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The London Brighton & South Coast Railway





THE Brighton Railway was projected by Sir John Rennie, and it took him nine years to get the scheme adopted. The airy reference to it in his autobiography lets in a flood of light on the way in which many of our railways came about. “I will now”, says he, “revert to 1826, the time when I was asked my opinion as to the value of railways, and I said in the most decided terms to Lord Lowther that, I thought very highly of them, that they must succeed and eventually supersede every other mode of transport for passengers and goods. Being quite convinced of this, with which opinion my brother George cordially agreed, I set about projecting lines to those places where I thought they were most applicable”.

There were engineer’s lines and contractor’s lines, and the Brighton was an engineer’s line. “Another important line”, says Rennie, “which I proposed at this time was one between London and Brighton”. With his assistants, Grantham and Jago, he surveyed the route, placed his terminus at Kennington Park, ran to Croydon through Clapham and Streatham, and then went straight away much as the line goes now to the upper end of Brighton. Further, he started Vignoles on a survey from Nine Elms through Dorking, Horsham, and Shoreham, and to this added a western branch along the coast to Portsmouth with a view to continuing to Southampton and Bristol; and when ready with his plans he got together his board, who issued the prospectus of The Surrey, Sussex, Hants, Wilts & Somerset Railway Company, which failed to make headway until it cut off its extremities and changed its name.

Vignoles - afterwards Professor of Civil Engineering at University College, the first professorship of the subject founded in England - was much engaged in railway work for years, and was the inventor of the flat-based rail that found such favour on the Continent. He is distinguished as being one of the youngest of our soldiers, for when a baby he was made a prisoner of war by the French, and, to obtain his release, Sir Charles Grey gave him a commission as an ensign in the 43rd when he was eighteen months old, placing him immediately on half-pay. Thus Vignoles being an officer could be exchanged, and the exchange was effected without delay. Nineteen years afterwards, when in his twenty-first year, he returned to full pay, and served in the Peninsula and elsewhere, until he returned to half-pay in 1816, when he took to surveying, his first work in Europe being this under Rennie, which was during 1825 and not 1826 as Rennie incorrectly states.

Victoria Station, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


Brighton in those days was growing fast, and a railway to it was an obvious project, but this ambitious proposal of Rennie’s did nothing beyond provoking opposition schemes, which were mutually destructive year after year, until in 1836 there were more than half a dozen routes for Parliament to decide upon. These were Rennie’s, which had been slightly modified and considerably curtailed; Palmer’s, which went through Woldingham, Oxted, and Lindfield, because he proposed to go on to Dover; that, or rather those, by Joseph Gibbs, which went from London Bridge through Croydon, southwards; that by Vignoles, which went from the Elephant through Croydon, Merstham, and West Grinstead; Cundy’s, which went from St. George’s Fields through Mitcham and West Grinstead; and Robert Stephenson’s, which went from the Wimbledon Station on the London & Southampton Railway through Epsom, Mickleham, Dorking, Horsham, and Shoreham, that is Shoreham-by-Sea.

These were soon reduced to two. Gibbs did not comply with standing orders, and his Bill came to early grief; Cundy’s board engaged in disputes about the chairmanship until it was too late to proceed; the Vignoles route fell out ostensibly for want of funds; and Palmer’s was laughed out owing to its five miles of tunnels and enormous cuttings, some of them 120 ft. deep. Thus the contest remained between Rennie and Stephenson. Rennie’s, being the first in the field, took the shortest road. Stephenson’s line was eight miles longer, but it was by far the easier, its gradients varying from 1 in 1221 to 1 in 327, and it was practically the same line that now goes from Epsom to Shoreham. Rennie, who never lost an opportunity of sneering at the Stephensons, was much disturbed about this line, and in his evidence complained that his plans - which had been passing about for years - had been submitted “without my consent to Mr. Robert Stephenson, whom I do not consider a proper judge of such plans!”

Fortunately Rennie had, after much effort, secured the support of the Brighton people, and Stephenson’s line went through properties between Epsom and Box Hill owned by persons of influence who resisted it to the utmost, while the Gibbs lines were so placed that an arrangement could be made with their projectors if necessary. And these projectors were the London & Croydon Company.

The Croydon Canal, dating from 1801, branched off from the Grand Surrey near what is now Southwark Park, and ran south for about nine miles through New Cross to its basin on which West Croydon Station now stands. It had twenty-eight locks on it, and was unsatisfactory from the first owing to the difficulty of keeping an adequate supply of water at its summit level on Forest Hill. It is still traceable by strips of towing-path and small ponds here and there, the largest pool being at Anerley; and so useless was it that in 1835 the London & Croydon Railway was incorporated by Act of Parliament, which bought it up, and, branching from the London & Greenwich at Corbett’s Lane Junction, ran along its bed wherever possible, whence the New Cross bank up which the line now rises for over two miles to the old canal summit at Forest Hill. Next year it obtained an Act by which it had a station of its own alongside that of the London & Greenwich at London Bridge, but it used the Greenwich metals until 1842.

Buffet Car of the Southern Belle, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


The first engineer was William Cubitt, who seeing that Rennie would secure a share in the Croydon traffic promptly encouraged a rival scheme. Here was a line in the making - it was not opened until 1839 - and Parliament not unkindly objected to damage its prospects, though its Bill had fallen out on account of a technicality.

The Brighton battle created much stir, but the end of it all was that nothing was done in 1836, Stephenson’s Bill being passed by the Commons but thrown out by the Lords, and in 1837 Captain Alderson was appointed by the Parliamentary Committee to inquire into these Brighton matters generally; and he reported in favour of Rennie’s route with alterations not at all agreeable to Rennie. Thus it came about that in 1837 the Act was passed by which the Surrey, Sussex and so on Railway, with exactly the same directorate as at first, became the London & Brighton, with branches to Lewes, Newhaven, and Shoreham, and instead of beginning at Kennington Common, that is the present Park, it had to start from Jolly Sailor on the London & Croydon. Further, it had to buy up that extension of the old Surrey Iron Railway known as the Croydon, Merstham, & Godstone, which ran south from Croydon along Smitham Bottom, a few of the stone sleepers of which may still be found among the local curbstones.

