Dover Western Docks
On 14th May 1979, Dover Marine station was renamed ‘’Dover Western Docks’’, and
on 31st October of the following year, the ‘’Night Ferry’’ London to Paris train
made its final run. This had first operated on the evening of 14th October 1936,
between London Victoria and Paris Gare du Nord, via Dover Marine and Dunkirk.
The service was unique among the boat trains, because the carriage stock
travelled across the Channel with the passengers and ran on both British and
French railway networks. Indeed, the vehicles were smaller than standard
Continental carriage stock, having been specially built to meet the restrictive
loading gauge of the British system. The service had been suspended during the
war years, the last train running through to Paris over the night of 3rd/4th
September 1939. After the cessation of the conflict, the ‘’Compagnie
Internationale des Wagons-Lits’’ (CIWL: International Sleeping Car Co.) found
itself engaged in a search and rescue mission over the whole of Europe, to find
several missing carriages. Stock of both the ‘’Night Ferry’’ and ‘’Orient
Express’’ services had been taken over by the Germans, camouflaged and armoured,
and subsequently used as army vehicles. The ‘’Night Ferry’’ service was resumed
on 14th December 1947, and this was followed ten years later by the addition of
a through sleeping car to Brussels. A sleeping car for Basle, Switzerland, was
added to the service in 1967, but this lasted just two years.
Over the five years which followed the renaming of the station to ‘’Dover Western Docks’’, truncations of the lines within the trainshed, at their seaward ends, saw a ground level walkway come into use for passengers, behind the new buffer stops (a headshunt did, however, still remain for locomotive-hauled services). The SNCF train ferry continued to handle an abundance of ferry vans, shunted by Class 33/2 locomotives – the latter had been under the auspices of Railfreight Distribution (RfD) since that Business Sector’s formation on 10th October 1988. The ferry itself accommodated a double-track, and to maintain balance on the vessel, wagons on both lines would be loaded and unloaded simultaneously. During 1993, the train ferry shunting duty passed to Class 09 diesels.
Channel Tunnel boring began on 1st December 1987, and in light of this, the British Rail Board produced the dreaded report in 1989: the ‘’Proposed closure of Dover Western Docks Station and Folkestone Harbour branch’’. Passenger boat traffic was now seen as a thing of the past, as the advent of the proposed ‘’Eurostar’’ services through the Chunnel would now cater for this, providing a much faster and efficient service. Some of the freight carried upon the ferries could be transferred for haulage through the Chunnel; certain traffic, however, such as chemicals and inflammables, were not permitted through the tunnel, as they were safety hazards. Handling of these goods would therefore transfer to the Eastern Docks, involving the use of road transport, due to the lack of a rail connection there. During 1992, the headshunt facility at Western Docks station was taken out of use, meaning that locomotive-hauled services had to be shunt released – the latter duty was generally undertaken by a RfD Class 33/2. The fateful day was on Saturday 24th September 1994, when 4 CEP No. 1604 departed with the last advertised public departure to Victoria, scheduled for 21:44. The following day, the closure of the station was marked by the visit of ex-BR Pacific No. 70000 ‘’Britannia’’, with ‘’The Continental Farewell’’ rail tour from London Victoria. This had travelled via Balham, Beckenham Junction, and Tonbridge. The locomotive was masquerading as No. 70014 ‘’Iron Duke’’, which was one of two ‘’Britannias’’ formerly associated with the haulage of the famous ‘’Golden Arrow’’ on the South Eastern Division, between the years of 1952 and 1958 inclusive. At Western Docks, the tour met another ex-Golden Arrow locomotive, but of a more modern era: Type ‘’HA’’ E5000 series No. E5001. This locomotive fronted two tours on the same day, taking the excursion stock from Western Docks to Ashford and back, via Folkestone and Canterbury West.
It was not the total end of Dover Western Docks – yet. Until 19th November 1994, empty stock movements to and from the station continued to be available to passengers, albeit not advertised in the official timetable. Thereafter, the trainshed became a useful facility for stabling electric units for cleaning, until complete closure came with the decommissioning of the SE&CR signal box on 5th July of the following year. The bulldozers finally moved in at the beginning of 1996, but thankfully, since the main building was protected by Listed Status, demolitions only encompassed those additions made in 1959, as part of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme. Naturally, the tightly curving track, with its famous crossovers, was also lifted, and as part of the works to convert the trainshed into a cruise liner terminal, the gap in-between the island platforms was in-filled, to provide a continuous floor at the same level. All red brick offices upon the platforms were retained, as was the elongated footbridge towards the Lord Warden Hotel. Even the substantial SE&CR signal box remained on site as office accommodation, but unlike the main station structure, this was not a Listed building. Tragically, the signal box met its end in 2000. The train ferry dock basin of 1936 was in-filled, and today its site is host to a sand operation.
The British Rail Board’s original report of 1989 outlined the closure of the Folkestone Harbour branch, but in the midst of the redevelopment at the Western Docks, the renowned steeply graded line continued to enjoy services. Unlike at Dover, where the passenger ferries at Eastern Docks were detached from the railway, Sea Cat sailings continued to operate from the railway pier at Folkestone, even after the opening of the Chunnel. These justified the retention of rail services to the Harbour station, which continued until the transference of the Sea Cat to Ramsgate in 2001.
19th May 1984
landward view from 1984 shows the fine trainshed roof framework to good effect.
On the right is the stone-made
war memorial of the SE&CR, which backs onto one of the red-brick platform
offices. The islands were of
concrete construction, and by the time this photograph was taken, the tracks in
the foreground had been truncated
at their seaward ends (nearest the camera). In the background is the lattice
footbridge, in front of the
semi-circular window, whilst outside can just be seen part of the 455-foot-long
footbridge which crosses the tracks
from the Folkestone direction.
19th May 1984
Class 33 No. 33106 was at the terminus on this day, having arrived with the ''Southern Mariner'' rail tour. It paired with 4TC unit No. 421, and had brought the tour in from Portsmouth Harbour. It travelled via termini at Brighton and Eastbourne, then onto Ashford via Hastings and, finally, onto Dover Western Docks via the Folkestone Harbour branch. © Chris
13th April 1985
In its latter years, following removal of the connections to Nos. 1 & 2 Lines, Dover Marine Signal Box sat isolated from the railway it controlled; the vacant land was used to construct a route for lorries to reach the new train ferry berth located towards the seaward end of the Admiralty Pier. The existence of Nos. 1 & 2 lines, which ran along the quayside adjacent to the Marine Station, were the reason for platforms within the station being numbered from 3 to 6, numbers they retained until closure. © David Morgan
8th October 1986
Having reversed in the shunt neck at the seaward end of the station, 47620 “Windsor Castle” accelerates through platform 4 whilst running round the empty stock off an Inter-City service standing in Platform 6. At this time, the foot crossing beyond the platform ends was being used to provide passengers with a level route from Platforms 5 & 6 to reach Passport Control, which was situated beyond the ends of Platforms 3 & 4 (just visible in photo). Previously, passengers had to pass over the bridge seen just beyond the end of the station roof. © David Morgan
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