Station Name: GROOMBRIDGE


[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 1.10.1866
Location: On the east side of Station Road
Company on opening: London Brighton & South Coast Railway
Date closed to passengers: 8.7.1985 (Last train 6.7.1985)
Date closed completely: 8.7.1985
Company on closing: British Rail (Southern Region)
Present state:

The main station building incorporating the stationmaster's house and the the west end of the down platform are still extant. The station house is now in residential use while the station building is an office. The Spa Valley Railway have built a new station on the west side of Station Road and their track has been realigned away from the existing platform to pass the site of the former island platform on the south side. The goods yard, island platform and the east end of the down platform have been cleared with new housing (Newton Willows) standing on the site. Access to the SVR station is along the remaining section of the former down platform.

County: Sussex
OS Grid Ref: TQ533372
Date of visit: October 1967, May 1985, 8.7.1985 April 1986, January 1990 & November 2005

Notes: The first Groombridge station was opened in 1866 by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) with the extension of its Three Bridges to Tunbridge Wells Central Line to Tunbridge Wells; its importance increased two years later when the line from Lewes was completed, and yet again with the opening of the Cuckoo Line opening up routes to Polegate and Eastbourne. At this time, trains from Lewes and Uckfield could only reach East Grinstead by reversing at Groombridge. Authority was therefore obtained in 1878 to lay a single track spur south of Ashurst Junction which would enable services to bypass Groombridge.

Although completed in 1888, this spur remained largely unused until 1914 . It was eventually doubled to handle increased traffic on the Cuckoo Line and regular services to Uckfield. This spur thus reduced the importance of Groombridge as a junction station as direct Victoria - Crowborough/Uckfield services no longer had to reverse at Groombridge. The opening of the spur meant that more services were routed through Eridge which became the point where London trains were divided for the two lines south. To compensate for this loss, slip coaches were shed from some down trains at Ashurst.

Upon the completion of the Cuckoo Line in 1880, the line between Eridge and Groombridge was doubled. At the same time, a crossover was constructed on the western side of Groombridge station, together with associated signalling equipment, and later the Groombridge West signal box. A second signal box, 'Groombridge Junction', was provided on the opening of the Cuckoo Line, and a third, 'Groombridge West' (the first signal box's name was changed to 'Groombridge East'), was added in 1888 after the opening of the Oxted Line. Within 10 years of nationalisation, the three signal boxes had been closed by British Rail and replaced by a single box on 23 November 1958 when the Groombridge section was resignalled.

Groombridge station building situated on the east side of Station Road is architecturally 'the exact counterpart in miniature of Tunbridge Wells', and constructed of red brick with string courses of blue and white brick, including coloured brick reveals to the doors and windows. The stationmaster's original residence was on the western side of the building adjacent to a booking hall, while at the same time a new goods and parcels office was added to the eastern end of the building, next to the gentlemen's toilets. A subway led from the main platform to the island platform where until 1896 there were no passenger facilities; at the request of a passenger, a waiting room and buffet were provided at a cost of £2,300.

The station was equipped with three platform faces: the main station platform was used for down trains, whilst the far side of an island platform served the up trains. A double track ran through the station, with a third line splaying out to the other side of the island before merging once again with the line to Tunbridge Wells. The two platforms had a substantial stagger. Four sets of goods sidings lay to the north of the main station serving a carriage dock, blacksmith's shop and stable. The extensive goods yard and generous facilities which include a brick goods shed and and a 5-ton capacity crane did not, however, see much use, and the Southern Railway used the station as a collection point for empty wagons and, at one point, as a holding yard for Tunbridge-bound trains.

A footbridge was installed in 1889 to the west of the station to carry the footpath crossing the railway line to pass over the embankment; this replaced deep cutting steps which led down the embankment on either side of the footpath, the use of which was becoming ever more dangerous with the increasing traffic. By 1899 the levels of traffic generated from the Oxted Line prompted the LBSCR to invest in extending the island platform and re-aligning the track around it.

Until 1965 north-south services were run in two sections: Victoria - Tunbridge Wells West, and Tunbridge Wells West - Brighton/Eastbourne. These two sections interconnected at Groombridge where with Eastbourne and Tunbridge Wells coaches were detached from London trains; traffic grew from around 80 trains per day in the 1900s to 120 in the 1930s and more than 200 per day in the 1950s. The pattern of operations changed completely in the wake of the Beeching Report when the relative importance of Groombridge and Eridge as railway junctions diminished with the closure of one after another of the lines in the area.

The Cuckoo Line was the first to go in June 1965, followed by the line from Three Bridges and East Grinstead in January 1967 and then the Uckfield line to the south of Uckfield in 1969. The line between Ashurst Junction and Groombridge, was taken out on 5 January 1969. At the same time, the signal box opened in 1958 was closed leaving the block signalling section between Tunbridge Wells West and Birchden Junction. Goods facilities were withdrawn from Groombridge from 3 January 1966 when the goods yard was downgraded to a coal depot only. All facilities were withdrawn from 4 November 1968 although the last coal were carried on 7 October 1968. The signal box at Groombridge closed in 1969 with the closure of the Groombridge to Ashurst junction spur line.

