The line opened jointly by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) and the South Eastern Railway (SER). Although the intention had been to begin train services in 1882, completion was delayed until August 1885 for various reasons, including bad weather disrupting construction. Success was limited even at the beginning, and following a closure proposal as early as 1895 railmotors were introduced in 1905 in an attempt to improve efficiency and counteract competition from trams and buses. (See a picture of one of the railmotors ) At this time the two halts were opened: although Spencer Road met with little success, Bingham Road attracted more custom with its main-road location and from passengers interchanging with trams and buses; it was rebuilt as a full station (see below).
The first official closure came in 1917, although services had been suspended for the most part since 1915, to save money and resources for the war effort. It was still possible for diverted trains and excursions or other special services to use the line.
Major changes came in 1935:
The line was electrified on the third rail system;