Today, the remains of the South Eastern Railway’s (SER) former station in Woodside, a Croydon suburb, are a rather sad spectacle, at least from the roadside. Closed to the passenger traffic of the former British Rail network in 1997, perhaps it is remarkable that a sizeable portion of the 19th Century station is still with us. Boarded up windows and scars from graffiti vandals upon the erstwhile main building make for a somewhat forlorn scene, but at least this part of history still stands. Indeed, post-closure, the site has fared infinitely better than the terminus of the branch line upon which it was once situated; that to Addiscombe.
The origins of the branch line are better dealt with in the Addiscombe section, but to briefly recap, the “Mid-Kent Railway” laid the initial groundwork by opening a double-track line between Lewisham and Beckenham on 1st January 1857. The route was worked by the SER from the outset and, on 17th July 1862, Royal Assent was granted for an extension, 3-miles 40-chains in length, to Addiscombe. Also double-track, this opened to passenger traffic on 1st April 1864, the terminus being known from the outset as “Addiscombe Road”. From 16th July 1866, the “Mid-Kent Railway” ceased to exist, being fully vested into the SER.
There was no station at Woodside from the outset; however, early newspaper reports indicate that the SER initially brought into use temporary platforms here, primarily for racecourse traffic:
WEDNESDAY. - The weather to-day was again most favourable, an early frost being succeeded by a fine light winter’s day. Profiting from yesterday’s experience, when, to say the truth, the railway arrangements were somewhat inadequate, the South-Eastern and other companies took far more comprehensive measures to transport the shoals of visitors to and from the scene of the action; and the former company especially, whose route was the most favoured owing to their temporary Woodside station being within a stone’s throw of the grand stand, displayed admirable management in the speedy manner in which special after special was dispatched, under the practised supervision of their able and courteous traffic manager, M. J. Knight. [The Sporting Gazette, 30th November 1867]
On the southeastern side of the branch line was Woodside Racecourse, the closest bit of the circuit being situated about 300-yards from the running lines. The course had opened in 1866 upon former farmland, and the grand stand mentioned above was on the far side of the site, about 700-yards from the railway. A temporary Woodside station was also mentioned in the 18th March 1871 edition of The Norwood News, again in the context of a racecourse meeting.
A permanent station at Woodside, 12-miles 10-chains from Charing Cross, was finally commissioned in summer 1871. It is one of a handful of stations this website covers in which an exact date has been difficult to determine; however, based on a local newspaper report, it seems likely that the platforms came into passenger use during the first week of July that year:
The New Station At Woodside
We congratulate our Woodside neighbours upon the acquisition of regular Railway communication with the Metropolis. The South Eastern Railway Company have opened a permanent Station at Woodside which will afford facilities of direct traffic with London Bridge, Cannon Street, and Charing Cross. To the landowners of the neighbourhood the opening of this Station, of course, will be of immense pecuniary advantage, whilst the residents in immediate proximity to the Station will doubtless avail themselves of the opportunity of avoiding the disagreeable walk over London Bridge, and will use the South Eastern Railway direct to Cannon Street, in preference to the Brighton Railway to London Bridge. Indeed, we understand that several gentlemen living close to Norwood Junction are intending to adopt the walk to Woodside and the journey thence to Cannon Street, instead of the ride to London Bridge and the walk to the City.
Woodside will now rapidly increase in importance, and we may perhaps expect one day to find its inhabitants requesting to be incorporated into a town. [The Norwood News and Crystal Palace Chronicle, Saturday, 8th July 1871]
Specifics of the first permanent Woodside station, that of 1871, have been hard to come by. Maps of the period omit the platforms from the branch line, and vintage photographs and descriptions of the layout seem scarce. Your author can assume with reasonable confidence that two platform faces were in evidence from the outset, either side of the double-track. Given the year of opening, a single-storey main building of timber fabrication was also likely a feature, in light of the SER's preference by this stage of providing stations at as low a cost as possible.
