Kingscote Station Heritage Trail
The Kingscote Station trail guides visitors around the historic and picturesque station highlighting key points of interest. There are 16 locations, all marked by a numbered black on grey oval plate. Each plate has a specific QR code which when scanned directs you to the relevant information on this trail webpage. Here is trail plan and an illustration of the trail route.
There are two quizzes associated with the trail and they are targeted at:
Kingscote Station was on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) line between Lewes and East Grinstead which opened on the 1 August 1882. Goods traffic in and out provided more revenue than passengers, and the saw mill constituted the majority of that income. In 1882 there were only 5 passenger trains stopping in each direction. Southern Railway took over the station in January 1923 and then British Railways in 1948. It finally closed for passenger traffic in May 1955. This was 8 years before the cuts put forward by Dr Beeching in his plan “The Reshaping of British Railways” in 1963. The Bluebell Railway purchased the station in 1985. The “Friends of Kingscote” subsequently formed and set about the huge challenge of renovating the station over the next 9 years. The first Bluebell Railway passenger train arrived at Kingscote on 23rd April 1994 and the station then served as the northern terminus for 19 years. In March 2013 the Bluebell Railway re-opened the line to East Grinstead. The station has consequently returned to a gentle pace of life similar to its existence during the first 70 years.
Across the fence from the station sign board at the southern end of Platform 1 is the private Stationmaster’s Garden. The Stationmaster’s Garden is adjacent to Platform 1, which is normally the “Up” platform for trains arriving from Sheffield Park and Horsted Keynes. “Up” is the common railway term for trains heading towards London. The southern end of the platform is often a good location to photograph or watch Northbound trains as they arrive at Kingscote Station.
The Station was always renowned for the high standards of its gardens and floral displays. Nowadays the Friends of Kingscote and Station Staff work hard to keep the platform areas and adjacent flower borders tidy, attractive and productive. The Stationmaster’s garden includes fruit trees, fruit bushes and other seasonal vegetables. Situated beyond the garden are a number of sheds and outbuildings, two of which are original railway buildings relocated from elsewhere. This includes the recently acquired 130+ year old Goods Lock-up which originally sat at on the Goods Dock at Ardingly Station. Prior to its renovation at Kingscote it had a number of uses at two other locations. It has been renovated and for more information about the Ardingly Goods Shed click here.
The Platform clock at Kingscote Station is known as a Regulator Clock and was used as the master to set all the other clocks around the station. It was originally used at Mayfield Station. It was made by John Walker, registered address 1 South Molton Street, London. He had the contract from LB&SCR to BR days to maintain all the Southern Region clocks. He produced railway clocks of different designs and sizes to meet the needs of the many Railway Companies. Time and hence clocks were an essential aspect of railway timetabling. Until the late 18th century watches and clocks were mostly for the rich, and their inaccuracy made the difference between clock and sundial times less obvious. From 1792, in England, it became normal to use local mean time, rather than apparent time from a sundial. Whilst travel and communications were slow, these local time differences were of little importance, and most towns and cities in Britain used local time. By the 1840’s there were at least three organisations which suffered inconveniences because of the use of local times – the railways, the telegraph companies, and the Post Office.
From the start, some railway companies used “London” time, while others used local time. Trains travelling east to west appeared to be travelling slower than the return journey, west to east, which caused many problems with timetabling. At stations of Railway Companies that used London time, the Railway time could be quite different to local time, with all sorts of problems of missed trains and connections. In some places, there were even two minute hands on the public clocks, one showing local time and the other showing London time. On 1st June 1880 the Statutes (Definition of Time) Bill, obtained its first reading in the House of Commons, and received the Royal Assent on 2nd August 1880. At last, a “standard” time was in use across the whole of Britain, and there was no more confusion caused by local time. If you want to view some more clocks please visit our Museum at Sheffield Park.
Adjacent to the clock are some old weighing scales which would have been in regular use when the Railways made more revenue from goods, parcels and foodstuffs than passengers.
The Booking Hall and associated rooms including the Ladies Waiting Room are still to their original design. In the winter the coal fire in the Booking Hall is often lit to offer a warm welcome to travellers. There is a platform ticket machine which requests 2d. A photograph of a monarch hangs on the wall. There is an array of old ticket information is on display interlaced with more recent booklets in the booking hall. Take a look at the pictures and old furnishings in the Ladies waiting room.
