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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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From the  Morning Chronicle (a long-standing National newspaper which was the first newspaper to employ Charles Dickens)

31 December 1852 (The line at this time was single track and broad gauge)

"A most tremendous fall of cliff took place on Tuesday last on the line between Dawlish and Teignmouth. On the formation of the line ,it was found necessary to cut a tunnel through the rocks known as the Parson and the Clerk. A portion of the cliffs behind was thus cut off and its base being undermined by the action of the water, great fear was entertained for its safety.


The recent heavy rains and high winds have increased the danger, and men were stationed at different points to give notice immediately anything occurred. The necessity of the adoption of such a preventative course was first experienced on Sunday 26 December, when a portion of the cliff fell down near the lane leading up to  Holcombe. The 8.02am down train had just left the Dawlish Station when it occurred, but by the promptness with which the man on the look-out gave notice of the accident, it was stopped in time, or there would have been the most fearful crash. A large body of men was soon obtained, and the line was cleared in time for the 12.07 up train.


At about half past one o'clock, several tons of the cliff at that point, fell with a tremendous crash, covering the line for some distance and rendering all traffic impossible. The passengers by all the trains were obliged to be conveyed from Dawlish to Teignmouth and vice versa, in cabs, omnibuses and every other description of vehicle which the Company could obtain. The telegraph wires were also broken and all communication with stations was for the time suspended. Large groups of men were speedily sent to clear  the line of debris.


Mr Brunel, the engineer, with several of the directors, visited the spot and superintended the removal of the fallen mass. Fortunately, no lives were lost, nor have we heard of a single person being involved in an accident to the person.


It is supposed that the storm on Sunday night hastened the demolition of the cliff, as it visited this neighbourhood with great severity, stones weighing half a hundredweight each being carried up into Teignmouth town by the force of the waves."


Landslip 1853

This drawing looks very strange to those who know the Teignmouth to Dawlish railway line. It was published by the Illustrated London News a few weeks after this landslip took place and shows curves in the track that simply did not exist. The cliffs are very fanciful and nothing like the rock formations to be found at this spot. But it sold the magazine!


Brunel demonstrated at the time of the 1852 landslip , the techniiques used to keep the line open which have been applied ever since - he cleared out the debris as soon as possible and appeared at the site himself, if possivble with some directors in tow. Their appearance gave the public confidence that everything possible was being done but of course, it soon began to dawn on everyone - travellers, engineers, workmen, directors, even Brunel himself, that this problem was not going to go away in 1853 when normal service was resumed - this was to be a never-ending nightmare which would haunt the Great Westen, and those who came after them in the years to come.




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