Dent, Mr

The Inquest on Mr Dent

The inquest on the body of Mr M Dent, who died at the Infirmary, was opened at that institution this (Friday) afternoon. The Coroner said the inquiry was the wish of the family, but he proposed only to take evidence of identification, and then to adjourn.

The jury having been sworn, with Mr Jas. Bingham as foreman, the body was identified by Mr Edward Dent, son of the deceased, who stated that his fathers age was 63. The Coroner then gave a certificate for burial, and the inquiry was adjourned till Wednesday.

Dent, Mathew        Adjourned Inquest            1884 June 21st

The adjourned inquest …. was opened at the Council Chamber on Wednesday morning, at 10.30, by Mr G Smith (city coroner). Mr James Bingham was foreman of the jury. Mr Goble, of Fareham, represented the friends of the deceased. There were present on behalf of the company : Mr H Hall, solicitor; Mr W Adams, locomotive and carriage supt; Mr J Drage, district engineer; Mr H Colson, supt of the permanent way; and Mr T Higgs, supt of the running department. Mr Fulton, who represents the friends of the late Mr G Waters, of Toyd; Mr Stanford, of Breamore, and others, were also present.

Sarah Bowditch deposed that she was a nurse at the Salisbury Infirmary. She remembered Mr Dent being brought to the Infirmary and taken to the accident ward. She was with him the whole of the next day. He died at about 5.30.

Robert Miles, locomotive driver in the employ of the Company, said that on the 3rd inst., he was driving the 4.33 passenger train from Salisbury to Wimborne. There was another engine attached to the front of his engine, of which Thomas Butler was the driver. They started from the Salisbury station at 4.39 by his time, thus being six minutes late. They arrived at Downton at 4.54, which was five minutes late. They started again at 4.56; they should have started at 4.50. He found no oscillation other than would arise from the working of the springs in any part of the journey; there was no violent oscillation. At the pile bridge, which was near where the accident occurred, he found the engine gaining in speed. On turning half-round he saw the van next to the tender jumping; it was, however, still attached to the tender. The train must have proceeded in this manner for some distance.

They were then going down an incline; and in going down an incline there was never enough strain on the couplings to break them. Thus at the time of the accident there was not sufficient strain on to cause them to break. His was the train engine. At the time of the accident the steam of both engines was on. Even after the train had become detached and rolled over the incline the engine still proceeded about 300 yards. The van was still attached to the tender but off the road. At the time the accident occurred the speed of the train did not, in his judgment, exceed thirty-five miles an hour. A ballast train had, he believed, been working on and off on this line for some time; but he was not aware that any repairs had been going on at this particular spot. He had never had occasion to report that line was bad at this point. There was a nasty “S” curve between Alderbury and Downton that was rather bad about a twelve-month ago; but as soon as it was complained of it was remedied.

By the Foreman : He had no instructions on leaving the station that day to make up the time they were behind. They never received instructions to make up time when leaving a station if late; it was left entirely to their discretion. Two engines being attached to a train would not necessarily increase the speed. Indeed, he could drive at two miles an hour down an incline if he wanted to with speed on.

By the jurors : If ever the driver lost time the guard took “tally” of it. That “tally” was sent to headquarters; and afterwards the driver was asked to give a satisfactory account. If he could not give a satisfactory account he was liable to be fined. In driving the speed was left to the judgment of the engine-driver; and there was no communication between two engines so as to be able to indicate at what speed each engine was going.

By Mr Goble : The engines might have different driving power on at the same moment. It would thus happen sometimes that if the front engine was short of steam the engine behind might drive it on. It would not then follow, however, that the engines would jolt one another. The time at starting he took by his watch; that watch was only regulated at his own discretion and occasionally might not be right. The running-time between Downton to Breamore was five minutes.

Then I suppose if you were late you would not care as to between what places you made it up? Oh, yes, I should. I should never make time down hill. If you look at the book for this spot I don’t suppose you’ll see any time made for six months.

When do you make up time? Uphill.

Witness (in continuing) said he should make up time, for instance, between Salisbury and Alderbury. In going down the incline before where the accident occurred he had not the break on?

Would not a train running down a fall of 72 feet as this was go much faster with two engines without the break on? No.

