Cranleigh line

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Cranleigh line
Guildford Tunnel
(833 yd, 762 m)
St Catherine's Hill Tunnel
(133 yd, 122 m)
Shalford Junction
Peasmarsh Junction
Bramley & Wonersh
Baynards Tunnel
(381 yd, 348 m)
Horsham Junction
Stammerham Junction
Christ's Hospital

The Cranleigh line was a linking railway line that connected Guildford on the Portsmouth-London line, the county town of Surrey, with the West Sussex market town of Horsham on another line to the south coast. The line ran through Cranleigh and measured 19.25 miles (31 km). The line closed on 14 June 1965 four months before its centenary, the only Surrey railway closure in the mid-1960s stripping out known as the Beeching Axe, officially termed "The Reshaping of British Railways".


Historical context[edit]

The opportunity to construct the Cranleigh line came about from the fierce competition between the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) (and its predecessor) and the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) for the lucrative Portsmouth traffic. A branch of the LSWR's London to Southampton line had reached Guildford in 1845, was extended to Godalming in 1849 and then to Havant in 1859. In 1844 the LSWR drew up plans to construct a line to the then important port of Shoreham-by-Sea from a point near Horsham.

Upon hearing of this possible encroachment the LBSCR's predecessor acted quickly in promoting a parliamentary bill authorising a line to Shoreham. The London and Brighton (Steyning Branch) Railway Act received royal assent on 18 June 1846 and the company's engineer, R. Jacombe-Hood, was instructed to survey the line. Its starting portion to Horsham from Three Bridges on the LBSCR's direct line between London and Brighton was laid in 1848.

By that time the railway companies began to experience financial difficulties coinciding with the economic recession of the late 1840s and their plans for the Horsham area were put on hold. It would be a further ten years before the plans for a line to the coast, to Shoreham and directly to Chichester, were actioned, opening on 1 July 1861. The opening of the line was seen by a trio of West Sussex businessmen as an opportunity to promote a railway project offering the LSWR a route to these places via Guildford, itself connected directly to the Midlands and West, particularly for slower-moving freight.

Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway[edit]

The trio[n 1] promoted their Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway Company (H&GDR) for parliamentary approval from a point 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of Guildford station (becoming Peasmarsh Junction) to Stammerham, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) to the south-west of Horsham. The actions of the H&GDR drew the attention of the Wey and Arun Canal Company which was alarmed by the prospect of more competition in a rural area which it had dominated since 1816. The Canal Company rapidly drew up a complementary route to follow the canal more closely from Guildford to Pulborough, 18.5 miles (29.8 km). Its extension of the railway was instead achieved and the railway was indeed to prove the undoing of the canal, diminished freight demand leading to its abandonment in 1871 but seeing a brief boost in the 1860s by transporting materials for the railway's construction.

Once the H&GDR bill came before the House of Commons' Standing Orders Committee, the LBSCR made its opposition clear, lodging formal notice of objection to the bill and seeking the right to be heard personally by the Committee. In an attempt to waylay this opposition at an early stage, the promoters sought the support of the LBSCR by offering it the opportunity to work the line. This would enable the LBSCR to exercise a degree of control over the traffic on the line and thereby a means to restrict any attempt by the LSWR to gain access to Shoreham, Chichester and Littlehampton. The LBSCR's withdrew opposition so the H&GDR became law on 6 August 1860 as the Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway Act.

The Act fixed the capital of the H&GDR company at £160,000 and allowed borrowings up to £50,000 subject to the usual conditions. The company was to acquire the necessary land for the railway by way of compulsory purchase by 6 August 1863 and to complete the construction works within two years of that date. A penalty of £12,000 would be payable should the works not be completed on time. The LBSCR was granted the working rights over the line for ten years. The Act also included a "Working Agreement" with the LBSCR which prevented the H&GDR from offering reciprocal running rights on the line.


Early difficulties[edit]

Once the Act had been passed the trio added further members to the company's board with a view to constructing the line. Thus, Joseph Cary, Henry Fox, William Lintott and John Bradshaw joined the original trio of promoters and awarded the construction contract to one of the initial promoters, William McCormick and James Holmes. The company's engineer, Edward Woods, surveyed the line and on 13 August 1860 the siting of the stations was decided, the company taking into account the needs of the local farming communities who were then beginning their annual harvest preparations.

The company began negotiations with the LSWR for access to its Guildford station, which proved difficult as the LSWR did not relish LBSCR trains on its rails. The "Working Agreement" prevented the H&GDR from offering running rights over the line to the LSWR, removing a possible incentive for the LSWR to cooperate. The problem over access to Guildford station remained a problem until the 1890s and was never fully resolved until the grouping of 1923.

