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REFORT of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Frederic Smith on his inspection of the Mersthan 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 ma be 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, 

notwithstanding 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. notwithstanding 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.


Click on the icon above for

the Brighton Motive Power Depots

Click on the icon above for

the Sussex Motive Power Depots & ASLEF Branches


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