Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Hildenborough Railway Station

Hildenborough was opened in 1868 by the South Eastern Railway company. It is the only station between the larger Tonbridge and Sevenoaks stations.  Unusually for the time, the platforms were not staggered, but placed opposite each other from the start.  

As with all others on the line, crossing the track was done by means of a foot crossing placed at the end of the Tonbridge bound side.  The station when it opened had one single siding placed on the coastbound side, and this was joined by two further sidings on the London bound side in the 1890s. A third was added by the end of the century.

The substation you see below was put here during the 1960s as part of the electrification scheme, and replaced the siding on the coastbound platform.

Hildenborough Railway Station Kent

In this view from the bridge towards Tonbridge, you can clearly see the break in the third rail in the foreground. This is where the staff foot crossing used to be. The line curves away from the station as it leaves towards Tonbridge.

Hildenborough Railway Station Kent

The station building seen here below original, however it had external rendering work done to protect the station in the 1950’s, but at least it survived the cull which many succumbed to in the 1960’s.  A further building is adjacent to it, which is currently owned by a coffee shop.

Hildenborough Railway Station Kent

This view from platform 2 shows the original features quite well including the sash windows which were common for the southeast railway.

At the time of writing, passenger traffic is undertaken either by class 375 electric multiple units, or during the peak times, class 466 electric multiple units may also be seen.

The passenger entry and exit figures for 2019-2020 were 573 762.

Hildenborough offers good sight lines for the Enthusiast and the original station building gives it lots of character, however the electric substation is quite noisy and can impact videography. at times.  But that should detract from the fact that Hildenborough is still a thoroughly lovely station which is well maintained.

Below is a video I filmed in 2021 :

Thanks for reading :

If you can, get out there, get on the railway, and see where it takes you.” ©

Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Marden Railway Station

Marden railway station

Opened in 1842 by the South Eastern Railway Company, Marden soon grew into quite an important station on the line.  Eventually there would be many sidings carrying such items such as hops and apples, plus various other agricultural items including cattle.

Eight cottages were constructed for the railway workers needed to staff the station through the day and of course the station master had one of his own.

The diagram below shows Marden as it was around the 1950s, and it gives you an idea of how many sidings were available at the station the majority of freight stopped at modern in 1963 mainly due to the spread of the UK motorway network but also due to the line being electrified.

The new station building was erected in 1987 and is of a contemporary brick design, not dissimilar to that at Headcorn (albeit smaller).  The interior is functional and clean with a small refreshment kiosk, however the whole of it is only staffed on a part-time basis mainly in the mornings.

Marden railway station

At time of Writing (2022), passenger traffic is provided by class 375 electric multiple units.

The entry and exit figures for 2019-2020 were 565 472.

To look at Marden station today you would not believe how large it once was, however a charming new station building makes this station a pleasant visit, albeit not blessed with many facilities.

Below is a video I produced in 2021 as part of my “Along the railway line” series:

Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Staplehurst Railway Station

Opened in 1842 by the South Eastern Railway Company, Staplehurst was very much like any other rural station on the line. Staggered platforms and a tongue and groove timber building, similar to that at Pluckley, were erected in 1844.

Staplehurst Railway station

Goods facilities were placed on the London bound side in 1875, which included a coal depot and a through goods shed with four sidings. By 1885 they were complemented by more goods facilities on the coast bound side. The coal part of this yard remained right up to 1971, which was quite an achievement.

Staplehurst Railway Station

This new station building was erected in 1988 and the station was made fully accessible with the addition of this new footbridge with integrated lifts in 2008. the interior of the station building is clean and functional and during the morning peak it also has a refreshment kiosk.

staplehurst railway station

The entry and exit figures for 2019-2020 were 855 082

Staplehurst is a fairly modern station with little to show of its past, however a well-proportioned station building gives it a little character and the fully accessible platforms make it a functional place to catch a train. For the enthusiast the sight lines are very good, and it is fairly quiet, so videography should be ok.

Below is a video I shot for my ‘Along The Railway Line’ series in 2021 :

As always, thanks for reading, and if you can :

“Get out there, get on the railway and see where it takes you” ©

Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Headcorn Railway Station

Headcorn railway station

Headcorn was opened in 1842 by the South East Railway Company, initially as a terminus for the line as the extension to Dover had yet to be completed. The original station building was made of tongue and groove timber, similar to that at Pluckley, and a goods facility was also provided here.

This goods facility was provided by a single track which intercepted both running lines and led to sidings and a turntable on the Ashford bound side. In 1905, the Kent and East Sussex railway extended to Headcorn, and its platform ran parallel with the London-bound side. The link to Headcorn remained until 1954 when it was closed due to unprofitability.

