Top Ten Least Used Stations In Kent : 3 – Beltring

Beltring was opened in 1909 by the South Eastern and Chatham Railway as Beltring and Banbridge halt. These small stations were put along the line mainly to serve small rural locations, which would only be served otherwise by local trams.

railway station

Station buildings on such halts did not exist, but they did provide waiting shelters on both platforms, and their modern equivalents are still provided today.

railway station

A small siding for local goods produced by farmers was placed behind the London bound platform, and existed right up until 1961 when the line was electrified. Where the siding once stood, a farm exists today.

sheep in fields

The only way to cross to either platform is by the road level crossing. Along the platforms, many posters can be seen and some detail the Kent Rail Partnership and walks which can be taken from this station.

level crossing
notice board railway

Being one of the most rural stations on this list, the nearest housing estate being 20 minutes away, Beltring is certainly a niche station. However, it does provide fantastic straight line views both up and down the line, allowing enthusiasts good photographic opportunities of both passenger and freight services which frequent the line. Just remember that as with the majority of these smaller stations, there are no toilet facilities.

uk train

Here is a video of Beltring, made as part of the “Least used stations in Kent” series I produced on my YouTube channel.

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London Waterloo Station Walkthrough

On my other YouTube channel, John Explores, I take a small walk through Waterloo Station.


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London Bridge re-signalling scheme 1970’s

Before the re-imagining of London Bridge station in the 2010’s, it was the subject of a huge re-signaling scheme in the mid 1970’s. The idea was to completely redesign the approach, especially across Borough Market Junction. This was a notorious bottleneck where trains from Charing Cross and Cannon Street, as well as approaching traffic from Kent and Sussex would almost always grind to a halt at peak times.

The solution was to create more throughput by using crossovers from Charing Cross and Cannon Street and using a new flyover at St Johns. Some terminal platforms were also connected to the Charing Cross lines in order to facilitate more throughput.

The entire area would be controlled via a massive new signal control room at London Bridge, which would mean the demise of at least 16 smaller signal boxes nearby.

Amazingly for such a large project, it was finished on time, at a cost of £21.5 million pounds in 1978. Below are some scans from a mini booklet produced by British Rail to commemorate the achievement.

I must thank Mr David Bonnett, who very kindly donated this leaflet and other materials to myself.


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London Termini – Marylebone

The last terminus to be built in London, Marylebone has never really been finished. It was designed with future expansion in mind, but still only has 6 platforms today, and for much of its life only had 4. Very quiet during the day it springs into live during the rush hours, or when a major event is going on at the nearby Wembley complex. However this is its charm. With an expansive concourse, it’s just a nice place to sit and reflect during those quiet times.

A Brief History

The station was built for the Grand Central Railway, a company formed out of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. The terminus for that railway was only 2 miles north of Marylebone, but building an extension down to Marylebone would come with massive planning problems.

One of these was from the MCC at the Lords Cricket Ground, who massively objected to the original proposals which would see the railway go straight through the nursery end of the ground. After many years of argument, it was agreed that the railway company would purchase and relocate the orphanage next to the ground. This would enable the railway to be put in place using the ‘cut and cover’ technique. The ground was then put back as it was, with the railway running under the Nursey end.

The work on this completed in 1898, and it was then that the Grand Central Railway title was introduced. The new terminus however suffered from the money spent to do all the extra work, including a high speed railway link for the railway to Nottingham. It was therefore proposed to be a simple but elegant terminus.

A four platform trainshed was put in place, which only covered 495ft of the total 950ft platform length. It was envisioned that more platforms would be added during the early 20th century, but low passenger numbers would mean that this didn’t happen at this time. However the station would boast an extensive concourse, and the glass roof provided natural light which flooded in.

A station hotel was built opposite the station on Melcombe place, and is arguably the most opulent of all the London station hotels. A massive central atrium is inside and it still has that feel of early 20th Century rail travel. It was only converted once, into railway offices between 1945 and 1986. It was then purchased in 1986 and re-opened as a hotel in 1993.

Marylebone was never going to be a busy station however. The nearby Euston and Kings cross had been taking passengers north for over 40 years. Many attempts to close the station occurred between 1960 and 1986 (the Beeching review and cuts of 1966 meant that Marylebone would only provide trains as far north as Birmingham), but eventually was given a full reprieve as British Rail decided to creative a new working group for the station.

This allowed it to be more adventurous with its route planning, including heritage excursions and special event trains. The privatisation of the UK rail network in 1996 saw Chiltern Railways take over, and they have successfully managed it ever since.

A quick view of the current station

Moving toward the main entrance at Melcombe Place, you will see the ornate canopy over the road and taxi rank. Behind you is the impressive Landmark London Hotel. The pillars here are great, black with a red motif around a third of the way up.

As we enter via the main entrance on Melcombe Place you will see above the writing of Marylebone Station in stonework. Next to this you can still see the uncoloured logo of Network South East (the last British Rail operator for the line before privatisation).

