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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Grange Road, East
Grinstead High Level, Forest
Rocks Halt &