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Level Crossing Disasters 2

Bolsover Area > Carr Vale > Railway
From the work of Zoe Hunter on the Lancashire,Derbyshire & East Coast Railway. With many thanks.

Level Crossing SK. 466 700.

View of station site showing where the crossing was, and the subway and platforms etc.

Belper News 25th August 1911
Mrs Bell, wife of the surveyor to the Bolsover Colliery Company, had a narrow escape from death at the Carr Vale crossing on Wednesday last week. She had accompanied a friend to the station, and was upon the crossing when a mineral train dashed through the station. A shout of alarm warned her of danger, and she sprang into safety not a moment too soon. Bolsover people are looking forward to the time when the subway, now in course of construction, will have replaced the level crossing.

Derbyshire Courier 21st October 1911
The awful disaster at the level crossing on the Great Central Railway at the Bolsover Station was referred to, upon an application being made for the sanction of the Court to the stopping up of the crossing, a subway having been substituted therefor.

Mr G F Barnes, who made the application, mentioned that in 1909 and 1910 fatal accidents occurred at the crossing, followed on Christmas Eve by a number of children being killed there. The crossing was daily used by quite 4000 people and the Railway Company and the Bolsover Urban District Council decided that it was necessary to make a subway and do away with the level crossing.
The certificate of the magistrates, who had viewed the subway and approved of the diversion of the footway, was accepted and ordered to be enrolled.

Derbyshire Times 25th June 1909
A fatality which has aroused much feeling in East Derbyshire occurred last week on the lvel crossing over the Great Central Railway at Carr Vale, Bolsover. For several years there has been a great agitation in favour of an alteration to the mode of crossing in order to safeguard the school children, and the irony of the sad occurrence is that the old man, Henry Breedon,, who until recently was stationed at the crossing to keep the children, as they passed to and from school, clear of incoming trains, has himself fallen a victim to this veritable death trap!
Of one fact there can be little doubt – that now a life has been sacrificed to the lamentable failure of the Urban Council, the Railway Co. and the residents of Carr Vale themselves, to agree upon a permanent solution, the matter is one which must be mutually settled with the utmost despatch. Hundreds of little lives are imperilled each day through a dilatoriness of one party or the other, which is utterly inexcusable. Twelve months ago or more, the Vicar of the Parish, with commendable solicitude for the safety of the parishioners, struck a timely warning note. The same danger, however, exists today, as was prevalent then. The parental anxiety is as far removed from assuagement as ever it was. The quibbling over the pet schemes of this party and that still continues. And the toll for this sheer stupidity has at last been paid. An old veteran of industry, respected alike for his honesty, as for his sobriety and courteous bearing, lies dead – the grim fault of procrastination.

Breedon has been for some years employed as a general labourer by the Bolsover Colliery. His duties on Wednesday morning necessitated his going to Carr Vale. He was on his way there from New Bolsover, and was compelled to use the crossing as offering the only direct means of communication between the two villages. Breedon remained for a few moments bear the wicket gates at the entrance to the crossing, apparently engaged in conversation with someone on the platform, and stepped forward just as the 09.15 passenger train from Chesterfield to Bolsover was steaming into the station. Breedon, who, it is said, suffers from deafness, appeared to be absolutely unaware of the approach of the train, despite the driver’s warning whistle, until too late to effect his escape. He was struck in the back with the left hand buffer, and hurled with considerable force a distance of some yards on to the platform. Here eye-witnesses state that after turning a complete somersault, his head came into violent contact with the large slabs of stone at the edge of the platform.
The injured man was terribly battered about the head and face, and presented a pitiable spectacle. Life was at first thought to be extinct. Medical aid was at once summoned, however, and a doctor was quickly in attendance. In the meantime the man had been removed to the waiting room where he received medical attention. A few minutes later he was taken by train to Chesterfield Hospital and recovered consciousness during the morning. Despite his injuries he was able to talk to the doctors after his admission to the hospital. On examination it was found that he was injured about the head, face and chest and the whole of his body was terribly cut about. He gradually lost consciousness and died early on Thursday morning.

