There are a trio of major seaside destinations along the South Coast that retain some mechanical signalling interest, with four semaphores apiece at Bognor Regis and Littlehampton, but no less than seven surviving semaphore arms at the charming East Sussex resort of Hastings.
Unlike its two West Sussex counterparts, Hastings lost an attractive 1931-vintage neo-Georgian station building when it was replaced in 2004, but fortunately it retains its 1930 Southern Railway signal box, with its 84-lever Westinghouse frame.
This stands to the north of the station platforms, at the eastern end of the station, where two semaphore brackets in front of the signal box control services in the Ore direction, with EDL5 & EDL10 serving platforms 4 and 3 respectively, while EDL6 and EDL7 control exit from platform 2 and bay platform 1. Shunting discs beneath each of these four semaphores allow trains to access the carriage sidings to the east of the station.
Hastings is a busy four-platform station served by South Eastern services from London via Tonbridge and Southern Railway services from Brighton and from London via Eastbourne. In an easterly direction, services not terminating here continue on to Ore, while there are also hourly “Marshlink” services from Eastbourne to Rye and Ashford International.
To the east of the station and Surrey Terrace overbridge stands a three-arm bracket controlling entry to the station from the Ore/Ashford direction. This houses a small shunting arm (EDL71) for access to a siding, EDL82 (platform 1) and EDL77 (platform 2), but sighting boards make it impossible to photograph this trio from the rear.
Having concluded on my previous visit that there was no acceccible vantage point from which to get a front view of this trio, a close study of my OS map suggested that there was a footbridge over the line not far from the western portal of the 230-yard long Mount Pleasant Tunnel near Ore, which might offer a view.
Walking back towards Hastings station after alighting at Ore, it was not difficult to find this footbridge, but it unfortunately has a high mesh anti-suicide fence above each of its parapets, so getting shots of a train approaching EDL77 is a matter of pointing through the wire mesh and hoping for the best!
Close to the station, South Terrace over-bridge stands just east of the station and signal box, and requires a folding stool to see over its high parapets. But it offers a great view of the station complex and semaphores looking west and a view of the carriage sidings and the bracket housing EDL77/82/71 looking east.
Travelling by train to Hastings along the Coastway route from Havant, I was struck by how reasonable the fare seemed to be. My off-peak day return fare of £12.00 (with a railcard) seems to be a capped fare, since I had paid the same fare for my recent jourey from Havant to Seaford, and the same £12.00 applies to a return Havant-Rye trip, the ticket I bought, and a distance of 88¾ miles.
On top of that, this remarkable bargain fare is valid on both services via Brighton and Polegate, which was the route I chose, or a rather circuitous route via Edenbridge. Following this latter route would mean taking a train from Hastings to Tonbridge, Tonbridge to Redhill, Redhill to Gatwick Airport and finally Gatwick Airport to Havant via the Mid-Sussex Line, a total distance from Hastings of 102 miles.
Looking further into this £12.00 day return, I later discovered that it is valid all the way from Southampton Central to Ashford International, a distance of 128¼ miles and an epic journey taking 4¾ hours. Leaving on the earliest weekday off-peak train from Southampton at 09.26, you will not reach Ashford until 14.10, although connections are tighter on the return journey, meaning it can be done in four hours. Quite a day out!