Cranleigh Line

[v · d · e]Cranleigh Line
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Portsmouth Direct Line
North Downs Line
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New Guildford Line
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Guildford tunnel
St Catherine's Hill tunnel
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(833 yards)
(133 yards)
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Shalford Junction
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North Downs Line
Peasmarsh Junction
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Portsmouth Direct Line
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River Wey
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Bramley & Wonersh
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Baynards Tunnel
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(381 yards)
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River Arun
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Arun Valley Line
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Abandoned Spur
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Christ's Hospital
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Stammerham Junction
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Horsham Junction
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Arun Valley Line
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Mole Valley Line

The Cranleigh Line was a short railway line that connected Guildford, the county town of Surrey, with the West Sussex market town of Horsham, via Cranleigh, a distance of 19¼ miles (31 kilometres). The branch line closed on 14 June 1965 four months before its 100th anniversary, the only Surrey casualty of the Beeching Axe.



Historical context

The opportunity to construct the Cranleigh Line came about from the fierce competition between the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and the London and South Western Railway (LSWR) for the lucrative Portsmouth traffic. A branch of the LSWR's London to Southampton line had reached Guildford in 1845, was extended to Godalming in 1849 and then to Havant in 1859. In 1844 the LSWR drew up plans to construct a line to the then important port of Shoreham-by-Sea from a point near Horsham. Upon hearing of this possible encroachment into their territory, the LBSCR (at the time still known as the London and Brighton Railway) acted quickly in promoting a bill authorising a line to Shoreham. The London and Brighton (Steyning Branch) Railway Act received royal assent on 18 June 1846 and the company's engineer, R. Jacombe-Hood, was instructed to survey the line. A line to Horsham from Three Bridges on the LBSCR's direct line between London and Brighton was laid in 1848.

In the meantime, both railway companies began to experience financial difficulties coinciding with the economic recession of the late 1840s, and their plans for the Horsham area were put on hold. It would be a further ten years before the plans for a line to Shoreham were resurrected by the LBSCR which opened to traffic on 1 July 1861. The opening of the line was seen by a group of local businessmen as an opportunity to promote a railway project offering the LSWR a route to Shoreham by connecting Guildford with Horsham.

Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway

The group — James Braby, Thomas Child and William McCormick — set about promoting the Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway Company (H&GDR) and parliamentary approval for line from a point 1½ miles south of Guildford station (now known as Peasmarsh Junction) to Stammerham, 2½ miles to the south-west of Horsham. The actions of the H&GDR drew the attention of the Wey & Arun Canal Company which was alarmed by the prospect of competition in an area which it had dominated since 1816. The Canal Company rapidly drew up plans for a line which would follow the course of the canal from Guildford to Pulborough, a distance of 18½ miles. However, the plans came to nothing and the railway was indeed to prove the undoing of the canal, diminished freight demand leading to its abandonment in 1871, although it did enjoy a brief renaissance in the 1860s by transporting the materials necessary for the railway's construction.

Once the H&GDR bill came before the House of Commons' Standing Orders Committee, the LBSCR made its opposition clear, lodging formal notice of objection to the bill and seeking the right to be heard personally by the Committee. In an attempt to waylay this opposition at an early stage, the promoters of the H&GDR sought the support of the LBSCR by offering it the opportunity to work the new line. This would enable the LBSCR to exercise a degree of control over the traffic on the line and thereby a means to restrict any attempt by the LSWR to gain access to Shoreham. With the LBSCR's opposition withdrawn, the H&GDR bill passed through Parliament and became law on 6 August 1860 as the Horsham and Guildford Direct Railway Act.

The Act fixed the capital of the H&GDR company at £160,000 and allowed borrowings up to £50,000 subject to the usual conditions. The company was to acquire the necessary land for the railway by way of compulsory purchase by 6 August 1863 and to complete the construction works within two years of that date. A penalty of £12,000 would be payable should the works not be completed on time. The LBSCR was granted the working rights over the line for a period of ten years. The Act also included a "Working Agreement" with the LBSCR which prevented the H&GDR from offering reciprocal running rights on the line.


Early difficulties

Once the Act had been passed the promoters took steps to add further members to the company's management board with a view to constructing the line. Thus, Joseph Cary, Henry Fox, William Lintott and John Bradshaw joined the original trio of promoters, with the contract for the construction of the line being handed to one of the initial promoters, William McCormick, and James Holmes. The company's engineer, Edward Woods, surveyed the line and on 13 August 1860 the siting of the stations was decided, the company taking into account the needs of the local farming community who were then beginning their annual harvest preparations.

