Yesterday an adjourned inquest was held at the royal oak inn, Platts Common, before Mr Wightman, coroner, touching the death of George Jackson, age 33, engine driver on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway; Daniel Barton, 39, screenman: and Oliver Dabbs, 14, who were killed on the Hoyland Silkstone Colliery Railway on the 20th inst. Mr. F. N. Wardell, her majesties chief inspector of mines in Yorkshire, was present, as were also Mr Clegg, of Sheffield, who appeared on behalf of the relatives of Jackson, and Mr Parker Rhodes, of Rotherham, who appeared for Messrs. Wills, Birch, Ryde, and Company owners of the company. Mr Holt, the manager, was present during the hearing.
Richard Shenton, a stoker residing at Swinton, said he was a fireman belonging to the engine 372 on the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway. Jackson was the driver of the engine. They had been employed at the Hoyland Silkstone Colliery six weeks to work the trucks down from the colliery on to the railway siding. The deceased driver had only been on nine days. On the 20th inst. had been employed as usual, and went up the incline about half past four with 12 empty waggons, and took them to the screens, and afterwards coupled eight loaded trucks to the engine, Barton at the time being on one of the waggons. He saw two boys on the first or second waggon, but he could not say whether one of them was Dabbs or not. Barton was going down to help to empty the wagons. As far as he knew the boys have no right on the trucks. They then drew the trucks to the top of the incline, and kept drawing them over the summit as usual, and a man named Smith got off the engine to sprag the wheels of the waggons as usual, but he failed to get any in. The driver told witness to hold on, as Smith had not got a Sprag in, And he put the brakes on and stopped the wheels. The driver told witness to ease a little, and he reversed the steam. The engine and two of the trucks have then got over the summit. The waggons then kept pushing the engine on, and the driver said "Jump off, mate and put a Sprag in." Witness jumped off, but there was not a Sprag about. He then pinned the brake of the first trunk, and put the next one down, but there was no pin. Witness then shouted to Smith, who was stood with a Sprag in his hand, and ask him what he was doing, and he replied they are going to fast. He did not see Smith attempt to put the Sprag in a wheel until he got to the last wagon, when he missed his aim. The wagons were pushing the engine down the bank, and witness ran for about twenty yards to mention to the driver to jump off, but could not see. The rails but bright and dry from the sun, and the wheels took no effect when they skidded. When he was going down the Incline he saw Barton lying on his face, by the side of the rails, dead, about three quarters of a mile from the scene of the accident, and the driver was laid about three yards further on insensible. Witness still followed the train to the catch points close to the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway companies sidings, and found that the train was smashed to pieces. Two of the trucks were broken to pieces, and Dabbs was got out of the debris dead. The train run away with the engine when the wheels were spragged. The length of the Incline is about a mile and a quarter. They had considerable difficulty in stopping the train since witness had been there, and had often to use dry sand. Barton and other men were going to throw the contents of the waggons on the embankment.-By Mr Clegg: the sprags are made of iron, and weigh about half a hundredweight, And not very easy to use. They are square, double headed rail ends, about two feet long, and some a little shorter. If the ends were pointed they would be easier to get in the wheels. Jackson did all he could to stop the train.
By Mr Rhodes: the driver told witness that the iron sprags were too dangerous to use, but he was not aware that they had complained to the manager at the colliery about them.
John Smith, a labourer at the Hoyland Silkstone Colliery, said it was his duty to sprag the wagons. He had held that post for about three months. On the 20th instant he was at work all day. When the train in question was going up the incline, witness road on the engine. When they got to the summit witness got off the engine. Before he got off the noticed that the driver was sat in a corner on the platform of the engine, With his face towards the place they were approaching, and the stoker was at the brake. Witness had to run faster than usual by the side of the engine so that he could get his five iron sprags off the frame of the engine, and at the same time he shouted out, "you are going to fast for me; I can't get the sprags in at that speed." He then attempted to put a Spragg in the first wagon, but failed, and again shouted to the driver, and tried the wheel of the next waggon with the same result. He called a third time to the driver, and saw him looking at him, but he crossed to the far side of the engine. He made several other attempts, but all without avail.
By Mr Rhodes: if the engine driver had shut off steam sooner he could have spragged the wagons-by juryman: witness believed the cause of the accident was the driver not shutting off steam before he did.
John Wroe, a labourer, said on the day in question he was riding on the last truck in the train, but when he saw it was running away he got to the engine and asked the driver if he could give him any help, but he replied no, it would have two go. The driver then jumped off at the left hand side and witness at the right. The train would then be going at a rate of from 20 to 30 miles an hour. Witness had his left arm injured.
An apprentice to Mr J. Higson, engineer, said he had made a plan of the line. The gradient of the rising portion of the incline from the Colliery to the footpath is one in 55, and from thence to the summit one in 63, and to the bottom of the incline it is one in 31.06.
The coroner, in summing up, said it was his opinion that the incline was to steep, and that a less number of trucks than had hitherto been taken down eight ought to be done. He also suggested that a more convenient sprag be used.-Mr Rhodes said the remarks of the coroner should be laid before the directors, and he had not the slightest doubt they would attend to them.
The jury returned a verdict of "Accidental death."
The coroner said all the evidence that could be produced had been brought forward, and he thought it would not be requisites to hold another inquest at Sheffield on Jackson.