Breedon, who was 65 years of age, resided with his daughter in Station Road, Bolsover. He was described by Dr Nisbet as a man of wonderful vitality, and hopes were entertained that he would recover from the effects of his terrible ordeal. Sympathisers were kept informed of his condition by telephone during the day, but no surprise was felt when it was learned that the injuries had proved fatal.

The history of the negotiations between the Carr Vale Improvement Committee, the Bolsover Urban District Council and the Great Central Railway Co. is an extremely chequered one, and extends over a period of 18 months. The formation of the Carr Vale Improvement Committee marked the initiation for the abolition of the crossing as it stands at present, and for the substitution of a safer and more convenient method of regulating pedestrians and vehicular traffic. Mr M Stubbins was elected secretary of the Committee, and it is largely due to his influence that the question has assumed its present importance. The matter was brought to the notice of the Bolsover Urban District Council, who entered into negotiations with Mr S Fay, the general manager of the Great Central Railway Co. who agreed to remove the bridge from the east to the west end of the platforms , and to permanently close the wicket gates. The conditions, Mr J P Boulton J.P., who was at that time chairman of the Council, urged his colleagues to accept. In the meantime, however, there grew up in Carr Vale strong opposition to the scheme, and at a public meeting, presided over by the Rev B S Batty, held in the Congregational Mission Church, resolutions urging upon the Great Central Railway Co. the desirability of closing the gates against the line or of constructing a subway, were submitted to the meeting, and carried unanimously.

These alternative schemes were submitted to the Company, but for some months no reply was received. The Carr Vale Improvement Committee and the more militant section of the inhabitants of Carr Vale were for forcing the hands of the Company, but the council were of the opinion that nothing was to be gained by this mode of procedure, and endeavoured to achieve their ends by diplomatic methods. It is only during the past few months that the Carr Vale Improvement Committee and the Bolsover Urban District Council have shown an inclination to join forces, and to endeavour, by offering a united front, to obtain concessions from the Company.
It is estimated that the population of Carr Vale consists of 1700 persons, 400 of whom are children attending the New Bolsover Council and Colliery Schools. Assuming that each child uses the crossing four times per day between the hours of 8.30am and 4.30pm, the line is crossed 1600 per day by children between the ages of 5 and 14. Other figures based on similar calculations give an approximate number of 25,000 as the number of times the crossing is used each week by persons of all ages. These figures, of course, do not include vehicular traffic, which is very considerable.
In November last the council met Mr J B Bail, the engineer to the Great Central Railway Company, and again put forward proposals in regard to the crossing. These were considered by Mr Fay , who wrote from Marylebone Station on April 29th last as follows:

“Referring to my letter on November 28th last, and the meeting which Mr Ball had with the Chairman and several members of your Council. I have given careful consideration to your three proposals which were put forward, and regard the first, namely, that the signal box should be removed from the Eastern to the Western end of the station, this apart from being a costly matter, would not obviate the cause of your complaint, and I do not recommend its adoption”
“Neither would the second scheme, for the provision of a footpath subway, completely solve the difficulty, as, although it would be available for bicycles and perambulators, the level crossing would still have to be retained for cart traffic.”
“As regards the third suggestion, the plan shows the 18ft subway, the estimated cost being £1700, and this appears to be tho the best scheme. There would be no objection to its being carried out, subject to the Council bearing the expense, towards which I would be willing to make a contribution of £270, representing the cost of removing the footbridge.”
On behalf of the Council, the Chairman (Councillor Adin) expressed intense disappointment at the result of the negotiations. It was pointed out that Council would be forced to give up their right of way over the crossing, and the Chairman strongly favoured an appeal to the Board Of Trade. It was, however, resolved to continue the negotiations. With what result we have seen!

