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Institute of Railway Studies and Transport History
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What the papers said
excerpts from the railway press from the 1840s to the 1990s


The purpose of this section of the IRS web site is to provide a glimpse of what the British railway press was saying about various issues in the past. Every month there will be a different selection of excerpts from the railway press from the 1990s to as far back as the 1840s, taken from the collections in the National Railway Museum Library here in York. Sometimes we will group the excerpts according to particular themes, but there will also be space for a more random selection of some interesting, entertaining, or just plain bizarre corners of the railway news of the past. We hope that you will find it interesting and illuminating. It's one way of finding out what has changed, and what has not, over the past century and a half of the railway press. Previous editions are now accessible through the archive page.

Next update: 3 September 2001.


August 2001
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Accidents in August


During the nineteenth century, August achieved a dark reputation as a month which saw more than its fair share of serious accidents on the railways. This edition of 'What the Papers Said' looks at what the Victorian railway press had to say about railway accidents in August, from Howden in 1840 to Wigan in 1873.
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1873: The Railway Times considers the dangers of the month of August on the railways and asks: are passengers to blame?

1840: The Railway Times reflects on the Howden accident on the Hull & Selby Railway, urges the relative safeness of railway travelling, and criticises Sabbatarian attitudes

1861: The Railway Times reacts to a collision in Clayton Tunnel on the London Brighton & South Coast Railway, and the iniquities of the compensation system for accident victims

1868: The Railway News reports on the destruction of the Irish Mail at Abergele on the London & North Western Railway , and reprints an official letter about the accident from the company

1868: The Railway Times discusses the inquest into the Abergele accident

1873: The Railway Times features the views of a correspondent on technological aspects of a serious accident at Wigan on the London and North Western Railway

1873: The Railway Times discusses the findings of the inquest into Wigan and considers the impact of the accident on ideas of 'progress' in railway engineering and operation


August this year retained its character of being the most dangerous to railway travellers and the most expensive to railway shareholders. At first sight it seems strange that one month in the year should almost invariably be more fatal than any, or as is generally the case, all of the other eleven. Yet a little reflection may lead us to, if not a satisfactory explanation, to some data from which to deduce at least a speculative cause. August is the season of almost universal migration. Wearied out by the pace at wich the race of life is in these days run, ennuied with the exciting monotony of continuous labour in whatever calling our lot may be cast, the mind longs for rest and change, and the nervous system, which has for eleven months been wound up to the extreme point of tension, imperatively demands relaxation.

To obtain these necessary alternatives, people rush away to other scenes. Those whose avocations are carried out in crowded cities seek the quiet of the country and the restorative influences of travel and sea air; while those who spend their lives in rural occupations, for the nonce fill up some of the vacant places in the metropolis and the chief commercial and manufacturing towns. Everybody, therefore, is crowding upon the railways. Tourist trains, excursion trains, and extra trains of all sorts have to be put on to meet this irresistible demand. The public will not be said nay to. They must be conveyed, and the ordinary trains are wholly inadequate for the purpose. It is an almost generally received opinion that the railways have no other object in putting on these extra trains than to make additional profit for themselves. There cannot be a more mistaken idea. In most years we believe the revenue account would show better at the end if excursion and tourist trains were altogether eliminated from the programme of operations. But what would be said of the selfishness of railway proprietors - of the insufficient accommodation for the public, and how loud would be this insistance both in and out of Parliament for further competition or State interference, or absorption if they were so?

The necessity being thus imposed upon the railways, they are driven to meet it as best they can, and upon the whole it must be admitted that their efforts are, considering all things, wonderfully successful, both in providing the demanded accommodation and averting confusion and accident. But it is impossible that the whole system of ordinary traffic arrangements can be interfered with and disarranged, as in a greater or lesser degree it must be to work this one month a year requirement, without occasioning some difficulty and incurring some extra risk. It would never do to keep on for the entire year an additional staff for the service of one month, and to take on inexperienced servants to act when the pressure is the greatest, and care, watchfulness, and knowledge are more than at any other time necessary for safe and efficient working, would be but to add to the confusion and multiply the danger. There is, therefore, no help for it but to depend upon the tried and experienced men who conduct the traffic in ordinary times; and as the pressure upon them is thus unavoidably increased, it follows that from traffic manager to station-master, and from station-master to porter, signalman, and pointsman, all are occasionally overworked; and, being fallible, like the rest of humanity, relax in their mental, if not their physical, powers.

