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The History of Kent

Copyright Kent Past 2010

History of Kent Railways

There are not many events that have had the impact on Kent, as the coming of the Railway; its presence could turn fields into towns, whilst absence turned major towns into villages. We discuss the expansion of the various Railways and how the lines developed. The inclusion of lines that are not strictly in Kent may be questioned, although, for many years, they were a hub for routes into London, and for this reason, have been added.



Canterbury & Whitstable Railway
London &Greenwich Railway
London & Croydon Railway
London & Brighton Railway
South Eastern Railway
East Kent Railway
London Chatham & Dover Railway
The Southern Railway
Romney Hythe & Dymchurch Railway
Southern Region




Canterbury had always ferried goods on the river Stour, however, by the early 19th Century that was silting up at a rate that made dredging un-economic. It was decided to build a series of turnpike roads to the small port at Whitstable, and transport goods overland. This however, did not produce a long-term solution, due to the number of carts required compared to that of a barge.

The answer lay in the building of the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway, affectionately nicknamed The Crab and Winkle Line. Opening on 3rd May 1830, it operated the first regular passenger service in the world. Within two years, the line extended into a purpose built Harbour complex at Whitstable, which was regularly serviced by steamships, giving Canterbury direct access, once more, to the sea....
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The first Steam railway in London was the London and Greenwich, which opened on 8 February 1836, and the dream child of Colonel George Thomas Landmann. The opening service ran from Spa Road, in Bermondsey, to Deptford, and it was not until the end of 1836, that the line would be completed from London Bridge to Greenwich. Landmann overcame the problems associated with driving a railway through the London suburbs, by raising it above with the use of 878 brick built arches. Parliament had decided that there should only be one rail route into London, and therefore, for many years, all future lines had to travel over the London and Greenwich Railway's track.....more


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The London and Croydon Railway operated between London Bridge, running over the track of the London and Greenwich Railway as far as Corbetts Lane, and the thriving market town of Croydon. It was opened in 1839 and in July 1846, merged with other railways to form a part of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway.....more


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The London and Brighton Railway was incorporated in 1837 and survived until 1846. It ran from a junction with the London & Croydon Railway at Norwood, enabling it to offer services between London Bridge, and the South Coast at Brighton, together with a branch to Shoreham.....more


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The South Eastern Railway operated from 1836 until 1922. The company was formed to construct a route from London to Dover. Branch lines were later opened to Tunbridge Wells, Hastings, Canterbury and other places in Kent. The SER absorbed or leased many railways, some older than itself, including the London and Greenwich and Canterbury and Whitstable Railways. Most of the company's routes were in Kent, eastern Sussex and the London suburbs, with a long cross-country track from Redhill in Surrey to Reading, Berkshire.

Much of the company's early history was attempts at expansion and feuding with its neighbours; the London Brighton and South Coast Railway in the west and the London, Chatham and Dover Railway to the north-east. However, in 1899 they agreed to share operations with LC&DR, work them as a single system and pool the receipts. It was not a full amalgamation, and they remained separate companies until becoming constituents of the Southern Railway on 1 January 1923.....
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The East Kent Railway was incorporated in 1853 for the construction of a line from the South Eastern Railway's North Kent line at Strood to the city of Canterbury. Extensions to the line were also sanctioned: eastwards to St Mary Cray, where it would connect with the Mid-Kent line; and southwards to the town of Dover. In 1859, before it had reached Dover, the name was changed to the London Chatham and Dover Railway.....more


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The London, Chatham and Dover Railway, began life as the East Kent Railway and operated from 1859 until the 1923 grouping, which united it with other companies to form the Southern Railway. Its lines ran through the London suburbs, north and east Kent, forming a significant part of the Greater London commuter network. From the start, the railway was in an impecunious position.

The Chatham, as it was always known, was much criticised for its often lamentable carriage stock and poor punctuality, but in two respects it was very good: it used the highly effective Westinghouse brake on its passenger stock, and the Sykes 'Lock and Block' system of signalling. It had an excellent safety record....
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The Southern Railway was a railway company, established in 1923, following the Government, having taken control of all railways during World War I. After the war, the government considered permanent nationalisation but instead decided on a compulsory amalgamation of the railways into four large groups through the 1921 Railways Act, known as the Grouping. It linked London with the Channel ports, South West England, South coast resorts and Kent. The railway was formed by the amalgamation of several smaller railway companies, the largest of which were the London & South Western Railway, the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and the South Eastern and Chatham Railway.

The company continued until the whole rail network was nationalised in 1948 and incorporated into British Rail. The Southern Railway Company continued to exist as a legal entity until it went into voluntary liquidation on 10 June 1949....
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The Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway is a 15 in gauge light railway. The 13.5 miles line runs from the Cinque Port of Hythe via Dymchurch, St. Mary's Bay, New Romney and Romney Sands to Dungeness.

Constructed during the 1920s and opened on 16 July 1927, the Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway was the dream of millionaire racing drivers Captain J.E.P. Howey and Count Louis Zborowski. Zborowski was killed in a motor racing accident at Monza in the Italian Grand Prix. Before his death, he had ordered two locomotives to be built by Davy Paxman & Co, despite a site for the line not having been found. Howey asked Henry Greenly, the designer of the new locomotives, to help with the task of finding a site. It was Greenly who first suggested the Romney Marsh area....
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The Southern Region was a region of British Railways following nationalisation in 1948. It ceased to be an operating unit in its own right in the 1980s and was wound-up at the end of 1992. It covered south London, southern England and the south coast, including the busy commuter belt areas of Kent, Sussex and Surrey. The region was largely based upon the former Southern Railway area...more


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