Four decades separate
the opening of the Otford to Maidstone line and the rather unassuming site at
East Malling. When the ''Sevenoaks, Maidstone & Tunbridge Railway’s’’ extension
to the county town came into use on 1st June 1874, the platforms of Malling were
deemed satisfactory to serve the rural surroundings. However, after the
formation of the SE&CR in 1899, numerous economical station affairs began to
appear on the network in areas which, hitherto, were not on the passenger
timetable. Halts, which were generally provided with the minimum of facilities,
became increasingly common in those areas where the SE&CR faced road and tramway
competition. Providing additional stations of an economical nature also formed
part of this company's endeavour to increase its local rail traffic levels.
In 1913, a two-platform layout was established along the Otford to Maidstone line to serve the small community of East Malling: this was despite the fact that the existing Malling station was a mere mile westwards. Passengers using the then new site were not to be greeted by gabled pitched roofs, attractive red brick, or a graceful platform canopy, these being features of the nearby 1874 site. Rather, ‘’East Malling Halt’’, as it was known from the outset, was a conservative effort fabricated wholly of timber. Whilst its basic design reflected the SE&CR’s general policy towards small, latterly-conceived station stops, the halt’s layout is equally attributed to the nature of the terrain. The presence of an embankment required the platforms to be supported by a series of wooden struts driven into the earth, bringing the walking surface above the level of the running lines. The elevated site was reached via a wooden staircase on either side of the tracks, these again resting upon struts. Both ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ sides were provided with more than adequate waiting accommodation, particularly in light of the traffic handled here. Each platform was host to an enclosed timber waiting shelter, complete with glazing and upward-slanting roofs. These were at least sympathetic in appearance to the earlier shelter-type structures erected by the original Sevenoaks Railway Company, of which those at Eynsford, Bat & Ball, and Barming still exist as fine examples.
Although the site has never (and unsurprisingly) been host to additional sidings or a signal box, the station has nevertheless witnessed considerable change since its inception. The line was electrified as far as Maidstone East on 2nd July 1939, but the first significant alterations to the halt appear to have coincided with the Kent Coast Electrification works undertaken between 1959 and 1962. During this period, the platforms were rebuilt in prefabricated concrete form, using cast components. The wooden staircases were also replaced with concrete equivalents at the same time. Thereafter, the station soldiered on, retaining its key features of the SE&CR era – this would all change under Network SouthEast auspices. Despite escaping the dreadful CLASP rebuilding schemes of the late 1960s / early 1970s, East Malling was to be the subject - if only partially - of a new wave of ‘’modernisation’’ policy. Circa 1988 onwards, curved bus shelters began arriving at stations in force, replacing traditional wooden structures which were, in many cases, still in good condition. During 1993, East Malling lost its original ''down'' side timber shelter of 1913 origin, only to have it replaced by the aforementioned featureless waiting accommodation.
14th March 2011
Each platform is reached by separate prefabricated staircases: passage between the two is under the railway
bridge. New signs are in evidence on the ''down'' side. © David Glasspool
14th March 2011
An eastward view shows the lengthy prefabricated concrete platforms, which date back to the Kent Coast
Electrification Scheme. The vintage clapboard shelter seen on the opposite (''up'') platform was, until 1993,
replicated on the ''down'' side. © David Glasspool
14th March 2011
A westward view from the ''up'' platform includes the ''down'' side glazed shelter. The embankment struts which
formerly supported the timber shelter on the ''down'' side have become unsafe, and part of the area directly beside
the glazed shelter has been fenced off. © David Glasspool
14th March 2011
The rear of the clapboard waiting shelter can be seen emerging through the vegetation in this view of the ''up''
side staircase. The railway timetable is flanked to its left and right by a Permit to Travel Machine and Help
Point respectively. © David Glasspool
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