In the second of this series, I look at Higham Railway Station on the North Kent Line. The station was 28 miles Down from its previous terminus at Charing Cross, however the Thameslink service no longer goes to Charing Cross, instead stopping at London Bridge before going though the London Core on its way to the its new end at Luton.
The first thing of note here is Higham Tunnel, at 1531 yards in length. It originally was constructed in 1801 to serve the Thames and Medway canal, which acted as a passage for military traffic from Woolwich through Gravesend and Higham to the dockside at Chatham. When traffic on the canal didn’t reach expected levels, the newly formed Gravesend and Rochester railway company acquired the canal and tunnel, putting a single track rail line alongside the canal. This lead to the opening of Higham Station in 1845.
There are actually 2 tunnels, separated by what is locally known as ” the bomb hole”. This was an area for the barges to cross. The second tunnel is the “Strood” tunnel and at 2329 yards in length is the longest of the two. The tunnels received extensive refurbishment in 2004 due to rock falls, and are now strengthened by steel and concrete.
A year later, the Gravesend and Rochester railway company was itself absorbed into the South Eastern Railway. It is at this point the canal was drained fully, and a second rail line put in. At this time the railway did not divert to the Medway towns, instead carrying on to Maidstone via the Medway Valley. It was not until 1939 that a spur from Strood would carry trains onto the Chatham Main Line to Gillingham.
Higham would have a couple of sidings, both on the Up and Down lines, although both had been removed by the mid 1960s. The most unusual piece freight unloaded by the station was a Swiss chalet in 1864 as a gift for Charles Dickens, who lived at nearby Gad’s Hill.
Although initially accessed by a foot crossing, platforms are reached via a lattice footbridge, a common sight throughout the Southern Region in the 20th Century. The station building still survives, and was still heated by the original fireplace as late at the 1980’s.
The ticket office is open for only part of the day, at other times a permit to travel ticket must be purchased from a PERTIS machine, located by the bridge on the Up side. The station was served by SouthEastern until May 2018, when the new Thameslink Class 700 service to Luton/Rainham commenced and took over the 2 tph (each way) Stopping service. Class 395 SouthEastern “Javelin” trains pass though, as well as various freight though the day, some heading for the nearby “Hoo Junction” Yard, around 2 miles further on the Up line.
Two pictures follow. The first by me, shows a Class 66 hauling stone wagons exiting the Higham Tunnel on the Up line. A train can also be seen passing through “The Bomb Hole” on the Down line heading towards Gillingham.
The second is a view towards the station building, taken from the Down platform. This photo by Nigel Thompson (credit under photo)
Higham railway station, Kent
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Nigel Thompson – geograph.org.uk/p/3614705
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That’s all for now, thanks for reading and I’ll blog again soon.