The company began negotiations with the LSWR for access to its Guildford station, negotiations which proved difficult as the LSWR did not fancy the prospect of LBSCR trains on its rails. The "Working Agreement" prevented the H&GDR from offering running rights over the line to the LSWR, removing a possible incentive for the LSWR to cooperate. The problem over access to Guildford station remained a problem until the 1890s and was never fully resolved until the grouping of 1923.

The national economic climate also hindered progress on the line, with contracts for its construction not being drawn up until 1 July 1861. The line was to be laid as a single track at a cost of £123,000 for a distance of 15 miles 46 chains. The price included the land purchase costs, maintenance costs for the first year of operations and a guarantee of track stability for seven years. However, this was not to be the end of the H&GDR's problems - there were squabbles over ownership of the railway and a contractor went bankrupt with £30,000 debts during the construction.

LBSCR takeover

The line's slow progress began to frustrate the LBSCR which sought greater influence on the company board. Three new directors were appointed - one of whom was the chairman of the LBSCR, Leo Schuster, whilst the two others were connected with the company; other LBSCR staff were brought into the enterprise such as their Chief Engineer Jacomb-Hood who was given the responsibility of seeing that construction works were carried out to the LBSCR's specifications. He proposed a substantial modifications to the route originally chosen by the H&GDR which was authorised by the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (Additional Powers) Act 1864. A triangular junction (Itchingfield Junction) was to be built near Christ's Hospital to allow through running from Brighton to Guildford as well as Horsham to Guildford.

The LBSCR contributed the maximum amount permitted by law into the H&GDR for construction works, £75,000, and the original H&GDR members stumped up £48,000, making a grand total of £123,000. More changes were made which had the effect of further integrating the H&GDR into the LBSCR: on 28 April 1862 the H&GDR's registered office was changed to that of LBSCR, and the latter's staff were used as supervisors and inspectors in the line's construction. By June 1862 the H&GDR was effectively part of the LBSCR and an agreement was concluded on 29 July to formally merge the two companies. This was also authorised by the 1864 Act which allowed the buying out of the original promoters of the H&GDR for a sum of £123,000. Once in control of the enterprise, the LBSCR replaced its engineer Edward Woods with one of its senior employees, Frederick Bannister.

Rudgwick Bridge (on a Bridge) in 2005

An immediate consequence of the LBSCR takeover was that the contracts for the construction of the line were finally sealed on 16 April 1862. However, the involvement of the LBSCR did nothing to alleviate the slow progress which had beset the line from its inception - by May 1863 negotiations with landowners were still dragging on and the company's engineer reported in the same year that the line was unlikely to be completed within the time specified by the 1860 Act. The task of constructing the line's five stations had been put out to tender and in 1864 a bid of £3,698 was accepted. At a board meeting held on 15 March 1864, the directors gave vent to their unhappiness as to how matters were proceeding, expressing their "extreme dissatisfaction at the great delays which have taken place and the inefficient manner in which the works have been prosecuted."

On 2 May 1865 Bannister reported to the board that the line was finally ready to be inspected by the Board of Trade which duly attended two months later. The Chief Inspecting Officer, Colonel Yolland, was unhappy with the traffic arrangements at Guildford and did not authorise public use of Rudgwick Station, set on a 1 in 80 incline, until it was re-sited on an incline of 1 in 130. As the company was contractually obliged to provide this station for the local landowner, it had no choice but to carry out the works, which also included the raising of an embankment and a bridge over the River Arun by ten feet.


The Cranleigh line was opened on 2 October 1865 with the exception of Rudgwick Station which opened in November of that year. The Sussex Agricultural Express reported on the opening as follows, placing the emphasis on the exclusion of Rudgwick from the celebrations: "[a]n event so important as the opening of this line might well have been celebrated by some public demonstration, but the timetable was simply issued and the first train left Horsham for Guildford at 6.35am with about a dozen passengers who had the benefit of being carried free. But inspection of the track decreed that Rudgwick Station could not be used since the gradient on which it was built was too steep at 1 in 80. This caused an uproar amongst local people who claimed that they were being isolated and villagers threatened to call out the fire brigade to "quench the Government Inspector's fiery spirit!"".

The local press was critical of the early services. The West Sussex Gazette of 10 October 1865 stated that the line was "likely to prove a more picturesque than profitable part of the Company." There was a feeling that it had been constructed merely to provide connections with the LSWR at Guildford, and to give a through route to the Midlands.


1865 - 1899

Initial optimism for the line soon gave way to disappointment as anticipated freight and passenger use failed to materialise. The LSWR's control over Guildford and its attitude towards the LBSCR ensured that little through traffic to the South Coast was routed through the Cranleigh Line, whose main source of freight was the transport of coal to local residents and the gasworks at Cranleigh, as well as agricultural feed and machinery for the farming industry. Farmers also used the line to transport their goods to market in Guildford and Horsham. As stations on the line were not equipped with freight facilities, these now had to be added: those at Baynards (initially known as "Little Vachery") and Cranleigh became quite substantial with the involvement of commercial operators.

