Spa Valley Railway

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Spa Valley Railway
Commercial operations
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Preserved operations
Length 5.5 mi (8.9 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Commercial history
Closed 1985
Preservation history
December 1996 Re-open first 0.6mls (1km)from Tunbridge Wells West
August 1997 Open to Groombridge
2005 line to Birchden Jn open for special services
25 March 2011 Open to Eridge
Headquarters Tunbridge Wells West railway station
Spa Valley Railway
Hastings LineTo Tonbridge
Wells Tunnel 823 yards (753 m)
Tunbridge Wells Central
Grove Hill Tunnel 287 yards (262 m)
Grove Junction
Grove Tunnel 183 yards (single track)Closed 1985
Hastings LineTo Hastings
Tunbridge Wells West (original site)
Tunbridge Wells West (Spa Valley Railway)
High Rocks Halt (original site)
High Rocks (Spa Valley Railway)
Groombridge (original site)
Groombridge (Spa Valley Railway)
Wealden Line to London Victoria
To Three Bridges
(Ashurst Junction)
Birchden Junction
Eridge
Redgate Mill Junction Cuckoo Line to Polegate
Wealden Line To Uckfield

The Spa Valley Railway (SVR) is a standard gauge heritage railway that runs from Tunbridge Wells West railway station in Tunbridge Wells to High Rocks, Groombridge, and Eridge, where it links with the Oxted Line. En route it crosses the Kent and East Sussex border, a distance of 5 miles (8 km), along the former Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells Central Line / Cuckoo Line. The railway headquarters is at Tunbridge Wells West railway station.

History[edit]

The Station Approach in the early 1900s. A Yablochkov candle can be seen on the left of the picture.

The railway was engineered by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway's (LB&SCR) Chief Engineer Frederick Banister, as part of the East Grinstead, Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells Railway (EGGTWR), itself an extension to the Three Bridges to East Grinstead Railway which had been completed in 1855.

The EGGTWR was part of a regional race between the LB&SCR and the SER, and a specific race to access the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells:[1]

The LB&SCR opened Tunbridge Wells West in 1866 as the eastern terminus of the EGGTWR; there was also an extension to Tunbridge Wells Central. From Tunbridge Wells West there were direct services to the South Coast at Brighton and Eastbourne and to London Victoria. The Victoria services ran via Groombridge and Ashurst. As a sign outside the station proudly proclaimed, "New Route to London: Shortest, Quickest and Most Direct. Frequent Express Trains."[2]

Closure[edit]

As the popularity of the motor car increased, train services were severely cut back due to the lack of patronage, and the number of services passing through Tunbridge Wells West declined as one line after another was closed from the 1950s onwards. First, the East Grinstead to Lewes line closed in 1958, then the Cuckoo Line in 1965, the Three Bridges to Groombridge in 1967, and finally the Wealden Line south of Uckfield in 1969. The line between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge was itself listed for closure in 1966, only to be subsequently reprieved.[3] The line remained open, although in its latter years passenger services were mainly confined to a shuttle service between Tonbridge (via the single line connection to Tunbridge Wells Central - now plain Tunbridge Wells) and Eridge with a few through trains to Uckfield; however there was a depot at Tunbridge Wells West which housed rolling stock for services on the Uckfield and East Grinstead - London (via East Croydon) lines, and there were several empty stock moves early and late in the day.

Derelict locomotive shed, c1986

Following a lack of investment for decades (since Beeching, spending on anything other than essential repairs was non-existent[4]), by the early 1980s the track and signalling needed to be replaced. British Rail, at the time carrying out an upgrade of the Tonbridge to Hastings Line which included the renewal of Grove Junction, decided that the cost of keeping the line from Eridge to Grove Jn open and undertaking the works, some £175,000, did not justify the outlay. It therefore announced the proposed closure of the line (including Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West station) from 16 May 1983 which was later deferred after public objections. The Secretary of State for Transport agreed to the withdrawal of passenger services which took effect from 6 July 1985, although the section between Tunbridge Wells West and Birchden Jn remained open for rolling stock movements until 10 August, when the depot at Tunbridge Wells West station was shut.[5] At the time of closure Tunbridge Wells West station had gas lighting, which was in operation in the ticket office and under the canopy.

Preservation[edit]

Spa Valley Railway Poster

Restoration[edit]

The Spa Valley Railway (SVR) has its origins in a charitable society formed on 13 September 1985, to purchase and reopen the Tunbridge Wells West to Eridge line. Named the Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society (TWERPS), it began a long struggle to reopen the line. The campaign received a setback in the late 1980s when Tunbridge Wells Borough Council gave planning permission for the construction of a large Sainsburys supermarket complex on the site of the derelict goods yard of Tunbridge Wells West. While the 1891 locomotive shed and station building were protected as listed buildings, the remaining area of the site was obliterated, including the goods shed and signal boxes. However, planning permission was subject to the condition that the developer pay for construction of a new station platform and restoration of the engine shed.[6]

In 1996 the North Downs Steam Railway relocated from Dartford, where it was experiencing vandalism problems, and merged with TWERPS. It transferred its assets and helped establish a base in the former LB&SCR locomotive shed. Also in 1996, the group acquired the line as far as Birchden Junction. Alongside the loco shed a new platform was built, from where services began running to Cold Bath Bridge (about 0.75 mile away) in December 1996. Services were extended to Groombridge in August 1997 and to Birchden Junction in 2005.

