Heath, Richard

Heath, Richard             1885 March 28th             Bishopstoke

Shocking Railway Accident at Bishopstoke

A sad accident occurred at the railway station here on Friday night to an engine driver named Richard Heath, living at Landport, and driver on the Bishopstoke and Portsmouth line.

The accident was of an unusually shocking character, and, though happily of exceptionally rare occurrence, seems inseparable in its nature from the work of large railway centres.

The unfortunate man had brought the 7.30pm goods from Portsmouth, and on arriving her at 8.35 took his engine into the engine shed, and left it shortly afterwards in charge of the fireman. He proceeded on foot to the station, and was observed by the signalman to pass the signal but shortly after nine o’clock. He did not, however, remain there long, as the signalman saw him repass the signal box on his way to the engine-shed, and the signalman warned him of the approach of the 9.26 passenger train from Southampton, and also of a light engine coming on the down line and going into the shed.

The deceased answered the caution of the signalman cheerily, and as though he perfectly understood the caution. He must, however, have mistaken the real position, and either have been guarding against the down engine, which may have taken his attention from the up train, or have mistaken the line the up train was on, or the distance it was off or the speed at which it was travelling, for almost immediately after the signalman cautioned him, it would appear he attempted to cross the line, and was knocked down by the up passenger train.

From the terribly mangled state in which the body was found it is surmised he was instantly killed. The deceased was apparently knocked down at the points, the body being afterwards found at the crossing, several yards from them, and only a few yards from the signal box. Though there could be no doubt the up train killed him, deceased was not found till about a quarter of an hour after it entered the station, there being no one very near, except the man up in the signal box, who, of course, would be attending to his duties, and would be unaware of what happening outside.

The 9.30 up goods train followed the up passenger train, and passed over the deceased as he lay on the four-foot way, though in all probability the whole train passed almost or quite clear of the body. The driver of the up passenger train on arriving at Winchester found the hat of the deceased attached to the engine, over the buffer.

Deceased leaves a widow and three children, and the fact that the poor fellow was killed on his 34th birthday has cast an additional gloomy aspect over the occurrences. The duty of the deceased was to take the 9.53 passenger train to Portsmouth, and he was proceeding to his engine for the purpose of backing on to his train on the arrival of the up Southampton train, which killed him. His non-arrival at the shed, though unhappily fully accounted for afterwards, caused much surprise to his fireman, who, however, expected to find him at the station, and not doing so, reported his absence, and another driver was sent in charge of the engine, the train being delayed about fifteen minutes.

Just previous to the train starting the shocking discovery was made, and the fireman, in passing with the train of which his late mate should have been the driver, saw, instead, his remains being picked up and placed on a stretcher. Deceased, though not a total abstainer, was a very steady man, and it was remarked by one of the jury, who had known him for many years, that he had never seen or known him the worse for drink.

Mr B Harfield held the inquest at the Junction Hotel on Saturday evening. The Coroner, in summing up, remarked there appeared to be no doubt as to the cause of death; and the jury at once returned a verdict of “Accidental death.” Mr Willmer, Bishopstoke, and Inspector Hoddison, of the company’s police, Southampton, were present on behalf of the company.

The body of deceased was placed in a coffin, and taken to his home at Landport on Sunday. Deceased was the driver of the Portsmouth train that came into collision with an excursion train at Bishopstoke station some two years ago.

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