The fast central tracks you see here were actually the original running lines. They were put into this configuration in the 1920s when the station was rebuilt, with two new platforms and two new slow lines. The other track you see on your left, behind the London bound platform, is a goods loop installed for the channel tunnel freight trains. This view looking coast bound will enable you to see clearly see the divergence to the slow lines.

As well as the goods loop on the right, the new station building was opened in 1989. A neat red brick design, it is very pleasant, and is kept in good order by the station staff . The taxi rank and bus stop are located just outside the building, like the exterior the interior is very clean and functional

At time of writing passenger traffic is provided by class 375 electric multiple units

Station signage at Headcorn is great, detailing all there is to do around the area. This includes the “Big Cat Sanctuary” and “Biddenden vineyards”, which are a short bus ride away. As already noted, bus and taxi ranks outside the station building will help you do this.

The entry and exit figures for 2019-2020 were 610 226.

Headcorn has some excellent views for the enthusiast, as well as many other sites of interest away from the station. The newish station building is functional, and although not the original, does not look out of place.

Below is a link to a small video I filmed here in 2021.

Thanks for reading, and if you can :

“Get out there, get on the railway and see where it takes you” ©

Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Pluckley Railway Station

Pluckley Railway Station

A very charming rural station set in the heart of Kent, which is more that meets the eye.

A railway station has been in the area since 1842, but this current station opened in 1844. As with most small stations in this area it has a staggered platform design. The building here is not the original, but a rebuild done in 1885 and is a superb example of a south east railway structure. In fact it is the oldest station building in the country still in regular use, albeit only on weekday mornings.

Pluckley railway station

Pluckley had various sidings in its time, serving a coal yard and goods yard, the latter supplying horse manure. But the main purpose of the station yard was to supply the Pluckley tile and brickworks to the west of the station.

Many walks can be had from this station, and the areas rich history can be seen on an information board just outside the station building.

Entry and Exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 122 696

Although very unassuming at first, Pluckley railway station has a charm which lends itself to further exploration. The area around the station is steeped with history and the overall feel is that the station is loved by the community. I hope this continues, as it would be a shame to lose the old station building and the history which surrounds it.

A video I took in 2021 takes you on a tour of this station.

Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Westenhanger Railway Station

An very open station design with fantastic views of the running lines of HS1.

Westenhanger was opened in 1843 by the South Eastern railway company.  Originally designed to serve Hythe, it gained the branch line to Sandgate in 1874 and as such served as the main station for this junction until 1888, when Sandling Station was opened.

It had a very small goods facility consisting of a couple of sidings, and a very small signal box which was placed on the west end of the coastbound platform. This has sadly now been demolished.

The unusual station building was built in 1861. It has different coloured bricks especially on the western side, and for such a small station it is incredibly grand. Unfortunately at time of writing it is disused.

The race course was served by a small two platform arrangement just west of the main station, however these platforms closed in the late 20th century and Westenhanger is now the primary station for this facility.

Redevelopment of the line and station has always occurred here but the construction of the channel tunnel rail link in the early 2000s meant a new road bridge had to be constructed over both lines with new access stairs between the two platforms.

Looking down the line towards Sandling, you can see the incline of the line quite clearly, as well as great views of the HS1 line to the left.

The entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 80 168

Westenhanger is now a small unassuming station, but still retains some of its charm with its impressive station building, albeit not being used. For the enthusiast, fantastic views of both the South Eastern mainline and HS1 are to be had here, and if you are lucky, some freight as well passes through this station.

Below is a video I filmed from this location for my ‘Along the railway line’ series :

Along The Railway Line | South East Mainline | Sandling Railway Station

Starting off this look at the South East Mainline, I find myself at Sandling Railway Station.

Sandling railway station

Opened in 1888 by the South East railway company ,Sandling was originally a junction station. Four platforms were here, as well as two signal boxes and a goods yard for livestock. The line branched away from the station to Hythe and Sandgate
where the wooded area is here now, but more on that in a moment.

The station building is the only remaining one of three that were originally on the site. It is of an unusual design, as it was modelled on residential houses of the time in the area.

Sandling railway station

Looking along the coast bound platform, a relatively new steep bank hides the channel tunnel rail link which was completed in 2003. This platform also used to have a pretty elaborate canopy, but this was demolished in the early 1970s.

Sandling railway station


As we enter the station building, you can really see it is one of a kind. This quaint and charming ticket office still remains, adorned with posters and paintings both recent and historic. It is nice to see the exterior and the interior of the building is still maintained to a high level.

