Railways Serving The Epsom Hospital Cluster


Postcard View of Horton Lane
Postcard View of Horton Lane
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

Part One: The Line That Never Happened


Shortly before the London County Council (LCC) completed the purchase of the Horton Estate for the construction of the Epsom Mental Hospital Cluster in November 1896, the Horton Asylum Sub Committee was formed to manage the estate and to determine the best way of delivering equipment and building materials to the site of the first major work to be undertaken, that being the construction of Horton Asylum itself.

The problem they faced was that the estate was situated nearly two miles from Epsom and accessed only by what were then very minor roads. By December they decided the best option would be to build a light railway line which would connect with the existing London & South Western Railway line to Epsom south of the station now known as Ewell West. This would enable deliveries to be made direct - an easier, quicker and cheaper option than having to unload deliveries made mainly to the old Epsom station in the Upper High Street (see also Epsom Heritage page) which would then have to be re-loaded onto a horse and cart before being slowly hauled through Epsom itself and out on to country lanes unfit for purpose.

Postcard view of a busy Epsom Town Centre
Postcard view of a busy Epsom Town Centre
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

Plans for the proposed line were submitted in January 1897 and at the time was seen as a long term proposition, the intention being to use it to deliver stores once construction work had finished. There was an option of serving the future institution later known as St Ebba's en route. The line was circuitous as it had to avoid an orchard (now the housing in Revere Way) and Epsom Urban District Council's Sewage Farm (now Longmead Housing and Industrial Areas) before entering the Horton Estate at its easternmost point near the current Baker's Field Recreation Ground. It would then turn south west and cross Hook Road by bridge east of what is now Horton Farm to reach the back of the proposed site near the current Southfield Park School. The land needed for the line all belonged to Augustus Gadesden who wanted £7,500 for the 40 acres required. As £10,000 had been earmarked for the railway in total, the Asylum Committee baulked at Mr Gadesden's figure and attempted to negotiate as well as consider alternatives.

The scheme that found favour was to swap some fields in the north west corner of the Sewage Farm for part of the Horton Estate. Not only did this reduce the amount of land needed to be bought down to under 18 acres, it shortened the route and would allow some properties that had inadvertently become within LCC territory to revert to being within Epsom. A branch was added at the Horton end enabling materials to also be delivered to the front of the building, as well as providing an option to be extended to serve the proposed Power Station and the ongoing conversion of the former Manor House into an Asylum. This revised plan was accepted by Epsom Council in May 1897 and by the LCC the following July, subject to Home Office approval.

Proposed Railways to Horton Asylum - Click image to enlarge
Proposed Railways to Horton Asylum - Click image to enlarge
Key Blue Area = LCC Land
Green Area = Ewell Parish
White Area = Epsom Parish
Hook Road then known as 'Kingston Lane'
Horton Farm then known as 'New Farm'

Although this approval was given, Epsom Council subsequently had doubts as to whether the LCC had the legal power to exchange the land and the LCC's Solicitor agreed. So Epsom asked to be indemnified by the LCC in case the transaction was found to be outside the law, which the Solicitor felt the LCC would in itself be acting outside the law by giving them this indemnity. To enable the exchange to take place, Parliamentary Powers would be required so the matter was referred for inclusion under the General Powers Bill for the next Parliamentary Session. As this wasn't until the following November, with debates from all parties to then be considered before Royal Assent given, the project was substantially delayed.

During this hiatus, the construction of Long Grove Road, a useful cut-off route, was about to take place which would reduce the journey by half a mile as well as relieving the other roads of much traffic. This was felt to be adequate to deal with supplies after construction was completed, so the railway, originally seen as a long-term proposition, was now seen only as a temporary measure.

Worse was to follow; once the LCC's Engineer had seen the revised plan, he felt he needed to immediately inform the LCC that the proposed cost of the line would be double what they had anticipated. This was mainly due to the cost of building a bridge over Hook Road and having to build a retaining wall through the Sewage Farm as the strip of land they intended to acquire was too narrow to support the line. Could Hook Road be crossed on the level and could extra land be gained to avoid building the retaining wall?

