For Kings Hill
The station opened as
‘’Malling’’ on the ''Sevenoaks, Maidstone & Tunbridge Railway’s'' extension from
Otford to the county town on 1st June 1874. This line was initially
single-track, but on 1st July 1882, double-track working commenced along the
whole of the route. Malling was another one of those stations to escape the
typical LC&DR architecture found along that company’s main Dover trunk line and
indeed, the main building was quite simply a reversed example of the structure
found at nearby Borough Green. Therefore, the details were more or less
identical: red brick substituted the LC&DR’s typical crème brick for the
construction, elaborate gabled roof sections were prominent on both front and
rear elevations, and the structure was two-storeys high. However, whereas its
counterpart at Borough Green was positioned on the ‘’down’’ side, the main
building at Malling was located on the ‘’up’’ side, which completed the ‘’mirror
image’’ effect. An interesting feature which both of these stations had in
common was the single-storey pitched-roof extension on their western ends. This
is particularly relevant, because these smaller structural sections seem to have
been used as the design basis for the modest Barming; this station did not boast
the imposing two-storey designs found at most other stops along the Maidstone
and Ashford route. Once again, Borough Green and Malling stations shared
identically-designed canopies and waiting shelters. The latter were interesting
structures: they lacked any form of over-hanging roof and canopy valance, but
this was fully compensated by the fact that they were fully glazed and enclosed,
complete with a coal fire. The signal boxes at the stations were built by the
same independent contractor, Saxby & Farmer, opening around the time of the 1882
line doubling, but the two designs demonstrated a small degree of variation.
That at Malling was built upon the ‘’down’’ platform, immediately adjacent to
the waiting shelter, whilst that at Borough Green was instead positioned beyond
the end of the ‘’up’’ platform, thus was of a greater height, and had a
repositioned entrance door. From the outset, a track foot crossing linked the
platforms, but Malling acquired a graceful lattice footbridge in about 1910, a
feature which its nearby counterpart did not receive. This was erected at the
eastern ends of the platforms.
The location of Malling station was decidedly rural, but in the surrounding fields grew significant amounts of farm produce. Goods provision here was on the ‘’up’’ side and initially consisted of a dock line and siding, the latter of which passed through a single-track goods shed (complete with canopy valance on its southern elevation). This later increased to incorporate an additional two sidings and coal stacks, this commodity having become increasingly important in subsequent years.
Electrification through to Maidstone in 1939 brought an improved service – both in journey times and frequency – but steam traffic remained beyond, to Ashford. Ten years later, the station acquired a ‘’West’’ prefix, it now harmonious with the 1913-opened halt at East Malling. The full accelerated timetable of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme (Phase 2) came into use on 18th June 1962, the platforms having been lengthened at their eastern ends with prefabricated concrete in preparation for this. Thereafter, the decline at West Malling began. First was the cessation of goods traffic at the site, such occurring in May 1964, four years earlier than at nearby Borough Green. Then, circa 1973, the delightful waiting shelter was demolished and replaced by a dreadful CLASP fabrication. The signal box sat alongside the incongruous structure for another ten years until this itself closed ten years later, at 22:00 on Friday 16th December 1983, when colour lights came into use and control passed to the panel at Maidstone East. The opportunity was also taken at this time to trim the front of the platform canopy valance, to provide an unmarred view of the colour lights. The whole canopy valance of the approach façade was also trimmed, quite severely in fact. The CLASP structure on the ‘’down’’ side was replaced in 1991 with a curved-roof glazed bus shelter, but the charm of the original timber shelter has yet to be recaptured.
In April 1999 the station name boards acquired the suffix ‘’for Kings Hill’’. It was at this time that the former RAF West Malling Airfield of World War II was being transformed into a huge new high-quality housing and industrial development. Building work is still ensuing on parts of the site, which will eventually see more than 2000 new homes created, causing a rapid increase in the local population.
1st January 1979
Viewed on a snowy New Years Day 1979, the signal box was located towards the eastern end of
the Down Platform. At this time, the box was only opened on weekdays to divide the long section
between Borough Green and Maidstone East, or when services were diverted at weekends due to
engineering work on the main line via Tonbridge. © David Morgan
An eastward view on 22nd March 2006 reveals all main structures which still exist: the station
building, the lattice footbridge and indeed, the truncated valance of the canopy. Note the unusual
sideward portion of the building, mentioned in the main text, which is architecturally identical to
the design at Barming. One of the concrete platform extensions can be seen beyond the footbridge.
© David Glasspool
The station façade presented a spruce appearance when viewed on 22nd March 2006. The
trimmed valance of the canopy now proclaims ''West Malling for Kings Hill''. The central
set of doors, behind the black car, are a much more recent addition; formerly, a window
was situated there. © David Glasspool
Direct comparison of West Malling and Sole Street stations
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