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1948 to Beeching and Beyond


dseagull

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British Railways was formed from the Big Four in 1948, with, again, little except signage and numbers on rolling stock changing for the Cuckmere Valley Railway. During the 1950's, the tourists began to drift away - tempted by other parts of the network, with the era of the Holiday Camp in full swing.

 

Still the little railway soldiered on - but in 1963 came a double whammy which the railway would not recover from - firstly the famous and feared report of Dr Richard Beeching recommended the line for closure to passenger traffic - declining receipts blamed despite a local campaign to save the line, with some of the descendants of the original backers involved in an at-times bitter campaign. Freight too was on the decline, but the appetite of the construction industry for ballast - ironically to increase the road-building programme to replace railways all over the country - kept the gravel and shingle extraction going, which would have been enough to preserve the branch as a freight only line.

 

It was not to be. A year after the withdrawal of passenger service, the East Sussex Transport And Trading Company ceased trading (1), cutting the need for the line dramatically. This time it was the end, and full closure was complete by January 1965. Perhaps as a result of their main transportation method ending, the Ludlay Brick and Tile Company at Berwick closed in 1965 (2). Of the Stations, Litlington, Alfriston, Laughton and Berwick passed quickly into private ownership, following demolition and removal of track, whilst the halt at Ripe, a wooden structure, quickly became derelict and was dismantled in early 1970. The trackbed, too, was sold off piecemeal, mostly to local farmers who re-incorporated it into the same fields that their ancestors had seen severed a hundred years previously, whilst new housing at Alfriston, Berwick and Laughton removed all but the faintest traces of the line in those villages. The freight-only section from Litlington to the coast also reverted to its natural state - with the Cuckmere Haven becoming a popular tourist attraction in its own right.

 

Isfield, however, after initially facing a similar fate, had a far happier ending - the Wealden Line had been closed in 1969 after another, more drawn out battle between local residents and what had now become British Rail (3). The station was purchased at auction by Dave and Gwen Millham (4), and restoration to former glory began immediately afterwards, with track relaid along the route of the line towards Uckfield. What had now became known as the Lavender Line passed into the ownership of the Lavender Line Preservation Society in 1991, with remaining artifacts, including original Station nameboards, of several Cuckmere Valley Line stations displayed in a small museum in the restored Signal Box. Things would come full circle in November 2011, when 'Rileys Railway' opened to the public alongside Platform 3 at Isfield (5) - meaning that once again, and although much smaller, trains run along a tiny part of the route of the Cuckmere Valley Railway.

 

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('Rileys Railway' at the Lavender Line, Isfield)

 

Sources;

 

1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuckmere_Haven#History

2 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berwick,_East_Sussex#Berwick_industry

3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wealden_Line#Public_enquiry

4 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender_Line#Restoration

5 - http://www.lavender-line.co.uk/news/newsarchive/news-20.htm

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