Tag Archives: Kent

Some Early Lines – The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway

Some early Lines

The Canterbury  and Whitstable Railway

Sometimes referred to colloquially as the Crab and Winkle Line

Canterbury had always ferried goods on the river Stour, however, by the early 19th Century that was silting up at a rate that made dredging un-economic. It was decided to build a series of turnpike roads to the small port at Whitstable, and transport goods overland. This however, did not produce a long-term solution, due to the number of carts required compared to that of a barge.

Whitstable Harbour station in 1927  kenelks.co.uk

William James, a man who had taken a keen interest in locomotives since the early 1800’s, and had many projects in hand, one being a collaboration with George Stephenson to build a railway from Liverpool to Hull, applied for parliamentary approval for the construction of a line from Canterbury to Whitstable. The ambitious plan included a new harbour complex in Whitstable. Having surveyed the area, James decided on the most direct route, despite it involving three steep gradients and an 828 yard long tunnel. Unfortunately, James’ many commitments had placed too greater strain on his finances and he was sent to debtor’s prison, following bankruptcy, in 1823.

Despite James departure the project continued and having gained parliamentary approval on 10th June 1825, the Canterbury & Whitstable Railway commenced work soon after the act was passed, with George Stephenson as the engineer. The scheme began to run out of money and a further act of Parliament was passed in April 1827, allowing a further £19,000 of capita stock to be raised. The tunnel proved to be a very slow, arduous and technically, difficult task. It had been over a year and they were still not halfway through. The tunnelling was further hindered by earth falls and flooding. Upon completion of the tunnel, it was discovered to be only just big enough for the locomotive, with some redesigning of the passenger and goods carriages necessary. The project was proving to be at the cutting edge of technology, for that time, and a third Act of Parliament was required in May 1828, to secure another £21,000.

By 1830, the line had reached Whitstable, with both passenger and freight services commencing hourly from 3rd May. However, it would be another two years before the harbour redevelopment, under the direction of Thomas Telford, was complete, and the route could be extended.

The original plan allowed for two stationary engines, using a series of ropes and pulleys, for the gradients, with a locomotive named Invicta, purchased from George Stephenson’s company, to cover the flat sections. It was soon found that the locomotive was not up to the job and, despite modifications; a third stationary engine was installed in 1832.

Invicta – Canterbury c1970This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

The company came under increasing financial pressure and in 1839, unsuccessfully, attempted to sell the Invicta, in an effort to clear some of the debt. In 1844, with the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway facing bankruptcy, the newly formed South Eastern Railway took over the line. It was decided in 1846, to allow SER locomotives to run on it, although because the height of Tyler Hill tunnel was only 12 feet, modifications, in the form of shorter chimneys and lowered boilers, were necessary. The original C&WR terminus at ‘Canterbury North Road’ was closed and the line extended to the SER Canterbury West station.

The line was never prosperous, even under SER management, and there was a new setback when the London, Chatham & Dover Railway  opened in 1860 offering a better passenger service from Whitstable to London. At the turn of the century work started on building a spur line at Whitstable to connect with the Herne Bay to Faversham line and a bay platform at Whitstable & Tankerton station, although the work was never completed. In the early 1900s, halts were built at Blean & Tyler Hill, South Street and Tankerton, resulting in some increase of passengers.

In 1923, the line became part of the Southern Railway and like many other lines, around the country, it suffered with competition from bus services. Passenger services were withdrawn on 1 January 1931. It continued to carry coal, grain and road stone, with munitions to the harbour during World War II. By 1948, when it became part of British Railways, Whitstable Harbour had fallen into disuse and what was left of the line’s trade had disappeared.

The line closed with effect from 1 December 1952, albeit with a short reprieve during the floods of February 1953, when the line was reopened from 5 February to 1 March. Track was lifted almost immediately and the associated infrastructure removed. All trace of the halts and station at Whitstable Harbour were removed. The site of Canterbury North Lane station later became a goods yard until around 1980 when it was sold for housing development.

