Tunbridge Wells Central Goods

Later to become a spacious goods yard, this was in fact the site of Tunbridge Wells' first passenger station. Construction of the branch from Tonbridge (formerly ''Tunbridge'') to Tunbridge Wells commenced in July 1844, long before the SER received Parliamentary approval for the route. Initially, the company aimed to lay a single-track line, 5-miles and 22-chains in length, but in April 1845 the decision was taken to double the branch in its entirety. Earthworks were heavy, and involved making numerous cuttings through rock layers, in addition to forming embankments; half a million cubic yards of soil/rock were moved in the process. 44 chains south of the junction with the main line at Tonbridge, a 420-yard-long tunnel was bore, called ''Vauxhall''. This latterly became ''Somerhill Tunnel'', which took its name from the nearby ''Somerhill Park'', the site of a manor house and extensive gardens owned by James Alexander Esquire. Over 1⅓ miles south of Vauxhall Tunnel, the line required a viaduct: this was 270-yards long, 40-feet-high, and comprised 26 brick arches.

On 31st July 1845, Royal Assent was received for the Tunbridge Wells branch, the latter of which was already nearing completion and soon to open. Parliament had authorised a capital of £180,000 to be raised through shares, and gave the SER power to borrow a further £60,000 in loans. The line opened to traffic on 20th September 1845, and terminated on Tunbridge Wells' northern outskirts at the locality ''Jackwood Spring''. Rails were laid in 15-foot lengths, weighed 72 lbs to the yard, and the track set in ballast 2-feet deep. Triangular sleepers of Memel timber, 8-feet long by 13½-inches by 6¾-inches, were attached to the rails by means of joint chairs and intermediate chairs. These were of 27 lbs and 20 lbs weight respectively and of Messrs. Ransome and May's patent.

Even before the opening of the line, it had always been the SER's intention to use the Jackwood Spring site for a goods yard. When traffic commenced along the branch on 20th September 1845, the headings for the 823-yard-long ''Wells Tunnel'' had already been driven. The temporary terminus lied 4 miles 7 chains from the junction with the main line, and was equipped with turntables to avoid tender-first running back to Tonbridge. Pointwork at Jackwood Spring was of Bramah & Fox's patent. On 25th November 1846, the line was finally opened through to the permanent Tunbridge Wells station, where the site of a brewery had been purchased by the SER for its construction. The turntables at Jackwood Spring were abolished, and by 1865 the site had been mostly developed into the form it took until closure, over a century later. Two huge brick-built goods sheds, both at least two storeys high, were erected on the ''down'' side of the line, about 350-yards north of Wells Tunnel. The larger of the two measured about 45-feet by 105-feet and accommodated a single-track. The second shed, which lacked rail access, was situated just south of its aforementioned counterpart, and measured about 60-feet by 10-feet. The traffic dealt with here was predominantly coal, and connections were made with two such private yards, both on the ''down'' side of the layout, north and south of the goods sheds. Connections were also made with the works of the ''Tunbridge Wells Electric Light Company'' and a local council yard.

In 1883, an effort was made to link residential development east and west of the yard with a road bridge. This became known as ''Grosvenor Bridge'', and carried a public road for a distance of about 550-feet, upon three plate-girder spans across the yard tracks. The bridge was designed by William Brentnall, who had been appointed Surveyor and Waterworks Engineer for Tunbridge Wells in 1870. Grosvenor Bridge remained in its original form until 1968, when it was rebuilt with box girders, measuring 8-feet high by 2-feet wide.

Early 1970s

The delightful signal box was designed by the SER and was wholly of clapboard construction, with a hipped slated roof and that company's trademark sash-style windows. © Roger Goodrum

Early 1970s

This view shows the two huge goods sheds which once stood at the southern end of the yard. The pair survived into the 21st century, but were finally bulldozed in 2007 when the area was given over to residential development. © Roger Goodrum

Early 1970s

A northward view shows a Class 207 DEMU passing under Grosvenor Bridge (as rebuilt in 1968). © Roger Goodrum