On this day a man was killed by a runaway wagon at the foot of the Cwmorthin incline. The inquest gives full details and was reported in:-
The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 3rd December 1875 Page: 4
FESTINIOG. IMPORTANT INQUEST. On Monday, November 29th, the adjourned inquest on the body of Owen Owens, a young man, twenty-two years of age, killed at the foot of the incline from the Cwmorthin quarry near the village of Tanygrisiau, on the 17th Nov., was held at the Queen's Hotel, before Mr G. J. Williams, coroner, and a respectable and intelligent jury, of whom Mr Daniel Williams, scripture reader, was foreman. There were present to watch the proceedings on behalf of the secretary of State, Mr T. Fanning Evans, inspector of mines; on behalf of the Festiniog Railway Company, Mr John H. Jones, Portmadoc, with Captain P. Spooner on behalf of the Cwmorthin Slate Company, Mr Ellis Roberts, Festiniog, with Mr. J. F. Sims, Plasynmhenrhyn, the manager of the quarry; the family of the deceased was now represented by a solicitor.
The Coroner opened the proceedings by reading the evidence of Mr Andreas Roberts, at the previous sitting which was to the following effect. He said he lived at Cwmorthin, and was manager at that quarry, in which deceased worked. He died on 17th . November.
The Coroner then proceeded to take fresh evidence.
Morris Williams said he lived at Penrhyn, and worked at the Cwmorthin quarry. Knew the deceased who had worked with him for the last two years. Remembered the day he was killed. He was near him when he was killed, being with him working at the time. They found his body at the side of the Festiniog Railway - it was John Jones that first found it. Deceased was, at the time, taking a waggon from the turntable towards the foot of the incline to attach it to the chain the turntable being nearly opposite the incline, and the waggon on the line of the Cwmorthin incline. He had not hooked the waggon, but he had gone along the whole of the level space up to the foot of the incline. There was a double set of rails on the incline, one for the loaded trucks to come down and the other for the empty ones to go up. The loaded waggons were on the rails next to Rhiw, and the empty ones were to go up the rails next to the Portmadoc side. There were two loaded trucks to come down, but only one came. The loaded trucks were by their gravity to draw up the empty ones. The deceased had not had time to fasten the empty waggon to the chain ere the loaded waggon came down by itself. These two rails on the incline meet together at the bottom of the incline, so that the loaded truck came down straight on the one deceased was going to fasten, and hit it, the deceased being behind the empty one. It could not be seen coming, as there was a great fog with wind and rain. He could not say how deceased was killed, only he inferred that the loaded waggon struck the empty one, which in its turn struck deceased. Witness, looking about after the accident could not find deceased, but at last; saw him on the Portmadoc side of the Festiniog railway. There was nothing on him besides a few fragments of slates. He and John Jones found the body at a distance of seven or eight yards from the cross roads at the bottom of the incline. The empty waggon was broken in pieces, and the one they had turned went to the garden close by, and the loaded truck that came down the incline went down to John Jones's yard.
Mr Sims here explained that they, at the wish of the Festiniog Railway Company, put the brake waggon first in the train they sent down, and that the turntable was convenient for that purpose.
Witness continued and said the man was quite dead when they found him. He was much bruised, crushed, and mutilated. He was first taken down to the waiting room at the station, and thence conveyed to the hospital. The cause of that waggon coming down by itself was the breakage of the connecting link between it and the other waggon at the top of the incline, when they were ready to start down the other waggon remaining attached to the chain. Witness saw the link that broke, it was attached to the waggon after the accident. The waggons belonged to the Festiniog Railway Company, and he thought it was the business of that Company to see that they were in a proper state.
By Mr Ellis Roberts: He did not know the length of the incline. He considered that the impetus of the descending waggon was enough to throw deceased seven or eight yards.
By Mr T. F. Evans: He saw the link when the waggon had come down, hut did not see it detached. The link produced was the one attached to the waggon; of that he was sure.
By Mr E. Roberts - He was not present when Mr Sims took it away from the waggon.