Sandling railway station
Sandling railway station
Sandling railway station

If you stand on the large triangular platform outside the station building (which used to separate the main from the branch line) the old track bed is still visible on the right hand side. Going through a small gate, and continue along where the old platform was, we will eventually get to the old track bed, which is now a public footpath.

The start of this path is however pretty overgrown, but does open out into a pleasant track. After about five minutes, the walkway opens out into this rather wet area which at the end of it features the disused Hayne tunnel. This 94-yard tunnel was opened with the branch line in 1874, some 14 years before Sandgate station was opened.

Hayne tunnel

Now unfortunately waterlogged due to infilling east of the tunnel, the only way around is via steps up the embankment.

Hayne tunnel

Entry and exit figures for 2019 /2020 were 96, 612

Sandling is a great rural railway station and a variety of rail traffic can be seen here and there is a bonus of an unused railway tunnel if you have the time for a quick five minute walk. the station building is lovely, and very well maintained. As already said, various passenger traffic can be seen as well as freight, although this is mainly on weekdays.

A video of the station can be seen here :

Ridgmont Railway Station, Museum and Tea Rooms

Nestled on the Marston Vale line, this charming station has a lot more going for it that you would assume at first glance. It contains not only an exceptional tea-room, but also a museum which gives a great insight into the station and the line.

Arriving on refurbished class D78 London Underground stock, now classified as class 230, the station is a very quaint structure, but nonetheless impressive.

Going round to the main entrance you are greeted with the tea rooms ahead of you and the museum to the right.

I was taken on a tour of the ground floor of the building by Andy, and many of his historical facts are the basis for this next section as we move through the museum. 

The railway line here was designed by Robert and George Stephenson, and work started in 1845.  Just 11 months later in 1846, the line opened, an astonishing achievement. 

The land it runs over was mainly owned by the Duke of Bedford, and he requested that many of the stations along the line were built in the Gothic revival style.

This area was the original ticket office, and up to 1930 it was a full time job to run it.  However in the 1930’s, LMS railway began to cut costs, and it was decided that the signaller could also run the ticket office.

This remined the case until the 1960’s, when the pay-train system came to the line, which meant that you paid for your journey on board.  The ticket office was therefore shut, leaving the crossing keeper as the sole employee at the station.

In 2006, the line had all the manual crossing gates replaced with automatic barriers, and the crossing keeper also found themselves redundant.  However the operating company at the time, Silverlink, suggested that the station at Ridgmont be converted to a museum, it being the only complete station building left along the line.

With the help of the Community Rail Partnership and the Bedfordshire rural communities charity, half a million pounds was raised, mainly from the railway heritage fund.  

After much clearance work, repairs and conservation, the building opened as a museum in the mid 2010’s.  It is lovingly restored in a 1950’s, style and is a credit to the community who have helped maintain it.

Many plaques adorn the walls, as well as some nameplates from the old class 153 rolling stock.  These commemorated important figures from the stations history.

A room, which forms part of the tea rooms, has many signal diagrams from around the local area.

The other seating area for the tea rooms are situated within the old ladies waiting room.  The tea rooms offer a wide range of hot and cold food and drink.  However it is the cream teas and afternoon teas which draw the eye, and it is highly advisable to book in advance for these to avoid disappointment.  I opted for the cream tea, and it was excellent.

There is plenty of seating, and on a good day you can even sit outside in a very pretty courtyard.

Lets go back and look at the trains which serve the line, at time of writing. As previously said, they are made up of class 230 stock, basically fully refurbished London underground D78 stock which ran on the District line. Here is one example, taken at Bletchley railway station.

The interiors have been fully stripped out and replaced with new seating and toilet facilities.  They are perfectly suitable for the line and pretty comfortable, bearing in mind that they are not designed for long journeys.

You may also be lucky enough to see some freight, which occasionally moves to and from the cement works at Bletchley.

The village of Ridgmont itself has quite a rich history, and is mainly known for its brickworks which utilised the surrounding oxford clay.  It was the second largest brickworks in the world.  However, an Amazon warehouse now sits on the site.

The Marston Vale line gives the communities along it access to the West Coast mainline and Midland Main Line, via Bletchley and Bedford.

Below is a video I filmed in 2021, detailing the station, its tea rooms and the museum.

Ridgmont is a fantastic station to visit. Not only is there a fascinating museum with lots of railway artefacts, but also a very nice tea room with excellent food.  The staff are friendly and knowledgeable and certainly make you feel welcome.  I would highly recommend a visit, and hope that the rail service is increased to more than 1 an hour, as it had been affected by the lack of passengers due to the 2020 pandemic.