The national economic climate also hindered progress on the line, with contracts for its construction not being drawn up until 1 July 1861. The line was to be laid as a single track at a cost of £123,000 (equivalent to £11,600,000 in 2019) for its 15 miles 46 chains. The price included the land purchase costs, maintenance costs for the first year of operations and a guarantee of track stability for seven years. However squabbles ensued over ownership of the railway and a contractor went bankrupt with £30,000 debts during the construction.

LBSCR takeover[edit]

Slow progress began to frustrate the LBSCR which sought greater influence on the company board. Three new directors were appointed - one of whom was the chairman of the LBSCR, Leo Schuster, whilst the two others were connected with the company; other LBSCR staff were brought into the enterprise such as their Chief Engineer Jacomb-Hood who was given the responsibility of seeing that construction works were carried out to the LBSCR's specifications. He proposed a substantial modifications to the route originally chosen by the H&GDR which was authorised by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (Additional Powers) Act 1864. A triangular junction (Itchingfield Junction) was to be built south-west of Horsham to allow through running from Brighton to Guildford as well as Horsham to Guildford.

The LBSCR contributed the maximum amount permitted by law into the H&GDR for construction works, £75,000, and the original H&GDR members stumped up £48,000, making the total of £123,000. More changes were made which had the effect of further integrating the H&GDR into the LBSCR: on 28 April 1862 the H&GDR's registered office was changed to that of LBSCR, and the latter's staff were used as supervisors and inspectors on construction. By June 1862 the H&GDR was effectively part of the LBSCR and an agreement was concluded on 29 July to formally merge the two companies. This was also authorised by the 1864 Act which allowed the buying out of the original promoters of the H&GDR for a sum of £123,000. Once in control of the enterprise, the LBSCR replaced its engineer Edward Woods with one of its senior employees, Frederick Bannister.

Rudgwick Bridge (above a Bridge) in 2005

An immediate consequence of the LBSCR takeover was that the contracts for the construction of the line were finally sealed on 16 April 1862. However, the involvement of the LBSCR did nothing to alleviate the slow progress - by May 1863 negotiations with landowners were dragging on and the company's engineer reported in the same year that the line was unlikely to be completed within the time specified by the 1860 Act. The task of constructing the five stations had been put out to tender and in 1864 a bid of £3,698 (equivalent to £366,000 in 2019) was accepted. At a board meeting held on 15 March 1864, the directors gave vent to their unhappiness as to how matters were proceeding, expressing their "extreme dissatisfaction at the great delays which have taken place and the inefficient manner in which the works have been prosecuted."

On 2 May 1865 Bannister reported to the board that the line was finally ready to be inspected by the Board of Trade which duly attended two months later. The Chief Inspecting Officer, Colonel Yolland, was unhappy with the traffic arrangements at Guildford and did not authorise public use of Rudgwick Station, set on a 1 in 80 incline, until it was re-sited on an incline of 1 in 130. As the company had committed with the seller of the land for the station it had to carry out the works, which also included the raising of an embankment and a bridge over the River Arun by 10 feet (3.0 m).


The Cranleigh line was opened on 2 October 1865 bar Rudgwick station which opened in November of that year. The Sussex Agricultural Express reported: "[a]n event so important as the opening of this line might well have been celebrated by some public demonstration, but the timetable was simply issued and the first train left Horsham for Guildford at 6.35am with about a dozen passengers who had the benefit of being carried free. But inspection of the track decreed that Rudgwick Station could not be used since the gradient on which it was built was too steep at 1 in 80. This caused an uproar amongst local people who claimed that they were being isolated and villagers threatened to call out the fire brigade to "quench the Government Inspector's fiery spirit!".[1]

The West Sussex Gazette of 10 October 1865 stated that the line was "likely to prove a more picturesque than profitable part of the Company."[2] There was a counter-spirit that it had been built merely to provide connections with the LSWR at Guildford, and to give a through route to the Midlands.


1865 - 1899[edit]

Initial optimism for the line soon gave way to disappointment as anticipated freight and passenger use failed to materialise. The LSWR's control over Guildford and its attitude towards the LBSCR ensured that little through traffic to the South Coast was routed through the Cranleigh line, whose main source of freight was the transport of coal to local residents and the gasworks at Cranleigh, as well as agricultural feed and machinery. Farmers also used the line to transport their goods to market in Guildford and Horsham. As stations on the line were not equipped with freight facilities, these now had to be added: those at Baynards (initially known as "Little Vachery") and Cranleigh became quite substantial with the involvement of commercial operators.

