1841


MERSTHAM TUNNEL 


WEDNESDAY 27 OCTOBER 1841


REFORT of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Frederic Smith on his inspection of the Merstham Cutting 

on 

the London and Brighton Railway, with reference to the slip which occurred 

on the 28th October 1841


The traffic of the London and Brighton Railway having become interrupted by a slip which 
took place the night before last, in one of the sides of the Merstham cutting, I have this day, in conformity with your Lordship's general instructions, inspected the works on that part of the line.

The Brighton Railway crosses the Merstham hill by a tunnel, of above one mile in length and by two cuttings. That on the north side of the tunnel being 1 7/8 of a mile long, and on the south side about half a mile.

The slip took place on the eastern side of the north cutting, and nearly adjoining the mouth of the tunnel. Here the height from the level of the rails to the natural surface of the ground is about 110 feet, divided into two slopes; the lower slope, which is entirely in chalky being 70 feet deep, and battering about three inches in the foot, and the upper, which is 40. feet deep, and  partly in gravel, being at an of 45 degrees.

At the junction of these slopes there was what is called a large pot hole, filled with gravel, 
which, having become saturated with water during the late rains, thrust out the chalk face of 
the slope for a length of about 30 yards, and a thickness of between four five feet. Although 
the mass throw the mass thrown down was very inconsiderable, yet, owing to the height of 
the cutting, as compared with its breadth, it has been sufficient to cover about 30 yards in 
length of lines of rails. If the weather had been favourable, and the work had been pressed 
forward, the whole of the rubbish right have been cleared away in a few hours, but this has 
not been thought necessary, as the temporary interruption merely causes some light 
inconvenience to the passengers, and expense to the Company, who furnish the means of 
conveyance between the points where the trains are obliged to stop. This interval, owing to 
the length of the cuttings and tunnel, is about four miles. The line is to be opened throughout 
on Monday next.

I carefully examined the whole of the north cutting, and I find that, with the exception of the 
slip in question, its shows scarcely any symptom of having been affected by the late heavy 
continued rains, nor by the severe frost of last winter, and therefore it is questionable far it maybe proper for the Board of Trade to interfere; but, looking at the great inconvenience that would result from any protracted interruption of the traffic, and the loss that would in 
consequence result to the Company, as well as the risk it might occasion to the traveller, if 
any heavy slip were to take place, I am disposed to recommend, not with standing that the 
cuttings on the whole stand well at present that an increase be given to the latter of the lower 
slope; and probably the best way of doing this will be to form both slopes into one. It strikes 
me as being a mere question of first expense, for although no serious evil may result from 
allowing the cutting to remain as it now is, still it is very probable, especially after being 
saturated by the excessive rain of this autumn, that portions of the steeper slope, on being 
acted upon by frost, will gradually peel off, and cost in the removal even more than if cut 
down in the first instance.

In my journey to the Merstham cutting, I observed that some parts of the Godston road 
embankment, which, in my first report on this line I stated would require to he worked with 
care, had subsided a littleUnder these circumstances, although the settlement is at present 
unimportant in itself, yet, as an indication of the effect the rain may have in doing greater 
mischief I beg to repeat my warning of the necessity of its being most carefully watched, I also remarked some very heavy slips in the cutting of the Croydon inclined plane, and that. 
not with standing the slopes are extremely flathe ground which has given way has encroached so much so much on the bottom of the cutting as to be touched by the steps of the carriages as the trains pass. I would therefore recommend that the greatest care should be used by the drivers of all the trains in running down this plane, especially after dark; and that until the present movement of the slopes shall appear to be arrested, extra policemen should be employed on this part of the line, to examine and ascertain its safety before the passing of every train.

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