But is it to the neglect of railway directors, or the deficiencies of the railway staff, that accidents are even in these periods of exceptional pressure always due? Have not the public themselves something to answer for? We all know, and probably more or less indulge in, that inveterate habit of economising time by driving off to the last moment our application to the station clerk for the railway ticket. We look at our Bradshaw, find that train starts at such an hour, go on writing our letters or attending to the business or conversation in which we may happen to be engaged, and think we shall be quite soon enough if we time ourselves to be on the platform at the exact starting moment. It is no uncommon thing to see the front of the pay-box crowded up to a second or two before the time, when all should be in their seats in the carriages, with anxious and impatient travellers demanding tickets, and grumbling because all cannot be served at the same instant. Often do we see, some minutes after the train ought to have been upon its journey, people - ladies especially - rushing about on the platform with any quantity of luggage, requiring the services of an entire staff of porters to convey it to the luggage-van and stow it away, and complaining of guards, clerks, porters, and everybody else connected with the place, for the hurry-skurry which is entirely their own fault. Of course, this rush at the last instant occasions confusion, and renders punctuality in starting next to impossible. Over and over again we have been authoritatively told that unpunctuality is a most fruitful source of accident. And what we would desire to point out is, that for that unpunctuality the public must at least share the blame with the railway managers. It may be said that a few minutes lost at the beginning may easily be made up in the course of a reasonably long run. True; but making up lost time involves accelerated pace, and the passing of facing points at express speed, to say nothing of the danger of collisions with crossing trains keeping their own time, and travelling in the confidence that all other trains will keep theirs. Formerly there was a rule under which booking-office doors were always closed a few minutes before each train was timed to start. This prevented the confusion and delay which is inseparable from the sale of tickets up to the instant of starting, and if the practice where it no longer exists were reintroduced and made universal, the public would soon become used to it and act accordingly. But to carry out the plan fairly and effectually it would be necessary that the ticket clerk should be at his post at least a quarter of an hour, instead of, as is now frequently the case, scarcely five minutes before the time of departure, and in times of pressure it might be an advantage if the number of ticket clerks was augmented beyond the single individual who has now often to issue tickets to a hundred or more hurrying passengers, to many of whom he will have to give change or answer inquiries within a space of time scarcely sufficient to attend possibly to a dozen.

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Full particulars will be found elsewhere of a most melancholy accident, resulting in the violent death of five individuals, and the serious injury of several others, which took place last week on the Hull and Selby Railway. No one can read the evidence given before the Coroner without feeling satisfied that great carelessness must have been deiplayed in packing the article which led to the lamentable occurrence, although, as usual in such cases, it is difficult to fix the blame upon any particular party. The heavy deodand which has been imposed on the joint Companies will, however, we doubt not, produce a salutary effect upon the Managers of the Selby lines, and if anything were wanting to stimulate other Boards to continued (and, if possible, increased) vigilance, it would be found in the melancholy circumstances connected with this truly mournful affair. That this accident will be easily seized upon by the enemies of railway travelling we are quite prepared to expect. The public, however, will not forget that out of the many millions who have been conveyed on railways in the last 10 years, these five unfortunate individuals in the north are, with but a solitary exception we believe, the only ones who have met with mortal injuries, without any fault of their own; while the absence of minor casualties has been not less remarkable. We venture to assert that for one passenger who has been injured on railways, one hundred have suffered through stage-coaches, steam-boats, sailing vessels, or indeed any other means of locomotion; in fact, there is no greater wonder connected with railway travelling than the extraordinary freedom from mishaps whcih has hitherto characterised, and will, we trust, long continue to characterise it.

We regret that one of the verdicts in this deplorable case should have been deformed by the introduction of a clause respecting the so-called "violation of the Sabbath," said to be sanctioned by the Directors. "The jury think it consistent [they say] in connection with this awful event," to allude to the Sunday travelling on the line, but where is the consistency, unless they mean to insinuate that the visitation which called them together is to be regarded as a mark of Divine displeasure - in which view of the case is involved, besides other considerations, the injustice of punishing unoffending individuals for the sins of others? This is too serious a matter to be treated with levity, but really the preposterous notions of these Sabbatarians are sufficient to make the scoffer laugh, although they cause the judicious to grieve.

