On Sunday 14th August, Agents

Ghost and Holmbush embarked

on our first railway trek of 2011

- and possibly the most challenging one yet, mostly due to there being sod all of it left!

Our day started at the meeting point at Shoreham's famous Marlipins Museum after a very pleasent journey up on the bus from Brighton. After a coffee and a bacon sandwich each, we were ready for our investigation.

ABOVE & RIGHT: The number 2A and 700 buses are the best way out to Shoreham, taking in many fantastic views along the route. Both are also thoroughly endorsed by Agent Holmbush!

BELOW: Although not incredibly clear, this map shows the area investigated today - Brighton is bottom right hand corner, whilst the area we will be investigating is slap bang in the centre of the map, running vertically up from the coast at Shoreham by Sea. It doesn't look very far on the map, but it is a fair way to walk.

LEFT: The path of the Branch Line we are following today follows the river (pretty much) between Shoreham by Sea and Upper Beeding and branches off due north from the South Coast Brighton to Portsmouth Main Line just west of Shoreham by Sea Station. The line has been converted into part of what is now known as the Downslink cycle path between Shoreham and Guildford in the present day and follows the path of the line as far north as Christ's Hospital.

First - a bit of History, as found on Wikipedia.

The Steyning Line (also known as the Adur Valley Line) was a branch line that connected Horsham with Shoreham-by-Sea, with the possibility of an onward connection to Brighton. The 20 mile line closed on 7 March 1966.

The Steyning Line, like the Kemp Town Railway, was a consequence of fierce competition between two railway companies, the London and Brighton Railway (LBR) and the London and South Western Railway (LSWR), for the lucrative South Coast traffic. In 1844 the LSWR's engineer, Robert Stephenson, drew up plans for a line through the North Downs, to Chichester via Horsham and Dorking. At Horsham, a branch was to head south to Shoreham-by-Sea. Hearing of this proposed encroachment into its territory, the LBR responded by promoting its own scheme for a line to Horsham and Shoreham. The London and Brighton (Steyning Branch) Railway Act received royal assent on 18 June 1846 and the company's engineer, R. Jacomb-Hood, was instructed to survey the line. Later that year the LBR merged with the London and Croydon Railway, creating the LBSCR.

In late 1847, however, the LBSCR's scheme hit financial problems and the economic recession of the 1840s halted its plans for the line. This led to Jacomb-Hood being instructed to down tools by the LBR, and he resigned in January 1848. As the LBR's chairman, Samuel Laing, explained to a Parliamentary Inquiry in 1858, new lines "were abandoned during the crisis of 1847 and 1848 when Railway property was almost irretrievably ruined and it was absolutely impossible to raise money."

Although the LBSCR did proceed to connect Horsham with its main line between London and Brighton in 1848, it was to be a further eight years before it revisited the idea of a line to Shoreham.

In 1856 a group of local residents formed the "Steyning Railway Company" (SRC) with the intention of implementing the LBSCR's  Steyning line plans. A meeting was held at The White Horse Hotel in Steyning on 23 June that year, at which it was agreed the SRC would approach the LBSCR with an offer to construct the line and thereafter to lease it to the LBSCR.  The LBSCR agreed to pay an annual rent equivalent to 4% of the Steyning Company's construction costs. Jacomb-Hood was rehired and once again dispatched to survey the route. His report was delivered on 21 August and contained estimated constructio0n costs as well as projected goods and cattle traffic. He forecast costs of £39,000 based on a route which would be constructed on the west bank of the River Adur with a station near the recently-opened Lancing College.

Before the Steyning Company could begin construction, it had first to raise at least 75% of the total expenditure. By 4 December it was still £7,890 short and approached the LBSCR to see whether it would contribute the outstanding balance. In order to determine whether such expenditure was justified, the LBSCR's chairman, Leo Schuster, and another director, Admiral Laws, personally examined the route on 12 December. Their report concluded that the project was not of sufficient importance for the LBSCR to deviate from the original terms. This refusal led to the Steyning Company abandoning their project, but left the door open to revisit the concept again in the future.

A year later, new proposals were published for a line through Steyning. This time the route would follow Stephenson's 1844 proposal for the LSWR. According to a memorandum published in Steyning on 5 September 1857 by John Ingram, the company secretary of the Steyning Company, a new enterprise called the "Shoreham Horsham and Dorking Railway Company" would promote an independent scheme for the line which was supported by local landowners and residents. The new company appointed Joseph Locke as chief engineer and Thomas Brassey as principal building contractor, both giants in their respective fields.