Initially eight trains ran daily, covering the line in 50 minutes, with certain trains terminating at Cranleigh. However, sluggish traffic returns meant that fares were raised within 18 months of opening, whilst services were reduced to three each way on weekdays and Saturdays, with two on Sundays. The LBSCR used loose-coupled 4-wheeled coaches equipped with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class compartments. Later years saw even fewer services, up to six complete trips being made daily with one or two extra trains from Horsham terminating at Cranleigh. Gradually only 3rd class accommodation was offered, but with the number of daily services increased to eight, calling at all stations. There was very little through-running on the line, only excursions (particularly on Sundays and often from the West Midlands to Brighton) bucking the trend.

The line was never doubled and for some years Baynards was the only crossing station. In 1876 the long section of 9½ miles from Baynards to Peasmarsh Junction was broken by the provision of a crossing loop at Bramley, followed by another at Cranleigh in 1880. The line was often used as a diversionary route when the Brighton Main Line was blocked, as was the case in August 1861 when a collision in the Clayton Tunnel forced that line's temporary closure.

The LSWR's control of the area to the north of the line ensured that the ½ mile long south-facing branch of Stammerham Junction (also known as Itchingfield South Fork) which was intended to allow trains to run between Guildford and Shoreham or Portsmouth without reversing through the Junction remained little used. The LBSCR therefore decided to close the section from 1 August 1867. It may have also been concerned that the LSWR would have greater access to the South Coast with running rights over the section. No sign of the south-facing branch remains today as the area has been ploughed over.

Increased passenger traffic at Guildford station during the 1890s led to the LSWR giving lower priority to LBSCR traffic at Peasmarsh Junction. The LBSCR sought to remedy this problem by applying for authorisation for a new 9 mile from Cranleigh to Dorking via Ewhurst, providing access to London without having to use LSWR metals. However, the objections of local landowners combined with the hilly topography of the North Downs resulted in the LBSCR not pursuing this scheme any further. In 1896 plans were deposited for a light railway which would run between Ockley (to the south of Holmwood on the Mole Valley line) and Selham (to the west of Petworth on the Midhurst line). These plans as well as others in 1898 for a direct link between Cranleigh and Holmwood all failed to materialise.

1900 - 1914

The arrival of Christ's Hospital school to premises near Stammerham Junction in 1902 together with the hope that Horsham would expand westwards towards the Junction led the LBSCR to invest £30,000 into building what was to become Christ's Hospital station. Previously there had been no station at this point, only a small wooden platform which was used by a local dairy to ferry milk to London; this platform had fallen into disuse upon the bankruptcy of the dairy.

The magnificent red brick station reflecting the LBSCR's aspirations for the area was constructed using bricks supplied by the nearby Southwater Brickworks. Five through tracks were laid which served seven facing platforms. Three platforms were set aside to the Cranleigh Line and two other platforms served passengers on the main line - allowing trains travelling from London via Horsham the option of routes to Pulborough, Shoreham or Guildford and beyond. A single loop on the down line serving two facing platforms was installed to deal with the large number of pupils expected (the school had 835 pupils) and the van trains carrying their luggage, as well as holiday specials. The school governors subsidised the costs of construction of the station.

However, in the event the LBSCR's expectation of an income from the station to match the size of its premises would be defeated by two developments. Firstly, Christ's Hospital school revealed that it would only accommodate boarders. Secondly, the anticipated residential development in the area did not materialise. This was not helped by the fact that the school had purchased much of the land around the junction, effectively ending any hopes for housing in the area. The LBSCR was therefore left with a white elephant, the capacity and stature of the station being vastly out of proportion with its status as a useful rural interchange rather than an important railway junction serving much of West Sussex.

First World War

The Cranleigh Line played a useful role during the First World War, transporting men and munitions to the South Coast where they could be shipped over to France. Although the southern section of Stammerham Junction could have increased the line's usefulness, it remained abandoned. Sunday services were suspended on the line from 1917 to 1919 as a wartime economy measure.

Interwar period

The railway grouping brought together the LBSCR and the LSWR as part of the Southern Railway which took over responsibility for numerous commuter routes into London. Some electrification took place, notably the Portsmouth line in 1937 and the line through Horsham the following year. Sandwiched between the two, the low usage of the Cranleigh line did not justify electrification.

The period also saw increased competition from buses: Rudgwick (itself sparsely populated) was served by a competing bus service during the 1930s and it was not unknown during this time for the station's booking office not to sell any more tickets all day following the departure of the first service to Horsham.