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The whole country as been kept in excitement during the week by the occurrence of a lamentable calamity, on Sunday morning, to an excursion train in the Clayton Tunnel, which is situated about five miles from Brighton.

In the first accounts furnished by the daily press of this most disastrous accident the chief leaning, as is usual in such cases, lay towards the "active and intelligent officers of the company," from whom alone could be obtained any authentic intelligence of the catastrophe. Since the opening of the coroner's inquiry, however, another tone is made to pervade the melancholy details, the "gentlemen of the press," true to the instincts of their calling, dwelling with unfeeling unction on the sufferings which befell the unfortunate victims. With these matters the public is already too familiar, - the sum total of misery being that twenty-four lives have been sacrificed, and personal injury inflicted on fully as many more individuals. Without waiting for this well-got-up excitement to die out, or to give way to the usually recurring vindictiveness against the company, we may shortly state our impression that the accident did not occur in consequence of the rapidity with which three separate trains were timed to follow each other. The arrangements of the directors and the manager, in this particular, are altogether blameless. Nor can we suffer the accumulated vengeance of public sentiment to fall upon the unfortunate signalman whose nerves gave way at so sudden an aggregation of responsibilities being thrown upon him. The blame, be the decision of the coroner's jury or of the public press what it may, originated in something between the separate starting of the trains and their confluent arrival at the mouth of the Clayton tunnel. Three trains were appointed to leave Brighton station between the hours of 7.45 and 8.30, but they left as follow:-

  Time to leave. Time train left.
First train; excursion 7.45 a few min. after.
Second train: from Portsmouth 8.15 8.23
Third train: regular Brighton 8.30 8.33

In this frequently recurring circumstance is to be traced the origin of the disaster; but the catastrophe, we feel assured, might have been altogether avoided had the time originally separating these trains been preserved until after the Clayton tunnel had been passed. Had these trains, we repeat, been kept at a distance from each other until a clear run had been obtained for them, and this could only be looked for or secured after the passage of the tunnel, the fearful catastrophe could not possibly have occurred.

Who then, let us inquire, is to blame for this lapse of vigilance - for this positive departure from the spirit and principle of the original order by which the various trains were timed in the first instance? It is the duty of the board to institute this inquiry, to proceed step by step in the investigation, alike of station-masters, engine-drivers, and signalmen. It will be of some future value, not merely on the Brighton, but on other lines, if this frightful casualty results in painfully impressing the minds of subordinates with the necessity of keeping their own trains apart from others, especially at junctions, tunnels, or other places where incessant care is necessary, and where, above all other considerations, too much anxiety or labour should not be cast upon a solitary signalman.

There is another part of the subject to which the attention of shareholders must in due time be directed. The question of compensation will come in, with all its cold and solid realities, immediately after public sentimentalism has had its day. The amount of misery and postivie injury inflicted is indeed immense; yet, such is the inefficiency, the contrariety, and want of justice in the law on this subject, that the casualty is not likely to cost the company more than if only one rich man had been killed! This is indeed a monstrous state of things, and one which of itself must arouse the Legislature to a sense of decorum in a matter so vitally affecting the protection of the public. It will be observed, from the accounts in the daily papers, that the company's and other medical attendants were immediately on the scene of affliction, and that the good work of alleviation was heartily yet unostentatiously carried on by every person who could render assistance. We were not told, however, until the inquiry before the coroner took place, that legal aid was found to be not merely at hand but actually retained. The vulture sniffeth the carrion from afar; and wicked as it may appear, it is still a fact to be placed against the present age, that the very trains which conveyed surgical assistance to the wounded brought legal advice to all who might be disposed to make out a claim for compensation. We are not told, as we used to be, of the bedside of the dying being profaned by the obscene presence of pettifogging attorneys; public indignation and Samaritan vigilance prevent repetition of such outrages upon human nature. But the same unfeeling procedure is carried on to some extent, not the less iniquitous because it is concealed from public reprehension. The energies of legal acumen, at all events, are already in active play; cases of injury are being bolstered up in every imaginable form and degree, and a bill of costs against the company is growing up into formidable proportions. Several of the sufferers, with praiseworthy consideration for their own good name, have scouted this interference, and placed themselves unconditionally on the well-known liberality of the company; and these parties, the public may be satisfied, will be more freely compensated than such as may be seduced into inordinate demand in prospect of an action at law, "where anything asked is now almost sure to be given." Notwithstanding these preparations, however, and despite alike of the large extent of suffering and the market which is seeking to be made of it, the ultimate loss to the Brighton proprietors will be much less than that lately inflicted on the Great Northern and London and North Western, in cases where not a tithe of the suffering occurred.

