The Bexhill West Branch

My dad was born in 1919 within sight and sound of the Bexhill West branch of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway. He wouldn’t really have had memories from before the grouping, but he told me he used to get confused about why people sometimes referred to Bexhill West as ‘the South eastern station’. He also commented that he knew people who had built the line, something he thought almost impossible since railways had clearly been there for all time. In fact, the line opened in 1902, just 17 years before dad’s birth.

In 1964, Dr Beeching had the line earmarked for closure. My dad decided he wanted to take a nostalgia trip along the line. He remembered ex Brighton D3 tanks as motive power, with the Westinghouse donkey pumps providing air pressure for the train braking system.. By 1964, a 2 car Hampshire style diesel unit provided the motive power.

Let’s start at the only intermediate station between Bexhill West and the Tonbridge to Hastings main line at Crowhurst. That was Sidley.

We appear to be the sole passengers waiting for the train. That’s me, resting on Dad’s shooting stick and clearly wearing some trousers that didn’t like my shoes.

I bought a platform ticket as a souvenir. It is dated 21st May 1964. The ticket I was given, however, had originally been printed earlier than that for it is a Southern Railway ticket and says it cost 1d – an old penny.

Sidley was the nearest station to the flats where my dad was born and brought up. He took a photo of the flats from the train. The quality is awful.

Yep! That row of unprepossessing flats is where Dad was born. He could see the trains from the back windows, just as we could see the flats from the train.

It’s now 48 years and a bit since we made this pilgrimage for Dad. I cannot remember precisely what we did – except that we went to both ends of the line.

Let’s see Bexhill West first.

There’s the two car diesel unit on the left. It ran the shuttle service between Bexhill West and Crowhurst. Hopefully, you didn’t wait long for a train from Hastings for the onward journey. Bexhill West looks far too grand. Perhaps it was never a sensible line to build, for the rival Brighton company already served Bexhill.

About half a mile from Crowhurst, the line crossed a little stream and this meant a large viaduct was needed. We went to look at it.

Dad managed a none too good shot of the Bexhill West train passing over this structure.

There’s an altogether sharper shot of the viaduct.

And so to Crowhurst Station

The Bexhill train is on the right,  with a Hastings bound train, from London, approaching.

Gosh.Dad was almost artistic here, framing the viaduct under the footbridge and organising a lad (me) to stand, casually, looking into the picture.

Aftermath

Crowhurst viaduct was blown up, as captured by a newspaper photographer.

We visited again in 1969 with half a demolition job done.

This time I was the photographer and I grabbed a photo of Dad on the rubble.

He’s in the white coat.

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17 Responses to “The Bexhill West Branch”

  1. mike pannell Says:

    Fascinated to see your Bexhill branch photos especially the colour viaduct ones and the ironbridge, very very rare. I would love to be able to use them on my Bexhill West branch gallery on line…i have over 400 photos of the line and plans of the viaduct etc but only about 150 photos scanned so far…………..
    http://car57.zenfolio.com/p743442554
    Look forward to hearing from you

    Mike

  2. Steve Says:

    I have been out today taking some photos around Sidley as they are clearing the overgrown trackbed to make way for the Hastings link link road, I believe the bridges are going to be replaced. Its sad to see the railway go and wish it had been running in my lifetime, Would rather see the line reinstated instead of the road.

    • locksands Says:

      Good on you Steve. We should make sure we record what is vanishing. But don’t be too harsh on people responsible for rail closures in the 60s (apart from always being harsh on politicians, of course). The railway to Bexhill West carried few passengers then and was absurdly expensive to run. Of course, it could have been simplified further and made much cheaper to run but fifty years ago most people thought the trains were past it and the car was the way forward. We might see now that we were wrong if we thought that but many, many people really did.

  3. Reinstate Bexhill West Branch Says:

    It is great to hear there is still enthusiasm for the railway. I am one of the believers who thinks the railway should be reinstated in lieu of the road. If you think so too then Like http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reinstate-Bexhill-West-Line/100620456795824?ref=hl or discuss the issue in a letter to the Bexhill Observer.

  4. Rod Clifton. Says:

    Hi Locksands, fascinating to see your pics as I was born (1952) and raised in Sidley, and used to travel from Sidley to Bexhill West for 2d, what an adventure. I’m part of a Sidley facebook page, and would like to share some of your pics, but will not do so without your permission. I would credit you, and use your text if that’s ok with you. Thanks again. Rod

    • locksands Says:

      Hi Rod

      Nice of you to ask.

      I worry about copyright issues with Facebook and don’t use it myself. The photographs are copyrighted to me as heir tyo my father who took them. I have given permission for Mike Pannell to use them on his photo site regarding the Bexhill West Branch at http://car57.zenfolio.com/ . Some will be used in an upcoming improved book about the Bexhill West Railway. I have given free permission for that as well.

      Can I be 100% assured that Facebook will not consider they have copyright of images posted on Facebook pages please?

      If that’s the case, and copyright remains soley with me, then I’d give permission for usage.

      Sorry to be awkward.

      The Happy Nerd

  5. Yvette Says:

    My partner lives in the Old Station Masters house at Sidley and it has been changed forever since the link road work started. Trees taken needlessly (including a 100 year old pine they removed in error as it belongs to my partner). All so very sad 😦

  6. john brabon Says:

    Hi I used to live in mountfield in the early 50s and went to school at bexhill downs school.We cycled to Mountfield Halt station alas long gone, caulght the train to crowhurst then changed on to the Sidely Flyer to the west station.two carrages , boys in one girls in the other.as soon as the train left the station we would open the door between the carrages with a key made in the metalwork lesson.

  7. Nick Catford Says:

    Hi Can you contact nick@catford.orangehome.co.uk re three of your photos.

  8. Luggage Labels | Locksands Life Says:

    […] This one dates from 1927 but Sidley was of interest. It was the local station for my dad when he was a lad and is on the Bexhill West branch. One of my first posts on this blog was about that line and it remains my most viewed individual page. You can click here to read it. […]

  9. Stephen Davies Says:

    Thank you for some very interesting pictures.
    I used to walk to crowhurst from sidley with my dad, (I am 1954 vintage) and that footbridge brings back many happy memories, on the way across combe valley marsh, went to the plough,then we got the train back to sidley station.

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