The Woodside & South Croydon Railway
   
Croydon's 'Back Garden Railway' connected Woodside & Selsdon. The line finally closed on Friday 13th May 1983 after 98 years of precarious existence. Threats of closure were nothing new to this line - at a board meeting of the Joint Management Committee in 1895 the company solicitor was instructed to consider and report on the powers and advisability of closing the line.
When local passenger services were withdrawn in 1915 as a wartime economy the annual loss was running at over 2000.  
The original completion date was set for 1st November 1882 but had to be extended by a year due to non-availability of land. The first track to be laid was the junction at Woodside which was completed with a three hundred length of track in February 1883. The construction of the extra tunnel and continuous bad weather combined to delay the planed opening date until late 1884.
   
The Board of Trade inspection was carried on the 21st October 1884 by Major General Hutchinson who was not over impressed by what he saw and would not sanction opening until many changes had been made. These were mainly to the signalling system and the track layout at Woodside He also required all station platforms to have slopes at each end rather than steps. Faced with B.O.T.s list of objections the opening date was put back again to 1st December 1884. However the Board were still not happy with the facilities provided at Woodside for passengers changing trains, so the station was rebuilt to include a road level booking hall and a passenger shelter on the down platform resulting in a further delay of eight months. The line finally opened on 10th August 1885 without ceremony or enthusiasm from the local inhabitants. The local brewers Nalder & Collyer showed sufficient confidence in the future of the line by applying for planning permission to build two hotels, one at Coombe Lane and the other at Selsdon Road, but the local magistrates refused to grant a licence on the grounds that there were no houses nearby.
   
The S.E.R. provided the locomotives and rolling stock for the initial service of ten trains a day in each direction, using Cudworth 2-4-0s with an assortment of four and six wheeled coaches, and vans as required. The S.E.R. continued to operate the service until 31st December 1886 when the L.B.S.C.R. took over using a Terrier from West Croydon shed and a close coupled set of four wheeled coaches.
   
Locos known to have been used on this service are N0.70 'Poplar', No. 71 'Wapping' and No. 72 'Fenchurch'. The L.B.S.C.R. continued to operate the service until they had run the same number of passenger miles as the S.E.R. The S.E.R. resumed the running on 1st July 1888 and from then on the two companies alternated each year. By 1903 the Brighton Terrier was being provided by Stoats Nest (Coulsdon) shed and was required to perform shunting duties between its passenger trips at Selsdon Road and Sanderstead.
   
During the early years of the century the railways saw increasing competition from tramways and omnibuses, so in common with many other branch lines it was decided that railmotors might be the answer to this loss of passenger traffic. Two new halts were constructed for this new venture, one between Selsdon Road and Coombe Lane and the other between Coombe Lane and Woodside, being named Spencer Road Halt and Bingham Road Halt respectively.
 
More information & pictires of Bingham Road
The two halts were identical in appearance being constructed from old sleepers at a cost of 205-11-7d the pair. The only features on the one hundred foot platforms were the wooden name boards and a row of posts for the hanging of oil lamps during the winter months. The halt at Bingham Road, originally to have been called Addiscombe Park, was conveniently situated for the tram terminus in Lower Addiscombe Road and thus attracted a fair amount of traffic, unlikeSpencer Road (pictured above in 1931 with a Hastings excursion passing the now disused platforms) which was approached only by a foot path which crossed the line between Spencer Road and Birdhurst Rise.
The S.E.C.R. inaugurated the improved service of sixteen trains a day on 1st September 1906, using a Kitson railmotor supplied by Bricklayers Arms shed. The railmotor worked down to Addiscombe with the 06.17 from New Cross and then ran light to the bay platform at Woodside to form the 07.16 to Selsdon Road. The Kitson railmotors were painted in S.E.C.R. Lake and had highly polished brass domes. The ride was very rough and the compartment next to the engine got uncomfortably hot. Fifty-six passengers could be accommodated on the wooden seats which were arranged back to back with a centre gangway.
SECR Railmotor in bay platform at Woodside
 
When the L.B.S.C.R. were operating the service a motor fitted terrier with a 'Balloon' coach were used, until 1913 when both of the Brighton railmotors were used on the branch running from Stoats Nest shed. Railmotor No.1 did not last very long in its new role and had to be sent to Brighton for repair in the November of the same year. No.2 managed to hold out until the S.E.C.R. took over again in July 1914.

 

 
LBSCR Terrier propelling a Balloon coach into Coombe Lane.
   
The L.B.S.C.R. railmotors were built by BeyerPeacock and seated 48 third classpassengers in two equal saloons connected by a sliding door.Both the Brighton railmotors were sold to the Trinidad Government in 1919.The railmotor era on this line ended on 15th march 1915 when the service was withdrawn as a wartime economy. Coombe Lane and Selsdon Road stayed open for the occasional through train but the halts were closed. Through traffic and goods services continued until the end of 1916 when the line was closed completely. The Oxted Line platforms and the goods yard at Selsdon Road were not effected by the closure. For the next year the only use of the line was for the storage of surplus wagons near Bingham Road Halt. About four years later the S.E.C.R. resumed running their light engines from Purley to Hayes and soon after the daily pick-up goods from Bricklayers Arms to Tonbridge began calling at Woodside and Selsdon Road on its down run. The return trip was by way of Redhill and East Croydon.
   
