Daily Post, Sept 14th, 1870
Terrible accident in a railway tunnel
Two lives lost and many injured
Yesterday a terrible accident took place on the Liverpool and Bury branch of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway, between Wigan and Liverpool, in a tunnel situated about quarter of a mile from Orrell Station, 4 miles from Wigan.
The 11am train from Liverpool to Manchester and Yorkshire is an express train, to which is attached a 3rd class carriage for passengers east of Bolton, The train is not timed to stop between Liverpool and Wigan, where it is due at 11…40, and generally it travels rapidly through the tunnel in question, which is said to be worked on the block system, and which is known as Upholland tunnel. Recently the platelayers have been engaged in repairing the up-line in the tunnel and yesterday they were employed about midway in the cutting. At the time the train was due it is said to have signalled in the usual manner, and entered the tunnel at a moderate speed. On reaching the place where the platelayers had been working, the engine, by some means unexplained, was thrown off the line and fell against the tunnel, to which it dragged the whole of the train. All the engines were thrown off the line, then the engine coupling broke, and then the engine went on a few yards until it became wedged against the brickwork, which was much damaged,
The driver and stoker held to the engine and were uninjured, and they with the guard and some passengers were prompt in their endeavours to obtain assistance. Both lines were stopped, and a telegram for medical help was immediately sent to Wigan. There was for a short time a terrible panic amongst the passengers, of whom many were injured, and the scene in the tunnel was entirely beyond description.
The only carriage which had been greatly damaged was the one next to the engine, and through third class, and this was a complete wreck. The end had been staved in, and nearly every seat was broken. In the six-foot near the carriage, was found a lying man, who was just alive, and who died in a few minutes, and was conveyed to a small public house at the Orrell entrance to the tunnel. Another man was lying dead under the wheels, and a couple of hours had elapsed before he could be released. Two other men, seriously hurt were found near this end of the train, and they were removed as speedily as possible.
A special train was despatched from Wigan shortly after the receipt of the telegram, and on the receipt of this Messers FISHER and BARNISH, surgeons proceeded to the scene of the accident Mr MOLYNEUX, surgeon of Upholland, was also on the spot speedily.
One of the deceased, a respectfully dressed man, had evidently been on a holiday trip to Ireland, and from a letter found in his possession, it is supposed that his name was MURRAY, and that he resided at Rochdale. He was booked from Mumps [Oldham] Station. He had sustained a compound fracture of the ankle, and had been severely crushed in the abdomen. The second deceased was apparently a working man, his name at present unknown, nothing was found upon him that was likely to lead to his identification, except a Liverpool address on a small box of studs. He had a 3d class ticket for Rochdale.
The whole of the passengers were sent on to Wigan or Liverpool with the exception of those deceased, and two most seriously injured, One gave his name AS Captain JACKSON, and stated he was on his way to Goole to see the owners of his ship, which is lying at Liverpool. His right arm was broken, part of his ear had been torn away, and he had sustained other injuries. The other man injured is John PHILLIPS, and lives at 54 Skirving St, Liverpool. He had been severely injured, and with great difficulty had been sent back to Liverpool later in the day
Wigan, 8.30pm, There seems to be but one opinion to the cause of the accident, railway officials and police agreeing that the platelayers had been seriously to blame. About 5.30pm, the foreman platelayer, John BALL, a quiet, hard-working inoffensive man was taken into custody by Sergeant BENXETT, and charged with having caused the death of the two deceased. He was allowed to go home and wash himself, as he had been working in the tunnel all day, and was then taken to the Pemberton lock-up, the head-quarters of the county police in the district. There was no doubt that ample bail would be forthcoming, as BALL is well known and highly respectable. So far as we can learn there were at work in the tunnel only two platelayers, instead of four, and one of the four ought to have been stationed at the entrance to signal the trains moving eastwards. It is stated that there was no signalman whatever, and it would appear that the two men were endeavouring to do the work of three in a space of time all too short for the express dashed into the tunnel before a rail which had been moved, had been properly replaced, and the catastrophe, then a certainty was only a few seconds distant.
The line is not yet clear and probably several more hours will elapse before the traffic is uninterrupted. All trains since noon have been more or less delayed as only one line of rails is open in the tunnel. A numerous staff of men is at work, but the confined space and the continually passing trains seriously impede their efforts
Captain JACKSON is seriously ill, but there are hopes of his recovery.