A little Redhill local history

I’ll report back on the show next time.  But for now, a little local history (at least it is if you live in Redhill).  From the Surrey Mirror:

The grisly tale of the tunnel between Merstham and Coulsdon South

Anyone who regularly uses the train line between Croydon and Redhill will have noticed the tunnel between Coulsdon South and Merstham railway stations.  Your phone’s signal goes and without funny cat videos to watch for at least 30 seconds you have to entertain yourself with your own thoughts. No easy task in today’s world of instant gratification.And the chances are at some point those thoughts will have included ‘why are we going through a tunnel anyway, what are we passing underneath and how long has the tunnel been there?’

Few commuters – even if they use the Brighton Main Line every day – will know the answers.  And even fewer are likely to know the sinister history of the Merstham Tunnel, or that it was the scene of the first possible murder on a train in the UK.

The construction of the 1.04-mile-long Merstham Tunnel started in 1839 and took two years to complete.  It is there so that trains can get through the hills of the North Downs, with the tunnel being cut through chalk.  The tunnel’s construction would be a crucial part of allowing London and Brighton to be linked by a train line.
When a railway line from London to Brighton was first proposed in the 1830s no fewer than six routes were suggested, only two of which came through the Merstham Gap north of what is now Redhill.  The winning route was an unexpected victor at the end of a Parliamentary enquiry.  Even then, the line should have gone through or near Reigate rather than two miles to the east of it. According to one account, opposition from local landowners prevented it doing so, but it is more likely that the topography of the area was the cause.

The route chosen followed that of the new Brighton Road, opened in 1818 through the gap between Redstone Hill and Redhill Common.  At that time Redhill as a town did not exist. The area now occupied by the town centre was empty marshland devoid of any buildings. There were a few farms in the vicinity and a cluster of cottages but that was about it.

When the tunnel was finished, to make the public feel safe in the darkness, gas lamps were fitted to the walls which were whitewashed.  This was soon abandoned, however, after the large amount of soot emitted from the trains made it too difficult to keep bright.

The tunnel was something of an engineering marvel but in 1905 it gained notoriety for a far darker reason when it became the site of a murder mystery.  On September 24, 1905, a 22-year-old woman’s body was found mutilated inside the tunnel by a sub inspector, William Peacock.  Peacock found Mary Sophia Money shortly before 11pm, while her body was still warm, and took her to the nearest train station where police instructed him to bring it to The Feathers Inn.

Mary, a bookkeeper, did not have any identifying papers on her and the day after her brother, Robert Henry Money, a dairy farmer, had to identify her.  It was initially assumed the cause of death was suicide, as Peacock believed she had jumped from a train while it was passing through the tunnel.  However, “claw marks” were found on the walls of the tunnel which suggested there may have been a struggle.

The theory that she had been murdered was strengthened by her post-mortem, as it was discovered that a white, silk scarf had been forced down her throat.  Scratches, bruises and cuts were also discovered on her arms and face, which led doctors to believe she had been pushed off or struggled with someone while on the train.

Her last moments were then investigated by detectives as they tried to solve the murder.  On the night of her death she had bought a bag of chocolates after finishing work at about 7pm and told a friend she was going for a walk before heading to Victoria station.

It was speculated Mary was going to meet a man for a date, with many coming to the conclusion that her death was at the hands of a partner.  This theory was further strengthened after a guard at Purley Oaks Signal Box and a guard at East Croydon recalled seeing a couple fighting.  Both guards said the woman in the couple fitted Mary’s description.Following her murder, over 100 interviews were taken and a huge investigation was sparked.  But the killer could never be found and her unsolved murder is widely regarded as the first murder on a train in the country.

And the other tunnel?

You would probably have to be very observant to notice but there are actually two tunnels, almost side by side, which trains run through between Coulsdon and Merstham.

