HISTORY OF THE DYKE RAILWAY
Poynings Devils Dyke railway
The Devil’s Dyke which stands some 711 feet above sea level, has been an attraction for visitors for over 100 years or more. The view which spans six counties and takes in the Isle of Wight, is truly spectacular. Early visitors would have had to walk or ride on horseback until the advent of the Horse Carriage.
In September 1887 a spur was taken off of the main Brighton to Portsmouth railway line at Aldrington to provide a route to the Dyke. This was no mean feat as the line would need to climb a gradient of 1 in 40 and in order to make the line as level as possible it ran in a series of 20-40 foot deep cuttings and on 40 foot high embankments. The total journey time was around 20 minutes and cost 1/6d for a First Class return.
The first building at the Dyke was a disused bathing machine put there in 1818. In 1831 a Hotel was erected and this was improved in 1835. Amusements were provided at the Dyke: everything from a zoo, funfair, switchback, bicycle railway and a fortune teller to a 7 ton replica Naval gun. Among the attractions were an Aerial Railway which spanned the Dyke Gorge and a Funicular Railway which ran down the north side of the Dyke to Poynings. Some evidence of these two attractions still remain for the observant to find.
During harsh winters the railway provided an important lifeline to the villages below the Dyke. Farmers, Golfers and local people came to look upon the railway as a friend. The people that operated the railway took great pride in their work. The Stationmaster at the Dyke was also signalman, porter, ticket clerk, and shunter. For most of its length the line was out in open countyside.
The view across the valleys to the sea from the railway line would make one draw breath. Often in the Summer when the engine would loose traction, the load would be relieved by passengers alighting and picking blackberries until grip was established again when they would all jump aboard for the steady climb. Lineside fires were not uncommon due to the odd stray spark. Passengers would be quick to lend a hand beating out the grass before the fire could spread to neighbouring corn fields.
The line closed on New Years eve 1938 to much sadness at its passing. A band played the last train out of the station and in true railway tradition it left 10 minutes late.