By Mr Evans: He had worked there for two years and a half, but had seen no accident on that incline before but had seen accidents at other inclines by the breaking of links several times. The links were the general cause of these accidents, and not the breakage of the chains, as the former were not properly made. The Coroner said he wanted to know who was to supply these waggons and who was to see that they were in a safe condition. If there was anybody to blame, it was necessary to find him out-who was to see that these links were in such a condition that no accidents of this sort could take place. The cause of death in the present instance was plain but how could the man be thrown round the corner into the position where he was found? Mr Sims explained that the descending waggon would strike the loaded waggon and send it with great force against the empty one, which would strike the deceased and carry him that distance round the corner. One of the waggons was turned off on the main line.
Witness, by Mr Evans The descending waggon went to John Jones's yard, and the other loaded one at the bottom of the incline went over to the garden.
Mr E. Roberts said he was present to press that it was an act of culpable negligence on the part of the Railway Company, the owners of the waggons.
The Coroner said the master was not criminally liable for the acts of his servants, unless he was present with them, and this Court was not to inquire into any civil liabilities of the owners.
Mr Evans said he was not there in any judicial capacity, but acting on behalf of the Secretary of State, to see whether it was not possible to avoid these accidents in future. The Coroner observed that if he found that any person was guilty of calpable negligence, ho would take him up himself. But all that could be done there was to inquire into a criminal charge. In the coach accident near Tan-y-bwlch it was shown that the proprietors of the coach, being themselves absent, were not criminally liable for the acts of their servants, although they were civilly.
Mr Sims said he quite agreed with what had dropped from the Coroner, and what Mr J. H. Jones had told him outside the Court, that they could not proceed criminally against the Festiniog Railway Company, if it was against anybody it must be against their servants.
J. Jones said it was he that first found the body of the deceased; it was down on the side of the Festiniog Railway next to the mountain. There was a little slate rubbish on it. One leg was nearly severed from his body, and much blood ran from his face-he was quite dead. He (witness) was at the Tanygrisiau Station when the accident took place. He understood that deceased saw the waggon coming down and that he was running away, calling to Morris Williams, the previous witness, to keep clear, and that the waggon was hurled over him. There was a block there to prevent the waggons from the Cwmorthin premises coming to the main line. The empty waggon was struck, it struck the loaded one in turn, and this one struck deceased. The body lay seven or eight yards from the turn-table.
Mr Joseph Farmer Sims said he lived at Plasynmhenrhyn in the parish of Llanfihangel-y-traethau, and was manager of the Cwmorthin Slate Quarry. He was up at the quarry when this accident happened. He had spoken to deceased previously. When he heard of the accident he ran down immediately as fast as he could. On arriving down he asked where the man had been hurt. He saw pool of blood where he had been killed; but the body had been taken to the hospital before he arrived. He asked where the descending waggon had gone, and was told it had gone to John Jones’s yard near the house of Mr. Lewis, Foundry. Humphrey Roberts, John Davies, Morris Williams and others were present. He believed Morris Williams saw it go there. He knew it was the waggon that had run down the incline from its number, which was 917. He could not swear it was the waggon that came down by having seen it come but the man working at the top of the incline could prove it to be. It was John Jones who took off the broken link in his presence, and by his instructions. Some one present wanted him to leave it there in order that the Festiniog Railway Company might see it, but be replied, “No, I must have that link," and he had had it in his possession since. It was the one produced. It was the Festiniog Railway Company that supplied the Waggons to them, and put them to their (the quarry company's) sidings for their use. Probably that particular waggon had been put to their siding two days previously, but he could not prove it. They did not take the numbers of the waggons until they were loaded at the quarry, but the moment they were loaded the numbers were taken. They were then taken down to Portmadoc, and checked by their clerk there. It was Humphrey Roberts that marked the number on the waggon. He (witness) knew nothing of the interior arrangements of the Festiniog Railway Company. He did not know how the links were made; they were not allowed to interfere in anyway with their waggons, except to load them. He believed the waggon inspector of the Festiniog Railway Company was Henry Cooke; and John Davies, at Portmadoc, was to examine them.