Epsom Council, in view of the resentment they already felt towards the Epsom Hospital Cluster in the first place, felt they needed to harden their stance to protect their interests. Firstly they refused the line to cross Hook Road on the level unless the LCC guaranteed them indemnity should there be an accident; secondly, if more land was needed, they insisted on receiving £1 per week rent for loss of crops plus an agreement to reinstate the land once the temporary line had been withdrawn. The London & South Western Railway requested that the physical connection to their line be moved to within the area controlled by their signal box at Ewell West to save the cost of providing additional signals, so consequently the Horton line would run parallel to the LSWR a short distance before diverging south of the orchard as before.

Despite this, the LCC's Works Manager still felt the work could be carried out cheaper and quicker if the line was built. The revised cost was given as £6,600 in construction and £2,000 for land, so was now within budget with enough left over to buy rolling stock. With all issues resolved, the line received Royal Assent in August 1899 and was ready to be built.

By this time, preliminary work at Horton had already started. It was soon decided to further delay line construction pending certain investigations, and justifiably so. By November, the LCC's Finance Committee announced that the £350,000 originally allocated for the construction of Horton was likely to be exceeded by £106,000, an enormous overspend in those days. Furthermore, the bulkiest deliveries and equipment were all expected to be completed by the following February, so by the time the line would have been built its main purpose would have been significantly reduced and no longer financially justifiable, especially in view of the anticipated overspend. The proposed line to Horton was therefore never built.

It is worth adding that had the original scheme taken place, i.e. by negotiating the land cost and doing away with the legal ramifications and delays involved in trying to swap lands, the line could well have been up and running in time for construction and before the overspend became apparent. Ultimately, the overspend was significantly less than feared, but by that time Epsom and its roads started to suffer from what was to be known as 'Extraordinary Traffic' and although the LCC agreed to pay compensation for wear and tear at the rate of 3d (1p) per ton for this, the local's resentment multiplied.


Part Two: The Ewell & Long Grove Railway


By July 1903, Manor Asylum, Horton Asylum, the Power Station and the Ewell Epileptic Colony (latterly known as St Ebba's) had all been completed. Despite having the legal power to do so, the LCC continued to shelve plans to build railway connections to aid in their construction due to the overspend on Horton, so the residents of Epsom continued to suffer from Extraordinary Traffic. Furthermore, an additional problem emerged during this period - the increasing use of Steam Traction Engines to haul the loads. Although they were far more efficient when compared to a horse and cart, they were noisier, heavier and caused far more damage to the roads. So before work started on the next (and largest) project - the massive Long Grove Asylum - the charge for Extraordinary Traffic by horse and cart was increased to 5d per ton, or 6d per ton by Traction Engine.

The LCC awarded the contract for the foundations to an outside contractor, Charles Wall of Chelsea, in September 1903. He was quite happy to pay the additional 1d to take advantage of a Traction Engine's greater performance and as a consequence the problem of Extraordinary Traffic significantly worsened. Residents along the roads affected signed petitions against their use, to widen Hook Road and to build a light railway. Supporting protestations were made by the Epsom Ratepayers Association. Epsom Council put restrictions on the hours Traction Engines could operate, much to the annoyance of the contractors who now felt that they would not be able to complete their work on time, especially as work was being delayed due to poor weather.

With the situation approaching gridlock, it was decided to make tenders for Long Grove's superstructure an 'Umbrella Contract' to include all remaining works and that these had to be completed within 2½ years due to the urgent need for hospital accommodation. Crucially, a clause was included to enable the contractor to put down their own railway connection. This freed the obligation of the LCC to build the line, one they were unlikely to take up given their overspend.

This contract was ultimately awarded to Foster & Dicksee of Rugby in October 1904, who felt a light railway connection would be essential to enable them to complete the work in the time specified.

