Hastings Line

Hastings Line

The Hastings Line is a railway line in Kent and East Sussex linking Hastings with the main town of Tunbridge Wells, and from there into London via Sevenoaks.


The line was opened by the South Eastern Railway (SER) in main three stages:
* Tonbridge - Tunbridge Wells railway station:
** 19 September 1845: a temporary station while the intervening tunnel was completed. That temporary station later became the freight station;
** 25 November 1846: Tunbridge Wells Central station opened
* Tunbridge Wells - Robertsbridge: 1 September 1851
* Robertsbridge - Battle: 1 January 1852
* Battle - St Leonards ("Bo-peep Junction"): 1 February 1853

Construction difficulties

The Hastings Line is built over difficult terrain across the Weald. As a result there are seven tunnels constructed through the Sandstone Hastings Beds. The SER were anxious to construct the line as quickly as possible, since they were in competition with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway to obtain entry to the south coast seaside resort of Hastings; the line, in spite of its problems, was opened from Tunbridge Wells in a year. The contractors responsible for building the tunnels cheated the SER by reducing the planned six layers of bricks through the tunnels to four.

It was only when the Wadhurst tunnel collapsed in 1862 that this was discovered. It was too expensive to re-bore the tunnels, so the SER added the two missing layers. This obviously reduced the width, and from then on, until quite recently, it has always been necessary to work the line with narrow rolling stock.

Traction and rolling stock

The first most successful locomotives built to cope with the necessary weight and loading gauge restrictions taken into account were the "Schools" class built in the 1930s; the cab roofs in particular were narrower than main line locomotives. They worked the line until 1957 when steam gave way to diesel-electric multiple units of what became British Rail Class 201, 202 and 203 (the "Hastings Diesels") took over working the route. These units were constructed of narrow rolling stock. They were delivered in six-car formations (the Class 203 including a buffet car) and two units were often operated in multiple to form twelve-car trains. In latter years some of the units were reduced to five and (later still) to four cars. Twelve Class 33 , coded 33/2, diesel locomotives were also built with narrow bodies for the Hastings line (nicknamed "Slim Jims").

The final solution on the line was to convert the most restricted of the tunnels to single-line working. This was achieved in 1986, and at the same time the line was electrified using 750 V DC third-rail.


There are eight tunnels between Tonbridge and Hastings (Ore). In order from north to south they are:

The Wadhurst and Mountfield tunnels were those causing the major problems before the changes. [Network Rail : Rules of The Route]


All the stations south of Tunbridge Wells were built to the designs of William Tress in Italianate and Gothic styles. The station at Battle is Grade II listed.

ervices today

Train services on the line are provided by Southeastern, and mostly operated by Class 375 Electrostar units.

The line still sees a freight service to and from the gypsum sidings at Mountfield.

Bo-Peep Junction

This junction was named after a local pub called "The Bo Peep" [ [http://www.sinfin.net/railways/stations/pubs.html#B The Bo-Peep] ] .

Driver's view of the line

A DVD produced by Video 125 called 1066 DC provides a driver's eye view of a journey from Hastings to Charing Cross [ [http://www.video125.co.uk/acatalog/Catalogue_1066_DC_28.html 1066 DC by Video 125] ] .






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