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Spa Valley Railway

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spa Valley Railway
14I09I2013 Spa Valley Railway C5.jpg
RSH 0-6-0ST No. 62 'Ugly' and train at Eridge
Commercial operations
Original gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Preserved operations
Length 5.5 mi (8.9 km)
Preserved gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Commercial history
Closed 1985
Preservation history
December 1996 Re-open first 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Tunbridge Wells West to near High Rocks
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 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
 A26 
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

 The original Tunbridge Wells West station building.
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

 Derelict locomotive shed, c1986
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.

Following a lack of investment for decades (since Beeching, spending on anything other than essential repairs was non-existent[3]), 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.[4] 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

 British Railways Class 25 D5185 and train are seen at Eridge on the Spa Valley Railway
British Railways Class 25 D5185 and train are seen at Eridge on the Spa Valley Railway

Restoration

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.[5]

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.[6] 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

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 Day Out with Thomas weekends, 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.

On regular Saturday evenings throughout the year a form of dining train service operates, these are either a Fish & Chip Supper, Murder Mystery or the lines High Weald Belle at seat dining service. The High Weald Belle is named after the countryside the railway passes through and allows passengers to enjoy a five course evening dining experience or on regular Sundays a three course roast dinner. These evening trains are also available for 'ordinary' passengers (although without the meal) to travel on, and therefore provide a means of transport for those who have spent the evening at the various public houses and venues along the line. The late trains prove popular particularly from Groombridge, where passengers can have an evening in the various pubs, and still get back to Tunbridge Wells or Eridge.

The railway operates from February to October as well as Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays in the summer months. In December the railway operates its popular 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.

Future plans

There was an extensive, almost self contained, network of lines emanating from Tunbridge Wells until the late 60s. Eridge could provide a natural spring board for extensions to the operational railway. Although there are no published firm plans, the railway has a stated aim to protect the abandoned railway alignments, and it would not seem unreasonable that they may one day seek to extend the railway.

Most obvious would seem to be a southern extension towards Rotherfield on the former Cuckoo Line. Whilst such an extension would be exceptionally expensive, and require an immense amount of work, the Spa Valley has already proven itself more than capable of making the difficult or unlikely a reality.

In the medium term the railway is in need of carriage sidings and a larger maintenance depot for rolling stock. As passenger numbers and train frequency increases, so the need for a carriage depot increases too. The railway has a stated aim to "secure a site for a light maintenance depot" at some point along the line.

Rolling Stock

Operational Steam Locomotives

Identity Other
Number(s)
Railway Class Builder Works
Number
Built Wheel
Arrangement
Notes Image
Ugly 62 Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby Ugly RSH 7673 1950 0-6-0ST Operational (February 2018)[7]
20I08I2016 Spa Valley Railway A3.jpg
' 52322 Horwich Works A Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway 52322 1896 0-6-0 Operational. On hire until end of August 2018.

Non-operational Steam Locomotives

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]
LMS Jinty No 47493 High Rocks.jpg
68077 8077, 14 LNER J94 Andrew Barclay 2215 1947 0-6-0ST Stored (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]
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 0-6-0ST Stored (2008-01-22)[12]

Operational Diesel Locomotives

Origin Wheel
arrangement
Class Notes Photograph
BR 0-4-0DM Vulcan Drewry Diesel Mechanical Shunter No.2591 Southerham Operational (2017)
BR 0-6-0DE 10 No. D3489 Colonel Tomline - BR black with Felixstowe Docks logos. In Service
Felixstowe Dock - D3489 Colonel Tomline.jpg
BR Bo-Bo 33 No. 33 063 R J Mitchell - Railfreight Mainline. In Service
Crompton 33 063.JPG
BR Bo-Bo 33 No. 33 201. In Service
BR Bo-Bo 73 No. 73 140 - Network South East. Built in 1966.
73140 (E6047) at Tunbridge Wells West (1).jpg

Non-operational Diesel Locomotives

Origin Wheel
arrangement
Class Notes Photograph
BR 0-6-0DE 09 No. 09 026 Cedric Wares - Entered preservation 22-05-16.
BR 0-6-0DE 12 No. 15224 (Only surviving member, stored awaiting major overhaul)
15224 at Spa Valley Railway, Tunbridge Wells West depot.jpg
BR Bo-Bo 33 No. 33 065 Sealion BR Blue. Built in 1962. (Under overhaul)
Crompton 33 065.JPG

Diesel Multiple Units

Origin Class Notes Photograph
BR 101 DTC no. 56408 (latterly renumbered 54408 in B.R. service)
56408 at Tunbridge Wells West.jpg
BR 115 Unit 51669+51849
BR 207 Unit no. 1317 (207 017) (Only three-car unit in preservation - currently operating as two car unit)
207017 (1317) in Tunbridge Wells West Shed.jpg

Electric Multiple Units

Origin Class Notes Photograph
BR 489 Unit 9104
BR 420 Buffet Coach no. S69306, Used as a static cafe as Tunbridge Wells West station.[13]
BR 421 3CIG 1497. Leased July 2017 for 5yr period. To be used as coaching stock.
BR 6-PAN TFK no. 12275 underframe only converted to crane wagon.[14]

Carriages

Origin Number Type Notes Photograph
BR S21214 MK.I Brake Corridor Composite (BCK) Operational, painted in BR Green. Overhauled 2017.
BR S25843 MK.I Corridor Second (SK) Operational, converted to Second Open with Buffet ("Kate"), painted in BR Green.
BR 25845 MK.I Corridor Second (SK) Operational, painted in BR Maroon.
BR S4828 MK.I Standard Open (SO) Operational, painted in BR Green.
BR 4999 MK.I Tourist Second Open (TSO) Operational, painted one side in Blue and Grey, other in BR Green.
BR S5037 MK.I Tourist Second Open (TSO) Under restoration, painted in BR Green.
BR 81432 MK.I Gangwayed Full Brake Stored
BR S9414 MK.II Brake Second Open (BSO) Under overhaul, painted in BR Green.

References

  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. ^ Hughes, Stephen (March 1984). "'Brighton' Frontier: Requiem?". Railway Magazine. 130 (995): 89. 
  4. ^ Subterranea Britannica
  5. ^ Kent Rail, Spa Valley Railway
  6. ^ Kent and Sussex Courier, "Full steam ahead for anniversary", 14 September 2007, p. 21
  7. ^ Dives, M (11 November 2011). "RSH Ugly Class No. 62 'Ugly'". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  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 (22 January 2008). "RSH Ugly Class No. 57 'Samson'". Spa Valley Railway Website. Spa Valley Railway. Retrieved 22 April 2012. 
  13. ^ "VCT". Vintage carriages trustWebsite. Vintage Carriages trust. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 
  14. ^ "VCT". Vintage carriages trustWebsite. Vintage Carriages trust. 29 July 2016. Retrieved 29 July 2016. 

External links

This page was last edited on 27 May 2018, at 20:04.
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