The Coroner wished to know who was appointed by the company to see that the links were tested, but nobody offering to give the information, the jury asked if the Festiniog Railway Company could not be compelled to give the information. The Coroner replied they could have Mr C. E. Spooner summoned to give evidence on the point, and it transpired that he was then in London. Mr Roberts, one of the jury, said he was formerly slate inspector at the Messrs Mathew's quarry, and he did not think that there was anybody appointed to test them. He used to see a great many broken links attached to the waggons sent to that quarry. He used to mark on the way bill when there was a bad link.
The Coroner observed that on other lines they had waggon inspectors; it was of great importance for every railway company to have such an inspector. He (the Coroner) was determined to see to the bottom of this affair.
Mr J. H. Jones said he believed there was no waggon inspector on this line.
Mr Sims said he had seen the servants of the Festiniog Railway Company at his quarry taking the numbers of their waggons but not inspecting them.
Mr J. H. Jones remarked that the waggons are sent up empty and he thought the proper time to examine them was before they went down over the inclines loaded, and he thought they ought to be examined also when empty.
Mr Sims said that during the last seven weeks they had bad six waggons with broken links.
Mr Evans asked if they were not attached to the passenger trains going up, and the foreman of the jury said they were, and that there were men going on these waggons daily.
Mr Sims, in answer to Mr Evans, said he thought the diameter of the chain was about one and a. quarter inches, and that it ought to a strain of from six to seven tons.
Mr Evans said Mr Sims had given the safe working load of that link at about seven tons; the proof strain would be about 13½ tons, and the weight necessary to break it would be about 15 tons.
Mr J. H. Jones asked if a properly constructed link should not hold 24 tons suspended weight.
Mr Evans said it should hold about 18 tons if the quality of the iron was good, and Mr Sims calculated it at 16 tons. The latter also said the quantity of slates in the waggon in question would be from 2 tons 10 cwt. to 2 tons 12 cwt., and Mr Spooner having given the weight of the waggon at 1 ton. Mr Evans calculated the weight of the loaded waggon at about 3 tons 10 cwt. Mr Sims did not know what the angle of the declivity of the incline, but it was rather a flat one, and very flat as compared with others in neighbourhood - he should say it was one to six or seven.
Mr Evans said what he wanted to show was that the link broke with a very much less strain than a good one was calculated to hold i.e., from 18 to 24 tons.
Mr Sims said he was sure that the link was not properly welded, and he was well acquainted with the construction of such links, having spent some fourteen years in connection with such business. The links used by the Festiniog Railway Company were made, he believed, on the company's premises at Boston Lodge but he did not know who were the responsible parties there. Coroner: We ought to get at the man who tests the links.
Mr Sims, examined by Mr J. H. Jones said that looking at the wear at the other end of the link he could not say how long it had been used, but he did not think it had been in use very long, for it did not show a considerable wear.
Mr Evans, on being asked his opinion, said it had not been very much worn, nothing to warrant its giving way in that manner. Mr. T.H. Jones asked Mr Sims how he accounted for its giving way then, and he replied that the last straw broke the camel’s back, and this might have given way by degrees. He repeated that it had never been properly welded, it to have adhered at one side, but not at the other. It was the duty of the railway company to deliver the waggons to them in a proper state. The railway company's servants were not taking the numbers of the waggons at his quarry to fix the demurrage. He was not aware there was any man on behalf of the railway company to see that the waggons were in proper order whilst on his premises. If he (Mr S.) saw anything wrong with them it was duty to send the waggons down to Boston Lodge for repairs. The link must have been in a dangerous state for weeks. He did not send this down, because he had not noticed the state it was in.
The Coroner observed that material evidence was wanted and asked if there were any use in going farther this day. He thought is was a case not to be hurried over.
The Foreman expressed the wish of the jury to have the case adjourned for more evidence.
Mr J H. Jones thought it was not the duty of the railway company to send the wagons in proper order and Mr. Sims offered to bring the agreement between them and the railway company to the next inquest, showing that it was.
Mr. Roberts, one of the jurors, said that when he was slate inspector, it was not his duty to examine the waggons, but that, for the safety of his fellow workmen, he used to do it.
