Lenham

 

The need for ‘’fast’’ trains to overtake stopping services on the Maidstone East route has ensured that Lenham retains an interesting layout. The station came into use on 1st July 1884 with the whole of the ''Maidstone & Ashford Railway’s’’ 18¾-mile line between its namesake locations. The station buildings east of Maidstone were based on the outline of the main structure earlier erected at Sevenoaks Bat & Ball, although there were distinct differences. Lenham would appear to command the largest of the buildings along the route, at 85-foot long. The main structure was positioned on the ‘’down’’ side, was two storeys high with pitched roof sections, and was constituted of red brick. As previously mentioned within the Charing section, stations along the 1884 route were either built with red or crème brick, and their very colour seemed to determine the size of the main building. The opposing platforms at all stations were equipped with a standardised brick-built 27-foot long waiting shelter. These attractive structures demonstrated an intricate canopy matching the length and pattern of those extending from the main station building opposite, of which they were placed directly in line with. Like the majority of sites between Otford Junction and Ashford, no footbridge was in evidence at Lenham, a track foot crossing at the eastern ends of the platforms instead being in use.

Goods facilities here were quite extensive, with a total of six sidings being available. Four of these resided on the site behind the ‘’up’’ platform, and of the two tracks which ran immediately behind this surface, one passed through a goods shed. With reference to the latter, this was of a standardised design, and examples still remain in existence at Bearsted and Harrietsham. Further south of this pair of tracks were another two sidings of about 200 yards in length, which were fed by a single connection from the ‘’up’’ line. The sidings considered so far were all westward-facing. Of the two remaining sidings which existed on the ‘’down’’ side, one was an eastward-facing track, some 130 yards beyond the western end of the ‘’down’’ platform. Directly connected to this siding was a westward-facing track, approximately 100 yards in length, which terminated in the form of a dock line (a feature which was common to all stations east of Maidstone). The whole layout was controlled by a Saxby & Farmer signal box positioned just beyond the western end of the ‘’up’’ platform. All stations east of Maidstone had signal cabins of identical design, these demonstrating a brick-base with a timber upper-half.

Apart from the replacement of name boards, little changed at this station under Southern Railway ownership; major layout alterations were left to British Railways. Of particular relevance to Lenham was the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme, which called for a revised arrangement to cater for the impending accelerated electric timetable. As part of the scheme’s ‘’Phase 2’’, the opportunity was taken to install Exmouth Junction-produced prefabricated concrete footbridges at all stations east of Maidstone throughout 1961. During this year, electrified passing loops for fast services were also installed at Lenham: that on the ‘’up’’ side was routed behind the platform, through the goods yard, whilst the Ashford-bound loop was positioned beyond the western end of the ‘’down’’ platform. The latter had been created by extending the existing ''down'' siding here and forming it into a loop – this course of action safeguarded the existence of the dock line.  In later years, the electric timetable saw that, on occasions, fast services from Charing Cross and Cannon Street caught up with the stopping trains from Victoria. Therefore, when an ‘’up’’ stopping service was stabled at the platform, a fast service could take priority and overtake it by means of the loop. To control the revised layout, a ‘’power box’’, constructed to the typical brown brick and glass design of all those cabins erected during the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme, appeared alongside the existing Saxby & Farmer signal box. The latter last operated on 22nd July 1961, the ‘’power box’’ coming into use the following day. Despite the presence of the ''up'' side overtaking loop, goods traffic continued to be handled at Lenham until 6th January 1969.

On 28th May 1984, the scope of Maidstone East ‘’power box’’ was fully extended to reach the Victoria Panel boundary at Kemsing in the west, to the Ashford Panel boundary at Hothfield in the east. Semaphore signals were replaced with three-aspect colour lights. Consequently, the 1961-installed cabin at Lenham was decommissioned, and its later demolition allowed for a westward extension of the ‘’up’’ platform. This utilised prefabricated concrete components and was completed in 1990. Then, in 1991, modifications were made to the site in preparation for Channel Tunnel freight services. The oversized containers which were a feature of such trains were out of gauge for the route; their height made them prone to hitting bridges and station structures. Consequently, the bridge at the western end of the layout had the arch rebuilt to a wider profile this subsequently being lined with concrete and the platform canopies had chunks cut out of their valances.

 


 

A westward view from 19th April 2007 reveals ''Electrostar'' No. 375611 departing Lenham with

a coast-bound working, whilst, in the distance, can be seen a Class 465/9 on a working to London

Victoria. On the left is the ''up'' side electrified passing loop, which is routed through the former

goods yard site. The goods yard area also extended beyond the vegetation alongside the loop, and

although the goods shed has been demolished, the yard's office is still standing. The latter is marked

by the turquoise sign. David Glasspool

 


 

A second westward view from 19th April 2007, this time from platform level, shows the substantial

red-brick station building, the ''up'' side waiting shelter and, beyond these, the 1961 prefabricated

concrete footbridge. The electrified ''up'' loop can be seen on the extreme left, and the canopies are

showing evidence of being cut back. David Glasspool

 


 

In the background of this eastward view from 19th April 2007 is a road bridge which did not require

rebuilding in 1991. In the foreground, on the right, is the fencing of the 1990 prefabricated concrete

platform extension. On the left, beyond the fence, is the dock line. David Glasspool

 


 

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