Responsibility For Sparks from Locomotives.
An interesting case which has just been tried in the Court of Session, the supreme judicatory of Scotland, practically involving the question as to what means of arresting sparks from a locomotive boiler is efficient, is reported in Engineering. On June 5 last year a flax store in Port-Glasgow, twenty-nine feet from the rails of the Caledonian Company’s line from Glasgow to Greenock and the coast, was burned down and the contents destroyed. The contention was that the mischief had been done by a spark from a locomotive, and the company were sued for £ 12,000 damages. This contention was denied ; but the judge has come to the conclusion that it was proved. Contributory negligence was pleaded. The building was of two stories, and as is the custom with flax stores, there were no windows, the sun having a tendency to deteriorate and diminish the market value of flax. When flax was being taken out or into the store light was obtained through doors of which there were two on the side next the railway, and through these the sparks flew on the morning in question. The judge considered that this situation of the pursuer’s store and this arrangement of the building were certainly not such as to minimize the risks arising from sparks thrown by passing engines. But on the other hand he did not know that the pursuers were bound, because of the risk of the negligent discharge of sparks from the defenders’ engines, to forego the full use of their ground and to depart from what they considered the best arrangement for obtaining access to or lighting their store. In other words, they took the chance of the railway company doing their duty. Of course if the Caledonian Company did not use every precaution in preventing the emission of sparks then they were responsible by law. This point of law was not in dispute.; but they had to prove that precautionary measures had been taken, and Lord Kyllachy was of opinion that they had hardly discharged themselves of that onus by leading evidence to the effect “ that the engine in question was of the newest and best construction, and that its arrangements for complete combustion were so perfect that if sparks came from it which reached the ground aglow ‘either the engine-driver was very much at fault or the coals were bad.’ ” This was the view of Mr. Drummond, the railway Company’s late locomotive superintendent, and as the judge said, “ a gentleman of the highest skill and a most excellent and candid witness. ” It was also the view of Mr. Adams, the patentee of the vortex blast, which is the leading feature of this class of engine Besides, the railway company were responsible for the fault of the engine-driver. Apart, however, from any argumentum ad hominem, the judge said he was not satisfied on the evidence that the engine No. 85 and the other engines of its class were so constructed as to contain the best known and practical arrangements for preventing the emission of sparks. Differing in this respect from the older class of engines, they contained no “ spark arrester” in their smokebox, and, assuming in their favor (what, however, is matter of dispute) that their vortex blast arrangement did not tend to increase the risk of sparks, or even that its associated arrangements tended to diminish that risk, still, said the judge, the sparks ex hypothesi issued and issued of such size as to be dangerous ; and that being so he was satisfied upon the evidence that the spark arrester, if used, would not at least have reduced that risk. Neither had he been convinced that its introduction would have materially interfered with the working of the engine or been in any other respect injurious. It was true, he remarked further, that a majority of the great railway companies in England had ceased to use ” spark arresters but they were still largely used, and having given his best attention to the views of the defenders’ witnesses, he had been unable to see sufficient reason why they should not continue to be used, or why, if used, they should not go at least a considerable way to obviate the risk of fire. Judgment was therefore given for the Port-Glasgow and Newark Sailcloth Company, and it was remitted to a Glasgow accountant to settle the amount of the damage done. The damage was covered by insurance, but this was considered immaterial, as the Sailcloth Company were perhaps suing on behalf of the insurance company.
A Venice (Ill.) item of September 6 says: “The Venice waterworks have been entirely disabled again, thus also disabling the electric light plant, which had no water with which to raise steam, and about the darkest night of the month the entire town was left without light, as well as the business houses. The large sandbars formed by the government in front of Venice, have compelled the iaying of pipes for the water-works half way across the river before the channel is reached, causing considerable expense and inconvenience. ”