R1 Class Nº1010 in Southern Railway days, complete with shortened chimney,  for working over the Canterbury  and Whitstable branch, due to the restricted dimensions of the Tyler Hill tunnel   Photograph: Mike Morant collection

Miniature Railways – The Swanley New Barn Railway

The Swanley New Barn Railway

Established in 1986 this wonderful 7 1/4″ railway runs over 950 metres of track through cuttings and over embankments to pick up passengers from the car par in New Barn Road. You will disembark at Lakeside station on one of three platforms and view the signal box, turn table and station building. The railway is operated by a group of dedicated volunteers that not only drive the trains but also build them and with 16 locomotives (steam, diesel, petrol and electric), 30 carriages and over a mile of track its a big job. See it all in action! For more information visit their link below.


The Swanley New Barn Railway is a 7 1⁄4 in (184 mm) gauge railway located in Swanley Park, Swanley, Kent, United Kingdom. It has eight steam locomotives, with five more currently being built on site. In addition to this it also has ten diesel locomotives. It is signalled throughout with the signals being controlled from Lakeside station which also serves as a terminus.

Swanley Park Miniature Railway

Featured engine is locomotive Sir Goss, a firm favourite with all visitors to this lovely park.  © Copyright Keith Cook and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 The stations

Lakeside Station

This station is the largest on the line. It has three platforms, a turntable, a ticket office and a signal box. All trains stop at this station, so they can be turned around and be prepared to travel back along the line.this process will often be performed by the juniors giving the drivers a quick break. Passengers are required to go through the ticket office and obtain tickets before they board the train (in the case of those starting their journey at Lakeside) or get their tickets as they disembark (if they have travelled from New Barn Halt). The platforms have recently been upgraded to the same standard as New Barn Halt. Though this station has capacity for three trains at one time, this rarely happens except on gala days. There are three platforms and a loco line where trains can run around and hook back up to the train. the turntable is man powered and a signal point the operator to a centain line

New Barn Halt

Swanley: New Barn Railway halt

Swanley New Barn Railway goes round Swanley Park, and here we see the halt at the western side of the circuit.  © Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

 This station is a single platform station located near the car park. Passengers board the train here and then proceed to Lakeside station to disembark. The journey from this station to lakeside should take around 3 minutes. This station was made higher when the platform was redeveloped in 2006, making it easier for passengers to board and leave the train.

The signal box

Swanley: Lakeside Station, Swanley New Barn Railway

This 7¼-inch narrow gauge railway takes passengers on a fairly generous circuit of Swanley Park, from and back to here. The station buildings are to the right, with the signalbox the more prominent building to the left.  © Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The signal box is located at Lakeside Station, which is the larger of the two stations on the line. During the first year of the railway, a signal box was created to help control the points and signals around the station area. The signalman can see where the trains are by using the track circuits which are installed throughout the line. The track layout has been changed several times, all of the major changes are recorded to the left of the track diagram.

The signal box has two automatic modes of operation which means that if there is a lack of staff the railway can still function. The signal box frame has 35 levers, all of which are fully interlocked. The interlocking works with the track circuits and point detection. Which levers are locked is decided by the signal box computer which receives points positions, Track circuit data and lever information to decide if it is possible to set a route that will not cause a train to be sent in the wrong direction or be sent on a route where another train is set to cross the track in front of it. The points are worked by 12 V Windscreen wiper motors which have been adjusted so that they stop in one of two positions. They are controlled by the signal box computer which is in turn controlled by the levers. The direction that the points are set to is detected by two microswitches located under the points.

The majority of signals are powered by a 12-volt AC supply. The main signal that everyone sees is the one that passengers pass on their way into the station. It has three 20 W bulbs which allow the signal to be seen clearly no matter what the conditions are. The signal located at the platform on New Barn Halt is powered by a 110 V transformer located in the signal box.

Swanley New Barn Railway Station

This miniature railway runs on a circular track in the park. This station is close to the main buildings of the park on New Barn Road.  © Copyright David Anstiss and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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.  http://www.newble.co.uk


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.

