Milton Range Halt

The advent of the "railmotor" concept at the turn of the 20th century resulted in the proliferation of "halt" type stops on railways nationwide. A railmotor was a steam-powered vehicle comprising a locomotive and carriage body upon a single chassis. The South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SE&CR) ordered their first two railmotors from Messrs. Kitson and Co. Limited of Airedale Foundry, Leeds, in September 1904 for use on the Sheppey Light Railway (ref: The Railway News, 24th September 1904). This method of propulsion was also deployed on the Chatham Central branch from Strood in 1905, and the SE&CR was satisfied to the extent of ordering another six vehicles for the following sections, to commence operation in 1906:

In the 30th June 1906 edition of The Gravesend Reporter, the July timetables of the SE&CR for that year were published. That was the first month Milton Range Halt appeared on the public passenger schedule. The halt took its name from a Government rifle range on Gravesend's Marshes, situated on the north side of the North Kent Line. There were five "down" departures from Gravesend Central to Port Victoria, Monday to Friday inclusive; an equal number on Saturdays, and three on Sundays. The service frequency was the same in the opposite direction. The railmotor (also known as the "steam rail car") was not run on the Sunday service.

The first incarnation of Milton Range Halt was that of a single island platform situated in-between "up" and "down" tracks of the North Kent Line, located 2-miles 22-chains east of Gravesend Central (ref: Milton Range Halt Collision Report, Ministry of Transport, 12th September 1922). In the 13th February 1915 edition of the Kent Messenger, the capital expenditure of the SE&CR’s Managing Committee was published, which included improvements to Milton Range Halt. These involved the abolition of the original island platform and, in its place, the construction of two timber platforms either side of the double-track North Kent Line, directly opposite each other. The platforms were each 400-feet in length by 8-feet in width, rising to 2-feet 9-inches above rail level; they comprised ramps at both ends and were equipped with wooden post rail and wire fences that were 3-feet high (ref: Milton Range Halt Collision Report, Ministry of Transport, 12th September 1922). To the north of the platforms was situated the remnants of the Thames & Medway Canal and, to the south, a water-filled ditch.

At the eastern end of Milton Range Halt was a sleeper crossing that carried a public footpath over the rails. The crossing was equipped with both road gates and, on its western side, wicket gates. The halt was an intermediate stop within a block section which, in accordance with this practice, was not equipped with fixed signals. The block post to the east of the halt was Hoo Junction, approximately a mile away; the block post to the west was Denton Crossing, 1-mile 8-chains distant. Between the hours of 11:30 PM and 7:30 AM, Denton Crossing was closed, which meant that the first block post west of the halt during that time was No. 2 box at Gravesend Central (ref: Milton Range Halt Collision Report, Ministry of Transport, 12th September 1922).

4th March 1979

A pair of BR-designed 2-EPB units, led by No. 5770, pass the prefabricated platforms of the disused halt on a Charing Cross to Gillingham semi-fast service. In the distance of this westward view can be seen the chimneys of Northfleet Cement Works, which closed in 2008. © David Glasspool Collection

On 21st August 1922, Milton Range Halt was the scene of two fatal accidents within the space of ten minutes, at approximately 6:35 AM and 6:45 AM. A special workmen’s train that was due to call — the 5:40 AM departure from Charing Cross to Strood — overran the "down" platform in dense mist. A number of workmen alighted, crossed in front of the engine, and then started walking back along the "up" track towards the level crossing at the end of the platforms. Whilst doing so, a light engine came through on the "up" track, knocking down and killing one of the workers and seriously injuring another who subsequently died in hospital (ref: Milton Range Halt Collision Report, Ministry of Transport, 12th September 1922). As a result of the delay caused by the tragic accident, a second workmen’s train — scheduled to depart from New Cross at 5:55 AM — crashed into the back of the first train ten minutes later, killing another worker, fatally injuring two others, and seriously injuring multiple more. Approximately 80-feet of the wood decking of the halt’s "down" platform was damaged and ten sleepers were also impacted. As a result of the crash, the following recommendations were made by the Ministry of Transport after their inspection of the site:

Additionally, the SE&CR’s Managing Committee proposed to install an extra wicket gate on the south side of the crossing, to relieve the bottleneck of passengers exiting , and construct a workmen’s shelter on the south side of the line, clear of the running lines (ref: Milton Range Halt Collision Report, Ministry of Transport, 12th September 1922).

As the photographs on this page show, the halt’s timber platforms were replaced by ones of prefabricated concrete construction, built in the same style as those at Stone Crossing. In the August 1930 edition of The Railway Magazine, it was stated that platforms had been lengthened at Stone Crossing Halt, Greenhithe, Northfleet, and Gravesend Central, and the halt at Swanscombe re-sited 840-yards nearer Northfleet. Your author suspects that it was in conjunction with these works that Milton Range Halt was rebuilt.

Clinker’s Register (1980) states that Milton Range Halt was closed on and from 17th July 1932. More than seven decades later, both platforms remained intact; your author observed them in place as late as December 2005, but four years later, all traces had gone.

20th December 2005

Over a quarter of a century after the previous photograph was taken, the platforms were little changed, but semi-fast services between Gillingham and Charing Cross were now formed of "Networker" units. Class 465 No. 465004 is depicted forming the rear of an eight-car service to the capital in this westward view. © David Glasspool

20th December 2005

The first station was an island platform, for which the two tracks widened to accommodate. It was replaced by the arrangement of two platforms either side of the line in 1914. Your author suspects that the concrete platforms seen above replaced the SE&CR’s timber station in 1930. © David Glasspool

20th December 2005

A crossing was provided at the eastern ends of the platforms, which is seen in this northward view. The footbridge in the background provides passage over the remains of the Thames and Medway Canal; beyond, out on the marshes, is the rifle range. © David Glasspool