And that’s the answer you wish the gentlemen of the jury to believe? Yes, sir.

Witness, in continuing, said that on the previous day he drove a train of the kind to which on the 3rd the accident occurred. It took him six minutes then to run from Downton to Breamore. He should say that to go down Downton to the place where the accident occurred took on the day of the accident about three minutes, which was about the usual rate of running. It was not more dangerous to run over a curve like that at the place where the accident happened then over an ordinary line. There were plenty of such curves on the main line between London and Salisbury of a much smaller radius than this one. On going over the line after the accident he saw a rail bent and some sleepers shifted in the ballast – one or two to the extent of four inches. Chalk was, he believed, put down on this road on the same day as the accident On the previous day (Tuesday) he went over the line where the accident occurred with six coaches and three vans. Then a minute was lost between Salisbury and Downton and two minutes between Salisbury and Breamore.

By Mr Hall : If a driver left Salisbury five minutes late and arrived at Downton five minutes late, he would not expect to be fined. There was thus no personal reason for making up time at the time of the accident.

Thomas Butler, the driver of the pilot engine which preceded Miles’, said that when the train started it was 4.38 by his watch. He believed that his watch was correct. He did not look at his watch when he arrived at Downton; there was no necessity for him to. He had often driven over this line. In the past he had reported more than once to the foreman of the permanent way the state of the line, and he had always found his complaint attended to. When the accident happened they were not going at full-speed; he should say the speed was from 30 to 33 miles an hour. Full speed would be 45 or 50 miles an hour.

The Foreman : How do you judge the speed? By experience, and by looking along the road.

You can tell within five miles an hour? Yes, five miles or ten miles an hour, and that’s very good. There’s nothing on the engine to indicate the speed.

By the jurors : He had been over the line since the accident, though he had not observed it intently. He did not see the chairs out or the irons loose, but he saw some of the keys out on the piece of line running from where the accident occurred nearly up to the Downton station.

By Mr Goble : He would not assert that they did not go faster then 30 or 33 miles an hour on other parts of the line before where the accident occurred. The speed was, generally speaking, the average speed.

Were you not asked at the Breamore inquest by Mr Fulton how long it took to run the first mile between Downton and Breamore? Yes, and I replied it was a most absurd question; in fact, a most ignorant question. I said that if a man took out his watch and looked at it every mile between Salisbury and Exeter, he would not get to Exeter in a week. And that’s so. We can’t tell the speed at different points or of individual miles.

But if your experience teaches you at what number of miles you go in the hour you can tell us in what time you run one mile? No, I can’t, you want the tick of a clock to judge that. Go over the line with me to-morrow and I’ll tell you to the tick of a clock; but I can’t else.

But you know it was 30 to 33 miles an hour by your experience? Yes, decidedly.

Witness re-explained that he could not tell the speed at different points in the line; he had nothing to direct his attention to it. The couplings were not slack (he continued) going down the hill before where the accident occurred. The pilot engine was not attached to the train because it was required to help the train; but because it was best way to get to Verwood, whence he was required to bring another train. There was no communication between the guards and drivers on this branch. If anything were wrong the guard might wave a red flag and it might attract the driver’s attention. But beyond that there was nothing in the case of an accident by which he could let the driver know. He found not the slightest difference in the speed of the train after it went off the line; his attention was attracted solely by seeing a cloud of dust arise. In a train composed as this was with a leading guard’s van that would obstruct the drivers’ view of the hinder van on a straight piece of line, though it would not on a curve; so that in case of accident there would be no means of communication between guard and driver. In this case the guard was in the second van. A driver could with difficulty communicate with a guard in the first van but then on this branch there would be no communication between the guard in the first van and the guard in the second van. On the main line there was a communication cord along the train, but not on this line. A train like this would not go faster down an incline because of having two engines; it would not, indeed, go so fast.

By Mr Hall : If the driver wanted to communicate with the guard he could do so by opening the break whistle.

Frank Saunders, fireman of the pilot engine, said, in the course of his evidence, that he did not know at what time the train left Salisbury, nor could he tell how long it took them to run to Downton. He had never walked along this particular section of the line until after the Breamore inquest, but he then saw that several of the keys were loose. This was nearer Downton station than the spot where the carriages first left the rails. The speed they were travelling at the time of the accident was from 30 to 33 miles an hour.

