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Last Stop - Devils Dyke

The opening of the Dyke Railway
The Dyke Railway formally opened on Thursday September 1st 1887.  At 12 noon a special train decorated with bunting and flags left Brighton bound for Dyke Station.  On board were dignitaries, shareholders, promoters, members of the press, and around 100 “influential residents of Brighton.”  On arrival at Dyke Station at 12.20 the band of the 1st Sussex Artillery began to play and rain steadily started to fall.  So with little ceremony the Chairman of the Brighton and Dyke Railway, the Hon. Ashley Ponsonby declared the line open.  The party quickly adjourned to a large marquee for luncheon, and to escape from the rain!

After luncheon a number of toasts were made, followed by speeches wishing the line “every success.”  However two of the speakers mentioned disappointment, even at this early stage, that the line had not gone all the way to the summit.  With luncheon over a few of guests braved the weather and made their way up to the summit by foot, only to return disappointed as little could be seen because of the dense mist.

Sunday 4th September 1887 / Sunday 14th September 2008
On the first Sunday following the opening of the new line, demand was so great that ticket sales had to be suspended.  Thousands of  Brightonians were carried up to the Dyke Station, and then by foot walked the “difficult” half-mile to the summit.  Like the thousands before them the team walk the last half-mile to the summit pushing their bikes, where they celebrate their successful expedition with an ice cream!

"Tony two ice creams" and the Team celebrate at the Dyke summit
Peter Groves/Tony Brown

Comments about this page

  • What a great and well documented journey you all made. OK, it wasn’t a great distance but it is just nice to see things still in their original place even after 123 years has passed. I also did this journey but from the crossing by Hangleton Church, that was about 1959/60 time. Even then it annoyed me to see the actual ‘destruction’ of a railway line like that. It is like you’re ordering a Community that they will NOT allow a train to run even if it does become commercially viable in the future like the Bluebell Railway has and many others like it. The other line is the one that ran to Horsham past the Cement Works. As I used to fish at Partridge Green in the late 1950s it was a way of getting there if my bicycle was out of order. Suddenly, Partridge Green station HAS to become an Industrial Estate thus totally preventing any revival of that line to Horsham. Just make sure that you archive all those photos and videos before The Devil’s Dyke in encompassed in the M25 crater.

    By Chris McBrien (05/03/2010)
  • Thanks for this interesting series. I enjoyed it a lot. My mother remembers travelling on the Dyke Railway when she was younger (she’s 95 now). She wrote about it in her book “Memories”. She recalled how slowly the train seemed to go on the northbound journey, but much faster coming back down.

    By Nick Pattenden (06/03/2010)
  • Hey actually it was a very long distance

    By Ben Dover (08/03/2010)
  • Thanks to everyone for their support and comments during the “expedition,” it was great fun and the 2 “elder” lads enjoyed it almost as much as the youngsters. Jeremy is right, nowadays everyone is too busy to take time out with the youngsters, and we let them spend too much time “at home in front of the TV or on the computer” Well done Eddy for spotting the reference to the Scott/Amundsen expedition race to the Pole (A-man-(and his)-son) which I added as an incentive to the young lads. Kemp Town Railway next?

    By Peter Groves (10/03/2010)
  • Hi Peter and Team. Thanks for this really interesting project and the effort you all obviously put in. I, like many others, have enjoyed reading all about the route the old Dyke railway followed. Good luck with The Kemp Town branch line. Regards.

    By Christopher Wrapson (10/03/2010)
  • Having grown up in the area I have always been fascinated with the Dyke Railway – it begun a lifelong interest in following old railway lines. Because the whole area from Old Shoreham Road to the top of Hangleton was developed around the railway, it is easy to trace the course as it was behind the gardens of many streets (Elm Drive, Rowan Avenue, Poplar Avenue) as has been clearly demonstrated by Peter. It is tantalising that remains may lie under the ground where the line was filled in (in the school grounds off Northease Drive or under Old Shoreham Road for instance), as the War meant this work was done in a hurry and with whatever materials came to hand. I used to play in Knoll Park as a child, and the site of Rowan Halt is interesting. At the end of the path leading between the houses to the Cemetery there is a metal post / bollard in the middle of the pathway (near the electricity power supply) where the footbridge would have stood to cross the line – when does this date from, and what is/was it ?

    By Calvin (30/08/2010)
  • Very many thanks to Calvin, who has made me aware of a fantastic You Tube film of the old Dyke Railway c.1930. I was not aware of it and I think many Dyke Railway enthusiasts will be pleasantly surprised, it can be found here:, alternatively just search for the Dyke Railway on You Tube. Thanks once again Calvin for bringing it to our attention!

    By Peter Groves (04/10/2010)
  • I walked the lower built up end of the Dyke Railway this afternoon with Stu and Calvin. No new startling discoveries were made, although we found some old green corrogated steel sheeting in the hedge by what was once Rowan Halt, which could have once been part of the shelter. We were surprised that although an information board is in the car park by the Downsmen Pub, nothing exists at the lower end. Taking into account that next September (2012) is the 125th anniversary of the line opening, it would perhaps be good to commemorate this with a new information board. Also now would be a good time for anyone who has an elderly relation who remembers using the line to post a comment. With the line closing over 70 years ago, people with these memories are few and far between, and they wont be with us for ever.

    By Peter Groves (24/07/2011)
  • I’ve just read through all your commentary of this expedition and thoroughly enjoyed it. I made a little home made film about this line in 2006 and found most of what you mention, but I didn’t know anything like as much about the history as you have uncovered, really interesting, jolly well done.

    By Chris Bedford (Dumpman) (31/07/2013)

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