Day Log/1901-10-04

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There was a derailment recorded on 4th October 1901, at 6.15pm, near Coed y Bleiddiau Halt.

The full report is in file MT6 2124/5 at the National Archives, Kew.

Transcription of the report[edit]

FESTINIOG RAILWAY. Board of Trade, Railway Department, 8, Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, London, S.W 22nd October, 1901. Sir I HAVE the honour to report, for the information of the Board of Trade, in compliance with the Order of the 11th October, 1901, the result of my inquiry into the causes of the accident which occurred on the 4th October to a passenger train which left the rails near Dduallt Station on the Festiniog Railway.

In this case, as the 6.15p.m. passenger train from Duffws (Festiniog) to Portmadoc was running between Dduallt and Tan-y-bwlch .Stations, the whole train was derailed, and ran along the ballast for about 60 yards before it was brought to a stand.

No passengers complained of injury, and the driver and fireman were also unhurt. The train consisted of a double bogie engine, bogie van, two bogie composite carriages and two four-wheeled carriages in the order named. The engine was fitted with the steam brake working blocks on the four centre wheels, and the vehicles were fitted throughout with the automatic vacuum brake with blocks on all the wheels. Both brakes are controlled by the same lever on the engine, and both are stated to have been in good order.

The wheel guard of the inside front wheel of front bogie of the engine was bent and a spring of one carriage was broken. The rails were dislodged from the chairs for a distance of about 60 yards and 79 chairs were broken, and a few sleepers damaged. The accident occurred at 6.35p.m.

Description[edit]

The line was originally constructed for slate traffic only, but for the last 30 years or so it has been authorised as a passenger line. It has nominally a gauge of 2ft, but the actual gauge is 1 ft. 11¼ ins, on the straight and 1 ft 11½ ins., on the curves, and there is practically a uniform gradient of 1 in 82 from end to end falling from Festiniog to Portmadoc.

The Permanent way at the place when the accident occurred was laid with double headed steel rails weighing 50lbs., to the yard , and 24ft long, resting in cast-iron chairs weighing 18½ lbs., fastened by two spikes (4½ by ⅝ in.) to half-round uncreosoted sleepers, of which there were nine to each length of rail. The ballast consists of river gravel and shingle, but a good deal of earthy matter is contained in it.

The train was running at the time of the accident on a left-handed curve of 4 chains radius., and with 3 ins. of super-elevation on the outer rail. The inside wheels of the leading bogie dropped into the 2ft space, the outside wheels remaining on the rails. The inside bogie wheels then spread out the inside rails breaking the chairs as they ran over them, and so all the vehicles of the train were derailed, the last vehicle coming to rest 2 or 3 yards beyond the point where the engine left the rails.

Evidence[edit]

Samuel Parkins, driver states: I have been 30 years in the Company's employment, all the time as engine driver. I came on duty on 4th October at 7.30a.m. to work to 7.30p.m. I was booked off from 2 p.m. to 4.30p.m. at Portmadoc, where Iive. These are my usual hours. On 4th October I was driver of the engine of the 6:15p.m. passenger train from Duffws to Portmadoc. My engine was a double bogies engine fitted with steam brakes on the four centre wheels and working automatic vacuum brakes on the vehicles. The two brakes are controlled by the same handle. On the day in question everything went right till just as the accident occurred, when I noticed the engine jump a little as if it were going over some ballast, and then I felt a knock as if the engine had dropped onto a chair, and then I applied the brakes. I was running from 10 to 12 miles an hour at the time on a curve. I stopped the train in about its own length. I got off my engine and found all the wheels of it on the right hand side on the rails, and the leading wheel of the leading bogie and the leading wheel of the trailing bogie inside the rails. As far as I could see all the carriages were derailed with all wheels. My engine was in good running order at the time, and I have no idea as to the cause of the accident.

T.J. Thomas, fireman states: I have been about 11years in the Company's employment, of which I have been eight years a fireman. I work the same hours as Driver Parkins. I have heard his statement read over to me and I agree with it except as regards the number of wheels derailed. I saw both inside wheels of the leading bogie inside the rails, and the leading wheel of the trailing bogie was very nearly off. I have no idea as to the cause of the derailment.

Charles Beresford, guard, states: I have been 38 years in the Company's employment, all the time as a guard. On 4th October I came on duty at 8:15 a.m. to work till 7:15 p.m. which is my normal tour of duty. On 4th October I was guard in charge of the 6.15 p.m. down train, Duffws to Portmadoc, which consisted of - engine: bogie van, eight wheels; two bogie composite carriages, eight wheels, and two four wheeled carriages in the order named. The train was fitted throughout with vacuum brake - working blocks on all the wheels- which was in good order. I was riding in the brake van next to the engine. Everything went right till just before the accident occurred, when I heard a noise as though we were running over some ballast on the rails, and just afterwards the van gave a lurch and I felt we were off the line. I at once looked to the brake, but it was already on, and the train came to stop in about its own length, i.e. 60 yards. I at once got out, and when the passengers were out of the train I looked round to see if I could see anything under the train. It was about 6.30 p.m. and, being a dull day at the time, was dark at the time. I could discover nothing to cause the accident. No passenger complained of injury.