In the 1930s the line operated a late evening service between Guildford and Cranleigh mainly for the benefit of cinemagoers.

Second World War

The line fell under government control again during the Second World War and again played a useful role. With Northern France under enemy control, the Horsham area became susceptible to air attack and there were a number of incidents on the line. In 1941 the line north of the Worthing Road bridge near Horsham was hit, badly damaging the track and requiring a replacement bus service to be laid on between Horsham and Christ's Hospital whilst repairs were carried out. On 16 December 1942 a Dornier 217 strafed a push-pull train near Bramley carrying 42 passengers, many of whom were Christmas shoppers. There were seven casualties including the driver and guard. The situation could have been far worse, were it not for the intervention of a number of Canadian soldiers who were billetted nearby. The locomotive, a D3 0-4-4T, was repaired and returned rapidly back into service.

By May 1943 the Cranleigh Line still operated a fairly regular service with 10 workings from Horsham on weekdays: 07.59, 09.30, 12.42, 13.40, 15.23, 16.53, 18.00, 19.12 and 21.30 (until 2 October), plus the commuter service of 19.19 from Cranleigh. Sundays saw two departures at 10.19 and 20.53. From Guildford, weekday services were: 08.05, 09.18, 10.34, 13.09 (to Cranleigh), 13.42, 17.04, 18.07, 18.34 (to Cranleigh), 19.34 and 20.34. On Sundays there were two workings: 08.54 and 19.22. This level of services did not alter much in the years leading up to the line's closure except to be reduced even further.


The nationalisation of the railways in 1948 brought the line under the auspices of the Southern Region of British Railways but the inadequate funds made available for modernisation of the railways were never going to be used for railway backwaters like the Cranleigh Line.


The weekday service of eight trains in each direction with an evening service to Cranleigh continued, but the Sunday service was reduced to one train in either direction in the morning and evening. Commuters from Bramley and Cranleigh travelling up to London via Guildford were the main users of the line, and an additional service between Cranleigh and Guildford was offered to season ticket holders commuting up to London. The traffic on the line could have been greater were it not for the fact that many commuters chose to drive to Guildford to catch their trains rather than use the branch line which had morning and evening commuter trains. However, the timetabling of services did the line no favours: trains were departing Horsham a few minutes before potential passengers arrived there, yet these trains then waited for 15 minutes at Cranleigh because Guildford was unable to accommodate them during "busy times" which meant that there were no connections of any use when trains did eventually arrive in Guildford.

The final timetable for the line was in fact worse than that provided in 1865. There were no lunchtime trains except on Saturdays, the 9.22 ex-Guildford and 9.30 ex-Horsham services were replaced by one service to Cranleigh and back, extended from December 1962 to Baynards. The last Saturday working was cancelled, meaning that the final departure from Horsham was at 18.00. The daily 17.04 working from Guildford was cancelled - this had been an almost constant running since the line's opening. Sunday services also ceased, as did trains as Christmas, Easter, Whitsun and the August Bank Holiday. No more excursions were offered, formerly the line had been alive with trips to Brighton from Reading, Oxford, North Camp, Staines, Gloucester, Worcester and Great Malvern.

Modernisation Plan

The Modernisation Plan of 1955 led to the ageing locomotives on the line being replaced - the ex-LSWR M7 0-4-4Ts and ex-LBSCR 0-6-2T E4s which dated from the late 1890s were superseded by the British Railways Class 2 2-6-2Ts built to an LMSR design. The coaching stock was also modernised.


1955 also saw a railway strike paralyse the line which effectively sealed its fate. All goods and passenger services ceased for [xxx] and once services recommenced the line never regained its pre-strike traffic levels. For example, in 1948 671 loaded wagons came into Baynards and 802 were dispatched, the inwards traffic increasing to 924 in 1950. However, in 1962 only 363 wagons came in, and only one was sent out. Total cash taken was £7,766 in 1948, but only £1,227 in 1961. Furthermore, passenger numbers had also declined: 8,162 tickets were collected at Baynards in 1948, but only 3,579 in 1962.

In 1957 the BBC used the Cranleigh Line to film a version of The Railway Children, The Horsemasters, Rotten to the Core and The House at the End of the World.