The early 1880s was a busy time for those lines of the former Mid-Kent Railway. On 9th July 1880, Royal Assent was received for a 3¼-mile-long double-track line from Elmers End to Hayes, under the nominally independent "West Wickham & Hayes Railway". On 6th of the following month, a second appendix of the Addiscombe branch was authorised in the form of the "Woodside & South Croydon Railway", this of which was, in reality, a joint venture between SER and London, Brighton & South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) companies. The Woodside and South Croydon Railway, also double-track, aimed to connect the Mid-Kent Line via Elmers end with the branch to Oxted and East Grinstead, this of which diverged from the "Brighton" main line at South Croydon. A junction with the Mid-Kent Line was to be situated about 300-yards south west of Woodside station.
An Act for making a Railway from Woodside to South Croydon, in the county of Surrey; and for other purposes. [6th August 1880]
A railway two miles two furlongs nine chains and twenty links in length, situated in the parish of Croydon, commencing by a junction with the South-eastern Railway on the south-western side of a three-arched bridge which carries the footpath from Woodside Green to Strood Green Road over the said railway, and terminating by a junction with Railway No. 1 authorised by the London, Brighton, and South Coast (Croydon, Oxted, and East Grinstead Railways) Act, 1878, at Selsdon Road, otherwise Selsdon Lane, at the northernmost side thereof.
The capital of the Company shall be ninety-six thousand pounds, in nine thousand six hundred shares of ten pounds each. [Woodside and South Croydon Railway Act, 1880]
The line was brought into use for scheduled passenger traffic on 10th August 1885 with stations at Coombe Lane, situated 1-mile 57-chains from Woodside, and Selsdon Road, located at the junction with the Oxted and East Grinstead line. The latter had opened on 10th March of the previous year and was another SER and LB&SCR joint scheme. In the meantime, the branch to Hayes had opened on 29th May 1882 and, on 10th August of that year, the nominally independent “Woodside & South Croydon Railway” was formally transferred to a joint ownership between the SER and LB&SCR.
As part of the Woodside & South Croydon works, the SER rebuilt the station at Woodside. A "high-level" main building was opened facing the road, above the platforms and straddling the rails. This was an attractive single-storey cream brick structure with hipped slated roof sections and arched windows, and roofed staircases descended from the road bridge to platform level. The rebuilt station comprised three platform faces; in addition to the pair serving the main running lines, Alan A. Jackson notes in his book "London’s Local Railways" that a third platform – a south westward-facing bay – was brought into use on the "down" side for the then new service on the Woodside & South Croydon route. Jackson also specifies the station being "rebuilt in brick by the SER", perhaps giving credence to your author's earlier supposition that the original station of 1871 was a timber affair. The platforms' sides of the 1885 station were faced with timber, and upon each surface was an attractive flat-roofed canopy of generous proportions, frescoed with a clover-patterned valance. Canopies on "up" and "down" sides were about 170-feet and 230-feet in length respectively, and the same valance design can still be observed today at Maidstone West.
Siding provision at the 1885 site was minimalist. Maps dated 1895 reflect a set of trailing points on the “up” line, at the south western end of the platform, giving access to a pair of “stub” sidings, but nothing more. There is no evidence of any goods shed or coal stacks, so perhaps these sidings were used as a layover by locomotives hauling trains on the Woodside & Croydon line.
The layout was controlled by a signal box of SER design, located on the "down" side of the running lines, which sat approximately equidistant between the platform ends and Woodside Junction, where Addiscombe and Selsdon routes diverged. The signal box was of all-timber construction, with hipped slated roof and sash-style windows, and was very much like that which can still be witnessed today at Snodland.
From Monday, 1st October 1908, the station was renamed "Woodside and South Norwood". By 1912, one of the "up" side stub sidings had been lengthened in the London direction, behind the platform, to serve a coal yard. Revised connections between the sidings and "up" running line were also made.