Why is this? Hath not the law ceased to have respect to persons? The law of compensation in regard to railway accidents is based on the assumption that all men are unequal, and that each separate life must be adjudicated upon according to a standard peculiarly its own. It is not whether a passenger has paid more or less in fare - not whether one part of a train had been better provided for than another - but simply what manner of man the passenger had been prior to his entering the railway carriage. For instance, had there been in this unfortunate Brighton train a successful speculator, either on the turf or in Capel Court - a high salaried functionary or an heir expectant to a large domain - an improving merchant or an advancing barrister - any one, in fact, who, while fully able to pay first-class fare, had taken advantage of cheap conveyance, but of whom it could, in addition, be shown that he might have made lots of money in an incredibly short space of time had he lived - then such a sufferer would in his death have left a fortune to his sorrowing relatives. There were none such, however, among the victims of this catastrophe. They were merely respectable individuals, of industrious callings and modest expectations; and so the law, dismissing externals from its vision, will not be able to award in compensation for the sacrifice of four-and-twenty lives, a higher sum than an intelligent jury lately gave for the life of a gentleman who had well-nigh disinherited the younger branches of his family so that his eldest hope should maintain a high position in society. There were no Post-office clerks or sorters travelling free, and that in a train the pace of which is regulated by the Government itself. Unless, therefore, some enterprising attorney can manufacture expectations or multiply losses beyond their ordinary range, this terrible catastrophe will not cost, in legal phraseology, so much as those which occurred in Atherstone or Hatfield. This is in the bond -

"The law allows it, and the court awards it."

And incongruities such as these will disfigure the statute-book so long as Lord Campbell's act remains unrepealed. The rich will become more rich, while the poor gain little or nothing by the appalling calamity of the head of their house being suddenly struck down.

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The accident on Thursday at Llandulas is one of the most tragic events which has yet occurred in connection with English railways. No other collision has ever yet, in this country at least, been attended with such a loss of life, nor presented such horrifying features. The crashing of the engine and carriages into a heap of splinters, each of which wounds unforttunate passengers like a sword, is horrible enough to contemplate; but when fire in its fiercest form is added to the scene, no more frightful occurrence could be imagined.

Public sympathy has been aroused by the catastrophe to an unusual extent, and a feeling is everywhere prevalent similar to that which actuated the body of shareholders of the company yesterday, and made them abstain from anything but the most cursory allusion necessary to the business for which they are assembled. Well may the directors and proprietors feel sad, apart from a natural sorrow at the cruel death of so many fellow-creatures, for the prestige of the line has suffered a heavy blow. The Irish mail train has justly been considered the greatest triumph of railway management, and very few mishaps have formerly occurred in its wonderful running; but now for a long time to come its name will be synonymous with destruction and death. The pecuniary loss to the company, too, will be such as it has never suffered before; but we are sure, from the tone of the meeting yesterday, that this is not the uppermost thought with either directors or shareholders; the only feeling among them, as among the public generally, is one of deep commiseration for the families and friends of the deceased.

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The following is the official report of the accident:-

TO THE EDITOR OF THE "RAILWAY NEWS."

Sir,- I am instructed by the directors to send the following particulars, which at present are all that are known to them of the lamentable accident to the Irish mail, on its way from London to Holyhead yesterday. Shortly after passing Abergele, where the line curves, the driver of the train perceived some trucks running back towards him, and before any measures could be taken to avoid a collision, the trucks, which were loaded with barrels of paraffin or petroleum, from some, as yet unascertained cause, became detached from a preceding train, and met the mail; the oil immediately exploded, and in an instant the front carriages were enveloped in flames - rescue was utterly impossible; the number of passengers who perished is not yet known, but from information received up to this time, it is feared it will reach twenty-one - death, it is believed, was instantaneous, as no attempts to escape were noticed, although the carriage doors were, as usual, unlocked on one side. The carriages destroyed are those attached at Chester. The passengers from London were in carriages to the rear of the train, which were immediately detached and placed in safety. Part of the mails were saved, and, with the remaining passengers, sent forward after a few hours' delay. The engineman jumped off, but the guard and fireman are among those who perished. Dr. M'Ewen, of Chester, with aid from medical men in the locality, was quickly in attendance, and with the company's officers rendered every assistance in their power. I need scarcely add how the feelings of the directors, and the proprietors, a large number of whom were present at the half-yearly meeting to-day, were excited by this sad occurrence, and how deeply they sympathise with the sufferers and their friends. - I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

STEPHEN REAY, Secretary

Euston Station, August 21.

