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it should adopt adequate means for securing punctuality, the grand panacea for safety in all railway locomotion. How, then, is this best secured? The evidence before us shows that distinctly. It loudly declares for telegraphic communication, not by the old mode of sight signals of green and red lights, &c., but by the incomparably more secure and invariable mode of electric telegraph. The government inspectors all recommend the latter and newer system ; most of the other authoritative evidence is the same way, and although the authorities of one or two lines can claim a great immunity from casualty on their lines, where nothing but the old system, managed however by extremely welltrained, zealous officials and subordinates, is in use, still we are persuaded that every one who studies the subject will arrive at the result, which seems to us to be thoroughly established—that for all circumstances there is no mode of signalling, as yet invented, which can be compared in certainty, and the absence of liability to be disordered or misunderstood, with that of the electric telegraph. There is no doubt of its being an expensive system, because for its due working it is necessary that the company should have a wire of its own, kept exclusively for the requirements of the traffic. The adoption of this system, on the principle on which it is usually worked, of having the whole line, or portion of line, to which it is applied, divided into small lengths and subportions, and providing that each length shall be kept absolutely clear for one train only at a time, supplies manifestly an entire guarantee against casualty from collision; and it is to be hoped and expected that, before long, in all cases of collisions, it should become an element in the inquiry, as regards the responsibility of the company, to ask whether they signal by electric telegraph on the part of the route at which the miscarriage occurs.?
The committee do not recommend any interference of Parliament, by the enforcement of a maximum or otherwise, with the rate of travelling ; but they are of opinion," that the perfect regularity in the time of the departure from and arrival at each
1 As to punctuality, see Evid., pp. 4, 67, 154, 165, 168, 169, 172, 188, 190, 192.
station, which would appear to be a material element of safety in railway travelling, may be attained by legislative interference, to the extent of enacting that, except under exceptional circumstances, the public should have some means of obtaining prompt and cheap redress in the recovery of penalties, in every case of want of punctuality in the departure and arrival of trains at every station; thereby rendering it imperative upon railway companies not to advertise a rate of travelling which they cannot always maintain with undeviating punctuality.” 1 But is there any example of a rule of law laid down with various exceptional circumstances, that is, open to any means of prompt and cheap redress that could be adopted in this country ? In this case, to have any pretensions to be a just rule, it would have distinctly to specify a great number of minute exceptional circumstances. Each exceptional circumstance that you state, must necessarily open the opportunity for fresh evidence and additional contestation; and it would almost certainly be found impossible to do justice to the companies, or satisfy the complainants, otherwise, than by a full and complete sifting of all the exceptional circumstances that might be alleged in any case, and so a prompt and cheap means of redress could hardly in practice be attained. This is assuming that the all proper exceptional circumstances could be ascertained and specified beforehand, or that one set of exceptional circumstances could be framed, of such a character, as to be equally applicable to the peculiarities as to traffic and otherwise, of every line in the united kingdom.
There are only two other points which have been much agitated, as improvements, on the present system of management, each of them affecting the rolling stock.
Some persons contend strongly for additional break-power being attached to trains, in order to give the persons in charge the means of pulling up within a shorter space, and coming to a stand-still in less time than is usually practicable at present. But there are great objections to enforcing this scheme upon directorates at present. The best description of break does not
1 Report, pp. iii. iv.
as yet appear to have been attained, and the
expense of applying breaks extensively is great. Then it is much disputed whether breaks, in the majority of actual cases of collision, would have served to avert, or even to mitigate, the severity of the catastrophe. Above all, in case of a recourse being had to the telegraphic mode of providing against collision, breaks would hardly ever be called into operation."