As a wartime economy, the passenger service on the Joint Line to Selsdon Road and Sanderstead was withdrawn, but the date varies depending on the sources referenced. In his book “Southern Electric 1909-1979”, George T. Moody indicates that steam-hauled passenger services were suspended on the Joint Line from 15th March 1915 and not restarted after the war. Some other sources suggest passenger service withdrawal was enforced from 1st January 1917, coinciding with similar closures of Greenwich Park and Crystal Palace (High Level) branches. Clinker’s Register (1980) meets us half way; it lists Bingham Road Halt – a timber affair opened on the Joint Line in 1906, 57-chains from Woodside – as being closed to passengers from 15th March 1915; however, Coombe Lane gets a reprieve until 1917. The wartime closure of the Joint Line resulted in the "down" bay platform at Woodside going out of use. The Joint line remained for workings not part of the regular timetable.
The Southern Railway (SR) was swift in electrifying ex-SE&CR suburban lines, that between Victoria/Holborn Viaduct and Orpington via Herne Hill and Bromley South seeing the first scheduled eletric passenger services run from 12th July 1925. Electric trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street to Orpington via Chislehurst, to Bromley North, and Addiscombe, were due to commence on 1st December of the same year, but the SR was forced to postpone their introduction due to power supply problems:
Southern Railway Electrification: New Service Postponed
The following official statement was issued by the Southern Railway last night:–
"One of the unfortunate results of the decision arrived at under which railway companies are not permitted to erect their own power stations is shown by the fact that the opening of the next stage of the Southern Railway Company's suburban electric scheme – from Charing Cross and Cannon Street to Orpington, via Chislehurst, Bromley North, Elmers End, and Addiscombe – scheduled for Dec. 1, has had to be postponed for at least two months.
This is due to the fact that the electricity supply contractors have informed the railway company that it is not possible for them to have the necessary supply ready by Dec. 1. The Southern Railway had made all the arrangements to open on the date mentioned, and, so far as the trains and track are concerned, everything is in readiness for the services to run on that date.
A further disadvantage to the public is caused in that considerable alteration has been made to the track between Charing Cross and London Bridge in preparation for the electric working. These alterations have involved the curtailment of the steam services, which, under the altered conditions, it will not be possible to restore in full. Meanwhile the Southern Railway Company have requested the contractors to make every effort to minimise the delay, and it is hoped to inaugurate the services early in the New Year.
There is reason to believe, however, that had the Southern Railway Company been permitted to erect its own power station, the difficulty would not have arisen."
The electric timetable finally came into use on 28th February 1926. By this time, Woodside had gained the SR's distinctive Swan Neck lamps upon barley-twist posts, with "Target" name signs affixed, but the platforms continued to be faced with timber. Next was the electrification of the former Joint Line to Selsdon, which had not seen passenger services since World War I. Electric trains commenced between Charing Cross and Sanderstead, via Woodside, on 30th September 1935, with then newly-constructed SR intermediate stations at Bingham Road and Coombe Road. Your author suspects that the platforms at Woodside were at this time re-faced from timber to prefabricated concrete components and extended in the direction of the junction.
During World War II, the station was renamed. In The Railway Gazette, 20th October 1944, it was stated that “Woodside and South Norwood” had reverted to its original name of plain “Woodside” on 2nd of that month, as part of the Southern Railway’s then new timetable. Then, in the early 1950s, the “down” side canopy was shortened to the limits of the station wall, but both sides retained their intricate valances at this time.
After nationalisation, decline was on the horizon. A handful of electrified Southern Region branch lines were put under consideration for closure prior to the Beeching era. The first to go was that to Crystal Palace (High Level), the branch closing to passengers from 20th September 1954; traffic levels had never recovered to pre-war levels. By January 1963, consultations were open on withdrawal of passenger services between Haywards Heath and Horsted Keynes, and Woodside and Sanderstead. Passenger services between Haywards Heath and Horsted Keynes ceased from 28th October 1963, but those running between Woodside and Sanderstead were granted a reprieve. The latter was confirmed in the House of Commons by the then Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples, on 18th December 1963.
Public goods traffic ceased to be handled at Woodside from 30th September 1963. The subsequent lifting of the sidings facilitated the south westward extension of the platforms using prefabricated concrete components, to which were incorporated bracket lampposts of the same material. The mentioned lampposts were already present on the existing platform surfaces, replacing the SR’s Swan Neck barley twist variant some time after 1955, and the ornate clover-patterned SER canopy valances were replaced by a plain timber type.