Entering the station, note the GCR logos on the gates. In fact this logo can be found all around the station, especially over exits in the brickwork. The station here opens out in front of you, with the platforms directly ahead under the impressive canopy and trainshed.

Move slightly further in and you will se an electronic information board to your left. Underneath this are electronic ticketing machines. Turn left now, and go towards and past these information boards so that they are on your right as you go past. You will see the station information booth in front of you. This is also the station reception as well.

Moving past the information centre you will see yet more electronic ticket machines below some distinctive Network South East branding. If you now turn directly to your right you will see the ticket office. Moving forward a little further and the entrance to the Underground station is on your left.

Ticket machines with the old Network Southeast branding still visible

Turn 180 degrees back towards the information centre and go past it. The ladies toilets are directly in front of you. Now turn right and walk down this part of the concourse. Various retail outlets are on your left, the current M&S store is housed in what used to be the ticketing hall. Some Cash machines are on your right.

Around half way down this hall on the left are three plaques. The top one is the coat of arms of the Great Central Railway, the next is dedicated to the centenary of the birth of Sir John Betjeman, and the last one is dedicated to the centenary of the station in 1999.

Moving back down the concourse to the end wall, where a further three plaques sit. These are dedicated to those railway employees who died during World War One. Two are on bronze sheets and the third is on a marble stone.

The marble plaque dedication to railway workers who were killed in the First World War

Carry on down past the plaques, and as it narrows, the Gents toilets are on your right. Now carry on through the arch and past a public house. You will see an exit here, but of more interest is the framed information on the walls, detailing the history of the station. They are very interesting and worth spending time reading.

Information boards at the entrance to the station at Harewood Avenue

Instead of exiting into Harewood avenue, lets re-trace our steps back into the station and go towards the Information centre once more. Take time to look up an appreciate the roof here, with the light flooding in over the whole concourse.

Go past the information boards and turn left to see the platforms ahead of you. If you are able, go through the gate lines onto these platforms. You really get the sense of the wider than usual platforms, and there is an extensive bike rack on platform 3 which is nearly two thirds the length of the trainshed.

The huge bike rack at platform 3

Move out further past the edge of the roof and look back. This shows off the trainshed really well, with the ornate pillars of red which hold it up. The station really does have a great feel, and although not as grand as say St Pancras, is nonetheless extremely appealing.

A view back to the trainshed

A view of trains departing and arriving at Marylebone can be seen below


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London Termini – King’s Cross

Signage in the underground station

King’s Cross; for a lot of people the station symbolises two very different train services. One steeped in history – The Flying Scotsman – the other pure fantasy – The Hogwarts Express. Whilst one is real and the other fictitious, it is fair to say that if you mention Kings Cross to many of the public, they will utter either or both of them.

A brief history

A practical station for a practical railway. That is how the Great Northern Railway saw it when they opened it in 1852. A station with a modest frontage, made from yellow London bricks and a wooden roof, complimented with two 100ft roof spans over the platforms. These roofs being supported by brick pillars, today in the centre of island platform 4 and 5.

Trains enter and leave the station via the Gas Works tunnel, which passes under the Regent’s Canal. A major goods yard for coal was also contained within the station, although this does not remain.

It looked totally at odds with St Pancras next door; that station when opened 16 years later was oozing with grandeur. A clock adorned the front of the building, and quirkily was rumoured to never have the same time showing as that of its neighbour at St Pancras. King’s Cross as a railway station, however, would for the majority of the next 150 years be the more successful of the two.

For all the footfall though, the station remained unloved for a long time. Indeed in the 1960’s, the square out front was partially covered with a new travel centre for British Rail. This however obscured the lower half of the original frontage, and looked at odds with it.

A quick view of the current station

In 2007, work started on a new concourse, and what a unique structure it is. A single rising 150ft “Diagrid” roof, underpinned at its base down 50ft. It spreads out like a metal web, encapsulating the new concourse with its shops and bars. The feeling of space even during the busy periods is amazing, and differing colours are sometimes projected upon it.

The travel centre was removed, enabling the square to be reinstated and the full frontage to again be seen. To the left side of said frontage, an entrance to the new concourse can be seen. Going through this, the superb new roof opens up in all its splendour. Immediately to your right are entrance gates to the platforms, to your left are escalators up to a mezzanine level This contains a seating area and eating and drinking places.

Going back down to floor level via the escalators on the other side of the mezzanine, if you turn right, you will see arrivals and departure boards, and underneath the new travel centre. To the left of the travel centre is the Harry Potter shop, with a photo opportunity platform 9 3/4 area.

Going under the mezzanine, more shops on both sides as you are then greeted with a glazed front, from which you can see St Pancras International. Stairs down to the Underground are also here, one of many access points to the labyrinth of tunnels which form King’s Cross St Pancras underground Station.

