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Matthew Kirtley

evidence given before the

Select Committee on Accidents on Railways 1858

At the time of this Select Committee the Board of Trade possessed no power in respect of the Railways after a line had been opened. Unless the railway companies themselves permitted it, they could not even enquire into accidents. The only tribunal which could legally enquire into accidents was the coroner's inquest, in the case of death.

The committee's questions largely focussed on the increase in speed over earlier days, what the maximum 'safe' speed might be, whether safety would be improved by the use of telegraph communication, and whether provision should be made for communication between passengers and guards (English carriages at this time did not have corridors).

Shortcuts:  Matthew Kirtley's Evidence  |  Report of the Committee

Evidence was taken from:

  1. Colonel George Wynne, R.E., a Government Inspector of Railways
  2. Captain Henry Whatley Tyler, R.E., "connected with" the Railway Department of the Board of Trade
  3. Lieutenant-Colonel William Yolland, R.E., "connected with" the Railway Department of the Board of Trade
  4. Captain Douglas Galton, R.E., secretary to the Railway Department of the Board of Trade
  5. The Right Honourable Robert Lowe, a Member of the Committee
  6. Seymour Clarke, Esq., General Manager of the Great Northern Railway
  7. Joseph Locke, Esq, a Member of the House
  8. Captain Mark Huish, General Manager of the London and North Western Railway Company
  9. James Edward McConnell, Esq, Locomotive Superintendent of the London and North-Western Railway
  10. Mr James Janson Cudworth, Locomotive Superintendent of the South Eastern line
  11. Mr George Henry Birkbeck, had worked for 4 years as assistant to Mr Cudworth
  12. Joseph Beattie, Locomotive Engineer on the London and South Western Railway
  13. John Strapp, Esq., Resident Engineer with the South Western Company
  14. William Frederic Godson, Esq. Traffic Superintendent with the South Western Company
  15. The Honourable Ralph Dutton, a Director of the South Western Railway
  16. The Marquis of Chandos, Chairman of the London and North Western Railway Company
  17. Edward Stillingfleet Coyley, Esq., a Member of the House
  18. Mr William Wadham Young, Superintendent of the South Western railway at the Waterloo Station
  19. Mr Daniel Gooch, Chief Engineer in the locomotive department of the Great Western Railway
  20. Mr Archibald Sturrock, Locomotive Engineer of the Great Northern Railway
  21. George john Stone, Esq., resident of Blisworth where a railway accident had occurred
  22. Mr Matthew Kirtley, Locomotive Engineer of the Midland Railway company
  23. The Honourable P. S. Pierrepont, a Director of the London and North Western Railway Company
  24. Mr Robert Sinclair, the Engineer and Locomotive Superintendent of the Eastern counties
  25. Henry Pringle Bruyerers,Esq., the General Superintendent of the Southern Division of the London and North Western Railway
  26. Mr Edward Fletcher, the Locomotive Superintendent of the North Eastern Company
  27. James Edward McConnell Esq., inventor of a new "steam-break" for engines

Mercurii, 21° die Aprilis, 1858.


Mr. Bentinck. Mr. Kendall.
Mr. Crossley. Mr. Frances Scott.
Mr. William Hodgson.      Lord A. Vane Tempest   

Mr. Matthew Kirtley called in; and Examined.

2150. Chairman.] WILL you state pro forma the post you hold in the Midland Railway Company, and the length of time you have held it?—I am the Locomotive Engineer of the Midland Railway Company, and I have held that appointment since the amalgamation of the companies in 1844; 14 years ago.

2151. Were you connected with any other railway companies previous to that time?—I was connected with one of the amalgamated companies for five years previous to that time; my engagement commenced in 1839 with one of the companies as Locomotive Engineer.

2152. During that time your attention has naturally been called to the increased speed at which railway trains are now in the habit of travelling compared to what they were some years ago?—Yes.

2153. In your opinion, is there any additional risk incurred by the additional speed at which railway trains travel now as compared with what they did formerly?—Yes; I think there is a very considerable increase of risk; in the first place, signals are sighted by the enginemen at whatever speed the trains are running at the same time; consequently, if the speed is high they have less time to pull up the train, and of course greater force is required.

2154. Would the tendency to accident be increased by a high rate of speed in case of there being any slight defect in the permanent way, or any breakage of any of the iron-work of the carriages or engines?—No doubt that is so, and from having to pass a greater number of slow trains, which must be shunted off the line.

2155. And, of course, I need not ask you whether, in cases of collision, the risk is not very much increased by increased speed?—That is so.

2156. In short, upon every ground, in your opinion, the increased speed at which railway trains on many lines now travel is attended with very considerable risk?—That is my decided opinion.

2157. If you were called upon to give, professionally, an opinion upon the question, assuming the permanent way to be in as good average condition as could be expected under all circumstances on a well-conducted line of railway, and the plant and everything connected with the train to be in good order, what is the extreme rate of travelling, when the train is actually in motion, that you would consider advisable without incurring a greater amount of risk than ought fairly to be encountered?—l should think from 45 to 50 miles an hour.

