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Take the system as a whole, railway accidents traceable to negligent conduct on the part of servants, bad management, inefficient switches, or defective plant, do not occur frequently on our lines. But it is remarkable that cases of fatal accident, from being “ spilt” from the trains, occur more frequently in New Zealand than they do at home, and the number of accidents of this kind, we feel assured, is as great in proportion to the extent of our lines as it is in America. In England, the old fashioned carriage is in vogue still, and probably always will be—the carriage divided up into compartments with two doors to each. The railway companies at Home could never brook the loss of sitting room in their carriages that our platforms at either end entail, and consequently passengers on their trains have to be content to perform their journeys without enjoying an airing outside, and are literally locked in, thus being protected without choice from the sort of accidents that are common here. The absence of platforms from the English carriage thus gels rid of the chance of “spilling” passengers, and so coroner’s inquests on cases from that cause are unknown. In America, again, the platform is in use, but precautions are taken there to prevent accidents—precautions that might with advantage be adopted here. Our carriages are constructed almost exactly on the American model, but there is one important omission; the strong canvas sheet that extends from one carriage to another, just above the couplings, and prevents anything that may fall from the platform reaching the rails. This canvas sheet, it will at once be seen, is a safeguard against death, from being run over by the wheels, to any unfortunate who may fall between the carriages. If he fall from the side of the carriage, he may just as readily as not get injured by the shock, but almost all possibility of being run over is prevented, as he is bound to fall clear of the rails. We do not know whether the Yankees’ idea in this is more to save life than to keep their carriage wheels clear, but certain it is fatal “spills” are less frequent in America than they are in this colony. The accident that occurred near Rakaia on Saturdaj r last leads us to make the foregoing remarks, and though possibly the canvas sheet would not be much of a protection to a drunk man, as Clark was proved to have been, it certainly would be a protection against danger to children who by any unfortunate chance may fall under the rails of the platform, and down between the carriages. It was the want of this sheet, as far as we can gather, that killed the child recently at Burnham station. Well, we are not perhaps strictly in accordance with facts when we say “ killed ” the child, as the coroner’s jury found the immediate cause of death to be something else ; but she undoubtedly came by her mutilation from falling from the carriage platform, and had the sheet we refer to been a part of the carriage furniture, she would not have fallen before the wheels of the carriage, and consequently would not have been run over. The authorities are not required to provide protection for drunk passengers, that is—drunk persons are not permitted to travel; and had Clark’s intoxication been observed at Ashburton by the station master the man would probably now have been alive well to-day. It is not a pleasant thing for a railway official to do—to turn out a man from a train for being drunk ; but is a duty that ought to be performed, notwithstanding, as well in the man’s own interest as in the interest of his fellow passengers; for if it is unpleasant to a chap to get run over, it is equally unpleasant to those who are travelling with him to have to be eyewitnesses to the • accident. Then a large number of second class passengers have a fondness for sitting on the platforms witii their legs hanging over the side. This practice is most reprehensible, 'as it encourages young boys to follow the example, and it is a difficult thing to prevent children from following a bad example like this set them by their elders. This habit of sitting on the platforms should be discouraged as far as possible by the authorities, as we feel certain that its extinction would prevent many accidents. We have happily enjoyed a pleasant immunity from collisions on our railway lines, and no smashes of any consequence have yet occurred to harrow our feelings. We would fain see those frequent accidents from falling off the trains prevented, and will be glad to see the American “catcher” introduced to our system. It is not an expensive thing, it is easily fitted, and being a successful contrivance for saving life, its adoption is worth considering.

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Bibliographic details

RAILWAY ACCIDENTS., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 88, 17 April 1880

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RAILWAY ACCIDENTS. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 88, 17 April 1880