Wealden Line Campaign

Friday 22 February 2019

Before the Wealden Line Campaign

Before the Wealden Line Campaign
The fight to reopen the Lewes – Uckfield link was pursued by the ‘Lewes – Uckfield Joint Railway Committee’ throughout the 1970s, which was set up to stop the line being closed in 1969.

Uckfield Station in 1973

Uckfield station 1973, now terminus of line from London.

This was superseded by the ‘Lewes – Uckfield Railway Association’ which lasted until 1980. An enormous amount of time and effort by individuals within these groups was put into meetings, writing letters, carrying out public surveys and so on, in an effort to stop the route being further destroyed and run-down. That archive is immense and reflects the battle that was pursued chiefly throughout the 1970s and early 1980s.

Brian Hart at derelict Isfield station, south of Uckfield, in 1977.

Brian Hart at derelict Isfield station, south of Uckfield, in 1977.

The Wealden Line Campaign was started by Brian Hart who, for several years, had been actively interested in the Uckfield line’s future. The WLC would probably not have come into existence without the determination and drive of Chris Green at the helm of Network SouthEast which actually saw public use of the railways as something to be encouraged rather than deterred. British Rail had some appalling managers whose sole purpose seemed to be to discourage patronage and run everything down. Having dealt a fatal blow to the route in 1969 with the closure of the section to Lewes and the removal of the Ashurst – Groombridge spur (part of the Tunbridge Wells West – London Victoria main line) the run-down began. Electrification of the remaining Uckfield branch was deferred in 1971 and track renewals postponed. In 1981 the Sunday service was withdrawn, followed by the withdrawal of the Eridge – Tonbridge services. Everyone, probably quite rightly, believed the Uckfield branch would be next. BR denies this, but at the beginning of 1986, following the electrification of the Tonbridge – Hastings line, BR manager Chris Jago says it is his decision not to proceed with a £20m project to electrify Uckfield line, claiming it to be a “dubious project”. Instead, the branch would be singled.

 London service leaving Uckfield in 1981

London service leaving Uckfield in 1981, across the A22 level crossing which East Sussex County Council Highways Department is keen to abolish.


Tunbridge Wells West station 1982

In 1982 BR announces it intends withdrawing the Tonbridge-Eridge train service and closing Groombridge and Tunbridge Wells West stations. This is the West station looking towards London.


Isfield track  Barcome Mills after sale

In 1983 BR sold Isfield and Barcombe Mills stations. A local businessman bought Isfield and set up his own private steam railway.
Barcombe Mills became a tea shop and holiday chalet.


 Mitchell and Hart at Tunbridge Wells West

Brian Hart (WLC director) and Alan Mitchell (WLC treasurer) at the West station in 1985 when ideas were forming to launch a campaign to save and retain the railway as part of the national rail network.

Uckfield after repainting by NSE 

Network South East repaints Uckfield. A diesel-electric (thumper) unit shunts south before heading back into the London platform.

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