The section from Birchden Junction to Grove Junction remained open with an hourly off peak 3-coach DEMU shuttle between Eridge and Tonbridge with connecting services at Eridge was provided for Uckfield line passengers. By the 1980s the section had been gradually run-down with little maintenance, disruptions to service patterns and the reduction of services to a dozen or so per day, all of which took its toll on passenger numbers, although some commuter traffic did remain. Groombridge station was staffed on the morning shift only by the wife of a railwayman at Tunbridge Wells West, and she kept the station clean and presentable, whilst the tracks outside became overgrown, the 1958 signal box remained boarded-up and the goods yard contained a moribund coal merchant's business. In 1985 the Department for Transport gave British Rail the go-ahead to close the line from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells provided alternative bus services were provided, and it was announced that the last service would run on 6 July. A private company called 'Surrey Downs Ltd' proposed running a joint service with BR from Tonbridge to Uckfield, but this never materialised amid scepticism from BR that somebody outside the industry could make a loss-making line pay.

In 1996 the Spa Valley Railway acquired the trackbed between Tunbridge Wells West and Birchden Junction and, after much hard work, restored a public service from Tunbridge Wells West to Groombridge in August 1997. As the original Groombridge station is now a private residence and the old ticket offices are now offices for a local financial adviser, it was necessary to build a new station on the opposite side of the road bridge with access via the old main station platform which has been extended to the new station. The island platform has been demolished and houses have been built on part of the trackbed requiring the new single track to curve along the trackbed of the old up loop line into the new station.



A joint ticket between the railway and nearby Groombridge Place is available. Canopies have been erected on the station, using the former canopy supports from Gravesend West station. A new signal box has been built as part of the extension to Eridge. A new refreshment kiosk has been constructed and is selling local produce, hot and cold drinks and ice creams. The section of line between Groombridge to Eridge re-opened on 25 March 2011 giving the railway 5 miles of track. In January 2014 he old station building is occupied by Withyham Parish Council but the Spa Valley Railway are planning to occupy part of it as offices during the summer of 2014. Text copied from Wikipedia under creative commons licence.

Click here to see a 3 minute film of Groombridge station and signal box after closure.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE THREE BRIDGES - TUNBRIDGE WELLS WEST RAILWAY
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 April 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.

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.

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 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 Railways now runs for 5 miles to Eridge with intermediate stations at Groombridge at High Rocks which built by the owner of the High Rocks Inn and Restaurant.

Tickets from Michael Stewart (except 0067 & 3721 Brian Halford), route map drawn by Alan Young

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

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, Forest Row, Hartfield, Withyham, High Rocks Halt
& Tunbridge Wells West


Groombridge Station Gallery 1 1900 - 1950s



Groombridge station approach road and forecourt in 1905.


1881 1:2,500 OS map shows the layout of the station with four sidings running behind the down platform, one passing thorough the brick goods shed and three terminating at a dock close to the yard entrance. The position of the 5-ton yard crane is indicated. A terrace of railway cottages are shown beyond the station. The station is identified as Groombridge Junction although it was never officially called by this name.

1898 1:2,500 OS map. Little has changed since the earlier map above. Two additional buildings are shown close to the entrance to the yard.

1909 1:2,500 OS map. Again little change although a weighbridge and coal bins are now shown. Groombridge has lost it's importance as a junction and on this map has even lost its name. The Junction Hotel is still a reminder of the stations former importance. It was originally a coaching inn and still has the original stable block in the grounds. Today it is called the Junction Inn, The adjoining Long Room was not originally part of the pub and was built to house the navvies who built the railway.

The down platform at Groombridge station c1910.
Copyright photo from Tony Harden collection

A passenger train bound for Tunbridge Wells West pulls into the down platform at
Groombridge station in the 1930s.
Copyright photo from Tony Harden collection

Looking north-west from the down platform in 1949. This view shows the considerable stagger between the two platforms.
Photo from John Mann collection

Groombridge station looking south-east from the island platform in May 1951. Up trains used the platform face on the left. The short goods dock can be seen on the right, this was served by three sidings, one either side and one end on. Groombridge handles a full range of goods
traffic including livestock.
Photo from John Mann collection

A Tunbridge Wells West train pulls into the down platform at Groombridge in the 1950s. The station subway is seen at the end of the island platform.
Photo from John Mann collection

Groombridge station looking north-east along the down platform in the 1950s. Both ends of the subway are visible in this view.
Photo from John Mann collection

Groombridge station forecourt in the 1950s.
Copyright photo from Tony Harden collection

Click here for Groombridge Station Gallery 3 1959 - 1983


 

 

 

:[Source: Nick Catford]


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