The Station Forecourt includes a renovated GPO red telephone box, a Victorian (VR) post box and the elegant front façade of the station buildings completed in 1882 by the LB&SCR. The architect was T.H. Myers and Longleys (owners of the sawmill at Kingscote) were the builders. The red tiling is typically Wealden. Terracotta ornaments the roof-ridges and pretty gabled timber porches are a standard provision. The stonework, porch and general woodwork continue to be maintained to a high standard. The Stationmaster’s House is integral to the building design.
The building also has a significant element of stained glass in the windows. The station forecourt currently has planning restrictions in force which prevent it being used for car parking with the exception of the tenants in the Stationmaster’s House.
The prototype vehicle for this design of Goods Brake Van was built by the South East & Chatham Railway in 1918. Van 11916 was one of a batch of 20 vans built in 1923 and was probably turned out in Southern Region livery numbered 55477. They were nicknamed “Dance Hall” by their SR crews due to the large cabin area. If you look inside you will see the large handle the guard used to apply the brake and also the small coal burner to keep the guard warm. It was transferred to British Rail departmental stock in May 1959 and condemned in February 1978. The Bluebell Railway purchased it and the van arrived in March 1979. On arrival the roof was recanvassed, the windows re-glazed and put into service in its current SECR livery. The van was often used to carry working parties out on the line, remaining in use until 2007. Find out more about the Brake Van.
It has been cosmetically refurbished by the Friends of Kingscote (FoK) since its arrival at Kingscote Goods Yard. It is currently open for visitors and is used to display various items of FoK information.
These cattle pens are loosely based on the design of the cattle pens once situated at Newick and Chailey Station which was situated south of Sheffield Park on this line. See a picture of the pen.
Cattle pens were built in many different ways to suit locations, volume of traffic and the owning railway. As such there is no one standard design. The Cattle Pens at Kingscote Station were kindly built by trainees from Mears Ltd and for more information on their construction project please visit the Goods Yard Project webpage. It is hoped to further develop the cattle pen display in conjunction with the overall Goods Yard Area development at Kingscote.
Bananas were imported mainly from the Caribbean Islands to British ports. In the 1920s special steam heated and insulated banana vans were built to move the easily perishable fruit. The trade was suspended during World War Two. It re-commenced in December 1945 and to cope with the increased traffic 100 new insulated and steam heated vans (570000 – 570099) were built. Various alterations were made to the vans to meet changing requirements during their life. In the 1960s there was a gradual move to road freight transport. In 1965 this van, M570027 was withdrawn and sold to the Bluebell Railway. It was used to carry track maintenance tools, but in the mid 1990’s, Fyffes plc sponsored its re-painting in LMS livery to acknowledge their long association with rail transport. Find out more about the Banana Van.
It has recently been cosmetically refurbished by the Friends of Kingscote since its arrival in the Goods Yard.
Initially in SE&CR and Southern Railway days these were known as Passenger Luggage Vans (PLV). They were used for the carriage of parcels, newspapers and other forms of general merchandise. This example was built in 1942 at SR lancing Works. In British Railway use they were known as Parcels and Miscellaneous Vans (PMV) and as they were rated to run in passenger trains they were frequently used as luggage vans on long distance routes. They were of a simple design which allowed for easy maintenance. Vehicle 1788 was withdrawn from BR revenue service in 1981 and purchased by the Bluebell Railway’s Civil Engineering Department. Find out more about the Parcel and Miscellaneous Van.
It has recently been cosmetically refurbished by the Friends of Kingscote and will hopefully be used to house a historical display of Kingscote Station in the near future.
The original goods shed at Kingscote was removed around 1930. This building, more correctly described as a Goods Lock-up, was originally at Horsted Keynes, but being in the way of the carriage shed extension, moved here in 1998. It has level access to a goods wagon in a siding, as currently displayed with the red Parcel and Miscellaneous Van. On the rear side are double doors to which a horse and cart or a road vehicle could reverse up to for loading. All types of items including foodstuffs, luggage trunks, parcels and general merchandise could then be easily transferred and processed in through or out from the Goods Shed. The majority of railway stations had a dedicated goods shed due to the huge importance of the Railways for transporting goods and freight items around the UK. Following renovation the Goods Shed is currently used as a workshop but will be restored to its original purpose as the Goods Yard area development progresses.
