The Southern Railway electrified the North Kent Line in 1926, but little else at Abbey Wood changed under this company’s ownership; it would be the British Railways era which would herald the greatest of alterations. In 1956, lengthening of the platforms at their London ends commenced, utilising prefabricated concrete delivered from Exmouth Junction works. This allowed the station to accommodate ten vehicle EPB formations on the verge of being introduced, to alleviate overcrowding - such train lengths came into use on the route during 1957. The platform extensions also brought electric lighting, supported on concrete bracket posts. Shortly after, on 5th December 1960, the sole goods siding behind the main station building was taken out of use. Unfortunately, circa 1968, the ''down'' side at Abbey Wood was to suffer from BR's ''modern image'' - the delightful SER waiting shelter was replaced by a soulless glazed bus shelter, this of which was virtually identical in design to that still in evidence on Bexley's ''up'' side. The main station building, the SER-designed signal box and, of course, the level crossing, remained as traditional features of the site. However, the advent of the Dartford Panel saw the SER cabin reduced to the status of a mere gate box, such occurring on 25th October 1970.
In the meantime, in January 1967, construction of the ''Thamesmead'' development began. This involved building twelve concrete-fabricated thirteen-storey-high tower blocks, and several five-storey-high flats, on 130 acres of drained Erith marshland. In June of the following year, the first residents moved into the new mass residential development, which had been intended for those families which had been displaced from East London, as a result of World War II bombing. During the Summer of 1969, Bexley Council developed a display model of the intended alterations to Abbey Wood station and its immediate environs, as a result of the advent of Thamesmead. The plans outlined a completely new road bridge immediately east of the station, on the site of the level crossing. The platform surfaces were to be lengthened at their eastern ends, underneath the proposed road bridge, and in addition, a loop and third platform face were to come into use. The loop was to act as a turn-back facility for the additional trains which it was then assumed would be required to serve Thamesmead. There was to be a new station building at road level over the tracks, with a bus lay-by. Construction of the concrete road bridge commenced, complete with bus lay-by, and their completion allowed the closure of the level crossing and signal box on 13th July 1975. The lattice footbridge beside the level crossing was cut up into sections and sent for scrap. Reconstruction of the rest of the station site was not proceeded with, and the SER-designed main building continued in use, despite the fact that the road bridge had been built to accommodate the proposed ''high-level'' structure. However, in 1977, work began on erecting a footbridge between the platform surfaces. This comprised a span which was salvaged from the terminus at Blackfriars, where rebuilding to accommodate today's office block was being undertaken. The bridge span was probably built by the LC&DR, but in its initial form was too long for the platforms at Abbey Wood; therefore, a section was cut out, and the bridge re-spliced by welding. The footbridge was intended only as a temporary measure, to be retained for about two years, and as a result, the ex-Blackfriars span was supported upon a light military trestle. Over thirty years on, the same footbridge remains!
During the Network SouthEast era, many stations along the three North Kent routes were subject to rebuilds. On the Dartford Loop Line via Sidcup, this did see the loss of much historical clapboard, and even those brick structures on the original 1849 line were not immune, as proven by the transformation of Abbey Wood. In 1988, a station rebuilding programme got underway, which set about removing all traces of the SER layout. A prominent pitched-roof glazed and crème-brick station building appeared on the ‘’up’’ side, in addition to a peculiar arrangement of canopy sections (as the subsequent pictures indicate) for weather protection. The flat-roofed glazed bus shelter of 1968 remained on the ‘’down’’ side, but the rear of this platform surface was lined with a low crème brick wall. The footbridge of 1977 was, however, retained, and being an ex-Blackfriars span, became the oldest component of the station. Finally, circa 1997, the square bus shelter on the ‘’down’’ side was replaced with a more modern example demonstrating a curved roof, completing the station’s modernisation.
With thanks to Colin Martin for additional notes on this station
Information on the 1969 station reconstruction proposals kindly submitted by Tom Burnham
Information on the 1977 Blackfriars salvaged footbridge kindly submitted by Mike Welch
The modern, but attractive looking station building is seen in this 3rd July 2006 view. The ticket
office is marginally below platform level, and when this is closed, an alternate platform entrance
to the structure's immediate left, is used. David Glasspool
A westward view from the 1975 bridge reveals high-density residential development on the
right, which took place during 2004. Beyond the 1977 footbridge are the 1956 prefabricated
concrete extensions, which have since lost their concrete backing in favour of palisade
fencing. Prominent on the left of this 3rd July 2006 view is the sloped roof of the station
building. David Glasspool
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