Tracking back the history of Bognor Regis railway station

​​Bognor Regis has had a railway station for 160 years, with passengers excitedly leaving on the first train on June 1, 1864.

Civic leaders climbed on board the steam train at the first Bognor station and took the short journey to Barnham before returning to celebrate with a meal at the Assembly Rooms opposite, now the Picturedrome.Then local residents had their turn, enjoying free rides for the rest of the day.

The opening of the branch line ended the inconvenient arrangement where the town’s station was located at Woodgate, some four miles away, on the Brighton-Chichester line from 1847.

Bognor’s first station was merely a mainly wooden structure with one 90ft long canopy. In June 1892, a fierce gale brought down part of the station. Repairs were carried out, only for ferocious winds on March 2, 1897, to wreck it again.

The station was rebuilt for the second time but a major fire on September 29, 1899, destroyed the station. Again it was replaced, this time by the present, much bigger, structure, which opened in 1902.

This was followed by the first through train to London a year later. But it was not until 1911 the single line was doubled to the present layout and electrified in 1938.

The 150th anniversary was celebrated 10 years ago with red, white and blue pennants flying outside the station and a day of events. It was also the 25th anniversary of the safeguarding of Bognor Regis Railway Station, as it was awarded Grade II listed building status in August 1989.

This was prompted by the rail authorities’ plan to demolish the historic structure, with its large concourse leading to four platforms, and replace it with a modern design similar to the current Littlehampton station, which had recently been built.

Among those present in 2014 was Greg Burt, whose campaign to save the station from demolition was backed by the town’s MP at the time, the late Sir Michael Marshall.

Mr Burt felt the station was one of the town’s best buildings, grand and beautiful, a great legacy of the seaside resort’s long history as a destination for day-trippers.

Since the event 10 years ago, station staff have been working in partnership with Bognor Regis Town Council and Network Rail to make improvements.

Bognor Regis Model Railway Club had its Barnham Junction layout on show at Bognor in the former booking office for the celebrations in 2014, alongside layouts from Horsham Model Railway Club and Worthing and District Society of Model Engineers.

There were also stalls on the station concourse, including rail history specialist firm Middleton Press of Midhurst, with founder Vic Mitchell celebrating publishing its 500th title.

Hundreds of people took the opportunity to look around the town’s signal box in Longford Road and enjoy an open-top Southdown bus ride in the sunshine to the seafront.

Artistic pupils from St Mary’s Catholic Primary School in Bognor, St Philip Howard Catholic High School in Barnham and Chatsmore Catholic School in Worthing submitted 13 paintings for an art competition held in Nathan’s café on the concourse.

Meanwhile, there were displays by Eastergate and Barnham primary schools at Barnham Railway Station and Bognor Regis Concert Band gave a performance on the platform.

Stalls and displays also took place at the nearby Barnham Community Hall. Among those present was Yapton Road resident Sandra Lowton, whose history display included a 20-minute audio-visual piece about Barnham’s history, complementing her book, Barnham: How The Railway Changed The Village.

Chichester and District Society of Model Engineers had on show Blackberry Junction, a 12ft X 4ft OO gauge layout, and offered rides on its 200ft X 5in track behind electric and steam locomotives.

The day was completed by visits by a 1970s single-decker bus from Barnham to its former signal box at Aldingbourne, where Bognor’s model railway members displayed more layouts.

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