This was a picturesque station in a delightful wooded setting. Frequently devoid of passengers Rowfant featured a passing loop, level crossing, signalbox and an hourly interval service in both directions. This service was enhanced in the morning and evening peak hours, providing a useful link from East Grinstead to the main London - Brighton line. The following text on this page was provided by Martin Usher who used to "hang out with one of the signalmen at this station from time to time".
Rowfant Overview of the Station, Signalbox and somewhat unattractive platform shelter.

photographs by Keith Harwood

The station site is indeed in a "delightful wooded setting" except that the woods to the south on Wallage Lane contained a number of oil storage tanks, in fact I think the wood was grown around the tanks to camoflage them. They were serviced from a terminal in the yard which can be seen in the left of the bottom photograph on this page photograph. (The yard had two roads servicing the oil facilities (which were fenced off from the rest of yard) and a single siding. Trains had to back down a long spur that ran along the main line to get into the yard. This spur was level, with the main line climbing up on an embankment. That spur used to curve away to the south to service a sawmill that was about a quarter mile away but that track had long since been lifted and nearly all traces had disappeard by the 60s.

I think the oil faclity dated from WW2 and may explain the utilitarian platform shelter on the south platform. I moved away from the area after the line was closed but I believe that the section from Three Bridges to Rowfant was maintained as a siding for a number of years to service that faclity.

The Signalbox with the starting signal right outside the window!

photographs by Keith Harwood

The signalling was a little unusual. The bottom picture cites the "signal arm not much more than halfway up the post", but the picture was taken at or around closure when things seem to have been rationalized a bit. That arm used to be a Calling On signal, the real Starter was above it. This allowed locomotives into the block so they could run a little way up the track to a Limit of Shunt marker by the westbound Home signal (which was located some way up the track from the loop points).

(I'm not sure why it was marked as a Calling On since it was supposed to be used for shunting but since nobody had used it in living memory by the time I got there it didn't matter. It was an old-pattern non-BR sort, BTW, with horizontal striping and a ';C'; on it.)

The westbound starting signal by the box was one of a pair, the loop having been extended a bit beyond the level crossing (its now a car park for the footpath) with a second starting signal just before the tracks converged. There were a couple of shunt signals, one can be seen in the lowest picture (a ';red'; one) and a second one with a yellow bar protecting the exit to the yard. (The yellow shunt signal allowed movements to pass the signal whilst at danger providing the movement was not in the direction protected by the signal. E.g. a train could be shunted in and out of a siding from a headshunt past a yellow shunt signal, protecting the exit from the headshunt to the running line, at danger. All that was needed was the initial authority of the Signalman to make such moves. - Web master). The distant signals were fixed - the one by the crossing at "Keeper's Cottage" on the west side was replaced by a color light in 1960 for some reason or another.

Rowfant M7 class º30029 pauses with the hourly Pull 'n' Push stopping service.

photograph by Keith Harwood

The sections were managed by staff machines, not tablets - red on the Three Bridges side, blue for East Grinstead. These machines were electrically interlocked with the starting signals and were at each end of the box and were not only bulky but really difficult to get staves out of them. The staff machine was about 4'6" tall, a large head with the electrics on it perched on the thinner pedestal that stored the staves. The instrument had a signalling key, an indicator switch and a galvanometer. The problem using it was that you had to hold the signalling key down (after turning the knob to the agreed "up" or "down" position while removing the staff, a job that took two hands because it had to be held level to avoid jamming the mechanism. It was fiddly. I don't know how people managed at Three Bridges where the machine proper was in a room by the bay remote from the signalbox (it was operated by a porter or one of the train crew).

More information about the Electric Train Staff can be read on the Bluebell Railway web site, though the operation there is slightly different from that described for Rowfant.

The opposite end of the station from the buildings and Signalbox shows signs of neglect as the vegetation starts to take over! Note the unequal length platforms and the signal arm not much more than halfway up its post.

photograph by Keith Harwood

It was a nice place to hang out. It was for a time my idea of the ideal job - read a book or the paper, drink tea or lemonade, do a spot of gardening and watch the occasional train go by. And get paid for it!

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This page was last updated 16 August 2003

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