Bernard Winchester, lecturer and railway enthusiast, gave the first lecture of the Oxted & District History Society’s 2016-7 Season on the ‘Crystal Palace High Level Railway’.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 was very successful, attracting 6 million visitors over the 5 months it was open.  It was also very profitable for the railway companies, which ran many special trains for visitors.  It was therefore eventually decided to move the Crystal Palace to a site in the country at Sydenham, surrounded by pleasure gardens.  An extended Crystal Palace was opened by Queen Victoria in 1854.

A spur railway line was built from Sydenham to Crystal Palace to serve visitors.  However railway company rivalry led to a competing line being built from Nunhead to Crystal Palace High Level Station and opened in 1865.  Many embankments and tunnels were needed and no expense was spared on the High Level Station.  It was easier to access the Crystal Palace from the new station via a new pedestrian tunnel, originally for use only by 1st Class passengers.  The new line was originally well-used, with 24 trains a day, but passenger numbers declined, particularly after the Crystal Palace burnt down in 1936 and the line was closed in 1954.


The ‘Crystal Palace High Level Railway’ By Bernard Winchester