The first railway station in Woking opened in 1838, when the line linking London with the port of Southampton was constructed.
The modern town of Woking would not have been built without the coming of the railway.
The line was first proposed in 1830 - one of the first in the south of England - and work began in 1834. The railway was built across common land, as it was cheaper than farmland (as was the Basingstoke Canal).
The station was built on Woking Heath. This common land reached from the original town in the south, now called Old Woking. When the station first opened it was the end of the line; Basingstoke was reached in 1839 and Southampton in 1840. In 1845 the Guildford Branch Railway opened. Woking became an even more important junction fourteen years later when the line linked with Portsmouth, via Godalming and Havant.
During the 1830's and 40's there was little incentive to build upon the heath land closer to London, owing to the costs involved in enclosing undeveloped land. It was the development of another part of the heath - by the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company in the 1850's - that really brought about the 'new' town of Woking.
The London Necropolis Company
During the 1840's, churchyards in the capital were becoming full, resulting in the Burials Act of 1850 which prevented further burials in London and allowed cemeteries to be built away from the city. It was suggested that sparsely populated areas with good transport links to the capital should be used for these cemeteries.
In 1854, 400 acres of the land bought by the 'London Necropolis' company, at Brookwood in the west of Woking Borough, were used for a national cemetery. The railway was used to transport London's bodies to the cemetery during the night. The remaining heath land was sold for development from 1855 onwards.
When the station (originally a small, square two-storey building) first opened there were five trains each way, seven days a week. The fare to Nine Elms (the London terminus) cost between 5s. (25p) and 2s.6d. (13p) depending on which class you travelled in. The station's grand entrance was built on the south side of the line to serve the original town and still remains today. However most people now use the less prominent north-side exit, as it faces onto the 'new' town centre.
Woking Station today
Now one of the busiest in the region, Woking Station is a major gateway with connections to London, the south-west and the south coast. Trains run to London Waterloo, which can be reached in about 25 minutes, at least every five minutes throughout the day.