About Us

We are the ASLEF  Train Drivers of Farnham Depot
Located on the busy Waterloo to Alton Line in the commuter belt of leafy Surrey.
The depot was established as part of the 1937 Portsmouth Electrification program by the Southern Railway
At present , we operate class 450, 444, 455, 458 and 456 electric multiple units and soon class 458/5  on
South West Trains services in Surrey, Hampshire, Berkshire, Middlesex and South West London.

History of Farnham Branch

The Train Crew depot was established at Farnham when the Carriage Shed was constructed and the Alton Line electrified as part of the Portsmounth Direct electrification program by the Southern Railway in 1937.
Before then, the train service was operated by steam traction with the locomotives and crew supplied by Guildford Loco Shed.

With about thirty Drivers or “Motormen” as the grade was named then and twenty or so Guards the main bulk of Farnham’s work was on the Portsmouth Direct Line with theTrain Crew at Aldershot operating the Ascot service.

ASLEF members at Farnham belonged to the Guildford Electric Joint Branch along with members from Aldershot and Effingham Junction.
Farnham was a sought after depot with the lucrative “mileage” work and “snip” turns of duty.
On the 11th January 1980 during ASLEF’s centenary year, Farnham Branch was formed with Neil Milligan Assistant Secretary of ASLEF opening the meeting and taking the chair.
On the commencement of the 1994 Summer time table Farnham lost the Pompey work and then with privatisation looming the dark cloud of closure descended over the depot.

The management of the shadow franchise of South West Trains
under the umbrella of British Rail decided to close Farnham and Woking Train Crew Depots and amalgamate them with the existing Train Crew establishment at Guildford.
With outstanding effort by the Staff Reps at Farnham and Woking plus the determination and solidarity of all ASLEF members, common sense prevailed and the closure plan by British Rail  was scraped.

Privatisation of British Rail commenced on Sunday morning 4th February 1996
Incidentally, the first privatised train would have been Great Western's 1.50 am from Fishguard to Paddington, but because of engineering works this train started out as a bus and only became a train when it left Cardiff at 5.30am
So the honour  of working  the first privatised train fell to the crew of the  05.10 Twickenham to Waterloo on their eight coach class 455 unit.

The South West Trains railway undertaking was acquired by Stagecoach Holdings who operated as “South West Trains”.S.W.T Drivers terms of pay and conditions were restructured in July 1997 and by the start of the new century the driving establishment at Farnham had doubled with ASLEF  being the preferred choice of the professional Train Driver

The Railway Comes to Farnham

Farnham Railway Station was opened on Monday 8th of October 1849 when the London and South Western Railway reached Farnham with their line branching off the South Eastern Railway Redhill  Reading Line at Ash Junction.

At the point where today’s trains slow down for the 40 mph curve between Wanborough and Ash.
Trains operated from Farnham to Guildford with stations at Tongham and Ash Green, (Wanborough Station was not opened until 1891) Farnham passengers would have had to change trains at Guildford for London Waterloo.

A single line from Farnham to Alton was constructed and opened on Wednesday 28th July 1852 the intermediate station at Bentley was opened two years later in July 1854, the year the British Army made its home at Aldershot.
The line was further extended to Winchester in October 1865 when Alton Station was rebuilt.

It was not until May 1870 that  a line was built from Farnham Junction  where the A31 crosses the railway today to Aldershot and on to join the Main Line at Pirbright shortening the journey to Waterloo from 40 miles 33 chains to 38 miles 6 chains a total of 2 miles and 27 chains !
Farnham now had a more direct railway route to London and also a link to Southampton from 1865 made Farnham even more attractive.

In 1901 the line from Farnham to Alton was doubled with the Bordon branch opening on the 8th December 1905.
As part of the Southern Railway’s Portsmouth electrification plan the Alton Line was electrified with the third rail system in 1937.
The Southern Railway planned for a carriage shed at Alton to be built to stable the new electric trains, but the local authority refused planning permission so the Southern Railway Company had to find another location.

Kingsley on the Bordon branch was considered as the railway owned a vast amount of land around the little station Halt, but operating difficulties were envisaged moving empty carriages over the single line.
Therefore the sand pit at Wrecclesham was filled in with chalk excavated from the extended sidings at Andover and the carriage shed was built.

Electric train services commenced on Sunday 4th July 1937 and passenger trains to Guildford via Tongham were withdrawn.
When British Rail made plans to electrify the Bournemouth to Weymouth line in the early eighties, economies were sought for obtaining the third rail as this item was very expensive. 

Plans were drawn up to single line the track between Frimley to Ascot, Effingham to Leatherhead and lastly Farnham to Alton.

The Farnham to Alton Line was the first to be singled on Saturday 20th July 1985 saving British Rail about eight miles of third rail and  with the service reduced to one train an hour.

But the operating difficulties experienced were so severe that the plans to single line the other routes were scrapped.

With the introduction of new rolling stock in the form of the Alstom class 458 and Siemens class 450 and 444 “Desiro” units by South West Trains in 1999 and  2004 respectively and the withdrawal of the old 1960's slam door trains, the sidings at Farnham Shed were extended with a carriage washer and servicing plant installed.

The train service to and from Alton improved   immensely.