If one takes a trip along the Medway Valley line, it becomes noticeable that there is not one station building the same. The only two stations which seem to share any common pattern are Wateringbury and Aylesford, but even these have been fabricated out of completely different materials and at least a decade separates the pair. With this in mind, it is therefore no surprise that Snodland is a unique design along the line: it opened with the extension of the North Kent Line from Strood to Maidstone (SER) on 18th June 1856. Like the 1844-opened section of line between Paddock Wood and Maidstone, buildings at stations between the latter and Strood were also not provided from the outset (Cuxton, Snodland and Aylesford), these instead following two years later, all to differing designs.
At Snodland, two platforms were provided either side of the double-track. The ''down'' side played host to a copious waiting shelter which shared its brick-built rear supporting wall with a somewhat large goods shed, upholding a more than adequate canopy stretching the whole width of the platform. This waiting shelter arrangement is peculiar and no other example of this design seems to have ever existed elsewhere on the SER network. The ''up'' side was graced with a large two-storey brick-built station building with a pitched roof - for what were very small communities at the time, the provision of imposing stations at the intermediate stops along the Medway Valley Line seems to be a recurring theme. It marks a time when the SER was keen to create a strong impression among the local population and it is indeed obvious that the necessary capital was available at the time in which to do it; only East Farleigh seems to have suffered the SER's ''economical'' clapboard approach. The main goods facilities were provided on the ''down'' side and indeed, the goods shed's size has already been commented upon, although it is worth noting that both Gravesend's (SER) and Aylesford's goods buildings were to the exact same design. All of these goods sheds had the physical width to accommodate three tracks, despite being only fed by one. Snodland's ''up'' side was host to just a single siding, trailing off the line in a southward direction and terminating behind the platform.
Circa 1892, a clapboard signal box appeared just to the south of the ''up'' platform, concurrent with the installation of a cabin at East Farleigh. This was then followed around two years later by a lattice footbridge, replacing the existing track crossing. The Board of Trade was tightening standards and the LC&DR also had to follow a similar course of action. However, such luxuries were usually only provided when finance was available, which asks the question as to why the SER was able to build such fantastic station buildings, but did not incorporate footbridges - perhaps the company felt that these structures were just not required on secondary routes? During the SE&CR's rein, the ''down'' platform was lengthened at its northern end, but with this time wood, rather than the concrete which became so familiar after the Grouping. The Southern Railway then rebuilt the platforms with prefabricated concrete as part of the 1939 electrification scheme from Gravesend Central to Maidstone West; this coincided with the installation of an ''up'' side loop for goods traffic. Scheduled electric services commenced on 2nd July of that year. It would seem likely in this decade that the signal box also received its obvious sideward extension.
For many years the Strood to Paddock Wood route was worked by ''H'' Class Tank engines with push-pull pre-Grouping and pre-Nationalisation stock. The end for these characterful formations was heralded with the commencement of electric services along the entire length of the Medway Valley Line on 12th June 1961. Goods traffic at this station ceased in June 1963 and the goods shed was demolished in the 1980s, but the western wall elevation was retained for the waiting shelter, which had shared it from the outset. The original SER waiting shelter canopy was replaced by the Southern Railway, utilising a much more copious, but plainer, design. Despite the modernisation brought by the Kent Coast Electrification, the route via Maidstone West retained its semaphore signals for another four and a half decades, the upgrading to colour aspect lights only beginning in December 2004. Full colour light working was possible by November 2005. Despite this, Maidstone West had been controlled by colour aspect lights since 1961.
28th July 2005
A northward view on 28th July 2005 reveals the imposing two-storey station building, in the company
of those rectangular-indented walls mentioned within the main body of the text. The platform canopy
here is of considerable vintage, even retaining the SER ''clover'' valance. Obvious modern introductions
have been the platform lamp posts, ''bus shelter'' waiting facilities and, of course, the satellite dish! The
semaphore signal bracket in the background formerly had two arms. The large and unusual canopy of
the waiting shelter can be seen appearing on the right-hand side. The concept of painting the upper floor
white was that of the SE&CR's - the LC&DR had done it to a number of their stations before 1899.
© David Glasspool
28th July 2005
The lattice footbridge here is unusually large in light of it crossing just two tracks. Its additional length
is afforded by going beyond the outer walls - on the ''up'' side (seen here) two staircases are provided,
which are further rarities for stations of this size. The view dates from 28th July 2005. © David Glasspool
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