1001 and The Ashford & Hastings Line

Last modified on 12 January 2011

[PHOTO: train pulling into sunny station: 91kB]

Our DEMU, in its 3-carriage formation, arrives at Rye station with the 1024 service from Hastings to Ashford. The windmill which it has passed is now a guest-house. Photo taken on Tuesday 31 May 2005 by Chris Nevard.

These operating diagrams, extracted from the working timetables, have their own pages:

Note that the current set of diagrams has not been made available here: while our DEMU is not being used for Ashford & Hastings Line workings, it seemed inappropriate to display Southern’s operational detail for all to see.

[PHOTO: front-3-quarter view of DEMU on perfect day: 42kB]

The 3-car train calling at Rye with a Hastings-bound service. The date was 11 May 2001 – fifteen years to the day since the fleet’s mass withdrawal, and five years to the day since this unit’s return to main-line running. Photo by Mike Pannell.

The line

The 26-mile railway from Ashford to Hastings is a rural branch line which runs through some pretty but varied countryside; it was opened in 1851 by the South Eastern Railway company. After leaving the busy Ashford International station, the line passes through Ham Street and descends onto the Romney and Walland Marshes, land reclaimed from the sea at the foot of the cliffs and used mainly for keeping sheep. From Appledore, the line passes from Kent into East Sussex, over the River Rother and into Rye, the principal intermediate station on the line. Rye’s old town, in previous centuries a haven for smugglers, is perched above sea level on a small hill; the squat tower of the church can be seen from the railway.

On leaving Rye for Hastings, travellers pass by a windmill close to the lineside; Winchelsea, the next halt, serves that village which—like Rye—is on a hill beyond the foot of the cliffs. The line runs along the Brede valley for a while, but by Doleham it twists and turns, trying to follow the contours of the increasingly-hilly countryside. After Three Oaks halt (which formerly carried the suffix “& Guestling”) the line reaches a summit and plunges through The Ridge near Guestling in a 1,402-yard tunnel; this comes out in the Hastings suburb of Ore, after which the tunnel takes its name; at this point is the last intermediate station, and also the site of the former Ore carriage shed; a further 230-yard tunnel at Mount Pleasant, and a steep downhill grade, brings the line into Hastings station.

[PHOTO: telephoto view of train arriving at station: 74kB]

Motor coach 60116 Mountfield leads the 3-car DEMU as it arrives at Appledore with the 1057 South Central service to Ashford International; this was 1001’s first trip of Monday 23 February 2004. Photo by John Hendy.

Survival through rationalisation

Having thus far survived the threat of closure, the line has undergone much rationalisation; this includes the withdrawal of services on a branch from Appledore to Lydd and Dungeness, closure of one station, the singling of more than 15 miles of double track, and the downgrading of most intermediate stations to unstaffed halts. Multiple-Aspect Signalling has been installed throughout the line; it is controlled from remaining ’boxes at Hastings and Rye, and from the Ashford panel.

For many years and through the turn of the 21st Century, the train service was operated as an hourly shuttle dubbed the Marsh Link, calling at all stations; latterly, a couple of early-morning and late-night trains ran through from/to Eastbourne, and on Mondays to Fridays there was one additional semi-fast working each way in the evening peak. However, since 2006 the line became absorbed into the East Coastway route, with a semi-fast hourly service between Ashford International and Brighton; additional peak-time trains run between Rye and Ashford International, but there are now only three trains per day (two at weekends) in each direction that stop at Winchelsea, Doleham, and Three Oaks.

1001 at work on the line

Local Train Operating Company Southern (New Southern Railway Ltd, formerly South Central, before that Connex South Central) operates the passenger train service over the Ashford & Hastings line. Until May 2004 all trains were class 205 “Hampshire” & class 207 “Oxted” SR DEMUs; since then, new Class 170 re-designated “Turbostar” DMMUs have been phased in (and since re-designated as class 171). Our “Hastings” DEMU was called into service on this line from time to time, as it is based nearby and was operationally similar to the other DEMUs then working the line. The Diary contains details of our train’s workings over the line.

[PHOTO: long shot of 3-car demu leaving big station: 60kB]

With Tunbridge Wells leading, the 3-car version of 1001 pulls out of Ashford International station with the 14:52 to Hastings on 11 March 2003; not readily visible from this angle is motor coach Mountfield which was on its first day back in service. Photo by Colin Price.

The first occasion that our train was used on the line was on Thursday 23 March 2000, when 1001 was hired by Connex South Central (as it was then) to deputise for 207017 which had suffered a broken oil-pipe; it operated two round-trips from Hastings to Ashford, at 1534 and 1806.

The next recorded workings were during 24 to 28 July 2000, when the train worked the line as a 6-car formation on Monday 24 and (with the BIG buffet removed) as a 5-car thereafter.

Severe weather brought our unit out to help on the line on 12 & 13 October 2000, and a lack of available trains likewise on 30 April 2001. Since then our unit has been at work on the line on various occasions, sometimes on a full-time basis and sometimes just when something unexpected has occurred. In almost all cases 1001 runs as a 3-car set, using one of the DEMU trailers necessarily topped and tailed by two of our three power cars Hastings, Tunbridge Wells and Mountfield (60000, 60118 and 60116 respectively).

From the introduction of the Summer 2003 working timetable on 18 May 2003, St. Leonards depot became the normal location for refuelling and checking of DEMUs on these services; HDL’s 3-car unit 1001 was placed on permanent standby at the depot. Until it became ‘stopped’ in late 2005 for the fitting of CDL, it was frequently sent out at short notice in place of any Southern DEMU or Turbostar requiring maintenance upon arrival at St. Leonards depot.

Its last working on the line to date was on 24 August 2005.

[PHOTO: 3-car demu in shade at station: 44kB]

The 3-car version of unit 1001 is seen at the bay platform, No. 1, Hastings station, waiting to set off to the Park Sidings in the sunset after an afternoon on the Walland & Romney Marshes. The date is probably 6 August 2002; the photograph is courtesy of Mark Tickner.


[PHOTO: 3-car demu approaches round curve, on sunny day: 56kB]

1001 rounds the curve out of Ashford International with the 15:24 departure for Hastings, on 28 May 2003. Photo by Colin Price.

[PHOTO: long shot of 3-car demu receding on sunny day: 55kB]

A few seconds after the previous picture, 1001 is seen accelerating away towards Ham Street. “New” motor coach 60116 Mountfield brings up the rear, showing off its fresh paintwork and lack of exhaust smoke! Photo by Colin Price.

[PHOTO: view from footbridge of approaching train: 72kB]

Approaching Rye with an “up” service. This was a very unusual occurrence from the Monday after the “Hastings 150” gala weekend, of 1 & 2 September 2001. Unit 1001 had been running on the Hastings – Tunbridge Wells – Charing Cross line the previous day; because it was requested at very short notice leaving no time for uncoupling and reforming, it operated the Ashford – Hastings service as a 6-car train! Photo by Mike Pannell.

[PHOTO: wide shot of train just about to pass by, siding in foreground: 78kB]

Our train is seen making a rapid acceleration up the 1-in-60 bank out of Hastings station towards Ore, with the 10:24 to Ashford; the noise was spectacular! The rear motor coach (60118) is adjacent to a ‘diamond double-slip’ set of points leading into the Park Sidings, from which vantage-point Andy Armitage took this photograph on Wednesday 9 June 2004.