Friday 15 May 2015
Sheffield Daily Telegraph 23rd March 1878
SHOCKING RAILWAY ACCIDENT AT BIRDWELL.
TWO MEN KILLED AND SEVERAL INJURED.
On Wednesday a very serious railway accident, attended with the loss of two lives, occurred near Birdwell. The Hoyland Silkstone Colliery, owned by Messrs. Wells, Birch, and Wright, has a short branch, about a mile and a half in length, proceeding from their colliery to join the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire line at Birdwell. The gradient is very great; so steep, indeed, is it that the locomotives have been known to be unable to pull the trains behind them up the incline, and in coming down there is a corresponding danger. On Wednesday afternoon an engine and six waggons laden with dirt and shale to be deposited on the side at the bottom were coming down about ﬁve o'clock. The driver was George Jackson, of Swinton Bridge, a married man with one child, and the stoker was Richard Shenton, who belongs to the neighbourhood. Every other waggon ought to be spragged when the train is coming down, and there is a colliery shunter whose work it is to sprag the waggons. But the sprags are iron ones, and whether on this account or because, as is believed, the waggons were not properly spragged, the train, on getting near the junction with the Railway Company's line, began to move with a velocity which affrighted the driver and stoker, though it does not seem to have so much alarmed several men and two boys connected with the colliery who, as usual, were on the first waggon. At such a speed did the train go that the driver ordered his stoker Shenton, to jump out and try to a Sprag the waggons better. Shenton did as he was bid, and tried with what he had got to stop the progress of the train, but the best result of his jumping was that he saved his own skull from all hurt. The train was now going at from thirty to forty miles an hour, and though the brake had been put on so effectually that six wheels of the engine had been stopped from going round, yet the greasiness of the rails caused the locomotive to slide down the hill under the overwhelming weight of the laden waggons behind. On reaching the catch points at the bottom, which are for the purpose of saving the chance of a collision on the main line in case the branch train became unruly, and which are intended to throw the latter out of the track in order that the regular traffic may not be endangered, the driver saw that a frightful accident was inevitable. He leaped off the engine almost at the moment the train caught the switches, and a collieryman named Daniel Barton, who was by his side, becoming suddenly awakened to the imminence of the danger, jumped off on the other side of the engine at the same time, Jackson, the driver, pitched on to a projecting point of rock with his head, and injured himself so severely on that part that he became unconscious and had to be picked up. The collieryman on the other side fell headforemost on a big stone and never rose again. He was killed almost instantaneously, and his head is said to have been very much crushed, as may be imagined. The other men stuck to the train, and were comparatively unhurt. A youth named Oliver Dobbs, who was riding in the first waggon, was taken off the debris dead, apparently having been smothered Two other lads one named John Roe, were injured. The train, itself, of course went off the rails, and the wagons piled one on another. Two of them were damaged, and the engine sustained injury, the loss to the company being estimated at £300. Jackson was conveyed as soon as possible to Sheffield by his ﬁreman and other men, and he now lies at the Infirmary. He has received a compound fracture of the skull, and his condition is most critical.