The Postman's Park plaque that remembers the fatal act of courage demonstrated by Walter Peart (1857 - 1878) and Henry Dean (1873 - 1898) reads, "Walter Peart, Driver, And Harry Dean, Fireman Of The Windsor Express, July 18 1898, Whilst Being Scalded And Burnt, Sacrificed Their Lives In Saving The Train."
The Illustrated Police News related the full story in its issue of 23rd July 1898:-
"The death took place on Tuesday last, in St. Mary's Hospital, of Walter Peart and Henry Dean, driver and fireman in the employ of Great Western Railway Company, from the effects of injuries received through the explosion of the boiler of the engine they were in charge of while bringing the 4.15 p.m. train from Windsor to Paddington on the previous day.
The accident occurred within a short distance of Acton station, and is notable for the heroism and promptitude displayed by the dead men in averting a much more serious calamity.
The 4.15 train is a fast one, and is timed to reach Paddington within 32 minutes.
At Acton the passengers were surprised at the train becoming enveloped in steam, while showers of cinders poured in at open windows.
The train ran on for a considerable distance, and when it drew up the driver and fireman were barely able to leave the engine to summon assistance.
After passing through Ealing, Peart, the driver, noticed that the connecting-rod had become defective, and would require attention at the earliest opportunity.
Shortly after, however, the rod broke, and one of the ends was immediately forced through the casing of the boiler, owing to the speed the train was going at the time.
Fire and steam were blown with great force from the fire-box, reaching to the tender, and the two men were seriously burnt and scalded.
Notwithstanding this they stood manfully to their posts, and did their utmost to bring the train to a standstill.
They were taken from Acton to St. Mary's Hospital, where Peart succumbed to his injuries shortly after six o'clock the next morning, while Dean died three hours later.
Peart leaves a wife and five children, and was forty-three years of age; Dean was twenty-five, and had not long been married.
Mr.Goschen, the First Lord of the Admiralty, returning from Windsor, was among the passengers on the train to which the accident occurred and the right hon. gentleman has sent the railway company a letter expressing his high sense of the self-sacrificing devotion of the fireman and engine-driver, and enclosing a subscription in the aid of their bereaved families. It is stated that other passengers on the train has promised to subscribe to a relief fund.
In the case of Peart and Dean, it is satisfactory to know that the Great Western Railway company will make provision for those who were dependent upon them. At the same time, since the deceased met their deaths in circumstances of such conspicuous bravery, it is hardly to be doubted that the public will be desirous of aiding in so benevolent a work, and that a considerable number of additional subscriptions will be forwarded to the Paddington terminus."
On Sunday 24th July 1876 Reynolds's Newspaper carried a report on the inquest into the deaths of the two men which testified even further to the extraordinary bravery they had shown in the face of the adversity that had confronted them:-
"Dr, Danford Thomas held an inquiry on Friday at Marylebone concerning the death of Walter Peart and Henry Dean.
Mr John Armstrong, divisional superintendent in the locomotive department of the Great Western Railway, said that the engine in question was built in 1867, but it had been renewed since that date.
The piston rod was examined each morning by men who removed it from the slide.
He had examined the engine and found the right-hand connecting rod was broken. In its movement the rod had cut its way through the fire box and so had allowed the hot water and steam to escape through the fire door, scalding the men on the footplate. The position of the handle of the brake indicated clearly that the brake must have been applied.
The Witness was then handed a portion of the connecting rod and, in reply to questions, pointed out an internal flaw which might have been produced through the introduction of a bit of dirt during the process of manufacture. The flaw could not have been detected. The rods were made of the best metal obtainable. The engine was generally used for goods, but on this occasion it was used for a passenger express.
John Hodges, a platelayer employed by the company, said he accompanies Peart, the driver, to the hospital.
When in the train the deceased said, "Where are we?"
Witness replied, "At Acton."
he said, "I thought so. Is my face cut much?"
He told him it was a bit, and he replied, "Never mind, I've stopped my train."
Witness said, "How did you stop the train?", and the reply was, "I put the brake on."
He added, "I've got no bones broken. Where is my poor mate?"
Edward Baker, a foreman at Paddington, said: "I assisted to watch the men at St. Mary's Hospital. The fireman said, "I am so cold." I asked him how it occurred, but he only asked for some brandy. I afterwards asked the driver the same thing and he said, "I stopped my engine."
I asked him, "Didn't you jump off?"
He replied, "No."
I said, "How did you get burned like that."
He answered, "When it first happened and I got back out of the way, and I thought to myself the train is running as fast as ever. I thought I would get back to the fire and put my vacuum break on. I did it, and as I got out from the fire and the smoke I couldn't see, and when I was by the side of the engine my leg was struck by the connecting-rod, which was broken."
I inquired if he jumped off and he said, "No, I stopped my engine."
The jury, after a long deliberation, returned a verdict of "Accidental death," and added the following rider:- "The jury are of the opinion that the engine was not a fit and proper one to be used for drawing an express train.
The jury also desire to place on record their high appreciation of the conduct of the two deceased men in applying the brake and in keeping at their posts, thus averting a very serious catastrophe which would have endangered the lives of the passengers of the train.""