P.S.- Since writing the foregoing, from information received from the Queen Hotel, Chester, it is supposed that the following were in the carriages destroyed, but we have no intimation as to the names of any of the other sufferers:- Lord and Lady Farnham, an elderly lady, two men and one woman servants; Sir Nicholas Chinnery, two ladies and maid; Captain Townshend and Lady; Miss Roe.

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LONDON AND NORTH WESTERN.- The coroner's inquest into the origin of the catastrophe at Abergele concluded yesterday. Evidence was taken on Thursday respecting the properties of the petroleum which caused the conflagration. It was shown that 1,700 gallons of oil were consumed, a quantity which, in the opinion of one of the witnesses, must have proved instantaneously fatal to the passengers in the burning carriages. The breaksmen of the goods train, acting by legal advice, declined to give evidence. The resident engineer stated that the end of the train left on the line must have had the break screwed down, otherwise the trucks would not have stood on the incline. He added, if the three waggons "kicked off" to join the two others had been sent gently along the line, they would not have started the trucks containing the petroleum. The evidence was brought to a close by the examination of Mr. Mason, assistant-manager, and Colonel Rich, Government Inspector, both of whom stated that if the two breaksmen in charge of the goods train which preceded the mail had done their duty, and had followed the printed rules, the accident would have been prevented. The coroner's assessor having summed up, the jury returned a verdict of Manslaughter against Richard Williams and Robert Jones, breaksmen of the goods train. The men were committed for trial at the assizes. The jury also strongly censured the station-master for the transgression of the company's shunting rules.

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To the Editor of the Railway Times. Sir, - Having had many years' experience in railway signalling, and being well acquainted by practical supervision, as an old railway officer, with the various systems which have been in use during the last quarter of a century, I ask your permission to submit some remarks upon this lamentable and much-discussed catastrophe.

Let me premise that I have a twofold object in view - namely, to endeavor to throw light upon that which appears almost universally to be looked upon as an inexplicable mystery - the immediate cause of the accident; and secondly, to allay the anxiety and alarm which has been created in the public mind as to the ever-lurking danger which is stated to exist from the presence of facing points.

I entirely dissent from the idea that there is any inherent danger in facing points; on the contrary, I affirm that facing points are the simplest and safest of any description of points, especially when worked under the interlocking system.

It would, however, seem that the points at Wigan lacked one essential safeguard - namely, the addition of a "locking bar," or "switch-lock," as it is technically termed. This adjunct to the original inerlocking apparatus effectually prevents the points from being altered or opened during the passage of a train over them, and was the ingenious result of the experience acquired of human fallibility by the occurrence of several accidents similar to teh one which we now have to deplore, and in each of which cases there could be no doubt whatever that the train was thrown off by the lever working the points having been actuated before the train had entirely passed over the points.

It being perfectly clear, therefore, that the points may be opened during the transit of a train over them when there is no locking bar, it follows that it is the duty of directors to meet this possibility by the immediate application of the remedy for this class of accidents - namely, the "locking bar," and so effectually control the working of facing points. There can be no doubt that the London and North Western, as well as other companies, have shown a commendable alacrity in adopting any tired improvement which has been brought under their notice; but it is manifest that the general and complete application of this as of other improvements suited to the exigencies of the greatly developed and still rapidly developing traffic must necessarily be a work of time - not an indefinite time - but still of time.

I observe that Mr. Wrigley, in a letter to the Times, refers again to his well-known theory of affirmative signals, and states that in his opinion that block system is but an imperfect recognition of that principle.

The block system is in no way compromised by the Wigan accident, and I would remind Mr. Wrigley that the block system - perfect or imperfect - affords the only means under which an interval of space can be secured against following trains, and that the achievement of this great safeguard is only practicable under teh aid of the interlocking and concentration of points and signals.

This concentration brings the working of the points and all the signals - electric as well as mechanical - under the control of the one man directly responsible.