The Foster & Dicksee Downside Construction Team at Wolferton Royal Station, circa 1897
The Foster & Dicksee Downside Construction Team at Wolferton Royal Station, circa 1897
Image courtesy of www.wolfertonroyalstation.co.uk

The provision of a light railway still had to be met with the approval of the local authority; Epsom Council stated they would not object provided the following conditions were met:
  • Operating hours would be restricted to 0500 and 1000;
  • Crossings to be lit, with gates to be kept closed across the railway and only opened to allow a train to pass;
  • Crossings were not to be used on Sundays, Good Fridays, Bank Holidays, Christmas Days or during the Spring and Summer Race Meetings - this was later increased to include the days before and after;
  • Crossings to be removed within three years, as Epsom Council would be responsible for maintaining the road/path they crossed during this time.
Until the line was completed, there would also be a ban on the use of Traction Engines, but a penalty charge of £1 per ton thereafter! To compensate, the rate per ton for horse and cart was dropped back to 3d. Ewell Parish Council felt that the railway should be fenced in on their land, whilst the Board of Trade stipulated that no passengers should be carried - this was to be a simple contractors line and the conveyance of passengers would require more sophisticated signalling, pointwork and a higher standard of permanent way.

Once all conditions had been agreed, Foster & Dicksee spent £10,000 on the 41 acres of land needed for the line which was to be officially known as the Ewell & Long Grove Railway. As before, this would be of standard gauge enabling wagons to be delivered from the main line direct, but built on a lightweight permanent way to keep costs down. This meant using small industrial locomotives as they were comparatively strong for their size, weight and fuel consumption.

Unlike the previous aborted scheme, the route left the main line in a northerly direction running behind the course of the current Gibraltar Crescent where a small loco shed was built. It then ran quite close to Chessington Road, north of the previous scheme, before entering the Horton Estate at the same point as the original version, i.e. near the current 'Bakers's Field' Recreation Ground. Instead of then turning south west to reach Horton, it continued in a north-easterly direction across the Chesssington Road/Hook Road bridle path and over the fields beyond; the route at this point was subsequently amended to run directly behind the houses being built along Chessington Road (Link to WestEwellHistory1.html) to avoid lands under cultivation as far as possible. It then turned inland opposite Heatherside Road before crossing Hook Road on the level, north of the junction with Horton Lane. Turning south through what is now a golf course and entering the current Horton Country Park, the line ran alongside Great Wood and into the site of Long Grove near the current John Watkin Close and Nelson Walk; the total distance was approximately 1½ miles.

The 'Ewell and Long Grove Railway'
The 'Ewell and Long Grove Railway'
Click image to enlarge
Key Blue Area = LCC Land
Green Area = Ewell Parish
White Area = Epsom Parish

The line had to be constructed before any work on Long Grove could take place, so groundwork started promptly in January 1905 using 200 men. Up to 900 additional workers were made available between February and April under a scheme to recruit members of the London unemployed; the LSWR provided a special additional train for them with half their 4 shillings (20p) weekly return fare paid by Foster & Dicksee.

By April, a connection from the main line and a set of Exchange Sidings south of Ewell West had been installed. This is where the swap between main line locomotives and the ELGR locomotives would take place, and wagons shunted into the required order if need be. Once the rest of the groundwork was complete, tracklaying to Long Grove was now possible, with materials being delivered direct by rail to the Exchange Sidings. From here, the ELGR's first locomotive, No.1519 'Hollymoor' (built in 1901 by Manning Wardle of Hunslet and classified as an 0-6-0 K-class Saddle Tank) delivered these materials progressively nearer its destination, having recently finished similar work at Hollymoor Hospital near Birmingham, from where the loco got its name.

'Hollymoor' at the Exchange Sidings, c1905
'Hollymoor' at the Exchange Sidings, c1905
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

Due to cost and space restrictions, it was a simple out-and-back line; there was no loop to allow a locomotive to run round its train when it got to Long Grove. To avoid having the loco trapped at the buffers, wagons were generally propelled to site and hauled on the return.

Official date of completion was 8 June 1905, with a second locomotive arriving the next day; this was loco No. 947, an unnamed Class M4 0-4-0 Saddle Tank built by Peckett & Sons, Bristol, in 1902. Foster & Dicksee could now start work on Long Grove Asylum itself.

Work did not proceed without incident. Other than a crane falling down in high winds onto some completed buildings, the basic nature of the trackwork led to frequent derailments with one loco often required to winch the other back on line. Complaints that trains were running outside operating hours and that crossing gates were being left open were reported. Tragically, a fatality occurred on 27 February 1906 when a local woman, Mary Tobin, was run over by a train at Hook Road crossing. The gates had been left open. The locomotive was propelling 12 trucks from the rear and the lookout, who should have been on the first truck, was on the fifth as the first four were sheeted over. Despite the train whistling as it approached the crossing, Mary was slightly deaf so might not have heard it.