2158. You think that is the outside speed that ought to be adopted?—Yes.

2159. Do you think that the risk increases in a very considerable ratio when that speed is exceeded by a few miles an hour?—There is, no doubt, an additional increase of danger, but I do not know that it is to any very great extent, because 45 to 50 miles an hour is a very high rate of speed.

2160. Is that a rate of speed at which, in your opinion, railway trains may fairly travel without running any great risk?—Yes, judging from our ordinary practice.

2161. Should you consider that the proportionate risk of travelling between 50 and 60 miles was considerable, compared to 45 miles an hour?—Danger increases with increased rate of speed.

2162. Of course, as the speed is increased, the wear and tear of the plant of the company is very much increased also?—That follows as a necessary consequence.

2163. And their expenses are thereby very much increased?—That is so.

2164. Would it, or would it not, in your opinion, be advantageous for the shareholders in the companies, as well as for the safety of the public, if railway companies were restrained by legislative interference from travelling beyond a certain rate?—Yes, I think it would be very desirable that there should be a limit beyond which railway companies ought not to go. When companies are in competition the tendency is to outdo each other in point of accommodation, of which speed is one of the elements; and we find that there is increased danger arising from the vast number of trains which are now running upon the lines which those high rates of speed interfere with very much.

2165. Does not the high rate of speed at which some trains on different lines are now habitually travelling also tend in many cases to a want of punctuality?—That is so; there is so little margin.

2166. In case of any delay, it is found impossible to make up the time, and that leads to a want of punctuality?—Yes.

2167. Is not want of punctuality an element of risk on a railway?—No doubt. In 19 cases out of 20, I think the accidents arise from want of punctuality.

2168. So that if you could insure great punctuality in the departure and arrival of trains, you think that a great deal of the risk of accident which at present exists would be done away with?—No doubt, if you could do that; but I think it is practically impossible to do so. The nearer you can approach to punctuality the more I am satisfied it would tend to decrease the risk of accident.

2169. Would not travelling at a lower rate facilitate the establishment of greater punctuality?—Clearly.

2170. It would be a help?—Yes.

2171. Travelling at a lower rate of speed would not only decrease the risk of accident which is entailed by a great speed, but also by enabling better time to be kept upon the line, would it not in that way diminish the tendency to accident?—That is so.

2172. What are the regulations on the line with which you are connected as to the intervals of time between the departure of trains from the different stations?—There is an interval of five minutes after the departure of one train before the next train is allowed to proceed.

2173. Have you any means of telegraphic communication?—None, so far as signal arrangements are concerned. We have telegraphic arrangements from one station to another announcing the progress of a train from station to station; but that does not at all interfere in any way with the signalling of the trains; it is simply information for the stations.

2174. You depend then with respect to the line being clear upon the vigilance of those who are in charge of the trains?—Upon the vigilance of the men in charge of the signals and the men in charge of the engines.

2175. In your opinion is that a safer way of conducting the traffic of the line than having a telegraphic communication, as you are aware is the case on many lines of railway, in order to ascertain that the line is clear before a second train goes upon it?—I have no experience upon that point, except in two or three instances; we have a telegraphic signal for two or three tunnels upon the Midland line, so that a train is not permitted to enter the tunnels till the line is clear; but that tends, I think, to increase the danger at each end of the tunnel; I do not know that there is much advantage in the arrangement; I am inclined to think that a system of signals that can be seen by the men is more to be relied upon than a system of telegraph.

2176. In the case of the first of two trains breaking down suddenly, or any other accident happening to it at night or in a fog, what means have you of warning the next train, which will run up within five minutes, that the line is blocked?—You have certainly taken the worst case that we have to deal with, namely, travelling in a fog; that, in my opinion, is the only advantage that telegraphic communication has over the ordinary signal arrangements; for it is possible that a train travelling very slowly during a fog may be run into by a train running at a higher speed going in the same direction.

2177. Or if, in a fog, the leading train should meet with any accident, and be upset?—Just so; there might not be sufficient time for the man in charge of the train to have given the signals for the coming train.

2178. In that case you consider that the means of communication by electric telegraph would be advantageous?—I do; indeed, that is the strongest case in favour of the telegraph; it is one of our weak and most dangerous points.

2179. But with the exception of a fog, which occurs occasionally in the day as well as the night, you think, as far as safety is concerned, that the present system is sufficient?—I do indeed; after long observation of the arrangement, I am inclined to think so.

2180. Do you think that the present system of signalling is equally efficient at night?—Yes, quite.

2181. Have you any system of communication on your line between the guard and the engine-driver?—It is partially in operation; the trains, for instance, between King's Cross and Leicester, and two or three other branches, have it in operation daily.

2182. Has that system of communication been introduced from an opinion that it is conducive to safety?—Yes; I assume that is the motive which has induced the adoption of it, and we should be disposed to apply it over the whole line if the stock of other companies which are working in connexion with the Midland Company were provided with the same means; as they are not, of course the Midland Company is prohibited from adopting it entirely.

2183. But, in your opinion, if all companies were called upon to adopt that system of communication between the guard and the engine-driver, it would be conducive to safety?—I think in some instances it would meet extreme cases.

