Collision at Bow Station on 7th November, 1883

(or carrying nepotism too far)

(originally published in Journal 55, December 2012, of the NLRHS)

[William Joyce, Edwin Joyce, Charles Jupp and William Patmore]

The 7th November, 1883, saw the East End of London, and Bow in particular, suffering from a dense fog with visibility restricted between six and twenty yards. The driver of the Plaistow shuttle had brought in a train from Plaistow at 3.46pm on time. After the passengers had left the train he took it into the Fairfield Road sidings, ran round it, and waited to come out to form the 4.20pm train to Plaistow. It consisted of a 4-4-0 tank engine running chimney first and six vehicles, including a brake van front and rear.

The fog had delayed the 2.00pm St Pancras goods sidings to Plaistow goods train, which consisted of a tank engine, twenty-four loaded wagons, three empty wagons, and a brake-van.

The signalman, who had acted in that capacity for five years, and had been employed for about 1½ years in the Tilbury junction cabin, had come on duty at 3.00pm on 7th November to remain till 11.00pm. At 4.07pm he had allowed the Plaistow train to come out of the sidings, and to stand at the platform, thus occupying the line to Plaistow. It was customary to bring the train out of the sidings about 10 minutes before it was due to start, on the signalman being gonged from the station that they were ready for it. On the present occasion the signalman and train register boy both declare the gong was received before the train was allowed to leave the sidings; whereas a foreman porter and porter deny that any gong had been given, the foreman porter adding that, knowing that the goods train was late and had not passed, he would not have asked for the passenger train to come out as soon as usual. After the train had been standing at the platform (where, on account of the dense fog, it was quite out of the view both of the signalman and of a fog-signal man respectively, about 165 yards and 90 yards from it) about three minutes, the warning signal for a goods train was received from Old Ford (the next block station west) at 4.10pm. The signalman at first, thinking it was a train for Poplar, gave it on to Bow Junction, and took off the Poplar signals for it, but soon after, on hearing an engine whistle, found it was for Plaistow, and accordingly gave it on to Bromley junction (the next block station towards Plaistow), quite forgetting all about the passenger train standing at the platform, had it accepted at 4.12pm, reversed his signals, and cancelled the block telegraph signal to Bow Junction. The goods train arrived at 4.14pm, and though the driver nearly stopped, and asked whether it was “all clear” for him to proceed to Plaistow, the signalman still forgot the passenger train and told him it was “clear,” upon which the driver of the goods train went on faster, and had attained a speed of six to seven miles an hour, when he saw the guard of the passenger train on the platform with a red light, a short distance back from the tail of the other train. He then used every effort to stop, and had somewhat reduced his speed when the collision took place.

There were three passengers on the train, one of whom complained of injury. The vehicles in the passenger train were all slightly damaged but no damage was sustained by the goods train.

It was found that the collision was primarily caused by an extraordinary act of forgetfulness both of the signalman and train register boy on duty in the Tilbury junction cabin. The signalman, George Wright, was dismissed for causing slight collision and for permitting the train register boy to alter figures in the train register.

The railwaymen:

William Abel George Joyce was the passenger train driver. He was born in Bromley in 1858 and at the age of 13 was working as a brush maker, living with his parents and four siblings at 8 Holden Road, Bow. He began his employment with the NLR in 1875. By the spring of 1881 he had become a stoker and was living in digs at 38 Powis Road, Bromley. Later that year he married his landlady’s daughter, Sophia Jupp. In mid-1883 he was promoted to driver. He was still a driver in 1911 and presumably remained as such until he reached the retirement age of 60 in 1918. He died in 1929 with his wife following him in 1934. They had three daughters and a son. Their son, William George, born late 1890/early 1891, became a fitter’s apprentice with the NLR.

Edwin Charles Joyce was the passenger train fireman. He was born in Bromley in 1864 and lived with his parents and four siblings, one of whom was his elder brother, six years his senior, William, at 8 Holden Road, Bow. He was employed by the NLR around the turn of the year 1881/2, became a fireman in early 1883.

Charles George Jupp was the goods train driver. He was born in 1849 and was the eldest of five children of Charles and Harriett Jupp. In 1868 he married a Birmingham girl, Mary Ann Gould: the marriage appears to have been childless. He began working for the NLR in 1873, when he would have been 24. He progressed from fireman, to become a driver in 1881. This was the year that his sister Sophia married William Joyce, who at the time was a fireman. He died at the age of 48. Shortly after his widow applied to the NLR for pecuniary assistance and was given a grant equivalent to three month’s wages.

William George Patmore was the goods train fireman. Although not a part of the Joyce/Jupp triumvirate, he did dabble in nepotism in his own right, his brother and two sons also worked for the NLR. He was born in 1860, married Charlotte Fotherby in 1878, and began life on the NLR as a porter in June 1880. Within a year he had transferred to the Locomotive Department and by about March 1882 became a fireman. He went on to become a driver. His wife died at the age of 36 in 1896. Two of their three sons, Charles and Herbert, became signalmen. In 1899 he remarried, to Elizabeth Bowler. He died, presumably still in harness, at the age of 60.

In summary:

Passenger train driver William Joyce, brother of Edwin Joyce and brother-in-law of Charles Jupp

Passenger train fireman Edwin Joyce, brother of William Joyce

Goods train driver Charles Jupp, brother-in-law of William Joyce

Goods train fireman William Patmore.

Peter Bloomfield

Additional research: Margaret Foote Colin Mansell and Amanda Bloomfield


Return of Accidents reported to Board of Trade

by Railway Companies in United Kingdom, 1883

[Command Paper C.3940, 1884],

RAIL 529/51, 4 Dec 1883, Loco, etc, Cttee Min 5303.

Staff sources are mainly from birth, marriage, and death registers and various census forms.


Notes on the signalman George Wright and train register boy Henry Carter.

George Wright:

Ex-Metropolitan Police. Signalman. Age 28. Appt 18 Apr 1879. [RAIL 529/133, folio 129.]

Watchman, Devons Road. New appt. Pay 21s. [RAIL 529/49 6 May 1879, Loco Com Min 3718.]

Promoted Blackwall Bridge to Tilbury Junction. Pay 24s. to 25s. [RAIL 529/51, 28 Feb 1882, Loco Com Min Min 4702.]

Service 5½ years, 5 years signalman, about 1½ signalman Tilbury Junction cabin. Collision on 7 Nov 1883 at Bow Junction station. [Return of Accidents reported to Board of Trade by Railway Companies in United Kingdom, 1883, Session 1884 C.3940, pages 191-195.]

Signalman, Tilbury Junction. Pay 25s. Dismissed for causing slight collision and for permitting train register boy (Henry Carter) to alter figures in the train register. [RAIL 529/51, 4 Dec 1883, Loco Com Min Min 5303; RAIL 529/133, folio 129.]


Henry Carter:

Train register boy. Age 14. Appt 5 Sep 1883. [RAIL 529/134/323 Folio 106.]

Train register boy, Tilbury Junction. Pay 6s. [RAIL 529/51, 9 Oct 1883, Loco Com Min Min 5245.]

Train Register Boy, Tilbury Junction. Pay 6s. to 8s. From 5 Sep 1884. [RAIL 529/52 7 Oct 1884, Loco Com Min 5611.]

Train register boy, Mildmay Park. Pay 8s. to 10s. from 5 Sep 1885. [RAIL 529/52, 6 Oct 1885, Loco Com Min Min 5956.]

Train register boy, Mildmay Park. Pay 10s. Resigned. [RAIL 529/53 3 Aug 1886, Loco Com Min 6279.]

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