Initially eight trains ran daily, covering the line in 50 minutes, with certain trains terminating at Cranleigh. However, sluggish traffic returns meant that fares were raised within 18 months of opening, whilst services were reduced to three each way on weekdays and Saturdays, with two on Sundays. The LBSCR used loose-coupled four-wheeled coaches equipped with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class compartments. Later years saw even fewer services, up to six complete trips being made daily with one or two extra trains from Horsham terminating at Cranleigh. Gradually only 3rd class accommodation was offered, but with the number of daily services increased to eight, calling at all stations. There was very little through-running on the line, only excursions (particularly on Sundays and often from the West Midlands to Brighton) bucking the trend.

The line was never doubled and for 11 years Baynards was the only crossing point; in 1876 the 9.5-mile (15.3 km) section from Peasmarsh Junction to Baynards was improved by the provision of a crossing loop at Bramley, followed by another at Cranleigh in 1880. The line was often used as a diversionary route when the Brighton Main Line was blocked, as was the case in August 1861 when a collision in the Clayton Tunnel forced that line's temporary closure.

The LSWR's control of the area north-west of the line ensured that the ½-mile south-facing spur of Stammerham Junction (also known as Itchingfield South Fork) which was intended to allow trains to run between Guildford and Shoreham or Chichester directly remained little used. The LBSCR therefore decided to close the section from 1 August 1867. It may have also been concerned that the LSWR would have greater access to the South Coast with running rights over the section. The area has been ploughed over.

Increased passenger traffic at Guildford station during the 1890s led to the LSWR giving lower priority to LBSCR traffic at Peasmarsh Junction. The LBSCR sought to remedy this problem by applying for authorisation for a 9-mile (14 km) railway from Cranleigh to Dorking via Ewhurst, providing self-operated access to London. However, the objections of local landowners combined with Surrey's Greensand Ridge resulted in abandoning the plan. Similar 1896 plans were deposited for a light railway envisioned as a "Holmwood-Cranleigh Branch Line" which would run between Ockley (south of Holmwood, Surrey[n 2][n 3]. These plans as well as others in 1898 for a direct link between Cranleigh and Holmwood all failed to materialise.[3]

1900 - 1914[edit]

In 1902 Christ's Hospital school moved to premises near Stammerham Junction. This together with an expectation that Horsham would expand westwards towards the Junction led the LBSCR to invest £30,000 in building what was to become Christ's Hospital station. Previously there had been no station here; only a small wooden platform which was used by a local dairy to send milk to London. This platform had fallen into disuse since the bankruptcy of the dairy.

The substantial red brick station reflecting the LBSCR's aspirations for the area was constructed using bricks supplied by the nearby Southwater Brickworks. Five through tracks were laid which served seven facing platforms. Three platforms were set aside to the Cranleigh line and two other platforms served passengers on the main line - allowing trains travelling from London via Horsham the option of routes to Pulborough, Shoreham or Guildford and beyond. A single loop on the down line serving two facing platforms was installed to deal with the large number of pupils expected (the school had 835 pupils) and the van trains carrying their luggage, as well as holiday specials. The school governors subsidised the costs of construction.

The LBSCR's expectation of further income from the station to match the track expansion was defeated by two developments. Christ's Hospital school revealed that it would accommodate only boarders. The anticipated residential development in the area did not materialise. The school had bought much of the surrounding land, effectively ending any hopes for housing in the area. The LBSCR was therefore left with a white elephant – the capacity and stature of the station greatly exceeded its status as a rural interchange rather than an important semi-urban junction serving much of West Sussex.

First World War[edit]

The Cranleigh line transported men and munitions to the south-east coast during the First World War to be shipped over to France. Although the southern arc of Stammerham Junction could have increased use, it remained abandoned. Sunday services were suspended on the line from 1917 to 1919 as a wartime economy measure.

Interwar period[edit]

The 1923 railway grouping merged the LBSCR and the LSWR into the Southern Railway which took over responsibility for all commuter routes from the south into London. Some electrification took place, notably the Portsmouth line in 1937 and the line through Horsham the following year. Sandwiched between the two, the low usage of the Cranleigh line did not justify electrification.

The period also saw increased competition from buses: lightly populated Rudgwick was served by a competing bus service in the 1930s – during this time sometimes the station did not any tickets following the departure of the first service to Horsham. In the 1930s the line operated a late evening service between Guildford and Cranleigh mainly for the benefit of cinema-goers.