By Mr Goble : They often ran with a pilot attached and never felt any difference whatever.

By a juror : It was his duty to use the hand-brake; but it was not used by him before the accident.

Richard Scadding, fireman of the train engine, said that his attention was first attracted by finding the train going a little faster. On turning round he saw the van attached to their tender off the rails. It was, however, still coupled.

At this point it was thought a convenient stage of the inquiry to produce the two coupling-irons. Before they were put in, Mr Ridett, locomotive foreman of the Salisbury station, identified them as having been connected with the fatal train. Mr Ridett was considerably questioned by a juror as to the quality of the broken link, which, it was admitted by him, must have been broken by the weight of the carriage bearing upon it.

Do you think,” said the juror, “that such a link (pointing to the broken one) ought to be sent out to do this work?” “There was,” said Mr Ridett, “certainly a flaw in it.”

Do you think,” repeated the juror, “that such a link ought to be sent out to do the work?” “If we could see inside the links, I should say ‘No.’”

Do you think,” repeated the juror, “the man who welded this passed it without knowing the flaw was there? I tell you as a man who has had to do with iron work all my life that there is a difference in the sound?” “Well,” said Mr Ridett, “the edges appeared sound.”

In continuing, Mr Ridett said these couplings were tested every day. The train was made up in London and there tested; on arriving in Salisbury the couplings were again examined and seen if they were apparently safe.

Mr Ridett, in reply to Mr Goble, said he was responsible for trains leaving the station in a safe condition. But he had a number of examiners under him. After this train came in from Wimborne at 12.18 he saw one of his examiners examining it. It was the man’s duty to examine the coupling chains as well as the wheels. The wheels he would tap with the hammer; but the couplings would be submitted to “eye examination.” There was a connective chain lost, and it had not yet been found. He did not know that any specially diligent search had been made for it.

Is there a difference in the carriages which run on this line and the carriages which run between London and Exeter? Yes.

What is the difference? All that run on this line are four wheel carriages; Those on the main line are some four, some six and some eight wheel.

Any other distinction? On the main line they are larger. Similar carriages to those used on the branch line are, however, in use almost daily on the main line.


Is there any difference in the brakes? Nearly all the trains on the main line are fitted with automatic brakes.

Are not these refuse carriages? Oh, no! I take it they are used on the branch line because they are not large enough for the main line traffic.

There was also (continued the witness) a difference in the coupling; on the main line it being screw coupling, and on the branch line chain coupling. This train had, he believed, when starting, to wait for the London express, which was four minutes late. There was increased traffic because of Bank Holiday having been on the previous day.

By Mr Hall : Certainly, he did not think there was any difference in the safety of the couplings. Chain couplings were especially adapted to this train, because it was a block train. He had said there was no means of communication between the guard and the driver, but if the guard were to put on his break that would apply to two carriages, and that would immediately attract the drivers attention.

By the Foreman : This train was sent down from Waterloo last December. It would depend on the wear and tear how long trains were kept working.

Miss Catherine Hill, of Downton, the sister of the rector of that parish, stated that after hearing of the accident she walked to the spot. She had to proceed about half-a-mile along the line. She noticed that some of the keys were fallen out – ten at the very least, and she believed there were a good many more; they were scattered all the way along. She, indeed, saw the first key almost directly she got on the line, so that they were out at a point long before where the train went off the line.

By Mr Goble : Her impression was that there were more than ten keys loose, and she only went on one side of the line – the right hand side. After the accident, there was a man hammering on the line near where the accident occurred, but she could not say what he was doing.

Samuel Morris, superannuated sergeant of police, residing at Downton, who went to the scene of the accident the same evening at about 7 o’clock, said he got on the line at about 600 yards from where the accident happened on the right hand side. The first thing that attracted his attention were two keys out. From that spot to the pile bridge, he saw at least 20 more out. The train left the line at some distance from that. There did not appear so many keys out after leaving pile bridge. On coming back on the left-hand side of the line he saw that several keys were out there.

