LOOKING BACK: The dark past of Argos Hill Tunnel

Terrier tank locomotives like this were once a regular sight on the Cuckoo Line
Terrier tank locomotives like this were once a regular sight on the Cuckoo Line

The 50th anniversary of the closure of the Cuckoo Line continues throughout Looking Back this week.

Last week people had the chance to explore some of the rarely seen past of the Cuckoo Trail, including the Argos Hill Tunnel which featured in the cult Sixties TV show The Prisoner.

It was part of Wealden District Council’s 50th anniversary celebrations of the district’s well-loved path.

As well as a number of themed walks, the 50th Anniversary celebrations included a children’s arts activity morning, art exhibition, a film of one of the last railway journeys
 taken on the Cuckoo Line, a car boot sale, bike ride and a two-day exhibition: The Cuckoo Trail 1880-1965.

“The Cuckoo Trail runs through the centre of Wealden and provides a great focal point for a range of leisure activities,” said Councillor Roy Galley, the council’s cabinet member with responsibility for tourism.

“There are many fascinating histories connected with the once thriving railway line, which opened in 1880 and fell victim to the Beeching Axe in 1965. The 50th anniversary has provided a fascinating opportunity to delve into its colourful past and to celebrate the enjoyment the Cuckoo Trail still gives 250,000 visitors each year.”

Period signage from the days of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway has been installed along parts of the Cuckoo Trail as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.

The seldom-seen Argos Hill tunnel featured in the final episode of the 1968 TV series The Prisoner, a series about a dystopian mass surveillance world of the near future. Shortly after the closure of the line, the tunnel was used to portray an imaginary escape route from Portmerion, the North Wales village where most of The Prisoner was set.

There was also a talk led by Graham Kean, on what happened to the railway line and themed walks looked at how the expansion of the former East Sussex County Asylum in Hellingly led to the creation of an electric railway to link up to the Cuckoo Line, the building of the largest engineering project on the line, the Heathfield Tunnel, which remains one of the remarkable features of the trail today.

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