West Malling

The station opened as ‘’Malling’’ on the ''Sevenoaks, Maidstone & Tunbridge Railway’s'' extension from Otford to the county town on 1st June 1874. This line was initially single-track, but on 1st July 1882, double-track working commenced along the whole of the route. Malling was another one of those stations to escape the typical LC&DR architecture found along that company’s main Dover trunk line and indeed, the main building was quite simply a reversed example of the structure found at nearby Borough Green. Therefore, the details were more or less identical: red brick substituted the LC&DR’s typical crème brick for the construction, elaborate gabled roof sections were prominent on both front and rear elevations, and the structure was two-storeys high. However, whereas its counterpart at Borough Green was positioned on the ‘’down’’ side, the main building at Malling was located on the ‘’up’’ side, which completed the ‘’mirror image’’ effect. An interesting feature which both of these stations had in common was the single-storey pitched-roof extension on their western ends. This is particularly relevant, because these smaller structural sections seem to have been used as the design basis for the modest Barming; this station did not boast the imposing two-storey designs found at most other stops along the Maidstone and Ashford route. Once again, Borough Green and Malling stations shared identically-designed canopies and waiting shelters. The latter were interesting structures: they lacked any form of over-hanging roof and canopy valance, but this was fully compensated by the fact that they were fully glazed and enclosed, complete with a coal fire. The signal boxes at the stations were built by the same independent contractor, Saxby & Farmer, opening around the time of the 1882 line doubling, but the two designs demonstrated a small degree of variation. That at Malling was built upon the ‘’down’’ platform, immediately adjacent to the waiting shelter, whilst that at Borough Green was instead positioned beyond the end of the ‘’up’’ platform, thus was of a greater height, and had a repositioned entrance door. From the outset, a track foot crossing linked the platforms, but Malling acquired a graceful lattice footbridge in about 1910, a feature which its nearby counterpart did not receive. This was erected at the eastern ends of the platforms.

The location of Malling station was decidedly rural, but in the surrounding fields grew significant amounts of farm produce. Goods provision here was on the ‘’up’’ side and initially consisted of a dock line and siding, the latter of which passed through a single-track goods shed (complete with canopy valance on its southern elevation). This later increased to incorporate an additional two sidings and coal stacks, this commodity having become increasingly important in subsequent years.

Electrification through to Maidstone in 1939 brought an improved service – both in journey times and frequency – but steam traffic remained beyond, to Ashford. Ten years later, the station acquired a ‘’West’’ prefix, it now harmonious with the 1913-opened halt at East Malling. The full accelerated timetable of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme (Phase 2) came into use on 18th June 1962, the platforms having been lengthened at their eastern ends with prefabricated concrete in preparation for this. Thereafter, the decline at West Malling began. First was the cessation of goods traffic at the site, such occurring in May 1964, four years earlier than at nearby Borough Green. Then, circa 1973, the delightful waiting shelter was demolished and replaced by a dreadful CLASP fabrication. The signal box sat alongside the incongruous structure for another ten years until this itself closed ten years later, at 22:00 on Friday 16th December 1983, when colour lights came into use and control passed to the panel at Maidstone East. The opportunity was also taken at this time to trim the front of the platform canopy valance, to provide an unmarred view of the colour lights. The whole canopy valance of the approach façade was also trimmed, quite severely in fact. The CLASP structure on the ‘’down’’ side was replaced in 1991 with a curved-roof glazed bus shelter, but the charm of the original timber shelter has yet to be recaptured.

In April 1999 the station name boards acquired the suffix ‘’for Kings Hill’’. It was at this time that the former RAF West Malling Airfield of World War II was being transformed into a huge new high-quality housing and industrial development. Building work is still ensuing on parts of the site, which will eventually see more than 2000 new homes created, causing a rapid increase in the local population.

Circa 1970

The signal box was situated about midway along the "down" platform and was built by contractor "Saxby & Farmer". A near identical cabin was in use at the time at Barming, 2¾-miles along the line in the eastward direction. The waiting room here was a carbon copy of the example which existed at that time on the "down" platform at Kemsing. © David Glasspool Collection

4th July 1991

Electro-Diesel No. 73212, wearing InterCity "Swallow" livery, is seen fronting the British Pullman of the "Venice Simplon Orient Express" VSOE. The train is heading coast-bound, the likely destination being Folkestone Harbour. The dreary "down" side CLASP waiting shelter, which replaced that seen in the previous photograph, is evident just to the right of the locomotive and by this time was wearing the red colours of business sector Network SouthEast. © David Glasspool Collection

22nd March 2006

Mile post 34¾ from Victoria is seen on the far left of this Maidstone-bound view from the "down" platform. One of the prefabricated concrete platform extensions dating from the Kent Coast Electrification era can be seen in the background; above this is the SE&CR lattice footbridge, this of which was soon to become an endangered species in the county as a result of the scheme to provide step-free access at stations. The single-storey extension on the right of the main building is virtually a carbon copy of one half of the station structure at Barming. The canopy valance has been trimmed slightly to allow the passage of large containers used on Channel Tunnel freight workings. © David Glasspool

22nd March 2006

The main buildings at West Malling and Borough Green & Wrotham stations are mirror images of each other. The canopy valance has been truncated and the central set of doors, behind the black car, are a much more recent addition; formerly, a window was situated there. © David Glasspool