Beltring & Branbridges Halt
The first line to Maidstone was that of the South Eastern Railway's, this initially being a northward branch line spurring off the company's London to Dover trunk line (via Tonbridge). Authorised by Parliament in 1843, the line branched off at Paddock Wood and ran parallel with the River Medway for virtually its entire length, until terminating at the county town. Opened on 25th September 1844, an Act was granted by Parliament nine years later, in 1853, for the extension of the branch to Strood, to join the SER's North Kent Line, the latter of which had commenced operation on 30th July 1849. The connecting line between Maidstone and Strood opened to traffic on 18th June 1856, the Medway Valley route consequently becoming a through affair.
On 1st January 1899, the SER amalgamated with the LC&DR to form the South Eastern & Chatham Railway (SE&CR). Thereafter, a number of new station stops were created in the form of small halts, a notable example being Stone Crossing on the North Kent Line (opened in 1908). These economical affairs were produced in response to an SE&CR network-wide aim of boosting local traffic, particularly in those suburban areas where the company faced considerable tram competition. Beltring & Banbridges Halt came into use on 1st September 1909 on the Medway Valley Line, being situated just under two miles north of Paddock Wood. The halt consisted of two short wooden platforms, each supplemented with a wooden waiting shelter, more than adequate for a station of its size. Small halts such as this were, under SE&CR tenure, served by a dedicated railmotor service, which featured a small tank engine permanently attached to a single carriage. By the end of the SE&CR era, such a system had been superseded by more conventional rolling stock, and throughout Southern Railway and BR(S) days, a slow service usually formed of two or three Maunsell-designed carriages, fronted by an SECR H Class 0-4-4 tank engine, served Beltring. Controlled by a single semaphore signal to protect the level crossing, the station received colour aspect lights in 1962, electrification having occurred on 12th June of the previous year.
Of course, over the years there have been structural changes. Since the station's opening, there had been a ground-level wooden signal box to the north of the ''down'' platform. This was degraded to being simply a gate box as a result of the 1961 electrification, losing its full functions in September of that year. It became totally obsolete in 1982 with the replacement of the traditional crossing gates with automatic barriers, flashing lights and CCTV, and was subsequently removed. In 1991, the halt was wholly rebuilt: the wooden platforms - supported on old lengths of rail - were replaced with concrete surfaces, and the timber waiting shelters gave way to the now familiar glazed bus shelters.
18th May 1961
The original timber platforms and waiting shelters can be seen in this view depicting Wrainwright ''C'' Class No. 31716, bound for Maidstone West. Third rail is in evidence, in preparation for electric services which were to start the following month. No. 31716 was nearing the end of its career, being withdrawn in October 1961. © David Glasspool Collection
12th February 2005
A desolate scene at the station - now without suffix, called ''Beltring'' - on a cold winter's day on 12th February 2005. The wooden platforms are no longer present, but instead concrete structures erected by British Railway's Southern Region. On the opposite side of the ''up'' platform was formerly a siding used by local freights moving food grown in the nearby fields, to large towns and the Capital. This siding officially ceased operation on 5th June 1961, seven days before the ''juice'' was turned on. © David Glasspool
12th February 2005
A northward view reveals the level crossing and the close proximity of the waiting shelters to the ends of the platforms. Although the station is in isolation, a public telephone has at least been provided! © David Glasspool
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