There was yet another and much more serious complication, due to the South Eastern Company having obtained their Act in 1836 empowering them to lay their line from Redstone Hill, that is Redhill, through the Weald by Tonbridge to Dover. To give them communication with London the Brighton Company had to make the whole of the line, 12 miles 5 chains, from Jolly Sailor to Redhill, and then hand over the southern half of it to the South Eastern, who were to pay for that half with an addition of 5 per cent, the sum eventually paid being £340,000. And so, when the Brighton opened throughout on the 21st of September 1841, the train started from London Bridge on London & Greenwich metals; at Corbett’s Lane it ran on to London & Croydon metals; at Jolly Sailor it got on to its own line; six miles south of that, at Coulsdon, it ran on to South Eastern metals, and it was not until it left the junction at Redhill that it had any chance of going as it pleased.

To add to the trouble there were gauge difficulties. George Stephenson in planning the Liverpool & Manchester had arranged for a 4 ft. 8½-in. gauge in the Bill that did not pass. To get the next year’s Bill through, John Rennie was made engineer in his place. While Rennie was in command, actuated by his dislike of Stephenson, he started a gauge of his own, and just as Brunel found plausible reasons for his width of 7 ft, so Rennie proved to the satisfaction of all who believed in him that the right width was 5 ft. 6-in; and he began to lay the Liverpool & Manchester to that gauge. Rennie’s reign did not last long, and George Stephenson resumed his original position and promptly abolished Rennie’s gauge. Robert Stephenson in planning his proposed line to Brighton of course adopted the 4 ft. 8½-in. gauge, and again Rennie, notwithstanding that the trains were to run on the London & Greenwich and the London & Croydon, adopted a little gauge of his own in order to differ from the colliery lines. It was something different from the Stephenson size and that was his comfort, but it was only half an inch different! Instead of 4 ft. 8½-in. it was to be 4 ft. 9-in, and John Urpeth Rastrick, who really did the work, had to make it so. Now the South Eastern did not approve of that extra half-inch, and their part had to be of the Stephenson gauge. So the Brighton trains, which were of the ordinary gauge, ran easy from the Jolly Sailor to Coulsdon, and ran easy again from Redhill to the south. This nonsense lasted until the amalgamation, when Jolly Sailor was moved on a bit to become Norwood Junction; but before that took place there is another story to tell.

Goods Engine No. 301, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


In 1810 George Medhurst, a most ingenious man of whom few have heard, though to him all are indebted as being the inventor of the weights and scales used in every retail shop, issued A New Method of Conveying Letters and Goods with Great Certainty and Rapidity by Air, in which he proposed to convey goods, large or small, through tunnels by means of compressed air; and later on he published two more pamphlets on the same subject. Really he covered all the ground of the subsequent patents on the matter, though he does not seem to have put any of his suggestions into practice. He describes an airtight tunnel with carriages on rails within it, either driven by compressed air or sucked by a vacuum, as patented by Vallance, and also a smaller tunnel with a piston-carriage attached by a rod passing through a longitudinal valve to a full-sized carriage running over it or alongside it in the open air, as patented by Pinkus, which may be taken as types of the two systems. Vallance was simply ridiculed for his “suffocation scheme”; Pinkus’s Pneumatic Railway was tried near the Kensington Canal and then ceased to be heard of.

In 1840 Samuel Clegg, the gas engineer, and Joseph Samuda, the shipbuilder, brought out their Atmospheric Railway project. Clegg invented the valve, and Samuda built the plant and found the money. In June of that year they obtained the temporary use of a portion of the then unfinished West London Railway near Wormwood Scrubbs, where they laid a tube of 9-in. in diameter. “The track”, says F. S. Williams, “was of old contractor’s rails, very badly laid - which, it is curious to observe, had formed part of the metals of the Liverpool & Manchester line - where on an incline of about one in a hundred and twenty a maximum speed of 30 miles per hour was obtained with a load of more than five tons, and of twenty-two miles with a load of eleven tons. So successful were the results obtained during the course of the experiments that were here made, that the directors of the Dublin & Kingstown Railway determined on the adoption of the atmospheric principle on an extension then projected from Kingstown to Dalkey, the gradients and curves of which rendered it unsuitable for locomotives”.

A guard on the London Brighton & South Coast RailwayIn this the tube was laid between the rails, firmly secured to sleepers embedded in the road. On the top of the tube was a continuous opening, with vertical cheeks along it forming a trough for the valve, which was made of thick leather enclosed between thin iron plates and protected by a hinged iron lid in 5 ft. lengths. The interior of the tube was lined with a composition to keep the piston air-tight, and the valve was kept air-tight by a mixture of tallow and wax. To the piston was attached a rod carrying rollers by which the valve was lifted so as to give room for the passage of the connecting rod that drew the carriage. In front of the piston the tube was closed so that the air might be pumped out by the stationary engine at one end of the line, while behind the piston the tube was left open to admit the air by the pressure of which on the piston the train was driven. Such was the contrivance that was to render the locomotive obsolete on our railways. Nothing could be simpler; but it all depended on the valve.


The system worked very well for a time on the Kingstown & Dalkey, while the valve was new. Brunel went over to Ireland to see the thing at work, and was so well satisfied that he started the South Devon with it; and in 1845 the London & Croydon adopted it between Forest Hill and West Croydon. They laid it with 15-in. pipes on the eastern side of the line, although the Brighton went off to the east and had to be crossed by a curious viaduct at an oblique angle the slopes up to which were 1 in 50, a flying leap, as it was called, which the atmospherics took without lessening speed; and they went certainly 30 miles an hour, some said 60. But the time of tribulation came next year, when the sun was so hot that it melted the tallow and wax that kept the valve airtight, and, try all the inventors could, no suitable composition could be hit upon; and the valve began to wear out and the air escape from it even in cool weather; and, as on the South Devon, nothing could be done. And there is nothing left of it but a few pipes discoverable now and then; while Medhurst’s other plan, tried in the Pneumatic Despatch, survives in the tubes used by the Post Office telegraphs, the carriers of the British Museum library, and many of our factories and shops.

In July 1846, the year the atmospheric experiment was abandoned, the London & Croydon and the London & Brighton were amalgamated and became the London, Brighton, & South Coast, the south coast lines having then been extended to Hastings in one direction and to Chichester in the other. In the following year the western line was opened to Portsmouth, and the three extremities of the system had been reached. In December the Newhaven branch was opened, and the Brighton started its cross-channel work, London to Paris in twelve hours, a journey it now does in less than nine.

