Rochester

 

A later addition to the "Chatham" main line, opening on 1st March 1892, this station still retained a plethora of structural features from a bygone era to the end. Ornate cast iron railings, a copious platform canopy, and a substantial main building survived as historic artefacts reminding us of an earlier time. Indeed, its elevated windswept platforms, overlooking the Medway, could be inhospitable on cold winter nights, but it was nevertheless sad to see the closure of this traditional site.

The "East Kent Railway" (EKR) opened the double-track line through Rochester on 29th March 1859. This was a 1Ĺ-mile-long extension of the companyís 1858-commissioned Faversham to Chatham route, which linked the latter with the SERís North Kent Line (NKL) at Strood. The EKR wanted to run its trains over the NKL in order to reach the metals of the "West End of London & Crystal Palace Railway", these providing access to the site of a new West End terminus (latterly Victoria), but the SER had other ideas. The SERís claim that the NKL was already at capacity urged the EKR to develop an independent route to the capital and to reflect this endeavour, the company was renamed the "London Chatham & Dover Railway" on 1st August 1859.

Progress was swift: on 3rd December 1860, through running between the then new terminus at Victoria and Canterbury, via Bromley and Faversham, commenced. On the same day, a station named "Strood" came into use on the northern bank of the River Medway, just beyond the junction with the NKL connecting spur. The LC&DR renamed this site "Rochester Bridge" on 1st March 1861, to differentiate it from the existing SER "Strood" station. On 1st November of the same year, the name was altered once again, this time to "Rochester & Strood", emphasising that the station served both of these places. In the meantime, trains from Victoria started running all the way to Dover by the LC&DR route from 22nd July 1861.

The first "proper" Rochester station, one which actually resided within the boundaries of the Cathedral City on the southern side of the Medway, was not provided by the LC&DR, but instead by the rival SER. The SER proposed running its own services to Chatham over LC&DR metals from Strood. The LC&DR blocked these proposals, no doubt remembering the SERís lack of cooperation in those fledgling days of the EKR, when the latter tried to secure running rights over the NKL. Just as the EKR had done back in 1859, the SER decided to forge a route independent of its rivalís, extending the NKL south of the Medway. Parliamentary powers for this alternate line to Chatham were granted in 1881. As part of this very costly line, the SER constructed a 650-foot-long lattice girder bridge over the river, parallel with the existing LC&DR bridge. Thereafter, the double-track line was carried upon a substantial viaduct, taking it over the tracks of the LC&DRís goods yard (the latter of which had been constructed in the early 1880s) to a terminus station.

The SERís "Chatham Extension", as it was known, opened in two stages. The first section, Ĺ-mile-long between the SERís Strood and a new station south of the Medway in Rochester, came into use on 20th July 1891. The new site was called "Rochester Common", this being a two-platform station perched upon the viaduct, and it initially served as a terminus. Indeed, it is this site which can claim to be Rochester's first "proper" station, located on the northern periphery of the city. The remaining stretch of the one-mile-long branch between Rochester Common and a new terminus, laughably named "Chatham Central", came into use on 1st March 1892. This site was still within Rochester, therefore not central to Chatham, and is perhaps only bettered in the descriptive stakes by the SERís claim in 1844 of Bricklayers Arms being a "West End Terminus".

Coinciding with the opening of Chatham Central, the LC&DR brought into use another station nearby, this time plain "Rochester". So, in just over seven months, Rochester had acquired three separate stations. The LC&DR site comprised a pair of 480-foot-long timber-built platforms upon an embankment, about Ĺ-mile south of the Medway. Attractive timber canopies, 120-feet-long and built to a design still evident today at Ravensbourne, graced both surfaces. At the southern end of the "down" platform could be found the signal box. The main station building was at ground level, on the "up" side of the running lines. This was a tidy two-storey structure constructed from crŤme brick, with a slated pitched roof and sash-style windows.

 


 

Medway: Welcome to Rochester, on 19th January 2013 © David Glasspool

 


11th April 1973

 

Rochester signal box is in the background of this view, which depicts diesel shunter No. D3671 (latterly Class 09 No. 09007) waiting to take a local trip freight to Gillingham Yard. Walking beside the locomotive is the late George Turner, who at that time was the head shunter at Rochester. © Roger Goodrum

 


April 1979

 

Viewed from the 1959 ''power box'', 4 VEP No. 7888 is seen forming the front portion of an 8-vehicle train, as it approaches the station with a Victoria to Ramsgate service. The double-slip in the foreground gave access to the low-level goods yard. © David Glasspool Collection

 


April 1979

 

At the same location as the previous photograph, we now see grubby Class 33 No. 33065 hauling a rake of equally dirty tankers. On the far right, in front of the railway personnel, is milepost 33Ĺ from Victoria. © David Glasspool Collection

 


1983

 

A 4 VEP is seen calling at the ''down'' platform in this northward view, taken from atop Fort Pitt Hill around 1983. Of particular note is the lengthy lattice footbridge in the background, on the right, which indicates the position of the goods yard. Just below the footbridge can be seen the wall of the huge LC&DR goods shed, now devoid of a roof. Behind the footbridge is the ''power box'' of 1959 origin, whilst on the far left, nearer the camera, is the main station building. © Chris

 


 

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