2184. What is the means of communication between the guard and the engine-driver, which is partially in use upon your line?—There is a separate whistle for the purpose, to which is attached a string, which runs along each carriage to the last van, in which the guard is situate; the string is attached to a wheel to enable him to open the whistle on the engine.

2185. So that the guard can at any time communicate with the engine-driver, and signal to him to stop the train?—At any time.

2186. Do you consider that there would be any disadvantage if passengers had the means of communicating with the guard in the event of a carriage taking fire, or an axletree breaking, or any of those various accidents occurring to which a carriage in motion is liable?—I think there is no doubt it might be dangerous if an opportunity were afforded of creating an alarm; I should have no fear if the guards were properly arranged, and had at all times a complete view of the train, at least that is the arrangement which we adopt.

2187. Have you more than one guard upon each train?—We have two guards; one next the tender, and one in the last vehicle in the train; that is for all the trains on the main line, but for some of the short branches we have only one guard's van attached.

2188. Have you never, within your knowledge, known of cases where a carriage has broken down, or a carriage has been on fire, and the guard has not been made aware of the circumstance for some time?—We have not had any accident of that nature upon the Midland line; I know that there has been such an accident on the North Western line. I think there was one some two or three years ago; in fact there have been two or three accidents of that nature, which might lead one to suppose that it would be desirable that the passengers should have the means of communicating with the guard.

2189. But supposing a communication between the passengers and the guard could be established by word of mouth, through the means of speaking tubes, in order that the passenger could explain to the guard his reasons for wishing the train to be stopped, would that be a desirable thing?—I think there would be a difficulty in doing it. I do not suppose that any arrangement that could be devised would be sufficient to enable a man to do it; it would require great strength of lungs, I apprehend, to communicate to the guard; there is such a noise in his van that it would require; I assume, great force to speak to him through a tube.

2190. But supposing that the tube admitted of easy communication by word of mouth between the passengers and the guard, should you see any objection to that arrangement?—No, I should say there is not the slightest objection.

2191. You think it would be difficult?—It might be overcome. I should prefer that arrangement to giving the passengers their own option of alarming the engine-driver; 1 think that system might lead to very dangerous consequences if it were adopted, because when the engine-driver receives a signal it generally is to stop, and unless they are signalled to stop at proper places they might stop at dangerous places, or when other trains might be following of which they were not aware. I think there are many causes of danger which it might lead them into.

2192. You think causes of danger might arise if the passengers could communicate directly with the engine-driver?—Yes.

2193. You think if the passengers had the means of communicating verbally with the guard, there would be no objection to that arrangement?—None at all.

2194. Have you the sole appointment of all the persons who are employed under you on the line?—Yes, so far as my own department is concerned.

2195. You make the appointments upon your own judgment, and upon your own responsibility, irrespective of the directors?—Clearly so.

2196. What system of breaks are you in the habit of using?—I may describe them as the breaks in ordinary use; it is the common lever break; it is a very simple apparatus.

2197. It is the break generally in use on most lines?—It is in common use on all railways.

2198. Is it the same description of break as that in use on all the other lines in connexion with which your line is working?—Yes; the mechanical arrangement is very similar; in fact there is very little difference.

2199. There is no great dissimilarity between them?— Very little indeed.

2200. Have you known any cases of complaint upon your line of the men not being so vigilant as they ought to be, from being overworked, owing to the engine drivers being short handed?—I think we have. There are no doubt, cases of that kind occasionally coming under the observation of the officers of the company. They are always remedied when we see that the evil does exist.

2201. Have you the power of appointing whatever number of people you think requisite for performing the duty properly, without reference to the Board of Directors?—Certainly, so far as my department is concerned. I never ask the Directors as to the number of men to be employed.

2202. The decision as to the number of people to be employed rests entirely with you upon your own responsibility?—Yes, the number of men, and also training the men, to make them efficient for their duties.

2203. Mr. Crossley] You have stated that the guard on some of your trains has a string, by which he pulls a whistle?— Yes.

2204. The guard opens the whistle himself, does he?—Yes.

2205. So that that would call the attention of the engine-driver to it, when he heard the whistle?—It is close to him, so that he call both see and hear it.

2206. You find that a much better arrangement than any other means of communication you could adopt between the engine-driver and the guard, because the engine-driver would hear the whistle immediately?—Clearly so. It is a signal which, if it acts at all, he must both see and hear.

2207. Have you found that answer well?—It answers admirably. I have never known it to fail.

2208. You were saying the speed on railways is much higher than it was when you had to do with them at first?—Yes.

2209. Have not there been great improvements since that time to warrant a higher speed than when you had to do with them at first?—I am not quite sure that there has been any absolute improvement, there has certainly been great strength given to the line, but at the same time there has been a greater weight given to the engines; I think the weight is in proportion to the increased strength of line.

2210. Is there no improvement in the way of the rails being better jointed, fish-jointed?—There is no doubt the fishing in my opinion is good, although it is not universally admitted I believe. I think some are of opinion that the old plan was quite as good.

