MYSTERIOUS HAPPENINGS ON THE KNOTTY
Two strange mishaps of
by Dave Harris
Here are two more glimpses into the working practices of the
railways from a long vanished era, thanks to the investigations of Inspectors
from the Board of Trade. This time we go even further back into the very
early days of railway signalling.
Marchington, NSR. 14th April 1882
Marchington was a wayside station in rural East Staffordshire
three miles east of Uttoxeter on the North Staffordshire Railways main
line to Derby. As well as NSR Derby or Burton to Stoke or Crewe services, the
line also carried GNR traffic from their Derbyshire extension to Stafford.
Although Stoke on Trent, to the west, was the "The Knottys" headquarters,
and all its routes radiated from there, the Up line was in the
Derby direction, that is the eastbound line.
The station is described as having ordinary Home and Distant
signals interlocked with the points and controlled from a raised platform close
to the station building.
At 9.10am, Octavious
Greaves, the Station Master, was in charge of the signalling, the points and
He stopped a Down
goods train to shunt it back onto the Up line to clear the Down line for
following NSR and GNR passenger trains. Evidently this was to the annoyance of
the driver of the goods train who believed he would have been able to clear the
section if left unhindered. He berated Greaves on this point only to incur the
wrath of Mrs. Greaves who told him to leave her husband alone!
Anyway, during the shunt, a van became derailed on the crossover.
The derailed van was pulled away from the Up line and Single line working
instituted on the Up line while a breakdown gang came from Uttoxeter.
The 11am passenger train from Derby was stopped at Sudbury, the
next Block Post to the east. The driver was crossed to the Up line and warned
to run at caution through Marchington. As the passenger train approached the
crossover at Marchington the points were suddenly reversed and the passenger
train ran through the crossover into the derailed van.
Six passengers were injured as was the passenger guard. The
Inspecting Officer put the unexplained movement of the crossover down to damage
from the previous derailment.
Derby Road Crossing, Willington. NSR. 21st November
These days many drivers on the busy A38 dual carriageway will not
even know they are crossing a railway line as they pass over the bridge
provided in the 1960s. In 1882, however, it was a different matter. So
too was the amount of traffic!
The crossing of the 'old turnpike' called Ryknield Street over the
double lines of the North Staffordshire Railways Stoke Derby main
line was protected by four large gates and two wicket gates on the eastern side
of the road. The crossing was described as "nearly intermediate between the
block posts at Willington Crossing and Egginton Junction". Derby Road Crossing
was not, at the time of this accident, a block post.
The gates were normally kept locked against the road and were
padlocked at night. This doesn't seem inappropriate given the amount of traffic
over the crossing as shown in a survey conducted after the accident;
|| Thurs 28th December 1882
|| Friday 29th December 1882
| Carriages &
The working arrangement for the crossing was that when a Down
train from Willington Crossing was approaching the signalman there gave Four
beats on a bell. Two beats signified an Up train from Egginton. No facilities
were available for the crossing keeper to acknowledge the bell. On receiving
warning of an approaching train the crossing keeper was not to open the gates
until it had passed or Nine beats, the cancelling signal, had been given.
Once the crossing was secure, the crossing keeper was to give an
All Clear signal to the driver - a white light at night. No fixed signals were
The resident crossing keeper or his wife had to be available to
open the gates 24hrs a day. On the day of the accident, the crossing keeper who
had 16yrs experience but only three months at Derby Road, was ill. He hadn't
informed the Station Master at Egginton Junction of that fact, though.
William Core was a brick layer who was lodging at the crossing
keeper's house. He had heard two beats on the bell for a Up goods from Egginton
and was asked by the crossing keeper's wife to show the white light (all clear)
to the train.
Thomas Argyle was the signalman at Willington Crossing who came on
duty at 6pm. He said that he gave the 4 beats signal to Derby Road Crossing for
the 6.40pm Derby - Crewe passenger train driven by William Cross.
Core didn't hear the four beats, however, and was therefore
unaware of the approaching Down train. Once the Up train had passed at around
7pm, he opened the gates at the request of two lads on a dray.
The driver of the Down train saw the white light turn to red and
realised the gates were being opened in front of him. He whistled and braked
but ran through the gates killing the two lads and the horse and injuring Core.
As a result of the Coroner's recommendation, a second crossing
keeper was employed at Derby Crossing. The Inspector recommended that the
crossing be done away with altogether and a bridge be provided. He suggested to
the NSR that the saving of two crossing keepers' wages would go a long way
toward paying for it.
It seems that instead, in due course, they provided a proper
signal box and block post to control the crossing.