Foster & Dicksee were found guilty of neglect. It was decided that a gate was to be placed across the road, as the existing gates opened onto the field and so did not seal off the road even when closed. Trains would be required to stop before crossing and should be preceded by a man with a red flag. Trains should not cross Hook Road at speeds greater than 4 mph and the gates were to be closed immediately after a train had passed. The Police were to assist in seeing that all regulations were strictly observed.

Despite the criticisms of their railway operations, the actual construction of Long Grove Asylum was completed ahead of schedule thereby gaining Foster & Dicksee a bonus. It still officially opened as planned on 15 June 1907, after which the line was no longer in operational use. Their only obligation now was the removal of the trackwork over the three crossings by July 24 1908. During this time 'Hollymoor' was sold, but the Peckett loco retained - privately Foster & Dicksee were in discussion with the LCC with regard to making a permanent line so were in no rush to remove the track.

With a month to go before the deadline, a meeting was held between Epsom Council and Mr Dicksee when he confirmed that these discussions had taken place and offered the sale of land used by the line near the north west end of the Sewage Farm for a nominal sum as it was proposed to divert this part of the line as part of an expanded system. He also requested, and was given, an extra three weeks to remove the crossings whilst the matter was being considered - besides, they had yet to move their plant and machinery off site - but with the crossings still in place despite the extended deadline, Epsom Council decided to remove the rails from the crossings and sent Foster & Dicksee the bill. Although Epsom Council and its residents had seen the advantage of having a railway connection - particularly with regard to reducing the amount of Extraordinary Traffic - they were not happy with the idea of Foster & Dicksee operating it. In a bid to appease, Foster & Dicksee offered to build an underpass under Hook Road, but the gradient they suggested was so unrealistic that it strengthened doubts over their ability to run a railway; gates were still reported as being left open despite poor Mary's death.

Following a meeting in September 1908, the Clerk of Epsom Council told Foster & Dicksee that they were not prepared to negotiate with them further, thereby signalling the end of the brief Ewell & Long Grove Railway.


Part Three: The Horton Light Railway


In October 1908 the Asylums Committee reported to the LCC that plans for the fifth institute, 'West Park', were about to be drawn up and added that the ELGR 'was of the greatest advantage to Messrs Foster & Dicksee in the execution of their contract'. They felt that a similar railway connection to West Park would enable better terms to be reached with any contractor.

They added that it would also be 'of great advantage to the Council to possess the railway as a permanent line'. Apart from delivering goods to the various sites, its main long-term benefit would be for the supply of coal to the Power Station, the demand for which would increase following the completion of West Park. A financial comparison was made - a ton of coal delivered by rail to the nearest siding and road haulage from there would cost 1s1½d (6p) per ton, as compared to 3d (1p) per ton by utilising a connecting railway.

Foster & Dicksee had originally tried to sell them the line and carry out some work for a total of £9,450 before dropping their price to £9,300; however the LCC needed more work than Foster & Dicksee were prepared to undertake and Epsom Council had already stated they would no longer entertain Foster & Dicksee's involvement - an impasse was reached.

The solution - the LCC decided to buy the line from Foster & Dicksee. Having previously been constrained financially due to the overspend on Horton, it was now felt that the original intention to provide six Asylums was an over-estimate and that the completion of West Park would cater for the anticipated demand, thereby saving a substantial amount of money. The responsibility for obtaining the necessary legal consents would rest with the purchaser and in November it was confirmed that the LCC had applied for Parliamentary Powers to build the line by way of a clause to be inserted in the General Powers Bill for 1909. These powers would last five years.

Foster & Dicksee agreed to sell the line 'as was' to the LCC for £4950 in January 1909 and plans for the new line were drawn up and submitted. It was to be known as the Horton Light Railway and the LCC estimated a further £16,400 would be needed to complete the expanded system. This would initially incorporate much of the existing ELGR but diverted to the site of the future West Park, nearly three miles away. Branches would serve the Power Station (subsequently known as 'Central Station') where supplies for nearby Manor and Horton would also be unloaded, Long Grove Store Yard and St. Ebba's.

