Folkestone Junction

Folkestone East

Folkestone Junction briefly returned to terminus status in 1877 when, in February of that year, a series of landslips in Folkestone Warren blocked the line to Dover. These had been caused by heavy rainfall in the previous month and resulted in a partial collapse of Martello Tunnel and a three-month closure of the line. History repeated itself on the night of 19th December 1915, when a severe landslide impacted the line between Martello and Abbotscliffe Tunnels. The line remained closed until August 1919, Dover traffic using the "Chatham" route via Faversham.

Circa 1885, the station received its first “proper” signal box. This was situated at the Dover end of the “down” platform; it was of timber construction, built to the SER’s in-house design with sash-style windows and hipped slated roof, on a par with those structures still in existence today on the Medway Valley Line at Cuxton and Snodland. The signal box was known as “Folkestone Junction A”; a second cabin, by the name of “Folkestone Junction B”, was situated beyond Martello Tunnel, about 230-yards from the latter’s eastern portal, on the “up” side of the line.

At the turn of the century, several changes were made at Folkestone Junction. The coal depot was transformed into a huge goods yard, with a shed building more than double the length of the original structure from 1843; the engine shed of the same vintage was abolished and replaced by a larger, three-road depot north of the running lines; the canning factory had become a refuse depot and beside it had been laid an additional four sidings; and finally, the signal box at the Dover end of the “down” platform was replaced by a huge cabin, about two-and-a-half times the size, situated on the same site. The replacement cabin, which became “Folkestone Junction A”, was situated upon a substantial brick base, but was still built to the SER’s trademark design of the previous century, with clapboard timber, sash-style windows, and a hipped slated roof. The small rollingstock turntables remained in existence, but the track linking them was removed, and passengers still relied on a track foot crossing over the running lines.

A roofed lattice footbridge, passing over the rails at the same point as the original track foot crossing, had appeared by early 1927. It is likely the structure had been erected by the SE&CR some years before this, possibly around the Great War period. "Folkestone Junction B" signal box, east of Martello Tunnel, was taken out of use in 1930, by which time the earlier-mentioned canning factory had become a refuse incinerator run by the local council.

Folkestone Junction once again served as the eastern terminus of the line, if only briefly: on 28th November 1939, the railway was blocked by a 25,000 cubic yard chalk fall in Folkestone Warren, the route to Dover being closed until the following January. The cause had, similar to earlier falls, been the result of heavy rainfall. Earlier in the year, on 3rd September, the site had also seen the cessation of the famous “Golden Arrow”, which had until this time arrived from Victoria and reversed into the exchange sidings by Martello Tunnel, for onward travel to Folkestone Harbour. The luxury service resumed on 15th April 1946.

By 1940, the original goods shed of 1843, situated on the “down” side of the running lines, had lost its rail connection. This detail aside, and save for the lattice footbridge and some cosmetic alterations, the station structures remained largely as they were built by the SER; even the non-standard canopies had escaped treatment.

In February 1956, the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme was approved by the British Transport Commission and, as part of this, extensive alterations were made at Folkestone Junction. In 1959, “up” and “down” platforms were extended at their Dover and London ends respectively, using prefabricated concrete manufactured at Exmouth Junction. As a result, the staggered platform effect was lost, and the original “down” side goods yard was disconnected from the main line and the sidings lifted. Additionally, the extension of the “up” platform towards Dover required the removal of a siding. A luggage footbridge, equipped with lifts, was built to link both platforms. This was not a structure of beauty - the towers being similar in appearance to those which exist today at Dartford - and it was situated immediately northeast of the “down” side station building. As will soon become apparent, this must have been one of the most short-lived lift-equipped footbridges of any railway station nationally. The existing lattice footbridge was retained, but the roof taken down. A replacement signal box, to control the colour light signals being introduced, was erected behind the “down” platform, midway between the station building and ex-SER cabin.

Track alterations included laying three electrified sidings parallel to, and immediately south of, those used by Harbour branch traffic, which required extensive earthworks to widen the track bed. The single-track to the refuse depot was retained, but this now connected to one of the then newly-laid berthing sidings. Of the four sidings which were situated in-between the refuse depot and Harbour line, three of these were lifted completely, whilst the fourth severely cutback, to vacate the land for an electricity substation.

From 12th June 1961, electric passenger services were introduced between Charing Cross, Cannon Street, and the Kent Coast via Ashford, running to existing steam timings. On 18th February of the following year, colour light signals came into use from Westenhanger through to Archcliffe Junction (Dover), and along the Folkestone Harbour branch. The ex-SER cabin at Folkestone Junction was taken out of use and replaced by the then new signal box behind the “down” platform:

Folkestone Junction Signalbox, the first in the Southern Region of British Railways to be equipped with a domino-type control panel, was switched in on February 18. [The Railway Gazette, 23rd February 1962]

From 10th September 1962, Folkestone Junction was named “Folkestone East”; on the same day Shorncliffe station, located 1½-miles in the London direction, was renamed “Folkestone West”. In spite of the name change, in addition to the investment in a new luggage bridge and platform extensions, it was announced in 1964 that permanent closure of the station was proposed for October of that year:

Subject to the lodging of objections, Folkestone East station is to close from October 5. It is Folkestone’s first station, having been opened in 1843. For many years it bore the name Folkestone Junction, and was renamed Folkestone East after electrification of the London-Dover via Ashford main line in 1961. [Modern Transport Journal, September 1964]

The station remained in use until September 1965, closing to traffic from 6th of that month. The town was left with three stations thereafter, that of Folkestone Central being under a mile west of the closed site. The “down” side station building, both footbridges, and canopies, were taken down very soon after closure. The “up” side main building and the “down” side goods shed, both of 1843 vintage, remained standing, the former finally being demolished in spring 1978. The former “down” side goods yard site and station forecourt were redeveloped into residential flats in the 1980s. The goods shed of around 1900 origin was finally demolished in the late 1990s to make way for a new public road, this of which was built in conjunction with a depot for the water board.

1st May 1976

A Dover-bound view shows that the "down" platform had decayed into a weed-covered mound, beyond which was the 1962-commissioned "power box". On the left is the sturdy red brick wall of the 1843 goods shed, and in the background can be seen a 4-CEP emerging from Martello Tunnel. The facing crossover in the foreground allowed trains on the "down" line to access the rolling stock sidings on the "up" side of the rails. © David Glasspool Collection

7th May 1977

This photograph was taken from the "down" side of the line and shows that the "up" side building remained largely complete at that time, albeit shorn of canopy and timber appendices. The building was demolished the following year. On the right can be seen the end of the original goods shed of 1843. © David Glasspool Collection

13th April 1984

Electro-Diesel No. 73121 is seen in the Folkestone Harbour branch exchange sidings with the VSOE "British Pullman". The headcode is that of Folkestone Harbour to Victoria via Oprington and Herne Hill. The gantries on the right stand over the rolling stock sidings which were laid in 1960 as part of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme. © David Glasspool Collection

27th March 2017

Class 375 No. 375915 is seen stopped alongside the remains of the former "up" platform, shortly before departing for the sidings beside the portal of Martello Tunnel. On the right can just be seen part of the residential development which now occupies the former site of the original goods yard of 1843. © Maidstone Man