Brighton Stories and Tips

Railways

Arch 1 Photo, Brighton, England

Given the amount of traffic between London and Brighton, and the fact that the journey took days by horse, it was inevitable that a railway linking the cities would fast become a popular idea. There was just one problem: the South Downs stood square in the way, and railway engines do not like hills. The newly formed London & Brighton Railway Company hired the famous engineer, Robert Stephenson, as a consultant. The great man preached caution and recommended that his client accept a proposal by George Bidder that would result in a long route but minimised engineering risks. However, the company bravely decided to go with a proposal from one George Rennie who boldly proposed to lay a straight line between the cities, tunnelling and bridging everything that got in the way. Rennie's plans involved several lengthy tunnels and two large viaducts, which make the London to Brighton line one of the more impressive feats of engineering on Britain's railways.

Of course you cannot see any of that from central Brighton. However, you can visit the magnificent Victorian station. As you can see from the photographs, it has one of those splendid arched roofs of which the Victorians were so fond. It isn't quite on the same scale as the great London terminuses such as Paddington, but for a small city it is very impressive. It has also been beautifully restored and probably looks much better today than it did when covered in soot from steam trains.

Parliament gave permission for the Brighton railway in 1837. It took Rennie and his team (3,500 men and 570 horses) four years and over £2.5 million to finish the line, but finish they did and on September 21st 1841 the first train from London rolled into Brighton station. In those days the railway started from the suburbs of south London, but in 1846 the company amalgamated with the London & Croydon Railway, giving it access to Victoria Station just a few hundred yards from Buckingham Palace itself. The resulting London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, with its distinctive yellow-ochre livery, became one of the most famous railway companies in Victorian Britain. It also completely changed the nature of Brighton. Now the ordinary people of London could visit the seaside for the day for a fare of less than 20p each way. The great tradition of British seaside holidays had been born.

Trains still run regularly between Brighton and London Victoria. The Connex express service does the journey in about an hour. There is now also an option to travel directly into the Capital's financial district on the Thameslink service. One of the major stops on the route is Gatwick Airport, making Brighton an easy destination for visitors from all parts of the world.

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