From the Penshurst direction, the line fell into Tunbridge Junction on a gradient of 1 in 670. Signalmen were housed in elevated cabins either side of the station. The first signal box was located far beyond the western end of the ‘’down’’ platform, and straddled the head shunt of the bay line. The second signal box was positioned east of the road bridge, and straddled the ‘’down’’ through line. Between them, the cabins controlled station signals, distant signals, and points, and were equipped with the block telegraph system. Both cabins worked signals and points based on the locking principle. Slip coaches were regularly detached at this station from non-stop services, which required an aptitude to quickly change a set of points. For instance, a Dover-bound service would speed past on the ‘’down’’ through line, and a slip coach would be detached. Then, moments after the train has passed, the points on the ‘’down’’ through would need to be switched over quickly to guide the following slip coach into the ‘’down’’ platform loop.

A ¼-mile east of the station was established an engine shed, situated within the fork of the diverging Dover and Hastings routes. This was a dead-end affair accommodating three eastward-facing tracks, and presumably dated from the opening of the main line as far as Tunbridge in May 1842. An oddity of the arrangement was that the locomotive turntable was located far from the shed, being positioned midway between the latter and the station, feeding off the ‘’up’’ platform loop. Goods facilities were concentrated to the east of the station, on both ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ sides of the running lines. Early maps suggest that there were no less than three goods sheds, one of which lied immediately adjacent to and was perpendicular with the locomotive shed. This appears to have accommodated a northward-facing triple-track arrangement fed by a small wagon turntable, which in turn was served by a spur that eventually made a connection with the ‘’up’’ loop. The remaining two goods sheds resided immediately south of the aforementioned turntable, west of the departing Tunbridge Wells branch. Again, these were triple-track affairs each fed by a small wagon turntable, the latter of which were directly linked by a spur to the ‘’up’’ loop. The fact that these two buildings were joined at the side means that they can be viewed as one complete building. Five lengthy goods sidings were laid on the ‘’down’’ side of the line, east of the road bridge, facing in a south easterly direction. All made connections with the ‘’down’’ loop, and were joined immediately to their west by a single-track rolling stock storage shed. This was of brick construction, with a hipped slated roof, and backed onto the road bridge. Readers may be pleased to know that their author is working on a diagram to illustrate this decidedly complex, but nevertheless interesting, layout.


In 1893, the station became ‘’Tonbridge Junction’’, the earlier ‘’Tunbridge’’ spelling now applying only to Tunbridge Wells. At this time, significant revisions were made to the layout east of the station. The engine shed was doubled in size by the building of an extension along the southern side of the original structure. This required the demolition of the adjacent goods shed, which in turn was replaced by a new two-track dead-end building. This was north westward-facing and was sandwiched in-between the engine shed extension and the Tunbridge Wells branch. To complicate matters further, the engine shed extension was a through affair from the outset, and of the original shed, one track was extended through the rear wall to provide a through line. The turntable was also moved to a new site immediately alongside the shed building’s north western corner. As part of the same works, yet another goods shed was brought into use, this time on the ‘’down’’ side of the line, again east of the station. This ran parallel with the aforementioned five sidings situated this side of the line, and was a lengthy, single-track through affair which made a trailing connection with the ‘’down’’ loop.

The Southern Railway era at Tonbridge is packed with interest, and alterations made to the SER station were numerous. In June 1929, the station became plain ‘’Tonbridge’’, a prelude to an extensive rebuilding scheme which got underway in 1935. At track level, the majority of the existing structures were demolished, but the SER offices at the eastern end of the ‘’down’’ platform were retained. The platforms were completely rebuilt to a wider profile in prefabricated concrete, during which time the ‘’up’’ bay line was converted into a loop to provide three through platform faces. Thus, this produced an island platform on the ‘’up’’ side, but the ‘’down’’ bay line was retained as a terminating affair. Upon the new platform surfaces were erected redbrick offices, these of which were situated underneath brand new W-shaped canopies. The latter were supported upon a lattice steelwork and sported plain timber valances. ‘’Up’’ and ‘’down’’ side canopies extended for 365-feet and 400-feet respectively. The ‘’high-level’’ entrance was virtually rebuilt, losing the ornate brickwork and balustrade, these features being replaced by an all-over tiled surface. A completely new fully enclosed footbridge, attached to the main building’s western elevation, was erected over all four tracks.

To the west of the station, the curves of the incoming Sevenoaks route were eased to raise speed limits, and a pair of eastward-facing berthing sidings were laid on the ‘’down’’ side of the line. A second pair of rolling stock stabling sidings were also laid immediately west of the ‘’up’’ platform, running parallel with the departing Redhill line. Signalling was wholly renewed, the SER cabins taken down and replaced by a pair of SR signal boxes. The first of note was ‘’A’’ Box (or, alternatively, ‘’West Box’’), which was of all timber construction and located within the fork of the diverging Redhill and Sevenoaks routes. ‘’B’’ Box was situated to the east of the road bridge and straddled the ‘’up’’ loop. Finally, as part of the same rebuilding scheme, the SR shifted the turntable to yet another new site, this time immediately south of the shed buildings, the small goods shed here of about 1893 origin being demolished.

Summer 1984


A Class 33/2 is observed passing platform 2 with the Mountfield to Northfleet gypsum working, the hoppers fully laden. On the left is 4 CEP No. 411513, which was one of the first few refurbished 4 CEPS that received a six-digit number. © Chris

Summer 1984


An impressive array of crossovers present themselves in the foreground, as the Class 33/2 chugs round the curve, onto the Tonbridge cut-off line, via Orpington. The formation embarks on the Dartford Loop Line via Sidcup by means of the Lee Spur, which skirts round the south-eastern edge of Hither Green Depot. Parked in the siding can be seen 4 EPB No. 5162, whilst above the Hopper wagons is the top of the ''power box''. © Chris

Summer 1984


More Hastings DEMU action sees unit No. 1012 leading a London-bound service from its Namesake. Stabled alongside is Western Region DMU L575/W51088, forming a Tonbridge to Reading service. The platform canopies were showing signs of recent restoration work. © Chris


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