Station Name: FOREST ROW

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 1.10.1866
Location: At the end of Station Road
Company on opening: London Brighton & South Coast Railway
Date closed to passengers: 2.1.1967
Date closed completely: 2.1.1967
Company on closing: British Railways (Southern Region)
Present state: Remains of the platforms and the goods shed can be found amongst light industrial buildings. The brick coal merchants office also still stands in Station Road; it was refurbished in 2008 and is now a cafe.
County: Sussex
OS Grid Ref: TQ428352
Date of visit: November 1967, May 1975 & 14.11.2005

Notes: Forest Row became a crossing station in 1897 with a new platform on the down side of the line. The station had a goods yard and goods shed on the up side of the line. Goods services were withdrawn from the station from 7.11.1966

During the 1950's Forest Row was the only intermediate station on the line to carry a reasonable number of daily commuters to London.

An episodes of 'Captain Fantastic', a feature within the comedy TV programme 'Do Not Adjust Your Set', was filmed at Forest Row, probably a few months after closure. The episode was screened in August/September of 1967. It featured a young David Jason in what must have been one of his earliest TV appearances, clambering all over the station.

Following a public meeting in 1852, the East Grinstead Railway Company was in formed and in November of that year applied to parliament for powers to construct a 6 3/4 mile branch line from a terminus at East Grinstead to a junction with the London Brighton & South Coast Railway's main line at Three Bridges. The bill received Royal Assent on 8th July 1853 and the branch line opened on 9th July 1855 with a single intermediate station at Rowfant; a second station at Grange Road was added in March 1860.

The new line was an immediate success carrying both passengers and goods. Even before the line opened there was talk of an extension to Tunbridge Wells and the East Grinstead Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells Railway Act was passed on 7th August 1862. Prior to this date the Brighton, Uckfield and Tunbridge Wells Railway had their Act passed in 1861 for an extension from the existing terminus at Uckfield to a new terminus at Tunbridge Wells and work on this line had already started in April 1862.

The EGG & TWR proposed to obtain powers to run over the BU & TWR line between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells but before either line was opened the two companies were absorbed into the London Brighton & South Coast Railway in January 1865.

Despite the success of the original line to East Grinstead, the extension proved less popular and the initial passenger service of 6 trains each way per day was soon reduced to save money, the goods service was however more profitable.

The extension to Tunbridge Wells was opened on 1st October 1866, nearly two years before the, line from Uckfield was ready; it was single throughout except for a resited East Grinstead Station and at Groombridge There were three intermediate stations at Forest Row, Hartfield and Withyham.

The extension from Uckfield to Groombridge was opened on 3rd August 1868 and on 1st February 1876 a short spur through Grove Tunnel was opened between the LBSC terminus and Tunbridge Wells to a junction with the South Eastern Railway south of their own station in the town to allow the running of through trains. On 5th April 1880 the LBSC extended their line from Hailsham to a junction with the Uckfield line at Eridge with services running on into Tunbridge Wells.

With the opening of the Lewes & East Grinstead Railway and the Croydon, Oxted and East Grinstead Railway in 1883 it was once again necessary to resite East Grinstead Station. The two new lines approached the Three Bridges line at right angles from the north and south respectively. Because of the angle it was impossible to take the L & GR into the existing station so a new station was built quarter of a mile to the west with two island platforms on the old line above and at right angles to a new station at the end on junction between the EGR and the CO & EGR with a sharply curving spur linking the two lines.

The final line in the equation was the Oxted and Groombridge Railway which opened on 1st October 1888 bringing yet another service into Tunbridge Wells.

The opening of these new routes from London all reduced passenger numbers on the line from Three Bridges which was now the longest out of four routes from London to Tunbridge Wells. Only one intermediate station, Forest Row was able to build up quite respectable commuter traffic to London with several trains terminating there.

With ever rising operating costs a new rail motor service consisting of a single carriage hauled or propelled by a small tank engine was introduced in 1906. A new halt was opened at High Rocks between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells, served only by the rail motors. These new trains eventually halted the decline in passenger revenue with the service reaching its peak in 1914.