Having consulted the convenience of Mr C. E. Spooner, Mr J. Fanning Evans, and the jury, the Coroner adjourned the inquest to that day week.
Report of adjourned inquest a week later:-
The Cambrian News and Merionethshire Standard 10th December 1875 Page: 4
FESTINIOG. 1 IMPORTANT INQUEST.
The adjourned inquest on the body of Owen Owens, the young man killed at the foot of one of the Cwmorthin Quarry inclines, on the 17th November, was resumed In the billiard room of the Queen's Hotel, on Monday, the 6th December, before Mr G. J. Williams, coroner, and the rl jury, the foreman of whom was Mr Daniel Williams, scripture reader. Mr T. Jones. of the firm of Messrs Jones and Jones, Portmadoc, with Mr C. E. Spooner, watched the case on behalf of the Festiniog Railway Company; Mr Robert Jones, of the firm of Messrs Breese, Jones, and Casson, Portmadoc, and Mr Ellis Roberts, Festiniog, with Mr J. F. Sims, for the Cwmorthin Slate Company; and Mr T. Fanning Evans for the Secretary of State.
The Coroner observed that it was not necessary for him to read the evidence given at the former inquest, inasmuch as they had read the report in the Cambrian News, which, he said, was a very good and a most correct report; and Mr Fanning Evans added that he had not seen a case better reported. Mr Sims produced the agreement between the Cwmorthin Slate Company and the Festiniog Railway Company, and the Coroner remarked that it did not bear on the question in dispute it only provided that the latter company should supply to the former a sufficient number of waggons. He further remarked that the presumption was that they were to be proper waggons but he could not see that the agreement touched the question as to the proper state of the waggons.
Mr Sims produced plans which he had got prepared, showing the Cwmorthin incline and the approaches thereto from the Festiniog Railway, and pointed out the position of the body and of the broken waggons.
The Coroner read the substance of Mr Sims's evidence at the previous court, which was to the effect that it was the duty of the Festiniog Railway Company to deliver the waggons at the siding of the Cwmorthin Slate Company in proper order but he was not aware that the Railway Company had any person whose duty it was to see that the waggons were in proper order. lie could not learn that there was any inspector of waggons at all on this line.
Sergeant Jones said he was stationed at Festiniog. He had endeavoured to find out whether there was an inspector of waggons (on the Festiniog Railway, but he could not find that there was any. He had not seen anyone acting in that capacity, either at the Diphwys or any other station. He was in the habit of travelling on the line to Penrhyn and Portmadoc, but at none of the stations had he seen any person examining the waggons. He must, however, state that he never took any particular notice of the matter.
By Mr Thomas Jones He had not noticed whether there was anybody in particular inspecting the waggons, as he did not consider it a part of his duty to notice such a thing. He had heard that Cooke was the inspector of waggons at Dinas, he understood that he sent them to the quarries. But he knew of that only by hearsay. The Coroner asked if there were anybody present that knew whether there was any person appointed to inspect the waggons on the Festiniog Railway. It was beyond dispute that the link was not in a proper state, but the question was how to find out the responsible person. The jury must try to find out somebody upon whom to saddle the responsibility.
John Jones (who was the first to discover the body) re- called, said he did not know whether the full waggon went off the line before it leapt into the garden, but the three, the waggon that came down the incline, the full and the empty waggon which were at the bottom of the incline did go off the rails at last, one went off the line into his yard, the other went into a garden, and the other was turned on its side near the railway. He thought it was the empty waggon that went into the garden. The body of the deceased was near the point of the junction between the two railways, i.e. the Festiniog and the Cwmorthin-he had not passed off the Cwmorthin siding, but his body was near the point. He could not say whether he had crossed the point.
Mr Sims said he did not think the spot upon which the body was found was a part of their property.
Humphrey Roberts said he lived at Tanygrisiau. He was there when the body was found. The feet were exactly on the Cross of the Festiniog Railway, and the other parts of his body on the Cwmorthin line.
Mr Robert Jones asked if it were in evidence that he tried to run away, and the Coroner said it was. Humphrey Roberts said he found the body. The waggon coming down the incline struck the loaded waggon at the bottom, which, in its turn struck the empty one deceased was pushing towards the bottom of the incline. Deceased called out to Morris Williams, “Mind Morris”.
