At one time this was a quintessential LC&DR station, demonstrating architecture which could once be found along the whole of the trunk line to Dover Priory, via Faversham and Canterbury East. Over subsequent years, however, Rainham has been transformed into a modern and somewhat unlovely affair, historical structures having been wholly swept away. The station came into use with the initial Chatham to Faversham section of the East Kent Railway’s London to Dover route on 25th January 1858, and was known as ‘’Rainham & Newington’’ from the outset. The main building was positioned on the ‘’up’’ side and was a mirror image of that which was provided on the ‘’down’’ platform at nearby Gillingham. Sadly, neither still exists, but variations of the same design can still be witnessed at Farningham Road, Adisham, and Sole Street stations, to name but three. Two storeys in height, the main building demonstrated the typical LC&DR whitewashed surface on its upper half, and incorporated the Station Master’s accommodation; construction was crème brick throughout. Unusually, the platforms here were arranged in a staggered formation (a well known SER practice at the time), the ‘’down’’ side surface being positioned west of its ‘’up’’ side counterpart. A timber waiting shelter was provided on the ‘’down’’ side, and both platform surfaces were linked by a track foot crossing. The ‘’up’’ side main building came complete with a modest platform canopy, an identical example of which can still be seen at Shepherds Well.
Initially, goods facilities were concentrated on the ‘’up’’ side: two westward-facing sidings terminated behind the London end of the platform, and one of these passed through a single-track, pitched-roof goods shed (an identical example remains in existence at Teynham). Both sidings were equipped with a wagon turntable, these of which resided directly opposite each other; thus, wagons could be switched between sidings in close proximity to the goods shed, eliminating the need for rolling stock to be shunted beyond the set of points where the sidings converged. Like so many stations in the earliest years of operation, no signal box was in evidence from the outset, and all points were operated by manual ground levers.
After only 4½ years of existence, the station was subject to a name change. On 1st August 1862, a station opened to the east, at Newington, which resulted in the dropping of the ‘’& Newington’’ suffix from the name boards. Significant layout changes were also enacted by the LC&DR, circa 1897, at the time of the Faversham station rebuilding. The works at Rainham included the abandonment of a staggered platform arrangement: the existing ‘’down’’ platform was substantially extended at its eastern end, bringing it directly in line with the ‘’up’’ surface, and a new waiting shelter provided. In addition, the ‘’up’’ platform was lengthened considerably at its western end, taking it far beyond the aforementioned wagon turntables of the adjacent sidings. Indeed, the presence of the latter required the platform’s rear edge to literally curve around the nearest turntable, which produced a neat semicircular indentation in the platform’s rear wall. The new arrangement brought the luxury of a lattice footbridge, this of which was positioned immediately west of the main building. Goods facilities were enhanced at the same time: a lengthy eastward-facing refuge siding, of little under 400 yards, was laid behind the ‘’down’’ platform, and Rainham at last acquired a signal box. This was an in-house product of the LC&DR, virtually identical to the cabin still in use at Shepherds Well, built on a site just beyond the eastern end of the ‘’up’’ platform, and in addition to the sidings, the signalman was also responsible for the immediately adjacent level crossing.
The changes of 1897 saw that Rainham remained little changed during SE&CR ownership. The station became part of the Southern Railway in 1923, and before the end of the decade, this company installed a prefabricated concrete footbridge – an Exmouth Junction product – immediately east of the level crossing. This was in addition to replacing the traditional Victorian diamond-shaped platform gas lamps with the equally attractive swan-neck variant, complete with ‘’Target’’ name signs. It also appears that the wagon turntables in the goods yard were dispensed with under this company’s tenure.
In early 1957, the platform surfaces were extended at their western ends with concrete cast components, in readiness for the twelve vehicle formations proposed as part of the February 1956-approved Kent Coast Electrification Scheme. Third rail was installed throughout on the ‘’Chatham’’ main line during 1958, and in the same year, construction of a then new ‘’power box’’ commenced at Rainham. This was positioned on the ‘’down’’ side, immediately opposite its LC&DR predecessor. It appears that the building of the new signalling panel necessitated the decommissioning of the lengthy ‘’down’’ refuge siding – the site where this siding’s connection with the ‘’down’’ line was made was now required for the signal box structure. Work also began on quadrupling 2¼ miles of route between Rainham and Newington, which would allow fast trains to overtake both stopping services and freights after the commencement of the full accelerated electric timetable. Rainham’s ‘’power box’’ came into use on 26th April 1959, and semaphore signals were replaced with three-aspect colour lights. For the time being, goods traffic remained, and the level crossing was still manually worked. The full-accelerated electric timetable came into use on the ‘’Chatham’’ route on 15th June 1959; the ex-SER Weald of Kent main line continued to feature steam haulage until June 1962.
The British Rail era at Rainham is a sad story of decline, as the station succumbed to the so-called ‘’modern image’’ of BR. Significant change at the site began with the decommissioning of goods facilities on 2nd April 1962. Around eight years later, all existing station structures were unceremoniously bulldozed, leaving nothing but the bricks of the platform surfaces and the rear backing walls as testament to the LC&DR. The station became a CLASP (Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme) affair, seemingly in a bid to make it harmonious with the modern-looking power box nearby. The ‘’up’’ side became host to a single-storey prefabricated structure, measuring 20-foot wide by 60-foot long, and both platforms acquired a 25-foot long CLASP waiting shelter. Naturally, the replacement footbridge was also of CLASP design, and this was erected upon the same site as its predecessor. A single-storey staff office building of the same ilk also appeared alongside the ''power box'', upon part of the site of the former ''down'' siding connection. The novelty of traditional level crossing gates ceased when full lifting barriers were commissioned on 17th December 1972, operated from the adjacent power box. The 1986-inaugurated Network SouthEast Business Sector attempted to make the station a little more attractive: during 1989, the ‘’up’’ side CLASP ticket office was flattened, and a more permanent-looking structure completed in the following year. The latter was single-storey, of crème brick construction, and demonstrated a glazed arched roof reminiscent of the Crystal Palace. Rainham celebrated its 150th Birthday in January 2008, but sadly, not a brick remains of the original East Kent Railway buildings of 1858.
This photograph shows the signalling panel inside of Rainham "power box". The four-track section on the right is that through Newington; the platforms of Rainham station are on the left.
© Roger Goodrum
Four track running commences ⅜-mile east of Rainham. The quadrupling task involved 94,000 cubic yards of soil excavation, the provision of a completely new station at Newington, and the rebuilding of eight bridges, six of which supported the line. In the above view, a 4 CEP + 4 VEP formation, led by 4 CEP No. 1504, is observed on the Rainham approaches, where the four tracks converge. The pair were forming a Dover Priory to Victoria service.
A westward view from the SR concrete footbridge shows 4 CEP No. 1533 departing the ''down'' platform, forming a Victoria to Dover Western Docks service. Prominent on the right is the ''power box'' of 1959, whilst in the foreground are the full lifting barriers of 1972. The station structures of about 1970 origin can be seen in the background, which includes the ''up'' CLASP ticket office and footbridge – a contrast to the vintage Oast Houses alongside