By Mr Goble : On going down the line next morning at about half-past nine he saw that all the keys were in.

By a juror : As he went down the line on the night of the accident he saw many of the ends of sleepers above the ballast.

Albert Nicholas, a ganger, was then called. Previous to his being examined he was warned by the Coroner that he need not answer the questions unless he chose. It might be – he did not say it would be – that some one would be implicated. The witness said that he had not been at work at the place where the accident occurred for at least three weeks before the fatal evening, and on the last occasion he was employed in filling in ballast. His duty was see that the keys were all safe and in their proper place and for that purpose he walked along the three miles of line he had to look over twice every day. On the day of the accident he had been over the line once and seen if the keys were out, and put all out in. The number of keys which he found out of place varied considerably. Sometimes he did not find a single key out of place, and at others he had found as many as eight, but as far as he could recollect he had never known this number to be exceeded.

By the jurors : They often put nails in to keep the keys firm, but they would only do it by the orders of their superiors.

By Mr Goble : They would put nails in when they had any.

I thought you said you only put them in by order of your superior? Well, we put nails in when we got them.

Then at the time of the accident you had no nails? No.

When did you become short of nails? Some little time ago; can’t say when.

Who did you report this to? Mr Mortimer.

Did you report to him that you were short of nails? Well, he had not been on long, but I asked him once.

Before or after the accident? I can’t say.

Keys are shaken out, especially in hot weather, aren’t they? Yes.

Is it not a fact that when a key is loose a nail should be put in? Yes, to keep the key in.

In further examination by Mr Goble, witness said that on the very day of the accident he had placed chalk at the spot where the accident happened to ‘bind’ the ballast.

Was it not because the line was depressed there? No.

Are you sure? Yes.

Did you not say at the Breamore inquiry that you were repairing it because the line was a little low? That was below where the accident happened.

What are the keys you use made of? Oak.

Have you never heard of stone keys? No.

By Mr Hall : When he had no nails he put packing in, and he thought that was as good as nails.

By the Coroner : He himself put in eight keys between pile-bridge and Hale-bridge after the accident.

James Mortimer, inspector of permanent way, in whose district the spot where the accident occurred is included, said that he went over the line twice on the day of the accident but he noticed nothing wrong or out of place. Nicholas had never reported to him that the keys were constantly coming out, but he certainly told him on the Thursday or Friday previous to the accident that he wanted some nails. He said, however, that there was no particular hurry for them, so he did not supply them until two days after the accident.

By the jurors : Some of the sleepers were uncovered. He certainly would say that there were not a thousand uncovered. They were all covered up little or much.

By Mr Goble ; Mortimer’s duty was to fasten the keys; and if the key was loose to take the key out and drive a tight one in. It was no use driving a nail into a loose key. If he hadn’t tight keys it was his duty to apply to him for them. When he applied for nails he told him he had a few to go on with. After Nicholas spoke to him he told the clerk at Mr Colson’s office at Ringwood to send on the keys, but he did not get them till the following Thursday.

By Mr Hall : There were really three ways of remedying a loose key – putting in a tight key, packing, or putting in a nail.

Nicholas, recalled, was asked if he had a stock of keys at present. “Yes,” he said, “I have. I’ve had them about a month. I had some at the time of the accident.” When he asked Mortimer for nails he had none left. He did not tell Mortimer he had a few left.

It was now nearly six o’clock, and only one half of the witnesses had been examined. The jury then decided to adjourn until the next morning.

On Thursday morning the inquest was resumed at ten o’clock.

The first witness was the guard of the ill-fated train, George Waters. He stated that the train, which was timed to leave at 4.33, actually left at 4.38, according to his watch. The pilot engine was attached that it might proceed to Verwood, where, he believed, a goods engine had failed. It was usual in a single road when a engine was required, to attach it to a train. They arrived at Downton, a distance of 8½ miles, in 14 minutes. It would, perhaps, take a minute and a half at that time to get up the speed in starting, and, perhaps, a minutes delay might be caused in diminishing speed that they might stop. They remained two minutes at Downton. The distance between Downton and Breamore was three miles, and it usually took five minutes to do it in. In their passage to Downton from Salisbury they gained two minutes, being one minute between Fisherton and Milford junction, which is about 2½ miles, and one minute between Milford junction and Alderbury junction, which is about four miles. After having left Downton about two minutes, and while they were passing Hale-bridge, the train seemed to be proceeding at the usual speed; but after they had passed the pile-bridge by about 300 yards he experienced a tremendous shaking and oscillation in the van, which appeared to be off the road. Scarcely a second elapsed before the van turned over. He was pretty much shaken and knocked about the chest. He could give no idea as to how the accident happened.

