Eden Park

This station remains faithful to its SER origins and, in spite of an element of modernisation and building up of the London suburbs, still retains a traditional ‘’countryside’’ air about it. Eden Park opened with the double-track branch line to Hayes on 29th May 1882. This was a rural branch from the outset, just over three-miles in length, which left the existing Mid-Kent Railway at Elmers End. The Mid-Kent had earlier opened between Lewisham and Beckenham (Junction) in 1857, being extended southwards to Addiscombe in 1864.

The branch line cut through extensive farmland, upon which could be found a mansion by the name of ‘’Eden Park’’. Indeed, this was adopted as the name for the general area, which by the turn of the 20th Century was considered a London suburb proper. The station here was an attractive affair, perched upon an embankment on a 1 in 89 climb in the Hayes direction. Two platforms, of all timber construction and partially staggered, flanked a gently curving double-track. The main building was erected on the London-bound platform: it was an attractive, quaint structure, typical of the period. It was of tongue-and-groove timber construction – of which the main part was 85-feet in length with a slated hipped roof – and was complemented by a splendid arched-roof canopy. The latter sported the SER’s clover-patterned valance and extended for 145-feet. In fact, the building was virtually a carbon copy of that erected at Hayes, and at its northern end existed a flat-roofed 20-foot-long timber appendix. On the ‘’down’’ platform could be found another canopy of identical design, 45-feet in length, which was supported by a trio of stanchions and was backed at its rear and sides by timber. The platforms were linked by a subway forged through the embankment and even elements of this were built to a standard design. The subway entrances were surrounded by the familiar SER yellow brickwork, topped off with arched roofs – identical arrangements can still be found today at Bexley and Northfleet stations. A track foot crossing also existed between the platforms for staff use.

There were no sidings, crossovers, or even a goods yard at this station – in fact, freight traffic along the branch in general was very light. In spite of this, Eden Park opened with its own signal box, which was situated immediately at the southern end of the ‘’down’’ platform. The partially staggered nature of the platforms meant that the cabin directly faced the ‘’up’’ side canopy across the tracks.

Economies at Eden Park came into force early on; the signal box was the first casualty, closing in 1899. Then, the station was closed completely on Sundays, starting from the first Sunday in March 1905. This formed part of a general SE&CR policy of cutting costs by implementing station closures and reducing services on non-core routes. During the week from this date, Eden Park was served by ten ‘’down’’ trains and twelve ‘’up’’ trains daily. Misfortune occurred less than a decade later, when the main ‘’up’’ side building suffered an arson attack. Luckily, however, the building was not beyond repair, although a new canopy had to be erected. The latter was built in the style of the previous one, with an arched roof and clover-patterned valance. It was also shorter than its predecessor, measuring 110-feet.

By the advent of the Southern Railway, the Hayes line had become more of an outer suburban commuter branch than a peaceful countryside route. As a result, it became an early candidate for electrification, along with the branch lines to Addiscombe and Bromley North. It was proposed that scheduled electric services along these lines to/from Charing Cross and Cannon Street would commence on 1st December 1925, but power supply problems put this back until 28th February of the following year. A self-contained electric service between Elmers End and Hayes had, however, been running since 21st September 1925 for staff training purposes. In-between the running rails of each track, a fourth rail was laid along the majority of the branch line, to take return currents. During the works, the company rebuilt the platforms at Eden Park and Hayes in prefabricated concrete, supplied by the SR’s own works at Exmouth Junction.

Further alterations made by the SR to Eden Park station appear to have been undertaken some time after electrification, most likely during the period of the 1935 Hayes station rebuild. At the same time, both platforms were lengthened at their southern ends, again in concrete, after which the partially staggered effect was lost. New lamps upon concrete bracket posts emerged on the extensions; those platform areas immediately surrounding the station buildings retained the metal lampposts and ‘’Target’’ name signs installed by the SR ten years previously. The works also included the replacement of the ‘’down’’ side platform canopy: the distinctive arched roof and clover valance were abolished and replaced by a backward-sloping canopy with plain timber valance.

After nationalisation, an attempt was made to tackle congestion on Eastern Section suburban lines. Eventually, ten-car services were seen as the most practical way forward over double-decker trains. Subsequently, a platform lengthening exercise took place at several commuter stations between 1954 and 1957 inclusive, to accommodate increased train lengths. As part of the scheme, new prefabricated concrete extensions were made to the northern ends of Eden Park’s platforms. Around a decade later, the SE&CR canopy of the main station building was replaced by a plainer type, matching that of the ‘’down’’ side. The original struts were, however, retained, although the canopy was shortened to 95-feet.

Since the 1960s, no major structural works have taken place at the station and most change appears to have been cosmetic. Much of the concrete fencing installed by the SR and BR (S) has since been modified with metal railings, in place of wire, and colour changes to lampposts have been numerous. However, the site has been fortunate to avoid the wave of demolitions inflicted on South Eastern Division timber buildings during the late 1980s, and therefore remains as a splendid example of ''economical'' SER architecture.

18th June 2007

A scene of tranquillity as Class 376 No. 376005 is seen at platform 2 with a Hayes service. On the left can be seen the SER-designed station building, still sporting its brick chimneystacks (many having been removed from similar structures) and a copious canopy. The televisions screens on the right date from 1992, and were installed as part of the ''Networker'' programme. © David Glasspool

18th June 2007

A second northward view shows in the background, painted in white, the 1950s platform extensions. Those platform sections in the foreground were installed by the SR. The metal railings in-between the concrete posts superseded wire. The ''up'' line here still retained its fourth centrally-positioned rail for taking return current. © David Glasspool

18th June 2007

On the right of this Hayes-bound view can be seen the large wall which shields the ''up'' side subway entrance from the platform. The original extent of the ''up'' canopy is marked by the end of the low-level red-brick wall, behind the television screen post. On the left can just be seen the brick surround of the ''down'' subway entrance. © David Glasspool

18th June 2007

Sadly, a loss since privatisation has been that of a splendid station garden, which once existed with potted plants and benches behind the main building. This land has now been abandoned and cordoned off from the station by palisade fencing. At least the SER station building remains – for now. © David Glasspool

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