Beeching Axe

Harold Macmillan's announcement to the House of Commons on 10 March 1960 that "the railway system must be remodelled to meet the current needs" spelled the beginning of the end for the Cranleigh Line which had never run profitably in its history. Ernest Marples, the Minister of Transport, was charged with the task of remodelling, and he quickly appointed Dr Beeching as chairman of the British Transport Commission in 1961. Beeching prepared a report entitled the "Reshaping of British Railways" which called for the closure of a large number of railway lines - the so-called "Beeching Axe". Among the lines nominated for closure was the Cranleigh Line.[1]

A comprehensive survey of rail traffic on the line had been carried out during the week ending 23 April 1961, and it was based on these results that all five stations on the Cranleigh Line were proposed for closure in the Beeching Report which was published on 25 March 1963. The report showed that the line had less than 5,000 passengers per week and less than 5,000 tons of freight per week. Cranleigh and Bramley & Wonersh ticket offices received between £5,000 and £25,000 per year, whereas the other three stations on the line received less than £5,000 per year. At this time the line was losing about £46,000 a year or £884 per week. Under section 22 of the Transport Act 1962, the Act passed by the government to implement the new railway strategy, the Board of British Railways was required to run the railways so that its operating profits were "not less than sufficient" for meeting the running costs. This meant the end for uneconomic lines such as the Cranleigh Line.

The accounts used to justify the closure proved somewhat controversial. It was subsequently discovered that the £46,000 'annual' running costs included the majority of the costs of the replacement of the bridge over the River Wey, the majority of the work having been done in the year the accounts were compiled (actually a few years before the closure). The actual running costs, once the bridge replacement was removed were a far more modest £6000. It had been realised that replacement of the steam traction used on the line with diesel, plus the replacement of the entirely manual signalling with automatic signalling would achieve some savings. Closure of the largely underused part of the line beyond Cranleigh would have left a fairly profitable railway which would have become even more profitable with the post war expansion of housing in Bramley and Cranleigh.


It was therefore formally announced that the line would close on 11 November 1963 if no objections were received to the proposal. Goods traffic had already ceased on the line on 2 April 1962.

More than one hundred objections were lodged against the proposed closure and in accordance with the procedure put in place by the Transport Act, the matter proceeded to a public enquiry held by the local Area Transport Users Consultative Committee at the Village Hall in Cranleigh in March 1964. In support of their arguments for keeping the line open, the objectors pointed out that traffic on the line was actually increasing and that new residential development was taking place and that this justified keeping the line open at least between Guildford and Cranleigh. British Rail reluctantly conceded that passenger traffic was indeed increasing at two places on the line. The objectors also questioned whether the introduction of modern working practices would reduce costs.

Christ's Hospital station itself was for a time under threat of closure but an outcry from the school plus a petition with 3,046 signatures sent to the Queen put a stop to this.

Closure decision

Notwithstanding the arguments raised at the public enquiry, it was decided that the line would close with effect from 14 June 1965. The train service would be replaced by private buses. The last day of full service was Saturday 12 June and the last train left Guildford at 19.34 behind 2-6-2 tank engine No. 41287. It consisted of two three-coach sets containing some 400 passengers, including Bert Andrews, the last Cranleigh signalman who was also the great-grandson of the guard on the first train back in 1865.

A special service of nine coaches carrying around 400 passengers and drawn by former Southern Railway Class Q1 0-6-0 locomotives was organised on Sunday 13 June by the Locomotive Club of Great Britain.

On the appointed day for closure of the line it was realised that a number of wagons remained in Baynards' goods yard and a locomotive had to be dispatched from Horsham to collect them. The last train left Guildford at 18.55 and returned at 20.34. Boys from Christ's Hospital school marked the occasion of the line's closure by singing the hymn Abide with Me as the last train pulled out from the school's local station.

Additional bus services were introduced and provided by the Aldershot & District Bus Company following the line's closure, but these were withdrawn after six months as they were hardly used. The Ministry of Transport had informed British Rail on 4 November 1965 that the buses between Baynards and Cranleigh were carrying an average of one passenger each way in either direction between 14 June and 28 August, and in no case had there been more than three passengers on a bus. The Ministry therefore authorised the discontinuance of this particular service; within two years almost all the extra services had met the same fate.

It was interesting to note that the lifting of the railway track was executed with little delay and was witnessed by a rather bemused gang of BR Signal & Telecommunications engineers who were busy laying the cabling for the new automatic signalling.

Attempted preservation

Following the line's closure a preservation society was set up which floated the idea of reopening the line with a regular diesel service on weekdays and steam traction at weekends. Support was not forthcoming from public authorities and British Rail had no incentive to offer help. Other obstacles such as the abolition of Peasmarsh Junction as part of the Guildford resignalling scheme - BR Signal & Telecommunications staff had been wiring the Peasmarsh to Bramley section soon after the closure decision was announced - and the price demanded for the line's operation presented unsurmountable obstacles. The society eventually conceded defeat and was wound up in August 1966. It was conjectured that the price underwent considerable inflation (of around 2 orders of magnitude) when it was realised that the preservation society wanted to run the railway for the benefit of passengers who actually wanted to go somewhere. It was further conjectured that the hasty destruction of the infrastructure was to ensure that it could not be privately operated. Two of the road bridges on the line were dynamited within days of closure (the charges actually being inserted while traffic was still passing underneath). Most of the wooden buildings simply burned.

