Tag Archives: railway

Postcard Album: Dyke Hill and Poynings Church, Sussex

4 Feb

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.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Wordless Wednesday: Feeling chuffed

12 Oct

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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TNA Podcast – Time travel: a journey through the timetables of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway 1860-1901

22 Aug

You might have guessed from the title that the latest podcast from The National Archives would catch my attention. To many “a journey through the timetables of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway will probably sound incredibly dull, but do give it a chance.

I know I am somewhat biased, because as I mentioned last week the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway was my local railway company, and the talk mainly focuses on stations within Sussex and on routes with which I am familiar. Whilst the location is not particularly critical to the theme of the talk, it was a help because I was able to visualise the routes he was talking about, which is just as well because none of the visual presentation appears to be available on the TNA website.

After an introduction to the history of the railway timetable Dr Wakeford illustrated some of the ways in which data from these historic timetables can be used. I do have several historic railway (and bus) timetables in my collection, but have never carried out any serious study of their contents in the way that Dr Wakeford has.

He used various examples to show how many aspects of rail travel changed over time. From drastically reducing the time taken to travel from A to B and increasing the range of opportunities, to showing how increasing railway traffic would affect those working on the railway.

Of course I couldn’t listen to it without wondering what impact the railway had on my ancestors. It is something I have wondered about many times before, but never really explored. Take for example the TROWER family of Henfield, Sussex. Did the arrival of the railway (the Horsham to Shoreham line briefly mentioned in the podcast) in 1861 increase the mobility of the family? Did the children spread their wings further when it came time to leave home? Did the family seek employment further afield?

It would be interesting to take a closer look at the mobility of successive generations of TROWERs, but that is an awful lot of data to process, fortunately I do have a lot of that data already available, but it would still be a lot of work. Maybe I will add it to my list of things to do.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Highlights of the UK Railway Employment Records

10 Aug

You will no doubt have already heard about the latest release from Ancestry.co.uk, the UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963. I was delighted to see that this release included a collection of records originating from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR).

The LBSCR were responsible for my local railway, the Horsham to Shoreham Railway (also known as the Steyning Line). The line was closed in 1966 (before I was born) after Dr. Beeching decided it was surplus to requirements. The LBSCR had long since gone by then, it had been merged with other railway companies to form the Southern Railway in 1923, which in turn became part of British Railways in 1948 following nationalisation. If you want to find out more then the Wikipedia article on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway is pretty comprehensive.

I have spent several hours over the last few days exploring the collection trying to get a feel for what is included and found myself getting totally sucked in. I had intended to create a list all the different pieces in the collection for future reference but that fell completely by the wayside as I turned the pages of the various volumes.

I wasn’t really looking for people to add to my family tree, instead I was just exploring the lists of names, and not so much the names themselves but the positions they held and where they worked. I was taking my own virtual tour of the LBSCR railway network, seeing what made it work, from engine drivers to accountants, from a large London terminus to a small country station.

There are couple pieces in this collection that are really special, the first is described by Ancestry as the “1862-1863 Operating Staff Black Book” (TNA RAIL 414/759) which contains details of fines (and sometimes suspension or dismissal) for various misdemeanours, such as the unfortunate Mr Trapp an Office Porter at London Bridge who was fined two shillings and six pence “For carrying Passengers luggage down the platform to the train it being against orders & having been cautioned on previous occasions not to do it but to attend to the Booking office”.

For me the most interesting piece in the collection is described as “1914-1920 Staff on Active Service” (TNA RAIL 414/791). This is an extremely valuable record of LBSCR employees who served during the First World War, and as such will be of interest to not only family historians, but also military historians. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the amount of information recorded, we all know that many WW1 service records have been destroyed and this volume may well represent one the few surviving records of many men who served.

Each entry not only covers what the men did whilst employed by the railway, it also includes details of their regiment, rank and number and the date they left the railway. The entries also include details of the men’s dependants such as a wife and the number of children they had. Often this will also include the date of their marriage and age and sex of the children.

The most poignant detail however is the bold red underlining of certain names which highlights those who died whilst serving. Many larger railway stations have a memorial to those railway employees that died and this volume may well have been the source of those names. Ancestry probably ought to include this in their military collection if they haven’t done so already.

I look forward to spending many more hours looking through these records and maybe even get around to searching for some of my relations. I know there are several railway connections, but most of those connections relate to those building the railway, rather than operating it, and most of these labourers were employed by contractors and not the railway company themselves.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Picture Postcard Parade: Balcombe Tunnel, Brighton Railway, Looking South

20 Apr

Continuing on from last week’s postcard, the subject of this postcard is another stretch of the London to Brighton line, but a bit further north than last week’s one.

This is the northern entrance to Balcombe Tunnel, which is between Balcombe and Three Bridges stations in West Sussex. I was intrigued by the number of labourers at work on the railway, with apparent disregard for the train which appears to be emerging from the tunnel mouth (or is that just my imagination). I had a look at an aerial view of the area on Google Maps.


There is a bridge across the railway line just north of the tunnel, although it looks rather overgrown now, and looking at some old maps it looks like it pre-dates this postcard, but it is almost certainly where the photographer of this postcard was standing, but I still can’t quite work out what the labourers are doing. My guess is that they are working on stabilizing the embankment or on some form of drainage.

This is one of the delights of postcard collecting, some postcards were intended to capture events such as fun fairs or accidents, but this one has probably quite unintentionally captured something much more mundane, but just as important. It is most unlikely that the photographer set out to record men at work on the railway, but that is what he ended up capturing.

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