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The Southern Era - 1923-1948



'The Grouping' as it came to be known saw The LBSCR merge with the South Eastern & Chatham Railway and the London & South Western Railway, as well as several smaller companies, to form the Southern Railway, one of the Big Four. For a while, little changed, although gradually LBSC fixtures and fittings began to disapear to be replaced by the roundel of the Southern. At Litlington, a new 'White Horse' was cut in 1924 to replace the original which had become overgrown (1), whilst the Brickworks at Laughton reached their peak of production.


The Grouping also saw new stock work the line - with former SECR locomotives, particularly James Stirling's O Class and Harry Wainwright's 0-4-4T H Class becoming common, the latter continuing the 'Motor Train' trend of the early part of the century, with Push-Pull working dominating on the route. Coaching stock too changed - one of the main policies of Robert Maunsell, the first Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Southern Railway, early in his tenure, was to standardise the wide variety of coaching stock he had inherited, which would eventually lead to stock originating from the former rivals of the LBSC featuring regularly on the line. Late in the 1920's, with further suburban electrification, came the first regular 'standard' services, rather than Push-Pull workings, with Billinton's E4 Class 0-6-2 Tanks, as well as former SECR 'Birdcage' Coaching stock, to accomodate the growing tourist visitors to Alfriston and Litlington in particular, with the locomotive using the loop at Litlington, previously the main preserve of the Ballast and Gravel workings, to run around - locomotive 2562, once named Laughton, performing the first run.


Things, however, would not be so rosy for ever - a change in policy resulted in the shingle no longer being used for ballast from 1932 (3) although extraction continued for use in construction, including new Coastal defences at the Haven, whilst the Great Depression also saw the end of the Brickworks at Laughton (4), although it did not bite as hard in the South East as in other areas. The 30's soon gave way to war again - with troop and munitions trains again operating down the branch towards the coast - this time with the added problems caused by the Luftwaffe, with Laughton struck by a Doodlebug with tragic consqeunces and Berwick suffering bomb damage - many of the windows in the church were blown out (5) and the Cuckmere Line station also damaged in the blast.


Repairs were completed soon after the end of the war, whilst the line also enjoyed troop trains again, with the returning soldiers retracing the route they had taken years earlier on their way to demobilisation. By the end of 1947, things were again back to normal - only for the formation of British Railways to bring further changes.




1 - http://www.hows.org.uk/personal/hillfigs/littling/littlin.htm

2 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Railway_(UK)#Carriages

3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_Coastway_Line#Crumbles_Branch

4 - http://sussex.villagenet.co.uk/laughton.php

5 - http://sussex.villagenet.co.uk/berwick.php


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