The railway came to Woking in 1838, the first segment of the London and Southampton Railway’s route linking those cities, planned in 1831. The station became a junction in 1845, as the line was extended to Guildford, then to Godalming and eventually to Portsmouth.
However, the London and South Western Railway (as the company was called from 1839) tended to view the Portsmouth line as of secondary importance. This only changed in 1937, when it was electrified ahead of the Southampton line.
The Railway Hotel (now the Sovereigns) was the first building nearby, but there was little activity around the station until the late 1850s, when sales by the Necropolis Company of land surplus to their cemetery led to the development of shops and houses.
Over the coming decades, many other lines based on Woking were developed, including the Brookwood Cemetery Railway (1854), the line from Brookwood to Alton (1870), spurs allowing access to the Weybridge-Staines and Aldershot-Camberley lines and the Bisley Bullet, serving the rifle ranges for the shooting weeks.
A by-product of Woking’s railway importance was the establishment of the London and South Western Railway Servants’ Orphanage in 1909. Later called the Southern Railway Servants’ Orphanage, this is now known as Woking Homes, at Woking Grange in Oriental Road.