In October 1865 within a fortnight , there were two separate accidents at the Camborne Station railway crossing . The second death was possibly a consequence of the first accident .
Here are details of the first accident as reported on the 20 November 1865 – in the Western Morning News
THE FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT
An inquest concerning the death of John Thomas, a porter on the West Cornwall Railway, was held at the Railway Hotel, Camborne, on Friday evening, before Mr. Grenfell Pascoe, deputy coroner, and a respectable jury, of which Mr. William Eddy was foreman. Mr. Denbigh, the traffic superintendent, was present during the inquiry.
The jury having viewed the body .
James Thomas Williams said: I am an engine driver on the West Cornwall Railway, and live at Camborne.
Yesterday I was driving the goods train which left Hayle at half-past two. We arrived at Camborne on the up line and shunted two carriages from the back of the train to the siding leading into the company’s yard. I then proceeded with the train to the points about 100 yards east of the Camborne gates, and shunted on the down line to await the arrival of the up mail train.
I received a signal from the pointsman to shunt back the train; but after it
was in motion I discovered that the gates were closed.
This was about three minutes after we passed up. On seeing this I immediately blew the alarm whistle, and reversed the engine.
The brakes were also applied. but with every possible effort to do so, we could not stop the train in time to prevent the accident.
There were 27 laden trucks and two engines, and from the wet state of
the weather the rails were exceedingly slippery, which made it impossible to stop the train before we did.
I saw the back of the train strike the gate, which divided into two parts, knocking a man away with it. It is our custom every day to shunt the mineral train from the up to the down line, in order to let the mail train pass.
Joseph Tregonning, a railway porter, said: Yesterday afternoon at three o’clock I was on duty at the Camborne station, and I saw the mineral train arrive. The driver shunted two trucks from the end of the train into the Camborne yard; the train then passed through the crossing, as far as the points – the gates being opened by the deceased-to shunt the train on to the down line to wait, the arrival of the up mail.
Deceased closed the gates and was going back to the platform, when I called to him and said “The train is coming.” There was not sufficient time
for deceased to open the gates before the train came into collision with them. I saw the breaksman, who was on the train, signal the engine-driver to stop the
train; he then jumped off and ran forward and slipped the bar of the eastern gate just as the train reached it.
Deceased was at the western gate, and on attempting to open it the train came into collision and broke it, knocking deceased away with it.
I immediately ran to his assistance, and found him bleeding profusely at the ears. I
then procured assistance, and carried him into the waiting-room. where I left him in the care of the surgeons, Messrs Vincent and McLelian.
-By a juryman: Deceased ought not to have closed the gates until the train had shunted. It was customary to shunt the mineral train at that time to allow the mail to pass.
-Mr. Mills (a juror) asked if any signal was passed between the pointsman and the man at the gates.-Witness: No. The man at the gates had no right to open them for town traffic, nor had he any business to leave them. I do not know how he could have so far forgotten himself as to close the gates before the engine had properly shunted the train, especially as he has been at that post so long.
-By the Coroner: It would have been a dereliction of duty for him to have
opened the gates for the town traffic until the train had shunted. I cannot account for his leaving the gates; I never knew him to do so before. To the best of my knowledge he was not required elsewhere.
Mr. Marston said that he believed fewer accidents occurred on the West Cornwall Railway than on almost any other, but considering the immense traffic at the crossing, a man should be placed at the gates whose sole duties should be to watch them.
Mr. Denbigh, the traffic superintendent, said that attending to the gates was really almost the whole of the deceased’s duty.
William Simmons said he watched the deceased throughout the night of the accident, but he was quite insensible, and expired on Friday morning at two o’clock, having survived the injury eleven hours.
A verdict of “Accidental death” was returned.
Deceased was 67 years of age, nearly 20 of which he has, spent in the service of the company; he was deservedly respected. The inquiry lasted two hours.
The second accident as published in the Royal Cornwall Gazette 30 November 1865. If the gate had been in position , this young boys death may possibly have been prevented .