The LBSCR Goods Yard Crane was donated by the West Dean Estate. It came from Singleton station on the old Chichester to Midhurst Line. It had been in situ at Singleton since 1881, arriving at Kingscote in 2010. More information on the move is available here. The crane is currently in two large sections. The base will eventually be buried underground at a suitable location adjacent to a siding. The recognisable crane, albeit requiring substantial renovation work will then be lifted and set down on the base, which provides structural integrity. The crane can then be rotated left or right and the chain and hook used to raise or lower loads.
The northern end of the “Up” platform is often a good location to photograph or watch Southbound trains as they arrive down the bank from East Grinstead, or look on to the footplate of a stationary locomotive waiting to head North. Sometimes when the smaller tank engines are running it is necessary to top up their water supply. The nearby fire hose is used to supply water from the tanker wagon on the siding by the signal box.
The adjacent Builders Yard stands on the site of the old sawmill. It had its own sidings and the large shed in the yard is the original, but re-clad, timber sawmill building.
There is a large range of Platform Equipment on display at Kingscote including luggage items and the trolleys which were used to move items around the station and on and off trains. There are also other items of interest such as bicycles which reflect the 1950s period setting of the station. The notices and railway maps on display also reflect the holiday destinations and associated journey costs of travel in that era.
The original signal box was demolished. The wooden cabin structure of the current signal box was formerly situated at Brighton Upper Goods Yard. A new suitable brick base was built here, and the cabin erected above on 30th August 1996. It is approximately two carriage lengths north of the original Kingscote Box. See pictures of the rebuild. It handles all the signalling here and at East Grinstead, including the interface with mainline Network Rail. The box is unique in that it houses an operational and historically important Southern Railway/Region Westinghouse ‘L’ frame. To see more details about the box and signalling operations on the Bluebell Railway.
The box also contains a token machine. This is an essential safety feature for all single line railways. If you watch when a train arrives the train crew will pass to the signalman a large round hoop containing the “token” for the line which it has just travelled. Before the train can move out on to the next section the engine driver needs to have possession of a new “token” for that part of the line. There is only one “token” for each block of line and if the driver has that “token”, he or she knows that there is no other train on the track. It is safe to travel.
Even in 1940s there was no mains water at Kingscote and the staff relied on the well (in the Well Hut) for their water. By 1953 the water had been declared unfit for drinking but still satisfactory for washing. Drinking water was delivered to the station by train in small galvanised churns. Find out more about life at Kingscote in 1953. By January 1985 when the Bluebell Railway purchased Kingscote Station, the Well House was dilapidated and the only remaining structure on the down side of the Station. Originally it was at the bottom of an embankment behind the down platform, but subsequent dumping of waste spoil on this site had almost buried the hut. The roof, however, was still visible. A lot of this spoil was removed by a gang of venture scouts from West Wickham and the pumping equipment removed. Due to the generosity of the Croydon Area Group, the hut roof was felted, battened and retiled with reclaimed tiles. Further reconstruction was completed on the Well House and it now functions as the refreshment kiosk at Kingscote, supplying ice creams, snacks, drinks and tea and coffee.
The Children’s Playground is an additional amenity for visitors to Kingscote Station. It was developed thanks to the vision and sponsorship led by Bob Mainstone, Mayor of East Grinstead 2016-17, who was a keen supporter of the Bluebell Railway. It is primarily targeted at toddlers and younger children and it is securely fenced to provide for their safety. It is an unsupervised area so parents, guardians and carers are responsible for their children. Please enjoy the area and use the space and equipment for its intended use. The children’s play area was constructed in 2017 with help from the Friends of Kingscote. Find out more about children’s activities at Bluebell Railway.
Photo illustration of the trail route
No 17 – Display Area One
Display Area One. For more details of the current exhibition in Display Area One please click here.
No 18 – Display Area Two
Display Area Two. For more details of the current exhibition in Display Area Two please click here.
No 19 – Display Area Three
Display Area Three. For more details of the current exhibition in Display Area Three please click here.
No 20 – Display Area Four
Display Area Four. For more details of the current exhibition in Display Area Four please click here.