As regards the other point, of securing means in each passenger train of communicating from the passengers to the guard, and between the guard and driver; the former, it appears clear from various considerations, is at present wholly impracticable, assuming it to be desirable, of which there are doubts, apparently well founded. The case of the American railways, where means of communication between passengers and guards are in general use, is not in point here for many reasons; among which is, that the carriages in America are uniformly constructed so as to allow of free passage down the middle of each carriage throughout the whole length of the train, and the guard comes, when he is rung for, to the carriage in which he is wanted. With us it would be impossible, if the communication was established, for the guard to come along the outside of the carriages by means of the footboards or platforms attached to the outside of carriages, because of the intervals presented by the buffers ; and moreover, on many lines the bridges are so frequent, and the span of their arches so narrow, that the liability to fatal casualties to guards so attempt ing to pass outside would be very high,
With regard to communication between guard and driver, various inventions have been tried. The most perfect seems to be that in use on the Great Western Railway ; but it is very costly, involving the sending with each train an additional serVant, whose sole duty is to keep a look-out fore and aft, and give warning to the driver as due occasion arises. It is obvious that,
1 In Evid., pp. 14, 16, 19, 24, 25, 28, 103, 117, 190. For more particulars as to the present state of the question of breaks, see Parliamentary Paper, Session I., 1859, No. 2498, p. 41. What is contained in the text relating to telegraphs, has been derived from the evidence before the committee, con, tained in thirty.nine pages.
as regards providing against the necessity, this supernumerary would be wholly superseded by the adoption of the system of electric telegraph signalling above referred to. In case of the loss of a wheel, or any other mishap to a carriage in the train, his utility is small, if it be true, as stated, that the action of the engine gives instant warning to an experienced driver of any such alteration in the normal state of the traction. Moreover, under a proper system of superintendence of the rolling stock, cases of the breaking of a tire or an axle are very uncommon.
Still more rare is the occurrence of a fire in or on a carriage, the only other case, as it seems, in which the services of such an extra guard would be available. These points-of break power and means of communication-seem, therefore, to be altogether of minor importance, with respect to the prevention of casualties, than the other means above discussed.
We may add here one remark on the frequency of “accidents to servants of railway companies, or persons employed on railways.” It is a subject which has not hitherto obtained as much of public notice as perhaps it deserves. In 1858, railway companies reported to the railway department of the Board of Trade, the cases of 131 servants killed and 101 injured during the year. Of these, 17 were killed and 52 injured from causes beyond their own control ; 114 were killed and 49 injured owing to their own misconduct or want of caution. A large proportion of this species of accidents occurs to porters, &c., in shunting trains ; and Captain Galton, in his report to the Board, states—" Accidents of this class have always been very numerous; they arise partly from the recklessness of the men, and partly from the imperfection of the arrangements for connecting the vehicles in trains.” Almost necessarily, the men employed on railways are reckless men ; for an occupation, environed with such perils to life and limb, will scarcely be much sought after by others than men of the hardiest character. In the latter part of this statement there is a confirmation of what has been already mentioned
1 Parliamentary Paper, Session 1, 1859, No. 2498, p. 4.
--that experience shews the mass of accidents to be attributable ultimately to defective management."
In the foregoing lines, the object has been to recall or present to the minds of professional readers such facts and considerations as are calculated to be convertible to good purpose in cases where it may become their duty to take part in investigations of rail. way accidents. We shall next invite attention to the subject of the working of Lord Campbell's act in respect of railway disasters, and to one or two other matters.
Now, in attempting to ascertain what is the real weight of railway disaster, it does not seem to us to be sufficient to take the dry statistical view, and be content with the statement, that “in the actual performance of the duties of life, it is impossible to find a case in which the proportion of fatal accidents is so small; and, in the fact shewn by the statistical tables of the Board of Trade, that the per centage of risk in travelling in this way is very small indeed as compared with most other modes of conveyance.3 But, in fact, averages and per centages cannot be made to represént fairly a matter of this kind; and, what is more, it is as yet impossible to find any equation by which a sound statement could be secured and embodied. Thus, the number of fatalities in 1857 was much higher than that of several previous years, and so much higher as to lift the average of the three years very materially above the preceding three ; but the reason was, not that there were more separate occasions of miscarriage on the lines throughout the kingdom, but that there was a very severe accident on one line—the Lewisham accident-in which no fewer than twelve persons were killed, and a large number injured. Hence, the conclusion to be gathered from the heightened average shown by the statistics-namely, that the whole of the railways without distinction were carrying with less general safety than in the former period of three years, because the number of casualties was higher-would be totally fallacious. And this brings us to the real ground for interfering legislatively with railway negligence 1 See Evidence, pp. 31, 77, 36, 37, 44, 45, 54.
The late Mr. R. Stephenson, Lectures on Railways, p. 521.