Derailment at Barnham on 1st August 1962
(Courtesy of Topfoto picture agency)
After nearly 100 years of safe travel, Barnham experienced a disastrous derailment at the station. The six-coach 10.17a.m.train from Brighton to Portsmouth was approaching the station at a few minutes after eleven when, as the train crossed the points, the front carriage leapt into the air and landed on its side. The second carriage was dragged onto the platform and the third carriage was battered but remained upright. Concrete from the platforms was hurled into the air and rails twisted out of position. Of the 250 passengers aboard, thirty eight people including the driver, Mr Alfred Light of Lewes, were taken to hospital suffering mainly from cuts, bruises and shock but thankfully none were seriously hurt and only five were detained overnight. The driver was fortunate to escape serious injury as two concrete coping slabs pierced the right side of his cab. Villagers came to the rescue and the ambulance and fire services were soon on the scene. Special mention was made to the workers of Penfolds of Barnham who were amongst the first on the scene. Civil Defence and W.V.S. personnel also helped in the rescue and relief work. Miss Mary Beck of Barnham Riding School, who witnessed the crash whilst riding her horse in an adjacent field, described the scene to the Bognor Post newspaper. “…I heard a colossal bang and saw the train leap into the air. There were clouds of black smoke and I saw people scrambling out.” One of these was Mr Matthews of Worthing who said that he felt wood splintering all around and he thought that the carriage was falling to pieces.
The Railway Accident Report concluded: “The points, which are motor-worked, had been opened by the motor being wrongly energised; a loose washer had bridged the electrical circuit to enable this to happen.” (Ministry of Transport report published 1963) So a dropped loose washer was to blame; when it had been dropped and whether anyone was aware that it had been dropped, the inspectors did not know.
For photographs – follow this link to Flickr where you will find many images of the Barnham Station through the ages. (Flickr is an external site where images are hosted).