In addition to the aforementioned electrification, the 1960s continued to be an
eventful decade for the station. General goods traffic ceased on 13th September
1965 – as already mentioned, the LMS had relinquished its freight-handling
duties at the station back in 1934. The goods yard site subsequently became host
to a pair of berthing sidings, although the majority of the area was later used
as a car park. Then, in July 1967, a train collision was witnessed at the
station. At 15:53 on the 17th of that month, the 15:28 Ashford to Willesden
ferry van goods train, hauled by electric locomotive E5010 (latterly Class 71
No. 71010 under TOPS), ran into the rear of a four-vehicle passenger train
comprising a pair of 2-HAP units. The latter were forming the 15:54 service to
London Victoria and were sitting on the ‘’up’’ running line, beside the
platform. The goods train had passed the Maidstone East ‘’Up’’ Main Outer Home
Signal when it was set at ‘’Danger’’, and on emergence from Week Street Tunnel,
collided with the rear of the 2-HAP formation at 15 MPH. The goods train
consisted of twenty-seven vehicles, twenty-six of which were air-braked
continental ferry vans, and one of which was a brake van. The rear driving
vehicle of the 2-HAP formation suffered a crumpled front portion, and the E5000
series electric locomotive received damaged electric jumper fittings, broken
buffers, and a disfigured leading-end cab. The locomotive was subsequently
repaired, and survived on British Rail’s books until November 1977 – in August
1979, No. 71010 was scrapped at Doncaster Works. After the incident, the Chart
Leacon breakdown crane was summoned, and the line was cleared for normal working
to resume at 01:21 the following morning. As a result of the line between
Maidstone East and Bearsted being closed because of the incident, a shuttle bus
service was run between the two stations.
By 1980, this was a filthy station: the high-level building straddling the tracks had been blackened by years of fumes. During 1984, the buildings here were subject to a cleaning exercise, which resulted in spruce crème brickwork and restored platform canopies. The lampposts were also painted in red to conform to the 1982-formed ‘’London & SouthEast’’ Business Sector’s new colour scheme. 1984 was also a significant year in terms of signalling: the scope of the Maidstone East panel was extended on 28th May to reach the Victoria Panel boundary at Kemsing in the west, and the Ashford Panel boundary at Hothfield in the east. This brought to an end Absolute Block System working on the line which, up to this time, had used Sykes Lock and Block instruments. Semaphore signals were replaced with three-aspect colour lights, and the surviving Saxby & Farmer signal boxes were closed – that at Hothfield remained open a little longer to control a still extant siding, the cabin not going out of use until 16th February 1985.
By 1993, the Swanley to Ashford via Maidstone line had been identified as the secondary route for Eurostar Chunnel services – the ex-SER trunk line via Sevenoaks and Tonbridge took priority. At Maidstone East, the centre track would once again prove useful. By the provision of a pair of facing crossovers, one at each end of the station layout, a twenty-vehicle Trans Manche Super Train would be able to overtake twelve-vehicle Kent Coast services stabled in either platform. Coinciding with these works was the rebuilding of the westward-facing bay behind the ‘’down’’ platform. Realignment of the track allowed the bay to be extended behind the ‘’down’’ station building, lengthening the platform surface from approximately 440 feet to 730 feet. By the summer of 1993, these track modifications had been carried out, but significant damage to the permanent way was just around the corner. Already mentioned so far has been the train collision which occurred at the station in July 1967. Of greater consequence was a second incident which took place during the early hours of a September day in 1993. At 02:12 on the 6th of that month, Class 47 No. 47288, hauling a rake of fifteen air-braked ferry wagons on the 6M57 Dover to Willesden Railfreight Distribution freight, came to grief. The formation embarked on the ‘’up’’ platform line, which was limited to a 25 MPH maximum speed, at approximately 60 MPH. This caused the locomotive and a number of wagons to derail and fall onto their sides, in addition to spilling some of the load. The wagon immediately behind the locomotive was carrying chipboard, and the following six vehicles contained steel coils; the wagons thereafter were empty. The derailing wagons demolished the signal gantry at the end of the ‘’down’’ platform, and both canopy and covered walkway were also damaged on that side. A breakdown crane was stabled in the bay line to re-rail the stricken vehicles. No. 47288 did not run under its own power again after the incident, and after a period of being in store at Tinsley, the locomotive was subsequently scrapped at C.F. Booth’s Rotherham yard in May 1996. It was soon discovered that the accident had been caused by the driver of the freight being drunk.
Today, this remains an attractive station, retaining those buildings which came into use with the 1884 Ashford extension, in addition to the ‘’up’’ side structure of earlier origin. Recently, plans came to light outlining the construction of an ASDA supermarket complex upon the car park (former goods yard area). The supermarket structure was to be suspended above the ground to permit parking underneath. Thankfully, in August 2007, it became clear that these proposals were not going to be implemented.
10th June 2008
The Maidstone East ''power box'' came into use on 8th April 1962, controlling three-aspect colour lights at the
station. The cabin's scope was extended considerably in 1984, allowing it to control the route between Kemsing
and Hothfield inclusive. © David Glasspool
11th June 2008
Both the ''high-level'' building in the background, straddling the tracks, and the crème brick structure on the
left, date from the opening of the Ashford extension in 1884. The platform canopy of the latter was installed
after flying wagons demolished its predecessor in the 1993 crash. The centre track is signalled for reversible
running. © David Glasspool
11th June 2008
The wide platform surface next to the London-facing bay line dates from 1993. The original bay (platform 3)
was shifted northwards, providing a spacious platform area and a longer line. Refurbished Class 465 No.
465913 had just arrived from London Victoria. © David Glasspool
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