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Farnborough, Hampshire

Text and reminiscences from Cliff Hutton

Farnborough up platform.

A view across the tracks to the up platform, taken circa 1988, with the station in Network SouthEast colours.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Farnborough had, as far as I was concerned as lad, four stations. Farnborough North, North Camp, Ash Vale and Farnborough Main. We're talking Farnborough, Hampshire here by the way. The first two lacked for action and "namers", the third was all those awful "electrics" leaving just Farnborough Main.

My rather dictatorial grandfather took me there in my early years in the late 1940s. I suspect he liked train watching just as much as I did and I gave him a good excuse to indulge. That would be in the early days of Nationalisation - sadly I can't claim to remember the Southern at all.

Drawing from memories of books read, the following are the bare bones:
The London & Southampton Railway opened Farnborough station on 24th September 1838 on its way from London (Nine Elms) towards Southampton. In those early days it was a two track, two platform affair and the main station building was very ornate with a colonade facing onto the down track. There was an interesting connection in those early days to the Aldershot and Farnborough Tramway.

Quadrupling of the tracks came at the turn of the century when the platform of the old main station building became, in effect, an island platform. A new station building was erected "further back" to make room for the new tracks and the signal box was moved from the up end of the island to the country end of the new down platform. The centre island was little used, being between the "fast" lines and it soon became grassed and flower beds appeared and later, trimmed bushes.

Farnborough seems to have quickly settled into the form it was to keep, with little change, through two wars and into the 1950s. Gantries appeared at up and down ends with pneumatically operated signals. An extensive goods yard evolved, including the long platforms to serve the needs of the Army and a branch line was built into the Royal Aircraft Establishment to bring coal to the boilers.

"My" Farnborough boyhood lasted perhaps ten years, which was an eternity to a young boy. A scattering of memories:
The deep cutting which took the railway in a curve under the flank of St. Michael's Abbey
We played on that steep embankment looking down on the trains, throwing clods of yellow clay down to make satisfying splodges on the coach roofs. At least once the police chased us away.
Then we scrumped apples in the orchards of the Abbey, living in terror of the monks.

Away to the south west the tracks went dead straight, forever into summer's shimmering haze. How little we knew of geography then! An up train would start as a black dot in the haze and gain size and form as it approached. The bell codes would chime in the box and the signals would move as the railway talked to itself.

A passing loco might set the grass of the "island" alight and a porter would take a bucket across the tracks to extinguish the fire.
The glass of the footbridge windows was badly dirt and soot stained leading to it being all too easy to miss a "number" if you timed your crossing badly. I spent endless hours on Farnborough collecting numbers and doubt if I ever bought a platform ticket, or was ever asked to produce one. A simpler, safer, saner world back then.
The sights of Nelsons and Arthurs and Bulleid's wonders heading to and from London over the 33 miles are with me still.

In the mid fifties I left for a wider world. Each return has brought me to a steadily reduced place. Like all "our" railways, cars have come; steam and magic have gone. The goods yards and its shed were swept away for a giant parking lot. The top has gone from the hundred year old footbridge. No more "island platform", it's been gouged out and gone for "fill". No more the branch to the RAE, no more the signal gantries, nor the signalbox.

Just the bare bones survive, the station buildings - but I'm pushed to recognise the old place.

Farnborough station.

This may not be the best of photographs but it has a lot of interesting features. Taken whilst electrification of the line was in progress during the 1960s it shows the newly-lengthened up and down platforms, the central island platform still in situ, the telegraph poles carrying all the railway signalling and communications traffic and, of course, the semaphore signals on their gantries. Note too the new concrete lamp posts, to be swept away in later years and replaced by the Network SouthEast metal ones.

photograph by Derek Seaton

Farnborough station.

The view along the down platform.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Farnborough station.

And the view along the up platform, both circa 1988.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Looking towards Farnborough station.

This photograph shows the view from Monks Bridge looking towards Farnborough station, taken on 6th September 1986.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

34023 at Farnborough station.

Bulleid light pacific Nº 34023 Blackmore Vale speeds through Farnborough station with a Bournemouth line train in the 1960s. Note that electrification work is in progress, also the lids for the concrete trunking for the new cabling dumped unceremoneously on the grass of the island platform.

photograph by Derek Seaton

35012 at Farnborough station.

At the same spot rebuilt Bulleid Merchant Navy class Nº35012 United States Lines thunders through with the down "Bournemouth Belle". Note that the first coach is in the then new blue and grey livery.

photograph by Derek Seaton

Re-designed Farnborough station.

We are now in 1986 and this photograph, looking down the line from the road overbridge, shows quite clearly just how much of the old station has gone. Removal of the central island platform has left that awful depression between the tracks; the signal gantries and signalbox, the roof to the footbridge and the telegraph pole run - all gone!

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Taw Valley at Farnborough station.

Carrying Plymouth line head signals on 14th February 1994, rebuilt Bulleid light pacific Nº34027 Taw Valley heads the "South Western Swansong" railtour through Farnborough station on its way from Waterloo to Yeovil Junction and back.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Class 33 at Farnborough station.

Bringing the motive power more up-to-date, a class 33 runs light engine through the station. Note the wide gap between the up and down fast lines created by the removal of the island platform.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Approach to Farnborough station.

The approach road to the station, with station car park where once stood the goods shed.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Farnborough station.

The former goods shed in a state of sorry disrepair.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

Farnborough station.

A final view of the goods shed, surrounded by mess and builders' rubble.

photograph by Cliff Hutton

This page was last updated 20 June 2007

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