Spa Valley Railway

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Spa Valley Railway
30I06I2018 Spa Valley Railway Summer Transport Festival E5.jpg
British Railways 0-6-0 Class A No. 52322 at Eridge
Commercial operations
Original gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Length5.5 mi (8.9 km)
Preserved gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Closed1985
Preservation history
December 1996Re-open first 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Tunbridge Wells West to near High Rocks
August 1997Open to Groombridge
2005line to Birchden Jn open for special services
25 March 2011Open to Eridge
HeadquartersTunbridge Wells West railway station
Spa Valley Railway
Hastings line
to Tonbridge
Wells Tunnel (
823 yd
753 m
)
Tunbridge Wells National Rail
Grove Hill Tunnel (
287 yd
262 m
)
Grove Junction
Grove Tunnel (
183 yd
167 m
) (closed 1985)
Hastings line
to Hastings
Tunbridge Wells West
(original site)
Car Park Road
Tunbridge Wells West Spa Valley Railway
High Rocks
(original site)
High Rocks Spa Valley Railway
Groombridge
(original site)
Groombridge Spa Valley Railway
Oxted line
to London Victoria
Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells Central Line
to Three Bridges
Ashurst Junction
Birchden Junction
Eridge National Rail
Redgate Mill Junction
Cuckoo Line
to Polegate
Oxted 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 Wealden Line between Tunbridge Wells Central and Lewes. The railway headquarters is at Tunbridge Wells West railway station.

History[edit]

The original Tunbridge Wells West station building.

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]

Derelict locomotive shed, c1986

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. 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.

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.[3] 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]

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 Sainsbury's 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.[4]

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 0.8 miles (1.3 km) away) in December 1996. Services were extended to Groombridge in August 1997 and to Birchden Junction in 2005.

In 2007, SVR marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of the line by transforming Groombridge into a busy interchange station, with trains arriving or departing every 15 minutes.[5] 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. 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.

In August 2017, a special event (20th Birthday Bash) was held to celebrate 20 years since the reopening of the line to Groombridge, starring a variety of home and visiting locomotives, including BR Standard 4 Tank 80078.

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.

The railway holds a number of special event days throughout the year including Transport Film Festivals, Santa Specials, a Summer Diesel Gala and also real ale and cider festival (jointly organised by CAMRA) which is combined with the railway's autumn diesel gala and held each October.

The railway operates from February to October as well as Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays in the summer months. In December the railway operates Santa Special services up until Christmas and then runs selected days between Christmas and/including New Year's Day.

During November and January the line is usually closed to the public. This allows the railways infrastructure department time to carry out major track renewals such as installation of new point work, something that Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West have both benefited from in recent times.

Rolling stock[edit]

Steam[edit]

Operational[edit]

Identity Former operator Class Builder Works
Number
Built Wheel
Arrangement
Notes Image
62 Ugly Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby RSH 7673 1950 0-6-0 ST Operational (February 2018)[6] 01I07I2017 SPA VALLEY RAILWAY Summer Steam Festival E3.jpg
1982
Ring Haw
Nassington Ironstone Quarries Hunslet 1982 1940 0-6-0 ST Operational, on loan from the North Norfolk Railway in 2019 Ring Haw 1982 at Sheringham West box - geograph.org.uk - 1479874.jpg

Non-operational[edit]

Identity Former operator Class Builder Works
Number
Built Wheel
Arrangement
Notes Image
50
Sutton
LB&SCR A1X 'Terrier' Brighton Works 1876 0-6-0 T Under overhaul (2011-08-15)[7] Originally named Whitechapel, it also carried the numbers 650, B650, 2650, W9, 515S and (for British Railways) 32650. The Hayling Billy - geograph.org.uk - 1379778.jpg
47493 LMS 3F 'Jinty' Vulcan Foundry 4195 1927 0-6-0 T Under overhaul (2014-01-09)[8] Originally numbered 16576, later 7493. Spa Valley Jinty.JPG
68077 LNER J94 Andrew Barclay 2215 1947 0-6-0 ST Stored (2006-09-06)[9] Previously numbered 8077 and 14. Harringay West, with ex-WD 0-6-0T geograph-2890663-by-Ben-Brooksbank.jpg
2315
Lady Ingrid
South of Scotland Electricity Board Andrew Barclay 2315 1951 0-4-0 ST Under overhaul (2009-9-28)[10] Operated at the Braehead Power Station. 1215 Andrew Barclay 2315 0-4-0ST LADY INGRID 30587 Tunbridge Wells West.jpg
No.57
Samson
Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby 'Ugly' RSH 7668 1950 0-6-0 ST Stored (2008-01-22)[11]
2193
Topham
West Cannock Colliery W. G. Bagnall 2193 1922 0-6-0 ST Stored

Diesel and electric locomotives[edit]

Operational[edit]