The Coroner said there was no doubt deceased was killed on the Cwmorthin line, but it had not been made clear where the body was found.
Humphrey Roberts (by Mr Ellis Roberts) He did not know whether the Festiniog Railway Company had anybody to inspect the waggons before they are sent, out on service; but if they were at all damaged whilst at the quarries, the officials of the railway are sure to find that out. During the last eleven years he had observed that if the said officials find anything wrong with the waggons they chalk their sides but he had seen some so marked coming up to the quarry without going to the company foundry to be repaired. He believed that Cooke was the person appointed to see whether the waggon received any damaged at the quarries; but be had never seen anybody examining them to see whether they were in a fit state to go to the quarries.
By Mr Thomas Jones - witness said he worked at the Cwmorthin quarry. The waggon that ran down the incline had come in to their premises about six days previously, but he was not sure about the time because they loaded the waggons in three days in one part of the quarry; but if they were taken to be loaded to another portion of the quarry they were there for six days.
Mr Sims said he believed this particular waggon was not on their premises for more than four days; there was a Sunday intervening, but he was not sure.
Morris Williams, recalled- When the waggons are turned to the Cwmorthin siding they are hooked to the incline chain to go up as soon as possible.
The Coroner said he wanted to know whether there was a responsible person appointed to inspect these waggons. Humphrey Roberts (by Mr Robert Jones) said it was Cooke that brought these waggons to them. Cooke complained if any damage was done to the waggons at the quarries.
Mr Robert Jones held in his hand a letter from Henry Cooke, and said Cooke stated the waggon in question (No. 637) was in good order when it was at the Votty and Bowydd, and the Rhiwbach quarries. Bowydd, and the Rhiwbach quarries.
Mr Thomas Jones maintained that it was the duty of the Cwmorthin Company to look after these waggons whilst they were on their premises.
The Coroner remarked that he was of opinion that the party lending these waggons were responsible for the condition they were in.
Humphrey Roberts recalled, said that when they receive a supply of these waggons they hook them by twos to the chain of the incline, when they reached the top of the in- cline they had to hook and uncouple them several times. When they are sent down they have to couple them again. It was the servants of the Cwmorthin Coy. that coupled and uncoupled them whilst they were on their premises, and it was possible for the men to do so without finding out whether they were sound or not. They did not examine the waggons before sending them down loaded, and some- times with people riding on them. They did not do this, even when waggons were long in their possession.
Mr C. E. Spooner, examined by Mr Thomas Jones, said he was engineer and manager to the Festiniog Railway Coy. The link produced had evidently been fractured, it was not owing to a defective make. It had been broken through a severe strain being brought to bear upon it, it was a clean fracture. The fracture was not at all due to its having been improperly welded, but it seemed to him to have been a clean fracture. It was very difficult to say how it happened. He knew that when waggons go up or come down inclines they are subject to very sudden jerks unless there be a very careful crewler at the top; he had seen waggons jerked on inclines sufficiently to break any links. It appeared to him that what was pointed out to him as a second fracture was done at one time and the remainder when going down the incline. The link produced being in a perfect state, it was fractured in coming down, without there being any previous fracture. He had seen a link breaking through without there being any defect or fault at all in it. In his opinion the breakage was au. accident, owing to the neglect of the crewler at the top of the incline. He could not swear whether the link produced was the one attached to the waggon. That link was made at Birmingham in 1870, the body was made there with the links and hooks attached. Sometimes the Company made them at their works at Boston Lodge. Plans of the waggons to be supplied were made, and instructions given as to their workmanship. He produced his letter-book, and showed a copy of the letter ordering them, wherein it was stated that it was of the utmost importance that the entire work be of the best materials and workmanship, the best Staffordshire iron to be used, except the links and hooks, which must be of the best iron to bear strain on inclines. He continued, and said that this particular waggon was first put on the line in 1871. It was not the special duty of any particular person to examine the waggons on their I line it was not the business of any particular person but: it was the duty of numerous officials to examine them in transit -- porters, oilmen, and the inspector at Dinas, &c. When the waggons are on the wharves, the oilmen are to couple them, so that they ought to see that all the links and hooks are in proper order-they have the opportunity to examine the links and hooks and everything. It was a part of their duty to do so. If they find anything wrong or defective they mark the waggon where the defect is found, and send it to the company's works at