Despite suffering a major fire in 1986, this station retains much of its bygone
era charm. Ravensbourne came into use with the LC&DR-inspired Catford Loop on
1st July 1892, the line having been promoted under the auspices of the
‘’Shortlands & Nunhead Railway Company’’. The station was a delightful one, set
in rural surroundings, away from the sprawling suburbs (which, today, have still
not quite reached it). Located within a cutting, the site required its main
station building to be positioned at a level above the running lines. Indeed, it
was during this period which the LC&DR seemed to favour high-level entrances,
Bickley, Bromley (South), and Chatham being rebuilt in such a fashion. However,
unlike the buildings at these locations, that at Ravensbourne did not straddle
the tracks, but rather, was positioned immediately adjacent to the ‘’up’’ side.
It was a quaint, but nevertheless ornate, single-storey structure, with two main
pitched-roof sections. Sadly no longer in existence, happily an example of this
building’s architecture still remains in evidence at nearby Beckenham Hill,
despite the latter being double the length of the now destroyed building.
General observation of the original stations along the Catford Loop reveals that
all main buildings were based on two standardised single-storey designs. A
peculiarity here was perhaps the fact that red brick was used throughout
construction, during a period when crème brickwork was very much in favour with
the LC&DR (remembering the Bickley and Bromley (South) station rebuilds of 1893
and 1894 respectively). Originally, platform canopies along the route were of
just one type: triangular. However, after 1900, the SE&CR modified the original
designs at Ravensbourne, Beckenham Hill, and Catford, instead installing
examples which were upward sloping in nature, but still demonstrating an equally
intricate valance. Like their predecessors, these structures extended for a
length of 125 feet. Installed at all stations along the route as standard,
except for the line’s namesake, Ravensbourne opened with an enclosed footbridge
linking both platform surfaces. The platforms at Catford were perched upon an
embankment, which necessitated a footway to be provided underneath the running
lines. Nevertheless, the platform staircases were, like those of their
footbridge counterparts, enclosed.
Goods provision here consisted of two lengthy sidings positioned behind the ‘’down’’ platform, trailing off the ‘’down’’ line in a northward direction. Ravensbourne was the only station to open with a goods yard, although Bellingham later acquired sidings under SE&CR ownership. Neither sites were equipped with goods sheds. The sidings at the former were controlled by a delightful signal box positioned beyond the southern end of the ‘’up’’ platform. Renowned contractors Saxby & Farmer were drafted in to signal the five-mile long Catford Loop – bar a few exceptions, the hiring of this company was a somewhat customary action for the LC&DR. Indeed, the SER increasingly used Saxby & Farmer’s services as the demand for signalling infrastructure began reaching a peak after 1890, outstripping the capacity of the company’s in-house talent. It is worth noting here that signal cabins along the Catford Loop were standardised to a single design, a splendid example of this particular variant still existing at Sturry, on the SER’s Thanet via Canterbury route.
Decided service improvements emerged with the Southern Railway’s electrification programme of the 1920s, which aimed to install third rail on all ex-SE&CR suburban lines. The first electrification was that of Victoria and Holborn Viaduct to Orpington, via Bickley Junction. These works included the installation of third rail along the Catford Loop, and the routes became ‘’live’’ in 1925, a full suburban electric service commencing on 12th July of that year. Consequently, both platforms were extended at their southern ends by means of the ubiquitous Exmouth Junction-manufactured prefabricated concrete, to accommodate the longer EMU formations. The next wave of changes were not to occur until the British Railways era, naturally beginning with the Kent Coast Electrification. As part of this scheme’s ‘’Phase 1’’, colour lights came into use along the Catford Loop on 22nd March 1959, confining the duties of Ravensbourne’s signal cabin to the goods sidings. Concurrent with this had been the installation of concrete bracket lampposts on the platforms.
Cutbacks began on 4th September 1961 with the decommissioning of the goods sidings; this also marked the end for the Saxby & Farmer signal cabin. However, the station itself was fortunate, managing to retain all of its major structures during the dreaded CLASP modernisation era – even the covered footbridge survived. The station’s counterpart at Catford was not so lucky, and all structures of LC&DR origin here were obliterated. Nevertheless, Ravensbourne would eventually be the subject of considerable misfortune. As touched upon earlier, the main station building witnessed a fire outbreak in 1986, completing gutting the insides. After the disaster it was decreed that a wholly new structure was required, and by 1989 a modern single-storey brown-brick building had been completed on the former’s site. Thankfully, the covered footbridge and platform canopies remained intact.
At least from platform level, Ravensbourne still very much has the appearance of a typical
Victorian station, despite the fact that the canopies were installed after this era, under SE&CR
auspices. The covered footbridge, a feature once common to all stations except Catford, is well
illustrated in this London-bound view from 27th January 2007. The footbridge connection
with the elevated station building can be seen emerging above the ''up'' side canopy.
A southward view reveals the light of the early morning sun reflecting off the wet rails from
Shortlands on 27th January 2007. At this southern extremity of the Catford Loop, there is
in fact a quadruple connection with the ''Chatham'' main line. Scheduled Eurostar services
began using the ''Chatham'' route as far as Fawkham Junction from 28th September 2003.
In preparation for this, it was decided to create a ''flying junction'' at Shortlands, to avoid a
conflict between domestic and continental train movements. The work involved tunnelling
a new double-track underpass beneath the existing main line to Victoria, to connect with
the Catford Loop, whilst also retaining the latter's existing two-track link. David Glasspool
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