Shiner, John

Shiner, John            1875 February 27th

On Wednesday evening last an inquest was held at the Salisbury Infirmary by Mr G Smith, the City Coroner, and a jury, of which Mr C Moody, jnr., was the foreman, relative to the death of a foreman platelayer named John Shiner, who was killed on the South Western Railway near the Salisbury station on the morning of the same day, under circumstances detailed in the subjoined evidence.

Pearce Leatherland, for twenty years past an engine driver in the service of the South Western Railway Company, said : I know the deceased by sight, and I now identify the body as that of the man we ran over this morning. I saw him at the junction to the east end of the tunnel at Milford this morning, on the curve. He was engaged in putting a key or a spike in the metals at the time. I was then driving an engine, and I saw him about thirty or forty yards off in the curve, which prevented me from seeing him at any greater distance. I sounded both the break alarm whistle and the smaller whistle, and tried all I could to stop, but it was too late, and he was knocked down by the off buffer of the engine. He did not appear to take any notice of the whistles, though they made a great noise. We pulled up dead in the tunnel, and the assistant guard went back and fetched the body at once to Fisherton on a trolly.

A juror : Had you whistled before coming to the curve – before you saw the man? Yes, the small whistle, back at the signal-box.

Another juror : Did he seem to slip when you sounded the whistles? I don’t think he knew anything until we were close upon him.

Mr Davis (the South Western Station-master) explained that the signal whistle was always sounded on approaching the place in question as a matter of course.

Witness, in answer to further questions, said he shut off steam about 200 yards before coming to the place where the man was struck, and he was driving then at the rate of seven or eight miles an hour.

Edward Jebb said he was a fireman in the employ of the South Western Railway Company, and was that morning on the engine of which the last witness was the driver. He was present at the time of the occurrence of the accident, and saw the deceased some twenty or thirty yards off at his work on the line as the engine approached him. The driver opened both whistles and witness put on the brake. Deceased did not appear to notice the whistle until the engine was close upon him. He tried then to get out of the way, but the right hand buffer struck him, and knocked him into the six foot. Witness saw the body lying on its back soon after passing the place where the man was struck.

By a juror : We blew the usual signal whistle after leaving the distance signal, and before seeing the deceased. We opened both whistles when we saw him. We kept the two whistles open and continuously sounding after we saw the man on the line, and until after we had struck him.

Mr Moses G Biggs, the house surgeon at the Infirmary, said the deceased was brought in about ten o’clock in the morning of that day. He was still living, and quite insensible. He died about two hours afterwards. He had five or six wounds on the head, the two principal of which were behind the ears, in each case going down to the fractured bone. There were large bruises over each shoulder, over the right kidney, and along the whole length of the spine. Death was the result of shock to the system.

Mr Davis said he did not know if the deceased was deaf, but the man had had many years experience of platelaying, and he was fully aware of the train being due, because it had been running from Southampton ever since he had been employed there.

A platelayer who knew the deceased said he was not hard of hearing, because he had often spoken to him from a distance and been answered all right. This witness said he heard the two whistles blowing when the train was some thirty yards from the deceased, but whether or not the first ordinary signal-whistle was blown, back at the signal box, three-hundred yards off, he could not tell, because he was not taking notice.

Mr Davis said that when a brake whistle was sounded it must attract attention. It was a very powerful warning indeed, so much so that hearing it at night when in bed he would conclude at once that there was something wrong, and would at once get up. If the driver neglected to blow his whistle at the signal-box the signalman would report it to him (Mr Davis), and there had been no such report for six months past at least. At the same time it was impossible for the pointsman not to hear that whistle when it was blown. Still, the man was in the curve at work when the train approached him, and the bank might have intercepted the sound from him, whilst the man in the box would have heard it clearly. It was singular though, that the man should not have been on the look-out for this train, because he knew of it quite well; and there was the Downton train. Mr Davis added, however, that platelayers were very loth as a rule to get out of the way of trains. He had warned them many a time about it, but they took very little notice, and would often stop on the line and go on with their work until a train was close upon them.

Several jurors said that if the engine-driver did not blow the whistle at the distance signal it could not affect this inquiry, because that whistle was not intended for the deceased, or persons placed in a like position. It was blown regularly as a matter of course; but the blowing of the two whistles subsequently was, and the thirty or forty yards notice which was thereby give was sufficient to have enabled the deceased to get out of the way.

The jury expressed themselves thoroughly satisfied with the evidence, and recorded a verdict to the effect that the deceased was accidentally killed. The foreman of the jury said they wished to suggest that Mr Davis, the station master, should caution the men employed on the line concerning their reckless disregard of danger, and that gentleman said he would communicate the opinion to the engineer.

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