the fireman in charge of the shunting engine sounded his whistle he and the deceased would have looked round and got out of the way.

Robert Roscoe, driver of the Eupatoria shunting engine, said he left Charles Moore, his fireman, shunting two dead engines from No. 3 to No. 4 line. While passing slowly along the latter line his end engine struck a dead engine and sent it a short distance along the line. The accident occurred through the fireman forgetting that one of the engines he was shunting was a narrow gauge engine, which necessitated having a longer coupling chain than if they had both been broad gauge engines. He had stopped his engine within the length of his own coupling chain, but the length of the narrow gauge coupling caused the narrow gauge engine to strike the dead engine on the line, and thus caused the accident.

Mr. Kirtley, superintendent of the locomotive department, said the mistake and accident happened through the fireman Moore forgetting the length of the two coupling chains, which were each 18in. longer than usual. No allowance was the extra three feet of chain. He must say that he wished there was only one gauge, for the long coupling was the evil of the two gauges.

The jury expressed a hope that immediate steps would be taken to prevent any further accidents.

Mr. Kirtley said that he, on behalf of the Great Western Railway Company, would do everything in his power to prevent accidents and would be glad of any suggestions.

A short consultation between the coroner, jury, and railway officials ensued, when it was suggested that there should be a block placed across each line or road, and that the block be kept locked while the men were engaged at their work, so that when any shunting was necessary warning could be sent along the line and the men placed on their guard.

Mr. Kirtley said he had the welfare of all the men under him at heart, and would carry out the suggestion at once.

Verdict "Accidental death."

The Times, Tuesday. Jul 20, 1875; pg. 5; Issue 28372; col F

Note: The two Kirtleys in this article were cousins, both named Henry.

John and George were the first and third sons respectively of Henry Kirtley (1768-1843) and Margaret Pace.