Leeds Mercury (05/May/1905) - Huddersfield Railway Collision

The following is a transcription of a historic newspaper article and may contain occasional errors. If the article was published prior to 1 June 1957, then the text is likely in the Public Domain.

HUDDERSFIELD RAILWAY COLLISION.

DRIVERS GIVE EVIDENCE.

NO CRIMINAL CARELESSNESS.

The adjourned inquest on Ralph Greenwood Farrand (29), slater, of Birstall, and Mrs. Catherine Augusta Yeats-Milne (46), of 54, Belgrave Street, Leeds, who were killed in the deplorable railway collision at Huddersfield, on flood Friday, was concluded yesterday before Mr. E. H. Hill, the district Coroner, and a jury, in the Council Chamber at the Huddersfield Town Hall.

Mr. F. L. Lambert represented the London and North-Western Company, and Mr. A. de C. Parminter appeared for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company. Mr. F. A. Reed represented the railway men concerned, and Mr. Arthur Willey appeared on behalf of the relatives of Mrs. Milne. Mr. R. Bell, M.P., general secretary, and Mr. A. Mear, organising secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, were also present, as was the Mayor of Huddersfield (Ald. B. Broadbent).

A Reassuring Statement.

Mr. Lambert asked to be allowed to state on behalf of the London and North-Western Railway Company, one of the two companies concerned in the management of the station, that there was no intention of resisting reasonable claims brought against them in connection with the accident. He was not in a position to make a positive statement, but the directors were meeting that day, and he had little doubt they would give the necessary instructions to their solicitor to enable him to meet all reasonable demands. This statement might save some trouble and relieve the minds of those who were interested.

Mr. Reed, on behalf of two of the injured, thanked Mr. Lambert for what he had said. On behalf of Haigh, the driver of the North-Western engine, he should like to say that statements had appeared to the effect that he had been discharged, and consequently he was in a somewhat difficult position, but he felt that the jury would not let this weigh with them, because the usual course was for the person to be suspended, and not discharged.

Station Master Explains.

James Sykes, station-master of Huddersfield Joint Station, gave evidence as to the working of the station. There were printed regulations, he said, for the working of the traffic, which was not exceptionally heavy. The movement of trains from one line to another within the station was superintended by inspectors, and shunters acted under the orders of these inspectors, of whom there were four.

What signal does the shunter give? He tells the driver when he is ready. He is in charge of the train during the movements.

In an ordinary train you would say the guard was in charge? Yes, sir.

And in shunting operations the shunter takes the place of a guard? Yes, sir.

Have you any regulations as to the duty of shunters and drivers?

Mr. Lambert here produced a copy of the London and North-Western regulations, which Mr. Parminter said coincided with those issued by the Lancashire and Yorkshire Company.

Which was the line the Lancashire and Yorkshire train on Good Friday was travelling on? The up south.

In answer to the Coroner, witness said the signals in this instance were 112 yards from the cabin.

After passing the home signals, the incoming train had no more signals to pass before reaching the place where the accident took place. The London and North-Western train was travelling on the up main line, next but one to the platform. At the time of the accident the train was travelling down the line. The traffic here was regulated by a fixed disc signal.

Had a Signal Stuck ?

In answer to Mr. Lambert, witness said the driver was not entitled to act upon the direction of the shunter if the signal was against him. The position was quite understood. He was not aware that a disc signed had stuck.

Mr. Reed: Was not the engine No. 610 larger than usual, and because of that had to be brought into the station to turn? Yes.

Was not that inconvenient? No.

When the engine got to the turn-table there were three coaches on it? Yes.

Was not that an inconvenient practice? Well, nothing unusual.

Mr. Lambert pointed out that the Railway Company had to work under the Board of Trade regulations, and it might be assumed that these were carried out.

Alfred Oldham, head draughtsman of the London and North-Western Railway Company at Crewe, and Frederick Pickles, district inspector at Huddersfield, also gave evidence.

The L. and Y. Driver's Story.