Hearing of the new proposals, the LBSCR reacted by applying for Parliamentary authorisation for a new line from Shoreham-by-Sea to Steyning and Henfield with an option of a further extension to join the LBSCR's Mid-Sussex Line at Billingshurst. At the same time, the Shoreham Horsham and Dorking Railway Company applied to Parliament for authorisation of its route.

In order to determine which line should proceed, a Parliamentary Inquiry was held to determine their respective merits. Amongst the witnesses called to give evidence was Walter Barsteller, a magistrate and director of the Mid-Sussex Railway, who explained that the reason why the LBSCR was putting forward its own route was "the probability of the extension of the proposed line towards Guildford". This was confirmed by another magistrate, William Cory, who said that from Billingshurst the preferred route to Guildford was via Loxwood. The outcome of the Inquiry was that the LBSCR's line would be approved and that proposed by the landowners was rejected.

Following the authorisation, the LBSCR slightly altered the proposed route in view of the fact that their plans for a connection from Horsham to Guildford, the Cranleigh Line, were now likely to be realised. Therefore, instead of going towards Billingshurst, the proposed route deviated just north of Partridge Green to join the Mid-Sussex line at Itchingfield. Jacomb-Hood was yet again dispatched to survey this new route and in summer 1859 construction works were initiated by the contractor, Mr Firbank. The first section between Shoreham and Partridge Green was opened on 1 July 1861.

Just before opening, the Government's Railway inspector, Colonel Tyler, viewed the line and tested the strength of several bridges across the River Adur. In order to test the bridge near Beeding cement works four engines with their tenders were placed on it. Following the successful inspection, the Colonel and his party adjourned to celebrate at The White Horse in Steyning.

In order to connect the Steyning Line with the Mid-Sussex and Cranleigh Lines two spurs were planned by Jacomb-Hood. From the triangular junction at Itchingfield, one spur would lead south to join the Mid-Sussex Line, while another spur would be constructed near Christ's Hospital/Stammerham Junction (also known as Itchingfield South Fork) which would allow through-running to Guildford and Shoreham or Portsmouth without the need to reverse through the junction.

The LSWR's control of the railway network around Guildford ensured that the 0.5 miles (0.80 km) long spur remained little used with few scheduled services, so the LBSCR closed the section from 1 August 1867 amid concerns that the LSWR might take advantage of the spur to seek greater access to the south coast. No sign of the south-facing branch remains today as the area has been ploughed over.

After the opening of the second phase of the line on 16 October 1861, the daily service between Brighton and Horsham consisted of four stopping trains and one express. Early days saw heavy regular traffic on the line, so frequency of services was increased and the track doubled between Itchingfield Junction and Horsham during 1878-1879. Fortunately Jacomb-Hood had foreseen this eventuality when planning the line and had ensured that all bridges were capable of carrying two tracks. This frequency of services was to the detriment of engine drivers and firemen who went on strike in 1867 to call for a maximum 10 hour working day or a run of 150 miles (241.40 km). Engine drivers earned at most seven shillings per day whilst firemen were on four shillings and sixpence. Itchingfield Junction was the location of the line's first accident on 11 August 1866 when two passenger trained collided resulting in one fatality.

Traffic on the line during this period consisted mainly of agricultural produce, with goods being sent to the Brighton and Steyning markets and for auction. Indeed, after the line opened Steyning's weekly market relocated from the High Street to a field adjacent to the railway station where cattle, sheep, poultry and other produce were transported to and from it for more than a century. Examples of what was being delivered can be drawn from the records of inward freight at Steyning station during 1874 and 1875; from Littlehampton 10 sacks of maize, from Brighton 10 sacks of wheat, from Horsham 14 bundles of timber, from Lancing 2500 bricks and 5 tons of beach pebbles and from Arundel one consignment of cement.

In addition to normal daily passenger workings, excursions began operating soon after the line up to Partridge Green had been opened. One of the first was in July 1861 to Portsmouth; the fare charged was two shillings and there were 185 passengers on the service. Another excursion followed in August, this time to Crystal Palace via Hove.

From 1923 the Steyning Line became part of the Southern Railway. The line continued to be alive during summer weekends with a variety of excursions to Brighton and Hove from all manner of places, travelling via Guildford and Horsham. In addition, during the football season specials would be laid on to ferry supporters to see Brighton and Hove Albion when they were playing at home. The Southern Railway also promoted use of the line by ramblers and nature-lovers, such as scheduling late-night and early-morning services to observe the sun rising.

On 31 October 1946 the Southern Railway announced a scheme to electrify the Steyning Line, but this was abandoned following nationalisation in January 1948. The line now fell under the aegis of the Southern Region of British Railways. One of the first changes made was the end of the old method of counting passenger numbers on the railway network. Whereas previously a system of "clearing" was employed whereby the revenue from a passenger's ticket was redistributed to the railway companies in proportion to the distance travelled by the passenger on their line, this now changed to a system of "global accounts" whereby each BR station submitted monthly returns of all business conducted.