The sharing of the main line caused a great deal of friction between rail operators South Eastern Railway (SER) and the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR).  Eventually the LB&SCR gained Parliamentary approval to build its own independent line between Coulsdon North and Earlswood, which bypassed the SER stations of Coulsdon South, Merstham and Redhill.

This involved the construction of a second tunnel to the east of the original, and 25 feet (7.6 metres) above the level of the original. Since both routes form part of the Brighton Main Line, in order to differentiate them the former was called the “Redhill Line”, whilst the new line became known as the “Quarry Line”.  The newer tunnel, known as the Quarry Tunnel, is about 1.2 miles long and was built between 1896 and its opening on November 8, 1899.

Today fast trains that bypass Redhill and Merstham will still use the Quarry Tunnel while trains that stop at Redhill and Merstham use Merstham Tunnel.

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ESNG meeting – 6 April 2017

Two days to the exhibition and 11 of us met up for final planning and to run  a few trains.  The layout was full of trains, some on test for Saturday.

Martin’s Eurostar lost a power car with a broken coupling and had to be rescued by a ’66’.  This made an excellent rake in its own right – perhaps more interesting than the full Eurostar.  Behind is Martin’s scratch built ‘Gatwick Express’ units.  Neatly done and a colourful reminder of an interesting train.

Simon was testing his mainly kit built breakdown train….

I had abandoned my ‘no more trains’ policy and bought a Bachmann Class 47 – or of this vintage a Brush Type 4 – in my favourite diesel livery.  The two tone livery always looks smart, and I remember seeing diesels like this at the London termini.

So, it’s back to the hall tomorrow afternoon to load up the cars and start the slow set up of the exhibition.  Then we’ll see who turns up on the day.  I’m not impressed that ASLEF have gone on strike again, that may stop a few people who would be coming to the show by train.  Poor display of solidarity….

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ESNG exhibtion – 8 April 2017 – on Saturday

A final reminder for local readers that the ESNG 2017 show is on Saturday!

As for the show contents, here’s a quick reminder….East Surrey N Gauge are 20 this year, and totally logically are holding their 19th annual exhibition in Redhill.  Same venue as last year, but they’ve finished rebuilding the school and the free car parking is back.  Should be up to the usual standard (whatever that is!)  Details are:

Sat 8th April 2017
St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School, Linkfield Lane, Redhill, Surrey RH1 1DU

ADMISSION:  Adults £4.00  Concessions £4.00  Children £2.00  Family £10.00
Still the N gauge show of the South. ESNG is 20 this year. We have the usual mix of N gauge layouts, including 3 modular layouts, and specialist traders. We are again at St Joseph’ School, with the benefits of all exhibits on one level, free parking (it’s back), and refreshments including real coffee!

ESNG N-Mod & N-Club (UK Modular Layout)
West Sussex N-Mod (UK Modular Layout)
Alpenbahn & N-Club (German Modular)
Santa Barbara (USA, West Coast)
Tunbridge Wells Sidings (Southern Region)
Atlantic Road (UK South London Modern Image)
Forrestone (UK Modern Image)
Oakhurst (UK Preserved Line)
Three Gates (UK Shunting Layout)
Kato Racetrack (Japan, Bullet Trains)

BH Enterprises
Ian Grace (Rail & Military)
Invicta Model Rail
JB’s Model World
ESNG Club Shop – mainly with the late ESNG President’s collection for sale
Neil & Martin’s Emporium – more second hand sales

Lots of good things to see and buy, I hope…

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Bit hectic at the moment, so here’s a picture from Mr Dawes of Swanage in the sun, with two Bullied Pacifics in Swanage station.

A contrast to when my father visited the station site in 1973!

But I do like the cars.  Some classic models on show.

And remember the ESNG show on Saturday 8th……

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Odd modelling ideas #398

From the Daily Telegraph

Incredible train ‘disappears’ through block of flats in China’s ‘Mountain City’

Architects and planners in a Chinese city have designed a novel way to make space for an essential train route – by building it through the centre of a block of flats.