Boston Lodge to be repaired. He maintained that it was better that so many men should be employed to examine the waggons, than if an inspector was specially ap- pointed to look after them, because they had to pass through so many hands. If a waggon were detained over six days, the party detaining had to pay demurrage but the slate companies had a right to detain them for. eighteen day-light and working hours at the quarries, and twelve hours at the wharves. When waggons are delivered to the Cwmorthin Company, they are there at the risk of the company. The railway company has a right to go te the quarry to see that the waggons are properly used according to the agreement between the railway company and the quarry company, but the railway company have no right to enter to see whether the waggons are in proper order, and examine their state of repair. It was a part of the duty of the Cwmorthin Company to get the waggons examined, and if they found anything wrong with them to send them to the railway company, instead of taking them up the incline they are to tell the railway officials. This was not exactly in words in the agreement, but he knew it was the duty of the slate company, if they find anything wrong with the waggons, to send them up to their works at Boston Lodge. It would be possible for the men coupling or un- coupling the wagg.ms to fail to discover latent defects, but he would say that those who do so have many opportunities to see the defects, and the crewler at the top of the inclines especially. It was impossible for the officials coupling the waggons not to see defects, if there be any, as they have to handle every link they could not help seeing any faults.
By the Coroner-This defect might have taken place within two or three days previously; it was very doubtful whether the link in question had been in a dangerous state for several days. The rust seen on the fracture might have been produced in one night; it would be perfectly corroded in one night in bis opinion. The fracture was a sudden one, and it might have been produced by a jerk or two. One part of the broken link seemed to have been beaten in taking it off the waggon. Mr Sims had had considerable trouble in pulling it off-it was fastened to the head stock, and the hook was at the other end. To all appearance it had been rubbed backwards and forwards. One night might make the fracture quite rusty, although it was quite a new one. The hook was stronger than the link; it would pass quickly through the gap made in the link, but it could not rub the fracture in the way it was done. Humphrey Roberts, re-called, said he was the party that took the link off. The iron at the end of the waggon was thicker than the gap in the link, and then he had to force it through.
Mr Spooner continued, and said the responsibility for the state of the waggons would, he supposed be divided between all the officials he had named, which he considered the best way, and if they found anything wrong with them they would send them to their works. The fracture was a fresh one, but he was not sure whether it had been produced by two or three jerks it was a clean fracture as he had said before.
By Mr Robert Jones The link was turned out of the works in 1871. He could not, by looking at it, swear whether it was made at Birmingham or at Boston Lodge, but the waggon to which it was attached was made at Birmingham. Ha believed it had been sent down for repairs once only-the repair was to put on a shackle link which would be at one end of the waggon. It had all the appearance of being a Birmingham link. The links were made in the same place as the waggons to which they were attached. They were all examined by their foreman at Boston Lodge. They were examined in the best way possible, unless they had been tested by hydraulic pressure. The rubbing did not show that it was improperly welded. He saw the appearance of a weld lower down, but it did not go so far as the fracture. When their man saw a defective part they put a cross on that part, and two or three crosses on the side of the waggon, so that it might be easily be seen. A waggon might be sent down and repaired, and gone up without the crosses being obliterated. All the officials were inspectors of the waggons, and he considered that that was the best arrangement to prevent an accident. He did not blame any of the officials, as it was his impression that this breakage took place by jerking on the incline. It would be very difficult to put his finger on any one, sup- posing anyone were to blame. It would be impossible to test the links on their premises, for the only tests that could be applied were by hydraulic pressure, and that could not be done whilst the links are attached to the waggons. The weight of each waggon would be about one ton it would carry about three tons. The link would bear a pressure of about eighteen tons it was about one and a sixteenth of an inch in thickness or diameter. As he had said before, though they had a. right to enter on the premises of the Cwmorthin Company, they could only do so to see that the waggons were properly used according to the agreement. The waggons are under the care of that company as long as they remain on their premises, and if any damages are done to them whilst there, they (Festiniog Railway Company) charge them for it. He was not aware that there had been complaints made of any defects in connection with the waggons. There might have been some he had not made inquiries.
