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Addiscombe Last Trains

The Addiscombe branch, together with the West Croydon to Wimbledon line, was closed for route reconstruction in connection with the Croydon Tramlink scheme. This text is based on an article from the August 1997 issue of Live Rail distributed to members of the SEG. In the past the Addiscombe branch had been visited by a number of railtours operated by the Southern Electric Group. One of these was on Sunday 4th October 1987 utilising very unusual traction for this line as it was formed of single 4Rep unit 2005. This tour also visited the now closed Dover Western Docks station later in the itinerary.

According to some sources the withdrawal of rail services from Addiscombe on the evening of Saturday 31st May 1997 is not entirely legal. Parts of the route will be restored to another form of rail right of way in the form of Croydon Tramlink but Addiscombe itself will be closed outright apparently outside the statutory procedure.

Addiscombe station that evening when approached on foot from East Croydon seemed to have been abandoned long ago. The front doors were locked and barred. No signs indicated the way to the trains - through the side entrance to the right and set back from the main frontage. The booking office was closed sometime ago but certainly in 1995 access was still through the booking hall doors. Only platform 2 is operational following the fire destroying the signalbox in March 1996. The foundations and a few pieces of ironwork are all that remains of the mechanical interlocking signalbox just off the platform end. Following the fire only the Down line has been in use with "one engine in steam" type pilotman working. This actually means a three persons are needed to crew each train - a driver, a pilotman and a guard. DOO never graced Addiscombe. But despite the run down and unstaffed nature of the infrastructure the platform area is surprisingly graffiti free.

In recent times the Elmers End to Addiscombe services have been home to Slade Green's two car Networker units on restricted working. Today appeared to be no exception as 466016 did not produce the characteristic noises from the traction converter electronics and generally seemed sluggish. The route is limited to one 466 only as relocated buffer stops reduced the available platform face in the bay at Elmers End. Of course the South Eastern Division used to work longer 10EPB trains Addiscombe for cleaning and berthing in pre-Networker days. The multiple unit car shed has been closed for some time with the entrance pointwork still guarded by a Chris Green NSE era digital clock, albeit stopped, and a sign indicating Networkers are not welcome within the shed. This car shed, with one time train crew depot, was almost certainly the reason that Addiscombe remained open when the Woodside and Sanderstead section closed.

Before 20:00 there were few travelling as many potential clients were still making their way over from the West Croydon to Wimbledon last train. But even the dozen or so customers on the 18:43 Addiscombe-Elmers End was still an order of magnitude greater than normally carried on off-peak workings. Two return trips were made in the relative peace and quiet before adjournment to the local Fullers hostelry where it was concluded that:

  1. 466016 will claim the position of the first last working by a Networker;
  2. Connex has the honour of being the first TOC franchisee to close anything outright; and
  3. that the money collected for building a new Pacific would have been better spent recreating a Bulleid 1CoCo1 diesel.

Just two pints of London Pride later Addiscombe concourse was a different place. The "Permit To Travel" machine had a queue possibly for the first time ever. The accountants however may have difficulty in resolving the quantity of five pence permits issued against actual travel. It is doubtful that any of these would be converted into tickets of any form.

The last public train at 21:13 departed with one well known SEG member claiming the last kebab (with extra chilli sauce) to be consumed on the Addiscombe branch. The kebab survived long enough to make the last arrival into Elmers End bay platform and the last departure from there at 21:27. 466016 now had standing passengers with an estimated 120 - 130 persons were on board, although in the interests of accurate reporting it should be recorded that seats were not fully occupied 2+3 fashion. A little horn blowing accompanied Elmers End departure while arrival at Addiscombe was amid floodlighting, multiple flashlights, shutters clicking in tandem, and much panning of camcorders. Another bored British Transport Police officer supervised it all. The last train out is three minutes off pattern and so at 21:40 466016 left to nearly two minutes of horn blasts. Addiscombe is closed. Consumption of the kebab had been completed before departure but the earlier claim appeared substantiated with no other kebabs found on a random audit. 466016 is heading for home now so decanted its passengers on the Up through line at Elmers End then continued empty to depot. 133 years of operation were nearly over.

Addiscombe has closed to advertised passenger trains. Whether this is legal or not will no doubt be debated by others but in this case it really is a technical point - albeit a dangerous one if used as a precedent. The 21:40 Addiscombe to Elmers End was not the very last train as a 8Vep special travelled the route after 466016. Signals engineers were then booked to take possession of the route to disconnect and recover the little remaining equipment.