Posts Tagged ‘Crowhurst’

The Bexhill West Branch

November 4, 2012

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.