Second World War[edit]

The line came under government control again in the Second World War resuming heightened traffic. With northern France under enemy occupation, the Horsham area became vulnerable to air attack and hence incidents on the line. In 1941 the line north of the Worthing Road bridge near Horsham was hit, badly damaging the track and requiring a replacement bus service to be laid on between Horsham and Christ's Hospital whilst repairs were carried out. On 16 December 1942 a Dornier 217 strafed a push-pull train near Bramley carrying 42 passengers, many of whom were Christmas shoppers. The driver and guard were killed and a number of passengers were killed or wounded.[4] The fireman and the porter-in-charge of Bramley station attended the wounded and dying,[4] later helped by six Canadian soldiers who were billetted nearby. The locomotive, an ex-LB&SCR D3 class 0-4-4T, was rapidly repaired and returned into service.

By May 1943 the Cranleigh line had typically 20 services per day, 10 eastbound on weekdays[n 4] This timetable was slightly reduced in the years leading up to closure.


The 1948 nationalisation of Britain's railways made the line part of the Southern Region of British Railways but inadequate funds were made available for railway modernisation to include railway backwaters such as the Cranleigh line.


The weekday service of eight trains in each direction and an evening service to Cranleigh continued but the Sunday service was reduced to one train each way in the morning and evening. Commuters from Bramley and Cranleigh travelling up to London via Guildford were the main users of the line, and an additional service between Cranleigh and Guildford was offered to season ticket holders commuting to London. The traffic on the line could have been greater were it not for the fact that many commuters chose to drive to Guildford to catch their trains rather than use the branch line which had morning and evening commuter trains. However, the timetabling of services did the line no favours: trains were departing Horsham a few minutes before potential passengers arrived there, yet these trains then waited for 15 minutes at Cranleigh because Guildford was unable to accommodate them during busy times and owing to history (see above) timetables were not designed for quick connections at Guildford.

The final timetable for the line was in fact worse than that provided in 1865. There were no lunchtime trains except on Saturdays, the 9.22 from Guildford and 9.30 from Horsham services were replaced by one service to Cranleigh and back, extended from December 1962 to Baynards. The last Saturday working was cancelled, meaning that the final departure from Horsham was at 18.00. The daily 17.04 from Guildford was cancelled — a regular service since 1865. Sunday services also ceased, as did trains at Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and the August Bank Holiday.

Modernisation Plan[edit]

BR's 1955 Modernisation Plan led to the ageing locomotives being replaced - the ex-LSWR M7 class 0-4-4Ts and ex-LB&SCR E4 class 0-6-2Ts that dated from the late 1890s were superseded by BR-built Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2Ts. The coaching stock was also modernised.

Post-war decline[edit]

Traffic declined in the decades after the Second World War. For example, in 1948 671 loaded wagons came into Baynards and 802 were dispatched, the inwards traffic increasing to 924 in 1950. However, in 1962 only 363 wagons came in, and only one was sent out. Total cash taken was £7,766 in 1948 ((equivalent to £284,000 in 2019) whereas fell to £1,227 ((equivalent to £28,000 in 2019) in 1961. Equally passenger numbers had declined: 8,162 tickets were collected at Baynards in 1948, but only 3,579 in 1962.

In 1955 a national railway strike suspended all services on the line. Once services resumed the line never regained its pre-strike traffic levels.[citation needed]

In film and literature[edit]

In 1957 the BBC used the Cranleigh Line to film a version of The Railway Children, The Horsemasters, Rotten to the Core and The House at the End of the World.[citation needed]


The Reshaping of British Railways[edit]

Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's announcement to the House of Commons on 10 March 1960 that "the railway system must be remodelled to meet the current needs" spelled the beginning of the end for the Cranleigh line which had never run profitably in its history. Ernest Marples, the Minister of Transport, was charged with remodelling BR, and he quickly appointed Dr Richard Beeching as chairman of the British Transport Commission in 1961. Beeching prepared The Reshaping of British Railways report, whose recommendations included closure of a large number of railway lines — colloquially nicknamed the "Beeching Axe". The Cranleigh line was among those nominated for closure.[5]

A survey of rail traffic on the line had been carried out during the week ending 23 April 1961, and it was based on these results that the Beeching report recommended closure of all five stations on the Cranleigh line. The report showed that the line had fewer than 5,000 passengers per week and less than 5,000 tons of freight per week. Cranleigh and Bramley & Wonersh ticket offices received between £5,000 and £25,000 per year, and the other three stations on the line received less than £5,000 per year. At this time the line was losing about £46,000 per year or £884 per week. Under section 22 of the Transport Act 1962, the previous government-initiated Act to set out a new railway strategy, the Board of British Railways was required to run the railways so that its operating profits were "not less than sufficient" for meeting the running costs. The Wilson government did not disagree and this meant the end for uneconomic lines such as the Cranleigh line.


