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SPA VALLEY RAILWAY 2009
This line was opened by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway in 1866 from East Grinstead to Tunbridge Wells West. The line from Lewis via Eridge opened in 1868. The lines became a very busy cross country link, and by the mid 1920s, under Southern Railway ownership, some 100 trains per day passed over the route.
Under British Railways control from 1948, the success of the lines continued, with new signalling being installed at Groombridge in 1958, and the introduction of Diesel Multiple Units from 1962. However, some of the routes were closed down in 1969, although the link from Tunbridge Wells West to Eridge remained open until as late as 1985.
A preservation society was formed straight away, but it took years of negotiation with British Rail to acquire the track bed, and to raise the necessary funds. Sainsbury's bought some of the land at Tunbridge Wells West to build a new supermarket in 1990, but they provided the funds to help finance the establishment of the Spa Valley Railway, along with Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. Stock was obtained during the first half of the 1990s, and finally in May 1996, on the first open day, a steam train ran on the lines out of Tunbridge Wells West.
Further track relaying was necessary in the Groombridge area, but in August 1997, the first public trains ran all the way to Groombridge. The intermediate High Rocks station was opened in August 1998. In the 2000s attention was given to extending further to Eridge, making a connection with British Rail on the London to Uckfield line. The extension is complete, and a public passenger service is expected to commence at Easter 2011.
The photographs below were taken on Sunday 10th May 2009.
Entrance to the Tunbridge Wells terminus.
Note the buffet car in the background.
The buffet car sits in the bay siding. Hot and cold food is available when trains are running.
Entrance to the workshops.
General view of the interior of the workshop at Tunbridge Wells West.
Two guys in the workshop.
Station name plate.
View of Tunbridge Wells West station on the Spa Valley Line.
The tall and imposing original station station can be seen in the far background.
In the sidings: BR Class 09 0-6-0DE diesel shunter (No D3668),
built 1959 at Darlington.
Withdrawn 1999 and arrived at Spa in 2003.
Behind that is Class 33 Bo-Bo No 33065, built 1962 for use on Southern Region.
Withdrawn 1997 and arrived at Spa in 2004, but withdrawn 2008 for major overhaul.
The signal box, looking well-painted, amongst a sea of junk.
BR Class 73 Bo-Bo (No 73140/E6047). The loco has just
brought the train from Groombridge
and is now moving off to the sidings. A steam loco will take the train back to Groombridge.
Flowers on the tables of the Mk 1 coach is a nice touch!
The line towards Groombridge. The men on the line are cutting back the trees.
Midland Region colours on another Mk 1 carriage.
Ex GWR 0-6-0 PT 7715 backing up the line ready to come forward for attachment to the waiting train.
7715 moving forward past the signal box and signal lady.
7715 was built in 1930 by Kerr Stuart & Co for the GWR.
HIGH ROCKS STATION
High Rocks Station looking back towards Tunbridge Wells West.
The station opened in 1998, and is kept immaculate.
Looking toward Groombridge at High Rocks.
There was originally a halt at High Rocks, but not at this exact location.
Groombridge is the terminus, pending the opening of the extension to Eridge.
7715 has just arrived at Groombridge with the 11:50 from
Tunbridge Wells West.
She will soon take the train further up the line to allow the loco to run round to the front.
7715 was purchased by London Transport in 1963, was repainted maroon and numbered L99.
The lines looking towards Eridge. The 2-mile extension from
Groombridge to Eridge is expected to open at Easter 2011.
The rolling stock in the background is on a spur, now sidings, which once connected to the London-bound line from Uckfield.
The original station at Groombridge was unavailable to the Spa
so they built a new one on the other side of the road bridge over the line.
The platform was built in 1990, and the buildings gradually constructed over the years since.
The interior of the new ticket office has been made to look as authentic as possible.
Exit from Groombridge station is under the road bridge,
towards the old station building (out of view on the left).
The new houses in the background are built on the site of the old platforms and one line.
Old Groombridge station is now used as offices for private companies.
7715 returning from her run-round to the front of the train, and re-entering Groombridge.
7715 was aquired by the Quainton Railway Society in
1972, and repainted in GWR livery.
She arrived at Spa in July 2008, with plans to stay for just over a year.
A full history of the Spa Valley Line is available on their history web page.
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© Copyright M J Smith, 2009
No photographs to be reproduced elsewhere without permission.