There have been a few proposals since to rebuild the line, but so far none have come to fruition. Most stretches of the line are now available to walkers as a permissive right of way. The demolished bridge over the River Wey has been replaced with a pedestrian bridge.

Route of the line

Baynards Tunnel southern portal in 2005

Leaving Horsham station, the line used the Mid-Sussex metals as far as Stammerham Junction and Christ's Hospital station (2 miles 51 chains from Horsham) where it veered to the north-west, the track crossing an undulating surface for the majority of its length, climbing gradients as steep as 1 in 88. The first station to be reached was Slinfold (4 miles 67 chains) which was equipped with a single platform, a small goods yard facility and two private sidings. Three signal boxes were necessary to control the traffic here. The line then continued on an elevated embankment to Rudgwick station (7 miles 9 chains), an embankment which was to cause recurrent problems due to its instability. Rudgwick station had two short sidings and a headshunt at the end of its single platform. About ¾ mile to the south of the station, the line passed over the River Arun on a single span girder bridge with high brick abutments.

Continuing through wooden wealden countryside, the line climbed on a gradient to pass through the 381-yard long Baynards Tunnel where it reached its highest point - 250 ft above sea level - and crossed the boundary between Surrey and West Sussex. The tunnel was steeply graded and suffered from damp, meaning that in wet conditions trains were known to lose traction. The location of the next station, Baynards (8 miles 27 chains), was chosen to suit Lord Thurlow, the owner of nearby Baynards Park. The station was equipped with a crossing loop and its small goods and marshalling yards served, in addition to Lord Thurlow's estate, a local brickworks producing fuller's earth. This would become Baynards Brick and Tile Works whose activities continued until the 1980s when Berks Chemical Works (Steetly). The site has now reverted to its former use and is owned by Redland plc.

Cranleigh (11 miles 19 chains) was the busiest station on the line, receiving passenger traffic from the local boys' school. It was originally opened as "Cranley" but changed its name in 1867 at the request of the Post Office to avoid confusion with Crawley in West Sussex on badly written envelopes and parcels. The railway then ran on a level to Bramley (16 miles 15 chains), which was renamed Bramley & Wonersh in 1888, which also had a passing loop and benefited from a second platform from 1876. Leaving Bramley, the line continued as far as the LSWR's junction at Peasmarsh (18 miles 10 chains), having followed a branch of the River Wey through the gap between Pitch Hill and Hascombe Hill. About a mile beyond Bramley the branch of the river and the main stream were crossed in quick succession, the line curving sharply to join the electrified main line from Waterloo to Portsmouth at Peasmarsh Junction, 1¾ miles south of Guildford station (19 miles 68 chains).


The first locomotive to work the line was a small 2-2-2 tender engine built at Brighton railway works to the designs of John Chester Craven, and numbered 30. It remained in service until May 1886. From 1878 and 1880 two Terriers, respectively no. 36 "Bramley" and no. 77 "Wonersh", began to work the line from the LSWR shed at Guildford. Wonersh was subsequently transferred in the 1890s to the Pulborough-Chichester line and then on to the Isle of Wight where it became Southern no. W13 "Carisbrooke", returning to Fratton in 1949 to become BR no. 32677. Wonersh was withdrawn in September 1959. Bramley was sold in 1902 to a contractor involved in the construction of the extension to the Great Central Railway. Freight services were carried out in the 1890s by Class E1 nos. 97 "Honfleur" and 127 "Poitiers".

Following the grouping in 1923, Drummond Class M7 0-4-4 tanks from the LSWR appeared on the line and took over most of the regular passenger workings until the 1950s. Nos. 30047 - 53 were based at Horsham. Their last appearance on the line was on 28 January 1963 when the No. 30241 worked the 18.05 to Horsham. In addition, the Guildford shed was known to send out other types of engine from time to time which would not normally be used on the line; those that made their appearance included classes C, D, Q1 and 700. D1 0-4-2 tanks nos. 2235 and 2283 worked the line to Guildford and Brighton from Horsham during the Second World War, notwithstanding the fact that both dated from the 1880s. Another D1 no. 2252 was seen at Bramber as late as 1950. Other former LBSCR engines making their appearance on the line were members of the E4 class Other former LBSCR locomotives to work passenger trains on the Cranleigh line were members of the E4 class of 0-6-2 tanks, one of which "Birch Grove" No. 32473 was acquired by the Bluebell Railway in 1962 where it now survives, having undergone a complete overhaul in recent years[2]. The line occasionally saw an Billinton E6. Another Billinton design to be used on the line was the C2 0-6-0 tender freight locomotive. No. 2436 was based at the Guildford shed from March 1944 and worked goods on the Cranleigh line. The Horsham shed was allocated six C3s, a larger version of the C2, in 1930 and, although primarily intended for goods trains, they were often used on Sunday excursions to Brighton, taking over a train from the Cranleigh line and running it via Steyning. With a few exceptions, two-coach pull-and-push sets were used for passenger services for most of the line's working life.

