Branch Line Britain - celebrating Britain's minor railways

Southern - Redhill review 1

Guildford railway station

21/9/08   Redhill to Guildford

Dept Redhill: 11.20   Arrive: Guildford 11.48

Weather: sunny

Cost of ticket: £11.80 (cheap day return Gatwick Airport to Reading) 

Length of line: 21 miles (double track all the way)

Traction used: Class 166 3-car DMU (Network Express Turbo)

Train operating company: First Great Western

Usually this train starts from Gatwick Airport, but as there is engineering works on platforms 1 and 2 there today, the train starts from Redhill. In fact it comes in ECS from the north - possibly stabled further up the line at Selhurst? Redhill station is a pleasant enough station with three platforms, two of them on an island. We leave dead on time at 11.20 and the train is quite full. Soon after departing we leave the Brighton line on left and pass empty carriage sidings on the right, curving right into a short cutting and then we pass houses on both sides. We pull away uphill slowly and go into a wooded cutting. Then more houses appear as we slow for Reigate station, which is the limit for the electrified third rail on this line. It has the original red brick station building on the right, containing a cafe, whilst on left is a large perspex shelter. We move away into a low cutting, before emerging into the countryside. There are gentle slopes with sheep grazing nearby and higher slopes in the distance, covered in woodland on the right. Some fields have been newly harvested and you can see the wheat bales drying in the sun. We pass Betchworth Station, which has a perspex shelter on the right hand side platform. Then we move out into the countryside again. We enter another cutting, and then see more gentle slopes with cows grazing on the right. Beyond that is Box Hill, which is the highest piece of ground for miles around. We now go onto an embankment and pass over the Leatherhead to Horsham line, before slowing for Dorking Deepdene station. It has blue painted grilled shelters on both platforms, which are quite unusual, though it is a rather plain station. We enter another cutting before arriving at Dorking West station. It has two perspex shelters on its platforms. We then come out again into pleasant countryside again, running parallel with the North Downs Way to the right of us. We pass several caravans on the right, then come into Gomshall station, which has a red brick, box-like original station building. We speed up again, reaching about 60 mph and the track is quite smooth here as we enter another cutting. There is a large slope on left and a cutting of bracken on the right. As it recedes you can see horses grazing on the right, whilst woods are all you can see on the left. It's quite hilly again as the train moves first to the left and then to the right as it enters a succession of cuttings. We pass quite quickly through Chilworth station, but you can see that it has its original station-building house on the left side. Soon after we slow as we pass an old signal box, which indicates that we are approaching Shalford station. This has shelters again on both sides. We then go over the river Wey on a cantilever bridge, turning sharply to the right and then we meet the line from Portsmouth on the left as we reach the suburbs of Guildford. We begin to slow as we enter two tunnels in quick succession, the second one being much longer. We then emerge into a maze of tracks at the south end of Guildford station, pulling into platform 8.  

Summary: A pleasant minor line, which maintains a valuable cross-country service from Reading to Gatwick Airport.           MC