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  GHOSTS OF RAILWAY PAST AT WEST GRINSTEAD

  Press Release Number 282 06 June 2000
 
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A ghost station in the heart of the West Sussex countryside has become more authentic thanks to a piece of railway history which was hidden for decades on a farm.

The former West Grinstead station is familiar to walkers using the Downs Link bridleway, which follows the routes of the former Itchingfield to Shoreham-by-Sea line and the Christs Hospital to Guildford line. The Horsham to Shoreham line closed in 1966 as a result of the wide-reaching Beeching axe.

West Sussex County Council countryside rangers, who look after the Downs Link, were invited to reinstall one of the old signals by railway enthusiast Dr Andrew Campbell.

Dr Campbell said: "My family have lived in West Grinstead parish for six generations and the railway played a great part in the daily life of many of my ancestors. It has been a fascination of mine since I travelled every to day to school in Horsham on the train from Partridge Green.

"The home signal arm used to be at the north end of the up platform at Partridge Green station and was used as the up-starter to release the train on its way to Horsham. The trains were all steam-hauled until 1963 when diesel units were introduced."

The fine lattice signal post stood on the down line as the distant signal for Partridge Green station.

Well-known local farmer Mr Lewis Beck, of Needs Farm, Partridge Green, kept the old signal in his garden when the railway was closed and when he died his son gave it to Dr Campbell.

"West Grinstead was always a pretty station made rather quaint by the banks on either side. It was lit by paraffin Tilly lamps. It had an interesting goods yard with a cattle loading bay and facilities for handling horse boxes. With the hunt kennels and national stud there was quite a lot of horse traffic."

The railway was turned into the Downs Link path for walkers, horse riders and cyclists by West Sussex County Council in the late 1970s, providing a strategic route between the North and South Downs.

Simon Burnham-Slipper, Low Weald Countryside Ranger with County Planning, said: "West Grinstead probably has the most features of any of the old stations on the Downs Link and we're trying to make it more authentic. We've also got an old railway carriage which we are in the process of turning into an information point for visitors.

"This part of the route is very popular with cyclists, walkers and horseriders, especially in good weather."