The 1955 Modernisation Plan made more powerful engines available. BR built LMS Ivatt Class 2 2-6-2T were used until the end of services on the Cranleigh line, assisted by the E6s and backed up by class E4 Nos. 32479 and 32503 as late as 1962. After 1960, Horsham ceased to be a shed in its own right and acted as a stabling point for goods engines from Three Bridges and passenger engines from Brighton. Following the electrification of the Kent Coast, the Brighton shed became host to some of the Cranleigh Line's engines.

The line today


Christs Hospital station bears little resemblance today to the grand building erected by the LBSCR at the turn of the twentieth century. The six station platforms have been reduced to two - the platforms used for the Cranleigh Line (nos. 1 & 2) were dismantled and the area is now fenced off and overgrown, the space between the platforms having been filled in. The single loop line ferrying pupils to and from the local school has been filled in and the sidings have long since disappeared. The magnificent station building was demolished in 1972, but not before a "funeral party" was held by 150 staff and pupils of Christ's Hospital school on platform 2; black-edged tickets were even issued for the party. The only original structures are now the subway and the platform 2 waiting room and toilet. The subway itself (which served the loop) is now disused. The station's original platforms 3 and 4 are now respectively the downside and upside platforms, served by series one double track carrying the line between Horsham and Pulborough.

Slinfold station building was itself demolished and a caravan site now occupies the location. Two LBSCR houses remain on the far side of the nearby level crossing. Rudgwick station has also been demolished, replaced by a health centre. The same fate was met by Cranleigh station which was replaced by Stocklund Square in 1965; the Square was reduced in size in 2004 when a branch of Sainsbury's was constructed on part of the site. Baynards station bucks the trend, surviving as a private residence. Bramley and Wonersh also remains and was restored by Bramley Parish Council in 2003–2004.


The B2130 bridge over the former railway just west of the site of Cranleigh railway station.

Between 1965 and 1970 the track was lifted and much of the track ballast was removed. The coppiced woodland along many of the cuttings and embankment sides remained unmanaged until 2 April 1970 when ownership of much of the track was sold by the British Railways Board to Surrey County Council and Hambleton Rural District Council (which became Waverley Borough Council in 1974) for £17,500. The local authorities managed the land until 1984, clearing scrub to allow the general public to use it as a recreational facility.

In 1984, the local authorities working together with other authorities and the Manpower Services Commission established the Downs Link, a 30 mile long footpath and bridleway connecting the North and South Downs National Trails. The Link was opened on 9 July 1984 by the Mayor of Waverley, Anne Hoath, at Baynards station; it subsequently received a commendation in the National Conservation Award Scheme jointly organised by The Times newspaper and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.


Baynards Tunnel was used as a refuse tip by Hambledon Rural District Council after the line's closure. The rubbish was then covered with local clay and topsoil which became colonised with plants. The tunnel is also now used by hibernating bats and its northern end has been filled in, although it was possible until recently to gain access to the tunnel. The steel railway bridge which carried the line over the Wey and Arun Canal, near Bramley was dismantled after closure, as was the bridge over the River Wey which stood near where the line joined the Guildford to Portsmouth main line at Peasmarsh. However, in 2005, the bridge over the Wey, was replaced by a steel footbridge, when the trackbed from the site of Bramley & Wonersh station, to Peasmarsh Junction, was relaid with stone to make a foot and cycle path. Also, the road bridge over the line at Cranleigh Common, was restored and strengthened by Surrey County Council in 2006[3]. In addition, numerous remnants of the railway can be found along the line's course, including linesmans' huts, signal mechanisms, mileposts and other such trackside structures.


The Cranleigh Line could, according to one author, have become a useful and important route, but its potential was lost to years of mismanagement and poor timetabling[4]. Rivalry with the LSWR from the line's inception meant that connections between services on the line were never very good. The author cites the example of the timetable in July 1922 where a passenger on the 09.44 service from Brighton which arrived at Horsham at 10.48 would have to wait until 13.05 until the next connection to Guildford, the previous working having already departed at 10.20. A similar dilemma was faced by passengers travelling south on the 08.08 from Guildford who had to wait 70 minutes at Horsham for an onward connection to Brighton. Matters had not improved much by 1947 when passengers arriving at Christ's Hospital on the 15.57 from Brighton had four minutes to catch the 16.53 from Guildford to Horsham; missing this connection would mean a wait until 18.15 for the next train.