Time eventually caught up with the Woodside to Sanderstead line and by 1983 the route was again up for closure. The last services ran on 13th May 1983 and, on 10th October of that year, a report was published on the possible conversion of the track bed into a road. The signal box at Woodside lasted a little over a year longer, closing on 10th June 1984 (ref: Southern Railway Register Section A4: Parks Bridge Junction to Addiscombe, Signal Record Society); it retained a BR(S) Green name board with white writing until the end (ref: Branch Line News, 17th February 1983, Branch Line Society). In March of the following year, metal lampposts were installed along both platforms, in readiness to replace those concrete bracket examples installed in about 1963. Your author's observations of historic photographs have revealed that, as of March 1985, the disused signal box was still standing.
There is credibility in the theory that the Elmers End to Addiscombe branch was retained beyond 1983 largely because of the carriage cleaning shed and train crew depot situated at the terminus. Train crew ceased to be based there in April 1993 and given the last EPB units were withdrawn from scheduled passenger services in 1995, the shed there was no longer used. However, the branch’s fate had been sealed on 21st July 1994 when the “Croydon Tramlink Bill” successfully passed through Parliament. In essence, the “Tramlink” project’s aim was to repurpose lightly-used British Rail routes in the South London suburbs - namely Elmers End to Addiscombe and Wimbledon to West Croydon via Mitcham Junction - by converting them into tram lines.
From March 1996, just the “down” line and platform through Woodside were in use. In that month, the SER signal box at Addiscombe was destroyed by an arson attack, which resulted in the “one engine in steam” protocol being employed until closure. The last scheduled passenger train over the branch line was the humble shuttle service, namely the 21:40 Addiscombe to Elmers End, comprising Class 466 No. 466016, on 31st May 1997. Addiscombe and Woodside ceased to be part of the former British Rail network.
On 29th May 2000, a then new pair of platforms, each 130-feet long and situated either side of a standard gauge light rail line, opened on the former Woodside station site. This formed part of the commissioning of the Croydon Tramlink route between Elmers End and Wimbledon; the then new low-profile platforms were situated about 160-feet south west of the original station building. With reference to the latter, this did not form part of the replacement Tramlink station, perhaps save for the former “up” side staircase, which provided a walking route to the platforms, albeit without a roof this time.
In the earliest years, before the formation of the coal yard seen above, the two short sidings on the "up" side shared a single trailing connection with the adjacent running line.
© David Glasspool
23rd February 1963
An Elmers End-bound view shows a snowy scene and a busy "down" platform (right). At the far end of the "up" platform (left), immediately in front of the main station building, can be seen a four-aspect colour light. Some time between late 1955 and this photograph being taken, the colour light replaced a double-height semaphore post; the latter had a signal arm just below the canopy, at the level of the replacement colour light, and a second arm above road level, around the roof line of the main building. This explains the column of white paint which was applied to the main building, so the former semaphore signals were easier to decipher by drivers. The colour light was supplemented by a banner repeater disc at the end of the canopy, left, which came into use at the same time as the former. Beyond the road bridge can just be seen a trailing crossover between the running lines and a "down" side semaphore signal. In spite of the "up" side colour light mentioned, the remaining signals at the station – including those for the junction – continued to be traditional semaphores. A track foot crossing for staff existed between the platforms, a break in the conductor rails being evident here, and the same style of "high-level" station building had come into use at Clock House in 1890. The bracket lampposts and "Sausage" Totems seen here were post-1955 additions, replacing SR Barley Twist Swan Neck lamps with "Target" name signs. Around the same time, both canopies acquired the plain timber valances seen here.
A. Jackson © David Glasspool Collection
A roughly south eastward view shows the SER-designed signal box — with an adjacent signal post comprising starter and distant semaphores — which controlled the junction in the background. The line diverging left was that to Sanderstead, which closed in the year this photograph was taken. The line curving to the right was that to Addiscombe, approximately ⅔-mile in length from junction to buffer stops.
© David Glasspool Collection