WW1 had little affect on the line and some new services were introduced following the formation of the Southern Railway in 1923. WW2 brought a reduction in services with the withdrawal of the rail motors. A government oil store was established at Rowfant bringing an increase in freight traffic. After the war some passenger services were reinstated but by 1950 both passenger and freight service were in decline and BR was considering the possible closure of the line between Three Bridges and Ashurst Junction in 1951 with passenger numbers at Hartfield in 1949 being only a quarter of those carried in 1923.

The East Grinstead - Lewes line closed in May 1955 but the Three Bridges line survived with a new timetable being introduced in June 1955. There was a marked improvement in passenger numbers, especially between Three Bridges and East Grinstead but despite a proposal to introduce diesel-electric train in 1962 the line was threatened by the Beeching Axe (Dr. Beeching lived in East Grinstead) when the Three bridges - Tunbridge Wells line was one of many proposed for closure in March 1963. (The only line to remain open was the line from London - East Grinstead via Oxted on which Dr. Beeching was a first class season ticket holder!)

Despite strong local objections and a new timetable, Barbara Castle confirmed closure of the line between Three Bridges and Groombridge from 1st January 1967. Although originally proposed for closure the section between Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West (West was added to the name in 1923) remained open.

Track lifting began at the east end of the line late in 1967 and was not completed until 1970. In July 1979 much of the trackbed between Three Bridges and East Grinstead was turned into a public footpath and cycleway known as Worth Way. The 9 1/2 mile section of line between East Grinstead and Groombridge has also been converted into a public footpath and cycleway known as Forest Way.

Although the route into Tunbridge Wells West remained open there was no investment in the line and by the early 1980's the track and signaling needed replacing. With the planned removal of Grove Junction during the upgrade of the Tonbridge - Hastings line British Rail decided they could no longer justify keeping the line open and announced closure of the line from 16th May 1983. Once again there were strong objections but these were outweighed by British Rail's cost argument. They estimated that to upgrade the infrastructure, while retaining the existing services, would give a £175,000 loss per year and the Secretary of State confirmed closure of the line on 6th July 1985.

Grove Junction was removed the day after closure but the line from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells remained in use until 10th August 1985 when the depot was closed.

Shortly after closure the Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society was formed with an aim of reinstating the passenger service on the line. The Society acquired the line in the early 1990's and by winter 1996 they had refurbished half a mile of track and were able to run a steam service from their base on part of the old Tunbridge Wells West station site. TWERPS later merged with the North Downs Steam Railway at Dartford, Kent. The line is now known as The Spa Valley Railways, a name chosen as the result of a competition.

The Spa Valley Railway now runs for 5 miles to Eridge where it terminates alongside the mainline station. There are intermediate stations at High Rocks built by the owner of the High Rocks Inn and Restaurant and Groombridge.

Further reading: Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells by David Gould Oakwood Press 1983
ISBN 0 85361 299 4

Branch lines to East Grinstead by Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith - Middleton Press 1984
ISBN ISBN 090652007X

Click here to see a three minute colour film of Forest Row in 1964

Tickets from Michael Stewart except 1017 & 0067 Nick Catford. Route map drawn by Alan Young.

To see the other stations on the Three Bridges - Tunbridge Wells West line click on the station name: Three Bridges, Rowfant,
Grange Road, East Grinstead High Level, Hartfield, Withyham, Groombridge, High Rocks Halt
& Tunbridge Wells West

Forest Row looking east in the early 20th century
Photo received from David Goldsmith

1898 1,2,500 OS map shows the layout of the station and goods yard. This layout remained much the same until closure.

Forest Row Station during WW2 - note the name board has been removed.

LCGB Rail tour at Forest Row station looking west in June 1965
Photo by Bevan Price

Looking north-east along Station Road towards Forest Row station forecourt in July 1965. A green London Country RT bus (probably route 409 which terminated at Forest Row) waits at the station.
Photo by Bob Bridger from 30937 Transport Photograph Database

David Jason at Forest Row station in summer 1967 - still from Captain Fantastic.

Forest Row Station looking east in November 1967
Photo by Nick Catford

Forest Row station looking in November 1967, the goods shed is seen on the left.
Photo by Nick Catford

Looking west at the remains of the platforms at Forest Row Station in May 1975
Photo by Nick Catford

Forest Row Station looking west in November 2005
hoto by Nick Catford

Click here for more pictures of Forest Row Station





[Source: Nick Catford]

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