You were going down an incline when this happened? What power has the driver to reduce speed? He can put the steam off or put the brake on.

And if he had the steam on and the brake off in going down an incline 1 in 78 would not the train increase in speed rather then diminish? Oh, yes, certainly.

The Foreman : Do you not think that two engines would go faster than one without any effort being made to reduce speed? Oh, yes, two engines must go faster then one.

By the jurors : His attention was not called at Downton station to the speed at which they were travelling.

If anything goes wrong what means of communication have you with the driver? We have no communication cord on this line. The only means would be the brake-power and signal flags. The Company do not attach communication cords to any trains unless proceeding 20 miles without stopping.

How long would it take to call the attention of the driver? Well, it would depend on the road. If going down an incline the effect of the brake would not be felt so quickly.

In reply to a further question the witness said that supposing there were a guard in the front van he should have had no means of communicating with him.

By Mr Goble : There was a window in the luggage-van out of which he had occasionally to look to see if there were any signals from the driver. He did not, however, attempt to look out of this window after they left Downton, because he was busy in sorting the luggage. When there was an extra number of passengers as on market-day he did not usually have an assistant-guard; and thus, before starting he had, perhaps, increased duties to attend to. As soon as the train arrived in the station it was his duty to go around the train and see that the carriages were properly coupled and that the train was ready for running. He went around and examined this train. The pilot was first attached and then detached again, and then re-attached. Generally speaking he on this day performed his duties as usual. The train was very light for a market-day; indeed they had not had so light a train for six months.

There was, he should think, no greater danger in having two engines attached to a light train or to a heavy train. He should think the train was going at the time of the accident about 35 miles an hour. A driver was not required to make up for the time a train was late in starting. He had never had any complaint as to the fast driving on this line made to him; and he had never any cause to complain to the driver. He certainly should complain to the driver if he thought they went too fast.

Mr Goble pointed out to him that the regulations required, in the case of a late train, the driver to make up two minutes in ten miles.

The Coroner : But in this instance he made up two minutes in five or six miles? Yes.

In further cross-examination the witness was closely questioned as to the rate of speed at which he ran before and after the accident. He explained that the calculation of 35 miles an hour at which he had estimated the train was running on the day of the accident did not include any estimate for stopping or starting. The average rate of speed by the train was 34, 35, or 36 miles an hour. He should think it would take about a minute and a half, or a little more, to do the first mile from Downton.

Would you be surprised to hear that on the 17th of June you took to run this first mile 2min 10 sec? No, for since the accident we have not run so fast.

Would you be surprised to hear that you took 2min 10sec to run the last mile before reaching Breamore? No.

Would you likewise be surprised to hear that you once took only 1min 15sec to run from the pile bridge to Read’s crossing – that you went there at the rate of 60 miles an hour? I don’t think we went at that rate.

Will you swear? We were not travelling at that rate. I won’t swear because we didn’t take the time of the centre miles.

Witness (continuing) said that it was not usual in these trains to have two guards. Having a van in front immediately in rear of the engine would not obstruct, any more than on ordinary occasions, his view of the engine from the van behind. On the London and Exeter line if they had two vans they would have two guards; and the front guard would be able to communicate at once with the driver. He did not know, however, that with these light trains there would be more safety with two guards; of course, a front guard could more easily communicate with the driver.

By Mr Hall : It was not usual to have more than one guard on the line. He should not think it at all necessary to have two guards to a train of the description of that which the accident occurred. Even if there were two guards on the London trains they would each have more to do than he would on the trains on this line because the London trains were longer and the luggage considerably more. If anything were wrong in the trains on the line he could call the driver’s attention by jerking the brake.