Nevertheless, statistics show a steady rise in passenger traffic from 1948 to 1965, the year prior to closure. In 1948, 58,086 tickets were sold and 90,076 collected, ten years later 106,110 and 126,272 and by 1965, 120,016 and 140,129 respectively. Despite a slight decline in traffic in the early 60's, this reflected a similar dip which had occurred twelve years previously and was modest when compared with the subsequent increase in numbers.

On Saturday 7 October 1961 a group of senior boys attending Steyning Grammar School organised an exhibition in the waiting room at Steyning station which celebrated the line's 100th anniversary. Both the station and signalbox were decorated in bunting to mark the occasion and trains carried special headboards.

Until 1926 the line transported milk in 17-gallon churns, but this was switched to road haulage during the General Strike of that year and resultantly Farmers realised how much more direct and convenient it was to use road transport, depriving the railway of a major source of freight. This pattern was to be repeated during the strike of 1955 when coal was also diverted to road, much of it never to return. These losses caused the closure of the goods yards on the Steyning Line.

Nevertheless, the line continued to serve two important industrial enterprises - the cement factory at Beeding and the brickworks at Southwater. The cement works in particular received gypsum from Robertsbridge and coal from Dover, whilst once a week cement was transported from the works to the British Portland Cement depot at Southampton via Shoreham and the South Coast main line. During the course of 1960, for example, the cement works received 7000 coal wagons, 2300 gypsum wagons and 100 wagons of general stores; it sent out 7670 cement wagons and 240 flints wagons. Traffic continued beyond closure until 1981 via a single line linking the works with the South Coast main line. The cement works finally closed in 1991 after more than 100 years.

Unfortunately, Itchingfield Junction was the site of the last accident on the line, as well as the first. Early in the morning of 5 March 1964, a goods train from Brighton to Three Bridges which had been diverted to the Steyning line, overran the signal before the junction and collided with a down goods from Three Bridges to Chichester which was traversing the junction. The two members of the up goods, apparently asleep possibly due to diesel fumes, were both killed.

As with the Cranleigh Line, the Steyning Line was useful for transporting men and munitions to  Newhaven. During the Second World War it was particularly convenient for access to Wiston House, Field Marshal Montgomery's headquarters near Steyning. It also provided access to Martin Lodge on Station Road at Henfield which was used by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; the 1st Canadian Infantry Division also had a large encampment close to the airfield at Shoreham and on the playing fields of Lancing College.

Decline of the Line and eventual Closure.

The Steyning Line's days were effectively numbered thanks to Dr. Beeching and his vision of a smaller and more efficient rail network.  The fact that the Steyning and Cranleigh Lines carried in 1962-3 fewer than 5,000 passengers weekly was to be its' ultimate (and totally incorrectly calculated) undoing. The closure of the line was based on figures taken from surveys carried out in November 1962 and July 1963 of the number of passengers actually using the services provided. The two surveys measured passenger traffic over the course of one week - one during summer and the other during winter; importantly, they only measured one type of traffic - the outward-bound passengers who purchased tickets at Steyning Line stations and not inward traffic in the shape of tickets collected from passengers alighting at stations. Had the two forms of traffic been taken into account, the survey would have revealed that on average 12,615 passengers travelled the line (both Up and Down) over the course of seven days during winter and 12,649 during summer. A significant proportion of the traffic, at least 1,000 journeys, was made up of schoolchildren. A further survey was carried out during half-term week in November 1964 following the change from steam to diesel traction on the line. Without the schools' traffic the survey showed an arithmetical fall in passenger numbers to 9,225, a perceived loss of traffic which was to stupidly play a role in the decision to close the line.

BR officials also examined season ticket sales on the line - in 1948, 993 quarterly and long-term season tickets were sold, this had increased to 1,628 by 1959, but declined to 1,215 in 1965. One author has stated that the mention of closure plans themselves would surely have frightened passengers away and that cheap-day returns from Monday-Friday would have been more cost-effective alternative for those working a five day week.

In 1963 BR submitted a proposal to close the Steyning Line. As goods traffic was virtually nil on the line with the exception of the Beeding Cement Works, the Minister gave his consent, leaving BR the choice of closing the line immediately or keeping it in service. Choosing to defer their decision, the next two years saw a public enquiry take place into the proposed closure and the obligatory Transport Users' Consultative Committee (TUCC) Report to the Minister.

