The Tatsfield Light Railway, and its later revival as the Southern Heights Light Railway, were the only proposals to involve a branch off the new Southeastern main line through Orpington.  Its purpose was to support the opening up of the then very rural area surrounding Biggin Hill to development. 

Biggin Hill’s major drawback has always been its poor transport links: one road in and one road out. Set on the top of the North Downs it was never going to be a candidate for a main line railway. It was this remoteness, resulting in low land prices, that enabled developer Frederick Dougal to offer plots of land for new housing very cheaply, see the illustration below for an example.. Even so he realised that Biggin Hill would benefit greatly from a railway, and supported plans developed in 1898 for the Tatsfield Light Railway. The plans were drawn up and promoted by Colonel Holeman Stephens, who built, or was involved with, many railway schemes throughout the country.

By this date most of the accessible parts of the country were within easy reach of a railway, but some areas, especially in hilly regions, were prohibitively expensive to serve.

The Light Railways Act of 1896 changed this, allowing lower cost railways to be built in return for lower maximum running speeds, and further limitations.

The Tatsfield Light was to be about eight miles in length and run from Orpington station via Green Street Green (for Farnborough), Downe and Keston, Cudham and Biggin Hill to Tatsfield. It would have crossed Farnborough Hill just beyond its junction with Shire Lane, where there would have been a station, see map below, click to enlarge.  

The line would be operated by the South Eastern Railway, who of course already ran the services on the main line through Orpington.

The plan was discussed by Farnborough Parish Council  on 6th January 1889, and after much debate a resolution was carried to the effect that the Council objected to the scheme on account of a dangerous level crossing proposed to be made at Green Street Green. Various alternatives were discussed, including putting the railway in a cutting with a bridge, and changing the route to avoid the problem. Eventually the objection was withdrawn.

The plan then proceeded to a public enquiry.  After much debate the President, after consulting with his colleagues, said they had come to the conclusion that the proposal would be of great benefit and advantage to the district, but that before the Order was granted they would require the names of the responsible persons who would act as Directors. They also stipulated that a time limit of two years must be placed for the acquisition of the land required, and that the railway must be completed within three years of the granting of the order.  The Order was granted in October 1901, and confirmed in June 1902. During the time of waiting the brochure was issued from which the above images have been taken.

It was reported in Bromley District Times in July 1902 that negotiations were in progress for raising the capital required for the railway, and that matters had advanced to such a stage that a satisfactory official announcement could soon be expected. Unfortunateley that turned out to be not the case.  It proved impossible to raise the necessary capital, and the South Eastern Railway declined to step in to save it, so the scheme lapsed.

With acknowledgements to Ideal Homes – a History of South-East London suburbs https://www.ideal-homes.org.uk/bromley/assets/histories/biggin-hill

See also Southern Heights Light Railway

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