Farningham Road

 

This is one of a number of surviving examples of typical London Chatham & Dover Railway intermediate station architecture. The station was part of the company's push to the capital, from its humble beginnings in Faversham, in an earnest attempt to serve those areas ''missed out'' by the South Eastern Railway. It was opened on the same day as through-running trains commenced between Canterbury and Victoria, on 3rd December 1860. LC&DR intermediate station designs such as this were all constructed from the now familiar light-coloured brick of the company, and even the white pasting on a proportion of the surface is thought to have early origins. The main station building here was situated on the ''up'' side, two storeys high, backing onto a steep approach way and incorporating the usual accommodation seen along the line for the Station Master. The building was flanked on its western side by another typical LC&DR structure - the single-track brick-built goods shed - and on its eastern elevation by a single-storey pitched roof storage building. The ''down'' side was somewhat unusual by lacking any form of passenger accommodation, but a very imposing feature was situated on this platform: a two-storey high water tower. It is strange as to why such a structure would have been located at this initially insignificant station, which does suggest that it came into use concurrent with the Gravesend West branch in 1886 - most trains along this line began and terminated at Farningham.

 

Goods facilities have already been touched on, but there was more than just a shed here. This itself was a through building and served by a wagon turntable at its western end - a reversal manoeuvre into the shed provided access to a lengthy siding, positioned where the Corus (formerly British Steel) complex now is. There were also three more sidings which need to be accounted for: two of these were again located on the ''up'' side, but to the east of the station building. One required a head shunt to enter, this of which may qualify as an additional siding! The final siding laid on the ''down'' side, at the London end of the platform and trailed off in the westward direction. Sandwiched in-between this siding and the platform end was a signal box of Saxby & Farmer design, which most likely appeared in 1886 with the Gravesend West branch and an additional siding, the latter laid parallel with the existing track. From the outset a track crossing was in use at the London ends of the platforms, but later this was superseded by a covered footbridge. Most such structures came into existence on both LC&DR and SER railway networks during the 1890s, when the Board of Trade began tightening standards and finance was available for such structures. Finally, at the turn of the century, a single-track connection with an adjacent chalk pit was installed, this being situated adjacent to the station's goods yard, on the ''up'' side. This was coupled with the addition of a further siding on the ''down'' side, by the signal box, and the revision of the approach tracks to the goods shed.

 

The station has seen a number of changes over the years, including to the name carried: from 1872 it was called ''Farningham Road & Sutton at Hone'', but from 1970 onwards it became just plain ''Farningham Road''. Having recounted the construction and heyday of the station, there is of course the inevitable decline to the facilities on offer, which must be mentioned. The first casualty was that of the water tower, which lost its tank in response to the Southern Railway's 1939 suburban electrification of the ''Chatham'' line to as far as Gillingham, EMUs commencing scheduled passenger operation on 2nd July of that year. All was not lost for this imposing structure, however, and its large brick base was reused in the waiting room capacity - it must certainly have been the largest intermediate station waiting facility along the route! Push-pull operation on the Gravesend West branch had been a feature for many years and when this line was singled in 1959, Farningham Road became the brass token exchange point, a function it retained until the remaining section between Fawkham Junction and Southfleet closed in 1976. Whilst goods facilities at the Gravesend terminus was spacious, passenger traffic was never as prolific as that experienced by the SER's Gravesend station on the North Kent Line. The 15th June 1959 marked the complete cessation of regular steam haulage on the ''Chatham'' main line, with the completion of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme's ''Phase 1'', but Farningham Road retained an operational goods shed for nearly nine years later, closure to this coming in May 1968. During the 1970s the former water tank base succumbed and the footbridge lost its roof, but sidings were retained on both ''up'' and ''down'' sides, to the west of the platforms. Those on the ''down'' side were used for rolling stock storage, but the the single siding still extant on the ''up'' side was utilised by British Steel until 1980. Closure of the signal box followed on 12th June 1983 when control was passed to the Victoria Panel.

 

It is somewhat ironic that maintenance and repair work of the track at the site in Summer 2003 actually had negative knock-on effects for the station: a track crane vehicle collided with the lattice footbridge, damaging it to a state deemed beyond economical repair. Such an occurrence does not seem particularly uncommon in recent times, a number of old footbridges on other regions succumbing similarly. For the best part of a year, the station made do with a temporary basic wood and scaffolding structure. However, even before this was finally erected, the only way passengers could traverse between the two platforms - legitimately - was the circuitous route of the footpath on the ''down'' side, the main road, then up the steep incline of the station approach (or the reverse of this). To prevent passengers from taking a shortcut over the tracks at the west end of the platforms, physical blockades were installed on the ramps! When visited in September 2004, a modern, plain and very safety-conscious looking footbridge had been installed. It is also worth noting that this station has not yet been fitted with electronic destination displays, which many stations on the South Eastern Division had begun receiving in 1999; the television screens installed by Network SouthEast are retained.

 


 

Drawn by David Glasspool

 



Farningham Road

Farningham Station photographed on a wet Thursday afternoon, 22nd January 2004, from the

temporary-looking footbridge. Fortunately, the original building still stands, although the windows

are now boarded up. The unusual bricked enclosure is thought to be the former toilets, typical of the

period (such open air facilities are still in use at Gravesend Central). It now seems to be home to a

bush! David Glasspool

 


 

Farningham Road

The interim scaffolding structure is seen in this picture taken from platform 1 in glorious sunshine,

showing a Class 375 on a stopping service from Victoria on 19th May 2004. Despite the advent of

these units, 4 Veps still very much monopolised stopping services at the time of this scene.

David Glasspool

 


 

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