Snook, Reuben

Snook, Reuben           1888 July 21st

Fatal Accident on the London and South Western Railway at Salisbury

On Tuesday an inquiry was held at the Infirmary by Mr G Smith, city coroner, touching the death of Reuben Snook, 58, a platelayer, living at Bemerton, who was accidentally killed the same morning. Mr Joseph Naish was foreman of the jury.

The Coroner said he was told that the deceased was at work on the line that morning. One train was coming in and another going out at the same time and the deceased stepped out of the way of the train coming in and got into the way of that going out, the consequence being that he was killed on the spot.

William Clements was the first witness. He said that he lived at No 7, Lower Church Fields. His occupation on the line was that of a porter. That (Tuesday) morning he was at work shunting the 9.50 Wimborne train out of the siding on to the up line road. The deceased was standing on the middle road with a pick on his hand. As soon as the train on which witness was at work got clear of the points, the points were set and witness signalled to the driver to come back. He should say that deceased was about 50 yards from where witness stood. He was behind witness at the time. Witness was facing the engine. He heard the whistle. He looked round and saw the deceased and called out “Reuben.” From what witness could see of it the deceased was trying to get to the platform, and was about four yards from the train. He did not succeed in getting on to the platform. The van caught him between the train and the platform. Witness signalled to the driver to stop and the driver did so as quickly as he possibly could. The London down train was running in at the time. He should think that deceased was getting out of the way of the London down train by crossing the line to the platform. As soon as the train (the Wimborne one) stopped, witness uncoupled the trucks and got the deceased out. Witness could hear the deceased breath but he did not speak. Deceased was a foreman platelayer. Witness believed that only the van went over deceased’s body, because he dropped down. The train was not going very fast – about four or five miles an hour.

A Juryman asked the witness if he thought there was sufficient precaution taken for the protection of the Company’s servants under those circumstances, and witness replied that he did think so.

Mr Davis (superintendent of the district) wished the witness to be asked whether the deceased would have been safe if he had been in the middle road, and the question having been accordingly put the witness answered in the affirmative.

Thomas Dellar, engine driver, said he was the driver of the 9.50 train to Weymouth that morning, which was shunted from the siding on to the main line. Witness’s mate, Thomas Pope, opened the whistle. He asked him what was up, and Pope told him to stop, which he did. Pope had a signal and witness also saw it. Witness did not see the deceased on the line. He did not find from any jerking of the train that there was someone under it. He saw the deceased by the side of the line. He did not see him at any time while he was shunting.

Horace Lloyd Farebrother, surgeon dentist, said he resided at Andover, and came to Salisbury daily, leaving Andover at two minutes after nine. He came from Andover that morning. He observed the Weymouth train shunting at the time they arrived. In fact they were running parallel. Generally the train was made up and standing when the down train ran in, but occasionally they were running parallel to one another. He that morning saw a playelayer, with his back against the platform, and his feet in the permanent way, watching the down train running into the station. There was also a porter who was watching the Weymouth train backing. The porter had his back towards the platelayer. That he observed in passing. When witness looked again the deceased appeared to make an effort to get out of the way of the shunting train. He ran for about a yard and then tried to get on the platform, but the train caught him, and took him between the platform and the train. Witness was of opinion that deceased had time to get out of the way of the shunting train, but he took a wrong direction. The backing train was going very slowly. He did not see the deceased until he was brought to the Infirmary, when, he believed, he was dead.

Mr Davis mentioned that Mr Farebrother saw him directly the train got in, and he (Mr Davis) had a stretcher brought and caused the deceased to be taken to the Infirmary.

Thomas Pope, fireman, said that he was on the engine attached to the Wimborne train. When he was backing the train to the platform he saw a signal from the porter to stop the train. He should think they were going about four miles an hour. With the brakes they had they could stop a train going at the rate named in five or six lengths (coach lengths). The train was stopped. A van and two coaches passed over the man. Witness saw him and heard the whistle. Witness thought he tried to get on the platform. Witness put on the brake before the whistle was sounded. Deceased was two lengths away when witness saw him. Witness did all he possibly could to stop as soon as he saw the man. If he had had the vacuum brake the train might have been pulled up in a length less than it was.

Levi Stephenson Luckham, house surgeon at the Infirmary, said that at about ten o’clock he heard that there was an accident at the station. Going downstairs he met the deceased being brought up. He was apparently dead. He had him taken to the accident ward and then found that he was dead. He examined the body and found that both hips were very much crushed. He also had an injury on the left arm, a cut on the chin, and a severe bruising of the head. Death was due to hemorrhage from the large vessels in the lower part of the body.

