Despite suffering a major fire in 1986, this station retains much of its bygone-era charm. Ravensbourne came into use with the Catford Loop on 1st July 1892; the line was promoted under the auspices of the nominally independent "Shortlands & Nunhead Railway Company", but was worked by the London Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR) from the outset. The station was a delightful one, set in rural surroundings, away from the sprawling suburbs. Located within a cutting, the main station building was positioned at a level above the platforms, on the "up" side of the line. It was a quaint, but nevertheless ornate, single-storey structure, with two main pitched-roof sections. Sadly no longer in existence, happily an example of similar architecture still remains in evidence at nearby Beckenham Hill, despite the latter being double the length of the now-destroyed building at Ravensbourne. General observation of the original stations along the Catford Loop reveals that all main buildings were based on two standardised single-storey designs. A peculiarity of the line was perhaps the fact that red brick was used throughout in construction, during a period when crème brickwork was very much in favour with the LC&DR; this could possibly have been a reflection of the independent company.
The platforms were partially covered by a pair of ornate canopies, about 125-feet in length, which had a gentle upward-sloping profile. Both canopies were supported by cast-iron stanchions and, at their rears, red brick walls; underneath the "down" side canopy were brick-built offices. Installed at all stations along the route bar Catford, Ravensbourne opened with an enclosed footbridge linking both platform surfaces. The platforms at Catford were perched upon an embankment, which necessitated a footway to be provided underneath the running lines. Nevertheless, the platform staircases were, like those of their footbridge counterparts, enclosed.
Goods provision here consisted of two lengthy sidings positioned behind the "down" platform, trailing off the "down" line in a northward direction. Ravensbourne was the only station to open with a goods yard, although Bellingham later acquired sidings under SE&CR ownership, and neither of these sites were equipped with goods sheds. The sidings at Ravensbourne were controlled by a delightful signal box positioned beyond the southern end of the "up" platform. Contractor Saxby & Farmer was used to provide signal cabins along the five-mile long Catford Loop, a company which the LC&DR used extensively for resignalling projects across their network. The signal cabins along the line were standardised on a single design, a splendid example of this particular variant still existing at Sturry, on the SER’s Thanet via Canterbury route.
Significant service improvements emerged with the Southern Railway’s electrification programme of the 1920s, which aimed to install third rail on ex-SE&CR suburban lines. The first electrification was that of Victoria and Holborn Viaduct to Orpington, via Bickley Junction. These works included the installation of third rail along the Catford Loop, and the routes became "live" in 1925, a full suburban electric service commencing on 12th July of that year. Consequently, both platforms were extended at their southern ends by means of the ubiquitous Exmouth Junction-manufactured prefabricated concrete, to accommodate longer electric multiple unit formations.
What The Railways Are Doing
Every evening Ravensbourne station signal-box, on the Catford loop line of the Southern Railway, is specially opened for the passage of two regular steam trains which are passed round this route during the evening. They are the 6.23 p.m. from Holborn Viaduct to Chatham, and the 6.30 p.m. Rotterdam boat train from Victoria to Gravesend. These have to be sandwiched in between the 20-min. interval electric service, and the box is therefore switched in for about a quarter-of-an-hour in order to break up the lengthy section from Bellingham to Shortlands junction. At other times Ravensbourne signal box is opened only during the working of the goods yard.[The Railway Magazine, October 1935]
The next wave of changes were not to occur until the British Railways era, beginning with the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme. As part of this scheme’s "Phase 1", colour lights came into use along the Catford Loop on 22nd March 1959, but Ravensbourne’s signal cabin remained to control access to the goods sidings. Concurrent with this had been the installation of concrete bracket lampposts on the platforms.
Cutbacks began on 4th September 1961 with the decommissioning of the goods sidings; this also marked the end of operation for the Saxby & Farmer signal cabin. However, the station itself was fortunate, managing to retain all of its major structures during the dreaded CLASP modernisation era – even the covered footbridge survived. The station’s counterpart at Catford was not so lucky, and all structures of LC&DR origin there were destroyed. Nevertheless, Ravensbourne would eventually be the subject of considerable misfortune. As touched upon earlier, the main station building witnessed a fire outbreak in 1986, completing gutting the insides. After the disaster it was decided to replace the original building with a new structure, and by 1989 a modern single-storey brown-brick affair had been completed on the former’s site. Thankfully, the covered footbridge and platform canopies remained intact.
27th January 2007
At least from platform level, Ravensbourne still very much has the appearance of a typical Victorian station. The covered footbridge, a feature once common to all stations except Catford, is well illustrated in this London-bound view. The footbridge connection with the elevated station building can be seen emerging above the "up" side canopy.
© David Glasspool
27th January 2007
A southward view reveals the pointwork where the line widens to four tracks. Scheduled Eurostar services to and from Waterloo began using the "Chatham" route as far as Fawkham Junction from 28th September 2003. In connection with this, works were enacted to create a "flying junction" at Shortlands, to avoid a conflict between domestic and continental train movements. The work involved tunnelling a new double-track underpass beneath the existing main line to Victoria, to link with the Catford Loop, whilst also retaining the latter's existing double-track connection.
© David Glasspool