First Pasture Price: £26.95
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Although the construction of this beautiful branch line was resisted for many years by the South Eastern Railway, it eventually opened in 1893. Meandering through the High Weald of Kent and landscapes of quiet hilltop villages, hop gardens and deeply wooded valleys, this delightful rural backwater served the communities of Horsmonden, Goudhurst, Cranbrook and Hawkhurst for 68 years.
Farmers, hop-growers, tradesmen and locals made good use of the line, but perhaps its most famous association is with the hop-picking season when hundreds of Londoners travelled down each September to rural Kent on their annual working holiday.
The Hawkhurst branch was arguably the most charming branch line on the Southern, traversing some of the loveliest countryside Kent possesses. During the forty years which have since elapsed, this much-lamented, lost Southern byway has often been the subject of several books. However, until now no comprehensive history has ever been written.
Brian Hart spent many years meticulously researching the history of this appealing byway and he provides us with a fascinating account which will appeal to the casual reader as well as to the dedicated railway historian. The whole story is recorded in exquisite and minute detail, from surveying and construction through the inaugural train to the "last rites", and there is even a chapter devoted to the hop-pickers and their special trains. Full scale drawings and plans of all buildings are included, as are track and signalling diagrams. The book features archive photographs which cover every conceivable detail of the railway line.