The Rev. Robert John Bunbury, of Downton, stated that he got into this train at Downton to go to Fordingbridge. It was late at Downton about five or six minutes. He travelled in a third-class carriage, the second from the engine. He thought the train considerably oscillated as the steam increased and they proceeded down the incline. On reaching the pile bridge, he remarked to his brother, who sat opposite him, that he thought they were going at an alarming pace. They were travelling so fast that the water seemed to flash by. He added to his brother, “Hallo, I believe we shall be off the line.” He began to get nervous; and almost immediately after he felt a terrible jerk of the carriage which seemed to lift the carriage off the rails. Then a violent lurching of the carriage to the other side followed, and he then heard a low rumbling noise as if the wheels were going over wood instead of metal. He remembered no more except that they were frightfully jostled up and down. The carriage in the end was turned over, the wheels being in the air, and he got out through an opening in the side, his coat torn and arm sprained and the nervous system very much shaken. He should say that they were going about 40 miles an hour before the accident. In taking walks in the neighbourhood he had often noticed the great speed at which the train seemed to go down the incline. More then once he had seen the engine oscillate a good deal by the pile bridge.

Mr William Reynolds Neave, of Fordingbridge, who was a passenger by the train, stated that he noticed that the speed was great. At the Alderbury junction there was a considerable lurch. Since the accident he had noticed the time which this 4.33 train ran from Downton to Breamore.

On the 10th of June it took 5¼ minutes. On the 13th June he travelled by the 7.15 train from Salisbury, and it then took 5½ min. On June 16th he travelled by the same train; it left Downton at 45 min. 20 sec. past seven, it passed Hale-bridge at 47min. 23 sec after 7, pile bridge 47min 50sec after 7, Read’s crossing 48min. 50 sec after 7, and arrived at Breamore at 51min 5sec after 7. On the 17th he again travelled by the 4.33 train. They left Downton at 58min 20sec after 4, passed Hale-bridge at 5hrs, 0min, 30sec, pile bridge at 5hrs, 1min 5sec, Read’s crossing at 5hrs, 2min, 30sec, and arrived at Breamore at 5hrs, 4min, 35sec.

By Mr Goble : After leaving by the fatal train on the day of the accident they went faster then they usually did. The first intimation of anything being wrong was a lurch similar to that he experienced at Alderbury. The speed had been great all the way down the incline. He was a constant traveller by this train; and he thought the speed on this day was faster then usual. Considering that between Downton and Breamore they had three miles to run and did it in five minutes and that it took a certain amount of time to get up and shut off steam he should say that it could not take much more then a minute to do the middle mile – between Hale-bridge and Read’s crossing. He believed it was often done at the rate of 60 miles an hour. He saw that on the 10th it was done quite at the rate of that speed; on the 16th the pace was not quite so fast.

Frederick Lawford, the signalman at the Alderbury junction, stated that this 4.33 train passed his junction according to his time book at 4.48.

Mr William Adams, locomotive engineer of the London and South Western Railway, stated that he came down to Salisbury on the day following the accident, and at once proceeded to the spot. He was of opinion that the breaking of the centre coupling between the first van and first carriage in the train was the cause of the accident. He could come to no other conclusion. It was the coupling the jury had examined. He thought some sudden snatch occurred which threw the strain on to the side couplings; and that the accident then occurred.

What caused the breaking? It is but a matter of opinion. It may be that the driver putting on steam, the coupling being defective, that might have finished the fracture.

In further evidence Mr Adams said he could form no opinion as to what caused the jolting of which the witnesses had spoken. Jolts were experienced in everyday travelling. Rolling stock and roads were never perfect; and jolts were incident to railway travelling.

The Coroner at the request of Mr Fulton asked what was the general depression in the line caused by two engines going over it.

Witness : From three-eighths to half an inch, which would be caused by a number of factors, and the deflection would be the same with one engine. In going round a curve the lateral friction (said Mr Adams subsequently) would, he should say, be nil if the rails were properly adjusted.

As a fact,” said Mr Adams, replying to a question by the foreman, who had asked if the fact of the double curve might not have had some influence in the accident — “there is no “S” curve here; there is a piece of straight line to the extent of nearly 100 yards between the two curves.”

