withdrawal of passenger services

Page last updated: 15 December 2014

Autumn 1939

That this line closed at the beginning of World War 2 - on or by 16 October 1939 - is not in dispute. Intriguingly, Borley’s Chronology of London Railways (1982) and Greville & Spence’s Closed Passenger Lines of Great Britain 1827-1947 (1974) overlook it, while those who have recorded it (for example, the 1975 appendix to Clark’s Southern Railway Chronology and Jackson’s London’s Local Railways (1999)) have plumped for 16 October 1939 - the date of SR’s Emergency Passenger Services timetable. Moody, in Southern Electric 1909-1979 (1979) does not mention the line specifically - but pp.92/93 might lead one to infer that if services over the line ceased from 11 September, they were restored from 18 September and ceased again from 16 October. The public and working timetables in The National Archives at Kew do not help a great deal - although the "ready-prepared" emergency working timetable (needless to say, with no clue as to start date! - “on an from a date to be advised the Passenger and Van Train service in the working timetables dated 2 July 1939 WILL BE WITHDRAWN...”) has no service over the line and one would certainly expect that to have been the service introduced on 11 September 1939.

The local press of the time has been checked with assistance from the Bromley Local Studies Library: of the three papers in the area, only The Beckenham Journal, Penge & Sydenham Advertiser was interested enough in railway matters to mention the changes - including specifically the withdrawal of all services over this line - in their issue for 16 September (the first available edition after the 11 September service cuts). In view of their keen interest a week earlier, one might have expected something about service restoration from 18 September - but their next reference to train services is the issue of 21 October with a paragraph abridged from what is obviously a SR press hand-out (carried in more detail in The Times of 13 October) about the services from 16 October. While the lack of a news report can never "prove" an event didn’t happen, it does raise the question of whether or not the Beckenham Junction - New Beckenham service was restored on 18 September 1939.

The Times of the period carries various mentions (none specifically about this particular line or service, of course), particularly relevant being that of 18 September. This certainly would tend to support Moody’s contention that services were (virtually) back to normal from 18 September - presumably including Beckenham Junction - New Beckenham service. However, the article of 13 October casts doubt on the "full restoration" story because it states that the cuts from 16 October would "show a reduction of 16/17% on the normal winter services." - but that "the reduction will be about 5% during business traffic hours" when compared with the emergency suburban timetable operating prior to that date. This implies that services in late September were already showing a service reduction of some 11-12 percentage points below normal - in other words, 18 September could not have seen a complete restoration of services to their previous level. It must therefore seem very likely that the Beckenham Junction - New Beckenham service remained suspended and that its withdrawal date should be recorded as 11 September 1939.

Any paper evidence or recollection that might throw light on this would be welcomed.


Until 1967 the line was not used by regular passenger services. In autumn 1967 the line reopened for unadvertised railway staff trains. Two new such trains were shown in working timetable from 16 October 1967 but conveyed passengers only from 20 November 1967 for the opening - on that day - of the new Divisional Manager’s Office, Beckenham and the transfer of staff from London Bridge offices.

Monday 6 May 1968 timetable showed (unadvertised):
0819 SSuX Holborn Viaduct - Beckenham Jn
1702 SSuX and 1718 SSuX Beckenham Jn - Holborn Viaduct

At or by Sunday 10 October 1976 additional (unadvertised) service 0020 SuO, 0021 MO Orpington - London Bridge

At or by Monday 8 May 1978 second afternoon train withdrawn.

At or by Monday 1 June 1981 "midnight" train became daily (including Sundays)

At or by Monday 16 May 1983 afternoon train became 1630 SSuX Sevenoaks - Holborn Viaduct

During year 1984 - believed to be September - much of the divisional office work was moved to Waterloo and the staff trains were withdrawn. Monday 14 May 1984 timetable showed (unadvertised):
0807 SSuX Holborn Viaduct - Beckenham Jn
0021 daily Orpington - Charing Cross
There was no afternoon return staff train in this timetable period - morning and afternoon trains were not withdrawn from the same date.

Monday 13 May 1985 timetable showed only the unadvertised "midnight" train

From Sunday 30 September 1990 Sunday morning "midnight" train withdrawn (runs SuX)

At or by Monday 11 May 1992 Saturday morning "midnight" train withdrawn (runs SSuX)

From Monday 29 May 1995 line reopened for half-hourly daytime experimental shopping service SuX (designated experimental for five years under the terms of section 48 of the Railways Act, 1993)

From Monday 29 May 2000 daytime experimental shopping service withdrawn; timetable showed:
1844 SSuX Beckenham Jn - Cannon St
0022 SSuX Orpington - Charing Cross (staff - unadvertised)
1604 SSuX Orpington - Cannon Street

At or by Monday 21 May 2001 additional service 0929 SSuX Orpington - Cannon St

At or by Monday 3 June 2002 timetable "midnight" train withdrawn

From Monday 29 September 2003 all trains withdrawn except:
0857 SSuX Charing Cross - Beckenham Jn

From Monday 10 December 2007 additional afternoon return service 1542 SSuX Beckenham Junction - Charing Cross

From Monday 15 December 2008 morning train revised to start from Cannon Street at 0924 SSuX
(subject to retimings, that remained the service until the end of 2011: a post-peak morning service from Cannon Street to Beckenham Junction and a pre-peak afternoon service from Beckenham Junction to Charing Cross, both SSuX)

From Monday 12 December 2011 additional night-time services were added, so that service became:
0452 SSuX Tonbridge - Charing Cross
1612 SSuX Beckenham Junction - Charing Cross
0015 MX Charing Cross - Tonbridge
0903 SSuX Cannon Street - Beckenham Junction

From Monday 12 January 2015 services withdrawn apart from one remaining train: 0450 SSuX Tonbridge - Charing Cross, the routing of which is not apparent from its intermediate stopping places

SuX = Mondays to Saturdays
SSuX = Mondays to Fridays
MO = Mondays only
MX = Tuesdays to Sundays
"at or by" denotes that the service was so shown in the timetable starting on that date - but could have taken effect by notice from some earlier date during the previous timetable period.

Richard Maund

An abridged version of this paper appeared in Railway & Canal Historical Society Railway Chronology Group Co-ordinating Newsletter no. 49, January 2007

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