The Herne Hill to
Beckenham section of the LC&DR’s avoiding line to Victoria opened on 1st July
1863, but a station at Kent House did not come into use until 1st October 1884.
Even the first station, situated around a double-track, was a short-lived
affair, for the line was quadrupled for half a mile of its extent through the
site in 1886. Four-track running over this part of the route commenced on 2nd
May of that year. This measure, which had been implemented to ease congestion on
an increasingly busy trunk line, produced a spacious four-platform layout at
Kent House. The station was perched upon an embankment that carried the route
for the 1⅓-miles between Beckenham Junction and Penge (East) stations, and
comprised a pair of 600-foot-long island platforms mimicking the 40-chain curve
of the line. Upon each platform surface could be found waiting room
accommodation and offices, all of tongue-and-groove timber construction. The use
of this material lowered the potential weight imposed on the elevated platforms,
and also reduced building cost. Sash-style windows, commonly associated with the
rival SER’s architecture, festooned the timber offices, and both platforms were
host to copious pitched-roof canopies. These were 240-feet in length and were
supported upon a multitude of cast-iron stanchions.
The elevated nature of the platforms required the main building to be provided at ground level, on the southern (‘’up’’) side of the running lines. Here, it was decided to re-use the same basic design which had emerged at the then new Otford Junction station, on the Sevenoaks Bat & Ball line, in summer 1882. A substantial, but elegant, two-storey-high structure butted up against the embankment, separated from the southern island platform by the ‘’up’’ loop. Unlike its sister at Otford, the structure at Kent House was of yellow brick, rather than red brick, construction, but detail differences aside, a near identical building had emerged. Including single-storey appendices on either side, this building stretched beside the line for an impressive 125-feet, but the main two-storey-high portion extended for little over 65-feet. It comprised a gabled pitched-roof entrance topped off with slate tiles and sash-style windows. A splendid flat-roofed canopy, with intricate valance, stretched for 30-feet along the façade’s right-hand side. This has long since disappeared, but a virtually identical example still survives at Otford, protecting the forecourt entrance from the elements. Within the main building could be found the entrance to a subway, which ran the width of the railway embankment, linking both island platforms. In-between the islands, staff had use of a 6-foot-wide track crossing, constituted of sleepers.
Previously, on 1st August 1865, the LC&DR had commenced operation to a grand terminus at the end of a 6½-mile-long branch line. This was the Crystal Palace branch, opened in connection with the re-location of the glass colossus from Hyde Park to a permanent site in Norwood. The branch had been built by the independent ‘’Crystal Palace & South London Junction Railway’’ (CP&SLJR), and was subsequently leased to the LC&DR. Although the line traversed salubrious surroundings, traffic was never prolific, a trait which stayed with the branch for its entire existence. Within a decade of its opening, relations between the two companies soured, so much that the LC&DR set about abandoning the line. In 1874, the company secured powers for a single-track spur, about 15-chains in length, leaving the main line immediately south of what would become the site of Kent House station. From here, it was to curve round upon an embankment to meet the original West End of London & Crystal Palace Railway’s line from Crystal Palace to Beckenham Junction, thus creating a triangular junction. Presumably, the LC&DR deemed it more worthwhile to handle Crystal Palace traffic by running over the LB&SCR’s metals, once again being subject to the tolls of its long-running Victoria station rival. Perhaps this whole exercise was just a ploy to sway the Board members of the independent CP&SLJR to the LC&DR’s line of thinking, for the former would be financially drained without lease payments. No time was wasted in constructing the Kent House spur, but just as quickly as the embankment was formed, a new set of negotiations between the two companies were arranged. The entire episode was concluded by the absorption of the smaller concern by the LC&DR in July 1875. Eventually, the embankment became host to a single siding running for its full extent, feeding off the station’s ‘’up’’ loop. This siding was still in evidence on the advent of the Southern Railway.