William Cliffe, Hopton, Mirfield, said that on Good Friday he was driver of the Lancashire and Yorkshire train due from Mirfield for Huddersfield at 2.22. There were no signals against him after leaving Mirfield. He saw no obstruction until he got within a yard or two of the cabin. On seeing the engine he applied the vacuum brake. The engine was not mere than twenty yards away, and he could not tell whether it was moving or standing still. The maximum speed attained between Bradley and Huddersfield would be about 35 miles an hour. He was quite certain the signals were off for him.

And you know the disc signals well? Yes, sir.

Can you pick them out with your eye as well as the others? They were all very plain. He could see the disc signal was off before he saw the engine. He bad been running through Huddersfield Station for upwards of twenty years.

If he was shunting with the tender forward, he would have to cross over the engine to see the ground signal. The fireman would be on the signal side.

Reuben Payne, signalman at No. 2 box, stated that when he came on duty at two o’clock the London and North-Western train was standing on the up north line. The signals were behind it. The driver was bound to cross over the down south line to get to the turn-table where he desired to be. He was backed into the dock to allow a passenger train to pass on the down line at 2.16. He came out. and went up the line at 2.20 with some coaches, which were shunted up the line, all the roads being clear.

Signal was at Danger.

Witness gave him the signal to proceed to the turn-table about 2.25. and shut him up there whilst a goods train came down. He was just giving the signal again when he got the Lancashire and Yorkshire passenger train on the up south, which he accepted, the London and North-Western engine being then on the up main line. It had come out of the dock at 2.31, when it went to take up its coaches. The disc was at danger because the coaches had to be guarded. He could not put the engine into the dock without putting the disc at danger.

What drew your attention to the accident? I walked towards the levers to put them at danger, when I noticed the London and North-Western engine had come off the up main line. The Lancashire and Yorkshire engine was in the act of crossing when the London and North-Western train struck it about fifteen yards from the cabin.

By Mr. Willey: The driver of the London and North-Western train either did not see the signals or disregarded them.

Frederick Thomas Holford, shunter, gave evidence as to the shunting operations. He cried, "Ready when you're ready" to the driver of the London and North-Western train, who almost immediately started. Witness, entered the brake-van to take the brake off, and the next thing he remembered was being knocked down.

Arthur Nicholson, Fartown, fireman of the London and North-Western engine, said disc was on his side, and Haigh crossed over from the other side to look at it.

The Coroner here asked if it was proposed to call the driver Haigh, and Mr. Reed, on behalf of his client, said that under the circumstances he thought not.

Mr. Reed, however, on representations being made, subsequently called Haigh.

What the North-Western Driver Did.

Frederick Wm. Haigh, of Hill House, Huddersfield, driver of the London and North-Western engine said he crossed over on his engine to look for the disc, as stated by Nicholson. He found the disc was off, and as be crossed again he heard the shunter say "Go ahead." There was a short conversation between him and Inspector Turner, and he then put on steam.

When did you first see the Lancashire and Yorkshire engine? I heard a small sound of a whistle, and not being accustomed to the footplate I had to lean out to get a view.

Witness went on to say that he had not a clear view on account of the tender being foremost. As soon as he looked out there was a crash.

Mr. Lambert said he did not necessarily accept what witness had declared, but he would not cross-examine him.

Jas. Sykes, the station-master, recalled, said that when he arrived on the scene he found the disc at danger.

Mr. Reed pointed out that if the wires controlling the disc got slackened the disc would fly back to danger.

The Coroner, in summing up, said it was clear that the signals were in favour of the Lancashire and Yorkshire train. It was only fair to Haigh, the driver of the London and North-Western train, however, to remember that, as had been testified, he had taken the precaution of looking out for the disc. If he did take that precaution and was mistaken, he could not be held criminally liable. The fire-man had said the driver crossed over, and that was evidence of care on his part. If, however, they thought that sufficient care had not been taken they must find the driver of the London and North-Western train guilty of manslaughter.

Verdict of the Jury.

The jury were absent from the room for fifty minutes. On their return they announced that, in their opinion, those killed had met with their death as the result of an accident caused by a collision between two trains. They believed the accident was caused by the driver’s carelessness in misreading the disc signal, but did not think that this amounted to criminal neglect.

The Mayor added an expression of his sympathy, and that of the town at large, with the relatives of the deceased.