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The Horton Light Railway. The story of the Horton Light Railway starts with the earlier Ewell & Long Grove Light Railway, which was used in the building of Long Grove Hospital, the first of four mental hospitals to appear on the former Horton Estate between Ewell and Epsom in Surrey. However, this line was used only between 1905 and 1907 while Long Grove was being built, and its track was lifted as soon as the job was complete.

When it came to building the next three hospitals, London County Council decided to construct a new railway and, in 1909, purchased the land used by the old E&LGLR. The new Horton Light Railway was built between 1911 and 1913, with the first trains running in May 1913. The railway was used for construction right up until 1924, for the building of the final hospital – West Park – was not completed until 1924, thanks to the intervention of World War 1. The railway branched of the LSWR's Epsom to Raynes Park line just just south of Ewell West station, and operated until 1950, bringing in coal and other supplies to the various hospitals. It was closed in January 1950 due to the rise of road transport, which made it uneconomic.The railway is shown on this scan from an old Ordnance Survey 1" map, which inter alia also shows the site of Epsom's first station.

By 1973, the hospitals had been closed and, in that year, Epsom & Ewell Borough Council (with support and grant aid from Surrey County Council and the Countryside Commission) purchased 400 acres of former hospital farmland from the hospital authorities to establish Horton Country Park. The park is now well served by trails, most of which follow the various branches of the old HLR.

Above: This plaque on a large overbridge at grid reference TQ 202633 commemorates the Horton Light Railway, although the local council has described it incorrectly as an underbridge; it was actually an overbridge, because it went over the railway. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

 
Above: This is the above bridge seen from the road, which has now been replaced by a new road just out of view to the right of camera; it is an extraordinarily large structure for such a minor railway. This disused section of road is now used as part of the car park of the nearby Horton Golf Club, hence the parking lines in the foreground. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: This is a typical view of the walking conditions in Horton Country Park. Shallow embankments and low cuttings are the order of the day – plus some steep gradients, especially near West Park Hospital, which must have made the HLR's little tank engines work very hard. This photograph was taken at TQ 199634, just west of the club house. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)
 
Above: This is the junction of the lines to Long Grove Hospital (left) and West Park Hospital (right) at TQ 195635 in Butcher's Wood. The blue waymarking sign seen on the right is typical of those used throughout the country park. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)
 

Left: Plenty of old fencing survives along the route, as seen here near Castle Hill (TQ 195635), although most of it will be found on the outermost side of the West Park line, which runs parallel to the estate boundary. One might have expected this to be removed for the war effort, but presumably the authorities did not want patients wandering off the site. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

 
Right: Very few of the hospital buildings survive, most of the exceptions being at West Park Hospital. Curiously, the new housing which occupies the site utilises the old hospital road layout; presumably it was cheaper to do this than build new roads and install new services. This is West Park Hospital's imposing water tower at TQ 185614. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

 
Above: Viewed from below, the water tower is certainly impressive, although the neatly repaired crack below the middle right window reveals that there have been some structural problems. On the left hand side of the building, there is an even more dramatic crack which runs vertically down the tower from top to bottom, and explains the four large red braces seen wrapped around the left hand corner. These extend across the whole depth of the building and have their returns on the far side. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)
 

Left: Despite being in shadow, the red ties across the side of the tower can be seen fairly clearly in this photograph, as can the vertical crack which they are holding together. This building, with its decorative brick and stone construction and nods to classicism, was very much a product of its time. The Webmaster's grammar school (Chichester High School for Boys, attended 1964-71) was opened in 1927, and its buildings had a near identical style. 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)

 
Above: With the exception of the water tower and a pumping station elsewhere on the estate, all of the larger hospital buildings have been demolished, although some of those constructed on a scale which could be adapted to domestic use have been retained. This is Mayford Court, once part of West Park Hospital, looking as if it is now in use as flats. The ornamental garden is an attractive feature but, as for architectural style, change the garden for asphalt and this could be a quadrangle in a grammar school! 3rd December 2016. (Jeff Vinter)