EASTRY RAILWAY STATIONS AND THE EKLR
When the East Kent Light Railway (EKLR) was constructed to serve the Collieries being developed in East Kent, Eastry Station was a main junction for the lines from Wingham to Eastry and from Shepherdswell to Richborough.
In the following sections I have used information from references listed in the Bibliography section, including pictures which I have annotated, to show how Eastry Junction and the associated Railway Halts were significant locations during the operation of the railway from 1912-1948.
DEVELOPMENT OF THE KENT COALFIELD
In the 19th century there was a heavy demand for coal to fuel the paper and cement industries, steamships, the gas industry, the steel industry, brickworks and domestic heating.
The East Kent coal mines started to be developed after the first coal seam was discovered beneath the chalk at Samphire Hoe, Dover in1890, following the termination of building the Channel Tunnel in 1884 (1, Chapter 1) In the next few years over 40 borings were made on the East side of Kent and colleries were established at Tilmanstone, Guilford, Stonehall, Snowdown, Goodnestone &Woodnesborough, Chislet and Wingham (2). There are more details about the development of the Kent Coalfield, relating to Eastry in D. Welby's book (4).
THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE EAST KENT LIGHT RAILWAY (EKLR)
It was decided that a light railway was needed initially for transport of materials to build these collieries, such as bricks for lining the coal shafts and later to transport coal products as they were produced for distribution and export. The railway would also be used to transport staff, who worked at the collieries, goods, parcels livestock and farm produce between locations in the area
The future of the East Kent Light Railway's development from 1910-1930 was managed by Colonel Holman Fred. Stephens Colonel Stephens Society who specialised in the planning and construction of railways under the provisions of the Light Railways Act 1896. He made economical building and low operation costs a priority. He built light railways using basic materials and manual labour in the Victorian style. Whenever possible he used second hand materials and old railway rolling stock (1)
After Stephen's death in 1931 his long-term deputy, W.H. Austen, managed the EKLR in a realistic and efficient way during the years of the economic depression. He still continued to manage the railway during the WW2 years from 1939-1945 when the railway was taken over by the Government and finally in 1948 the EKR was nationalised and became part of British Rail.
EAST KENT LIGHT RAILWAYS APPLICATIONS
In 1910 the Kent Coal Concessions Group applied to the Light Railway Commissioners for authority to incorporate and construct the East Kent (mineral) Light Railways and the East Kent Light Railways Order 1911 was officially confirmed on 19th June 1911.
Revised applications were made in subsequent years until the start of WW1 to make further extensions from the 2 main lines to provide easy access to the colleries which were being developed and to enable export of coal from local ports at Dover, Richborough, and even Deal and Birchington. (1)
However, not all these extensions were approved because of various disputes with local authorities, landlords and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The only ports which were ever directly connected to the EKLR were Dover and Richborough.
THE BUILDING OF THE RAILWAY
By October 1912, the track had been laid to Eastry, which was intended as the junction for both the Richborough and Wingham lines, The line from Eastry to Wingham Colliery had a short branch from Woodnesborough to Hammill Colliery. The original plans were for the new railway to run from the main SECR Canterbury to Dover line at Shepherdswell via Eastry to the River Stour at Richborough, where a wharf would be provided so that coal could quickly be exported by ship. The plans also included a branch to Guilford Colliery from Eythorne and a loop to Tilmanstone Colliery.
At Eastry Junction , it was intended the line would fork and while the original line from Shepherdswell continued N to Richborough, a second line would head NW to connect with the main SECR Canterbury and Ramsgate line at Canterbury West, via Wingham.
The initial plan included 30 miles of track but only ~19 miles of track were approved at this time. The line from Eastry to Canterbury terminated at Wingham . The 1/2 mile extension from what became Wingham Colliery Halt to Wingham Town was not built until 1920 and the line from Shepherdswell to Richborough terminated at Sandwich Town. The Richborough connection was not made until 1928, when bridges were built over the SECR Railway (became part of Southern Railway) and over the River Stour to Stonar Wharf. Unfortunately by this time Richborough Port was in decline.
By 1914, 20 miles of temporary lines connecting 4 collieries had been constructed. Building materials and equipment for the collieries could then be transported without using roads, farm tracks or muddy tracks which were being damaged. By 1916 permanent single track railway lines with passing loops were constructed with a gauge of 4ft 8½ ins.
The first passengers were carried in 1916 with just a few facilities being provided for them.
By 1917 the first 19 miles of the planned EKLR were completed and further extensions added later as stated above. A map of the EKLR EKLR Large Map shows the extent of the line by 1930. The Line was used to convey coal, goods, minerals, livestock and parcels.
COLLIERIES SERVED BY EKLR
Although the EKLR was intended to serve a large number of collieries, most of the income for the transport of coal products came from Tilmanstone Colliery. Coal was transported from the Tilmanstone colliery by EKLR from 1913 until British Railways took control in 1948 . An ariel ropeway officially started operation in September 1930 to carry coal from Tilmanstone to Dover Harbour in competition with the EKLR. However, the EKLR continued to transport 80% of the coal , via Shepherdswell junction . The ropeway closed at the start of WW2. The section of the EKLR railway from Tilmanstone Colliery to Shepherdswell remained in use until the pit closure in 1984.