In consultation with Epsom Council, there were to be no crossings on the level, so the restrictions on operating hours and days put in for the protection of the public during the ELGR era were no longer deemed necessary. Instead, four footbridges over the line were to be provided, which were to be screened as Epsom wanted to keep the line out of sight as far as possible. For the same reason, the curve from the Exchange Sidings would be slightly altered so that the line did not run quite so close to Chessington Road where it crossed the Green Lane Stream. A gate for horses would be provided on the Chessington Road to Hook Road Bridle Path and an underpass would take the railway under Hook Road.

Satisfied that conditions would be met, Epsom Council confirmed in June 1909 they would not be objecting to the line. In the same month, having no immediate need, the unnamed Peckett Locomotive No. 947 was sold by auction from site in Ewell. Royal Assent to the General Powers Bill giving the LCC the legal right to build the line followed in August, with the sale of the line from Foster & Dicksee completed in November. However, having gained the land and legal power, work on the line could not start immediately; Horton Asylum was in urgent need of expansion and road work was required on Hook Road Bridge before an underpass could be built. Besides, the construction of West Park was still in the future and money tight - the short branch to St Ebba's branch was subsequently dropped for this reason.

Work finally started in early 1912, later than ideal. As the line would mainly be for the delivery of coal, it made sense to relocate the engine shed to Central Station so that the railway could be brought under the administration of the resident engineer based there. The Exchange Sidings were enlarged to incorporate a third loop featuring a weighbridge. It was also decided to minimise the amount of propelling moves on safety grounds; although space and financial restrictions still precluded the use of run-round loops at the end of each branch, it was instead decided to build loops preceding each one. This would allow the locomotive to haul its train for the bulk of its journey, affording the driver greater vision and doing away with the practice of having a lookout. At each loop the locomotive would be detached, run round its train, re-attach at the back, detach the appropriate wagons if required and propel these the short distance down each branch.

Composite 1930s OS Map showing the five Hospitals, Central Station  and the Horton Light Railway. Click image to enlarge
Composite 1930s OS Map showing the five Hospitals, Central Station and the Horton Light Railway
Click image to enlarge

Half a mile from the Exchange Sidings, opposite Fulford Road, was the loop and site of the junction for St Ebba's; with the construction of this branch cancelled, deliveries were to be left in this loop for collection by handcart. Once opposite Heatherside Road the line took a completely new course, following the estate boundary to further avoid lands under cultivation. This area is still open land and leads to what is now known as Hook Road Arena.

After nearly a mile was the line's major piece of engineering work, the Hook Road underpass. The roads have since been redeveloped in this area, but the original Hook Road is now part of an access road leading to a golf course car park. The bridge parapets remain although the cutting has been filled in.

The line continued west and into the wooded area of Butcher's Grove, now part of Horton Country Park. Much of the system can easily be followed from this point, the only difference being the absence of track. After nearly 1½ miles was the junction for the new Long Grove branch, again preceded by a run-round loop. This branch entered the Long Grove complex to the west of the ELGR near the current Lady Harewood Way and partly follows the course of a current footpath.

Meanwhile, the line to West Park continued south and closely followed the path that now forms part of the current Thames-Down Link. Just after 2 miles the line passed under the covered footbridge of the Chessington to Epsom (Horton Lane) footpath, now part of the Chessington Countryside Walk.

After 2¼ miles the line entered Four Acre Wood where the loop and junction for the Central Station line was situated.

'Hendon' with a coal train on the loop at Four Acre Wood, January 1938
'Hendon' with a coal train on the loop at Four Acre Wood, January 1938
Image Source: London Metropolitan Archives

The Central Station line curved off to the east and under another covered footbridge. The first half of this branch is walkable as far as the site of this footbridge, beyond which the remains of the Central Station complex can be seen across the fields having been subsequently incorporated into a Fitness Centre.