Early in 1927 the track was relayed throughout and rumours circulated locally of restoration of local passenger services. This was not to be, but August Bank Holiday that year saw a rush of excursions using the newly laid track. These excursions ran to Hastings, Brighton, Margate and Ramsgate. A regular run was booked to Canterbury West every Wednesday from Lewisham Junction, as well as a number of Hop-Pickers specials in the season. The Hop-Pickers specials departed from London Bridge Low Level to destinations on the Kent & East Sussex Railway. Special stock was set aside for these trains consisting of antiquated S.E.C.R. & L.C.D.R. four wheel stock plus up to six luggage vans. Instructions were issued to staff that all stock should be de-loused after use and that hop pickers luggage should be specially labelled and kept apart from that of other passengers at railheads. A documented run on the 19th August 1948, when the quality of the rolling stock had improved, records the train consisting of an ex S.E.C.R. six-coach set No.906 hauled by L1 1758 running from Northiam to London Bridge by way of Robertsbridge, Tonbridge and the Mid Kent.
   
Early in 1935 both tracks were again re-laid, this time with the addition of an electric conductor rail. The attending ballast trains provided an interesting assortment of locomotives, including 4-4-0 'B1' No.1101 and 0-6-0 'C' No.2354 from Tonbridge and E3 No 2454 from Newhaven. At the same time Coombe Lane was rebuilt in Southern Railway style and renamed Coombe Road, Bingham Road Halt was also rebuilt as a station which was to have been called Ashburton, but for obvious reasons eventually retained the less attractive but accurate name of Bingham Road.
 
Laying conductor rail at Woodside Junction
   
Selsdon Road remained unaltered except for the extension of the down branch platform and the demolition of the north signal box. Surprisingly the station was renamed plain Selsdon, very misleading if you wanted Selsdon village two miles away uphill. The new electric trains started running with little publicity on 30th September 1935 from their terminus at Sanderstead to Charing Cross and Cannon Street. A half-hourly service was provided seven day a week with extra trains at peak hours. The opening day attracted a fair number of curious travellers, 400 being recorded using the as yet unfinished station at Bingham Road.
 
The early enthusiasm soon waned so that when the service was reduced during the war little inconvenience was caused by the loss of the Sunday trains and the curtailment of the Saturday afternoon services. The coal traffic over this route increased considerably during the war years with through trains and local deliveries to Sydenham Gas Works. Two late trips are well remembered by residents living close to the line at Coombe Road. Their sleep was regularly shattered by the 22.30 and 01.50 Norwood Yard to Sydenham Gas Works runs which passed Coombe Road at 23.10 & 02.25 with their heavy loads, whistles screaming as they approached the tunnels. There was just time to get off to sleep again before the empties returned at 00.50 & 03.37. These trains ran until the late fifties.
 
After the war the Sunday service was not reinstated and the off peak trains were terminated at Elmers End to connect with the Hayes trains to London. The line never regained its previous level of passenger use and inevitably the announcement came from B.R. that the line was to closed from 4th March 1963 in order to save an estimated £8000.00 per year. Opposition to the closure took B.R. by surprise. The Croydon Transport Users' Association was formed to fight the proposals, and did so twice within three years. The Transport users' Consultative Committee for London held its public meeting at Caxton Hall on 7th March and reported to the Minister of Transport, Ernest Marples that there seemed to be no alternative transport available and as they could not make any recommendations for the relief of hardship caused to the 650 people using the service each day, the line must remain open.
 
Predictably things did not improve. A B.R. survey showed an average of 12 passengers on each Saturday train. This service, which only ran until mid-afternoon, was withdrawn completely from 2nd January 1967, and later that year the weekday service to London was reduced to peak hours only. By 1976 the number of passengers travelling to London by this route had dropped to a mere handful and so from the start of the new timetable the service was reduced to a shuttle between Sanderstead and Elmers End.
 
10 car train leaves Bingham Road for London
There had always been the odd train stopped short at Selsdon due to the problems of interleaving the branch trains with the Oxted service, especially if either service was running late.
Since electrification the Sanderstead to London service has been the only passenger use of the line, except on rare occasions when specials have visited the line, or it has been used as a diversionary route. Perhaps the most unusual of these occurred on the night of 20th March 1954, when the Brighton line was closed north of East Croydon due to re-signalling work.
A frequent visitor to Selsdon was the oil train, seen here hauled by a Class 33. Class 47s and 73s were also used on this service.
The 21 28 Margate to London Bridge mails ran normally as far as East Croydon where N class
   
No.31871 was attached at the rear and with the train engine U1 No. 31893 now assisting from behind, ran back to Selsdon where the few passengers were detrained while the train was shunted to the up branch platform. The train then proceeded to London Bridge via Elmers End & Parks Bridge Junction with the original engine once more in charge. The 04.44 London Bridge to Brighton headed by 34039 "Boscastle" was routed non-stop to Preston Park via Woodside, Selsdon, Oxted, Horsted Keynes and Haywards Heath. However the train was halted at Selsdon to detach the Bognor Portion which was taken by 31871 to East Croydon where it resumed its normal pathway. The 01.33 vans and the 00.36 empties from East Croydon joined forces at Selsdon for the run to Victoria via Lewisham and Nunhead.
On the 19th March 1967 a special organised by the Southern Counties Touring Society ran from Victoria to Eastbourne via Nunhead and Selsdon, hauled by West Country 34108 "Wincanton".
The local paper advertised the train as the last steam hauled train to pass through Croydon and so attracted a lot of local interest. The enterprising booking clerk at Selsdon opened the office especially for the occasion and sold 121 platform tickets. Other unusual stock to traverse the line on special runs include the Hastings unit 1036, D6529 with a 3TC set 422. In the closing years the only stock seen on the line in regular service had been 2 EPB.
 

Two weeks earlier 34102 'Lapford' passes Coombe Road with an LCGB Rail Tour. Photo J Scrace

 

 

The site of Selsdon Station 18th April 2003