By the Coroner - Supposing there had been a slight crack prior to the fracture, it would not be easily discovered. The person whose duty it was to examine it would have a difficulty in finding it, but if it were half open of course he could see it. There might have been a latent crack, and by a sudden jerk, the fracture be completed. He thought the link was well welded he could not see any defect in the welding. Any person coupling might see if there were any plain fractures.
William Lloyd said he lived at Tanygrisiau, and was a crewler on the incline where the accident took place. Was at the top of the incline where the accident took place. Had not noticed what was the cause of the waggon going down. He found the hook, coupling that with the waggon that remained at the top, on the ground four or five yards from the top of the incline. Sometimes he and his fellow work- men examined the links, lest some damage be done, but they had received no instructions to do so. It was no part of his duty to examine these links. He had not looked at that link before the waggon went down, nor at all since it had come into their premises. He saw the waggon start down, and shouted with all his might. He had not noticed whether it was marked. He did not know who had hooked the waggon, whether it was Morris Williams or the other man.
Morris Williams, re-called, said he had not noticed whether the link was cracked; it might easily have been cracked without his noticing it. He had often before that found links with cracks in them. If there were a large crack in it he must have found it. This might be without any crack at all.
By the Jury - The waggon had come down the incline above that safely. There was more strain on the last of the two waggons going down than on the first. They let them over the top of the incline before the empty waggons at the bottom were fastened. There was no danger in that, nothing would break.
The Foreman of the Jury explained that the man coupling the waggons at the bottom pushed the empty waggon with his back to it to the bottom of the incline, and the loaded waggon might descend, as this bad done, and strike the man without his seeing it coming. He observed that to push waggons in that way was not safe.
William Lloyd, recalled, said that the presence of children on the premises continually was the greatest danger they had to avoid. John Prichard was the man with him on the top of the incline that day. It was he (witness) that attached the waggon to the chain that day. They have nothing in the shape of a block to prevent the waggons going down. There was no jerking, for there was no more than three inches at most for it to jerk-the weight of the last waggon was on the chain. He was not aware that they jerked more when empty-though they jerked a little when empty.
Mr Spooner, recalled, said the fact that they put waggons that way over the top of the incline showed that they must have slackened the chain more than they ought; and it would run several yards, when there would be sudden jerks on the hooks and links of both waggons. William Lloyd, re-called, said he had been in the habit of crewling since the first incline was made at Festiniog. It was impossible for this waggon to get more jerk than three inches. There was only enough chain for the waggons to be tight.
Mr William Lewis said he was a manufacturing engineer, and had a foundry had Tanygrisiau. Remembered the day of the accident; he saw the link produced immediately after the accident. One end of it was then attached to the waggon. He would not swear it was the link produced, but it was exactly like it. He heard Mr Sims giving orders for it to be taken off the waggon. His opinion was that it had been broken for several days before the accident, and he based his opinion on the rust that was then on a portion of the broken part. If there had been good welding, he thought it would have broken off square. If the breakage were produced by jerking that day, the fracture would not have presented any rust immediately after the accident. He saw it in three-quarters of an hour after the accident. That would be the opinion of every one that knew anything about such matters.
By Mr Thomas Jones - He could not say how long the crack might have been in it for anything he knew, it might have taken place six days before it was impossible to tell how long it had been. It might have been possible for a man coupling the waggons to have seen it days before.
By Mr Fanning Evans - He thought from its rough grain that it was not the beat of iron. By Jury - It broke in the joining. He thought that if it were properly welded it would have broken in its weakest part, and not where it did.
Humphrey Roberts, re-examined by the jury, said the waggon in question had been let down another incline that day before. The incline on which the accident took place was about 150 yards long. They coupled them at the top of the incline, when they came down in their force towards the tip, when they strike against one another. The other incline was steeper, but not so long. There was only one waggon coming down at the time on the steeper incline. The angle of the declivity of the lowest incline was one foot in five.
