Site Records

SiteName: Deepdene - WW2 Southern Railway Traffic Control Centre

Coldharbour Lane
OS Grid Ref: TQ174491

Sub Brit site visit June 1999

[Source: Nick Catford with historical information from Mike Tyrell]

During World War 2, the Southern Railway took over the Deepdene Hotel near Dorking in Surrey for its wartime emergency headquarters. In the grounds they excavated an underground control centre taking advantage of a network of existing natural caves that had been acknowledged 300 years before in the diaries of John Evelyn. Because of the natural protection afforded by the location of the caves they were eminently suitable for the development of a bunker to house both the headquarters' telephone exchange and Traffic Control who also had their underground control centre there with underground divisional controls at Woking (South West Division), Southampton (Western Division), Orpington (South Eastern Division) and Redhill (Central Division)

Photo:The control room

The lawn between the caves and the house was used as a site for the 99 foot mast supporting aerials for the emergency radio. The bunker was constructed within the caves which were enlarged to house the 30 staff and once complete their emergency headquarters with office staff was moved there from Waterloo. The network of tunnels included a Control Room, meeting room, switchboard, battery room, main distribution frame (MDF)/maintainers room, a bedroom for the night officer and an air plant and toilet facilities. The switchboard was a three-positioned installation with Post Office lines and extensions serving the headquarters staff with direct lines to the various divisional traffic and engineering officers; it was in use 24 hours a day.

Photo:The switchboards
Photo by Nick Catford

The night staff of the Operating, Motive Power, Chief Mechanical Engineer, and Chief Electrical Engineer's Departments also worked in the tunnels, which accommodated a total of 30 clerks. Among the accommodation was a meeting room suitable for any conferences which might have to be held under emergency conditions.

Night officers room

The tunnels were well ventilated and the temperature was regulated by radiators in each room.

The Southern Railway General Manager Eustace Missenden. lived nearby and had a switchboard extension in his house. During the air raids he spent many nights there with his wife and it is reputed that the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill was a visitor.

Floor plan
Drawn by Nick Catford

Among the features of the control centre were diagrams of all important junctions on the Southern Railway, giving staff immediate access to all information necessary to enable them to make emergency or alternative arrangements for any diversion of traffic necessitated by damage caused by enemy action. Each of the rooms was fitted with a radio receiver for the reception, under emergency conditions, of any important Government announcements which might have been broadcast. The underground control centre remained operational until the mid 1960's when British Railways moved out of the Deepdene Hotel.One visitor in the 1960's remembers three operators and he noticed one of the side tunnels still contained bunk beds.

Photo:The Main Distribution Frame (MDF)
Photo by Nick Catford

The underground control centre consisted of a series of tunnels driven into the steep hillside to the rear of the house. There were three entrances plus a fourth emergency exit. A 60-foot vertical shaft at the rear of the complex provided an air inlet and the emergency exit. A 4 foot thick concrete slab covered the complex but no protection was provided against a 'near miss'

Further information and pictures about this site continues here

[Source: Nick Catford]

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