Does Mr Wrigley object to this principle of fixed and undivided responsibility? I would venture to suggest to Mr. Wrigley the propriety of his paying a round of visits to some of our busiest junctions, and witness for hours together the simple, regular, and unerring manner by which the signalman is enabled to control the passage of the trains, and then to consider whether it would be practicable to go back to the primitive system of working of twenty-five years ago, when, as Mr. Wrigley expresses it, there was a "pair of eyes," and, of course, a pair of hands for every pair of points?

Mr. Wrigley takes Messrs. Saxby and Farmer to task for venturing into print in reply to some remarks of his in general condemnation of a system which has been generally, and doubtless eventually will be, universally adopted.

Mr. Wrigley is irate at the experience of the great body of railway managers being set up against his own theories, and because Messrs. Saxby and Farmer have been more successful than inventors usually are, he would have them take no part in any discussion relating to this most important subject, no matter how facts may be distorted and experience set at nought!

Surely Mr. Wrigley has better learn the rudiments of railway signalling, as applied to the traffic of to-day, before venturing to recommend modes of working only suitable to taht which existed a quarter of a century ago. Let him study the Government Inspectors' reports on the accidents of the last five years, and the evidence given before a select committee of the House of Lords last session, before he again ventures to condemn scientific and mechanical appliances, or to blame railway companies for adopting them.- I am, &c.,

A STUDENT OF RAILWAY ACCIDENTS.

August 22, 1873

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Notwithstanding that in the Wigan inquiry the astute intelligence and extensive professional experience of Captain Tyler have been brought to bear upon the minds of the jury, the verdict of "accidental death" exonerates the company from blame, in so far as any sin of commission is concerned. True, there is attached to the verdict a recommendation for slackening pace in passing through Wigan, but this rider can hardly be taken as a censure upon the company or upon its regulations, inasmuch as it was shown upon the investigation that between London and Carlisle [on] the London and North Western section of the route to Scotland there are no fewer than twenty-seven places where the same recommendation would equally apply, and where, as at Wigan, the experience of many years has proved that no such relaxation of speed has been found necessary. The truth is, that facing points are extremely numerous on all our leading lines, and, as the traffic develops and new sidings and loops have to be laid down, their number must of necessity be always increasing.

The issue raised by Captain Tyler's report, and by the rider which, founded upon that report, the jury have appended to their verdict, involves, therefore, a most important principle. Practically it is this - shall we admit that we have reached the culminating point in the machinery of our railway system, and resign the advantages of the rate of speed which we have so long enjoyed; or shall we apply ourselves to the task of so improving our machinery as to enable us to maintain the advantages to which we have become accustomed? We consider that the cry of certain amateur railway men - people of the class who deem themselves equally competent to fulfil the duties of Prime Minister or of railway manager - for a retrogressive policy of management as absurd as dangerous.

We vehemently protest against the doctrine that it is "the pace that kills," and we resent the idea that the scientific and mechanical skill of our engineers is unequal to the task of maintaining, with perfect safety, the present, or even an increased rate of speed. We therefore dismiss from consideration all the twaddle which has been talked about the dangers of facing points, and about having a "pair of eyes" at every pair of points, and we would refer our readers to the valuable evidence which was given before Lord Buckhurst's Committee of the House of Lords last session, as showing the great progress which has been made of late years in the application of electrical and mechanical appliances - the block and the interlocking systems - in the working of our railways.

"Necessity is the mother of invention," and as the need for improved methods of working have presented themselves, the inventions which the genius of such men as Messrs. Saxby and Farmer has produced have found ready acceptance at the hands of the authorities, as is evidenced by the fact stated by Mr. Cawkwell, that his company alone had been employing that eminent firm to the extent of 50,000l. a year for some five years past.

"Rome was not built in a day," and we doubt not that the "locking bar" - a later invention of Messrs. Saxby and Farmer, adn which has already been most extensively adopted by nearly every company - will be applied to all facing points, and the maximum of safety in this particular respect thereby attained. We are fast progressing towards an uniform adoption of the block system, which, combined with the universal application of the interlocking of points and signals, and an improved system of brakes, will, so far as human institutions can be said to be perfect, make our railway machinery absolutely irreproachable.

To revert to low speeds, and incessant slackenings of speed, would be to let in a host of dangerous elements arising from irregularities of running, and we can only say that, having done all in our power to make our machinery perfect, it will be-

"Better far to bear the ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of."

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Compiled by Dr Ralph Harrington, Institute of Railway Studies, York.


Updated 31 July 2001