Reading (Southern)

Text and reminiscences from Cliff Hutton

Reading station
Reading (Southern) Station frontage in the 1960s

photograph by J L Smith, reproduced by kind permission of Nick Catford.

Long ago, in a brave and perhaps puzzling move, the South Eastern pushed west. It supported the building of the Reading, Guildford and Reigate Railway (which it bought in 1852) which crossed "Brighton territory" and plunged into the L.S.W.R.'s patch. Finally this long arm came to rest mere yards from the Great Western's busy Reading station, between Paddington and the West.

A modest terminus, it stood cheekily across from Reading General and went quietly about the business of carrying people and making money with steam and electric trains. No doubt when grouping came, the new Southern Railway was delighted to have this thorn already pushed into the Western's side.

Originally known as just plain Reading I knew it as Reading South, a name it gained on 26th September 1949, in my childhood of the 40s and 50s. My grandfather worked in a strange, one-level government office complex at Whitenights Park outside Reading. The Ministry of Supply, or part of it, left over from its blossoming during WW2. When I was old enough, he began taking me with him on Saturdays (when people still worked uncomplaining on Saturday mornings). He'd alight at Earley, leaving me to go on one more stop, to Reading. Then I'd blissfully spend the long morning and early afternoon train spotting.

Reading station Reading station as it was in 1865.

photograph reproduced by kind permission of
Nick Catford.

Reading (Southern) station as it was in the 1960s.

photograph by J L Smith, reproduced by kind permission of Nick Catford.

Reading station
This is a terrible confession to have to make but: I'd spend the whole time on Reading General collecting GWR engine numbers. "Everything Western" it seemed, was to be seen there, well not everything, but an enormous variety. All the named classes with the exception of the Manors. It was a long time before I understood why my remark that, "I don't have any Manors" was cause at home for so much hilarity.

But this is about Reading South, and only distant memories!

From the platform you could see, to your left and at a slightly higher level of course, the GWR going haughtily to and from Paddington and the West. To the right of the Southern metals, Reading Gasworks' gasholders dominated the skyline, Nearer, Huntley and Palmers were making their biscuits. Somewhere around there too, the Kennett and Avon Canal burrowed below the railway heading from the Thames to far away Bristol; just like the GWR.
2 Nol The end of the line! Another view of Reading (Southern) in the 1960s.

photograph by J L Smith, reproduced by kind permission of Nick Catford.

No blinds on me! The driver of unit 2104 leans out of the front cab window to retrieve the route indicator having just arrived in platform 4A at Reading (Southern).

photograph by Ray Soper

Just outside the station, sandwiched betwixt the Southern and the GWR, was Reading South loco depot. It was home to Maunsell moguls and assorted, humble, black engines in the 30,000 range. Getting all the numbers as the train rolled by was always a challenge. I bunked round it at least once.

A memory persists of being lifted up, as a small child, into a loco cab at Reading South. Something, probably lifting safety valves, had me screaming to get off. So much for the intrepid loco-spotter!

There was a line linking the metals of the two companies.

2 Nol On what would appear to be a rather dismal day during April 1957, 2 Nol º1897 sits in platform 2 at Reading South station ready for its next duty.

photograph by A. J. Wills © Southern Railway Net

A foreigner in the station! Churchward mogul º6366 paying a visit to the third rail in April 1957!

photograph by A. J. Wills © Southern Railway Net

The "Birkenhead Express" - This train ran, presumably, from Birkenhead on GWR metals as far as Reading. At Reading it acquired a Southern engine which took it down onto the Southern by the above-mentioned link. Where did it go then? I'm sure in my mind that, on occasion, my grandfather and I took that train home to North Camp (Farnborough) on those far-off Saturdays. Anyone care to clarify this childhood memory?

The station name was changed again, on 11th September 1961, to Reading (Southern), but it's all gone now, completely wiped away, the loco depot, station, signalling, everything. Replaced by shops and car parking. Not a hint remains of days gone by. The "Southern" trains now climb meekly up and down that slope into the "Western" station where a humble platform is provided for trains to Guildford etc. Curse the wicked Western!

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This page was last updated 17 July 2007