2211. You stated that in your opinion there is much more danger in travelling at the speed now adopted than there was formerly?—Yes.

2212. Do you find that opinion borne out by the facts. Are you prepared to tell the Committee that the proportion of accidents is greater now than it was formerly?—I am not prepared to say that the proportion of accidents is greater. I think that is accounted for in this way, that there is greater experience in the management of the line; greater care exercised, and more perfect discipline maintained with the men on the line. What I mean to say is this, if you will reduce the rate of speed to what it was originally, then I say that we should be more safe with that speed than we are with the existing speed with our present arrangements.

2213. But in your experience as a locomotive engineer, do you not find that the wear and tear has greatly increased by increasing the speed?—That is so.

2214. Is not it the interest of the railway companies themselves not to go faster than is profitable?—That is so, but it is their interest to attain this high rate of speed; if they were not to do it, their interest would be damaged; the additional expense is not sufficient to deter them from deriving a greater advantage with a high rate of speed.

2215. You are of opinion that it is desirable by Parliamentary interference to limit the speed on railways?—I think there would be some advantages if the speed was limited by Parliament; I think there is danger, and increasing danger, as the speed is increased.

2216. But how would you limit the speed; would you allow one rate of speed to be run on all railways, whatever the curves or gradients are, or would you have an Act of Parliament for every line?—If the maximum rate of speed was fixed by Parliament. I assume it would apply to the running portion of the line; if any portion of the line required a less rate of speed, of course that would have to be adopted by the railway companies for their own security.

2217. But if they did not do that, I suppose the public would be no safer than they are?—That I think follows.

2218. Are you not of opinion that you could run at 50 or 60 miles an hour on a piece of level country with no joints in the way, or anything, quite as safely as you could run 30 miles an hour on some lines where the curves are bad and the gradients bad?—Yes; I will admit that with bad curves and bad gradients, no doubt there is more danger at that rate of speed than on a line with good gradients on a perfect road.

2219. You find, in point of fact, railway companies pay some attention to their time-tables, to run their best speed over the best portion of the line?—That is not so; the time-table is made out between one town and another; the rate of speed is given the same throughout, no matter what the state of the line is; that is entirely dependent on the judgment of the driver what speed he goes at any portion of the line.

2220. In training men for their business, do you instruct them to take advantage of a good piece of line, and run quicker than they do run on other parts that are not so good?—We prohibit them from going at a higher rate of speed than is necessary for keeping time, no matter whether the road is good or bad.

2221. How would you detect that a company had been infringing the law in running a faster speed; how would you ascertain they had done it, suppose that they lost time at one point and gained it at another?—Then you must rely upon their own willingness to comply with reasonable regulations.

2222. You do not think it is possible to make an Act of Parliament that would prevent its being infringed in that sort of way?—Certainly not; it might be infringed; I think there would be no desire to infringe it; of course they would arrange the times and their trains to keep within the time mentioned; any excessive speed I presume would be on the part of the enginemen, not by the desire of the directors.

2223. You do not happen to be able to inform the Committee what the proportion of accidents is on railways now as compared with formerly, proportioned to the number of travellers?—I cannot; the Board of Trade, I apprehend, would give you that information best, as they investigate all cases of accident.

2224. Mr. Scott.] Have you any returns made to your department as to the speed that is maintained by each train; have you any delay book?—Yes: any detention to the trains is reported by the enginemen themselves on their arrival at the station.

2225. Have you a regular weekly or daily book for a return of all the trains, reporting delays whenever they occur?—Yes; for every train there is a return made by the guards, of every train upon the line.

2226. Would not that be an index of the rate of speed?—Clearly so.

2227. That would show you whether it had been excessive at any one point?—Yes.

2228. And diminished at another?—Yes. At any rate, it shows this, it shows the arrival and departure from each station, which I think would be a sufficient index as to the speed which had been ordinarily maintained.

2229. You could obtain the information from that book?—Yes.

2230. Does the traffic manager regulate the speed or the Board?—The Board. The speed of trains of course is decided by the Board; the traffic manager, as their organ, gives directions for the time-bills to be made out.

2231. The engine-driver has merely to conform to the orders of the Board?—That is all.

2232. Is the rate of speed fixed with reference to the state of the road, and other circumstances?—No; I think the rate of speed is given to all the passenger trains which is decided by the Board of Directors.

2233. Do they decide it irrespective of the condition of the line?—I think they always assume that both their line and working stock are always in good order, and sufficient for their purpose.

2234. But that assumption is founded upon the information from the departments, I presume?—Clearly so.

2235. Which department is responsible for the good condition of the line?—Precisely.

2236. And the information which they give to the Board?—Yes, that is so.

2237. In reply to the Honourable Member you said that the Board of Trade could give the proportion of accidents per annum; I wish to ask with respect to the line on which you have been 14 years, and on which the increase of speed has been great, has the proportion of accidents to the number of passengers carried increased in that period?—No, I think not; I am happy to say we have had very few; I think we had only two fatal accidents upon the Midland Railway during the last 14 years; the first was in 1845, and the other in 1851.

