Just over a week ago I showed you a postcard of the “station” at the top of the steep grade railway that used to run up and down the side of the South Downs at Devil’s Dyke near Brighton, Sussex. The rather battered postcard below shows pretty much the full extent of the track.
It wasn’t a particularly long railway and in contrast to the little engine shed at the top there was nothing other than a platform at the bottom and a short walk to the nearest village, where visitors were supposed to be taking tea. I suspect however most probably just went up and down for the novelty of it.
The postcard was used, but unfortunately the stamp has been removed, taking most of the postmark with it. Just enough is left to see that it was sent in 1906. This card was published by Frederick Hartmann, a national publisher of postcards based in London.
Last week as I returned from Lewes and Brighton on the bus in the late afternoon the path of the track bed was incredibly well defined on the hillside, because of the short grass and low angle of the sun. There are more trees on the side of the hill now, but I wish I could have stopped the bus and jumped out and taken a photo.
Several weeks ago I mentioned the steep grade railway that once ran up and down the side of the South Downs at Devil’s Dyke near Brighton, Sussex. Well, the postcard below shows the “station” at the top of this railway.
This is a superb postcard, showing much detail of the station, which doesn’t exist any more (apart from some brick foundations). Not only does it show the engine house and platform but also one of the carriages is in view.
The publisher’s name is down the left-hand sided, Mezzotint Co. of Brighton, and although this postcard wasn’t posted (so no postmark) it was probably published around 1904. Although it wasn’t postally used it does have an interesting message on the back. I wonder who Vera was?
If like me you have a fondness for both railways and archives then you might be interested in Network Rail’s Virtual Archive, which is a collection of documents (mostly plans and drawings) from the organisation’s archive.
The Network Rail Archive is not open to the public because they are “fully engaged in managing information to support the activities of the operational railway“. This is perhaps the most important thing to remember here, these may be historic documents but many of them are also engineering drawings for bridges and stations that are still in use today.
The documents are presented as a series of articles, along with historical background on the subject, such as a timeline or links to information on the railway company or engineer responsible.
This is a wonderful collection of documents, but there is probably little chance that the average family historian will find any information about their ancestors in the archive.
However most of these bridges, stations and tunnels were built by armies of labourers, if your ancestor was one of these labourers then the documents in the archive might give you a chance to see what it was they were working on.
The only drawback so far is the lack of documents from my neck of the woods. I would love to see some plans for Balcombe Viaduct on the Lonodn to Brighton mainline or details of some Sussex railway stations like Brighton or Bognor Regis.
Below is another view of Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex looking south-west towards the north face of the hill, showing Poynings Church in the foreground with it’s solid square tower, but then the caption already told you that.
This postcard is unused, but the back reveals that it was No. 30 in The Brighton Palace Series XVIII, which means it was published by the Handwercks of Brighton, Sussex and probably dates from around 1912-13.
Apart from the farm buildings and haystacks in the foreground, the other interesting feature of this card is the steep grade railway on the side of the hill. That light coloured strip running half-way down the side of the hill marks the course of the railway.
It was a funicular railway transporting visitors up and down the side of the hill, supposedly to enable visitors to the Dyke to all visit the villages at the foot of the Downs, but as you can see it didn’t really go all the way, and I suspect it was of little practical value.