The Crystal Palace was opened in 1854, and to it the branch was run from Sydenham, which began working on the 10th of June in that year, then the only means of access by railway. The continuation of that branch to New Wandsworth opened on the 1st of December 1856; on the 29th of March 1858 the line was opened to Battersea, afterwards Battersea Pier, a passenger station, like New Wandsworth, that no longer exists; two years afterwards it reached Pimlico, and soon after that it was at Victoria. Pimlico has gone, like many other stations, for there is no company that has made more changes in its stations and their names. Dartmouth Arms became Forest Hill; Jolly Sailor, Norwood Junction; Godstone Road, Caterham Junction and now Purley; Greyhound Lane, on the line from Croydon to Balham, opened in 1862, has become Streatham Common. Yapton, between Barnham and Ford, has gone; so has Woodgate, between Chichester and Ford; so has old Littlehampton, between Angmering and Ford; so has Keymer Junction, and quite a number of old stations have been absorbed in new ones, the last and largest being Victoria.

Composite carriage, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


In 1847 the branch was opened from Croydon to Epsom. This went on to Leatherhead in 1859. Meanwhile Horsham had been reached through Three Bridges in 1848; from Horsham to Petworth had been opened in 1859, and from Hardham Junction, near Pulborough, to Ford in 1863. From Petworth to Midhurst the connection was made in 1866, but the endeavour to reach Southampton having failed, the line was run south from there to Chichester in 1881 to form the western boundary. All that remained to be done on this side was to join up between Leatherhead and Horsham in 1867, and the company obtained their Mid-Sussex route to Portsmouth.

In 1865 the line was opened from Sutton to Epsom Downs. This gave the company a route to the Derby, etc., up to then a monopoly of the South Western, and it went right on to the course, an improvement of which the public were not slow to take advantage. Seven other racecourses are on the Brighton system, Lewes, Lingfield, Plumpton, Gatwick, Brighton, Portsmouth, and Goodwood, so that the racing folks, and the horses, add an appreciable item to its revenue.

The line to Guildford from Horsham through Cranleigh was also opened in 1865. On the other side the route to Eastbourne started with the line from Eastbourne to Hailsham as far back as 1849, and the line from Lewes to Uckfield nine years later. These joined at Redgate Mill in 1880, the Uckfield and Groombridge line having been completed in 1868. The next step was to connect Groombridge with Oxted, the Oxted & Croydon being the joint property of the Brighton and the South Eastern. Thus the system serves Surrey and Sussex with just a little strip of Kent and a corner of Hampshire; and you are told by its coat of arms that its chief towns are London, Hastings (the Cinque Port), Portsmouth (with the moon and star), and Brighton (the two dolphins), which is in the county of Sussex (the shield of martlets on which the inescutcheon of Brighton is borne).

The Victoria to Brighton Express, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


It starts in Middlesex, at Victoria, and its trains have run for brief periods into Cannon Street and into Paddington, and they also appear north of the Thames under a partnership in a railway that has no shareholders, no loans or debentures, and publishes no accounts. In 1836 there was incorporated the Birmingham, Bristol & Thames Junction Railway from Harlesden Green to the Kensington Canal, which entered the Thames at Chelsea Creek. The engineer and projector was William Hosking, and it was his intention to continue the line east from Kensington Crescent to Knightsbridge as the terminus, and south to Wandsworth so as to join up the North Western, Great Western, and South Western. On its way from Harlesden it ran under the Regent’s canal to cross the Great Western on the level, and the arch by which it did so, now blocked up, can be seen on the right hand as you leave Paddington, just as you pass under the West London Railway bridge.

After a precarious infancy it became the property, in 1840, of the Great Western and North Western, who used it as their link between north and west. They did away with the level crossing, and brought the line over the canal and over the railway and made a junction with the Great Western metals on the south side; and they changed its cumbrous name to The West London. As no one cared about the part south of the junction, there was no hurry in finishing the line, and it became a stock subject for Punch to print paragraphs about, and came in useful for the atmospheric trials and similar things. In 1863 it was completed to Addison Road to meet the West London Extension that went on from there with the mixed gauge to Clapham Junction.

Of this line the North Western owns a third of the capital, the Great Western a third, the South Western a sixth, and the Brighton a sixth; and there is no rolling stock, the West London being, officially, worked by the Extension which is worked by the owners. The Brighton was the company most interested in the matter, as they had no other route across the Thames, while the South Western could get across more conveniently farther up, and the other companies were a long time finding out what could be done with this useful link, though they put certain restrictions on their junior partners.

Through the Thames Tunnel (that is the old tunnel of the Brunels) runs the East London, by which the Brighton also crosses the river. This line is leased to the Great Eastern, the Brighton, the South Eastern & Chatham, and the Underground, and the reason of all this is coals. It is down the lift at Whitechapel and through the tunnel that the coals come south. People who complain about the expenses of the Brighton forget that it runs to no coalfield and pays for the freight of all the fuel it uses, which means that it has to pay maybe half a sovereign a ton more than the north-going lines; and half a sovereign per ton represents about £125,000 per annum, equal to £1. 2s. 6d. in dividend on the ordinary shares. Coals, household and otherwise, and heavy goods, it deals with also at Deptford, as it does miscellaneous freight at Battersea, its two riverside terminals.

Drawing-room Car of the Pullman Train, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


It has its ports, of course, but they are not large. The most important of these is Newhaven; Shoreham is in a small way; Littlehampton, from which the company’s steamers used to go to the Channel Islands and Honfleur, does but little trade; and Portsmouth is mainly used for communication with the Isle of Wight. At one time something was to be done with Langston Harbour, the trains being run on to the Carrier and ferried across Spithead to Bembridge, but that clumsy-looking boat was useless in anything of a breeze, and is chiefly remembered as a curiosity up Newhaven river. In short, though the Brighton serves every seaside place between Hastings and Southsea, its only port worth mentioning is Newhaven; and altogether it deals with only about 1½ million tons of merchandise and 3 million tons of minerals, which together produce under £900,000 out of a revenue of nearly 3½ millions.

The Brighton is what most people think a railway ought to be. Its passenger element is predominant, and its goods trains and coal trains do not obtrusively interfere with its passenger service. In merchandise traffic the public take no interest, and will not understand its importance to the company’s welfare; and nearly all the talk is of passenger engines, passenger trains, and passenger fares.

It depends, then, on its passengers, and it really does its best for them; and the way it brings its patrons into London and distributes them in the evening to the country places it has encouraged throughout its territory by means of its season-ticket system, deserves more praise than it gets. The policy of the season ticket is clear enough. In the first place, it secures the holder for the line and ensures a regular load for the trains; in the second place, the difference between its cost and that of the necessary ordinary tickets is the sprat that catches many a mackerel. It means that the holder’s family, the friends of the holder’s family, and the tradesmen who supply that family will all become customers of the line.