2238. You say you have a communication between the extremities of the train by means of a cord?—Yes.

2239 How is that cord adjusted?—It is adjusted by a wheel in the van, under the direction of the guard.

2240. Is it attached and detached to each carriage. or is it one continuous cord?—One continuous cord attached to the engine whistle, passing through hooks guiding it by the side of each carriage.

2241. If you break up the train and remarshal it, how do you do then?—The cord has to be detached; it is an operation that is very easily done.

2242. Being detached from the engine, is the whole length of the cord wound upon the guard's wheel?—Yes, it is.

2243. What time may it require to attach and detach the cord?—1 think a train of about the ordinary dimensions, containing 10 carriages, might take three-quarters of a minute; I think it does not exceed one minute at any time.

2243-. The time it would take a man to walk from one end of the train to the other?=-That is all; it is attached and detached just as fast as a man can walk.

2244. Do you know the mode pursued on the Great Western of having a guard at the back of the engine tender who commands the whole of the line?—Yes.

2245. Have you a guard in that position likewise?—No, we have not; we have a guard in the van which is next the tender; he has a seat at the side of the van; he can see by the side of the train on the left side; and a guard at the rear of the train; he sits on the right-hand side; so that, in fact, they have both sides of the train under observation, or ought to have; at any rate, that is their order.

2246. You think your mode gives additional security to that pursued on the Great Western, of having a guard whose eye commands the train, and the line in addition to it?—1 think our plan appears to me to be the best, because you have two men, and in the other case there is only one; you are commanding both sides; in the other case of the Great Western arrangement you only observe one side.

2247. Have you known any instances where accidents have been averted by means of your system of communication?—No, I have not known any.

2248. It has been as yet of no use?—Not the slightest, as far as preventing accidents.

2249. Mr. Hodgson.] What is the steepest gradient on your line? -One in thirty-seven for about two miles; that is the incline near Bromsgrove, called the Lickey Incline,

2250. That incline is worked differently from the other part of the line, is it not?—Assistant engines are applied there.

2251. What is the next steepest gradient which you have; have you 1 in 100, and 1 in 75?—We have 1 in 80 for a length of about four miles, between Nottingham and Mansfield, we have also, on a branch line between Leicester and Burton, a gradient of 1 in 72 for about a mile in length.

2252. Do your trains run at the same speed upon the incline of 1 in 100 or 1 in 75 as the part where the line is level?—In descending they do, in ascending they would do so if they could.

2253. That is a mere matter of power; you could, with sufficient power, go as quickly up as you should down?—Precisely.

2254. Do you conceive that there is any danger in running down an incline, of 1 in 75 at a speed of 45 miles an hour, as you say that is your quickest speed; do you suppose that your trains run down an incline of 1 in 75 at 45 miles an hour?—There is this danger, if there were any obstruction upon the line, it would take them a longer time to pull up the train.

2255. Supposing there is an obstruction?—We do not assume that there is any danger.

2256. Is there no danger of the engine jumping off the line?—No; we have no reason to suppose that there is any danger; we never meet with accidents of that kind.

2257. Round a curve of what radius could an engine travel at the speed of 45 .miles an hour?—I think about half a mile radius is the lowest that we have upon the main line.

2258. Do the trains travel at 45 miles an hour round a curve of half a mile radius?—Yes.

2259. Do you compete with any other line?—We are in a position to compete (at present we are not in competition absolutely) with the North-Western, and in fact, with all the lines with which we are in contact.

2260. The Great Northern?—Yes.

2261. Do you attempt to run at the same speed as the Great Northern?—We do; I think we run at the same speed, with the exception of one or two of their trains; they exceed the speed of our express by one or two miles an hour; but the difference is very small.

2262. You say that you have a cord by which the guard communicates with the engine-driver, can the passengers get at that cord to pull it?—They could do so by opening the door of the carriage, but I should not like to give them that information.

2263. You do not think it would be prudent to let the passengers have the power of pulling this cord?—That is my impression.

2264. Do not you think it might tend to the safety of the train in case of passenger seeing an accident threatened, if he had the power of communicating with the guard or the engine-driver?—Passengers never have opportunities of seeing danger, they are not in a position to see the danger; the only case is where any accident arises in the carriage in which they are travelling; that is the only instance in which the passengers become aware of danger.

2265. Supposing a fire should occur in the carriage before them, they can see that, cannot they?—Yes.

2266. Would it not tend to the safety of the train if there were the means of communication in that case between the passengers and the driver and the guard?—That is an extreme case; no doubt it would.

2267. What is the evil that you are afraid of, if passengers have the power of communicating with the guard?—They might alarm the engineman so that he might stop his train at a place where danger might arise.

2268. But if the communication were merely with the guard, what objection would there be to that?—In that case the guard would exercise his judgment. I should be perfectly satisfied with that arrangement.

2269. Do you think that might tend to the safety of the train?—In those extreme cases which you have mentioned I think it would. But I am still of opinion that the two guards of the train ought to have the entire train in constant sight when in motion.

2270. But they must be placed in a particular position to have the entire train in sight?—We always place them in a position to enable them to have constant sight of the train.