It was formally announced that the line would close on 11 November 1963 if no objections were received to the proposal. Goods services had already been withdrawn from the line on 2 April 1962.

More than 100 objections were lodged against the proposed closure and per the procedures of the 1962 Transport Act, the matter proceeded to a public enquiry held by the local Area Transport Users Consultative Committee at Cranleigh Village Hall in March 1964. In support of their arguments for keeping the line open, objectors pointed out that traffic on the line was actually increasing, new residential development was taking place and that this justified keeping the line open at least between Guildford and Cranleigh. British Rail reluctantly conceded that passenger traffic was indeed increasing at two places on the line. The objectors also asked whether introduction of modern working practices would reduce costs.

Closure decision[edit]

Despite the arguments raised at the public enquiry, the Minister of Transport approved closure that the line would close with effect from 14 June 1965. The train service would be replaced by bus services. The last day of full service was Saturday 12 June and the last train left Guildford at 19.34 hauled by Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2T locomotive no. 41287. It consisted of two three-coach sets carrying some 400 passengers, including Bert Andrews, the last Cranleigh signalman who was also the great-grandson of the guard on the first train back in 1865.

A special service of nine coaches carrying around 400 passengers and hauled by ex-SR Q1 class 0-6-0 locomotives was organised on Sunday 13 June by the Locomotive Club of Great Britain.

The last train left Guildford at 18.55 and returned at 20.34. Boys from Christ's Hospital school marked the occasion of the line's closure by singing the hymn Abide with Me as the last train pulled out from Christ's Hospital station.[citation needed]

Additional bus services were provided by Aldershot & District Traction after closure, withdrawn after six months as they were hardly used. The Ministry of Transport had told British Rail on 4 November 1965 that between Baynards and Cranleigh the buses carried an average of one passenger each way in either direction between 14 June and 28 August, and in no case had there been more than three passengers on a bus. The Ministry therefore authorised cutback; within two years most extra services similarly were discontinued.

Attempted reopening in 1960s[edit]

After the line's closure a heritage railway society was formed which proposed reopening the line with a regular diesel service on weekdays and steam traction at weekends. Support was not forthcoming from public authorities and British Rail had no incentive to offer help. Abolition of Peasmarsh Junction; removal of wiring to the first station Bramley; and the price demanded for the line's operation presented unsurmountable obstacles. The society conceded defeat and was dissolved in August 1966.

Route of the line[edit]

Baynards Tunnel southern portal in 2005

Leaving Horsham station, the line used the Arun Valley Line as far as Stammerham Junction and Christ's Hospital station (2 miles 51 chains from Horsham) where it turned north-west, the track crossing undulating countryside for the majority of its length, climbing gradients as steep as 1 in 88. The first station was Slinfold (4 miles 67 chains) which had a single platform, a small goods yard and two private sidings. The line then continued on an embankment to Rudgwick station (7 miles 9 chains), an embankment which was to cause recurrent problems due to its instability. Rudgwick station had two short sidings and a headshunt at the end of its single platform. About 0.75 miles (1.21 km) to the south of the station the line passed over the River Arun on a single span girder bridge with high brick abutments.

Continuing through wooded Wealden countryside, the line climbed on a gradient to pass through the 381 yards (348 m) Baynards Tunnel where it reached its highest point - 250 feet (76 m) above sea level - and crossed the county boundary between Surrey and West Sussex. The tunnel was steeply graded and damp, and in wet conditions trains were known to lose traction.[citation needed] The site of the next station, Baynards (8 miles 27 chains), was chosen to suit Lord Thurlow, the owner of nearby Baynards Park. The station had a crossing loop and its small goods and marshalling yards served, in addition to Lord Thurlow's estate, a local brickworks producing fuller's earth. This became Baynards Brick and Tile Works whose activities continued until the 1980s as Berks Chemical Works (Steetly).[citation needed] The site has now reverted to its former use and is owned by Redland plc.

