Bray Train Crash (1867) Co. Wicklow, Ireland

On the morning of August 9th, 1867 the 6.30 a.m. Enniscorthy to Dublin train derailed, crashing through the barrier of a bridge at Bray Head, Co. Wicklow. The bridge or viaduct over the Brandy Hole ravine, was constructed in the trestle style from timber and was just over 45 metres in length. The route around the headland had been surveyed and engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and opened to rail traffic in October 1855. It was one of two timber viaducts built at Bray Head.

About a kilometre and a half south of Bray station, at Brabazon Corner, the engine, tender and three carriages, left the tracks, broke through the wooden rail and plunged 10 metres into the landward side of the ravine. The engine and tender turned over, the coupling snapped and they landed with their wheels in the air. The first third class carriage broke into pieces, though a young railway employee inside was unhurt. A third carriage dangled over the bridge, held aloft by its coupling to the carriage behind which had derailed but was still on the viaduct. A Mr. Murphy died immediately, a Mrs Haikman died later and 23 others were injured.

Image of Bray Train Crash (1867)

Bray Train Crash

© Public Domain

A government inspector, Mr. Yolland, noted that there had been a previous accident on the head in April 1865 in which the first class carriage had been derailed and had travelled over 420 metres before the guard applied the brakes and brought the train to a halt. A recommendation that a guard rail be placed around the line at Bray Head had only partially been carried out and, crucially, had not been installed at the site of the 1867 accident. Mr Yolland concluded that if it had, the accident would not have occurred. In addition he noted that had the train fallen on the seaward side, where there was a greater drop, the accident would have been a lot worse. He attributed the cause of the crash to faults in how the track was laid and subsequently maintained. The timber trestle bridge was not at fault in any way.

By August 14th, the line had been altered and repaired and the timber viaduct was in use until 1876 when the line was diverted inland.