East Grinstead

East Grinstead was once a very interesting station with trains literally arriving and departing to and from the north, south, east and west. Furthermore, the station was on two levels with the north-south route passing through the low level station underneath the east-west route's high level station. A spur, named St Margaret's Spur, connected the low level lines to the north with the high level lines to the east, thereby allowing through running between these two routes. The station we have today, with just the route to the north, ironically the last to be built, remaining for trains on the national Network, is, in fact, the fourth East Grinstead station, and the second to be built on the present site. The line to the south is, of course, presently the subject of the Bluebell Railway's northern extension, pushing towards East Grinstead where one day their metals will meet those of Network Rail.

The first line to arrive at the town was the independently built East Grinstead Railway from Three Bridges which, having been authorized on 8th July 1853, opened for business two years and one day later on 9th July 1855, was leased by the LB&SCR from 1858 and eventually acquired in 1878. This line terminated at a station near London Road. The next line to be built was the continuation of the first one eastwards to Tunbridge Wells. Once again this was an independent concern, sanctioned on 7th August 1862, but this time the LB&SCR acquired the line before completion, during 1864, and opened it to traffic on 1st October 1866. At the same time a new station was brought into use, actually on the London Road.

Oxted Unit 1305 is seen leaving East Grinstead High Level and turning north onto St Margaret's Spur with a train from Tunbridge Wells West to Victoria. The High Level station comprised two island platforms set immediately above, and at a 90 degree angle to, the Low Level platforms. Note the water tower (which suggests that steam was still being used at this time) and the lower quadrant signal.

photograph by Keith Harwood

East Grinstead High Level
The third route to be built was that to the south, from East Grinstead to Culver Junction and with a branch from Horsted Keynes to Haywards Heath. Once again this was proposed by an independent company, the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway, which gained its authorization on 10th August 1877. Taken into the LB&SCR in 1878, the line opened for business to Culver Junction and Lewes on 1st August 1882 and from Horsted Keynes to Haywards Heath on 3rd September 1883. It was from the 10th August opening that the two level station came into use, with a spur from the low level to the high level being authorised 17th June 1878 and opened on 10th March 1884.

The last line to arrive in the town, and the only one open for busines at the present time (2004), was the Croydon, Oxted and East Grinstead Railway, which was jointly owned with the South Eastern Railway between Croydon and Crowhurst Junction East, and was built in part on the abandoned works of the ill-fated Surrey & Sussex Junction Railway. The South Croydon to East Grinstead section was authorized on 17th June 1878 and opened on 10th March 1884, together with a spur leading up to the high level line allowing through running from Croydon to Tunbridge Wells.

The first line to close was to the south. The line from Horsted Keynes to Culver Junction was closed on 28th May 1955, though this was very unpopular with the local people who had hotly contested the closure plan since its announcement in 1954. One such person, a Miss Bessemer, did some research and discovered that in the original Act authorizing the construction of the line was a clause requiring: "Four passenger trains each way daily to run on this line with through connections at East Grinstead to London, and stop at Sheffield Bridges, Newick and West Hoathly." (Sheffield Bridges being the original name for Sheffield Park). As this original Act had not been repealed, British Railways was forced to re-open the line on 7th August 1956, albeit with a minimal one coach "sulky" service that called at the nominated stations only. A Public Inquiry followed in which British Railways was severly criticised, but subsequently the Transport Commission persuaded Parliament to repeal the special section of the original Act, and the line south from Horsted Keynes was finally closed on 17th March 1958. However, the attention that the closure had attracted led to the successful re-opening as the Bluebell Railway in 1960.

Although the line south to Horsted Keynes and Haywards Heath remained, it was only kept open on a care and maintenance basis, seeing just the occasional special or diversion. However, only the down line was used for these trains as a section of the up line at West Hoathly was used for the storage of withdrawn goods vehicles prior to breaking up, with the line eventually closing in 1963.

With no trains to the south the London service now concentrated on the high level station with trains running through to Tunbridge Wells West, although peak hour services were still originating and terminating at the low level station. There was a refreshment kiosk on the low level station's down platform which remained there even when nearly all services were using the high level platforms. This did, however make some sense as the entrance to the station was by the down low level platform.

East Grinstead Low Level The low level station in 1963 with the high level platforms clearly visible in the background. Although the train service southwards to Lewes and Brighton had ceased some 5 years earlier, the surface of the rails shows that the low level tracks were still in use at this time for trains terminating here. Stock was also stored overnight on Imberhorne viaduct, just to the south of the station. Out of sight and to the right of the picture, a goods spur once connected the high and low level tracks. Sadly this magnificent LB&SCR station was swept away in the 1970s and replaced by a modern structure totally lacking in any character.

photograph by Keith Harwood

The closed, but still intact, double track line near the Imberhorne Lane Bridge south of East Grinstead, five years after the 1958 cessation of passenger services. The line north of Horsted Keynes was known as the "Primrose" Line and the Bluebell Railway's ex-SECR P Class Nº27 was so named for a time in the early 60s. In the fullness of time the Bluebell Railway's Northern Extension should result in the restoration of steam trains over this section of line.

photograph by Keith Harwood

Imberhorn Cutting
Shortly after the east-west route also lost its passenger trains and was closed. The track was ripped up although the bay platform at Three Bridges was kept for use in connection with the Engineer's sidings there, only to finally succumb when the land was required for the new Three Bridges Signalbox.

This left the route north as East Grinstead's only rail route. Now back in the low level platforms, services to Oxted and London were by DEMU supplemented with loco hauled stock for peak services. Electrification in October 1987, and the accompanying improvement in services, brings the story of East Grinstead station up-to-date, although this story has at least one more chapter to be written once the Bluebell Railway completes it's extension northwards to a station that will meet the Network Rail one end-to-end.

East Grinstead Low Level A view up the line from the London end of the station back in November 1985, prior to electrification. As can be seen, the right hand platform was the one in main use and this signal is off for a train to depart north towards Oxted and London.

photograph by Mark Westcott

The East Grinstead Signalbox in November 1985.

photograph by Mark Westcott

East Grinstead Low Level

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This page was last updated 16 December 2009

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