The Ashford to Canterbury section of the SER’s Thanet branch line was opened to passenger traffic on 6th February 1846, but initially no station was provided at Chartham. Enshrined within the original Parliamentary Act for the line, which received Royal Assent on 23rd May 1844, was a clause prohibiting the opening of a station here. This had been at the request of Chartham’s residents, who wanted to pretend the railway wasn't there. A station was eventually opened here by the SER in 1859. This may partly be in light of residents’ change of heart, now recognising the value of a direct rail connection to London, but attention must also be drawn to the fact that the LC&DR was near to opening its own route to Canterbury. This passed a mere ⅓-mile north of the SER line at Chartham, and a station on the LC&DR route would have been just as convenient for villagers – thus, perhaps the SER wanted to be the first to get a foot in the door.
The station at Chartham was a conservative affair, possessing neither the grandeur of Wye, nor the imposing air of nearby Canterbury. Two platforms, residing directly opposite each other, came into use, and each was host to a waiting shelter. The latter were clapboard affairs, complete with backward-sloping roofs, wrap-a-round sides, and windows, and were virtually identical to the example still in use on the ‘’down’’ platform at Wye. The platforms were backed at their rears with timber fencing, and no footbridge was present from the outset, passengers instead utilising the level crossing at the western end of the layout. The most substantial structure at the site was the Station Master’s house, which could be found sandwiched in-between the level crossing and the ‘’down’’ platform. This was two-storeys high, brick-built throughout, complete with gabled slated pitched roof sections, and was to a design standardised throughout the route – the same architecture was used for Station Masters’/Crossing Keepers’ houses at Wye, Chilham Mill Crossing, Grove Ferry, and Minster. The Crossing Keeper at Chartham was also provided for, and a small cottage, with a slated pitched roof, was erected at the western end of the ‘’up’’ platform.
Goods facilities here were somewhat compact, but the track layout was nevertheless interesting. The goods yard was positioned beside the ‘’up’’ line, to the immediate west of the level crossing. It was a peculiar affair, initially comprising just a single eastward-facing siding, no longer than 35 yards in length, feeding off a loop which linked both running lines, albeit by a circuitous route (as shown in the below diagram). Alongside the yard existed a goods shed, built in yellow brick with a slated pitched roof; this measured approximately 50-feet by 25-feet and lacked rail access. The primitive signalling was improved upon in 1888, when the SER undertook an in-house upgrade programme. This involved erecting the station’s first signal box adjacent to the level crossing, beside to the ‘’down’’ line. The structure was typically SER: two-storeys in height, it was wholly clapboard in construction, and comprised a slated pyramid-shaped roof with sash-style windows. Other stations along the route, at Wye, Chilham, Sturry, and Grove Ferry, later received proper signal boxes when Saxby & Farmer was hired to re-signal the layouts, in 1893, in conjunction with the partial re-signalling of the Ashford to Hastings line.
The Joint Managing Committee of the SE&CR made its own mark at Chartham, after formation in 1899. The wooden platform fencing was dispensed with on the ‘’down’’ side, and both this surface was backed at its rear thereafter by iron railings. A new red brick single-storey pitched-roof block also appeared in-between the ‘’down’’ side waiting shelter and Station Master’s house. The goods yard was the subject of a small extension: this merely included laying an additional siding, no longer than the existing one here, in a westward-facing position, again feeding off the unusual loop track. The subsequent Southern Railway installed prefabricated concrete station name boards, and repainted the waiting shelters and signal box in house colours. A plain style of railings appeared along the rear of the ‘’up’’ platform, but the rest of the station remained virtually untouched, the platforms retaining the diamond-shaped wrought iron gas lamps. Passing into British Railways ownership, an air of uncertainty was soon cast over Chartham, when in 1955 it was included within a British Transport Commission/British Railways Board Report, outlining the closure of certain stations to passenger traffic. Nevertheless, the station was still in existence by the time the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme occurred, and in preparation for this, a prefabricated concrete footbridge was erected between the platforms in 1960. Regular electric working along the line commenced on 9th October 1961 and closure of the diminutive goods yard occurred on 19th November of the following year.
Structural rationalisation first reared its ugly head shortly after staffing of the station ceased in Spring 1969. Both Station Master’s and Crossing Keeper’s houses were razed to the ground, but the SER signal box and waiting shelters remained in existence – for now. Another wave of destruction occurred twenty years later; in about 1987, under the auspices of the Network SouthEast Business Sector, the delightful clapboard waiting shelters were demolished. Erected in their place were the dreaded red-painted glazed bus shelter affairs, which replaced much historic clapboard throughout the county. The shelter at Wye at least still exists as a reminder of those structures which were formerly in use at Chartham. The SER signal box, however, had survived the test of time. The Kent Coast Electrification Scheme had left much signalling in East Kent unchanged, thus Ashford to Minster, Ashford to Hastings, Faversham to Dover, and the Dover & Deal Joint Line remained in the hands of semaphore signals operated from mechanical cabins. Re-signalling of the route through Canterbury West eventually took place during 2003, involving the installation of three-aspect colour lights. A new signalling panel was installed within a portacabin at Canterbury West, and this became known as the ‘’Canterbury Wye Area Control Centre’’. The new signalling came into use on 15th December 2003, and the signal box at Chartham was reduced to the status of gate box. Shortly before the re-signalling scheme, the timber lattice crossing gates had been replaced by metal equivalents, as had the ones at nearby Wye. The transformation of Chartham was complete, and now just the signal box, with perhaps a few brick sections of the platforms, remain as testament to the SER.
An obvious feature not marked on the above diagram is that of the prefabricated concrete footbridge, which was added forty years later.
© Drawn by David Glasspool
Refurbished 4 CEP No. 1545 is seen departing Chartham with a Ramsgate to Charing Cross service. In view is one of the then recently-installed platform bus shelters, finished in bright red. Above the cab of the 4 CEP can be seen a semaphore signal arm, whilst in the foreground exists the old style level crossing gates.
© John Horton
Our photographer for this view is not one for heights, but he managed to overcome his fear to capture this splendid panorama of Chartham from the top of the outer home signal. Passing through the ''up'' platform is Class 47 No. 47476, hauling the Dover to Manchester Travelling Post Office.
© John Horton