Of the route between Faversham and Ramsgate inclusive, historical architecture has lasted the test of time remarkably well, stations having avoided the drastic economical CLASP measures introduced by a rather clinical British Rail. Only Dumpton Park has been reduced to a mere shell of its former self, and even though Chestfield & Swalecliffe is predominantly a bus shelter affair, one of the Southern Railway’s timber booking offices still remains upon the London-bound platform. Birchington-on-Sea is no exception, and retains attractive structures of a bygone era. The station came into use with the Herne Bay to Ramsgate section of the nominally independent Kent Coast Railway Company’s line on 5th October 1863, being known simply as ‘’Birchington’’ from the outset. Ultimately, this line had begun life as an eastward extension of the East Kent Railway’s route at Faversham, operation having initially commenced to Herne Bay on 13th July 1861. The entire line to Ramsgate was worked by the LC&DR from the outset, and the Kent Coast Company was eventually vested into the former in 1871.
Along the LC&DR’s original Dover trunk line via Chatham, Faversham, and Canterbury, the large majority of stations were built as variations of a general standardised design, of which Adisham and Shepherds Well remain as good examples. The Thanet coastal route, however, differed considerably, and by comparison, the architectural style employed along this line was somewhat more elaborate than that initially used by the LC&DR. The structures at Herne Bay, Birchington-on-Sea, and the original Margate and Broadstairs stations, would certainly appear to have been locally inspired, based on designs drafted by the Kent Coast Company. Main buildings at Herne Bay and Margate, both positioned on the ‘’down’’ sides of their respective stations, were identical; conversely, an alternate design was employed for those structures at Birchington and Broadstairs. The latter pair demonstrated main buildings which were alike to each other, but certainly not identical, although there were clues that they were products of the same architect. The main building at Birchington was positioned on the ‘’up’’ side, and was constituted of a main two-storey-high block measuring about 30-feet in length by 25-feet in depth. Attached to its western elevation was a 30-foot long single-storey appendix, and 20-feet west of the latter was yet another single-storey block, just under 30-feet in length. Both single-storey structures came complete with a slated pitched roof, and all buildings were built from yellow brick throughout. Although the main building here is unlike anything before seen on the Dover via Chatham trunk line, an enlarged version of the same design could once be found at Herne Bay. The latter was in the form of the Station Master's house, which was formerly positioned alongside the main station building's western elevation. Although being the products of independent concerns, buildings at Birchington, Broadstairs, and indeed, the Station Master's house at Herne Bay, all received the trademark LC&DR whitewash finish, seen in abundance at those stations along the Dover route.
Two platform surfaces, residing directly opposite each other, were provided at Birchington, the pair being linked by a track foot crossing. The ‘’down’’ platform was host to an attractive 55-foot-long timber waiting shelter, complete with wrap-a-round sides. This demonstrated an attractive upward-slanting canopy, virtually identical to that still in existence on the ‘’up’’ platform at Westgate-on-Sea. Goods facilities were initially concentrated behind the ‘’up’’ platform, a pair of westward-facing sidings and a dock line being in evidence. One of the sidings served a row of coal staithes and passed through a single-track yellow-brick goods shed, the latter of which was similar in design to the equivalent building still in evidence at Herne Bay. The layout was signalled by independent contractor Stevens & Sons, and one of this company’s cabins was erected midway along the ‘’down’’ platform. The signal box was an enlargement of the design used during the construction of the still extant cabin at Grain Crossing (this surviving as the sole example of the contractor's work on the South Eastern Division). Stevens & Sons also signalled LC&DR layouts at Broadstairs, Dover Harbour, and Buckland Junction (Dover); the SER used the same contractor on the line across the Hoo Peninsula, and along the Westerham branch.
20th June 2007
An eastward view shows Class 375 No. 375826 after arrival with the Thanet portion of a service from Victoria; a second Class 375, bound for Dover, split from the unit at Faversham. Above the unit is the SE&CR lattice footbridge, whilst on the far right are the overgrown remains of the goods yard site.
© David Glasspool
20th June 2007
The façade of the main ''up'' side building was in good condition, but the pale remains of the whitewash finish were still evident on the two-storey structure. The neat twin pitched-roof window sections on the top floor are of varying sizes, therefore not symmetrical. On the left are the two single-storey appendices.
© David Glasspool