Eastbourne Memories - A Victorian Perspective

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Chap. XL]               Railway Accidents.                          137
whilst it would have been highly beneficial to Bexhill would have altogether undermined the Brighton Company's London and Bexhill traffic, but no Parliamentary fight took place because the promoters could not raise enough money even to get the scheme into Parliament.
Railway accidents in the East-Bourne district have been, happily, very few. The most important was the derailment of a train at Mayfield on September 1, 1897, when the train fell over, and went down an embankment. But one of the greatest railway accidents that ever happened in England occurred on the Brighton main line in Clayton tunnel on Sunday, August 25, 1861. No fewer than 23 people were killed in a collision between 2 trains on the same line of rails, though a third train in front of the 2 trains was the indirect cause of the accident. Altogether there were about 100 casualties. It put a stopper on Sabbath-breaking excursioning for a long time : would that it had done so permanently ! Of course in those days the signalling arrangements were very different from, and inferior to, those now in vogue. On the Brighton line, up till about 1870, the system was this: the line was considered to be always clear : when a train passed a signal box a stop signal was exhibited for 5 minutes during 3 of which it was horizontal, or full " on " : then for 2 minutes at an angle of 45° or half-cock : indicating that the line ahead less than 5 minutes previously had been occupied by a preceding train. When 5 minutes had elapsed the signal was lowered so as not to show at all. It was in those days supposed that intervals of time sufficed to protect a train from being run into. Now-a-days a guaranteed interval of space, rather than time, is preferred. This is the " Block system."
An accident, not at first sight very important in itself, but fatal in its consequences, happened at East-Bourne Station on August 22, 1873, whereby a man was killed. Though I held a Brief at the Inquest, I forget the details. A passenger named Bere recovered from the Railway Company 1700 for personal injuries sustained by him; at the trial they had paid a 1000
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