The revenue from the Brighton season tickets averages £643 for each of the 487 miles of its system. How it comes to be possessed of such a mileage, considering that the distance from Victoria to Brighton is 50 miles 52 chains, and from London Bridge only 21 chains more, is rather a puzzle, until it is remembered that it has no less than seven outlets to the south coast, ten coastal termini, and a road right across the middle from Tunbridge Wells to Guildford. The main line is the easiest south of London, rising to Merstham, dropping to Horley, rising to Balcombe, dropping to cross the Ouse viaduct and rising to the Clayton tunnel, the longest grades being 1 in 264. Out of the fifty miles it rises generally for thirty with a few short lengths that are rather steep, the worst being the 1 in 64 for three-quarters of a mile to cross the Thames. The other roads are not so favourable. There are gradients of 1 in 60 between Sydenham and the Crystal Palace, and between Sutton and Epsom on the Portsmouth Road, and the worst is the two-mile rise of 1 in 50 between Mayfield and Heathfield on the eastern boundary, south of that little spur line where the engines go to become cold and dead and covered with leaves like the babes in the wood.

The 60 ft. Turntable at Victoria, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


The old troubles due to the South Eastern using the same track to Redhill were done away with when the new line was made from South Croydon to Earlswood, a pretty piece of engineering with its substantial bridges and deep cuttings and the new Merstham tunnel of 2113 yards, 283 yards longer than the old one though not the longest on the line. Two tunnels, both of the same length, 2266 yards, are a little longer, these being Oxted and Clayton, the latter of which was lighted by gas until the accident there in 1861, to which we owe the introduction of lights into railway carriages. The widening of the line to Croydon has also had a good effect on the running, which will be still further improved by the changes at Clapham Junction to clear the way for the full operation of the new methods introduced in the transformation of Victoria.

Old Victoria, with its wonderful arrangement by which every line seemed to cross every other line, covered 8½ acres; the new Victoria covers nearly 16. It is 320 ft. wide, 1500 ft. long, and has miles of platform. In its making the features that will be best remembered were the driving of the piles over the old circulating area, 1200 pine balks 14-in square and from 38 ft. to 45 ft. in length driven down with a 27 cwt. monkey to give a firm foundation for the new offices and the hotel extension on the brashy, treacherous ground where there used to be the basin of the canal; the damming of the Grosvenor Canal at Ebury Bridge, and the filling up of its bed; and the clearance of the eight acres of land along the Buckingham Palace Road before the building of the handsome wall and noble arch that are among the sights of London.

TOn the way to the South Coast, London Brighton & South Coast Railwayhe lofty, well-lighted booking hall and waiting and refreshment rooms are of a new type; and the circulating area of over half an acre is equal to more than double the space owing to the admirable arrangement of lifts and subways by which the luggage disappears below as soon as labelled in the hall and only comes into view again opposite the van in the train. Worked in the same way is the capacious cloak-room with its 28-ft. counter and partitioned shelves that would very greatly have astonished the stationmaster at Bath who began the left luggage system seventy years ago. In short, the transit of the porter with the truck is invisible at Victoria.

As is the fashion nowadays, there is a clock-face indicator - eighteen faces, one to each platform - and an inquiry office to relieve the booking-clerks and ticket-men from the seeker after knowledge whose mission in life is to block the way. And the clearing of the platforms half-way by the Eccleston Bridge prevents half the arriving crowd from hindering the departing.


With platforms of such length, and three sets of rails between them in the outer half, the eighteen trains thus accommodated can be worked in and out without delay. The thirteen lines become five outside the station and over the Grosvenor Bridge, which used to be the widest we had, and has been further widened by the Brighton on one side and the Chatham on the other. The fifth line is a carriage and engine road from the sheds, and soon after the bridge is crossed the roads become the standard four.

When Mr. C. L. Morgan was planning the new station, which took seven years to complete and cost over a million of money, the statistics he collected showed that the greatest number of trains dealt with in a day was 700, that the old station was used by 18 millions of people in a year, of whom 58,474 passed through in the twenty-four hours during which the count was made; and he has doubled the accommodation and more than doubled the facilities, quite irrespective of the gain made by the new signalling.

South Signal Box at Victoria Station, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


This is on Sykes’s electro-mechanical principle, first used at St. Enoch’s. The electrical levers being smaller than the mechanical, the signalman has them more easily within his reach, and, there being no signal wires, the cabins can be half the size of the corresponding ones of the old style. So compact is the arrangement that it is difficult to understand how so much can be got into the space. There are three cabins, the North Box, the South Box, and the Shunting Box. The North Box, which is 28 ft. by 10 ft, contains no less than 106 levers, of which 83 are electrical; the South Box is 60 ft. by 14 ft, and contains 269 levers, of which 163 are electrical; the small Shunting Box, 16 ft. by 12 ft, has 22 levers, of which half are electrical. The man in the North Box is the watchman of the station, it is his duty to observe and control the whole of the platform movements; while the man in the South Box does the sectionising, and the Shunting Box deals with the marshalling in the sidings, where a prominent feature is the big turntable 60 ft. in diameter.

All the passenger roads have electrical fouling bars distributed in such a way that every train standing in the station must be on one or more of them, and these control the signals for opening or closing the road, a novel feature being the movable diamond crossings worked from the South Box, the movements of which are also detected by the signals. In each box is a plan of the station, and there is also an indicator with a double row of miniature arms, nine in a row, the upper arms being for the inner station, the lower arms for the outer. The inner home signals have distants below them, and if the road is full up, both work, if only half the road is engaged, the upper one is down. The signals have what is known as a red banner carried on a disk with an opal glass at the back, behind which is an oil-lamp that can burn for a week, if necessary, without attention; and the opal glass allows the signal to be seen as well by night as by day. The semaphore signals are pulled off by an electric motor. In the illuminated signals the spindle is not in the centre, and consequently the banner moves back to normal as soon as the current is broken. The neatness and quickness of it all need not be enlarged upon. On the first day the new signalling came into operation there was confusion owing to the fouling bars requiring adjustment, and passengers learnt to their sorrow what a railway without signals was like; but this was soon put right, and there has been no trouble since.

The Elevated Electric, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


Having adopted electricity for signalling, the Brighton proceeded to introduce electrical working for its trains, and began the electrification of the South London. This meant the special equipment within the station of five platform lines and two through roads; and the installation all the nine miles to London Bridge of the overhead system on a new sort of support, an undertaking of some difficulty owing to the low bridges and the curved tunnels at Denmark Hill, and the nature of the embankments, some of which had to have piles driven in to give a firm foundation.

