Southern Railway


Opened: 1932

Closed: 1986

Location code: S36/04

General view of Grove JunctionJust south of Tunbridge Wells, on the former South Eastern Railway's Tonbridge - Hastings route, the line bursts forth from a tunnel and passes what is now "the site of" Grove Junction. This view, taken from above the tunnel mouth on a November evening, shows the single-line branch, which connected with the LB&SC's Tunbridge Wells West station, curving off to the right.

In the vee of the junction is the small cabin that worked this junction.

Grove Junction signal boxIn rather brighter conditions, a closer view of Grove Junction box shows it to be quite a small and simple structure.

By expected standards, this was not an old box, having been erected by the Southern Railway in 1932. Quite what necessitated the renewal of the box here at that date isn't clear, but it is interesting to compare insignificant locations such as this with the grand structures built by the Southern Railway only a few years later - such as Dorking. Boxes like that, in the public eye at main stations, and often erected in connection with electrification and its related service improvements, were built to what may be called excessive standards, whilst small locations had little more than a shed!

Notice, on the front wall of the box, an enormous board attempting to declare the name of the box through several year's accumulation of brake dust. Nameboards of this size were a feature adopted by the Southern Railway from London & South Western practice.

Collecting the token from the driverThe single-line between Grove Junction and Tunbridge wells West "B" was worked by Electric Key Token, and here we see the signalman collecting the token (in its leather carrying pouch) from the driver as the Eridge to Tonbridge train passes.

Until the late 1950's, this line had been worked by the Train Staff and Ticket system, using Walker's block instruments as illustrated at Rye.

At the time of these views (1970's) signalling on the double-track main line was Track Circuit Block to Tonbridge power box (with an intermediate cabin at Tunbridge Wells Central Goods which opened only when needed) and also on to Wadhurst.

Grove Junction signal box And a few seconds later, the signalman is again snapped by the camera, returning to his cabin to place the token in his instrument and send "Train Out Of Section".

The box was provided with a seventeen-lever Evans & O'Donnell frame (see Merstham for an illustration) controlling the layout.

The Hastings line was always bedevilled with clearance problems (necessitating special-sized trains to be built for it) and during the 1980's steps were taken to alleviate this. On 20th April 1985, the track through Strawberry Hill tunnel (south of Grove Junction) was singled and this introduced additional signalling here.

On 6th July 1985, the passenger service to Tunbridge Wells West and Eridge was withdrawn, but the branch was retained for a while for empty stock movements.

The main line was electrified and electric services to Hastings commenced on 4th April 1986, but just a few days later, on the 19th, Grove Junction box was abolished.

Additional notes by James Palk and Nick Wellington.

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All photographs copyright © John Hinson unless otherwise stated