All this, including the removal of the remains of the ELGR from Heatherside Road to Long Grove, was completed by May 1913. During this time a new locomotive had been acquired following the disposal of stock from the former Metropolitan Board of Works; this was a newly repaired dark green liveried locomotive No. 994 named 'Crossness', which had previously worked on the Southern Outfall improvement scheme based at Abbey Wood and named after the nearby pumping station. This loco was built in 1904 by Andrew Barclay of Kilmarnock and was classified as an 0-4-0 Saddle Tank.

The final section to be built was from Four Acre Wood to West Park. This had the obligatory run-round loop followed by a covered footbridge carrying the Horton Lane to Chalky Lane footpath on the outskirts. It also featured the steepest gradient on the entire system, given as 1-in-40 down towards West Park restricting the amount a locomotive could haul. This gradient was not part of the original plan and was presumably the result of trying to make up time; apart from the delay in starting work on the rest of the railway, the final section into West Park could not be completed until a certain amount of work had taken place on the site itself. Unfortunately labour shortages were delaying this work; with the 5 years granted under the General Powers Act about to expire, a request for an extension of time to 1917 was agreed.

A further and more significant delaying factor was the start of the First World War in 1914. Initially Horton, then the other institutes, were turned over to the military for use as war hospitals. By November 1915 it was confirmed that work on West Park had completely stopped but would resume within one year after peace being declared. The war lasted longer than expected and by the end of 1917 it was necessary to use the line to take away the builder's plant, timber and other materials belonging to the contractors for Government purposes.

The war finally ended in November 1918 and the Estate slowly returned to its original purpose. By October 1920 it was decided to resume construction at West Park and the final section of line to the Water Tower (fortunately preserved) with a short siding leading to a goods shed alongside was completed in February 1921.

Construction of West Park looking north
Construction of West Park looking north, with the
covered footbridge visible on the left c1921
Image Courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

For the next three years much of the HLR traffic consisted of materials and equipment bound for West Park. However the rest of the line and locomotive were in a poor state; 500 replacement railway sleepers were purchased at the end of 1922 and by the end of 1923 it was necessary to send 'Crossness' to the Southern Railway works at Eastleigh for repair. Nevertheless, West Park was completed within the anticipated three years, officially opening on 20 June 1924.

Whilst this was taking place, two extensions to the railway were under consideration. Firstly Surrey County Council planned to build a Road Depot just beyond the Exchange Sidings and proposed to connect this to the Horton Railway system in July 1921. Discussions took place for two years but ultimately the scheme was not proceeded with as consent was required from Epsom Council which SCC were unable to obtain. Secondly, it was revealed at an Epsom Council meeting of May 1924 that consideration was being given to extending the line from Central Station to Manor and Horton, but that nothing could happen in the current financial year (i.e. to April 1925) and even then it would be quite a while before a plan could be drawn up. This scheme was ultimately abandoned due to the cost of building the necessary underpass under Horton Lane and the inconvenience of then unloading coal and supplies at sub-surface level.

The line then entered its peak period. Since West Park's opening and the extension of lighting at Manor the demand for electricity had increased. The average amount of coal and coke delivered to the Power Station and Long Grove Estate Glass houses during this period reached a peak of 15,000 tonnes per year, whilst average quantities of stores to all institutes had increased to 4,000 tonnes.

On account of this extra work, Mr I.A.E. Mottram, who as foreman engineer at Central Station was responsible for the haulage of all materials on the line, had his pay increased from £5/19/6 weekly to £6/6/9 with effect from 1 April 1927, plus an unfurnished house provided and rates, taxes and water supplied free.

From this high point began the era of decline. By the end of the 1920's the local roads had all been improved and the use of motor vehicles had become widespread; by 1930 deliveries to St. Ebba's were now mainly by road. A bigger threat to the future of the Horton Railway was the decision to stop generating electricity from the Power Station. Much of the equipment was in need of renewal and demand was expected to rise with the forthcoming expansion of St. Ebba's. Epsom had recently been connected to the National Grid and was therefore now able to provide a secure source of supply. It was felt that this would be more economical in the long term and during August 1935 the Power Station generated electricity for the last time. As a consequence, demand for coal dropped and with it came a further reduction in the number of trains on the HLR.

