South Eastern Division
This is a station
which, although important for its goods traffic, could have gained greater
prominence had an eastward extension to Rye taken place. Northiam came into use
with the Robertsbridge to Tenterden section of the Rother Valley Railway on 29th
March 1900, and was a typical Holman Stephens affair. Unlike other stations
along this section of line, which were commissioned with just a single platform
face, Northiam boasted two platform surfaces from the outset, either side of a
passing loop formation. This ‘’luxury’’ appears to be a result of the station’s
geography, it laying approximately half way between Robertsbridge and Tenterden
– thus, it existed as a convenient passing place for trains heading in opposite
directions. The main building existed on the southern platform surface: this was
single-storey and 30-feet in length, and came complete with a gabled pitched
roof. As per all those station buildings in-between Robertsbridge and Tenterden
Town exclusive, the structure was set upon a shallow brick base and clad with
corrugated iron. Attached to its northern elevation was a timber-built platform
canopy, supported upon a trio of wooden stanchions. The building and canopy were
to standardised designs, and similar fabrications could be found along H. F. Stephens'
‘’Sheppey Light Railway’’, which opened between Queenborough and Leysdown-on-Sea
in 1901. The northern platform at Northiam was completely exposed to the
elements, lacking any form of waiting accommodation, but both surfaces were
recipients of gas lighting, housed within the familiar diamond-shaped lampshades.
Naturally, existing upon a Light Railway built very much with economy in mind,
no footbridge was in evidence, both platforms instead being linked by a track
foot crossing (passengers could, of course, use the level crossing to the east
as an alternative).
Significant amounts of goods traffic was handled at the station in the early years, but just two sidings appear to have been sufficient. These tracks were westward-facing, and trailed off just to the west of the station, terminating behind the southern platform surface. Both sidings served dock platforms, which would have been used to load livestock, from the nearby cattle market, into wagons. Provision was made for staff accommodation at Northiam, and alongside the goods yard, the Rother Valley Railway commissioned a pair of bungalows.
Northiam, Tenterden Town, and Biddenden stations are all noteworthy as being the only intermediate sites along the Kent & East Sussex Railway to boast two platform surfaces. Out of these three, only Tenterden Town was host to a signal cabin. However, at all of these sites, the platform surface which lacked the main building soon fell into disuse, as the level of traffic along the route continued to be less than projected (particularly since many proposed extensions of the route, such as those to Rye, Appledore, and Maidstone, failed to materialise). The line of the second platform subsequently became used for storing goods wagons.
Scheduled passenger services over the K&ESR between Robertsbridge and Headcorn ceased on 2nd January 1954, but goods traffic was maintained between the former and Tenterden Town thereafter, in addition to hop pickers services from London, and enthusiast specials. Demolition of Northiam’s northern platform occurred when the line became freight-only, but the southern platform surface and station building remained in existence, even beyond the total withdrawal of freight traffic and closure of the line on 12th July 1961. The track remained in existence between Tenterden Town and Robertsbridge, but structural demolitions commenced at Wittersham Road and Rolvenden stations. The Tenterden to Bodiam section of track bed was eventually sold by British Rail to the ‘’Tenterden Railway Company Limited’’ in 1973, after an arduous battle between the K&ESR Preservation Society and the Ministry of Transport which dated back to the line’s total closure. Services were restored between Tenterden Town and Rolvenden in 1974, but it was to be over fifteen years until the first trains again reached Northiam. Although the preservation society had all station sites in its possession, and the majority of the track was still in evidence, through running was not possible from the outset. Every sleeper of the track work had to be replaced, and major structural repairs were required on river bridges.
Tenterden Town to Rolvenden: 3rd February 1974
Rolvenden to Wittersham Road: 5th March 1977
Wittersham Road to Hexden Bridge: 25th April 1983
Hexden Bridge to Northiam: Proposed for 1985
Two bridges between Wittersham Road and Northiam, which spanned the Hexden Channel and the River Rother, required renovation and strengthening before further track could be laid. These works took place during 1984, and it was originally envisaged to have scheduled trains running through to Northiam in 1985 – the latter, however, was set back by another five years.
On 12th May 1986, the full electric timetable along the Hastings line via Tunbridge Wells Central came into use. Electrification of the line had also been combined with re-signalling, and in the following year, the K&ESR had its sights set on the then recently decommissioned all-timber signal box at Wadhurst, intending to re-use it at Northiam. The signal box had originally come into use circa 1893, and had been built by contractor ‘’Dutton & Company’’. Financing of the Hexden Bridge to Northiam section was to be undertaken by means of issuing bearer bonds. Fortunately, the original station building and southern platform surface remained in existence at Northiam, but a number of significant enhancements were made in preparation for the extension of services to here. These included the laying of a run-a-round loop, a westward extension of the existing platform to accommodate longer train formations, and the reinstatement of the northern platform surface. The platforms were backed at their rears by wooden fencing, to the same design as that which opened with the station. Immediately west of the original station building, a new structure was erected: this was built to the same style as Colonel Stephens’ corrugated iron design, but was 5-feet shorter and ⅔ the width. The new building was to house toilet facilities, a luxury which the station lacked throughout its working life between 1900 and 1954.
The first train between Tenterden Town and Northiam ran on 19th May 1989, and scheduled passenger services commenced in the following year. The station was formally commissioned by HRH the Duke of Gloucester, and became the end of the line for the following decade. The sidings of the goods yard were not re-laid, and the area instead fulfilled a new role as a car park, whilst the goods office was converted into a passenger buffet room. For the extension to Bodiam, which opened on 2nd April 2000, a brand new signal box was commissioned at the western end of the southern platform surface. This appears to have been built from scratch, rather than being the aforementioned signal box from Wadhurst, and the cabin has been interlocked to work a host of ex-Southern Railway upper quadrant semaphore signals. The Bodiam extension saw the lengthening of Northiam’s run-a-round loop by over 100-yards westwards, and the laying of a westward-facing siding, approximately 110-yards-long.
Northiam track plan. Drawn by David Glasspool
6th October 1990
Northiam is seen in the year of its reopening to passenger services, in 1990. The station structure in the foreground
is a new build, and houses toilet facilities. The original Colonel Stephens building can be seen immediately beyond,
and this is slightly larger than its younger counterpart. Mike Glasspool
6th October 1990
Class 14 shunter No. D9525 (BR No. 14029) was hauling one of two trains on this day, and is seen running
round its short formation of BR Mk 1 maroon coaches at Northiam. This locomotive later found fame on the
CTRL, being employed as an infrastructure shunter at Ebbsfleet International, under the guise of No. 14029.
Behind the diesel can be seen the reinstated northern platform, which has yet to receive edging and a tarmac
surface. There was no signal box at this time, and single-track existed beyond the loop for rolling stock storage.
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