Mr M Stubbings, the secretary of the Carr Vale Improvement Committee, was emphatic in his condemnation of the Urban Council’s dilatoriness in the matter.
“I am afraid”, he told a Press representative, “the council will try to blame us for not adopting the scheme, under which the footbridge would have been removed from the east to the west end of the platform, and the wicket gates permanently closed. Carr Vale on a vote decided against that”
One of the reasons for rejecting what he described as “Mr Houlton’s pet scheme” was that on each side of the footbridge were 25 steps, and that as 400 children would be using it four times a day, there would be the danger of their crowding the bridge, and through a mis-step, being flung violently to the bottom. The risk would have been very great.
There was also a proposal Mr Stubbings detailed, to construct a subway for pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Towards the cost of this the company proposed to contribute £270. The Council, however, would have to buy the approaches, so that the cost to the district would have amounted to between £3,000 and £4,000. This scheme would, he felt sure, be strongly opposed by the tradesmen, whose premises were in the proximity to the station, as the mouth of the subway would be far removed from the line, and the property it referred to would depreciate.
“To which scheme would the Carr Vale residents accord their support?” Mr Stubbings was asked.
“In our opinion”, he replied, “the best way of getting over the difficulty would be to place the present gates across the railway. These could be manipulated from the signal box, which would have to be removed from its present position to the crossing”

If the Council had approached the Board Of Trade in the first instance, he continued, this would have been done long ago. They would never get anything done until they did.
The facts of the case ought certainly to be outlined to the Coroner and Jury. The Urban Council, Mr Stubbings went on, were to be blamed for being so dilatory. They had had the matter in hand for considerable time, and yet they seemed to be moving very, very slowly. The result of the last election showed very strongly that the electors disapproved of the Council’s tardy methods.
“The Carr Vale people will never rest”, was Mr Stubbings parting word, “until this yawning death-trap is removed”.
The inquest on Breedon was held at the Chesterfield Hospital on Friday. The jury returned a verdict of “Accidental death”, adding a rider to the effect that a watchman should be placed immediately at the level crossing for the protection of the public.

Derbyshire Times 3rd November 1923
Carr Vale Tragedy

 The tragedy which occurred at the Carr Vale level crossing on Wednesday last week, when a schoolboy, Herbert Thomas Hayes, aged eight years, son of Richard Hayes, a miner of 72 Scarsdale Street, Carr Vale, was run down by a passing ballast train and killed, formed the subject of an enquiry by Dr A Green, the Chesterfield Coroner, at the Carr Vale Hotel on Friday. The other little boy, Leonard Platts, who was with the deceased at the time of the accident and sustained a fractured skull, lies at the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, and the Coroner said he understood he was not in immediate danger.

 Particulars of the accident were furnished by Robert Wm Walker, builder’s foreman, 25, Edgeware Road, Bulwell, who said that on Wednesday about 4.30pm, he was waiting with his car outside the level crossing for the gates to be opened. There was a lorry at the back and an milk flat beside him. He noticed a train coming from the direction of Chesterfield, and as soon as it had passed the gates, he saw the deceased and the other boy darting across when they were knocked down by the ballast train coming from the direction of the tunnel. The boys were standing inside the gates and he had previously seen them climbing over. He did not think they heard the ballast train owing to the sound made by the other train. He thought they were running across to open the gates. He saw the first boy struck and knocked up the line and run over. He did not think the second boy, who was quite a yard behind the deceased, was struck by the front part of the engine. He might have bene hit by the footplate on the head and knocked on to the other set of lines. He did not see him struck. As soon as the train had passed he jumped out of his car and went to the boy’s assistance. He could only see their caps, but on looking round saw Hayes lying up the line dead. He touched the other boys hand, and he moved, and he thereupon carried him into his car and conveyed him to Dr Startton’s, and then to the hospital.