The conductor, a heavy, grooved, solid half-inch wire, is, unlike most we know of, supported at every few feet by dropper wires hung from two-stranded steel cables hanging from large porcelain insulators through a double insulation tested to ten times the working pressure; and it is divided into sections at each station, so that any section can be isolated when required. The current collector bow is not of the fishing-rod type but a collapsible framework, the result of much endeavour to find something that would work satisfactorily at high speeds within a vertical range of 7 ft, the height of the conductor varying between 14 and 21, the latter at the terminal stations where the men have to work on the roof of the train.

The current comes to Queen’s Road Station from the London Electric Supply at Deptford, and is certainly treated with respect, for never before were such precautions taken to switch it off at any accidental attempt to get near it. Even in the coaches the secret cupboard is only accessible to the railwaymen when all high-tension connections are earthed, for the door cannot be opened until all is safe within. This is the smartest of the electric lines, but then the Brighton can be very smart if it likes; and not only do the long 60-ft coaches look well in the new colours of the company - popularly known as chocolate and cream - but they are well arranged and easily entered.

How smart the Brighton can be is shown by that excellent train the Southern Belle, designed complete to be “the most luxurious train in the world”. Here are seven cars, built by the Pullman company, each car 63 ft. 10-in. in length, that is to say it is a train 500 ft. long with the engine, and it is seated to hold 219 people. It is heated with hot water, and installed with electric bells, electric light, and electric ventilation; and its interior decoration is as good as money can make it. You can take your choice of the Grosvenor car with its quiet Adams treatment of mahogany and satinwood, and its green morocco chairs and settees; or of the Cleopatra - in the Pergolesi manner - with its satinwood and sycamore, greenwood and tulipwood and box, and its profusely decorated panels, pilasters, and friezes, and take your ease in its velvet chairs, in soft blue touched with gold, that harmonise so well with the deep rose carpet; or of the Bessborough with its striped mahogany and satinwood and kingwood trellis, and try its drab cloth upholstery; or of the Princess Helen with its plum-pudding mahogany framed in purple king-wood, and its comfortable chairs in green and drab striped moquette; or of the Belgravia - Pergolesi again - with its pear and holly inlays, and its blue velvet sofas and seats; or of the Albert or Verona - Renaissance these - with the cabinet work in wainscot oak and holly, and the upholstery in coffee colour. And when you are tired of the view through the windows, that come down nearly to the floor, you can look at yourself in the mirrors which some people seem to delight in. It is a handsome train, well worth the twelve shillings, that is less than three-halfpence a mile, for the double ride in it, and it travels well, giving a really comfortable run of the fifty miles within the hour, which is not so bad considering that the end of its journey is its first stop out of London and it cannot let itself go until it passes Purley; but it will move faster when the time comes.



The same can be said of the 8.45 out of Brighton, which is not so richly decorated but just as good for the average man; and it is a noteworthy train, for it was the first on which breakfast was served, the car on the down journey being used for afternoon tea; and that is going back some years, the Brighton having begun to run Pullman cars in 1879. This 8.45 train weighs 336¾ tons, made up as follows: first-class brake 25½ tons, first-class coach 27 tons, first-class coach 28½ tons, three Pullmans 28 tons each - 84 tons - first-class coach 27 tons, first-class saloon 26¼ tons, first-class saloon brake 26½ tons, first-class brake 25 tons, Pullman car 40 tons, first-class coach 27 tons. Add to this 12¼ tons as the estimated weight of the passengers, and we have 349 tons. There is an object in giving these particulars, for the train is now frequently worked by one of Mr. Marsh’s wonderful tank engines, which run their 200 miles on 3½ tons of coal.

Let us take No. 21. It weighs 73 tons. Thus the 8.45 with engine complete weighs 422 tons. These tanks are the heaviest engines on the line; the Atlantics that usually work the Southern Belle weigh 67 tons, that is 96½ tons with the 29½-ton tender. The boiler is 10 ft. 9⅞-in. long and 4 ft. 10-in. in external diameter; the cylinders are placed at an inclination of 1 in 9½ and are 19-in. in diameter and have a 26-in. stroke; the firebox is 7 ft. 7-in. externally and 3 ft. 4 11/16-in. wide; the heating surface is larger than in any other tank engines, the tubes giving 1499 and the firebox 126, making up 1625 sq. ft; the grate area is 24 sq. ft; there are 315 tubes of 1⅝-in. in diameter and 11 ft. 2 15/16-in. in length; the bogie wheels measure 3 ft. 6-in, the trailing wheels 4 ft, and the coupled driving wheels 6 ft. 9-in. The trailing end is carried on a 2-wheel truck; the frames are 37 ft. 5½-in. long, and are spaced at 4 ft. 8½-in. until within 6 ft. 6-in. of the hinder end, when they close in to 3 ft. 3½-in. so as to allow for the clearance of the trailing wheels on curves, and in front they are cut away from the bogie wheels. Pearson’s Bristol & Exeter tanks would have made a very poor show alongside these 73 tonners that occasionally take the 11 o’clock (314¾ tons) down to Brighton in fifty-five minutes.

The Grosvenor 2-2-2 locomotive, London Brighton & South Coast Railway

The “Grosvenor” 2-2-2 in longitudinal section

The first two engines used by the Brighton company were the Merstham and Coulsdon, and they weighed when empty 12½ tons. Of them and their successors the story is told in detail in that excellent work The Locomotives of the London, Brighton, & South Coast Railway, in which there seems to be a record of every one from the beginning to 1893, not at all an easy task considering the bewildering way in which names and numbers were shifted about. The London & Croydon list, which was soon cut short by the amalgamation, went back to 1838 with the Surrey, Sussex, and Kent, all, however, of 12½ tons. Up to 1849 the Brighton engines were lagged with polished mahogany and bound with brass, or the lagging was plain wood painted red and green in alternate stripes; up to 1870 those that were not polished were painted Brunswick green banded with black and thinly lined with white, the frames being crimson; then they were painted gamboge, and now they are umber brown.

Of some of the old engines there are interesting stories. No. 82, for instance, on the 6th of June 1851 was running down the incline between Falmer and Lewes when it ran off the line at the Newmarket Arch, and, dragging two carriages with it, fell into the bridle-road below, killing three of the passengers and the fireman on the spot. The reason was that a shepherd boy had placed a sleeper across the north rail. The boy was tried and the jury found him not guilty. Twelve months afterwards, on the same day of the same month, at the same spot where that sleeper was put, the same boy was killed by a stroke of lightning.

