Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Epsom Downs Railway Station is built in Surrey

Epsom Downs Railway Station is built in Surrey

These race day specials to Epsom town station were not enough to cope with demand, however, and in 1861 the LB&SCR decided to build a special line for the racecourse. The 4 mile dual line left the mainline at Sutton, heading south on a steep gradient to negotiate a succession of cuttings, embankments and towering bridges to clamber up on to the summit of the Downs and end just 200 yards from the racecourse.

Predictably business was slack on most days of the year, with only 30 passengers buying tickets for the average day. On race days, however, things were very different. For the race meeting of May 1865 which lasted just 6 days no less than 70,000 people passed through Epsom Downs station. On top of that there were hundreds of horses and truckloads of tackle, fodder and other necessary gear. To cope with all this movement, the station had nine platforms, five sidings, a coal stage, a tank house and a turntable. There were also three signal boxes, manned only on race days, to handle the huge number of trains and the movements that they involved.

What did not exist was a proper station building as the rail company had not thought it cost-effective to build one for the few days it would be used. Instead there was a small building where tickets could be purchased and some awning that was put up on race days. Temporary marquees were put up on the Downs adjacent to the station where travellers could buy food and drink. Thousands of pints of beer were sold and vast quantities of sandwiches and other snacks served to the race goers as they passed through.

In 1890 the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, began using Epsom Downs Station arriving on the Royal Train. That encouraged the LB&SCR to start laying on First Class only race day specials composed exclusively of Pullman coaches. Less exalted passengers arrived in more modest carriages.

from "How the Steam Railways came to Surrey [Kindle Edition]" by Rupert Matthews.

Get your copy HERE

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