Identity Origin Wheel
arrangement
Class Notes Photograph
Southerham 0-4-0 DM Drewry/Vulcan Works number 2591. Tunbridge Wells shed - Southerham.JPG
D3489
Colonel Tomline
BR 0-6-0 DE Class 10 Worked at Felixstowe Docks 1969-2001 and still carries BR black livery with Felixstowe Docks logos. Tunbridge Wells shed - 3489 right side.JPG
31430
Sister Dora
BR A1A-A1A Class 31 BR blue livery Eridge - 31430 ready to depart.jpg
33063
R J Mitchell
BR Bo-Bo Class 33 BR Railfreight livery. Crompton 33 063.JPG
73140 BR Bo-Bo Class 73 Network South East livery. Built in 1966. 73140 at Tunbridge Wells West - Spa Valley Railway (20195331276).jpg

Non-operational[edit]

Identity Origin Wheel
arrangement
Class Notes Photograph
09026 Cedric Wares BR 0-6-0 DE Class 09 Entered preservation 22 May 2016.
15224 BR 0-6-0 DE Class 12 The only surviving Class 12 locomotive, stored awaiting overhaul. 15224 at Spa Valley Railway, Tunbridge Wells West depot.jpg
33065 Sealion BR Bo-Bo Class 33 Built in 1962. Under overhaul. Crompton 33 065.JPG

Multiple Units[edit]

DMU s are diesel multiple units. EMUs are electric multiple units but these are can only be used as static or hauled stock on this line.

Type Identity Origin Class Code Notes Photograph
DMU 56408 BR Class 101 DTC Latterly renumbered 54408 by BR. In service. Groombridge - 56408.JPG
DMU 1317 BR Class 207
(3D)
DMBSO
TCL
DTSO
Renumbered 207017 under TOPS system. Car numbers 60142, 60616, 60916. This is the only three-car unit class 207 in preservation (although in 2019 in service with just two cars). Tunbridge Wells shed - 1317 (2 car).JPG
EMU 9104 BR Class 489 GLV Stored at Groombridge awaiting overhaul. 9104 at Clapham Junction.JPG
EMU 69306 BR Class 421
(4-BIG)
TRB Used as a static cafe as Tunbridge Wells West station.[12] BEP TRB 69306 at Tunbridge Wells West.JPG
EMU 1497 BR Class 421 (3-CIG) DTC
MBSO
DTC
Leased July 2017 for years. To be used both as hauled coaching stock or, with suitably equipped locomotives such as 73140, as a 'Push-Pull' train. Tunbridge Wells West - 1497 in the siding.JPG
EMU 12275 BR 6-PAN TFK Underframe only, converted to crane wagon.[13]

Carriages[edit]

Number Design Type code New Notes Photograph
4828 BR Mark 1 SO 1959 In service in 2019, painted in BR green. BR Mark 1 SO 4820 at Eridge.JPG
4999 BR Mark 1 TSO 1961 In service in 2019, painted one side in BR blue and grey on one side and BR green on the other. BR Mark 1 TSO 4999 at Eridge.JPG
5037 BR Mark 1 TSO 1962 Undergoing overhaul in 2019, painted in BR green.
9414 BR Mark 2 BSO 1966 In service in 2019, painted in BR green. BR Mark 2 BSK 9414 at Eridge.JPG
21214 BR Mark 1 BCK 1958 In service in 2019, painted in BR green. BR Mark 1 BCK 21214 at Eridge.JPG
25843 BR Mark 1 SK (RB) 1962 Converted to a Buffet with second class open seating. In service in 2019, painted in BR green and named Kate, BR Mark 1 SK (now RB) 25843 at Eridge.JPG
25845 BR Mark 1 SK 1962 In service in 2019, painted in BR maroon. BR Mark 1 SK 25845 at Eridge.JPG
92111 BR Mark 1 BG 1967 Original number 81432. In store pending rebuilding as a kitchen car.

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. ^ Subterranea Britannica
  4. ^ Kent Rail, Spa Valley Railway
  5. ^ Kent and Sussex Courier, "Full steam ahead for anniversary", 14 September 2007, p. 21
  6. ^ Dives, M (11 November 2011). "RSH Ugly Class No. 62 'Ugly'". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  7. ^ Dives, M (15 August 2011). "LB&SCR A1X Terrier No. 32650 Sutton". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  8. ^ Dives, M (19 January 2011). "LMS 'Jinty' No. 47493". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  9. ^ Dives, M (6 September 2006). "LNER J94 No. 68077". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  10. ^ Dives, M (28 September 2009). "Lady Ingrid". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  11. ^ Dives, M (22 January 2008). "RSH Ugly Class No. 57 'Samson'". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  12. ^ "VCT". Vintage carriages trustWebsite. Vintage Carriages trust. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  13. ^ "VCT". Vintage carriages trustWebsite. Vintage Carriages trust. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016.

External links[edit]

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