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The History of Kent

Copyright Kent Past 2010

History of Chatham Station

Chatham station opened on 25 January 1858, when the East Kent Railway opened a single line eastwards to Faversham. Two months later, On 29 March, the link with the North Kent Line at Strood opened; and the new railway reached Dover Priory in 1861.

Chatham station was squeezed within a 50-yard long chalk cutting, with tunnels at either end. There were three platforms when through running between London Victoria and Canterbury commenced, in December 1860: one platform served the down line, with the remaining two forming a single island in between the up line and sidings, which ran along the southern perimeter. A staircase connected the station to the road, with the main building situated on the down side platform. A full range of freight and locomotive facilities were available, due to it originally being the terminus. These included wagon turntables, goods and engine sheds, together with a 45 foot turntable and a water tower. Initially signalling was by hand, as there was no box, the points being controlled by adjacent levers.

Due to increased traffic, brought about by the completion of the line from Victoria to Ramsgate in 1863, the station was completely redesigned to increase platform capacity. The main building was moved from the platform and constructed on a road bridge straddling the station. Much of the sidings and sheds were replaced by two additional platforms, which were all linked with a fully enclosed footbridge. By this time, signalling had made advances and two signal boxes were incorporated into the new design, one at either end of the station.

On 2 July 1939, work commenced on the electrification of the line, as a result, electric lighting illuminated the platforms, whilst the locomotive turntable, now being redundant, was removed.

During the British Rail era many more changes were made, including colour light signalling, reduced platforms, from five to two, and by 1959, the signal boxes had been removed and replaced by a central box at Rochester.

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