Pictures below were taken on 22nd January 2019, and thanks goes to the station manager and Network Rail for enabling me to photograph extensively on that date:

A view to the train sheds from the end of platform 10
The view from island platform 4 and 5, showing the train shed, the centre brick column being obscured by the light fixture.
The gasworks tunnels.
A view down roads 1 and 2, notice platform 0 to the left.
Clock situated on platform 1
A view down to platform 6
The fantastic canopy over the new concourse
The canopy. Note original station building behind.
The Harry Potter shop – the photo opportunity “Platform 9 3/4” is immediately right of this, and is always busy
The fantastic exterior, with the square in the foreground

Here is a video, also taken on the day, from my YouTube site :


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Stations Near Me – 3 – Newington

One stop down east from Rainham (Kent) is the small station of Newington. Opened in 1862 by the London, Chatham and Dover railway. At this time, only a double track went through the station. Serviced by a small one storey station building, which was located on the “up” side, the station was created mainly to service the many agricultural premises in the village.

Three sidings were put in, controlled by a signal box on the “up” side. Goods traffic was supplied by the local farmers in the early years, and later when some of this land was used more industriously, coal was brought in to sustain the new industries.

This continued for many years, but it was the advent of electrification along the Chatham main line which would see significant developments. The track was quadrupled between Rainham and Newington, ending at the east of the station. This involved demolishing existing platforms, and replacing them with concrete structures. A metal bridge now spanned the platforms across the four tracks. Around 1962, the original station building was replaced by a prefab construction, which still remains today.

The following are two photographs. The first facing west, showing a DB class 66 with an engineers working coming on the “down” from Rainham.

Next, facing east, a 395 “Javelin” is passing through at speed on the inner express lines.

If you want to read more on the history of Newington Railway Station, please visit the excellent Kent Rail website.


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Planned 2019 Posts

Well, as 2018 comes to a close, just a quick blog on where I see myself going next year.

My main project, which may span over into 2020, is a comprehensive overview of all London Termini.  As you can imagine, this will be a major undertaking as I need to fit it in with other personal and work life, but I am willing to put in the effort to make this overview as good as possible.  My First two should be St Pancras International and Kings Cross.  This series will also be covered via platform videos on my  YouTube Channel

Other blogs to include more on the SouthEastern rolling stock history, and more in the series of stations I have visited – both local and far.  Plus Mistydale model railway is getting a new section!

I also aim to blog at least twice month, and will set up schedules to try to meet these deadlines more accurately.

I may blog before the end of the year, but if not, expect a new post around 1st Jan 2019.

Many thanks for reading this short blog


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395 “Javelin” High Speed Unit

The advent of High Speed 1 to link London with the Channel Tunnel would not only mean faster services for the Eurostar, but also could enable the population of Kent to enjoy a new faster way of travel.  As early as 2003, formal approval was given to allow domestic High Speed services on High Speed 1.  The award in 2006 of the 2012 Olympics to London further enhanced the need for such a service to exist.

Hitachi won the right to supply the new High Speed stock to SouthEastern Railway, their first rail contract in Britain.  In total 29 were built.  The service to be provided meant that the trains had to be “duel electric”, to accommodate both 750 DC third rail and 25 kV AC overhead lines.  The third rail extends from Ashford to Folkestone, then onwards through the Medway Towns and finally Ebbsfleet International, where the 3rd Rail shoe is retracted and the Pantograph raised (or visa-versa).

The train is based on the 400 series “Mini Shinkansen”, and comprises of 6 carriages, which can be driven from either end. The front nose of the train can be retracted to allow automatic coupling to another 6 car unit. Power is through the middle four cars, powered by pantographs/shoes on the outer two cars. Each 6 car train has 340 seats and two toilets, one of which is disabled accessible.

Additional training had to be given to train crews, to enable them to understand the TVM 430 signalling display system which was in use on the High Speed portion of the line.  This is a lot different from the UK rail signalling, mostly as it is “In Cab”.

Services started fully in December 2009. During the 2012 Olympic Games, many services were run in 12 car formations, and a regular shuttle service was established from Ebbsfleet International to Stratford International, the home of the Olympic Park.  In 2015, a circular route from St Pancras to St Pancras was introduced.

The trains are designed to travel at 140 mph on the High Speed section, but are limited to 70-90 mph on the old mainline from Ashford through Margate, Medway then to Ebbsfleet.  They are exceptionally comfortable, and have benefitted from being fitted with dampers to reduce the effect of excessive wobble in the High Speed tunnel sections.

The train was given the designation of class 395, but due to the Olympics quickly gathered the nickname of Javelin, which was then established across the fleet.  Initially, 11 of the Javelins were named after British Olympic medalists by public vote.  This increased to 23 after the 2012 Olympics, with some named after Paralympians.  Other noted named Javelins were 395014 “The Victoria Cross” (later 015) and 395016 “Somme 100”.

In 2018 to commemorate the 100 anniversary of the end of World War One, 395018 had special vinyl’s applied.  These can be seen below on 11/11/18, a day after a special railtour had taken place through the south and east of the UK.

As of 2018, they continue to be the flagship of the SouthEastern railway network, and are very heavily used, even if they have a small premium applied to the ticket price.


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