RAILWAY / STATION.
Rail construction began in Kent in 1830 with a line between Whitstable and Canterbury that proved to be not very satisfactory. The main line of the newly formed South Eastern Railway Company in 1841, ran from London to Brighton via Redhill, where in 1842 a line was struck eastward through Tonbridge and Ashford, aiming for Dover.
In June 1843 a line was authorised to be laid from Paddock Wood to Maidstone. This line opened up to passengers in September 1844, was the first line to reach the county town.
A clause in this Railway Act stipulated that the line was to cross the Upper Medway Navigation only once due to a fear of restriction to the flow of floodwater. So after crossing the river adjacent to Stoneham Lock the track follows a sinuous course along the left bank of the river, with road traffic passing under the railway once and with seven level crossings. The line from Maidstone West to Strood was not laid until 1856, but the mainline down London to Maidstone East was not laid until 1874, or continued to Ashford until 1884.
Initially Yalding and Wateringbury were provided with planks to enable passengers to climb onto the trains, and in a few months so was East Farleigh. At first there were just these three stations but to increase revenue in Edwardian times two halts were added in 1909 at Beltring & Brandbridges and at Teston. All these stations later had permanent buildings except Teston, which retained its timber platform construction until its closure in 1959.
All the initial stations were wooden, and were later replaced.
The top picture of our local example is dated 1870 but was burnt down in 1893. The middle picture shows an intermediate stage of signalling and gates as they were in the early 1900’s.
Various companies located on the Hampstead Lane site have used the railway system for their inwards goods and despatch. On the Maidstone down line was a double track goods shed, containing a crane rated at 25 cwt. Initially the shed was used by the Yalding Manufacturing Company, and later by Plant Protection until it was closed in May 1963. At this time they had a siding constructed on the Paddock Wood down line which was in use between 1950 and December 1970. The line was electrified in June 1961 as part of phase two of the Kentish Electrification Scheme. For a period there was a separate short single siding on the Maidstone up line, near the crossing gates. This was used in the 1960’s to hold a coach for camping holidays.
Like the old familiar system as at Wateringbury, the gates were opened by hand until the level crossing became an automatic open crossing in June 1986, at which time the 27 lever signal box, in the lower picture, was closed and we lost our local staff.
At this time all the local crossings used a different method. Beltring had half barriers, Yalding just had warning lights, Wateringbury manual gates, and Teston the present full barriers that keep traffic waiting