The nearest railway station to Wisborough Green is at Billingshurst which was opened on 10th October 1859 by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. It is on the line that went from Horsham to the junction with the Brighton to Chichester coastal route at Ford.
In 1923 this railway company amalgamated with others to form the Southern Railway though no real changes ensued apart from electrification on 30th June 1938. In 1948, the railways were nationalised and the railway company became the Southern Region of British Railways. In 1996, the railways were privatised and the franchise was let to Connex South Central who in turn lost their franchise in 2004 to New Southern Railway.
Passenger Train Services
The train services went mostly from London to Bognor Regis. Initially, the service was from London Bridge but moved to Victoria station in London soon after that station opened a year later. Most trains today (in 2006) go from Bognor Regis to Victoria, although in the rush hour some trains originate at Southampton and Chichester and at least one goes to London Bridge.
Initially the passenger train service was six stopping trains a day in each direction, with one express service to Portsmouth and just two trains on Sunday. By 1910 the service frequency increased to 12 trains on weekdays and four on Sundays. After electrification, the service changed dramatically. An hourly express service ran from Victoria via Dorking to Bognor Regis and Portsmouth Harbour. A half-hourly stopping service ran between Three Bridges and Littlehampton. In the 1960’s, the stopping service became hourly. The express service was rerouted in 1978 to run via Gatwick, but this was withdrawn in 1984 leaving just an hourly stopping service with additional rush hour trains.
In 2006 there were two semi-fast trains per hour between Victoria and Bognor and several extra fast trains in the rush hour. The semi-fast trains take 1hour 9 minutes to London, whereas the rush hour trains, stopping at fewer stations take a few minutes less. In the rush hour, around 40 passengers catch each train to London with the trains almost full after calling at Horsham. Most passengers travel all the way to London with a few alighting at East Croydon. During the day, however, there are only a few passengers. These travel to a much more diverse range of destinations, some passengers changing at Three Bridges to catch Brighton line trains.
In 2008, the off-peak service frequency remained the same, but at Horsham, down trains split into two portions, viz. a fast through service to Portsmouth that didn’t stop at most intermediate stations including Billingshurst and an all stations service to Bognor that followed almost immediately. Up trains operated the same process in reverse, i.e. the all-stations stopping service waited at Horsham for the fast service to arrive whereupon the two trains were connected. However, this often meant that passengers from Billingshurst had to wait five minutes or more at Horsham for the second train to arrive.
The fast services that operated up to the 1980’s provided a buffet car. In 2004, a refreshment trolley service was introduced that was wheeled through the train serving drinks such as instant coffee and cans of beer and snacks such as sandwiches, biscuits and crisps.
Goods Train Services
A daily goods service was provided, but this was withdrawn on 4th May 1964. An Express Dairy milk collection siding remained open for a little while longer. The site is now the station car park. The goods shed that was used for packages and equipment remains in use today (in 2006) as the depot for Wisborough Green Tyres that relocated there in 1990. One major source of traffic during the 1930’s was Carter Brothers’ elevators that were dispatched on four-wheel long wheelbase flat wagons.
The station platforms are only four coaches in length and this remains a problem as most trains are longer than this. Up trains in excess of four coaches have to stop with only the first four coaches at the platform, thus obstructing the level crossing that is immediately to the south of the station. Down trains are affected the same way although the level crossing is not obstructed. The down platform was extended northwards by a four coach length in 2005, but the extension remains out of use in 2006. The level crossing had opening gates until replaced by lifting barriers in 1978.
A car park was provided on the site of the up goods yard. The car park was operated by a lifting barrier up to around 2004, when it became ‘Pay and Display’ operation where the user either had a season ticket affixed to the windscreen or a ticket for the day could be purchased from a machine. The daily cost of using the car park was £3.30 in 2006.
The signalling is controlled from a signal box located at the southern end of the up platform. The signals are standard colour light towards Horsham, but towards Arundel, they remain (unusually in 2006) semaphore signals operated by cables pulled by 4’ long levers in the signal box. The trackwork is the usual double track with a trailing crossover just south of the level crossing controlled from the signal box.
The trains were all steam hauled up to electrification in June 1938. The locomotive classes used for passenger trains were latterly class B4X 4-4-0 tender locos and class I3 4-4-2 tank locos. Classes C2X 0-6-0 and N 2-6-0 tender locos operated the goods service until its closure.
The initial electric trains were the Southern Railway class 4-Cor four-car units for the express (or ‘fast’) trains. These had corridor connections between coaches to enable passengers to walk the length of the train. The stopping (or ‘slow’) trains were classes 2-Bil and 2-Hal two-car units; these trains did not have through corridor connections although one could usually walk the length of the coach. The trains were painted green up to the late 1960’s. A few were repainted blue in the early 1970’s when British Railways changed its corporate colours. These were replaced by the classes 421 for fast services and 423 for the slow services. Both types were four-car units with through corridor connections and painted blue and white. They became yellow and white when Connex took over the service in 1996 although all livery changes were only applied when the trains were overhauled.
All these types of train had hinged doors that had to be opened by the passengers. They could cause problems for passengers trying to get off when the train was beyond the platform – there was a chance of falling onto the trackside if the door was opened expecting a platform to be present!
The franchise was taken over by Southern Railway in 2004 and they introduced new class 377 four-car units for all services. These trains have doors controlled by the guard, air conditioning and are painted pale green and white.
First and second class accommodation was provided on all trains, although up to the early 1960’s second class was named third class. Toilet facilities were provided on all trains.
Tickets and Fares
Tickets are sold from an office in the main building on the up platform between 6.30am and 5 pm. At all times, tickets can be purchased from a new machine just outside the main entrance. Fares are revised in mid-January. From mid-January 2006, a full-price return ticket to London cost £25.20. A weekly season ticket that allowed unlimited travel for seven days was available from any day of the week cost £75. A monthly season ticket, available from any day in the month, cost £234. Off-peak return tickets to London purchased for travel after 9.30am cost £15 while at weekends there was a special fare to Victoria at £10. First class fares were approximately 50% more than second class.
Some of the above information is from ‘Crawley to Littlehampton’ by Vic Mitchell and Keith Smith published in 1986.