289 objections were received and a public enquiry was called for Wednesday 26 February 1964 in Steyning. Objectors argued that the replacement of trains with buses would lead to increased travel times. The recommendation of the TUCC was that replacement buses would not alleviate the hardship caused by the line's closure. The line therefore remained open while the Minister undertook further enquiries.

The Ministry of Transport therefore contacted BR to see if the line's losses which had already been reduced by the introduction of diesel units, could be reduced still further by increasing rail fares and by closing Bramber station. BR rejected any suggestion that economies could be made, stating that fares would have to be increased to 6d per mile (i.e. doubled) and all cheap day fares withdrawn.

The Labour victory in the 1964 General Election saw former miner Tom Harris take over as Minister of Transport. In September 1965 he gave fresh authorisation for the closure of the Steyning Line. He made this decision on the basis of a cost/revenue analysis (excluding freight revenue) which showed that the financial saving which would be made by closure was £173,200 for steam operation of the line, reduced to £43,200 if diesel units were introduced. One author estimates that the real saving made was actually a mere £14,000 since the track and signalling costs had been over-estimated and took into account the main line between Itchingfield Junction and Horsham. He goes on to suggest that the line might in fact have been in profit due to over-estimation of permanent way costs and failure to consider converting the line to single-track working.

In a last ditch attempt to save the line, the
parish councils along the Adur Valley initiated a passenger card survey to provide an updated picture of traffic on the line. Fifteen hundred postcard-sized cards were distributed to passengers over two-weeks in October 1965. The scheme did not receive BR's authorisation, but station staff, parish councillors and regular commuters helped distribute the cards which had to be posted back to be recorded. 450 cards were returned and the results passed to local MP, Henry Kerby, who contacted Barbara Castle, Fraser's replacement as Minister of Transport. She replied on 16 March 1966 stating that she had considered the evidence and thought it was necessary to lay on extra services for passengers travelling at peak-times. This would be done by varying the closure decision to include a condition that replacement bus services should be provided by Southdown Motor Services. The buses were usually empty and eventually withdrawn. They had been introduced on the mistaken assumption that rail commuters would automatically switch to bus transport to travel long distances, whereas in the event only those travelling to Shoreham or Brighton used them. What actually transpired was that former rail users had arranged to share cars with friends or colleagues in the short-term, before eventually acquiring their own cars, taking early retirement or moving closer to their workplaces.

The axe finally fell when it was clear that the new Labour administration would not reverse the closure policies put in place by the previous Government. After eighteen months of diesel working on the line, passenger services were withdrawn on Monday 7 March 1966. The last train was the 21.28 from Brighton to Horsham. The track was lifted soon afterwards and the signalboxes demolished, with the stations going the same way in 1969. Partridge Green station and goods yard were let to industrial concerns and eventually sold.

The Present Day.

The line's closure resulted in a build-up of road traffic on the A283 running through Steyning, Bramber and Upper Beeding, especially trucks from Shoreham. This led to calls for the construction of a bypass. The idea of a bypass linking the A2037 and A283 north-west of Steyning had been suggested in 1962 and had been included in the West Sussex Village plan for the three communities involved. The route of the bypass would have avoided the railway line altogether, requiring merely a bridge over King's Barn Lane in Steyning. However, with the closure of the line, the County Council proposed re-using the trackbed of the Steyning Line between the two stations at Bramber and Steyning, a much cheaper alternative. This was accepted by the Ministry of Transport and funding was granted.

In 1984, the local authorities along the route of the Steyning and Cranleigh Lines 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.


The Trek. 

ABOVE: At this point, the branch Line crosses the Old Shoreham Road. On the left is the original wooden toll bridge over the River Adur. This is the view looking roughly north from the southern side of the crossing.

BELOW: This is the view looking the other way, back towards the road and The Amsterdam pub, roughly due East.

ABOVE: Looking back due Nouth towards Shoreham by Sea. This stretch is just North of the Amsterdam pub.

BELOW: The track bed passes under the Shoreham flyover, which carries the A27 over the River Adur. There is clear evidence that the A27 and the track existed side by side for a while, as the span of the road bridge compensates for both the trackbed and the river. If it not, the pillar would surely have been built in the middle of the trackbed. This view is looking due North.

UPPER LEFT: The flyover looking from the North side, back due South.

ABOVE: An aerial view looking South-West: the trackbed follows the left hand edge of the river. (picture from www.deserthound.co.uk)

LOWER LEFT: Another aerial view looking North-West: the trackbed is clearly visible in the bottom right hand corner. (picture from www.geolocation.ws)

ABOVE: It's always nice to find bits and pieces hidden. We found this rail chair along with its' associated fixings in scrub off to one side of the track bed.

This page is


It will be continued and completed in due course, so please keep popping back.

CLICK HERE to view the photos taken by Agent Holmbush on the day