Awful catastrophe at the Clayton Hill Tunnel

Catastrophe at the Clayton hill tunnel on the Brighton railway, August 25th 1861


It is our duty to relate one of the most fearful railway accidents that has taken place for sometime past. We may state at starting that Clayton tunnel, the scene of the accident is the second tunnel on the main Brighton line and the longest on the line. The first train to leave Brighton on Sunday was the Portsmouth excursion train. Shortly after it had left it was followed by the regular Brighton train to London. On this train approaching the tunnel the signalman says that the signal (which ought to have intimated to the Brighton train that the Portsmouth train was in the tunnel) had not worked. He immediately exhibited the danger flag, the driver of the regular Brighton train on seeing this applied the breaks. But did not succeed in stopping until it had got a long distance up the tunnel. He reversed his engine and proceeded back to the end of the tunnel. At this juncture the Brighton excursion came in view, the man understanding that the train had passed through showed the 'all right!' signal and the driver proceeded at full speed into the tunnel, of course, meeting the train backing out. The consequence was awful. Killed, 22; wounded, above 100.

Oh! Here's such a dreadful case, heartrending, such a catastrophe we seldom knew,
Which did occur on Sunday morning, the Brighton train like lightening flew
With joyful hearts they did leave Brighton, early in the morning soon;
Fathers mothers, sons and daughters, youth and beauty, health and bloom.

On Sunday, the 25th of August, in Clayton Hill tunnel, sad to tell
Health and vigour, youth and beauty, on the Brighton railway fell.

Smoothly, gently on they started, every soul did seem alive,
Chatting gaily, all light-hearted, hoping quickly to arrive
To that monstrous city, London Alas how dreadful was their fate
At Clayton Hill, five mile from Brighton, the shocking accident did take place.

In the dark and dreary tunnel very near to Brighton town
This dreadful accident occurred which caused sorrow miles around
Every bosom seem'd bewildering, every tongue in silent breath
Male and female, pretty children, all closed in the arms of death.

Twenty-two was quickly hurried to their sad and silent grave
To the spot where life was buried and no powder could them safe
Pretty little prattling infants who in the carriages did play
From their parent in an instant by grim death was snatched away.

Numbers too were sadly wounded, their sufferings none can describe
Onward! Swift! the engine bounded alas they all fell side by side
Mothers now are broken hearted, fathers weeping in despair
Tender sons and lovely daughters, weep in sorrow, tear their hair.

Every eye is bathed in sorrow, every cheek is washed in tears.
Every tender bosom trembles, sorrow roams both far and near
Thousands now are broken hearted, every class both high and low
Are in sorrow sad lamenting for those who sleep in death below

They little though that fatal morning when they left home in health and bloom
That before the day was dawning they would be hurried to the tomb
Oh! God protect the weeping parents, ease their sorrows, dry their tears