The author also highlights the fact that little was done in the way of attracting commuters on to the railway. In 1959 the earliest train which would allow users to arrive in London at a respectable time was the 06.51 from Baynards which waited 13 minutes in Cranleigh before proceeding northwards. Passenger traffic ebbed away from the line as better travel possibilities were offered by buses and then cars, a situation which neither the Southern Railway nor British Rail did anything to change. By the end of its working life, BR regarded the line as an uneconomic backwater and tried to make it as unattractive as possible to potential users in order to ensure that Beeching's Axe would fall without too much complaint.

Possible reopening

Buchanan report

In 1994 Surrey County Council commissioned a report by Buchanan and Partners aimed at identifying worthwhile rail infrastructure improvements in the county to allow new or modified services to be introduced. The aims of the report were threefold: to relieve pressure on the roads, to improve the county's share of modal rail services and to encourage the use of the rail network as part of a balanced transport system.

The report estimated that around 500 car-users would transfer to rail each day. The cost of reinstatement of the Cranleigh Line between Guildford and Cranleigh was projected at £24 million which would include the base, civil, electrical, engineering and signalling works. It did not include land acquisition costs, legal costs and bridge works. The reinstatement of the bridge over the River Wey was alone costed at £750,000.

The report concluded that, based on a preliminary analysis of the line's potential returns, re-opening would not be feasible. The line was, according to the report, likely to recoup only 3% of the capital investment in the first year of re-opening, and this without taking into account its operating costs. British Rail usually insisted on a figure of at least 8% before investing capital into re-opening a line. Nevertheless, the County Council decided to commission a detailed economic feasibility study by British Rail into the line's potential for re-opening, and looked into the possibility of using a light railway or tramway substitute.

BR report

British Rail Projects carried out the first part of an extensive two stage study in early 1996. It reported that the costs of re-opening would be far less than those estimated by Buchanan - £13.4 million if electrified, £11.1 million for diesel operation and £14.1 million for a light rail service. Figures are based on a single track service running hourly workings. The results of the first stage persuaded Surrey County Council to allow the second stage of BR's report to be undertaken; this would look at the economic and environmental aspects of the service, including how many potential users it would be likely to have.

The study, carried out between April 1996 and March 1997, focused on two scenarios - either an hourly service or a half-hourly service, each with a journey time of around 12 minutes compared to 25 minutes for the same trip by car during the morning rush hour. As part of the study 4000 travel diaries and 3835 questionnaires were sent to residents in Cranleigh, Bramley and Wonersh, and 200 face-to-face interviews were to be conducted. The results showed that amongst the 882 replies to the questionnaires, only 12% of journeys were made to Guildford or London, with the majority of journeys made to other parts of Surrey which could not be directly reached by re-opening the line. The research also found that that although it would be possible to persuade bus users to transfer to rail, the same could not be said of car users[5].

The study concluded the costs of re-opening the line (estimated at around £14.24 million) would not be recouped by the railway itself. Even if the capital investment did not have to be repaid, the line would only make a profit after 4 years (running one train per hour) or 15 years (2 trains per hour). The line would require substantial public sector investment which could not be justified, the business case for the line's re-opening being negative.

RDS report

At the same time that Surrey County Council were considering the results of the BR report, Railway Development Society (RDS) (now known as "Railfuture") North Downs published a report pointing out the benefits of the line's reopening and suggested four alternative plans by which this could be achieved.[6]

ATOC Report 2009

In the summer of 2009 the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) called for the Cranleigh Line to be reopened as far as Cranleigh as part of a widespread expansion of the existing rail network detailed in the Connecting Communities report[7] . Citing the increase in passenger numbers in recent years, and the desire for the public to adopt more sustainable transport, ATOC hypothesised that the line and stations could be opened between 2014 and 2019.

Safeguarding of the route

The Guildford to Cranleigh route is acknowledged as an important rail corridor and, as such, is protected under the statutory planning process[8].

A forum consulted by Surrey County Council in the preparation of their Local Transport Plan advocated the reopening of the line between Cranleigh and Guildford, whilst introducing a toll on the A281 to persuade motorists to change to public transport[9].



  • Elton, M.S. (April 1999). "The Horsham & Guildford Direct Railway 1860 to 1965". Backtrack 13 (4): 172–180. 
  • Mitchell, Vic; Smith, Keith (1982). Branch Lines to Horsham. Midhurst, West Sussex: Middleton Press. ISBN 0-9065-2002-9. 
  • Nisbet, Alistair F. (January 2007). "A Wasted Opportunity". Backtrack 22 (1): 41–43. 

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