Some Early Lines – The Folkestone Harbour Branch

Some Early Lines

The Folkestone Harbour Branch


 SR Battle of Britain Class 4-6-2 no 34067 Tangmere

Taunton to Canterbury via Folkestone Harbour.

Possibly the last Steam Train on this line before it is removed. This is a train with a real ‘wow’ factor that any steam enthusiast would not want to miss on a circular tour of over 200 miles hauled by Southern Railway Battle of Britain Pacific No 34067 Tangmere complete with the Golden Arrow regalia. The highlight of the day being the 1 in 30 climb up the soon to be closed branch from Folkestone Harbour.

The Golden Arrow was a luxury train of the Southern Railway and later British Railways that linked London with Dover, where passengers took the ferry to Calais to join the Flèche d’Or of the Chemin de Fer du Nord and later SNCF that took them onto Paris.

Date 12 April 2008.  Tangmere (Golden Arrow) across the harbour bridge.  Uploaded by oxyman.   Author Smudge 9000 from North Kent Coast, England.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Folkestone Harbour station is a railway station built to serve the port of Folkestone in Kent, and is one of three stations in the town. It is at the end of the short 1-in-30 Folkestone Harbour Branch Line, joining the South Eastern Main Line at Folkestone Junction. The branch and harbour station provided a rail connection for boat trains from London which connected with the ferry services to Calais and Boulogne.Note the station sign on the left; and further down, on the right hand platform, a weighing machine.  28th June 2008  C Hallam.  This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.

  The branch and station closed to regular passenger train services in 2001 although the line and station continued to be used by the Venice-Simplon Orient Express (VSOE) and railtours. As of March 2009, Network Rail intend to close the branch, and an association has formed to preserve it as a heritage line.


A branch line was built in 1844 leaving the main line at Folkestone Junction and was double tracked ending with a viaduct across the harbour itself. In 1847, a swing bridge allowed the line to reach the southern pier and, in 1848, the line was passed by the Board of Trade for passenger use. The line was electrified at the same time as the main line during the “Kent Coast Electrification – Stage 2” in June 1961, and passenger trains were formed of Electric multiple units. Freight services were withdrawn on 17 August 1968.

In 1994, the opening of the Channel Tunnel led to the majority of ferry operators moving to other ports in the South East, with the result that only two services per day were arriving at Folkestone Harbour, to connect with the Hoverspeed SeaCat services. When these were moved to Ramsgate, the station closed to ordinary rail traffic in 2001.

Sometime after 2001, the line was singled for operational purposes, although the disused line is still in situ.

Branch Line

The branch is short but sharply inclined meaning that steam engines had to be banked. For most of its life, its main traffic was freight, with passengers travelling on boat trains direct to London, albeit with a change of direction (reversal) at Folkestone East.Folkestone Harbour Railway Posted On June 19, 2010


Until 2009, Venice Simplon Orient Express operated two scheduled services per week to Folkestone Harbour on its London to Paris route, which ran on Thursdays and Sunday between March and November when the British Pullman service terminated there. Passengers were transferred by coach to the Eurotunnel terminal, where they joined a Eurotunnel Shuttle to Calais to pick up the Orient Express in France.A first train over the new swing bridge view – the Rs were stalwarts of the Folkestone harbour branch – usually 4 were needed for a heavy boat train, and larger locos were not permitted over the bridge.


Folkestone Harbour station is located at the end of a viaduct which separates the port’s inner and outer harbours, which in turn is the end of the spur railway separate from the main line. The proposals for the regeneration of the Harbour area will see additional accommodation built; however, it has been determined that this will not be sufficient to justify reopening the rail link to the Harbour. Due to its infrequent use it has been proposed that Folkestone Harbour be closed permanently, the viaduct demolished, and the track on the rail spur lifted.

On 12 April 2008, a closure ceremony, together with an official last train took place. However, objections had been raised by English, Welsh and Scottish Railway, Department for Transport and Southeastern. During 2008, VSOE still used Folkestone Harbour with its last train travelling on 13 November and a number of rail tours visited the branch. Advertised as the last train, a steam hauled rail tour visited the branch on 14 March 2009.

On 20 March 2009, Network Rail announced they had begun the formal process to close the line and station on cost grounds, having redeveloped Folkestone West with new waiting facilities for the VSOE passengers. However, up to August 2010, the closure process had not proceeded past the statutory ‘mothballing’ stage, making the railway still officially operational. This is to allow protracted negotiations between all interested parties to run their full course to ensure the optimum benefits for the Folkestone Harbour statutory port area and to fully investigate heritage, conservation and other planning issues pertaining to the Shepway District as a whole.


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