South Eastern Railway (UK)

South Eastern Railway (UK)

:"For the railway in India, see South Eastern Railway (India)"

South Eastern Railway (SER) was a railway company in the United Kingdom, which linked London with Kent.

The company was formed from the "London and Greenwich Railway" (LGR) and the "Canterbury and Whitstable Railway" (CWR). At Bermondsey there was a junction for the London & Croydon Railway, opened in 1839.

London & Greenwich Railway

The LGR opened its first section, between Spa Road (Bermondsey) and Deptford, on 8 February 1836, the line being extended westwards to London Bridge on 14 December 1836, and eastwards to a temporary station at Greenwich on 14 December 1838. The present Greenwich station opened in 1840. This was the terminus until 1878, when the final cut-and-cover tunnel section between Greenwich and Maze Hill (beneath the grounds of the Queen's House and Greenwich Hospital - where the graveyard was excavated, remains being reinterred in East Greenwich Pleasaunce approximately one mile to the east) was opened, linking it to the North Kent Line just west of Charlton. The section between Charlton and Maze Hill opened in 1873, with Maze Hill functioning as a terminus until 1878. Westcombe Park railway station opened in 1879. [ SER Lines and Stations]

The layout of Greenwich station still partly betrays that fact. The line from London, built on a continuous viaduct, is perfectly straight, but after Greenwich it makes a sharp turn and dips into a tunnel. There also used to be a space between the two tracks for the locomotive 'escape route' to reverse the trains, but this disappeared when the station was reorganised to accommodate the Docklands Light Railway.

Canterbury & Whitstable Railway

The CWR (known locally as the "Crab and Winkle Line", from its initials and fact that Whitstable was a fishing port) opened on 3 May 1830 between Canterbury and Whitstable Harbour, a distance of six miles. It was the first regular passenger steam railway in the world. It was built as part of a plan to improve the access of the city of Canterbury to the sea,and involved much work improving Whitstable harbour, engineered by Thomas Telford, which opened in 1832 and is still essentially intact. In its early days it employed a variety of means of traction: on the inclines at Tyler Hill and Clowes Wood winding engines were used, with horses on the section in between; and the locomotive "Invicta" - built by Robert Stephenson, unsuccessful and disused by 1839 - being employed at the Whitstable end. In spite of its short life, "Invicta" has been preserved.

The line included the world's first passenger train tunnel, the 800-yard Tyler Hill Tunnel, and both its portals are still visible. One entrance is behind the University of Kent, and the other in the grounds of the Archbishop's School. Until the 1970s it was possible to walk through it, but it became unsafe and collapsed shortly after, causing structural damage to the university buildings above.

Normal steam engines were introduced on this line in 1846 halving the journey time to 20 minutes. The engines had to be specially cut down in size in order to get through the tunnel, and the carriages were lower than normal.

The line closed to passenger traffic on 1 January 1931, and entirely in 1953. The site of the first Canterbury station was immediately to the east of Canterbury West station and for many years was used as a coal yard and goods station. Trains ran into a bay platform at the West station when that opened in 1846.

The Main Line

The SER original main line was given sanction by Act of Parliament in 1836, running from London Bridge via Redhill, Tonbridge, Maidstone and Ashford to Folkestone and Dover. This circuitous route was the result of insistence on the part of Parliament that only one southerly route out of the capital was necessary; since the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway already had a line through Redhill, the SER perforce had to follow it. This ignored the fact that the main London - Dover road had, since ancient times, followed a much more direct route, and the fact that the other great railway building projects took direct routes whenever feasible. A train passenger to Dover had a journey 20 miles longer than by stagecoach.

The main line reached Ashford on 1 December 1842; the outskirts of Folkestone by 28 June 1843; and Dover by 7 February 1844. Their locomotive works was built in 1845, moving from New Cross in London.

As a result of competition with the LCDR (who had constructed the more direct Chatham Main Line and Maidstone East Line (to Sevenoaks, Canterbury, Dover, Ramsgate, Ashford and Maidstone), the SER built a very expensive cut-off line through the North Downs via Sevenoaks and Orpington (see below). Some services continued to use the Redhill to Tonbridge Line to access the Brighton Main Line.

Branch lines

The SER system spread out, opening branch lines to connect with major towns along its route.

