The ''East Kent Railway'' was formed on
4th August 1853 to link Faversham with London, with a later extension to Dover
also on the cards. The independent concern's first railway line opened on 25th
January 1858, between Faversham and Chatham, via Sittingbourne. At the time the
SER was far from concerned about this potential threat to its traffic: the
company was waiting for the East Kent Railway to go bankrupt. The East Kent's
original plans were to join with the SER's North Kent Line at Strood, but the
latter made the case that its line was already running at full capacity. As a
result, the East Kent railway received Parliamentary approval to follow a new
route to the capital, thus continued to expand both westwards and eastwards,
reaching Bromley in the west in 1860, and the historic City of Canterbury in the
east in the same year.
The SER was the first on the scene in Canterbury, having opened its Canterbury (SER) station on 6th February 1846 on an extension from its main Dover trunk line at Ashford; this was extended to Margate on 1st December 1846. The SER established an impressive station area comprising of two platforms, separated by four tracks (as at Tonbridge and Paddock Wood), with an imposing columned station building, augmented with two separate overall roofs (pitched-roof design) covering the platforms and their associated tracks. The East Kent Railway, which by 1860 had become the London Chatham & Dover Railway, had a much smaller affair. On 9th July 1860 the company opened its own Canterbury (LCDR) station to the south of the city which, although originally a terminus, was provided with just two platform faces, presumably in anticipation of through running. Services to Dover subsequently commenced on 22nd July of the following year. The main station building here was positioned on the Dover-bound platform and would appear to represent an early example of LC&DR architecture. Today, its style is unique, but when through running had begun in 1861, it was less of a novelty. The pre-quadrupling Bromley (LCDR) had a structure based on the same style, as did the pre-SR Dover Priory. In-between these stations the smaller, standardised designs still seen at the likes of Sole Street and Adisham, were pursued. Despite being one of the LC&DR’s earlier efforts, Canterbury East’s structure does demonstrate some features readily comparable with the company’s later products. First and foremost are the large, orange-brick arched windows which, at Canterbury, only appear on the ground floor of the building’s approach road elevation. This perfectly semi-circular design was subsequently implemented at the Chatham, Bickley, Bromley, and Faversham rebuilds, whilst slight variations were made on those window frames along the Maidstone East and Bat & Ball routes. A prominent feature installed at the LC&DR’s Canterbury from the outset was a pitched-roof trainshed. This was a common characteristic on both LC&DR and SER networks, but such structures tended to create the problem of smoke-clogged platforms. The designs employed were also quite basic and plain, a far cry from those trainsheds found gracing the London terminals.
The goods facilities established here eventually grew to quite an impressive size. On the ‘’down’’ side, to the east of the station building, was situated the main yard, comprising of four eastward-facing sidings. The most northern one of these served an individual ‘’dock’’ platform, wholly separate from the station, whilst another served the goods shed. The shed here was approximately twice the length of the examples found at other intermediate stations on the same route, but it should be noted that no line actually ran into it; instead, a canopy was extended out over the adjacent track, on the structure’s southern elevation. Goods facilities were augmented by the provision of further sidings on the ‘’up’’ side: about half a dozen lines were accommodated, half of which passed behind the platform – one track served an adjacent warehouse. A single-track engine shed also used to be a feature of the ‘’up’’ side, complete with turntable, at the western end of the layout, which most probably dated from when the station was originally a terminus. It is likely that this building was dispensed with around the turn of the century, with its feeding line being absorbed into the goods accommodation. The closure of the shed still saw the retention of a water column at the eastern end of the ‘’down’’ platform, allowing Dover-bound services to ''top-up'' before continuing onto the coast (this facility was also provided at Chatham).
The signal is showing ''clear'', and L1 Class No. 31757 is ready for the off, Dover-bound. In the background
can just be seen the outlines of wagons in the goods yard. Note the simple signal gantry, which was later
replaced by a larger structure, as seen in subsequent photographs. © David Glasspool Collection
This view of Canterbury East signal box from the 1970s reveals both semaphore signal
arms still in use. The signal box was built to such a height to allow the signalman to see
the whole station layout, beyond the overall roof. Note the still extant ''down'' side loop
mentioned in the main text. © David Glasspool Collection
During 1984, a Class 47 is seen rumbling northbound through Canterbury East, with assorted vehicle
carriers, with vans trailing at the rear. Note that the nearby connection with the ''down'' side loop has
now been removed, and as a consequence, the signal gantry has lost an arm. © Chris
Next: the History Continues >>
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