Cranleigh (11 miles 19 chains) was the busiest station on the line, handling passenger traffic for Cranleigh School. It was originally opened as "Cranley" but its name was changed in 1867 at the request of the Post Office to avoid confusion with Crawley (then also in Surrey) in imperfectly written addresses. The railway then ran on a level to Bramley (16 miles 15 chains), which was renamed Bramley & Wonersh in 1888, which also had a passing loop and benefited from a second platform from 1876. Leaving Bramley, the line continued as far as the LSWR's junction at Peasmarsh (18 miles 10 chains), having followed a branch of the River Wey through the gap between Pitch Hill and Hascombe Hill. About 1 mile (1.6 km) beyond Bramley, the branch of the river and the main stream were crossed in quick succession, the line curving sharply to join the electrified main line from London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour at Peasmarsh Junction, 1.75 miles (2.82 km) south of Guildford station (19 miles 68 chains).


The first locomotive to work the line was a small 2-2-2 tender engine designed by John Chester Craven, built at Brighton railway works and numbered 30. It remained in service until May 1886. From 1878 and 1880 two LB&SCR A1 Class "Terriers", respectively no. 36 Bramley and no. 77 Wonersh, began to work the line from the LSWR shed at Guildford. Wonersh was transferred in the 1890s to the Pulborough-Chichester line and then to the Isle of Wight where it became SR no. W13 Carisbrooke, returning to Fratton in 1949 to become BR no. 32677. Wonersh was withdrawn in September 1959. Bramley was sold in 1902 to a contractor involved in building the extension of the Great Central Railway. Freight services were carried out in the 1890s by LB&SCR E1 Class nos. 97 Honfleur and 127 Poitiers.

After the 1923 grouping, ex-LSWR M7 Class 0-4-4 tanks were introduced to the line and took over most of the regular passenger workings until the 1950s. Nos. 30047–53 were based at Horsham. Their last appearance on the line was on 28 January 1963 when the No. 30241 worked the 18.05 to Horsham. In addition, Guildford shed was known to send out other types of engine from time to time that were not normally used on the line. Those that made their appearance included classes C, D, Q1 and 700. D1 0-4-2 tanks nos. 2235 and 2283 worked the lines to Guildford and Brighton from Horsham during the Second World War, although both dated from the 1880s. Other former LBSCR engines making their appearance on the line were members of the E4 class Other former LBSCR locomotives to work passenger trains on the Cranleigh line were members of the E4 class of 0-6-2 tanks, one of which Birch Grove No. 32473 was bought by the Bluebell Railway in 1962 where it now survives, having undergone a complete overhaul in recent years.[6] The line occasionally saw a Billinton E6. Another Billinton design to be used on the line was the C2 0-6-0 tender freight locomotive. No. 2436 was based at the Guildford shed from March 1944 and worked goods on the Cranleigh line. The Horsham shed was allocated six C3s, a larger version of the C2, in 1930 and, although primarily intended for goods trains, they were often used on Sunday excursions to Brighton, taking over a train from the Cranleigh line and running it via Steyning. With a few exceptions, two-coach pull-and-push sets were used for passenger services for most of the line's working life.

The 1955 Modernisation Plan made more powerful engines available. Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2T locomotives were used until the end of services on the Cranleigh line, helped by E6s and backed up by class E4 Nos. 32479 and 32503 as late as 1962. After 1960, Horsham ceased to be a shed in its own right and became a stabling point for goods locomotives from Three Bridges and passenger locomotives from Brighton. After the electrification of the Kent Coast lines, some of the Cranleigh line's locomotives were allocated to Brighton shed.

The line today[edit]


Christ's Hospital station bears little resemblance today to the grand building completed for the LBSCR in 1902. The seven station platforms have been reduced to two. Buildings on the platforms used for the Cranleigh line (nos. 1 & 2) were demolished and the area is now fenced off and overgrown, the space between the platforms having been filled in. The single loop line ferrying pupils to and from the boarding school has been filled in and the sidings have long since disappeared. The substantial station building was demolished in 1972, but not before a "funeral party" was held by 150 staff and pupils of Christ's Hospital school on platform 2; black-edged tickets were issued for the party. Original structures resting are the subway and the platform 2 waiting room and WC. The subway itself (which served the loop) is now disused. The station's original platforms 3 and 4 are now respectively the downside and upside platforms, served by a double track carrying the line between Horsham and Pulborough.

Slinfold station building was demolished and a caravan site now occupies the site. Two LBSCR houses remain on the far side of the nearby level crossing. Rudgwick station has also been demolished, replaced by a health centre. Baynards station, survives as a private home. Cranleigh station was demolished and replaced by Stocklund Square in 1965; the Square was reduced in size in 2004 when a branch of Sainsbury's was built on part of the site. Bramley and Wonersh station also remains; Bramley Parish Council restored it in 2003–04.