Griffth Jones, platelayer, states: I have been 18 years as a platelayer in the Company's service. I am in charge of about 5 miles of the line, including the place where the accident happened. I was last over the part where the accident occurred, on September 30th, four days before the accident. I examined the curve both as to gauge and cant; the gauge is 1 foot 11½ inches and the cant 3 inches. It was then in good order. I do not know how long the sleepers have been in use on this curve, having been in charge of it only seven or eight months. I did not come to the place where the accident occurred till the next morning about 6 a.m. The sleepers where the accident occurred were of half-round larch but were replaced after the accident by rectangular creosoted fir sleepers. The half-round were pretty good, but nothing like equal to new. Where the line was spread the chairs were torn from the sleepers and the spikes bent over. I saw nothing to account for the accident and no marks on the rails.

J.H. Hovenden, general inspector states: I have been 40 years in the Company's service, the last 17 as general inspector. I live exactly opposite where the accident occurred and was on the spot at once. I looked round after the accident and found the inner chairs torn away from the sleepers and the rails dislodged. The chairs were all broken. A few of the chairs on the outer rail were broken by the carriage wheels and the chair spikes torn out in some cases. All the wheels were off the rails except two wheels on the last bogie carriage. The wheels of the bogies were all between the rails which had been spread out. The first marks of the derailment were two or three yards behind the train when it had stopped, and the first mark was a broken chair on the inner rail, the next chair to that on the inner rail was not broken or marked, from that onwards the chairs were all broken and appeared to have been forced outwards. The first broken chair was one next to a rail joint. There was no damage to the outer rail until some yards further on. There was no mark on the rails where the first chair was broken, and nothing to be seen where the first chair was broken that could have caused the derailment. I remember the sleepers being put down round this curve, and it was quite five years ago. I have no idea what caused the accident. A train passed over the spot in the same direction only twenty minutes before.

Conclusion[edit]

Although there is no direct evidence as to the cause of this accident, yet from inspection of the line between the scene of the accident and Tan-y-bwlch station, a mile and a quarter in length, and of the sleepers that were removed from the curve after the accident, I have little doubt but that the derailment was due to the faulty condition of the permanent way at the spot, and to the excess of super-elevation of the outer rail. The authorised running speed on the line is 17 miles an hour which is reduced to 12 miles round curves, and a super-elevation of 3 inches on the outer rail of a 4-chain curve for a speed of only 12 miles per hour would tend to bring too great a thrust on the inner rail, and to spread it outwards, as happened in this case. Fortunately no one was injured, but the derailment might have been attended with most serious results owing to the nature of the country at the place; had the engine turned to the left it would have gone over a retaining wall and fallen a distance of quite 20 feet.

There is no reason to suppose that the train was running at more than the authorised speed of about 12 miles an hour at the time of the accident, and feeling his engine drop off the rail the driver at once applied his brakes and brought the train to a stand in a space of about 60 yards. No blame, therefore attaches to Driver Parkins in any way.

This mishap will, it is hoped, cause those responsible for the condition of the line to take immediate steps to place the permanent way in the most perfect condition possible, this being necessary not only on account of the unusual risks due to the steep gradient and precipitous nature of the country, but also because the narrowness of the gauge reduces the bearing area of the sleepers on the ballast. Also additional superintendence of the platelayers seems most necessary. I have been informed by the general manager that he had decided before the accident occurred to carry out the following improvements, viz :- 1. Relay the whole line with rectangular creosoted sleepers of Baltic red timber in lieu of the half round uncreosoted larch sleepers. A portion of the line has already been so relaid.

2. Provide the sharpest curves with longer sleepers and guard rails.

3. Provide broken stone ballast for the sharp curves, and where the drainage is difficult.

4. Improve the drainage wherever possible.

5. Provide compressed oak wedges in lieu of uncompressed pitch pine wedges

6. Provide new fishplates when required. Also to appoint a new foreman platelayer to carry out the above, and to look after the platelayers generally, and repairs to the permanent way.

I trust that no time will be lost in carrying out the above, as, judging by what I saw they are most necessary for the safe working or the line.

I have, &c.,

E. Druitt Major, R.E.

The Assistant Secretary, Railway Department, Board of Trade

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  • 1) In references this is stated "an accident near Dduallt". By Hovendon's own statement, this has been established as being at Coed y Bleiddiau Halt.
  • 2) Thomas Henry Hovendon is referred to as J.H. Hovenden

References[edit]