2271. You follow, do not you. nearly the same plan as that which is followed on the Great Western line, where there is a guard placed at one end of the train who has the train constantly in view, and can see anything that is likely to occur?—I think our arrangement is much better than the Great Western arrangement, inasmuch as we have two men instead of one.

2272. Are both men placed in such a situation as to see the whole of the train before them?—Yes.

2273. And you think that is the best mode of preventing accidents?—I think it is the best mode of discovering anything that is wrong.

2274. Does any other mode occur to you?—No; I think that is the best arrangement; it is the arrangement that I suggested many years ago, and it has been adopted and adhered to, and I am not prepared to say that I can recommend any better arrangement; there are other arrangements, but I think this is the best.

2275. Do you think that a communication between the passengers and the guard might be used with the probability of preventing accidents?—In the extreme case which you have mentioned; assuming that there was any defect in the carriage that the passengers were travelling in, or a fire, if it was observed by the passengers, then the guard would, of course, convey an intimation to the driver at once to stop the train.

2276. Do you think that the chance of accident would be increased if you were to increase your speed up to 60 or 65 miles an hour?— It is almost an impossible speed with the existing power of engines to accomplish; you could not maintain a speed of that kind without extreme danger; inasmuch as you have to pass junctions and stations with facing points, and they are points of danger; passing them at high speeds becomes excessively dangerous,

2277. You think it is impossible to run trains at a speed of 60, 62, o r 6 miles an hour without very great danger?-The maximum rate of speed of course, if that is what you mean, must be much in excess of the average rate.

2278. I suppose if the average speed is 45 miles an hour, it would have to be at certain points of the line both increased and diminished?—Just so.

2279. Do you think there is danger at any points of the line in running at 60 or 65 miles an hour?—No positive danger so far as the line is concerned; the only danger would be in making arrangements with the slow trains, and in stopping the trains when they saw danger.

2280. You think there is no danger if the road be clear?—There is no actual danger in the mere speed if the road be clear.

2281. That is, if the engines, carriages, and permanent way are all in a good state of repair?—I assume that there is no real danger; we have experienced none.

2282. Mr. Kendall.] I understand your opinion to be that 45 miles an hour is the utmost speed that you think is a safe speed, as an average speed?—I think so; I really would not like to have to work many trains at that rate of speed.

2283. You would limit it to that speed?—I hope trains will never go beyond that speed, so far as I am concerned.

2284. Would you limit it by law?—I would limit it by law to 45 miles an hour.

2285. I understand, with respect to some parts of your line, if it is not a competitive line, it may be made a competitive line?—Yes.

2286. With what line might it be made a competitive line?—The Great Northern line; it is a competing line with the Great Northern to various towns, such as Nottingham, Doncaster, Leeds, and York.

2287. What is the difference in distance with respect to those places between the two lines; take Nottingham?—There is only two miles difference in distance with respect to Nottingham.

2288. What is the difference of distance between the two lines with respect to Doncaster?—About 30 miles in favour of the Great Northern.

2289. What is the difference of distance to Leeds?—I think they have about 20 miles in their favour.

2290. It you were, by Act of Parliament, to confine railways to 45 miles an hour, you would, as far as your own line goes, destroy all competition with respect to Doncaster and Leeds, because the Great Northern Company would be able to make the journey more rapidly than you could?—Clearly so.

2291. And for the sake of the safety of the public you are willing to make that sacrifice?—Clearly so; I think it is a speed that ought never to be exceeded.

2292. Lord A. Vane Tempest.] Did I understand you rightly to state, that you would limit the rate of speed to 45 miles an hour on the whole of the railways in the country?—I do not mean the maximum rate to be limited to 45 miles an hour:—I should certainly not permit the average rate of speed to exceed 45 an hour.

2293. Although you would fix the rate, according to the time table, at 45 miles an hour, at the same time there is nothing, in your opinion, unsafe in going at the rate of 60 or 65 miles an hour in order to make up distance or time?—I do not think there is any danger to be apprehended either from the state of the line or the engine, assuming the line to be clear.

2294. As far as I understand, your limitation of speed to 45 miles an hour would simply lead to the rate that trains should go at; you would not attempt to prevent them making up time by going at 60 or 65 miles an hour, which, according to your view, you consider quite safe if the permanent way is in good order. If you have to work a train at the average rate of 40 or 45 miles an hour it compels you to a maximum speed of 55 miles an hour; certainly depending upon the number of stoppages which the train makes in the distance.

1295. What is the rate of speed that is now put down in the time tables of the railways?—I think they are arranged from 40 to 45 miles an hour;  I  think there is none at 45 miles an hour; that is my impression.

2296. Then there are no railway trains advertised to go at a greater average speed than 45 miles an hour?—No, I believe not.

2297. Therefore your suggestion, with respect to the limitation of speed, and with regard to the average rate of railway travelling, is not necessary, according to the present state of things?—What I meant to say was, that I should limit the maximum speed to about 50 miles an hour.

2298. Your view now is, that you would limit the maximum speed?—That is what I meant to express; I think there ought to be a limit to to the maximum speed at which trains should be permitted to run.

