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|Type||Suburban rail, Heavy rail|
South East England
|Track gauge||1,435 mm (4 ft 8 1⁄2 in) standard gauge|
|Tonbridge to Hastings|
The line was opened by the South Eastern Railway (SER) in main three stages:
- Tonbridge – Tunbridge Wells:
- 19 September 1845: a temporary station while the intervening tunnel was completed. That temporary station later became the goods depot;
- 25 November 1846: Tunbridge Wells Central station opened
- Tunbridge Wells – Robertsbridge: 1 September 1851
- Robertsbridge – Battle: 1 January 1852
- Battle – St Leonards (Bo-peep Junction): 1 February 1853
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (February 2012)|
The Hastings Line is built over difficult terrain across the Weald. As a result there are seven tunnels constructed through the Sandstone Hastings Beds. The SER was anxious to construct the line as quickly as possible, since it was in competition with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway to obtain entry to the south coast seaside resort of Hastings; the line, in spite of its problems, was opened from Tunbridge Wells in a year. The contractors responsible for building the tunnels cheated the SER by reducing the planned six layers of bricks through the tunnels to four.
It was only when the Wadhurst tunnel collapsed in 1862 that this was discovered. It was too expensive to re-bore the tunnels, so the SER added the two missing layers. This obviously reduced the width, and from then on, until 1986, it was necessary to work the line with Restriction 0 rolling stock.
Traction and rolling stock
The first most successful locomotives built to cope with the necessary weight and loading gauge restrictions taken into account were the "Schools" class built in the 1930s; the cab roofs in particular were narrower than main line locomotives. They worked the line until 1957 when steam gave way to diesel-electric multiple units of what became British Rail Class 201, 202 and 203 (the "Hastings Diesels") took over working the route. These units were constructed of narrow rolling stock. They were delivered in six-car formations (the Class 203 including a buffet car) and two units were often operated in multiple to form twelve-car trains. In latter years some of the units were reduced to five and (later still) to four cars. Twelve Class 33/2 diesel locomotives, nicknamed "Slim Jims", were also built with narrow bodies for the Hastings line.
The final solution on the line was to convert the most restricted of the tunnels to single-line working. This was achieved in 1986, and at the same time the line was electrified using 750 V DC third rail.
There are nine tunnels between Tonbridge and Ore. In order from north to south they are:
|Somerhill||410 yd (375 m)||Single||South of Tonbridge station.|
|Wells||823 yd (753 m)||Double||North of Tunbridge Wells station.|
|Grove Hill||287 yd (262 m)||Double||South of Tunbridge Wells station.|
|Strawberry Hill||286 yd (262 m)||Single||North of Frant station.|
|Wadhurst||1,205 yd (1,102 m)||Single||South of Wadhurst station.|
|Mountfield||526 yd (481 m)||Single||South of Robertsbridge station.|
|Bo-Peep||1,318 yd (1,205 m)||Double||West of St Leonards Warrior Square station.|
|Hastings||788 yd (721 m)||Double||East of St. Leonards Warrior Square station.|
|Mount Pleasant||230 yd (210 m)||Double||West of Ore station.|
There have always been problems connected with the Tonbridge -St Leonards section of the Charing Cross line. It was built in a hurry by the SER in an attempt to compete with the passenger traffic to Hastings of the LBSCR; and as a result corners were cut in its construction. Most of the section runs through the hilly Weald, necessitating seven tunnels. The contractors on the line, in an attempt to keep up with a strict timetable, saved time by putting in fewer layers of bricks than were required through the tunnels: in 1862 the Wadhurst tunnel collapsed, revealing the truth. Instead of reboring the tunnels, the extra layers were laid on the inner surfaces of all seven tunnels, narrowing the bore, and thereby ensuring that specially-constructed rolling stock was required from then on; electrification of the line was also delayed for many years. Special narrow bodied diesel multiple units were introduced from 1957 to replace steam traction. Electrification was finally completed in 1986, using standard rolling stock, and the expedient of singling the track through the narrow tunnels. A preview service of electric trains ran on 27 April 1986 and the full timetable service commenced on 12 May 1986
The Wadhurst and Mountfield tunnels were those causing the major problems before the changes.
The line still sees a freight service to and from the gypsum sidings at Mountfield.
Driver's view of the line
- Jowett, Alan (March 1989). Jowett's Railway Atlas of Great Britain and Ireland: From Pre-Grouping to the Present Day (1st ed.). Sparkford: Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-8526-0086-1. OCLC 22311137.
- Yonge, John (October 1994). Gerald Jacobs, ed. Railway Track Diagrams - Volume 5 England, South and London Underground (1st ed.). Exeter: Quail Map Co. ISBN 1-8983-1907-3.
- Yonge, John (September 2002). Jacobs, Gerald, ed. Railway Track Diagrams - Book 5: England South and London Underground (Quail Track Plans) (2nd ed.). Exeter: Quail Map Company. ISBN 1-898319-52-9. OCLC 55557335.
- Yonge, John (November 2008) . Jacobs, Gerald, ed. Railway Track Diagrams 5: Southern & TfL (3rd ed.). Bradford on Avon: Trackmaps. ISBN 978 0 9549866 4 3.
A 1914 Railway Clearing House map of the southern end of the Hastings Line; note the closed Bexhill West branch.
- Hastings & St Leonards: Railways and Stations, at 1066 online