A train really went steadier on a curve than on a piece of straight line. He admitted that if one of the middle carriages went off the line first, his theory as to the cause of the accident fell to the ground. This train was originally made up in London in December last; but in the country a break-van was changed and a carriage was added.

Mr Adams put in a statement as to the age of the carriages. One of the vans was built in 1865, the other in 1860, four of the carriages were built in 1865 and two in 1862.

In reply to Mr Goble, the witness said that the carriages which composed the train were all of the same character as far as the material parts were concerned.

By Mr Hall : Assuming the road to be good he saw no reason why the train might not run over this line at a rate of 40 or 50 miles an hour. He should have no fear in thus travelling over it.

Witness : And I ought to state, having examined the carriages very carefully, that I have found that the whole of the timber in them is perfectly sound and that the wheels and springs with the other running gear are in good working order. The frames are all made of English oak.

Mr Goble : Would you be surprised to hear that one gentleman put in his umbrella and picked some of the wood out; that , in fact, it was rotten? I will undertake to say it was perfectly sound.

Has none of it been burnt?

Mr Adam’s assistant (Mr Higgs) explained that some of the debris had been burnt.

Mr Goble : And you can only speak as to what you have seen? But that is essential.

Mr Goble : You may think it essential.

Witness : It is essential, if you allow me to say so.

At this stage Mr Goble said that Mr Adams had put forward a proposition as to the cause of the accident which they believed could be refuted. Though not there that day evidence could be brought which would show absolutely which carriages went off the line first. If the jury thought proper to adjourn the matter it could be produced.

The Coroner : We will consider that presently

Evidence bearing on this point was, however, immediately tendered.

James Porten, a shepherd in the employ of Professor Wrightson, at Charford, said he was standing about 200 yards from the spot where the accident occurred on the afternoon of the 3rd. He saw the train approach, and thought it was going faster than he had ever seen it go before. He did not notice that the train shook at all. It was one of the carriages in the middle of the train that he saw go off the line first.

By Mr Hall : He could not see the front part of the train because of the dust that was raised.

Mr Hall : And the engine and tender and van having gone on this carriage to which Mr Adams alluded would be about the middle of the train.

Subsequently the witness explained that when he said one of the middle carriages, he meant one of the middle carriages of the whole train including the engines and van.

William Witt, gatekeeper at the level crossing at Charford, in the employ of the company, said he saw one of the carriages leave the line first – it was the third or the fourth carriage from the second van. All then clashed together and then went over the bank. He saw the train oscillate once before the carriage left the line. The speed of the train was about as usual.

By Mr Hall : The carriage he saw leave the line first was not the carriage he saw attached to the front guard’s van – the carriage to which the broken coupling belonged.

Mr Henry Colson, district superintendent, said that he inspected the line on the Thursday before the accident, and the road at this particular spot where the accident occurred was in a very good condition. The line had been ballasted about three weeks before. When he examined the line on the Thursday before the accident he saw no keys out. The only instruction he then gave was to put a little chalk down just where the accident occurred. That was carried out on the day of the accident. He should think that in running down an incline of this character a train would be safe in going from 30 to 32 miles an hour. He should say that 50 miles an hour should be too fast. He could not make his mind up at all as to what caused the accident. Mortimer applied to him for nails some days before the accident; but they were no supplied to the ganger until two days after the accident. It was the duty of the ganger to knock in nails into the sleepers if he saw them out. The ganger he believed had plenty of keys at the time of the accident. He walked towards pile-bridge immediately after the accident. There were no keys out between the spot where the accident occurred and pile-bridge. He never ordered any man to put the keys in, and saw no one doing so. He did not test whether any keys were loose, they did not appear to be.

By Mr Hall : As to the nails, there were two methods of remedying the keys, both superior to the use of nails. Some time ago they tried iron keys on this line and found them most unsatisfactory.

The Coroner : If the nails are the worst of the remedies, why use nails at all? We have instructions to adopt the nail plan.