The unusual train track passes directly through the 19-storey residential building in the “emerging mega-city” of Chongqing, located in the south-west corner of the East Asian nation.

Could make an interesting model!  But I hope this is right…

Noise reduction equipment installed at the station means the train only makes the same noise as a standard dishwasher.

However, the NYC ‘High Line’ in New York was older and also had the line passing through warehouses and factories…..

And in view of the date…..

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1971 – April – “Gricers” reach Wales

The April 1971 edition of Railway Magazine contained an article informing us that there were still seven classes of steam locomotive operating in Malaysia.  They had certainly all gone by 1985 when Maxine and I took a train from Kuala Lumpur.

But the best article was one by PJC Hitchcock, reproduced from the “Llanfair Railway Journal”.

It had to happen eventually.  Their stream withdrawal symptoms proving too much to bear, the gricer population has braved the obstacle of the British Rail, Crossville and W&L timetables and has started to arrive at Llanfair to the amusement or annoyance of members.  Notebooks at the ready to mark down anything from works numbers to laundry marks, and tape recorders recording all that’s going on, including carpentry work and hand trolleys being moved, various desiccated characters wearing equally desiccated gabardine raincoats now wander around the yard in febrile attempt to find things to photograph.  Complete with duffle bag and National Health Glasses, the Greater British Gricer is on the grice.

With remarkable tenacity, the gricer ferrets around for works numbers and other useless information to put in his little red book.  The fact that it is all in the “Guidebook” is immaterial, as part of his philosophy is never to spend a penny he doesn’t have to – even on fares – the other part never to get his hands dirty in any way.  Having said that, he can go to extraordinary lengths to find things to put in his little book.  On a number of occasions, people working beyond Castle have been surprised by weird characters seeking the number on the works train stock.  As one member said, “If you think we are potty, just look at some of our visitors!”

Apart from the classical gricer, there are numerous sub-divisions, the most common being the junior or apprentice type.  The ‘pretices mostly come in pairs – one holding the camera (usually one between two) – and the other the knowledge (invariably wrong!)  Monarch has them guessing: they have never seen anything like her before.  And as they never buy a “Guidebook”, all sorts of things go into the little red books about her.  For those who discover Nutty, there is a complete bewilderment followed by a furtive and hasty retreat.

Perhaps fortunately, because of its geographical position, Llanfair is never going to become a gricer’s haven as Longmoor was on Open Days when one could see six or seven of them clambering up a swaying signal mast and hundreds milling over the running lines.  But they have discovered us and we had better be prepared.


‘Nutty’, a chain driver Sentinel loco for brickworks use


‘Monarch’, a Meyer articulated locomotive, from Bowaters Paper Railway

The article contains this definition:  Gricer: railway enthusiast of the non-practical type, best compared to a football supporter; a sort of railway voyeur; has easily recognisable features of dress and attitude.  Etymology of word uncertain.

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Blatant tourism interlude

Back from Singapore last weekend, having worked for 10 days solid.  But there was time to take a few photos.  So here’s a little tourism as a diversion from the usual trains.

I did find time to visit the Asian Civilization Museum, and enjoy some exquisite art.  I liked the way they had presented the Chinese plates rescued intact from a shipwreck in the Persian Gulf….

And exhibits including this antique stock box, for keeping trains?

As dusk falls, the Singapore River and Clarke’s Quay light up and look very different….

Singapore may be urban, but there’s plenty of urban wildlife (of the non-human kind) to look out for.  These terrapins were sitting on a rubbish boom in the river by the hotel.

Unfortunately I only saw the otters that live in the river when I didn’t have a camera.  These creatures may be shy in the UK, but in Singapore they were  sunbathing on the river bank, watched by a dozen people just a few feet away.

The (feathered) bird life is surprisingly good, too.  Sitting next to the river having dinner, a Crested Serpent Eagle flew past.  And Collared Kingfishers are common by the river, or searching for food on the playing fields near by.  One of my favourites….

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