By 1935 it was decided that 'Crossness' was so badly worn that it was only fit for scrap; it was subsequently cut up by the loco shed and replaced by locomotive No. 2046 named 'Hendon' (built by Manning Wardle in 1926 and classified as an 0-6-0 Saddle Tank) bought from C.J. Wills & Sons Ltd, contractors for the nearby St. Helier LCC Housing Estate.

During World War Two (1939 - 1945) Horton was again evacuated for wounded military, as well as a portion of the others hospitals. The line took some hits; in one attack, the engine shed was damaged but remained upright as it was supported by 'Hendon' inside. In another attack, an unexploded bomb damaged some track and exploded shortly after 'Hendon' passed by. It was decided to move an anti-aircraft gun onto the line, reportedly hauled by an external locomotive - one of the particularly lightweight P Class locomotives no.1555 is reported to have visited during this time and may have been the loco involved.

Personal memories of the line during and after World War 2 are mentioned on the Barry Alderson page. The track was already suffering from wear and tear and much needed to be replaced, but the war meant that wood was in short supply. Worn and damaged sleepers were replaced by concrete but this proved unsatisfactory due to the increased weight on the soft foundation. Replacement rails were almost unobtainable.

Crossness at the Exchange Sidings circa 1921, about to deliver Boiler Parts in connection with the construction of West Park
Crossness at the Exchange Sidings circa 1921, about to deliver Boiler Parts in connection with the construction of West Park
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum

After the war, 'Hendon' was sold to A.R. Adams of Newport despite only needing a new firebox and was replaced in March 1947 by a brand new and lighter locomotive, namely No. 7349 'Sherwood' built by Robert Stephensons and Hawthorns Limited of Newcastle. It was classified as an 0-4-0 Saddle Tank and featured a livery described as 'milk-chocolate brown with plain black lining'. It was named after the disused buildings at Central Station, which had since been converted into a hostel and workshop named 'Sherwood'. Unfortunately this locomotive proved to be a poor steamer and inferior to the loco it replaced. An appeal to the Royal Engineers to relay the track as an exercise was made, but refused. Meanwhile, the preference for using road traffic increased.

In 1948 the newly formed National Health Service took over responsibility for mental health hospitals. Newer drugs, out-patient and day hospitals were established leading to the declining use of the hospitals in their original form. Almost inevitably, it was decided to close the line in January 1950 on economic grounds. 'Sherwood' was sold to Fred Watkins Engineering, Milkwall and the line sold to G. Cohen, Sons and Co. Ltd., for £8371 who promptly hired 'Sherwood' to assist with track removal during the following April; the rail was subsequently re-used in Lagos Harbour. The honour of being the last driver fell to Thomas Ellis, who later became a member of staff at Manor Hospital having been the driver who had a narrow escape with the unexploded bomb. The connection to the main line at Ewell West was officially abolished on 20 Sept 1953, bringing an end to the era of having the Epsom Hospital Cluster directly served by a railway connection.

Plaque commemorating the HLR on the side of the original Hook Road Bridge
Plaque commemorating the HLR on the side of the original Hook Road Bridge
Image courtesy of Nick Winfield © 2013

An annual 'Days Of Steam' walk around Horton Country Park takes place in November each year; more details available from Epsom & Ewell Borough Council nearer the time on 01372 732000.

Nick Winfield
January 2013


Thanks to:
Stewart Cocker, Countryside Manager, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council
Jeremy Harte, Curator, Bourne Hall Museum, Ewell
Peter Reed, Epsom and Ewell Local and Family History Centre
Russell Wear, Archivist, Industrial Locomotive Society

Staff at London Metropolitan Archives, Surrey History Centre and the National Archives

Chris Down, R.I. Essen, the late Alan A Jackson, Vic Mitchell & Keith Smith - authors of previous works on the Horton Railways for their inspiration.

The author would like to hear from anyone with any memories, anecdotes, photos or film footage of the railway....a book is threatened. Contact Nick Winfield via the Webmaster.

HV Usill
HV Usill
Jimmy Page
Jimmy Page
Page Family
Page Family
TH Snow
TH Snow
JA Larby
JA Larby
J Harrison
J Harrison
Foundlings
Foundlings
Nonsuch Mansion
Nonsuch Mansion
New Stables
New Stables