William Rapley, superintendent of the permanent way, said that deceased was foreman platelayer under his orders. He was 58, and had been 28 years in the employ of the Company – about 10 years in the Salisbury yard. Had he (at the time in question) remained in the middle road, where he was at his work, he would have been safe. Witness could not account for his moving to the position in which he was when he met with the accident.

Mr Naish : Do you consider there is sufficient space to carry on the amount of business carried on there with due respect to the safety of the men.

Witness : Plenty.

Mr Naish : If you had more space or room would that shunting be avoided?

Witness : No, I say not.

Mr Davis said it would be utterly impossible to do without shunting. It was the main line where the train started from and the line must be kept free to let trains by, therefore they kept the trains in the siding really until within a short time of their being about to start. He brought them up on the main line to start them. If they had all the room in the world they must do that. As for metal room they had plenty of room for the sidings and for the shunting work. What they were cramped for was the platform was rather narrow. There was a contemplated alteration by enlarging the platform.

The Coroner observed that there was no evidence to show that what occurred was anything but purely accidental.

Mr Davis said that the deceased was a most careful man. He could not understand it. He was one of the nicest men he had ever met with. He was generally so attentive. He had seen him caution his men.

It was stated that a son of the deceased said that the latter was hard of hearing for the last four years.

Mr Davis said that he never gave the slightest intimation to him.

Robert Snook, son of the deceased, was sworn. He said that his father was “hard of hearing.” They had to talk rather loudly to make him hear. When they were talking by themselves at home he could not hear like the rest of them. That had been the case for four years. Witness remembered that two or three years ago his father came home and stated that he wanted to be removed out of the yard. He wanted to be removed to an easier “length” because the work was too hard for him. He said he was deaf, and was afraid that he should be knocked down.

Mr Davis was asked if application was made to him and he replied that it was not. He stated that he had had conversations with the deceased he should say every week. Deceased was a temperance man, a member of their society, and he had been chairman of their meetings, therefore he was more intimate with him than he should be, perhaps, with others. They had had conversations on various topics. He had never found him deaf and deceased had never intimated to him that he was so. He once told him that he thought he should apply for a removal somewhere else, because he could not satisfy Mr Rapley. He told him that Mr Rapley was always grumbling at him. He (Mr Davis) told him he should not be able to get such high wages and deceased said he would sooner put up with less than put up with this. A month or so afterwards he said, “How are you getting on?” and deceased replied, “I am getting on much better. I shall not think anything more about it. The governor is better tempered and we are getting on very well.” He intimated that he intended to remain as he was.

The Coroner, alluding to deafness, stated that he could hear Mr Davis speak perfectly clearly, but on many occasions when his people at home were talking he could not hear what they said.

The son of the deceased stated that some nine or ten years ago the deceased stated either that he was knocked down or fell down out of the way of a train. In regard to a desire for a removal from the position he occupied he said he was sure his father did apply. He (the father) said he was afraid he would have to stay where he was or leave the service.

Mr Davis said that that morning, not ten minutes after the accident happened, he was as nearly killed as a man could be. If he had not involuntarily stepped forward he would have been knocked down. Five times he had been as nearly killed on the line as a person possibly could be and he was afraid that some day he should be.

Mr Naish asked Mr Davis if there was any necessity to get into the position he was in at the time.

Mr Davis said that one was anxious to get the shunting done and sometimes forgot himself. The accident put him into such a tremor that perhaps that was the cause that morning. He did not know hardly what he was about for half an hour.

Mr Rapley was asked if the deceased ever made any application for removal, and he replied in the negative.

No other witnesses were called.

The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental Death.”

Narrow Escape of Mr S Davis 1888 December 29th

Mr S Davis, the respected SWR Station-master, had a most providential escape from death on Boxing Day. It seems that he was walking along the line towards the level crossing at Church Fields, at about ten o’clock, watching as he did so the progress of the up train. While he was doing this an engine which had just emerged from the shed came along and struck him in the left side. The shock was so forcible and sudden that Mr Davis was thrown to the ground, but fortunately not on to the permanent way along which the engine was proceeding. The unfortunate gentleman was assisted to his residence and his injuries were seen to. Beyond a few bruises Mr Davis, we are glad to say, is not much the worse for his misadventure. He has had many narrow escapes from death, and severe injury, since he has been in the employ of the Company, but none so narrow as that on Boxing Day.


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