THE FIRST  MAIN LINES  1838 - 1848


The map on the left below shows railways in Southern England by about 1845.  None of these came near Farnborough, but by contrast the corridor from London through Croydon and Redhill to the coast at Brighton was an early and successful recipient for a railway, shared between three companies.

Apart from what had been the very first line, to Greenwich, the only line in Kent was the indirect South Eastern Railway (SER) main line from Redhill to Folkestone and Dover.

Click on the maps to enlarge

The railways all converged at the approaches to London Bridge station as shown on the map above right. This was a legacy of an early attempt by the government to decree that there be only one railway terminus south of the Thames. 
The Railways shown are as follows:

London and Greenwich Railway 1838.

The line dated from 1831 and was the first in London. It would run from close to London Bridge, convenient for journeys to the City, and be some four miles long, on a viaduct of 878 brick arches, some of them skewed to avoid level crossings over the many streets which were already appearing in the south of London.  The intention had been to descend to ground level after the Grand Surrey Canal but this was opposed by Parliament.

The first Act of Parliament was obtained in 1833 for a line from Tooley Street (now London Bridge) to London Street, Greenwich.   The ultimate intention was to reach Dover and there was much talk of a London to Gravesend line from Greenwich. A scheme was presented to Parliament in 1836 but five others were competing and the bill failed on its second reading. But the line was built as far as Greenwich and proved very successful.

However it was always in a difficult financial position due to the high capital cost for building the line.  It was leased to the SER in 1845, who took over effective management, even though the L&G company was not formally wound up until 1923

London and Croydon Railway 1839

Following the success of other early railways, promoters put forward a scheme to link Croydon, then an industrial town, with London. The Croydon Canal of 1809 was moribund, and it was proposed to purchase it and to utilise its course. It was to extend northwards from the Croydon Canal terminal at New Cross, to make a junction at Corbetts Lane (then spelt Corbets Lane), in Bermondsey with the London and Greenwich Railway (see above). Its trains were then to run over that line to its London Bridge station. The line was 8 3⁄4 miles (14.1 km) long and at the southern end followed the alignment of the Croydon Canal from Anerley to a terminus at Croydon, with a locomotive depot, on the site of the canal basin. This was later to be developed to the present-day West Croydon station.

The Greenwich company intended that its proposed London Bridge terminus would accommodate trains of several other companies and had acquired land sufficient for the purpose. At this time however it had inadequate funds to carry out the actual construction, and the Croydon company was obliged to do the work itself, taking some of the Greenwich company's land on the north side for the purpose.

The line from London Bridge initially used just steam power, but congestion on the heavily used line at the London end led to the installation of a third, atmospheric, line alongside, which opened in 1844.  Despite initial favourable reports the hot summer of 1846 caused considerable difficulties through leather flaps drying out. The board lost confidence in the technology and the system was replaced by conventional motive power during 1847.

The company became part of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1846.

London and Brighton Railway 1841

Many ideas and routes for building a line from London to Brighton and other towns on the South coast were considered in the 1830s and 1840s, but the final agreed route consisted of a new line from a junction with the London and Croydon Railway (then under construction) at Norwood to Brighton with additional branches to Lewes and Shoreham.

An Act for the construction of the line was passed in July 1837, with an authorised capital of £2.4 million   The London and Croydon Railway line ran from London Bridge to West Croydon and was opened in 1839. The engineer for the Brighton extension was John Urpeth Rastrick. By July 1840, 6206 men, 962 horses, five locomotives and seven stationary engines were employed. 

The new main line included substantial earthworks and five tunnels through the North Downs at Merstham, the Wealden ridge near Balcombe and at Haywards Heath, and the South Downs at Patcham and Clayton. The railway also had a 1,475 ft (449.6 m) long, 96 ft (29.3 m) high viaduct over the River Ouse near Balcombe.  

The Brighton - Shoreham branch was completed in May 1840, before the main line, as there were no significant civil engineering works on this section. Locomotives and rolling stock had to be transshipped by road for what was, in the first year, an isolated stretch of railway.   The main line was opened in two sections, since major earthworks delayed completion in one piece. The Norwood Junction – Haywards Heath section was opened on 12 July 1841 and the remainder of the line from Haywards Heath to Brighton on 21 September 1841.  

The company became part of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in 1846.

South Eastern Railway main line via Redhill 1844

The main focus of attention was building a line from London to the coast at Dover.  The dominant company tackling this was the South Eastern Railway. They built this line during the period 1838 - 1844, but crucially they were forced to reach London via Redhill, which left the immediate area round Farnborough untouched.

  At the time of inauguration there were two potential rail pathways south from London, and the Speaker of the House of Commons had said no further pathways would be permitted. The SER therefore considered routes to Dover from the proposed London and Southampton Railway line at Wimbledon, or from the existing London and Greenwich Railway (L&GR) at Greenwich. The former left London in the wrong direction and then on a roundabout route. The latter provided a useful way for a northern route via Gravesend, Rochester, and Canterbury, except that lengthening the line beyond Greenwich was blocked by opposition from the Admiralty, and this route would involve tunneling through the North Downs.   

The engineer of the new line, William Cubitt, was also engineer of the London and Croydon Railway (L&CR), which planned to use L&GR lines as far as Corbett’s Lane in Bermondsey before turning south towards Croydon. A new connection on this line near to Norwood could provide access to a southerly route to Dover via Tonbridge, Ashford and Folkestone. This was less direct than the northerly route but passed through easier country. It involved one significant 1,387-yard (1,268 m) tunnel through the Shakespeare Cliff near Dover. This was the route first chosen by the SER at its inauguration.  

During Parliamentary discussions on the proposed route of the London and Brighton Railway (L&BR) during 1837, pressure was put on the SER to divert its proposed route so it could also share the L&BR mainline between Jolly Sailor (Norwood) and Earlswood Common, and then travel eastwards to Tonbridge. Under the scheme proposed by Parliament, the railway from Croydon to Redhill would be built by the L&BR but the SER would have the right to refund half the construction costs and own that part of the line between Merstham and Redhill.

The SER gave way to this proposal as it reduced their construction costs, although it resulted in a route 20 miles (32 km) longer than by road, running south for 14.5 miles (23 km) before turning east. It also meant that its trains from London Bridge passed over the lines of three other companies: the L&GR to Corbett's Lane Junction, the L&CR as far as 'Jolly Sailor', and the L&BR to Merstham. These arrangements were to lead to many inter-company tensions over the decades that followed.

The roundabout route meant that the railway did not come anywhere near Farnborough, until yielding to competitive pressure from the London Chatham and Dover railway the South Eastern built its new line via Orpington some decades later.

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