Transport Exhibition

STEAM, electricity and the internal combustion engine –the three modes of propulsion illustrated in Bexhill Museum’s motor heritage gallery have been echoed in this display.

Hitherto unseen artefacts have been drawn from museum storage together with items loaned by museum volunteers. Into this single small display case we have packed a wealth of local historical interest illustrating the various methods of public transport in the town for the last 160 years.

“Passengers must not cross the line,” an enamel sign proclaims. In an era when the town boasted four railway stations and a halt, the main station was called Bexhill Central. The large enamelled metal sign topping the display case once warned ‘Thirties passengers at Bexhill Central that electrification had reached the former London Brighton and South Coast Railway. The bulky railway timetable from 1887 was not for the use of passengers but for the use of permanent way staff.

A Hornby OO Gauge model of a Schools Class 4-4-0 locomotive, on short term loan is a reminder of the Bexhill-West to Crowhurst branch line, closed in 1964 under the Beeching Axe. Metal plates bearing the legend “Restricted” had to be bolted to all South East And Chatham rolling stock using the Hastings-Charing Cross line. Locomotives and carriages alike had to be of narrow construction; a legacy of Victorian sharp practice. Contractors had skimped on tunnel construction!

The display includes a multiple-aspect guard’s signalling oil lamp, a train rear lamp and an enginman’s enamel tea can. “They were filled with tea and placed on the shelf above the fire-door to keep warm...” Models provide reminders of the town’s pioneer motor buses, trams and the trolley buses which once plied near-silently between Bexhill and Hastings.

Charles Albert Booth served for 31 years locally as a conductor with bus company Maidstone and District Motor Services. His 25-year long-service certificate is a reminder of the days when trolley bus conductors had to use a long pole to replace pick—up arms which had slipped from the overhead power cables. His son remembers “He was knocked down twice doing that – by cyclists lost in the fog!”

The early motor bus era is recalled by a Maidstone and District signboard which shows that Ninfield once boasted a bus parcels office.

The transport display is located in the Technology Gallery and is included in the museum entry fee.

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