The B2130 bridge over the former railway just west of the site of Cranleigh railway station

Between 1965 and 1970 the track was lifted and much of the track ballast was removed. The woodland along many of the cuttings and embankment sides remained unmanaged until 2 April 1970 when British Railways Board sold much of the trackbed to Surrey County Council and Hambledon Rural District Council (which was succeeded by Waverley Borough Council in 1974) for £17,500. The local authorities managed the land until 1984, clearing scrub to enable the general public to use it as a recreational facility.

In 1984 the local authorities together with other authorities and the Manpower Services Commission established the Downs Link, a 30 miles (48 km) footpath and bridleway connecting the North Downs and South Downs National Trails. The Link was opened on 9 July 1984 by the Mayor of Waverley, Anne Hoath, at Baynards station; it subsequently received a commendation in the National Conservation Award Scheme jointly organised by The Times newspaper and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.


Hambledon Rural District Council used Baynards Tunnel as a refuse tip by after the line's closure. The rubbish was then covered with local clay and topsoil which became colonised with plants. The tunnel is also now used by hibernating bats and its northern end has been filled in, although it was possible until recently to gain access to the tunnel. The steel railway bridge that carried the line over the Wey and Arun Canal near Bramley was dismantled after closure, as was the bridge over the River Wey which stood near where the line joined the Guildford to Portsmouth main line at Peasmarsh. However, in 2005 the bridge over the Wey was replaced with a steel footbridge, when the trackbed from the site of Bramley & Wonersh station, to Peasmarsh Junction, was relaid with stone to make a foot and cycle path. Also, Surrey County Council restored and strengthened the road bridge over the line at Cranleigh Common in 2006.[7] In addition, numerous remnants of the railway can be found along the former route, including linesmans' huts, signal mechanisms,[citation needed] mileposts and other such trackside structures.


The Cranleigh line could, according to one author, have become a useful and important route, but its potential was lost to years of mismanagement and poor timetabling.[8] Rivalry with the LSWR from the line's inception meant that connections between services on the line were never very good. The author cites the example of the timetable in July 1922 where a passenger on the 09.44 service from Brighton which arrived at Horsham at 10.48 would have to wait until 13.05 until the next connection to Guildford, the previous working having already departed at 10.20. A similar inconvenience was faced by passengers travelling south on the 08.08 from Guildford who had to wait 70 minutes at Horsham for an onward connection to Brighton. The Southern Railway had not improved matters much by 1947, when passengers arriving at Christ's Hospital on the 15.57 from Brighton had four minutes to catch the 16.53 from Guildford to Horsham, and missing this connection would mean a wait until 18.15 for the next train.[citation needed]

The author also highlights the fact that little was done in the way of attracting commuters on to the railway. In 1959 the earliest train which would allow users to arrive in London at a respectable time was the 06.51 from Baynards which waited 13 minutes in Cranleigh before proceeding northwards. Passenger traffic ebbed away from the line as better travel possibilities were offered by buses and then cars, a situation which neither the Southern Railway nor British Rail did anything to change. By the end of its working life, BR regarded the line as an uneconomic backwater and tried to make it as unattractive as possible to potential users in order to ensure that it could be closed without too much complaint.[citation needed]

Possible reopening[edit]

Buchanan report[edit]

In 1994 Surrey County Council commissioned a report from Colin Buchanan and Partners aimed at identifying worthwhile rail infrastructure improvements in the county to allow new or modified services to be introduced. The aims of the report were threefold: to relieve pressure on the roads, to improve rail's share of modal split and to encourage the use of the rail network as part of a balanced transport system.

The report estimated that around 500 car users could transfer to rail each day. The cost of reinstating the line between Guildford and Cranleigh was projected at £24 million which would include the base, civil, electrical, engineering and signalling works. It did not include land acquisition costs, legal costs and bridge works. The reinstatement of the bridge over the River Wey was costed at £750,000.

The report concluded that, based on a preliminary analysis of the line's potential returns, re-opening would not be feasible. The line was, according to the report, likely to recoup only 3% of the capital investment in the first year of re-opening, and this without taking into account its operating costs. British Rail usually insisted on a figure of at least 8% before investing capital into re-opening a line. Nevertheless, the County Council decided to commission a detailed economic feasibility study by British Rail into the line's potential for re-opening, and looked into the possibility of using a light railway or tramway substitute.