Dates of opening

*25 September 1844 - Paddock Wood to Maidstone (Medway Valley Line)
*20 September 1845 - Tunbridge (as it then was) to outskirts of Tunbridge Wells (Hastings Line)
**25 November 1846 - extended to Tunbridge Wells
*1 December 1846 - Ashford to Margate (Ashford to Ramsgate (via Canterbury West) line)
*7 July 1847 - Minster to Deal (Kent Coast Line)
*4 July 1849 - Reigate to Reading (North Downs Line) - Reading, Guildford and Reigate Railway (absorbed into SER in 1852)
*1 September 1851 - Tunbridge Wells to Robertsbridge (Hastings Line)
**1 January 1852 - extended Battle
**1 February 1852 - extended to Bopeep Junction
*13 February 1852 - Ashford to Hastings (Marshlink Line)
*18 June 1856 - Strood to Maidstone - completes (Medway Valley Line)
* 1 April 1864 - Addiscombe Line
*1 September 1866 - Hither Green to Dartford via Sidcup (Dartford Loop Line)
*9 October 1874 - South Eastern Main Line (at Sandling) to Hythe (branch closed 1951)
*7 July 1881 - Westerham Valley Branch Line (from Dunton Green) to Westerham (branch closed 1961)
* 31 March 1882 - North Kent Line to Grain (along Hoo Peninsula) - The Hundred of Hoo Railway (branch closed to passenger traffic in December 1961)
* 4 July 1887 - Elham Valley Line - Canterbury West to Folkestone, line closed in 1947.
*1 October 1892 - Hawkhurst Branch from Paddock Wood to Goudhurst, extended to Hawkhurst on 4 September 1893 (branch closed 10 June 1961)
*1 May 1895 - Blackheath to Dartford via Bexleyheath (Bexleyheath Line)

Locomotive Superintendents/Chief Mechanical Engineers

* - 1845 - Benjamin Cubbitt
*1845 - 1876 - James I'Anson Cudworth
*1876 - A.M.Watkins
*1876 - 1878 Robert Mansell
*1878 - 1898 James Stirling

The SER and other railways

The SER and the LCDR

By 1853 the SER had almost completed a network of lines encompassing mid-Kent, though much of the North Kent coast was still not served by rail. In 1853 the East Kent Railway was incorporated; by various amalgamations and using running powers it gained access to the new Victoria station. Other extensions brought the railway to Dover and Ramsgate and it changed its name to the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) in 1859.

The LCDR had a much more direct access to London than the SER, and it was imperative to the SER that this situation was improved. The direct line via Sevenoaks to Tonbridge was therefore constructed by the SER. It involved huge earthworks, crossing the North Downs by means of summits and long tunnels at both Knockholt and Sevenoaks. The latter was the longest tunnel in southern England at one mile, 1691 yards. This cut-off line, 24 miles long, reached Chislehurst on 1 July 1865, and took three more years to reach Orpington and Sevenoaks (2 March 1868) and Tonbridge (1 May 1868).

Many of the LCDR's lines served towns already served by the SER. Ashford, Chatham, Dover, Gravesend, Margate, Ramsgate, Rochester, Sevenoaks and Whitstable's second stations have subsequently been eliminated but Bromley, Canterbury and Maidstone still have more than one station.

The LCDR was always in financial difficulties, and for years the amalgamation of the two Kent routes was mooted. On 1 January 1899 this was achieved when the two companies joined for working under a Management Committee. On 5 August 1899 the South Eastern and London, Chatham and Dover Railway Companies Act was passed, which resulted in the formation of the South Eastern and Chatham Railway.

The SER and the LBSCR

The relationship with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) was often bitter - sometimes almost all-out war. The main sites of that war were in London, Redhill and Hastings, the three locations where the two railway companies met.

In London, at both London Bridge and Victoria the rivalry between the two companies came to such a head that both stations even today show the existence of two separate stations at each location, with a wall between them. At Redhill the two companies' stations were placed at an inconvenient distance for passenger exchange; when a new station was built, the SER gave preference to its own trains through the station. This led the LBSCR to build the Quarry Line, avoiding Redhill altogether. At Hastings, where they joined for the final section through the town, the troubles were even more direct. In their desire to secure the business, the SER was determined to keep the LBSCR out. The latter had opened its line from Brighton on 13 February 1851, connecting with the SER at Bo-peep Junction. After preventing some Brighton trains from passing the junction, the SER blocked in at Hastings those that had and removed track at the junction, putting up barriers to stop the LBSCR coach link from operating. An LBSCR injunction eventually put matters to rights, but until the 1923 amalgamation relations were still bitter.




See also

* Rail transport in Great Britain

External links

* [ The South Eastern & Chatham Railway Society (SECSOC)]
* [ One history of the SER]
* [ The London & Croydon Railway]
* [ The London & Greenwich Railway]

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