Balcombe Railway Station: Site of a horrifying early railway tragedy

Updated: Oct 18, 2020

Bristol Mercury - Saturday 04 July 1846

FATAL ACCIDENT ON THE BRIGHTON RAILWAY. Two Lives Lost.


BALCOMBE, Tuesday evening,.

An accident of a most lamentable description occurred on Monday evening, on the London and Brighton railway, at Balcombe station, situate about a mile and a half on the Brighton side of the Balcombe tunnel, by which two persons, one a female passenger and the other the station-clerk, lost their lives.


The station, it should be stated, is of the worst construction, and offers but trifling security, or even accommodation, to the public. It is approached by a deep flight of steps from the main road, which passes over the railway. Passengers travelling by the down trains are compelled to walk across both lines of rails to the opposite side, and to this dangerous system may the accident in some measure is be attributed.



It appears that at about ten minutes before three o'clock, among the passengers who came to the station and booked themselves for the half-past two o'clock train from Brighton for London, were Mr. Arthur Murphy, and his wife, Mrs. Sarah Murphy.


After taking the tickets, Mrs. Murphy proceeded to cross the rails in the direction of the shed on the up line, and at the same moment the down express train was heard by Shaw approaching at its usual velocity. He looked out of his doorway and realised that she had apparently slipped or fallen on the down lines of the rails. Seeing her in imminent danger he heroically rushed out, caught hold of her, and made a desperate effort to throw the unfortunate lady off the line, when at the same instant the engine struck them both to the ground, and the whole of the train passed over them, killing them instantaneously.


A more appalling sight was scarcely ever witnessed. The wheels had passed completely over the head of Shaw, thereby rendering the least recognition of his features impossible. The head of Mrs. Murphy was sadly mutilated, it was nearly cut in half; and, to add to the shocking catastrophe, she was far advanced in pregnancy. The sufferings of Mr. Murphy, on discovering the fate of his wife, were, it may be easily conceived, of the most heartrending character. Verdict “accidental death”

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