Spa Valley Railway
Heritage steam and diesel trains run for 5½ miles through the picturesque Kent and Sussex Weald between the mainline junction at Eridge and the spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells, stopping off in between at Groombridge and High Rocks. Take a journey through time along this classic English Branch Line.
The railways grew up fast across Great Britain during the 19th and early 20th century. The train was a popular mode of transport and allowed many, for the first time, to explore other towns and cities. Tunbridge Wells had two stations built by rival companies; Tunbridge Wells Central, opened in 1845 by the South Eastern Railway, which is now the sole mainline station, and Tunbridge Wells West, which was opened by the London Brighton & South Coast Railway in 1866. This latter is the headquarters of today's Spa Valley Railway. Around1876, these two stations were linked by a tunnel enabling connections between the London to Brighton and the London to Hastings lines. From Tunbridge Wells West there were direct services to the South coast at Brighton and Eastbourne and north-bound to London Victoria.
Passing into the ownership of the Southern railway in 1923, the route became a very popular cross country link with over 100 trains passing a day. Following nationalisation of the railways in 1948, Groombridge station was re-signalled a decade later, and steam finally gave way to diesel multiple units in the mid 1960s. Gradually lines began to close all around with the Eridge to Hailsham branch (the Cuckoo Line) in 1965, East Grinstead to Groombridge in 1967, and then Uckfield to Lewes in 1969. Unfortunately as the popularity of the motor-car increased, train services were severely cut back due to the lack of patronage and the Tunbridge Wells to Eridge section closed on 6th July 1985. The story of this latter-day closure (the first in the area since the "Beeching Cuts" of the 1960s) can be found in our Line Closure section.
Following closure and a hastily-convened meeting in Groombridge village hall, a charitable society was quickly established to fight for the reopening of the Tunbridge Wells to Eridge line. The group, blissfully unaware of the fact that anyone would use such an acronym to poke fun at them, named itself the "Tunbridge Wells and Eridge Railway Preservation Society" (TWERPS). The next few years were a long, hard struggle against the ravages of vegetation, disinterest and outright hostility from some quarters, but in 1994, with a generous loan from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, the society acquired the line and by winter 1996 they were running trains 1/2 a mile of track towards Groombridge, hauled by RSH 0-6-0T "North Downs". This was helped by a merger between TWERPS and the North Downs Steam Railway at Dartford, whose own long story is told elsewhere. Suffice to say the TWERPS had both the railway and the people who didn't have the first idea about how to run it, and the NDSR had the trains and people who pretended to know how they worked. It was an arranged marriage made in Heaven, and the Spa Valley Railway was born.
The Spa Valley Railway is a fun day out in itself, but for added variety there are things to do at or from each of our stations.
Join the train at Eridge and break your journey at Groombridge for:
A classic old-world village with an ancient pub and green,
Groombridge Place Gardens and Enchanted Forest (joint tickets available),
Village cricket and free children's playground next to the station.
Country walks to High Rocks, Tunbridge Wells, or back to Eridge.
Alight at High Rocks for:
Ancient sandstone outcrops and country walks,
Country pub with large garden - ideal to sit and watch the trains go by!
Stay on to Tunbridge Wells for
The historic Spa town,
The Pantiles, High Street and Chalybeate Spring,
At Tunbridge Wells West, a miniature railway runs parallel to the engine shed, offering rides to our younger visitors. It runs most Saturdays.
Spa Valley Railway, West Station, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN2 5QY
Telephone: 01892 537715
Disclaimer: The information on this leisure attraction was presented with the best of intentions. Any reported errors will be corrected immediately. People interested in contacting the above leisure attraction should confirm for themselves the accuracy of any data presented.
Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015