2299. Therefore, as I understand, you would limit the average speed to 45 miles an hour, and the maximum of speed never to be passed to 50 miles an hour?—The average speed would depend entirely upon the number of stations at which the train had to stop.  I think, perhaps, it would be the most simple way to say that I should limit the maximum speed of any train to 50 miles an hour when running; there are few trains that could always average 40 miles an hour with many stops; it would entirely depend upon the number of stops.

2300. Your view is that you would limit the rate of speed by compulsory enactments on all railways, so that it should never exceed 50 miles an hour?—I think that is fast enough for any railway.

2301. That is your view?—Yes.

2302. I understood you to say, in a former part of your evidence, that you thought there was no danger in a speed of 60 or 65 miles un hour if the permanent way, the engine and carriages, were in good order?—Just so. I say that we have no evidence of danger at that speed, but I think the danger arises from practical difficulties; that is, having numerous slow trains on the line, and having to contend with the bad state of the weather, which increases our difficulties in working the trains; there is no danger as to speed absolute; the danger arises from the road not being kept clear.

2303. Then your object in limiting the speed would be on account of the overcrowded state of railways?—Yes; I think that is clearly one of the elements of danger.

2304. Do you consider that telegraphic communication between stations would be a great means of preventing railway accidents?—I am not prepared to say that it would; I have no opportunity of observing it, with the exception I have mentioned of telegraphing through the tunnels.

2305. You are not aware of the effect which that system has had on railways, where it has been introduced?—No.

2306. But if the effect of telegraphic communication between stations were to prevent danger from collision, would a speed of 60 miles an hour then, in your opinion, be dangerous ?—There is no danger as to the absolute speed; I mean for running; I think the difficulty would be in keeping the line clear for a train of that speed.

2307. Have you read Captain Galton's report, of this year, to the Board of Trade, on the subject of railway accidents?—No, I have not.

2308. You are not aware that the number of railway accidents in 1856 has largely increased, compared to the number in the previous year, 1855, and that we have come now almost to the number of accidents in the year 1851?—I have not read the report, nor have I seen any statement of that kind.

2309. You are not aware, also, that according to that report, out of 81 accidents there were only eight that could be properly denominated "accidents," because the whole of the remainder were attributable to causes that might have been prevented by proper arrangements and proper attention to the duties of the line?—I can quite understand that it might be so.

2310. Can you give any statement to the Committee as to the causes of accidents, whether from collision, negligence, the defective state of the permanent way, or from the rate of speed?—No; we really have had so few accidents that I can give you very little information upon that point; I am happy to say, notwithstanding that, we run 7,000,000 of miles every year with passenger trains; we have 930 trains running daily upon all the branches of the Midland Railway, yet we have only had two fatal accidents to passengers during the last 14 years.

2311. What is the maximum rate ever attained upon your line?—l assume the maximum would be upwards of 60 miles an hour; I think last night I came up fully at that rate upon a portion of our line.

2312. Do not the few accidents which you have had upon your line, with a maximum speed of 60 miles an hour, tend to prove that there is no great danger in the question of speed?—lt requires great care, great skill, and great attention to keep the line clear for fast trains.

2313. If there is that care and that attention, and also a proper expenditure of money upon the permanent way, and for the maintenance of the plant, engines and carriages, in good order, is it not a fact that there is no absolute danger in the speed of 60 miles an hour?—I am quite prepared to say that we do not believe that there is much danger as to the absolute speed; but danger rises from the number of slow trains, and trains at various speeds, running upon the line, and from other causes, owing to which we are unable to keep the line clear; at least, we always feel that there is greater danger with a high rate of speed.

2314. The fact of the statistics which you have given of the very few accidents which you have upon your line at that maximum rate of speed of 60 miles an hour tends to prove, with the care you devote to the management of your line. that with proper precautions 60 miles an hour can be very safely attained as a maximum rate of speed?—Clearly, we run 60 miles an hour occasionally; still I am of opinion that it is an excess upon what it should be. I think we should, to some extent, promote our safety by a less rate of speed,

2315. Mr. Crossley,] I suppose what you have been stating about speeds is in connexion with the narrow gauge lines that you are acquainted with?—l have worked both; we had a broad gauge line between Gloucester and Bristol for some years

2316. What is your opinion as to the difference between the two gauges as to safety?—There is not any difference at all; they are both perfectly safe.

2317. Do you think it would be as safe to run at 60 miles an hour upon the one as at 60 miles an hour upon the other?—I think they are both safe; I am not quite prepared to say that either ought to have the preference. I will admit that I should like a wider gauge than the existing one, but I am not quite sure that it would much promote our safety, because I think we are perfectly safe now.

2318. There is less vibration, I suppose, on a wide surface, than there is upon a narrow one?—That is true: but all our mechanical arrangements have proportionate strength and weight.

2319. In speaking about the maximum rate of speed I understood you to say, in a former part of your examination, that you thought it would be impracticable to tell exactly what the maximum rate of speed was; that the time-bill would be the thing for the Government to look to?—I think as an index of what maximum speed would be necessary, the time-bill would be the only test that the Government could have.