FATAL RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT
On Monday, a boy named James Bryant, aged 14, met his death under circumstances which are detailed in the evidence at the inquest, held before Mr Roscorla, on Tuesday, and which we give below. Mr Cornish, of Penzance, watched the case on behalf of the West Cornwall Railway Company, and Mr Daniell, of Camborne, on the part of deceased’s family.
The first witness called was Captain Grose, a mine agent, of Helston, who said: About a quarter to 12 on Monday, I was driving my trap over the Beacon Hill, towards the station. When opposite Redbrook-terrace I observed a boy driving a one-horse cart towards the main road. The horse seemed to hesitate to cross the road, on which
the boy smacked the horse with his whip. I could see the horse was a spirited one.
After the horse was struck it made a bolt into the road, and turned its head towards the station.
In less than a minute, there being a bend in the road, I lost sight of the horse and cart; it went off at a great speed. Deceased was standing up in the cart, and held the reins in his hand, but appeared to have no command over the horse.
I arrived at the station in two or three minutes, and ascertained
that the driver of the horse and cart was the deceased, James Bryant. I saw also that the horse was dead, and the cart broken in hundreds of pieces.
Mary Ann Jenkin, of Carn, said. On Monday I came into Camborne, and was at the crossing at the Camborne railway station, returning to my house from the town. I had to cross the rails a little east of the station.
As I was in the act of crossing I observed the down train approaching the station.
One of the porters called out, “Be quick,” and I passed on. I heard a shriek, which appeared to be the voice of a boy. I looked up the road and saw the boy with the horse and cart coming very fast.
I heard one of the porters cry, “Stop, stop.” He was on the lower side of the rail.
By the Coroner: He was on the town side of the rail, but I cannot say positively whether he was inside the gate or outside.
As he was approaching me I called out,” My dear boy, you will killed, I can see it.”
The boy was holding back with all his might. The more he did so the more excited the
horse appeared. He passed me like a bird, and dashed right in between the post west of the southern gate and the engine.
The horse was carried away from the cart, and crushed at once. I saw the little boy either trying to get out or sliding out. His head was towards the carriages and his
feet towards me. I saw him just afterwards under the carriages.
I have often waited to observe trains go in and out of the station, and this train drew up, I think, more slowly than usual. There was one gate only at the railway crossing on the town side.
By Mr Maine: There was no person or porter standing on the south side of the gates.
By Mr Bishop: If the porter could have been one instant before he would have saved the boy, but the porter came as quickly as be could from one of the carriages on my side, and exclaimed, “Oh, the poor boy is gone.”
-By Mr Hidderley:
If a man with great presence of mind had been near the gateway where I stood he might have laid hold of the boy and tried to have saved him: I mean after the horse had been carried away from the cart. The boy threw himself back into
the cart, and held on to the rains until the horse was carried away by the engine.
-By Mr Daniell: I think if the porter had jumped down one moment before he did he might, with great presence of mind, have saved the boy. It was impossible
a porter could have stopped the horse.
Joseph Tregonning said. I am a porter upon the West Cornwall Railway, at the Camborne station. Yesterday at half-past 11 o’clock I opened the Eastern Gate, for the down train, which was at this time coming in over the points about 100 yards distant.
I heard a boy screaming. I looked up the road and saw a boy coming with a horse and cart towards me, as fast as the horse could gallop. I ran towards him to try to
stop the horse. I had been standing at the south side of the gate, but found it was impossible to stop him. I then ran to signal the driver to see if I could stop the train, by which time the horse had got over the rail. The engine then struck the
horse on the further shoulder and knocked it away. The break van struck the cart, and tossed the boy out, and drew him under the wheel.
By Mr Charles Budge: We had a chain provided as a temporary protection for the public, there being no gate, but we did not use it on this occasion.
By the Coroner: There has been no gate on the south side since last Thursday week, when it was broken by an accident.
A chain has been kept there as a temporary security, not to protect the public, but to protect the line at night. I have always stood in the gateway since the gate was destroyed, on the approach and departure of the trains. I have done so to
protect the public against danger. The horse was galloping when it passed me.
By Mr Daniel. the engine and the tender struck the horse, but the boy only came in contact with the break van. The train was going very slowly at the time, and by the concussion with the break van the boy was thrown out. I do not think
if the gate had been there, it would have been strong enough to stop the horse. There is a high wall and some trees inside it east of the crossing, which prevent porters coming down from seeing the train coming in on the down line.
Mr Libby, a mine share dealer, of Camborne, confirmed the first witness’s evidence. He saw the boy Bryant in a single-horse cart, about 40 yards up from the station gates. The horse was trotting very fast, and the boy was calling out, “Woa,Woa.”
Tregonning ran out to meet the boy, and witness heard him say “Stop, stop.” He appeared to have done all in his power to stop the horse.
By Mr Hidderley: I think if there had been a gate there it would have saved both the boy and the horse. The boy did all he could to stop the horse. The train was coming in very slowly, and the engine driver and all the officials appeared to
do their best to stop the train and prevent the accident. At the moment the engine struck the cart , the boy was in it.
Tregonning did everything in his power to prevent the accident, and was standing all the time on the south side. Had the gate been replaced it would probably have saved the boy’s life. The horse was not going more than from six to seven miles an h
Tregoning stopped the pace of the horse very much.
If a gate had been there most likely no accident would have
occurred. The chain, if used, might have prevented it.
James Eddy, a shopkeeper, of Camborne, said: The horse and cart spoken of by the witnesses were mine. The deceased, Joseph Bryant, has been my servant ever since May last; a part of his duty was to drive the horse and cart, and carry out
flour to my customers, who are in different parishes. I purchased the horse last April twelve months, and since then I have driven it frequently myself; it was then about two years old.
I was informed it had been used in a cart before. It was then quite a colt, and a lively spirited horse.
Deceased was about 14 years of age. He had been accustomed to drive horses
before he came with me. He always spoke well of the horse, and never complained of it. About 12 months ago William Thomas, a labourer of my father’s, was driving the horse from Barripper, when it ran away . This is the only time I ever knew of the horse running away.
James Doyle Sheriff said: I am resident engineer of the West Cornwall Railway. The gates of the crossings are subject to my inspection. One of the gates was destroyed on Thursday the 16th. It was the south gate, and was rendered totally unfit for use. I came from Penzance on the following morning, and took measurements for a new one, which will be longer and higher than the old one. I made a rough drawing the same morning, and gave directions to the carpenters to have the gates made. I gave the directions to the inspector.
The timber was not cut for the gate until the following Wednesday, owing to the difficulty of getting sawyers.
Since the railway has become the property of the Associated Companies
we have purchased the timber ready cut. On Wednesday last they began to make it, and it is now nearly completed.
By Mr Burgess: We do not keep duplicates of the gates.
By a Juror: It was the duty of the porters to keep up the chain in the absence of the gates, but it is not part of my duty to instruct the porters; they are not in my charge.
By Mr Cornish: It would be in my department to issue the chain, but not to instruct the porters.
By the Coroner: It would take seven days to make a gate such as the one required.
Mr Hidderley: I should think twenty-four hours quite enough.
by Mr Allen: Sixteen trains a day pass the Camborne station; these include the passenger and luggage traffic on week days. There are four trains on Sundays.
The Coroner, in summing up, said the question for the jury
to decide was, whether there was culpable negligence on the
part of the railway officials. If they considered that there
was, their verdict would be that of manslaughter; but if on
the contrary, no such negligence was considered to have been,
then their verdict would be that of accidental death.
The room was then cleared, and the jury consulted for an
hour and a half, ultimately returning the following verdict:-
That whilst the said Joseph Bryant was driving a certain
horse and cart, the horse ran away, and coming in contact
with a railway train, the said Joseph Bryant was accidentally,casually, and by misfortune instantly killed; but they feel bound to express their regret at the great delay on the part of the railway company in replacing the gate which had been accidentally destroyed some days previously, as, had there been a gate across the road, in all probably the accident might not have proved fatal.” The inquiry lasted six hours.