No. 79, one of the same class, had a curious adventure in October 1859. At five o’clock in the dark morning she was in the shed at Petworth, when, the fire having been put in two hours before, she had 15 lb. of steam. The cleaner wanted to move the engine to clean certain parts he could not get at in the position she was placed, and he went out to ask the fireman, who was resting in a hut close by, to do this. As he came back he heard the beat of an engine, and, thinking another one was coming, ran back to the fireman to tell him he need not mind, as the newcomer could do what was wanted. The fireman, however, was just starting, and the two returned to the shed to find that the engine had disappeared! Looking along the line they caught sight of the steam; and they ran off in chase. The engine was moving so slowly that they nearly caught her, the cleaner getting his hand on the buffer when he fell from exhaustion. The fireman collapsed when close behind; and No. 79 went on her way, gaining speed as she went for 17½ miles, crashing through three sets of gates at level crossings and carrying off pieces of them on the buffer beam. Fortunately a cleaner from Horsham who was walking down the line saw the engine approaching, and thinking from the wreckage on the buffers that something was wrong, watched to see who was on the footplate. Finding nobody, he jumped onto her as she passed and shut off the steam just in time to prevent any further damage being done.

A powerful 10-wheel tank engine, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


These engines belonged to a class of twelve supplied by Sharp, Roberts & Co. in 1847 and 1848, the company building none of its own until 1852. The older ones were most miscellaneous. Four were built by the Rennies; seven were built by Bury; three came from the Fairbairns; one, from J. G. Bodmer, had two pistons to each cylinder which worked simultaneously in opposite directions; four came from the Hawthorns; four long boilers came from Jones & Potts; thirty from Sharp; a dozen from Hackworth, which had inside boxes for the driving wheels and outside boxes for the leaders and trailers, being the predecessors of the Jenny Linds; and nine came from E. B. Wilson.

The first superintendent to produce a home-made, Brighton engine was Mr. J. C. Craven. This was No. 14, a tank 2-2-2 with 13-in. cylinders and a 20-in. stroke, the length over all being 24 ft. 6-in, and the weight, with 625 gallons in the tank, 25 tons. Ten years afterwards, after a series of what were practically samples, came the introduction of the well-known Brighton type with the leading and driving wheels coupled. The first were Nos. 155 and 156, and they had 16 by 20 cylinders, and weighed 26 tons 14 cwt. Next year came the London and the Brighton with cylinders 17 by 22 and 84-in. driving wheels, the largest ever used on the line; their heating surface was 1238 and their weight 32 tons 11 cwt. These were followed by Nos. 172 and 173, the first of these being afterwards named Chichester, while the other became the first engine to be painted yellow. This Chichester was scrapped in 1886, the Chichester that followed in 1887 being one of twelve built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1864, among which were the Paris, the first engine named by Mr. Stroudley, and the Sussex, which after being rebuilt in 1871 was well known as the fastest on the line. As altered, she had 17-in. cylinders with a 23-in. stroke, a heating surface of 1288, and weighed 36 tons 6 cwt.

When Mr. Craven was succeeded by Mr. Stroudley in 1871, he is said to have left behind him no less than seventy-two classes of engines, and Mr. Stroudley increased them by his alterations and repairs until he found sufficient reasons for clearing most of them out. The first he built of his own design were two 6-coupled goods engines, Nos. 84 and 85. These had 17½ by 26 cylinders, a heating surface of 1414, and a weight of 38 tons 12 cwt. In October 1872 he put on the line the Wapping, the first of his famous fifty terriers, the last of which, Crowborough, appeared in September 1880. Originally these had 13-in. cylinders, but the last had them of 14 in, and many of the others had this size put in afterwards to the improvement of their appearance, for a 13-in. terrier had hot water in the tank which burnt the paint off, while in the 14-in. ones the whole of the exhaust went up the chimney, and the boiler was fed with cold water. These small 6-coupled tanks were much more powerful than might be supposed. One of them, the Brighton, gained a medal at the Paris Exhibition in 1878, and bore a notice to that effect painted on her tank for many years. While she was in France the Brighton representatives inquired if the Ouest company, which then owned the route from Dieppe to Paris, would quicken up their service a little. “To what speed?” asked the Frenchmen. “Forty miles an hour at the least”. “Impossible! No engine can do it on our road”. “Yes, the Brighton will”. The Frenchmen being incredulous, the little engine was put in steam and hitched on to the French train, and away she went from Paris to Dieppe with the directors on board at nearer fifty than forty. And the Ouest woke up and has continued to go ahead although it now belongs to the State.

These terriers had 4-ft. wheels, the piston stroke was 20-in, their heating surface was 518, their length was half an inch over 26 ft, they carried 27 cubic ft. of coals and 500 gallons of water, and their weight in working order was 24 tons 7 cwt. They were the A class. The D class proved just as useful, and there were 125 of them, the first being the Sydenham in 1873. These 0-4-2’s with 66-in. coupled wheels and 54-in. trailers weighed 38½ tons, and were 31 ft. 7½-in. long; and they were given 17 by 24 cylinders, a heating surface of 1043, and worked at a pressure of 150. About a year after their first appearance Mr. Stroudley built the Grosvenor, his first single express; those who would know all about that famous engine, inside and out, will find it in Locomotive Engine Driving, by Michael Reynolds, a detailed study in which every part down to the minutest is shown with its working and interworking. She is a 2-2-2 with 81-in. driving wheels, weighing 33 tons, and in her long life there seems to have been no work on the line she was not tried at and could not do.

Approach to the terminus at London Bridge, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


Meanwhile he had started his 6-coupled goods tanks of the E class, of which there were 72. After these, in 1876, came the D 2’s designed for the fast fruit traffic from Worthing, and the express goods from Newhaven, and found so useful that they were put on to excursions and general passenger work. Finding front-coupled engines in every way suited to his purposes, he introduced the D 3 class - Richmond, Devonshire, etc. - for his Brighton and London expresses. These were given 78-in. coupled wheels, cylinders 17½ by 26, a heating surface of 1182, and weighed 36 tons; the Gladstone, or B, class followed in 1882, with cylinders of 18¼-in. by 26-in. in one casting, a heating surface of 1485, and a weight of 38¾ tons. The Gladstone’s cost £2550 each, and there are 36 of them.

