The last of the railway proposals relevant to Farnborough in the early phase of railway building was the Bromley Farnborough and West Wickham proposal of 1865.  Soon after that the country entered the 'Long Depression', which some sources say lasted from 1873 to 1896. It was notable in being the first global depression.  The causes were complex and are discussed in this Wikipedia Article.

In the United Kingdom the advent of the Long Depression coincided with the end of the main phase of railway building, during which virtually all of the main lines had been established, in little over 35 years.  For example in London, all of the railway termini had by then been build, with the sole exception of Marylebone. This was not constructed until virtually the end of the century. It opened in 1899, and was never a great success, consisting of only 4 platforms until its expansion in modern times.

Farnborough did not figure in any more railway proposals for a couple of decades.  Having been left without a connection despite all the earlier proposals, it was at a disadvantege compared with other local towns, particularly Orpington.  Population growth in Farnborough was as given in the table below:  this was less than might have been expected had it had a railway link (source: Wikipedia)

Year 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931
Population 553 638 680 920 955 1,086 1,451 1,627 2,262 3,210 3,322 4,373

The government came to the realisation that railway development after the depression had lifted would be different and more small scale than what had gone before, and that the planning framework would therefore need some adjustment.  Consequently two acts of parliament were passed to try to address the issue:

Tramways Act 1870

The Act attempted to promote this new means of transport by clarifying and regulating the legal position. It authorised local boroughs or urban district councils to grant a 21-year concession to a private tramway operator. The operator could construct the track as part of the concession but was responsible for the repair of the public highway between the tracks and a short distance either side. The local authority could construct the track themselves if they wished to retain complete control of the highway, but they were not allowed to operate trams.  

At the conclusion of the lease, the local authority could purchase the complete undertaking, including the trams and horses (or, in the case of a steam tramway, the locomotives and trailers). This was at a normal asset valuation, which took account of depreciation, and not a valuation of the business as a going concern.

See Tramways Act 1870

The Tramways Act was of considerable significance and benefit in London and other cities, but was not relevant to Farnborough. Not so this later act:

Light Railway Act 1896

The Light Railways Act was of importance because it did away with the need to gain Parliamentary approval for each new railway proposed.  Instead an umbrella act was passed in 1896, following which individual schemes could proceed subject just to the granting of a Works Order.

The Act limited weights to a maximum of 12 tons on each axle and speeds to a maximum of 25 miles per hour (mph), and 8 mph on bends. These limits enforced the use of lightly laid track and relatively modest bridges which helped keep costs down.  The act also exempted Light Railways from some of the other requirements of a normal railway – for example level crossings did not have to be protected by gates, but only by cattle grids, saving the cost of both the gates and a keeper to operate them. It did not exclude standard-gauge track, but narrow gauge tracks were used for many railways built under its provisions. 

The Act, though, gives only a vague description; perhaps a better one is found from John Charles MacKay in the same year: "A light railway is one constructed with lighter rails and structures, running at a slower speed, with poorer accommodation for passengers and less facility for freight. It can be worked with less stringent standards of signalling and safety practice. It is a cheap railway and a second class of railway."

Many of the railways built under the auspices of the act were very basic, with little or no signalling. Many ran under the 'One Engine In Steam' principal. 

see Light Railway Act 1896

Further Proposals after 1890.

There were four further local proposals after 1894, one regular railway and three Light Railways - see menu.  None of them came to fruition, and they became less relevant once motor bus services started in about 1912.



Light Railways Today

Across the country many light railways did get built, but by the 1920s improving road transport had proved too much for some of them, and closures resulted. However some did survive thanks to clever management and tight financial control.

Today they are usually operated as heritage lines, appealing mainly to tourists.

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