Topic: Another Fatal Accident on the Railway - 1873

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A shocking accident on the Southern line of railway occurred in broad daylight yesterday, by which a man named James Palmer and one of a team of horses that he was driving, were killed.Star 19 September 1873

Another Fatal Accident on the Railway:

A shocking accident on the Southern line of railway occurred in broad daylight yesterday, by which a man named James Palmer and one of a team of horses that he was driving; were killed.

The scene of the accident was a Yankee crossing, about three-quarters of a mile north of the Dunsandel station, and the unfortunate man was crossing the line quite ignorant of the approach of a train, while neither the engine driver nor stoker of the train saw him in time to prevent the catastrophe.

A Yankee crossing, it should be explained, is a contrivance for economising expenditure on the line by dispensing with the services of a gate-keeper. There are no gates, but the crossing is always open to road traffic, and there is a pit from fence to fence on each side of the crossing to prevent cattle, horses, or sheep from straying off the crossing on to the railway line. Palmer had thus no one to caution him, or keep the crossing closed until the train had passed.

Palmer, who was in the employ of Mr Butterick, farmer, Brookside, had been to Dunsandel with goods, which he delivered, and then started on his return journey. Some time before the two o'clock train was to leave from Christchurch. His team consisted of three horses - the two leaders abreast and one in the shafts - and when last seen he was riding on the near side of the dray. The road is parallel with the line of railway on the west side, and as a tolerably strong wind was blowing from the north-east into Palmer's face, and the train came from the rear, the assumption is, that he did not hear its approach. After he had turned to cross the line his position on the near side of the dray would prevent him from seeing the train, which at the time was close upon him. The engine-driver, who had observed Palmer driving along the road, never thought that he was going to turn on to the crossing and when he saw him do so the train, which was going at the rate of about eighteen miles an hour, was within fifty yards of the crossing,

Thus, although steam was at once shut off and the brake put on, a collision could not be avoided. At the time this occurred the two leading horses had just cleared the line while the shaft horse was actually between the rails. The engine thus struck the shaft horse, and hurled both it and the deceased forward, while the dray was dashed against the fence, and the chains of the leading horses were cut, which fortunately set them at liberty, and they escaped unhurt.

The train was brought to a standstill about 60 yards from the crossing and the officials in charge of it at once went back to see the extent of the damage. Palmer was found lying near the rails about a chain from where the engine struck the horse and his head was almost severed from the body, the only connection being a piece of skin. Both face and body were of course extensively bruised, but none of the limbs were broken. The shaft horse was found outside the rails, a short distance nearer the crossing, and quite dead, though not much cut.

At the crossing it was found that the force with which the dray was hurled against the fence had carried away a gate post about 10 inches in diameter, and had also broken down a good portion of the fence. The dray itself was necessarily greatly damaged. The remains of the unfortunate man were placed in the train and brought to Christchurch in charge of Constable O'Shannessy who is stationed at Dunsandel. They were subsequently lodged at the Hospital to await the customary inquest.

Mr Gilmore, station master at Dunsandel, sent a messenger to inform deceased's employer of the accident and otherwise rendered every assistance in his power. Deceased had purchased some goods at Mr Henry's store, Dunsandel, just before starting for home, and was then perfectly sober. He was a single man, and the only relative he is known to have in the colony is a brother who resides somewhere in the Temuka district.

Inspector Pender visited the scene of the accident during the afternoon.

Source: Star , Issue 1736, 19 September 1873, Page 2

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