Canary Wharf London – Railway Transport Systems

I visited Canary Wharf and surrounding area in late 2021, as it has more than its fair share of railway transport systems. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Overground, Underground and soon Elizabeth line all serve this or the very immediate area. Her in this blog is a short overview of these. It is by no where a comprehensive look, but hopefully will get you the reader to perhaps go and explore these for yourself.

DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAILWAY (DLR)

The concept of the DLR was first discussed around 1982 when the docklands area were being readied for redevelopment.

Construction of the first two lines, one from Tower Gateway to Island Gardens and from Stratford to Island Gardens were started in 1985.  They both opened in 1987, and over the next 20 years more lines were added as the docklands expanded.

The railway is entirely automated, enabling those at the front or rear of the train to get an unobstructed view of the track, which can be quite entertaining.  There is however a control desk at either end of the train, so that the train can be driven manually in the event of a automation failure.

New trains are due to be in service by 2023, and look the same as the current stock, albeit with a more streamlined look and less boxy.

ELIZABETH LINE

Located on the Abbey Wood branch of the Elizabeth line, the station has been built on the West India North dock.  This has been achieved using a cofferdam, which is an enclosure  built in the water and then pumped out to create a dry space for construction below the waterline.  This picture, taken before official opening and therefore not of the actual station concourse, show that it is a great feat of engineering and very pleasing to the eye.

The excellent roof garden on top of the station building is a very clam place to spend some time, and it is amazing that such a structure should have such a pleasant area sitting on top of it. I recommend a visit to here, it really is something special.

Connecting one half of the station is a walkway (pictures below). The geometric shapes on the walls of this were added in 2020, and designed by French artist Camille WALALA.  It is intended to be a permanent installation, and certainly makes what would otherwise be a plain steel walkway into something Instagram worthy.

This is to be one of two entrances to the Elizabeth line, one either side of the dock, and alongside it are many bars, restaurants and cafes for you to enjoy.

Walking through this walkway and shopping centre will get you to the area called Middle dock. A fantastic space, and one where you can gain excellent views of the buildings, and of course the DLR.

JUBILEE LINE UNDERGROUND STATION

In Middle dock, you cannot fail to see the spectacular entrance to the London Underground Jubilee line. Covered in grass, it is almost impossible to see from the air. The escalators move you down into a cavernous space, very unique across the London underground network.

The concourse is huge, and is certainly able to take the large amount of passengers using the station at peak times.  The high ceilings all around add to the sense of space.

Moving down to the platforms, and you will find these are also a very good size, and the overall feel is that of a safe and very efficient underground station.

If we now hop on a train and go one stop westbound, you will get to Canada Water station.

LONDON OVERGROUND

At Canada Water you will find a sub level platform for the Overground line. This will take you North and South in London, and as such complements the East/West alignment of the Jubilee line.

Both stations, like most on the jubilee line, are spacious and industrial in feel, with steel everywhere, and I personally like it very much, although I get it is not to everyone’s taste. My personal favourite of the Jubilee line stations is Westminster, but that is for another blog!

NIGHTIME

As spectacular as it is during the daytime, the Canary wharf area dazzles at night. Fantastic photography can be had, and here are a few of my favourites that I took on this trip:

Canary Wharf and immediate area is well worth a visit. It certainly is looks the part with its many high rise buildings, and getting here is no problem with the amount of rail travel routes you can take. I would recommend coming late afternoon so that you will get the benefit of day and night time views, i am sure that you will not be disappointed.

I filmed a vlog for this visit, and this can be seen below :

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 1 – Lakenheath

Opened in 1844 by the Northern, Eastern and Norfolk railways, Lakenheath (and also Brandon) were the first places in Suffolk to have access to steam trains.

A side effect of the railway arriving here, was that the noise of the engines frightened off the wildfowl which was trying to be captured in the nearby Lakenheath decoy.  This leads to the closure of the decoy in 1850.

The station had a brief mention in the Bradshaw handbook in 1866.

During the first world war, a temporary narrow gauge railway was built to serve the building of the aerodrome at Lakenheath.  This is now of course the US airbase of Lakenheath.

A signal box is still standing, but is in a bad state of repair and obviously disused.

The station now has only a limited service at the weekends.  Passengers who do alight will more than likely be heading for the nearby Lakenheath Fen reserve, which is a very short walk away.  Without this, the station would probably no longer exist, as the village is nearly 3 miles away.

Passenger entry and exits for 2019 / 200 were 416

After a lot of research, I could not find a lot else to write about this station. At time of visiting, the signal box was still there, but I fear not for long. Hopefully the nature reserve stays, because as already said, if that goes, so will the station.

My Vlog from this station can be seen below: