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friction between the casing of a wheel and a wheel-tyre; and a first-class carriage was almost consumed. In spite of the cries and signals of the passengers, neither the driver nor any of the guards (of whom there were three) knew anything of what was going on until after the driver had shut off his steam to pull up at the ticket-platform. He then, in looking back, saw a gentleman waving an umbrella out of a carriage window. He thought at first that he had lost his hat and was beckoning to the platelayers; but afterwards, supposing that there was something wrong, he sounded the break-whistle and pulled up the train. Twenty persons were then able to alight from the carriage in question, which was rapidly consumed; and it was clear that they had had a very narrow escape of being roasted alive.
The disadvantages of placing a porter as a look-out man in that position, are-1. That in a fog, or in the dark, he may be quite ignorant of mischief going on in the middle of a train, or near the hind end of it. 2. That he is not available as a breaksman, and is therefore not made the best use of. 3. That he is helpless in the event of a coupling breaking, and some of the carriages being left behind.
The present practice upon most other lines is for the guard or guards of a train to look after luggage, and to sort letters and parcels on their journeys. These guards are not expected to see at once any danger that arises, or at least they cannot be blamed for not doing so, because they always have the excuse to offer of having been engaged upon other duties; and even when they do observe that anything is wrong, they are too often helpless. They are perhaps in the front of a train instead of behind it; or if behind it, they can only apply their own single break, and they have no means of attracting the attention of the driver.
One step in advance, from this state of things, is the employment of the travelling-porter, and another improvement is that of having break-vans constructed, as they now frequently are, with portions raised above the roof, extended beyond the sides, and glazed in front and at the back, through which a guard can always see along the roofs and sides of the carriages which form his train when there are no intermediate vehicles of undue height or width to intercept his view. The only measures wanting to afford a tolerably perfect arrangement are that a guard should be placed at the hind end of every train in a van of this description, with instructions to keep a constant look-out along the carriages and attend to nothing but the condition of the train, with a rope to communicate with the engine-driver, and with continuous breaks to apply at once to his van and two or three other vehicles in case of sudden obstruction or accident. A guard thus placed
and thus provided would be able to prevent much risk. These precautions ought, we conceive, to be adopted in all cases; and there can be no doubt that they would greatly increase the comparative safety of travelling.
We have instances of the advantages of such arrangements in the case of some, as well as ample evidence of the want of them in the case of other accidents; and, looking to the disinclination of railway companies to adopt them, it would seem desirable that they should be enforced by law. We are not disposed to advocate, at all events in the first instance, any special means of communication between passengers and guards.
There are many symptoms which notify to a guard on the look-out from behind when anything is amiss, such as disturbance of the ballast and its flying up against his glass-windows, or unusual motion in the carriages communicating itself to his van, when any of the wheels in front of him are off the rails; or the smell of fire, in case of fire; or the smell of grease, in case of axles becoming hot;-which would often not be noticeable to, or noticed by, a guard in the front van or a porter on the tender. It is further advantageous to employ a guard at the back of a train, because he has the best remedy always at his command in the power to apply his break, or breaks; which enables him, by stretching the couplings, to keep a disabled carriage on its legs, to prevent it from turning over, and the other carriages from overwhelming it, or the train from rushing forward upon the engine and tender; to prevent, in fine, the train from being doubled up and the carriages from being smashed.
As an instance of the good effects of such an arrangement, we may quote an accident that occurred to a night express train from Scotland to London. This train was composed of ten vehicles besides the engine and tender, and was travelling down a gradient of 1 in 200 within ten miles of London, when the tyre of the right leading-wheel of a convict-carriage suddenly gave way. The guard was riding in a van behind the convictcarriage, with a raised roof glazed to the front; and he saw it 'throw itself off the line.' He was provided with a cord communicating with a bell on the tender, and secured round a wheel in his van in the ordinary manner. He ran to this wheel and rang the tender-bell several times, and after having attracted the driver's attention, he at once screwed on his break. The driver, looking round, saw at a glance what had occurred. He shut off his steam, reversed his engine, told the fireman to apply his break, and whistled for the break of the other guard; and all the available means were thus put in force for stopping the train almost immediately after the failure of the tyre.
The train was pulled up in about half-a-mile without injury to any one, though the convicts, who were men of the worst class, were much jolted and shaken in running over the sleepers. They were the more frightened because their carriage was caught, shortly before the train was brought to a stand, in a main-line crossing which came in its way; was thus detached, with the van behind it, from the remainder of the train; and was thrown across the other line of rails. A composite carriage in front of the convict-carriage was at the same time overturned, but without any great violence, and without being separated from the carriage before it.
It happened that this train did not meet with a crossing or any other impediment until it had slackened speed sufficiently to render a check harmless, and that there was a guard in a breakvan at the back of the train looking out at the right moment. If there had been no guard looking out from behind, it would most likely have run on to the crossing in question at full speed without the driver being aware of what had occurred. If the hindguard had been furnished with continuous breaks, as well as with a convenient van at the back of the train and a communication with the driver, and if he had thus been able, as soon as he saw the convict-carriage leave the line, to apply breaks to four vehicles instead of to one, the train might then have been stopped in a much shorter distance; and it would have been pulled up in a complete condition, without the convict-carriage being detached from it, without the composite carriage being overturned, and with much less risk in every way than was experienced.
The remarks that we have here made upon accidents arising from the failure of wheel-tyres, apply equally to those which are caused by the failure of axles, axle-guards, axle-boxes, wheels, and couplings, as far as communication between the two ends of a train is concerned. Our space will not enable us to comment at length upon accidents of these descriptions; nor is it necessary that we should do so. They form, when taken altogether, only a small proportion of the total number; and they would all be deprived of a great part of their danger by the same precaution, of having a guard on the look-out in a van behind the train, with the breaks of several vehicles at his command. Those accidents also will become still fewer in number as experience is gained in regard to the causes of failure, the best means and modes of manufacture, and the proportions that ought to be observed in construction. Even in the case of the fracture of any portion of an engine, the most serious risks may be avoided, or the consequences of the worst accidents may be alleviated, if only a guard be on the watch, and if he be provided with a
powerful break easily and quickly applied. We may add, that any method of communication which is adopted between guards and engine-drivers ought, whatever may be its other qualifications, to be so arranged that it must of itself give warning to the driver, in the event of the fracture of a coupling. A system of breaks also which is wound off rather than turned on, and in which the break-blocks fly at once to the wheels when a coupling gives way, has certainly great advantages over contrivances in which these objects are not attained.
Crank-axles are constantly failing, and require incessant watchfulness, although their failures do not contribute much to the production of serious accidents. One very serious accident in the south-east of England, and another in a midland county, were, however, occasioned partly by the fracture of a crank-axle and partly by the defective state of the permanent way.
No failure is more to be dreaded in a train than that of the leading axle, or one of the leading wheel-tyres of the engine; and it is essential, therefore, that these parts should always be maintained in thoroughly efficient condition, and should as far as possible be placed beyond doubt. The axles of passenger carriages ought to occasion very little risk, because, after being used for a reasonable period, they can be transferred to and worn out under goods' waggons.
The boilers of locomotive engines on passenger lines explode at the rate of about three a year, and often with fatal results to those who are in charge of them or near them, but not so frequently with injury or loss of life to passengers. These explosions were formerly attributed almost invariably to the carelessness or recklessness of the men who were in charge of the engines. They were accused either of letting the water get too low in the boiler or of tampering with the safety-valves, according to circumstances. These causes enter largely, no doubt, into accidents which are caused by the explosions of stationary boilers, as these are often entrusted to persons incompetent to take charge of them; but they have very little to do with the explosions of locomotive boilers. The latter are necessarily under the charge of responsible men, fully aware of their own danger, and most attentive in the general way to their duties; and if it were considered necessary, there would be no difficulty in providing them with safety-valves with which they could not tamper. But all the experience of late years goes to show that locomotive boilers do not explode until they are almost eaten through by corrosion, provided there is no radical defect in their construction.
The precautions which are required to prevent such explosions are-ample strength in the first instance; decreasing pressure as
the boilers get older; and early renewal, especially of those parts which cannot be examined except at long intervals, and particularly when water of a destructive quality is employed, as is sometimes unavoidably the case; together with good stays in all directions, which prevent explosions and convert them into mere leaks; and personal responsibility on the part of the locomotive-superintendent. This officer ought to know the condition of his boilers, what parts of them are likely to fail first, what water is used with them on different parts of his line, what defects of construction exist in any of them, and, within certain limits, how long each will last. He may, it is true, be taken by surprise occasionally, in consequence of corrosion proceeding in a particular case with unprecedented activity; but he will run very little, if any risk even in this respect, if he takes advantage of all the warnings which he receives from time to time, and allows an ample margin on the side of safety in all
There have been two instances of engines exploding while travelling with fast trains. In one of these cases there was found to be a defect in the stays of the roof of the fire-box; and in the other a plate in the barrel of the boiler had been reduced by corrosion from three-eighths to one-sixteenth of an inch, above one of the longitudinal seams of rivets. In the latter case the engine was blown all to pieces, the fireman was killed, and the driver nearly so; but though the train was brought to a stand within eighty yards, the passengers escaped with comparatively little injury, a guard and a post-office guard having been the principal sufferers besides those on the engine.
Passing over the miscellaneous accidents which occur at levelcrossings, or from horses or cows being found upon the line, or from obstructions wilfully placed on the rails, or from excess of speed in entering a station,—all of which involve, in a greater or less degree, the question of break-power which has been already discussed, and show the extreme importance of it,-the only large item left to us is that of accidents at facing-points, at the points, that is to say, through which a train is directly turned from one main line to another, or from a main line to a siding.
On a double line of railway facing-points are necessary at junctions, but they need be otherwise used only in exceptional cases, because the points may be fixed on each line in the direction in which the trains travel, and not so as to meet them; but on a single line they are indispensable, because the trains must pass through them in both directions.
These points are weighted for the most part to stand in the position in which they are principally used, and they are ex