Exploring the route of the old Dyke Railway: Part III

As the boys cycle up Amherst Crescent, Tom points out that there was more to be seen on Microsoft Virtual Earth than reality.  He suggests that they check the virtual view, before wasting time on the actual site, “that will allow us to see where to look,” he suggests!  They reach the Old Shoreham Road and then double back down through the adjacent industrial estate, as far as they can go, and the factory security railing will allow them!

Virtual Earth view
Tiarnan boots up the laptop and again logs on to Virtual Earth.  As they view the two industrial estates on either side of the Old Shoreham Road, in conjunction with the old map its easy to see that the alignment of the factory roofs on both sides of the Old Shoreham Road follow that of the old railway.  Additionally the concrete road through the industrial estate takes its alignment from the railway line, which at this point ran through a deep cutting.

Geography and History
Building of the line started in the summer of 1883, with the optimistic plan for completion by October 1884.  Due to the rising terrain north of Aldrington Halt, and the valley of Gibbet Barn (now MapleGardens), a huge cutting was excavated.  This took the railway under the hump of Old Shoreham Road, at a level to match the lower level of Gibbet Barn.  This ensured a steady gradient, suitable for steam power.  The important Old Shoreham Road was carried across the cutting by a large steel girder bridge.  This was the first significant civil engineering work to be carried out on the line.

Looking for visible signs
The boys stop to examine the road through the industrial estate, to see if there are any visible signs of the old railway.  It quite a disappointment as again reality reveals no real signs of the old railway.  However suddenly Pete points out the light industrial building, Maple Works, signs of the old railway line are everywhere on the front of the old building!

Maple Works
When Maple Works was built in the post war period, the surveyors and builders did not fully consider the chalk rock that had been disturbed some 50 years previously, by the excavation of the huge cutting under the Old Shoreham Road.  The post war back filling of the cutting had not fully settled when the builders laid the foundations of Maple Works.  This is now clearly evident with structural defects visible on the brickwork, due to settlement of the back filling materials used in the old cutting.  Finally real evidence for the boys of the existence of the railway!


Comments about this page

  • The subsidence you mention, is interesting. I worked for many years in a unit close by and vaguely remember the roadworks when the hump of the bridge was taken out on the construction of the dual carriageway. More relevant to the subsidence maybe, was that one of the houses on the west side of Holmes Avenue, which backed on to the line of the track you are seeking, also suffered subsidence in the 1970s/1980s, and had to be underpinned. It was approximately half way between Old Shoreham Road and Elm Drive, around the sixth or eighth house up.

    By Jeremy Homeward (14/11/2009)
  • I used to work in the Maple Works factory in the early 80s when Gulton Europe used to rent the building; I believe it was built for Thomas Hatchards, the engineering company, just after the Second World War. In about 1984 a surveyor assessed the building because of movement in the structure; he bonded pieces of glass over the cracks to see if the building was still moving. He also had the original drawings of the building; he explained to me that the cuttings had been filled with World War 2 concrete beach defences from the seafront and a raft of concrete had been sunk into the chalk walls of the cutting in case there might be settlement of the infill. A year or so after placing the glass over the cracks, most of them were still intact so he deemed the building safe for commercial use but said the raft had failed and dropped several inches in the middle but with the sides resting on chalk still intact, it shouldn’t move any more. From Peter’s photo of Maple Works you can see the droop in the brick frontage, that’s pretty much the same amount as it was 25 years ago, so the surveyor did get it right and it’s still being used today by a printing company. There are some good pictures of this area on the James Gray photo gallery – volume 37 at http://www.regentcysocitety.org which may complement Peter’s informative contribution.

    By Michael Brittain (14/11/2009)
  • Thanks for that, I didn’t know about the Maple Works right on top of the old cutting. What about “a man (and his) son” is this just a play of words and relates to the race between the Scott and “amundsen” expeditions to the pole? Look forward to the next!

    By Eddy Powell (17/11/2009)
  • I grew up in the 1970s living in number 10 Amherst Crescent, close to the site of the former Dyke Junction. During my childhood a neighbour of ours called Tom Jones showed my Dad and I an aerial view of the area we lived in which he said had been taken in the 1920s. For many years Tom worked at Harrington Motors which used to be located adjacent to the railway cutting which led up to and underneath to the Old Shoreham Road (PC World is now located on the site), and he told us that the photo had been given out to employees working there. I was absolutely fascinated as it clearly showed housing construction taking place in Amherst Crescent and Aldrington Avenue, as well as the Dyke Railway from the point of Dyke Junction Station (renamed Aldrington Halt from 1932) up to and including the cutting which the line passed through just prior to entering Rowan Halt. I would at this point state that the photo I am describing is not that which is contained within Volume 37 of the James Gray Collection entitled ‘an aerial view of Hove -1938’, but a much clearer and more detailed view from an earlier date taken during the aforementioned housing construction.most probably during the late 1920s. To my lasting regret neither my Dad or I had the foresight to ask Mr Jones for a copy of his photo and he passed away many years ago. I have never seen this photo since nor has it appeared in print, and this is an immense shame as photos of this area during the life span of the Dyke Railway appear to be few and far between. Does anyone else who used to work at Harrington Motors recall the photo described above as I would love to see it again?

    By Stu Berry (26/11/2009)
  • I would also love to see that photo Stu! Your date for the photo / housing construction of late 1920’s sounds correct, as I believe that Amherst Crescent was completed in 1930. The lovely James Gray photograph is 1938, with Amherst Crescent fully constructed, however Holmes Avenue buildings don’t appear to be yet underway.

    By Peter Groves (26/11/2009)
  • I’m really pleased that I got this photo in Sept 2008. As I drove past today, 24th Sept 2010, I saw that the front of the building is being demolished.

    By Peter Groves (24/10/2010)

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