|Spa Valley Railway|
British Railways 0-6-0 Class A No. 52322 at Eridge
|Original gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Length||5.5 mi (8.9 km)|
|Preserved gauge||4 ft 8+1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|December 1996||Re-open first 0.8 mi (1.3 km) from Tunbridge Wells West to near High Rocks|
|August 1997||Open to Groombridge|
|2005||line to Birchden Jn open for special services|
|25 March 2011||Open to Eridge|
|Headquarters||Tunbridge Wells West railway station|
Spa Valley Railway
The Spa Valley Railway (SVR) is a standard gauge heritage railway that runs from Tunbridge Wells West railway station in Tunbridge Wells to High Rocks, Groombridge, and Eridge, where it links with the Oxted Line. En route it crosses the Kent and East Sussex border, a distance of 5 miles (8 km), along the former Wealden Line between Tunbridge Wells Central and Lewes. The railway headquarters is at Tunbridge Wells West railway station.
The railway was engineered by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway's (LB&SCR) Chief Engineer Frederick Banister, as part of the East Grinstead, Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells Railway (EGGTWR), itself an extension to the Three Bridges to East Grinstead Railway which had been completed in 1855.
The EGGTWR was part of a regional race between the LB&SCR and the SER, and a specific race to access the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells:
The LB&SCR opened Tunbridge Wells West in 1866 as the eastern terminus of the EGGTWR; there was also an extension to Tunbridge Wells Central. From Tunbridge Wells West there were direct services to the South Coast at Brighton and Eastbourne and to London Victoria. The Victoria services ran via Groombridge and Ashurst. As a sign outside the station proudly proclaimed, "New Route to London: Shortest, Quickest and Most Direct. Frequent Express Trains."
As the popularity of the motor car increased, train services were severely cut back due to the lack of patronage, and the number of services passing through Tunbridge Wells West declined as one line after another was closed from the 1950s onwards. First, the East Grinstead to Lewes line closed in 1958, then the Cuckoo Line in 1965, the Three Bridges to Groombridge in 1967, and finally the Wealden Line south of Uckfield in 1969. The line between Tunbridge Wells and Eridge was itself listed for closure in 1966, only to be subsequently reprieved. The line remained open, although in its latter years passenger services were mainly confined to a shuttle service between Tonbridge (via the single line connection to Tunbridge Wells Central - now plain Tunbridge Wells) and Eridge with a few through trains to Uckfield; however there was a depot at Tunbridge Wells West which housed rolling stock for services on the Uckfield and East Grinstead - London (via East Croydon) lines, and there were several empty stock moves early and late in the day.
By the early 1980s, the track and signalling needed to be replaced. British Rail, at the time carrying out an upgrade of the Tonbridge to Hastings Line which included the renewal of Grove Junction, decided that the cost of keeping the line from Eridge to Grove Jn open and undertaking the works, some £175,000, did not justify the outlay. It, therefore, announced the proposed closure of the line (including Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West station) from 16 May 1983 which was later deferred after public objections. The Secretary of State for Transport agreed to the withdrawal of passenger services which took effect from 6 July 1985, although the section between Tunbridge Wells West and Birchden Jn remained open for rolling stock movements until 10 August, when the depot at Tunbridge Wells West station was shut. At the time of closure Tunbridge Wells West station had gas lighting, which was in operation in the ticket office and under the canopy.
The Spa Valley Railway (SVR) has its origins in a charitable society formed on 13 September 1985, to purchase and reopen the Tunbridge Wells West to Eridge line. Named the Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society (TWERPS), it began a long struggle to reopen the line. The campaign received a setback in the late 1980s when Tunbridge Wells Borough Council gave planning permission for the construction of a large Sainsbury's supermarket complex on the site of the derelict goods yard of Tunbridge Wells West. While the 1891 locomotive shed and station building were protected as listed buildings, the remaining area of the site was obliterated, including the goods shed and signal boxes. However, planning permission was subject to the condition that the developer pay for construction of a new station platform and restoration of the engine shed.
In 1996 the North Downs Steam Railway relocated from Dartford, where it was experiencing vandalism problems, and merged with TWERPS. It transferred its assets and helped establish a base in the former LB&SCR locomotive shed. Also in 1996, the group acquired the line as far as Birchden Junction. Alongside the loco shed a new platform was built, from where services began running to Cold Bath Bridge (about 0.8 miles (1.3 km) away) in December 1996. Services were extended to Groombridge in August 1997 and to Birchden Junction in 2005.
In 2007, SVR marked the 10th anniversary of the opening of the line by transforming Groombridge into a busy interchange station, with trains arriving or departing every 15 minutes. The funds raised from this event went towards the "Return to Eridge" appeal to raise £500,000 for the extension to the Uckfield main line at Eridge. On 25 March 2011 the SVR extended passenger services to Eridge, where there is a footbridge interchange with Southern services on the London Bridge to Uckfield line.
In August 2017, a special event (20th Birthday Bash) was held to celebrate 20 years since the reopening of the line to Groombridge, starring a variety of home and visiting locomotives, including BR Standard 4 Tank 80078.
The SVR provides a way of getting to other local tourist attractions, such as Groombridge Place, High Rocks and the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells.
