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Accident at Holyhead 27th August 1899

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27th August 1899
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John Hill kindly sent in this report copied from THE RAILWAY ENGINEER for December 1899. It describes what was probably the most common cause of accidents on the main line at that time.

Lieut-Col. G.W. Addison, R.E., reports:

That the Irish Mail, due at Holyhead at 2.17am, ran into the buffer-stops with sufficient force to cause the two leading, vehicles to become telescoped. Six Post Office officials, the driver the fireman and 4 passengers, were injured. The train consisted of a 6-wheeled 4-coupled tender engine, and 12 (equal to 15½) vehicles, fitted throughout with continuous brakes, the engine having a steam-brake Explain 'Steam Brake' working automatically with the train vacuum-brake Explain 'Vacuum Brake' apparatus. Move to the photographs page

The platform alongside the Down main line at Holyhead Station is about 400 yards in length, the usual stopping place of the mail trains being about 180 yards short of the buffer-stops, and almost opposite to No.3 signal-box.

The following distances may be noted from the buffer-stops, eastwards, viz: To No.3 signal-box 200 yards, to No.2 signal-box 530 yards, to No.1 signal-box 837 yards, to No.1 signal-box, distant signal, 2,002 yards.

Between the distant signal and No.1 box the Down line is on gradients falling towards the station at 1 in 240 and 1 in 130; from No.1 box to near the outer end of the platform the line falls sharply at 1 in 93 and 1 in 75; and alongside the platform it is practically level.


The total weight of the engine in working order was 32 tons 15 cwt, and of the tender, when loaded, 25 tons. Of which 47 tons 10 cwt, or 82% was on braked wheels.

The total weight of the 12 vehicles forming the train was 217 tons 17 cwt 3 qtr, or an average weight of 18 tons 3 cwt 0 qtr 16.3 lb. The vehicles were on 43 axles, of which 34 were braked. The average weight on each axle was 5 tons 1 cwt. 0 qtr 10.4 lb. The length of the engine and train was 562ft 6in.

This collision was due to Driver Gregory having failed to take the necessary steps to get his train under control before he arrived at the steep inclines between No.1 box and Holyhead Station. He has been in the Company’s service 24 years, and a driver for 8½ years; during the latter period he has frequently driven the Irish mail trains, but he had not been at Holyhead, prior to the accident, since December 21st 1898.

Gregory states that he shut off steam approaching the distant signal for No.1 box, and that immediately afterwards he applied the vacuum brake on the train and the steam brake on his engine, the two being put in operation by the movement of one lever. It is, however, important to notice that his fireman is unable to say when the brakes were applied, and neither of the guards can say more than that the brakes appeared to be ‘on’ as they passed No.1 box or immediately afterwards. This box is rather over half a mile from the stop-buffers, but if the brakes were only applied when passing the box, with the engine already almost on the failing gradient of 1 in 93, which is followed by a

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