The outbreak of war in 1914 meant that only 3 other collieries survived: Snowdown, Betteshanger and Chislet. Coal from Snowdown was carried by the SECR mainline to Dover for export until 1929 when the EKLR extension to Richborough was completed. The largest colliery, Betteshanger, which operated from 1927 -1989 was not connected to the EKLR. Chislet Colliery started production in 1919 but closed down in 1969. Snowdown Colliery operated from 1912 -1986 and was the deepest colliery in Kent
Other colleries at Guilford (Waldershare), Woodnesborough , Maydensole, Wingham and Stonehall, never operated and all were closed down by the early 1920s. Dover Museum Failed CollieriesWoodnesborough Colliery became Hammill Brick works in 1923 after it was purchased by Pearson& Dorman Long and finally closed in 2008
Eastry Junction station, South of the Hammill Road, was on the opposite side of the road to Wells Farm and opened to passengers on October 16th 1916. It was sometimes known as Eastry Town station and was one of five staffed stations on the line.
It was the main station for the village and had a single 170' long brick-faced platform on the up side of the line with a timber platform building. There was no siding but a passing loop was added in about 1920. In 1925 it was recorded that a second-hand 10-lever ground frame had been installed, but that it needed servicing (ref1, p129). A 12-lever locking ground frame was later installed and located in a wooden shed controlled the loop and the junction. Just past the signal box was the only bridge on the main section of the line where a road passed underneath. The bridge was built to accommodate two tracks but only the western side was laid.Eastry Station Details
The Wingham and Richborough lines converged North of the bridge but the Junction to the Wingham line faced South to Shepherdswell and not towards Richborough as originally intended in 1910 (ref 1, p33) . An additional short line was proposed between the Wingham and Richborough lines which would have formed a South facing connection between the two main lines. However, this was was not approved because it would sever Wells Farm and cause legal problems. The construction of a Richborough facing connection was started in 1926 but never completed (ref 1, p143).
An annotated picture of Eastry station in ~1930 is shown below together with a close up the junction at the North end of the station. Eastry Station original photos from the Paul Laming Collection
If approaching the station from the Eastry side, access to the platform was under the bridge, up a winding path to the left, and back across the track at rail level by foot. Once the train had arrived, wagons were loaded or unloaded and passengers would climb aboard. The train would set off at a maximum speed of 25 mph. to Richborough. Those passengers who had tickets for Wingham had to wait at the station until a second train arrived to complete their journey (3,4)
Between Eastry Town and Woodnesborough Stations there was a branch line to Hammill Brickworks (formerly Woodnesborough Colliery) operated by a narrow gauge line which crossed the clay pit.
Passenger services between Eastry and Sandwich Road Halts were withdrawn on 31st October 1928. When the railways were Nationalised, the line became part of the British Railways Southern Region and all passenger services were completely withdrawn on 1st November 1948. British Rail finally agreed to remove the bridge over the roadway at Selson in 1971.
PICTURES OF THE HAMMILL ROAD BRIDGE
The site of the Hammill Road Bridge in 2015 (6)
The likely position of the Winding Path (6)
The Bridge being Built in 1911(3,5)
The Bridge in 1968 before demolishion in 1971 (Nick Catford, annotated picture)
EASTRY SOUTH HALT
Eastry South Halt was situated in Heronden Road on the south side of a footpath 50 yards west from the junction of Mill Lane and Thornton Lane. Local farmers requested this halt to be built in 1918 “ … to save cartage, which is difficult to arrange because of the crisis” (1, p101) The siding was built by EKLR staff after approval by the Board of Trade.
No trace of the halt survives and the site is now an arable field on the edge of a new housing development called Heronden View.
The halt first appeared in Bradshaw on 11th July 1927. It had a single timber faced platform sited on the down side of the line. There was no shelter, just a wooden seat.At one time trains only stopped by request. It was closed to passengers on 1st November 1948 after the EKLR had been taken over by British Rail Southern Region. However, freight traffic was handled until 1st March 1951. Eastry South Halt
POISON CROSS HALT
Poison Cross Halt was situated on the North side of Foxborough Hill. It first appeared In Bradshaws Railway timetable in May 1925 . Poison Cross Nursery was established in 1927 by Alfred Martin and his father , who used to coal to heat their greenhouses (ref 3)
The halt had a short single 50' long corrugated iron faced platform with no shelter on the up side of the line, it had a loop running between two ungated crossings with a siding trailing off it. Before the passenger service was introduced the station was known as Eastry (Goods) Poison Cross Halt
There is now no evidence for its existence
THE EAST KENT RAILWAY TRUST
After the closure of Tilmanstone Colliery in 1984 the East Kent Railway Society was formed in 1985 with the intention of saving and reopening the remaining two and a quarter miles of line from Shepherdswell to Eythorne. In 1989 volunteers started the huge task of clearing the area and In 1993, the Light Railway Order was obtained, allowing regular passenger trains to run on the East Kent Railway. Since then a new station has been built at Eythorne. In 2003, the East Kent Railway became a Charitable Trust. EKR today
Research by Mike Kinns.
2 P. A. Harding “Memories of the East Kent Light Railway”, 1st edition 1997, reprinted 2008.
3 D.Welby, “Kentish Village of Eastry 1800-2000”, p115-117, printed by Press on the Lake, Sandwich, 2007.
4 D. Welby “Discovering Eastry – A Kentish Village”, Vol. 1, pp 119, 121-2, printed by Press on the Lake, Sandwich, 2014
5 Wilton Collection of Eastry Photographs
6 Annotated photographs by Michael Kinns
Detailed accounts of the construction of the EKLR to serve the colleries discovered in Kent are given in the above references. In “The History of the Independent Railway “ there are detailed accounts of the stages in the development of the railway relating to the Kent coal field.
I would like to thank Nick Catford "http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/ for his permission to access information from the Disused-Stations website.