The following incident, photographed by Knights-Whittome in 1911 and titled simply ‘Belmont Motor Accident’ was reported in the Sutton Advertiser, Friday 6 Oct, 1911 (page 4).
“About 4 pm on Wednesday a large touring car belonging to Mr F.A. Bevan of Park-lane, W., was proceeding towards London from Banstead, and while crowning over the bridge outside Belmont Railway Station the near rear tyre suddenly burst. The driver, a man named Smith, applied the brakes sharply with the result that the car slewed right round, narrowly missing another car, and dashed backwards through the fence bounding the line. It then slid down the bank some 23ft. on to the rail below, its speed being checked by the stump of a tree. Fortunately no train happened to be passing at the moment for the car entirely blocked the line. The chauffeur stuck to his wheel, and had a marvellous escape from death, sustaining only a few bruises, whilst the car, externally at any rate, was not much damaged. The railway employees got assistance and tried to raise the car but failed. A breakdown gang was then sent for, and at 10.30pm. with the aid of a powerful steam crane, the car was raised to the roadway, where it was found that the machinery was undamaged. The up line was blocked altogether for about six and a half hours.”
We do not have a great many plates of ‘events’, let alone news stories in our collection so it seems likely that this Knights-Whittome just happened to be in the right place at the right time to capture this incident. Certainly, with six and a half hours to work with, he would have had plenty of time to make the trek up the Brighton Road from his studio in Sutton to record events as word of the accident reached the town centre. The photograph did not appear in local press, so whether he took it with a commercial purpose in mind or just out of personal interest we cannot be sure. The plate is dated 7 Oct, 3 days after the accident, and marked simply ‘1’. Presumably this means that just one print was made of the image, but for whom or what purpose, we do not know.
All we can deduce is, that while it may have been a little more infrequent, ‘rail commuter hell’ is certainly not just a twenty-first century cross to bear.