BR report[edit]

British Rail Projects carried out the first part of an extensive two stage study in early 1996.[citation needed] It reported that the costs of re-opening would be far less than those estimated by Buchanan – £13.4 million if electrified, £11.1 million for diesel working and £14.1 million for a light rail service. Figures are based on a single track service running hourly workings. The results of the first stage persuaded Surrey County Council to allow the second stage of BR's report to be undertaken; this would look at the economic and environmental aspects of the service, including how many potential users it would be likely to have.

The study, carried out between April 1996 and March 1997, evaluated two scenarios – either an hourly service or a half-hourly service, each with a journey time of around 12 minutes compared to 25 minutes for the same trip by car during the morning rush hour. As part of the study 4,000 travel diaries and 3,835 questionnaires were sent to residents in Cranleigh, Bramley and Wonersh, and 200 face-to-face interviews were to be conducted. The results showed that amongst the 882 replies to the questionnaires, only 12% of journeys were made to Guildford or London, with the majority of journeys made to other parts of Surrey which could not be directly reached by re-opening the line. The research also found that although it would be possible to persuade bus users to transfer to rail, the same could not be said of car users.[9]

The study concluded the costs of re-opening the line (estimated at around £14.24 million) would not be recouped by the railway itself. Even if the capital investment did not have to be repaid, the line would only make a profit after 4 years (running one train per hour) or 15 years (2 trains per hour). The line would require substantial public sector investment which could not be justified, the business case for the line's re-opening being negative.

RDS report[edit]

At the same time that Surrey County Council were considering the results of the BR report, the Railway Development Society (later Railfuture - North Downs) published a report pointing out the benefits of the line's reopening and suggested four alternative plans by which this could be achieved.[10]

ATOC Report[edit]

In June 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) called for the Cranleigh line to be reopened from Guildford to Bramley and Cranleigh as part of a number of additions to the existing rail network proposed in the Connecting Communities report. ATOC estimated an indicative capital cost of £63 million and a benefit-cost ratio of 1.7 to 1.[11] Citing the increase in passenger numbers in recent years, and the desire for the public to adopt more sustainable transport, ATOC hypothesised that the line and stations could be opened between 2014 and 2019.

Safeguarding of the route[edit]

The Guildford to Cranleigh route is acknowledged as an important rail corridor and, as such, is protected under the statutory planning process.[12]

A forum consulted by Surrey County Council in the preparation of its Local Transport Plan advocated the reopening of the line between Cranleigh and Guildford and unconventionally mooted a toll on the A281 to persuade motorists to change to railway use.[13]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Sussex Agricultural Express, Saturday 7 October 1865
  2. ^ The West Sussex Gazette, Tuesday 10 October 1865
  3. ^ "The Holmwood-Cranleigh Branch Line", Sussex Agricultural Express, Saturday 06 May 1899
  4. ^ a b Wojtczak 2005, p. 149.
  5. ^ Beeching, 1963, volume and page not cited[clarification needed]
  6. ^ "London Brighton & South Coast Railway Class E4 0-6-2T 473, "Birch Grove"". Bluebell Railway. 1 December 2005. Archived from the original on 21 February 2006. Retrieved 2008-01-12. Did Birch Grove ever work on the HGDR?[citation needed] If not, why is it even mentioned in this article?
  7. ^ "Bridge work will span a few months". Surrey Advertiser. 4 August 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  8. ^ Nisbet 2007, p. 42.
  9. ^ "We're not giving up fight to re-open line". Surrey Advertiser. 13 June 1997. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  10. ^ "Rails to Cranleigh". Railwatch magazine. Railway Development Society. 1996. Retrieved 3 January 2008.[dead link]
  11. ^ ATOC 2009, p. 16.
  12. ^ Waverley Borough Council (2002). "Local Plan, Chapter 12". Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 3 January 2008.
  13. ^ "Good public transport is vital for Surrey's prosperity says forum". Surrey Advertiser. 14 April 2000. Retrieved 31 December 2007.
  1. ^ James Braby, Thomas Child and William McCormick
  2. ^ on the Mole Valley linec and Selham, West Sussex
  3. ^ west of Petworth on the Midhurst line
  4. ^ 07.59, 09.30, 12.42, 13.40, 15.23, 16.53, 18.00, 19.12 and 21.30 (until 2 October), plus the 19.19 commuter service from Cranleigh. Sundays saw departures at 10.19 and 20.53. From Guildford, weekday services were: 08.05, 09.18, 10.34, 13.09 (to Cranleigh), 13.42, 17.04, 18.07, 18.34 (to Cranleigh), 19.34 and 20.34. Sundays saw departures at 08.54 and 19.22.


External links[edit]