Stacey, Charles ; Stacey, Frank 1880 November 6th
Fatal Accident on the Great-Western Railway
The inquest on the bodies of the two men, Charles and Frank Stacey, who were killed whilst at work on the line between Salisbury and Wilton on Friday last, was held at the Wilton Union, to which the bodies had been removed, on Saturday afternoon last, before Mr R A Wilson (deputy-coroner) and a jury of whom Mr Barnes was foreman.
The particulars of this sad affair are already known, and may be briefly summarised as follows : In conjunction with two other men, the deceased formed a party of packers, who were attending to the line. At 1.15 trains start both from the Great Western and South Western stations at Salisbury; and the men, attracted by the approach of the South Western train, and being unaware of the proximity of the Great Western, were knocked down, run over and killed instantaneously. The noise created by the train in proceeding was unheard, owing to the similar noise produced by the approach of the South Western, which was slightly in advance of the rival locomotive. The whistles of warning that issued, at the instigation of the driver, who witnessed the peril of the men, were unheard because of the same fact. The bodies, which were in a dreadfully mutilated condition, presented a most horrible appearance, the father, Charles Stacey, being completely decapitated, and the son having been entirely dis-embowelled. The following was the evidence adduced :
Charles West deposed : I am a packer in the employ of the Great Western Railway Company, and reside at South Newton. Yesterday morning I and five other men, including the deceaseds, composed a gang at work between Salisbury and Wilton. After dinner, the number was reduced to four, and was composed of myself, Frederick Wootton, and the deceaseds. Frank Stacey, at about 1.15, was working about three yards from me inside the rail, and Charles Stacey about fifty yards from me nearer Wilton. The spot where we were at work was about half a mile from Wilton. As the South Western train approached I glanced up, and then, looking over my left shoulder, saw the Great Western was also near; in fact it was almost close up, not being more than eight or ten yards from us. I immediately scrambled out of the way, and, before I could turn my head or warn Frank Stacey, the train had gone over where he had been standing. When I looked around I could see neither his father nor him. A minute later, however, I saw Frank Stacey about seven or eight yards distance, where he had been carried by the train. On approaching him, I found he was mangled very much and was quite dead. Of course, we were all some distance from the South Western line, and stood in no danger from that train.
Mr Barnes here remarked that he was in the train at the time, and the South Western could be watched from the Great Western train.
Witness continued : The approach of the South Western train slightly in advance of the Great Western prevented us from hearing the progression of the latter. In fact, we were looking at the South Western. I heard no whistle from the engine. There were some men working on the South Western line, but at a distance of 50 or 100 yards form us. Frank Stacey had been working on the line for eight or nine years, and his father much longer.
A juror : Is there a curve close by where the deceased Frank Stacey was killed? Yes.
The juror : For what distance could you have seen the engine approaching before the accident, supposing you were aware of its approach? I should think for about 100 or 150 yards.
Another juror : Is it usual for the driver to blow the whistle when he observes an obstruction? Mr Barnes replied that he could answer for it that the driver did in this instance. Witness said he heard no whistle, but he did not reply definitely to the question asked.
The Coroner : Are you supposed to be aware of the times at which the trains approach and so be prepared? Yes.
Frederick Wootton stated : I am also a packer in the employ of the Great Western Company. At the time of the accident I was working nearer Charles Stacey than Frank, and I saw the former knocked down by the train. At the time this occurred Charles Stacey was with his back to the train, walking between the rails of the line towards Wilton; and I was then about 20 yards from him. I was warned of the proximity of the engine by the shake it produced just before it passed me; and I had only just time to escape myself. At the time the train passed I was outside the rail nearer the South Western line. I had not time to warn Stacey of his danger. Directly the train passed I saw that it had knocked Stacey down and had dragged him a distance of 20 or 30 yards. The noise caused by the approach of the South Western train must have attracted the attention that would otherwise have warned us of the approach of the Great Western. I have been at work on the line about fifteen years. I did not hear the engine whistle. We are supposed to know the time at which trains approach.
A juror : How is it you were apparently unaware of it in this instance? We did not give it a thought.
The Coroner : Do you generally leave off working at the stated times of the approach of a train? No; we keep on working until we see the train.
A juror : Has ever an accident occurred or an escape been experienced near this spot before? Yes, we have had a narrow escape here before, and there has also been an escape on the South Western line near the same spot.
The foreman : How far do you consider the curve from where the first man was killed? It’s a very short curve. At first I thought it was about 150 yards; but I have since seen it and now I don’t think it so long.
A juryman here observed that a man was killed on the same spot some years ago.
Joseph Barkus, of Clifton-terrace, Devizes-road, Salisbury, said : I was the driver of the train which left the Great-Western station at Salisbury at 1.15pm on Friday. I was approaching Wilton, when, after I had turned the curve, I saw a man in a very perilous position about 30 yards form me. I immediately opened a whistle, and, that not producing any effect, opened a louder one. Neither produced any notice; and the train ran over the man. When I saw the man – or, rather, the men – I had shut off steam to enable me to stop at Wilton; and, when the accident occurred, I pulled up as soon as I was able. The South Western train was just in front of me at the time of the accident. When I found I had knocked the two men down I at once reversed the engine.
A juror : What distance is traversed before a train can be pulled up going at that speed? Three to 400 yards; in wet weather not so soon. I made every effort to stop when I saw the men.
The foreman : Had the first man heard the whistle when you blew it, would he have had time to have got out of the way? Scarcely; it’s a very sharp curve. I am of opinion, as I always was, that, the South Western train approaching, their attention was attracted to it, and, consequently, entirely taken from ours.
The Coroner : Is it customary to blow a whistle when you see an obstruction? Oh, yes. I did not know these men were at work here. When I turned the curve, I, in the performance of my duty, first observed the signals, and then, seeing they were clear, I saw the man. That explains how I did not see them when I immediately turned the curve.
Charles Cox, 55, Windsor-street, Fisherton, stated : I was the stoker of the engine which left Salisbury at 1.15pm. I did not see the men on the line until my mate instructed me to “hold on.” I complied by putting on the brag. As the train passed the spot I knew we must have knocked some persons down, as their hats flew from under the engine; and I also saw a man attempting to crawl away on his hands and feet from the engine in the direction of the rails. We had shut off steam for some 50 or 60 yards before we ran over the men.
Annie Stacey, of Quidhampton, daughter of Charles Stacey and sister to Frank, said : My father was 51 years old, and Frank was 25.
The Deputy-Coroner, in a brief address to the jury, said there was no doubt this was an accident, and a question to consider was whether there was any negligence to contribute to it. He, of course, did not imply there was; but this certainly appeared a dangerous part where the accident occurred, owing to the abruptness of the curve. He did not know if there would be any means of preventing its danger. Obviously, the reason the train was not heard was the fact of the South Western train proceeding at the same time.
A juror suggested that the companies should adopt a system of utilising one man in a gang for the purpose of watching for the approach of trains. Of course, he need only watch at a time when trains were expected.
Mr Lidward, superintendent of the Bristol division of the Great Western Company, assured the jury that the company adopted every method to ensure the safety of their employees. The men were all provided with time books and with definite instructions as to the system they were to pursue. One instruction stated “platelayers and labourers must desist from work on the approach of a train, and must not cross over to the other lines, but move to the side of the road nearer to the lines, to secure themselves from the risks of accidents by trains running in opposite directions.”
None of the jury impugned any blame to any person. A verdict of “Accidental Death” was returned.