The Iron Horse rides into Valley End.

“Ri-fan, Ti-fan, mirth and fun,   

Don’t you wonder how it’s done?    

Carriages without horses run    

On the Staines to Ascot Railway.”

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The first passenger carriage in Europe; 1830, George Stephenson’s steam locomotive, Liverpool and Manchester Railway. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

Surrey has a special niche in railway history. In 1805 the first public railway in the world opened in Merstham. It carried freight, rather than people, and users not only had to bring their own wagons, but also horses to pull them, so things could only improve.

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Watercolour showing the Surrey Iron Railway, the first public railway company , passing Chipstead Valley Road. (Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

After the invention of the steam engine railways began to spread throughout Britain. In the 1840s plans were made for a track running across the Surrey heathland.

The Windsor, Staines and South Western Railway sent out letters in 1846. They explained that they would be applying to Parliament for an Act for a new railway.

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Image from the Oliver Collection held in the University of London’s Library Depository at Egham, courtesy of the trustees of the S. A. Oliver Charitable Settlement.

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Image from the Oliver Collection held in the University of London’s Library Depository at Egham, courtesy of the trustees of the S. A. Oliver Charitable Settlement.

It was passed, and cut across Chobham Common and Valley End to reach Sunningdale. The station, then called Sunningdale and Bagshot, opened on 4th June 1856.

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Sunningdale station in 1860. (Photo courtesy of J. End.)

The line went on to Wokingham, where it met a junction with the Reading, Guildford and Reigate Railway.

The introduction of rail transport changed the area. Frederick Waterer of Bagshot testified to this in 1864, when he gave evidence to a Parliamentary Commission. He claimed that the nurseries around Bagshot had thrived with the help of the trains to move their stock.

They were discussing a Bill for the Sunningdale and Cambridge Town (Camberley) Railway, which failed a couple of years later.

The Staines, Egham, and Woking Railway also attempted to build a line across the Common in 1864. If this had been successful it may have completely changed the face of Chobham. Denis Le Marchant argued that  -“There are about 4000 acres of waste land around Chobham which I should think is very well calculated for building purposes…(I) Have no doubt if railway communication were made that those sites would be taken advantage of by builders.”

Sunningdale Station lies just outside the parish boundary. At the other side of Valley End is another station, Longcross.

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Longcross was built during World War II for the military base on the Common. It wasn’t opened to the public until 1942.

It is at present one of the few stations in Britain that is not accessible by road. If you can’t go through the site of the Tank Factory, it can only be reached by a muddy footpath.

This led one user to describe it rather uncharitably as “Longcross, the least useful train station in the country.”

That should be changing soon. A business park and village is being built there, bringing new changes to an old line.

 

“You can send your butter and cheese

At any time whenever you please.

You can send your hens and eggs,

And them can ride as has no legs,

On the Staines to Ascot Railway.”

 

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Sources.

“The Railway in Surrey.” Alan A. Jackson. Atlantic Transport 1999.

“Surrey railways remembered.” Leslie Oppitz. Pub. Leslie Oppitz 1988.

Discover Longcross. http://www.discoverlongcross.co.uk/

Digital Spy. http://forums.digitalspy.co.uk/showthread.php?t=499694

S. A. Oliver Collection.

“Chobham. The rival railway schemes.” West Surrey Times Saturday 7 May 1864.

Iron horse” is an old term for a steam locomotive.

(The verses are adapted from “The Oxford and Hampton Railway.”)

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