Two signal boxes were in use here. The first was Cabin ‘’A’’, situated north of the station, on the ‘’up’’ side of the railway embankment, overlooking where the ‘’up’’ fast and slow lines converged. The ‘’up’’ slow line ended in a short safety siding, to protect the ‘’up’’ main line in the event of a driver on the former over-running the signals. The second signal box was Cabin ‘’B’’, situated immediately beyond the ‘’country’’ end of the ‘’up’’ island platform, sandwiched in-between the ‘’up’’ fast and slow lines. The ‘’up’’ starting signals, one each for fast and slow lines, could be found at the London end of the ‘’up’’ island. These were controlled by Kent House Cabin ‘’B’’, but first had to be electrically released from Cabin ‘’A’’. The distant signals, upon the same posts but below the starting semaphore arms, were controlled from Cabin ‘’A’’, in conjunction with the ‘’up’’ home signals for fast and slow lines. The positions of the two signal boxes, in addition to a third at Penge Junction, can be observed on the included map.
On the advent of the Southern Railway, the ex-LC&DR line became an early candidate for electrification. Third rail was initially laid between Victoria, Holborn Viaduct, and Orpington (via Bickley Junction), electric services commencing on 12th July 1925. At this time, the platform run-in boards were renewed with a prefabricated concrete surround (as per the new-build Margate and Ramsgate stations), and a new design of Swan Neck gas lamp was brought into use. Both platform canopies received simplified timber valances. In August 1926, the SR announced the third rail electrification of the adjacent Central Section line to Crystal Palace, from Beckenham Junction, which had not seen regular scheduled passenger services since 1st December 1915. In-between Beckenham and Penge Junctions, the decision was taken to quadruple the line, to provide dedicated tracks for ‘’Chatham’’ and Crystal Palace trains. In addition, this section of the ex-LC&DR main line was re-laid during 1927/1928 to ease the gradients, and two bridges south of Kent House were widened at a cost of £100,000 (£4,450,000 at 2008 prices). Third rail electric services between Victoria and Beckenham Junction, via Crystal Palace, commenced on 3rd March 1929. Previously, on Sunday 16th October 1927, Kent House ''C'' box (Penge Junction) had been abolished. ''A'' and ''B'' cabins had both gone out of use by 1931.
Had it not been for the work of arsonists in the latter part of the 20th Century, today Kent House would remain a virtually complete station. In 1990, the last remaining timber offices on the ‘’up’’ island were burnt down, reducing the platform canopy by 60-feet in length. In its place, a 25-foot-long glazed shelter was erected. Further incident took place in February 1993, when 4-VEP No. 3169 came to grief whilst stabled in the ‘’down’’ loop. Having departed Victoria forming a Margate service, an IRA bomb was identified, and the train brought to a stop at Kent House. Everyone was evacuated, and shortly afterwards, the bomb exploded, ripping through the DTCsoL (Driving Trailer Composite Semi-open with Lavatory) of the train.
Kent House: 1894
Ordnance Survey of Penge in 1894. The four platforms of Kent House station are prominent just left of centre, whilst Penge
Junction can be found on the far right. ''Old Railway'', bottom centre, marks the embankment of 1874, which was built as an
alternate route for the LC&DR's Crystal Palace traffic, but was subsequently not used. The Disused Station marked at the
foot of the map is thought to have come into use with the Norwood to Shortlands section of the WEL&CPR's line on 3rd May
1858. A map of 1872 makes no acknowledgement of a station here, open or closed, thus it may have been abandoned as early
as 1863, when the LC&DR commenced through running to Victoria via Herne Hill, instead of Crystal Palace. At the bottom
right can be seen the Croydon (Addiscombe Road) extension of the Mid-Kent Railway. Click the above for a larger version.
A filthy BR Standard 5 Class is seen approaching from the London direction with a Kent Coast express in the
final months of steam traction on the ''Chatham'' main line. Three aspect colour lights were at this time marked
with white crosses, to indicate they were not yet operational. On the platform can be seen recently installed
concrete bracket lampposts carrying electric lighting. In the distance, on the left, is Crystal Palace Television
Mast, which began transmitting in 1956. © David Glasspool Collection
A second London-bound view this time shows a 4 EPB in the background, wearing all-over green in the days
before yellow warning panels became mandatory. Just above the unit can be seen still operational semaphore
signals. © David Glasspool Collection
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