This standard gauge railway would have started very close to the pre-existing South Eastern Railway station at Bromley (North), by the boundary between the Metropolitan Borough of Lewisham and the Urban District of Bromley.

Tram Proposal

In fact the original idea was for a tramway. In the early part of the century there was a major expansion in tram services, facilitated by the introduction of electric trams. These used the planning powers established by the Tramways Act of 1874

One of the lines travelled south from Lewisham through Catford, continuing as far as Downham. The proposal involved extending it to run through Bromley and Farnborough, then terminate in Green Street Green by the "Queens Head".
Tram at Lewisham c 1906
photo: Old UK Photos

Under the terms of the act for this tramway, compulsory purchase of houses in Farnborough Village was sought to create a three acre worksite to be used for generating equipment and a depot. The depot would be in an area bounded in the South-East by Gladstone Road. The approximate location for the depot is shown in this map, click to enlarge.

These powers would last for a period of up to three years after the start of construction. The Tramway company  would also be empowered to purchase further land ‘by agreement’ and resell it at a future time.

But the proposal was turned down. Perhaps the powers that be in Bromley objected to having the road through the centre of the town torn up to make way for tram tracks.

Later the line was extended from Downham eastward to terminate at Grove Park (see photo, left, also the article to the right).  This survived until the service was withdrawn in the 1950s.

Trams ceased running in London altogether by 1952, although of course there has been a modern revival to build the new system centred on Croydon.  

Light Railway Proposal

Not to be deterred the sponsors of the proposal quickly changed it to become a Light Railway.  The planning framework for this was potentially easier than that for a tramway, and it would have involved less disruption in the streets, although there was still a provision to build a large depot in Farnborough.  The line was not going to connect to the main line through Bromley, but instead be a stand-alone service seemingly with a main objective being to finally provide Farnborough with a railway service.

The line was to start just north of Bromley town centre at about the point where the borough of Bromley borders that of Lewisham.

It would have run close to Bromley North station and along the High Street to Bromley South station, 

Intriguingly two routes through Bromley centre are defined: whether these are alternatives or separate alignments for the east and west lines is not made clear.

The line would then run along Mason’s Hill and Bromley Common, to enter Farnborough Village and proceed to a spot adjacent to the old "George and Dragon Inn". It would then have continued down Farnborough Hill to a terminus by the “Queen’s Head’ at Green Street Green, a total length of about 7 miles. 

The draft bill does not specify where the stations would have been located, but it can surely be assumed that there would have been one at or near to the centre of the village.

The proposal included the following stipulations:

47 Carriages used on the railway may be moved by animal power or mechanical power: provided that no mechanical power shall be used except with the consent of and according to a system approved by the Board of Trade.

56 The company at all times after the opening of the railways or any portion thereof for public traffic shall run a proper and sufficient service of carriages for artisans mechanics and daily labourers each way every morning and every evening (Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday excepted) at such times not being later than 8 in the morning or earlier than 5 in the evening respectively as may be most convenient for such workmen going to and returning from their work at fares not exceeding one half penny for every mile or fraction of that distance. 

Here are two items of correspondence concerned with the submission:

Evidently the bill was either not approved, or the project could not be financed.

Had the railway been built it would probably not have lasted very long, as the 47 omnibus was operating along the same route by 1914.

see also Light Railway Act 1896


A Contemporary Account

The trams started at Victoria and finished their journey at Grove Park. On Downham Way there were two sets of tramlines and at Bromley Road there were two sets of three tramlines.  This was because on Downham Way the trams got their electric power from the overhead cables and on Bromley Road the power was in a conduit under the third track.

When the trams reached Bromley Road the driver would get out of the tram and manually disconnect the overhead power and then slip a large electrical conductor, which was called the “shoe”, under the tram and connect it to the middle track.

When the driver did that the locals called it the Changeover.  
Trams were not comfortable to ride in. They rocked from side to side and to get on a tram one had to walk into the middle of the road in order to board.

Downham Hall Community Centre

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