The Coroner: You did all that was in your power, and did it quickly.
Witness, continuing, said there was another boy standing inside the gates. He too, had climbed over with the other boys.
The Coroner: This is a most dangerous practice
The witness explained that these boys opened the gates for the cars to pass through, and then shouted for pennies.
Police-Sergeant Clarke: We have driven them off many times, and I have seen the stationmaster do the same thing.
Police Constable Goodall also stated that he had turned them off.
The Coroner: It is perfectly useless making arrangements for the safety of foot passengers if these things happen. Can the boys open the gates themselves?
Mr Wardle: yes, after a train has passed through, but not when a train is signalled.
The father of the deceased, asked if he had any questions to put, enquired if it would not be possible to place a man in charge of the gates, because children were children and parents could not always be with them.
The Coroner: I do not know what the railway authorities will say to the suggestion, but I do not think they will keep a man there simply to keep the boys off.
Hayes pointed out that at other crossings the gates were closed across the line, and controlled from the signal box.
The Coroner: nothing could have prevented this accident if the boys choose to climb over the gates.
Mr Buxton: The crossing is not intended for use of passengers.
The Coroner: That was why the subway was made.
Police Constable Goodall pointed out that if the gates were shut across the line and were closed against the road for the passing of trains, the boys could still climb over them.
The Corner enquired whether attempts had been made by the railway officials to keep the boys off the line
Mr Buxton: I am told by the stationmaster he is always at it
George Sudbury,8, North View Street, Carr Vale, a schoolboy, said he was at the gates at the time of the accident. He was looking over the gates from the Bolsover side. When the Chesterfield train had gone the two lads ran across, and the ballast train knocked them down.
The witness Walker, re-called , said the boys could not possibly see the ballast train coming, because the guard’s van of the other train obscured their view. The guard’s van of the one train and the engine of the other practically met on the crossing.

 Frederick Thomas Otter, Porter Street, Staveley Town, the driver of the ballast train, said they were travelling at from 15-120 miles per hour. The two trains practically met on the crossing. He did not see any of the boys running across the line in front of his train. He did not know of the accident until he arrived at Duckmanton Junction. There were no marks on the engine, only on the tender sand pipes. The front of the engine did not strike the deceased, in his opinion. If the buffer had struck him he would have seen him through the look-out. He travelled this way frequently and had seen boys running across many times when the gates were locked. He had seen them climb over the top. It was a very dangerous crossing on that account.
The Wtiness added “ We shout to them, but they take no notice”

George Ramsdale , stationmaster, was asked by the coroner, if anything could be done to prevent the boys running into danger this way
The witness replied that when he saw them on the railway he drove them away. He had seen parents occasionally and had go them to give their children a whipping. He had also asked for the assistance of the police and had seen the headmaster of the colliery school, who had warned the children of the dangers they were running. He failed to see what could be done to further the matter. The danger was very great on Fridays and during school holidays, when they assembled about the crossing and played there. He had only seen them occasionally run across the line. It was difficult to get hold of them because as soon as they saw him on the platform, they scampered off. Their object in assembling there was to get pennies for opening the crossing gates for motor drivers. No one could open the gates when trains were signalled. The subway was provided for the use of foot passengers. The children going to and from school used the subway. Occasionally they crossed when the gates were open, as did the adults.

Mr Buxton pointed out that notices were posted there to the effect that the level crossing must only be used for vehicular traffic.
The Coroner: It is difficult to get people to do the right thing. They will run risks.
Police Constable Goodall, Carr Vale, said he was called to the scene of the accident about 4.40pm. The body lay between the two sets of lines faced downwards. The back of the head was torn off and the brains and pieces of skull were scattered about the railway. The left leg had been cut in three places, and the right leg and neck were also broken.
The Coroner, who sat without a jury, at once returned a verdict of “Accidental death”.

 At the funeral, which took place on Saturday, there was a remarkable display of floral tributes, including many from the children.

Z.E. Hunter 2016.

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