The Coroner said that he thought, they had at last come to the end of this inquiry, which he considered a very important one. The jury should bear in mind that the only question for them to consider was whether any person or persons were criminally responsible for this accident, and if any were, it was a question of manslaughter against such a person. In order to constitute the crime of manslaughter gross negligence must be proved. First of all, it had been proved that the Festiniog Railway Company supplied this and other waggons to the Cwmorthin Company. They must bear in mind that this waggon had been in possession of the Cwmorthin Company for perhaps six days. On day of the accident this waggon had to go down over two inclines before coming to the Festiniog Railway. The first incline was much steeper than the lowest the waggon came down the first one safely, but as it was about to be lowered down the second it became detached and rushed down with terrible velocity, came in contact and struck the empty waggon, and was evidently the cause af the deceased's death. It was necessary there should have been evidence as to how this link was broken. They had had the evidence of Mr Spooner that this waggon link was manufactured at Birmingham, and that he ordered it to be made of the very best material, and that it had been used since August 1871. and had been since repaired once. It appeared that, unlike other railways, there was nobody ap- pointed to inspect the waggons on the Festiniog Railway to see that they were in a proper state when sent to the persons hiring them but Mr Spooner said that everybody on the line, particularly the oil-men, were bound to inspect them. But there was no evidence that anybody in particular did inspect them. When a person lets an article of this kind out for hire, it is understood that it is in a fit state to be used. It appeared to him that there ought to be some person responsible for the lives of our fellow creatures, and that these waggons should be thoroughly examined before they are used each time. But this was not the question before them. It had been stated in evidence that these waggons were on the premises of the Cwmorthin Company at that Company's risk. Well let it be so but at the same time, let them be delivered to them in a proper state. It had been shown that the officials of the Festiniog Railway Company have a right to enter the premises of the Cwmorthin Company to see that their waggons are fairly and rightly used according to the agreement; but there was no evidence showing that any body was responsible for them before they were delivered there. It appeared to him that there was gross negligence on the part of somebody. The jury could not make the Festiniog Railway Company responsible; for they could not make the Company responsible for the acts of their servants, unless they were present with the servants. In this case there was a difficulty in making any party responsible for letting these waggons go to the premises of the Cwmorthin Company before they were thoroughly examined and fit to do the work intended for them. There was also another difficulty with regard to the time when the link broke. Mr Spooner was at variance with Mr Wm. Lewis. Mr Spooner said the fracture might have been the result of a sudden jerk but Mr Lewis said he was there on the spot within three-quarters of an hour after the accident took place, and that a portion of the fracture was then rusted. Mr Spooner said the link might have been broken by two or three jerks. If there were three different fractures the rust of such would have a different colour, and it appeared as if there had been two or three instalments in the fracture. If the fracture bad been done before the accident, and within the six days the waggon was in the pos- session of the Cwmorthin Company, it was open to question whether it had not been done by that Company. Mr Lewis said it might have been done a few days before the accident, or it might have been done several days. He submitted to the jury whether there was a crack in it before the waggon was delivered to the Cwmorthin Company; also whether any person had been guilty of gross neglect in letting the waggon go to their premises in that state. If the crack was of such a nature that the eye would catch it in a moment, it would be a case of gross neglect; but if it were so imperceptible that the eye could not see it at a glance, the culpability would not be so great. It was for them to decide these questions, and he felt very thankful the decision was not resting on him.
The room was then cleared, and the jury remained in consultation for some time. When the public were readmitted.
The Foreman said they were unanimously agreed: 1. That the broken link was in an imperfect state when the waggon was delivered at the bottom of the Cwmorthin incline. 2. That the accident was not the result of any gross neglect of any individual person but they seriously recommended that all links and hooks to be attached to, should, in future, be tested at the manufactory, and inspected by an official specially appointed by the Festiniog Railway Company for that purpose, each time before they are to be used.
We understand that further proceedings will be taken in this matter in another court before long.
See also[edit source]
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