Some Early Lines – Hawkhurst Branch

Some Early Lines

Hawkhurst Branch

The Hawkhurst Branch Line was a short railway line in Kent that connected Hawkhurst, Cranbrook, Goudhurst and Horsmonden with the town of Paddock Wood and the South Eastern and Medway Valley lines, a distance of 11½ miles (18½ km).Nº31543 at Horsmonden with the 8:20 a.m. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood service on 21st May 1961.  Photograph: A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

The opening of the main line of the South Eastern Railway (SER) from Redhill to Folkestone via Ashford in 1843 followed by the construction of a line to Tunbridge Wells and Hastings via Robertsbridge, and a branch from Robertsbridge to Ashford in 1851 formed a triangle enclosing a large tract of the Weald well-known for its hops and fruit. Despite this, the SER were not particularly interested in linking the area with its expanding railway network, preferring instead to wait for local individuals to take the initiative and construct a line, and then step in when the operation ran into financial difficulties.

Nevertheless, the SER did take an interest once their rivals the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) seemed likely to encroach into traditionally SER territory. Various schemes were put forward by the SER from 1844, none of which came to fruition. The Weald of Kent Company Act was obtained in 1864 and authorised the construction of a line from Paddock Wood to Cranbook and Hythe, but no works were carried out – the bankruptcy of the LCDR in 1866 saw the project shelved.

In 1877 the independent Cranbrook & Paddock Wood Railway Company secured the passing of the Cranbrook and Paddock Wood Railway Act which authorised the construction of a single track line from Paddock Wood to Cranbrook. The Company reached agreement with the SER that construction works would commence once £25,000 had been raised from local residents, with the SER contributing a further £50,000 if this target was met. By April 1878, only £11,000 had been found. This had not improved by February 1879, but it was nevertheless decided to commence provisional works, which quickly ground to a halt once funds were still not forthcoming. Notwithstanding this impasse, the Railway Company obtained a further Act of Parliament on 12 July 1882 which authorised an extension from the village of Hartley near Cranbrook to Hawkhurst. Although it had been originally intended for the line to cover the two miles from Hartley to Cranbrook, the sums demanded by local landowners made this plan unrealisable without SER support. It was therefore decided to site Cranbrook Station at Hartley.

Nº31278 at Edenbridge on 9th September 1961, also with the 8:20 a.m. Hawkhurst to Paddock Wood service.  Photograph:A. E. Durrant/Mike Morant collection

The various changes to the route proposed by SER required two further Acts of Parliament: the South Eastern Railway Acts 1887 and 1892. The latter Act ensured that the section between Goudhurst and Paddock Wood would be built on a “cost-saving” basis. Construction works eventually commenced in Spring 1890. Edward Seaton was appointed as engineer to oversee the works, whilst the 22 year old Holman Fred Stephens was resident engineer, having just completed his education and training with the Metropolitan Railway. The contract to build the line was awarded to J. T. Firbank who was at that time the Metropolitan Railway’s contractor for their line between Aylesbury and Quainton Road. Due to the difficult terrain and to save costs, it was decided in 1892 that the terminus of the line would be at Gills Green, a mile or so to the north of Hawkhurst. It was also proposed that the line continued from Gills Green to the Lydd Railway Company’s Appledore station on the Marshlink Line, but no progress was made.

The line was officially opened on 1 October 1892 from Paddock Wood to Goudhurst, then named “Hope Mill Station (for Goudhurst and Lamberhurst)”. However, the Kent Messenger reported on 17 September that the line had already opened to passenger and goods traffic on Monday 12 September, with the first train, a Cudworth E1 class 2-4-0 No. 112 draped with a Union Jack, leaving Hope Mill at 8.25am. All passengers were allowed to travel free to and from Paddock Wood. On 4 September 1893 the section from Goudhurst to Hawkhurst was opened.

Now the railway was operational, the residents of Cranbrook came to regret that they were not directly connected with the line and, in September 1893, offered to guarantee the SER the cost of constructing a “light line” from Hartley, including the costs of acquiring the necessary land. The estimated costs were put at £10,000 but the line was never built.

The Cranbrook & Paddock Wood Railway Company was absorbed into the SER on 29 January 1900.http://www.colonelstephenssociety.co.uk