In 2007, SVR marked the tenth anniversary of the opening of the line by transforming Groombridge into a busy interchange station, with trains arriving or departing every 15 minutes.[7] The funds raised from this event went towards the "Return to Eridge" appeal to raise £500,000 for the extension to the Uckfield main line at Eridge. The heritage railway finally re-opened the line to Eridge on 25 March 2011

Operations[edit]

The SVR provides a way of getting to other local tourist attractions, such as Groombridge Place, High Rocks and the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells. On 25 March 2011 the SVR extended passenger services to Eridge, where there is a footbridge interchange with Southern services on the London Bridge to Uckfield line.

The railway holds a number of special event days, including A Day Out with Thomas weekends, Santa Specials, and both steam and heritage diesel weekends.

Motive Power[edit]

Steam Locomotives[edit]

Identity Other
Number(s)
Railway Class Builder Works
Number
Built Wheel
Arrangement
Notes Image
50
Sutton (originally Whitechapel)
650, B650, 2650, W10, 515S, 32650 LB&SCR A1X (Terrier) Brighton Works 1876 0-6-0T Under overhaul (2011-08-15)[8] The Hayling Billy - geograph.org.uk - 1379778.jpg
47493 16576, 7493 LMS 3F "Jinty" Vulcan Foundry 4195 1927 0-6-0T Under overhaul (2014-01-09)[9] Spa Valley Jinty.JPG
68077 8077, 14 LNER J94 Andrew Barclay 2215 1947 0-6-0ST Under overhaul (2006-09-06)[10] Harringay West, with ex-WD 0-6-0T geograph-2890663-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
2315
Lady Ingrid
South of Scotland Electricity Board, Braehead Power Station Andrew Barclay 2315 1951 0-4-0ST Under overhaul (2009-9-28)[11] Barclay 2315 Lady Ingrid.JPG
Fonmon Rhoose Cement Works, Aberthaw & Bristol Channel Portland Cement Co Ltd Peckett 1636 1924 0-6-0ST Awaiting major overhaul (2009-09-28)[12] Peckett 1363 Fonmon.JPG
No.57
Samson
Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby Ugly RSH 7668 1950 0-6-0ST Stored (2008-01-22)[13]
Ugly 62 Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby Ugly RSH 7673 1950 0-6-0ST Operational (2014-04-21)[14]
North Downs No. 3 Hams Hall Power Station, Central Electricity Generating Board RSH 7846 1955 0-6-0T Under overhaul (2002-09-12)[15]
No. 10
Topham
West Cannock Colliery Bagnall 2193 1922 0-6-0ST Awaiting overhaul (2002-09-12)[16]

Diesel Locomotives[edit]

Origin Wheel
arrangement
Class Notes Photograph
BR 0-6-0DE 10 No. D3489 Colonel Tomline
BR 0-6-0DE 12 No. 15224 (Only surviving member) Geograph-2738479-by-Helmut-Zozmann.jpg
BR A1A-A1A 31 No. 31 206 (Visiting from the Rushden, Higham and Wellingborough Railway)
BR Bo-Bo 33 No. 33 063 R J Mitchell Crompton 33 063.JPG
BR Bo-Bo 33 No. 33 065 Sealion BR Blue. Built in 1962. (Under overhaul) Crompton 33 065.JPG
BR Co-Co 37 No. 37 254 "Driver Robin Prince MBE" [17] 37254 (37153) at Tunbridge Wells West.jpg
BR Bo-Bo 73 No. E6047 (Tops 73140) Br blue. Built in 1966. 73140 (E6047) at Tunbridge Wells West (1).jpg

Diesel Multiple Units[edit]

Origin Class Notes Photograph
BR 101 DTC no. 54408 56408 at Tunbridge Wells West.jpg
BR 115 Unit 51669+51849
BR 207 Unit no. 1317 (207 017) (Only three-car unit in preservation) 207017 (1317) in Tunbridge Wells West Shed.jpg

Electric Multiple Units[edit]

Origin Class Notes Photograph
BR 489 Unit 9104
Metropolitan Railway T Stock Unit 2749 + 2758
BR 420 Buffet Coach no. S69306

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oppitz, Leslie (2003). Lost Railways of Kent. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-85306-803-4. 
  2. ^ Oppitz, Leslie (2001). Lost Railways of Sussex. Newbury, Berkshire: Countryside Books. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-85306-697-9. 
  3. ^ "Replay: 27 December 1966 - 12 stations to be closed". The Independent. 27 December 1966. 
  4. ^ Hughes, Stephen (March 1984). "'Brighton' Frontier: Requiem?". Railway Magazine 130 (995): 89. 
  5. ^ Subterranea Britannica
  6. ^ Kent Rail, Spa Valley Railway
  7. ^ Kent and Sussex Courier, "Full steam ahead for anniversary", 14 September 2007, p. 21
  8. ^ Dives, M (15 August 2011). "LB&SCR A1X Terrier No. 32650 Sutton". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  9. ^ Dives, M (19 January 2011). "LMS 'Jinty' No. 47493". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  10. ^ Dives, M (6 September 2006). "LNER J94 No. 68077". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  11. ^ Dives, M (28 September 2009). "Lady Ingrid". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  12. ^ Dives, M (28 September 2009). "Fonmon". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  13. ^ Dives, M (22 January 2008). "RSH Ugly Class No. 57 'Samson'". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  14. ^ Dives, M (11 November 2011). "RSH Ugly Class No. 62 'Ugly'". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  15. ^ Dives, M (12 September 2002). "North Downs". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  16. ^ Dives, M (12 September 2002). "Topham". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  17. ^ "Summer Diesel Gala". Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 30 July 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°07′26″N 0°14′13″E / 51.12384°N 0.23706°E / 51.12384; 0.23706