Taking the train

The old railway station at Devil's Dyke

The Brighton to Devil’s Dyke railway was a branch line from the Brighton to Portsmouth south coast railway line. It carried 159,500 passengers in its first year and continued to be popular until the internal-combustion engine took over from the horse and road travel became faster and more convenient.

Planning and Construction

A railway from Brighton to Devil’s Dyke was first proposed in 1872 but early schemes failed due to a lack of support, objections from local landowners and unsympathetic attitudes of the existing south coast railway’s directors.

Eventually an agreement was reached with the London Brighton and South Coast Railway’s directors and work began in summer 1883.

The new line left the south coast railway to the west of present-day Hove station and curved inland passing through Hangleton whilst climbing at a 1 in 40 gradient for most of its journey. It arrived at its terminus over 3 miles later at an elevation of 501ft above sea level.

After delays caused by funding issues and construction problems due to the hardness of the chalk for the last three quarters of a mile the railway finally opened on 1 September 1887.

The noon train from Brighton took the Company Chairman, the directors, a large number of shareholders and influential residents to an opening ceremony at Devil’s Dyke. The train was decorated with flags and bunting, the band of the 1st Sussex Artillery entertained the guests, and the wife of the Chairman declared the railway open.

Instant popularity

The new service was immediately popular with the public particularly on Sundays. Previously travel to the Dyke from Brighton had been undertaken by horse-drawn wagonette. A round-trip was a fixed 3 hours with the journey taking over an hour each way leaving less than an hour to enjoy the views and amusements. The train took less than half an hour, cost only 5d third class, and visitors could return whenever they wished.

Passengers disembarking at Devil's Dyke railway station
Passengers disembarking at Devil's Dyke railway station
Passengers disembarking at Devil's Dyke railway station

The halts

In 1891 a halt was opened for members of the Brighton and Hove Golf Club. Golf Club Halt was well-used by golfers right up until the closure of the railway, many preferring to use their private platform rather than driving their cars to the club.

The second halt to be opened was on the South Coast line in 1905. Dyke Junction Halt became the last station before the line branched up to the Dyke and exists to this day as Aldrington, a name it was given in 1932.

Rowan Halt was half a mile from the junction and was opened in 1934 to serve the newly-built Aldrington Manor Estate.

Sentinal railbus

When the main Brighton-Portsmouth line was electrified a steam railbus was tried on the Brighton-Dyke branch. This was operated by one man, was stoked automatically, and ran on the line from 1932 to 1935.

Sentinal railbus at Devil's Dyke station
Sentinal railbus at Devil's Dyke station
Sentinal railbus at Devil's Dyke station


Closure

The Brighton-Dyke railway ran for 51 years and closed on 31 December 1938.

Except on Bank Holidays numbers had been falling for years particularly in the winter. Soon the railway was no longer economically viable.

By the 1930s road travel was more affordable and visitors preferred to travel to Devil’s Dyke by bus or car.

Journey’s End

The last journey was the 5.07pm from Brighton station returning from the Dyke at 5.37pm. Fog signals and engine whistles were sounded as the train pulled out. Passengers in the saloon coach sang to the music of a band playing. People waved from their houses along the line and crowds cheered from the platforms.

More fog signals sounded at the Dyke as the final train prepared to leave and Brighton’s Station Master, Mr T. F. Roach, put out the special destination boards:

‘JOURNEY’S END 1887-1938’