John Speller's Web Pages Hastings Line (SER)

John Speller's Web Pages - SE&CR
Hastings Line (SER) Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled
In 1845 the South Eastern Railway and Brighton Railway promoted rival bills for lines to Hastings. The South Eastern Railway's 32-mile Tonbridge to Hastings line was completed in stages between 1851 and 1853, and involved numerous heavy engineering works owing to the very difficult terrain across the Weald. The section between St. Leonards and Hastings was jointly owned by the South Eastern and London, Brighton & South Coast Railways. Robert Stephenson had recommended the lining of the numerous tunnels with six courses of bricks, and it only emerged after the partial collapse of Wadhurst Tunnel in 1862 that this had not been done. It turned out that the contractors, Fox, Henderson & Co., had been having financial difficulties the firm went bankrupt in 1857 and had cut corners by installing only four courses of bricks. Given the inordinate expense involved in rebuilding one of the most extensive tunnel systems in England, the South Eastern Railway solved the problem by installing two additional courses of bricks. This inevitably reduced the loading gauge of the line, and it was thereafter necessary to build specially narrow rolling stock. This was such a nuisance to British Railways that they gave serious consideration to closing the line in 1972. The line was not a particularly busy one, however, and it is astonishing that it was not until 1986 that someone had the bright idea of making some of the tunnel sections single line, thereby handily solving the problem, since there is now more than enough room for standard rolling stock.
Map of the South Eastern Railway's Hastings line showing the location of the tunnels
Etchingham Station, 1852
"The Arrival of the Down Train" by Florence Caxton, showing an early South Eastern Railway train at Hastings station
Maunsell designed the "Schools" Class to fit the reduced loading gauge of the Hastings line. Here a Hastings express is headed by No. 935 "Sevenoaks"
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