On Mr. Stroudley’s death in December 1889 Mr. Billinton took his place, and soon began to design engines more suitable for the heavier traffic, all of them easily known, as, unlike the Stroudleys, they have no copper caps on their chimneys. In 1891 came the tanks with four wheels coupled and the trailing bogie, the heating surface being 1203, the weight 48 tons 9 cwt, and the pressure 160; then came the six wheels coupled, 0-6-2 radial tanks with 54-in. wheels, the trailers being 48-in; sixteen of these were put to work, and then followed the somewhat similar class with 60-in. wheels. In June 1895 came the Charles C. Macrae, the first of a new class of 4-coupled expresses with a leading bogie. This was turning the Brighton type the other way round, and the wheels were in a different proportion, the bogies being 42 and the drivers and leaders 81. The boiler was 10 ft. 7¼-in. by 4 ft. 5-in. The Bessemer of 1898 was of this type, with a boiler of 4 ft. 8-in, and next year there appeared the Siemens, the first of a powerful class with 19 by 26 cylinders, 1635 heating surface, and a boiler of 4 ft. 10-in. diameter. There were twenty of these, including His Majesty, Emperor, Empress, and others well known to the passengers by the line. They weigh 49 tons, nearly four times what the first engines did, and have a heating surface more than three times as great. This was in 1902, and now with their successors, which are nameless - and a good thing too if their names were to be those of stations - we have reached 67 tons for tender engines and 73 for tanks; and the number of engines is about 550, and that of the vehicles they draw is over 13,000.

That the Brighton engines are fitted with the Westinghouse brake everybody knows by the pumping that goes on while they are at rest in a station. The donkey-pump by the side of the engine is pumping air into the main reservoir beneath the engine until it is at a pressure of from 75 to 80 lb. By means of the driver’s brake-valve that air will be turned into the brake-pipe - the pipe that hangs in a loop between the buffers - extending from carriage to carriage all along the train. Communicating with this under each carriage is a small reservoir in which the compressed air is stored, and in communication with that is the brake-cylinder by its side containing a piston and rod by means of which the four blocks are applied to each wheel. What happens is, that so long as the pressure is uniform the brakes are off; but as soon as air escapes from the brake-pipe a triple valve under the carriage admits compressed air from the small reservoir to the cylinder, which brings the piston and rod into action. As soon as the brake-pipe is recharged with compressed air, the triple valve lifts and cuts off the reservoir from the cylinder, thus releasing the pressure from the back of the piston, which is brought home by a helical spring so as to release the blocks from the wheels.

The Boat-train leaving Lewes, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


The Westinghouse brake is used among others by the Caledonian, the Great Eastern, the Great North of Scotland, the London, Tilbury & Southend, the North British, the North Eastern and the Chatham section of the South-Eastern & Chatham, but owing to the running of through carriages and trucks, etc, many of their engines, like some of those of the Brighton, are fitted with two brakes,the other of which is the Automatic Vacuum. This is the brake used on the Great Central, the Great Northern, the Great Western, the London & North Western, the London & South Western, the Midland, and indeed most of the other lines.

This works on the opposite principle, though it is not quite true that no pump is used, for a few of the companies work a pump off the cross-heads of the engine for maintaining the vacuum while running. Anyhow, under every carriage is a cylinder and reservoir and a train-pipe coupled up from carriage to carriage to the reservoir on the engine. At the bottom of the cylinder is a valve in which there is a small brass ball working horizontally, and therefore with practically no friction, which closes the entrance to the vacuum chamber but allows the outside air to enter beneath the piston. The air is not compressed, but exhausted by means of an injector on the engine, the working pressure of the vacuum thus caused being 20-in. below that of the atmosphere. So long as the vacuum is maintained the brakes are off; but as soon as air is admitted, intentionally or unintentionally, the vacuum in the top of the brake-cylinder is affected, the ball-valve acts, and the pressure of the outside air in the bottom of the cylinder forces up the piston which works the lever and pull-rods and brings the brake-blocks into action on the wheels. To release the brake, the driver works the injector until the vacuum in the pipe is equal to that in the reservoir and above the piston, when the valve between the reservoir and pipe opens of itself and piston and lever fall by their own weight, assisted by spiral springs. The piston has an area of 314 sq. in., which means that a 20-in. vacuum exerts a pressure of 10 lb. per square inch, or a pull of nearly a ton and a half on the brake-rods, when brought fully into action; but this can be adjusted to anything less at the will of the driver or guard, just as the Westinghouse can be manipulated. It all depends on the operator, and, as most of us are aware, the examples of “the brake and how to use it” vary considerably.



Brakes have been many and strange. At one time the guard rode outside on an unprotected seat at the back of the carriage, and applied the brake by turning on a hand-screw; the dust, smoke, steam, and smother through which he went making his position anything but desirable. Then he was placed inside the carriage, and had a different sort of brake on almost every line. Then it began to be recognised that the brake should not be confined to one or two vans or carriages, but should be applied to all, in fact should be continuous; and in 1873 there was a series of trials of continuous brakes at Newark in which various systems were experimented with, some mechanical, some hydraulic, some pneumatic. The conditions, however, were so ill-provided for that the results were unconvincing, and each of the patentees went away from the refreshment tent at Rolleston Junction self-satisfied that his own system was the best. The Midland sent three trains, two with hydraulic brakes and one with the Westinghouse, which they had brought over with the Pullman cars; and the Brighton train was also fitted with the Westinghouse, which the company has retained ever since, although the Midland has abandoned it for the Automatic Vacuum. For years the North Western persisted with Clarke & Webb’s, by which the momentum of the train was utilised as the power, but at length this was replaced by the Simple Vacuum and then by the Automatic Vacuum, with discouraging results, for soon after it was introduced a North Western train so fitted ran through Carlisle station into a Midland engine, the brake failing owing to an accumulation of ice in the droop of the brake-pipe!

The battle of the brakes was almost as strenuous as that of the gauges, but things have now settled down into quietude with the two we have described sharing the country between them. What the state of affairs used to be may be gathered from the fact that in 1884 the Royal train was fitted with three systems of brakes to ensure its safety on the different lines on which it ran to the north.

Besides the brake-pump at the side every Brighton engine has, in the cab, a speed indicator, the glass tube with the brass scale behind it that shows by the height of the water the rate the engine is running. And in the cab, and more noticeable, is the name of the driver painted up with a record of the number of miles run, some of the mileages looking rather astronomical in their amount. For here the good old custom still prevails of every driver having his own engine, as if it were his own horse, to look after, and be responsible for its fitness and appearance, the practice always having had the result of keeping the engines well up to the mark, and in as good, or better, trim than any, notwithstanding the hot-water tank business, for which allowances have to be made.

