The Woodside & South Croydon Railway

The Woodside & South Croydon Railway, known locally as Croydon’s 'Back Garden Railway' had a chequered existence from nearly not opening at all to becoming part of Croydon's tramway system.

The line was authorised in October 1880 to link the Mid-Kent branch to Addiscombe at Woodside with the London Brighton & South Coast and South Eastern joint line at Selsdon.
The contract to build the line awarded to Joseph Firbank in 1881. Progress was slow and the opening date of 1st November 1882 had to be put back 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. Two tunnels were built where the line crossed land owned by Lady Ashburton and in the space between the tunnels a station was planned at the request of the Ashburton Estate. However, the cutting sides in this area were very muddy and unstable so eventually the idea of station was abandoned and a flat topped third tunnel was built between the two existing ones. The two original tunnels had ornate mouths but the infill tunnel was undecorated and due to its flat top was later adopted as a miniature rifle range, which was still operational after the start of tramway operations through the tunnels. Opening was now delayed to 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.


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