Desolate days shunted off by push to East Grinstead
SEVENTEEN miles of railway track, known as the Bluebell and Primrose Line, remained a ghost of a thousand memories in 1959.
But 75 years before this, in 1884, its birth welded an essential link between East Grinstead and the county town of Lewes until 1958 saw its end as a necessary means of transport.
The Bluebell line went into retirement – its purpose had been served.
And the occasion was treated with all the reverence and respect of a dignified burial.
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Tears were shed, cheering voices concealed sorrow, but 14 minutes beyond its scheduled time of departure, the last official passenger train left from East Grinstead station on March 15, 1958.
In 1954, the branchline committee of British Railways proposed closing the line from East Grinstead to Culver Junction, near Lewes.
This was challenged by local residents, but closure was agreed in February 1955 for June 1955, although the line closed on May 29, due to a rail strike.
The battle between British Railways and the users of the Bluebell Line, as it was known, lasted three years.
And in March 1958, the railway link between East Grinstead and Kingscote ended.
Spring 1959 saw the formation of the Lewes and East Grinstead Railway Preservation Society, forerunner of today's Bluebell Railway Preservation Society.
Its ambitious aims were to re-open the whole line from East Grinstead to Culver Junction as a commercial service, using a diesel railcar.
The plans came to nothing – the society was unable to buy the whole line and many residents were not interested.
West Hoathly seemed to have suffered more than Kingscote – which was still occupied in 1959 – since the line closed down.
The desolate station house was the centre of considerable vandalism – windows were smashed and fences were trampled down.
The only identification that remained was a small West Hoathly nameplate.
This was just visible against the fading and peeling paint-work of the main platform.
The line became know as the Bluebell and Primrose passing, as it did, through countryside where bluebells and primroses grew in abundance alongside the track.
The Bluebell Railway Preservation Society completed an extension from Horsted Keynes to Kingscote in 1994, re-laying track through Sharpthorne Tunnel and, today, is reinstating the remaining 450 metres from Kingscote to East Grinstead.
The Bluebell Railway hopes to return to East Grinstead in spring next year.