Under the carriages there is another kind of cylinder which must not be mistaken for that of the brake apparatus. This is the holder for the oil-gas by which the carriage is lighted. The gas is made from petroleum in a succession of retorts at high temperatures, and scrubbed and purified much as if made from coals. It is stored in reservoirs, which we see carried about on the line by the trainload, two on each truck; and it is pumped into a receiver, from which it is led in pipes to the standards from which, through flexible tubes, it is passed into the cylinders beneath the carriages at a much higher pressure than that of the compressed air in the brake cylinder, the pressure being reduced to lighting strength by the regulator in the burner.

Clayton Tunnel, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


When the Board of Trade required carriages to be lighted as they passed through tunnels, the system first adopted was to stop the train at the nearest station to the tunnel and hang an oil-lamp on to the carriage door on the left, taking off the lamp at the station beyond the tunnel. Then the lamp came to be hung through a hole in the roof of the carriage, and taken in and out in a similar way, until it was found that the cost of the oil burnt was less than that of the labour, and the lamps were left in for longer distances. The smell of the old oil-lamp was not so pungent as that of oil-gas when it escapes while the cylinders are being filled, but it remained much longer with the traveller, and in many cases was more noticeable than the light. That it would be improved upon was inevitable, and there were many inventions, not only with a view to giving better illumination, but mainly to doing away with much handling of lamps.

Among these was lighting by electricity, first adopted by the Brighton line. Its great advantage to the company is that it pays by not being used; that is to say it can be switched on or off as required, instead of being burnt all the time like oil or gas, though there is a new pressure system for gas by which the consumption can be reduced to that of only the pilot light if desired. In working the electric light a dynamo is run, not on the engine, as in America, but from the axle of the guard’s van, and this charges an accumulator from which the current is supplied to the lamps, the control being in the hands of the guard; and the cables form another loop between the carriages. The drawback to any system of continuous lighting is the making up and breaking up of trains to suit the varying traffic, but this has been much reduced by the introduction of the system of set-trains, that is trains treated as units, being made up of a certain number of carriages that are never changed about. The brake arrangements had much to do with this, and the lighting arrangements have further encouraged it. Set-trains, however, are not always possible; as an instance take the Sunny South Special, that runs to and from Lancashire and Eastbourne with any number of through carriages for distribution on the road. The Brighton company were the first, or among the first, to run set-trains and to dispense with the buffers in pairs, their South London and other suburban trains being made up of carriages screwed together against a central block.

FElectric Signals at Victoria, London Brighton & South Coast Railwayrom the set-train to the motor-coach is an easy step, and many of the small shuttle trains on the short branches have been replaced by the more compact contrivance. The service between West Croydon and Banstead, for instance, is by motor-coach; so are the services between Brighton and Kemp Town, and to West Worthing and to the Dyke, so is that between Havant and Hayling Island; Southsea from Fratton is reached by steam-motor in conjunction with the South Western, and there is even a motor-coach between Chichester and Portsmouth.


The Brighton was the first railway company to run into Portsmouth, the old South Western way being to Gosport and across the harbour by ferry. In 1848 the South Western opened a new route by way of Fareham to Cosham and, coming round by the north, obtained access over the Brighton metals across Port Creek and through the rampart. All went well until the Portsmouth Direct project ended in a proposal to have another way in, which pleased nobody and really forced the South Western to take over the line, a proceeding which led to the battle of Havant and caused ill-feeling between the companies for some years. Peace came at last, and when, in 1857, the Brighton proposed to have a West End terminus in London, the South Western directors were so friendly that they endeavoured to bring about an arrangement that “would have tended to strengthen the bond of union between the two companies” by affording the Brighton accommodation at Waterloo! Fortunately for both companies the Brighton preferred to go to Pimlico, and the bond of union was afterwards found by extending the joint line from Havant Junction to Portsmouth Town on to Portsmouth Harbour. Having shared the line they shared the boats, and divided the Isle of Wight business between them, but this had happened before the opening of the harbour station, when the way to the island was from the town by tram to Southsea pier, with the luggage going astray on the way.

Of the Brighton company’s twenty terminal stations the next largest to Victoria is Brighton, where the locomotive and carriage works are, the wagon works being at Lancing. London Bridge covers eight acres, a quarter of an acre less, and is the headquarters of the line. It is an old station, or rather the representative of an old station, for it was the terminus of the London & Croydon, the shed which was the first terminus of the London & Greenwich, where the band played the passengers in during December 1838, having been on the Tooley Street side. Enlarged in 1850, and rebuilt fourteen years afterwards, it is conveniently arranged for those who know it, and will be more convenient still when the indicator arrives.

The business it does in the morning is enormous, and the busy time lasts longer than at most stations owing to the numbers of long-distance season ticket-holders for whom the company caters so liberally. When you can travel first class all over the Brighton system for £60 a year, it suits the man of means who is not wanted until eleven o’clock to live in the country.

Rastrick’s Viaduct across the Valley of the Ouse, London Brighton & South Coast Railway

Rastrick’s Viaduct across the Valley of the Ouse

The nearest important junction is Croydon, where the City and West End lines meet, and the North Western and Great Eastern and East London trains run in with the passengers for the Continent from the north of the Thames; but the largest is Lewes, where six lines meet and the route to Paris goes off to the coast.

Newhaven is a town made by the wind, for the big storm of 1570 turned away the River Ouse from its old outlet at Seaford into its present mouth under Burrow Head. It is the nearest Channel port to London, being only fifty-seven miles from “The Bridge”. The harbour with its two fine piers and concrete breakwater, made on the wholesale principle by which some twenty truckloads of shingle and sand were mixed at a time with 120 sacks of cement and dropped into the water, is accessible at all states of the tide, and yearly becomes busier, for the amount of French merchandise that comes to it through Dieppe and Caen seems to be endowed with the valuable quality of perpetual growth.

The harbour, though the property of a separate company, is the chief port of the line, the headquarters of its maritime interests, from which the excellent steamers, owned jointly by the Brighton company and the French State Railways, take you across the Channel at over twenty knots, the two turbines, Dieppe and Brighton, travelling at twenty-two or over, and start you through that delightful stretch of French scenery that seems but a bit of Dorking and Shere, and thereabouts, on the other side.

Newhaven, London Brighton & South Coast Railway


From Our Home Railways by W J Gordon, published 1910]

You can read more on “The Newhaven Boat Express”, “The South Eastern & Chatham Railway” , “The Southern Belle” and “The Story of the Southern” on this website.