2320. What speed does the time-bill show for the train that you came up by last night at 60 miles an hour?—According to the time-bill we have two hours and three quarters for 98 miles, I think it is; of course that includes the stoppages. If you are to allow about five minutes for each station for each stop, that would probably give you a speed of about 40 miles an hour; about 42 miles, I think it is.

2321 You have about 36 from terminus to terminus, so that you see by your own rule Government interference would not do much, if with a 36 miles an hour time-bill you run 60 miles an hour?—I am quite prepared to admit that you must rely entirely upon the judgment and practice of the railway companies themselves.

2322. Chairman.] I understood you to say, that you thought in some cases it was the interest of the companies to travel at a rate of speed that entailed more expense upon them than would be entailed by a lower rate of travelling?—Just so. I meant, if the Midland trains were not to run in the same time from London to Leeds as the Great Northern trains, I think their interest would be damaged.

2323. Then the interest that the Midland Company has in running at that high speed arises solely from competition with other lines?—Precisely.

2324. Supposing they were no longer allowed, by legislative interference, to compete as to speed, it would be clearly for the advantage of the Company that such an arrangement should take place?—I have no hesitation in saying that it would be an advantage to the Company to reduce the rate of their fast trains.

2325. You think that would be both advantageous to the Company and conducive to the safety of the public?—l do indeed.

2326. Do not you consider that the public run a greater amount of risk at night in some of these fast trains than they are aware of?—I know that that is so.

2327. Are there not many very narrow escapes which nobody knows anything about?—A great many, I am sorry to say.

2328. If people were generally aware of the amount of risk they are running, do not you think they would take a different view of the subject, and wish to travel at a slower rate, rather than run the risk of breaking their necks?—Yes


THE SELECT COMMITTEE appointed to inquire into the Causes, of ACCIDENTS on RAILWAYS, and into the possibility of removing any such Causes by further Legislation ;-HAVE considered the Matters to them referred, and have agreed to the following REPORT:

THAT your Committee has heard much evidence upon the subject-matter of inquiry brought before it; that the evidence has been chiefly given by officers of the Board of Trade, by eminent engineers, and by directors and other officials of railway companies.

THAT it appears to your Committee from that Evidence, that the causes of accidents on Railways may be classified under the three following heads : inattention of servants; defective material, either in the works or rolling stock; excessive speed.

THAT it appears to your Committee that the strict personal supervision which alone can check the carelessness of the men employed on the lines, and detect the insufficiency of the material used on them, can best be obtained by the attention of the companies themselves, and that the very serious losses they incur by any accident, ought to render it sufficiently their interest to pay minute attention to these points; but cases having occurred when these questions have been neglected by Railway Companies, your Committee is of opinion that the Board of Trade should be invested with the fullest powers to investigate, and report to Parliament, upon any accidents which may occur on Railways.

THAT your Committee is of opinion that a rate of speed, considerably in excess of what is considered safe, in the opinion of the great majority of the witnesses examined, is sometimes attained on many of the lines.

THAT the evidence taken further tends to show that such excessive speed has arisen, not so much from the average speed required as advertised by the railway time-tables, as from the want of strict punctuality in the time of the departure and arrival of trains from each station, which leads to an excess of speed for the purpose of endeavouring to make up time lost.

THAT your Committee, impressed with the many difficulties and complications connected with this part of the subject, and also with the inexpediency of relieving railway companies from the responsibility which now devolves on them, is not prepared to recommend any direct legislative interference by the House upon the question of the extreme speed at which railway trains may be permitted to travel. But your Committee is of opinion that the perfect regularity in the time of the departure from and arrival at each station by the trains, which would appear to be a material element of safety in railway travelling, may be attained by legislative interference, to the extent of enacting, that, except under exceptional circumstances, the public should have some means of obtaining prompt and cheap redress in the recovery of penalties in every case of want of punctuality in the departure and arrival of trains at every station, thereby rendering it imperative upon railway companies not to advertise a rate of travelling which they cannot always maintain with undeviating punctuality.

THAT your Committee is of opinion that it should be made imperative on railway companies to advertise a sufficient time before-hand the exact hour of departure and arrival of trains at each station.

THAT your Committee is also of opinion that it should be imperative on every railway company to establish a means of communication between guards and engine-drivers.

THAT your Committee has received much evidence with reference to the advisability of enforcing a system of telegraphic communication, and the utility of enacting that trains should not be dispatched without having ascertained by such communication that the line was clear.

THAT your Committee is not prepared to define the distance at which such telegraphic stations should be placed, but it is of opinion that a recourse to this system would be a most effective means for the prevention of railway accidents, the largest proportion of which arise from collisions.

THAT with respect to day and night signals, breaks, and other precautions, your Committee is of opinion, from the evidence which it has heard, that such details are better left to the management of the Railway Boards.

THAT your Committee is therefore of opinion that it is incumbent on the Board of Trade to apply to Parliament for such further powers as may enable that department to carry out the above recommendations, which in the opinion of your Committee would tend greatly to diminish the number of railway accidents.

25 June 1858

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