The railway holds a number of special event days throughout the year including Transport Film Festivals, Santa Specials, a Summer Diesel Gala and also real ale and cider festival (jointly organised by CAMRA) which is combined with the railway's autumn diesel gala and held each October.
The railway operates from February to October as well as Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Thursdays in the summer months. In December the railway operates Santa Special services up until Christmas and then runs selected days between Christmas and/including New Year's Day.
During November and January, the line is usually closed to the public. This allows the railway's infrastructure department time to carry out major track renewals such as installation of new point work, something that Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West have both benefited from in recent times.
Whilst the Spa Valley Railway certainly has no current plans to extend its operational railway line, it has a stated aim "...to continually develop its railway services and facilities". Its business plan states that the SVR "will seek to protect the alignment of the closed railway lines around Eridge, that may at some future time provide the basis for an extension of our railway".
|34053 Sir Keith Park||SR||Battle of Britain||Brighton Works||1947||4-6-2||Operational (September 2020). The locomotive arrived in September 2020 and is now permanently based at the Spa Valley Railway following an agreement between the line and its owners, Southern Locomotives Ltd.|
|LB&SCR||A1X 'Terrier'||Brighton Works||1876||0-6-0T||Under overhaul (2011-08-15) Originally named Whitechapel, it also carried the numbers 650, B650, 2650, W9, 515S and (for British Railways) 32650.|
|47493||LMS||3F 'Jinty'||Vulcan Foundry||4195||1927||0-6-0T||Under overhaul (2014-01-09) Originally numbered 16576, later 7493.|
|68077||LNER||J94||Andrew Barclay||2215||1947||0-6-0ST||Stored (2006-09-06) Previously numbered 8077 and 14.|
|South of Scotland Electricity Board||Andrew Barclay||2315||1951||0-4-0ST||Under overhaul (2009-9-28) Operated at the Braehead Power Station.|
|Woolley Colliery||Hunslet Engine Company||1929||0-6-0ST||Under overhaul (2020-1-14)|
|Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby||'Ugly'||RSH||7668||1950||0-6-0ST||Stored (2008-01-22)|
|West Cannock Colliery||W. G. Bagnall||2193||1922||0-6-0ST||Stored|
|62 Ugly||Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd, Corby||RSH||7673||1950||0-6-0ST||Stored following 10 years in service (2021-01-25)|
|Southerham||0-4-0DM||Drewry/Vulcan||Works number 2591.|
|BR||0-6-0DE||Class 10||Worked at Felixstowe Docks 1969-2001 and still carries BR black livery with Felixstowe Docks logos.|
|BR||A1A-A1A||Class 31||BR blue livery|
R J Mitchell
|BR||Bo-Bo||Class 33||BR Railfreight livery.|
|73140||BR||Bo-Bo||Class 73||Network South East livery. Built in 1966.|
|09026 Cedric Wares||BR||0-6-0DE||Class 09||Entered preservation 22 May 2016. Under overhaul.|
|15224||BR||0-6-0DE||Class 12||The only surviving Class 12 locomotive, stored awaiting overhaul.|
|33065 Sealion||BR||Bo-Bo||Class 33||Built in 1962. Under overhaul.|
DMU s are diesel multiple units. EMUs are electric multiple units but these are only being used as static or hauled stock on this line.
|Renumbered 207017 under TOPS system. Car numbers 60142, 60616, 60916. This is the only three-car unit class 207 in preservation (although in 2019 in service with just two cars).|
|EMU||9104||BR||Class 489||GLV||Stored at Groombridge awaiting overhaul.|
|TRB||Used as a static cafe as Tunbridge Wells West station.|
|EMU||1497||BR||Class 421 (3-CIG)||DTC
|Leased July 2017 for long term. To be used both as hauled coaching stock or, with suitably equipped locomotives such as 73140, as a 'Push-Pull' train.|
|EMU||12275||BR||6-PAN||TFK||Underframe only, converted to crane wagon.|
|1864||BR Mark 1||RMB||1962||Being restored, painted in brown and cream. Was brought from the Llangollen Railway 2021.|
|3131||BR Mark 1||FO||1963||Undergoing a complete overhall, to be painted Crimson & Cream|
|4828||BR Mark 1||SO||1959||In service in 2019, painted in BR green.|
|4999||BR Mark 1||TSO||1961||In service in 2019, painted in BR blue and grey on one side and BR green on the other.|
|5037||BR Mark 1||TSO||1962||Undergoing overhaul in 2019, painted in BR green.|
|9414||BR Mark 2||BSO||1966||In service in 2019, painted in BR green.|
|21214||BR Mark 1||BCK||1958||In service in 2019, painted in BR green.|
|25843||BR Mark 1||SK (RB)||1962||Converted to a Buffet with second class open seating. In service in 2019, painted in BR green and named Kate,|
|25845||BR Mark 1||SK||1962||In service in 2019, painted in BR maroon.|
|35289||BR Mark 1||BSK||1960||Heavily Altered ex. Department Vehicle (last number DB977168), arrived 2019, due to become brake/kitchen car for dining trains.|
|81214||BR Mark 1||BG||1957||Arrived in 2021. Will be broken up in time for spear parts for the other carriages on the railway.|
|92111||BR Mark 1||BG||1967||Original number 81432. In store.|