Mr John Samuel Lever, station-master at Downton, stated that the train arrived at Downton at 4.53 and left at 4.55. During the time the train was at the station Mr T Sutton spoke to him of the speed at which they had come from Salisbury. Calling him to the carriage just as the train was about to start he said they had come from Salisbury at a very quick pace. He didn’t take that as said in a complaining manner, but that Mr Sutton simply made the remark to him as a friend.

The Coroner : Did you make any communication to the driver? No; the train was just starting, and I didn’t think it was a decided complaint.

Mr Goble : But didn’t you say something to Mr Sutton as to the time the train had made up? Mr Sutton said to me that the train left Salisbury ten minutes late; then I said “you have gained five minutes.” But, of course, I didn’t know it was ten minutes late at starting, as I had no communication from Fisherton.

Mr Drage, the district engineer, was asked why nails were used. He said that when new keys were put in unless a nail was added the vibration caused by a train proceeding over the line had a tendency to loosen the keys. The nails counteracted that.

By Mr Goble : After the accident 300 sleepers and 500 chairs were put in; and 130 yards of rail was relaid. The road was destroyed for 346 yards from the point of rupture in the fish-joint towards Charford level crossing.

By Mr Hall : Considering the state of the road as it was before the accident he should say it was safe to go over it at the rate of 45 miles an hour.

The Coroner : With two engines and a short train? Quite so.

It had been anticipated calling other witnesses, but as their evidence would be simply corroborative it was decided after the re-assembling of the jury after luncheon on Thursday not to call them. Among these were Mr M Bungay and Mr Alexander, of Salisbury, both of whom, it was stated, would give evidence as to the number of keys out. Mr Hall intimating that he should probably not cross-examine them if they were called, Mr Goble thought Miss Hill’s evidence on the point would be sufficient. Mr Goble said, at the conclusion of Mr Drage’s evidence, that Mr Coventry, of Burgate, could be called to corroborate Mr Neave’s evidence, and also Mr Sutton, of Hurdcott, and Mr Hillier, of Fisherton. But if they were desired the inquiry must again be adjourned. The jury, however, thought they had had sufficient evidence.

At the conclusion of Mr Drage’s examination the Coroner read the evidence which had been adduced, commenting as he proceeded. In passing, he remarked that though one of the witnesses said smaller carriages were used on this line than on the London and Exeter, there was no proof that they were not as safe or were inferior. Certainly, according to Miss Hill’s evidence, several keys must have been out at some distance from where the accident occurred and before the accident. It was noticeable that one of the witnesses gave them the time of departure of this train for six days, and that on not one single day did the train start at its proper time.

In regard to the suggestion of Mr Adams that the breakage of the coupling of the carriage next to the van caused the accident it was important to refer to the evidence of Porton and Witt. Doubtless, the twist in the coupling would be occasioned by the carriage turning over and wrenching it off but that might have occurred after the middle carriage had gone off the line.

He, in conclusion, pointed out that while the officials stated that the speed travelled was only 30 to 35 miles an hour, the passengers stated that it was 50 or 60; and that while the officials stated that the keys and sleepers were all right or generally so, the independent witnesses said that as many as twenty keys were out. It was their duty to come to a conclusion as to what caused the death of Mr Dent; and if satisfied that there was negligence on the part of any officials it was their duty to state it. At the same time, he must acknowledge that the Company had given them every facility to arrive at a proper conclusion.

The jury then retired – it being just 8 o’clock, and they returned at 8.45. Their verdict was read by the Foreman as follows — “The jury unanimously find that Mr Dent met his death accidentally. They also find that the Salisbury and Dorset line between Downton and Breamore was in a very weak and faulty condition, so much so that it was not safe for a train to pass over it at the speed at which they of opinion the train was going at the time of the accident. The jury are also of opinion that the faulty link produced was not broken till after the carriages left the rails, and they condemn the practise of making up time between stations.

Mr Goble, before the Coroner rose from his seat, said, “I am requested, Mr Coroner and gentleman of the jury, on behalf of Mr Hall, Mr Fulton, and, of course, I do it for myself, to thank you for the patient manner in which you have listened to the extensive evidence. We are very sorry that you have been occupied so long, but we thank you for the patient attention you have given.

The Coroner : Mr Goble, we have only done our duty, and we hope to the best of our ability.

The jury in all sat for about 16½ hours.


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