Kent Rail

Seaton Junction

 

The SR formally came into existence in 1923 and four years later, major upheaval began at Seaton Junction. This aimed to provide a much more convenient interchange between the branch and main line and, as per the LSWR works at Yeovil Junction, create an additional passing place for expresses over stopping trains. For this scheme, Exmouth Junction concrete works was in its element, for it supplied the majority of pre-cast material for the station rebuilding. Works commenced in 1927 and involved wholly abolishing the ‘’down’’ platform and associated waiting shelters to widen the track bed, permitting the laying of two more lines. The ‘’up’’ platform was completely rebuilt in prefabricated concrete and substantially lengthened, it now stretching for 670-feet, but the original LSWR main building was retained. The latter received a new flat-roofed platform canopy of riveted steel construction, which stretched for 120-feet and was supported upon seven struts. The main line platforms were now separated by four tracks: two through lines were provided for non-stop services, and the platforms were served by loops. The completely new ‘’down’’ platform was positioned in the fork of the diverging branch line and ‘’down’’ loop and, like the ‘’up’’ surface, measured 670-feet on its northern face. The platform assumed a triangular shape and hosted a second face on its southern side, which followed the curvature of the branch line. The ''down'' surface became host to neat single-storey waiting accommodation of red brick construction, which in turn was protected by a copious canopy. The design of the latter was evidently standardised, for the SR erected identical canopies at its new-build Ramsgate station, on the Eastern Section, in 1926. ‘’Up’’ and ‘’down’’ main line platforms were linked by a 95-foot-long prefabricated concrete footbridge, the components of which had been delivered by rail from Exmouth Junction, some 22-miles to the west. 130-feet to the west of this was yet another prefabricated concrete footbridge, which crossed every track (including that of the branch line) and measured an impressive 280-feet in length. The latter was not used by passengers, but rather carried a public footpath over the station site. In spite of the footbridges, a barrow crossing was in existence at the western ends of the platforms.

Total transformation of the track layout saw that Seaton trains no longer had to endure a headshunt manoeuvre between platform and branch. The branch platform formally came into use on 13th February 1927 and the line was worked in a push-pull fashion, which avoided the need for a locomotive run-a-round. On the ‘’up’’ side, the original goods shed was retained, albeit lacking its canopy, but westward lengthening of the platform required track alterations in the yard. The latter produced a trio of sidings, of similar length to those in place before the rebuilding, running parallel with the ‘’up’’ platform loop. Upon the ‘’up’’ platform emerged the buildings of ‘’Express Dairies’’, which opened a milk processing plant beside the station. The company’s premises encroached onto the platform, sandwiched in-between the goods shed and the eastern footbridge, and presented a 70-foot-long single-storey façade, complete with canopy. This was at a time when the capital began consuming increasing volumes of milk from west country farmers, and advancements in food preservation meant that consumables could now be delivered long distances before spoiling. From 3rd April 1928, the revised Seaton Junction layout was controlled from a new signal box positioned at the western end of the ‘’down’’ platform. This was built to a standard SR design, comprising red brick construction, a hipped slated roof, and horizontally-sliding windows.

Seaton Junction was a large and busy layout for such a rural location, particularly since for passengers, it merely existed as an interchange point between the main line and a 4¼-mile-long single-track branch. Goods traffic had, however, been plentiful since the arrival of ‘’Express Dairies’’, and sidings on both ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ sides of the layout could be found full with milk tankers. The ownership split of the wagons was interesting: the cylindrical tank was the responsibility of the dairy company, whilst the underframe and wheels were assets of the SR. Rail-borne milk traffic remained a profitable venture well into the British Railways era, and the Seaton branch also continued to carry a sizeable seasonal traffic, so the demise of the Junction station is a particularly sad affair. The first wave of changes came under Southern Region control in about 1955, when stations west of Yeovil Junction started to receive cosmetic attention. In common with Sir William Tite’s other structures on the route, Seaton Junction’s main building was subjected to an all-over crème paint scheme, hiding the red brick and attractive stonework. The protruding stone edging of the southern façade’s pitched roof was truncated, so now the slate tiles overhung the wall – peculiarly, the northern façade was left in original condition. At the same time, electric lighting supported upon concrete bracket lampposts was installed on all platform surfaces. Interestingly, these replaced diamond-shaped gas lamps which dated from the SR’s rebuilding of the site between 1927 and 1928 – other stations along the route had received the more modern Swan Neck variant at that time.

Cosmetic alterations were the least of the station’s worries, and the 1960s was to bring a wave of severe degrading and destruction. In September 1962, the lines west of Salisbury passed to the control of the Western Region, which very soon began implementing draconian cutbacks in favour of its own route via Castle Cary. On 3rd February 1964, general goods traffic ceased to be carried along the Seaton branch. The line to the coast was then totally closed to traffic on 7th March 1966, Seaton Junction station also ceasing to be part of the passenger timetable on the same date. The goods yard remained open at the Junction station to general traffic until 18th April of the same year, but thereafter facilities were still maintained for ‘’Express Dairies’’. In the following year, singling of the line west of Salisbury began in earnest, the work being split into three stages:

Stage 1: Wilton to Templecombe
Stage 2: Templecombe to Chard Junction
Stage 3: Chard Junction to Pinhoe

Stages 1 and 2 began in April and May 1967 respectively, with Stage 3 following in the June; single-track working through Seaton Junction commenced on 11th of that month. All structures upon the ‘’down’’ platform were obliterated, but the platform left in situ, and the ‘’down’’ loop was lifted. Three tracks remained between the platforms (which continued to be straddled by the concrete footbridges): the ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ through lines and the ‘’up’’ loop. The former ‘’down’’ through became the sole running line, whilst the remaining two tracks were relegated to sidings, controlled from a ground frame. Complete layout rationalisation finally caught up with the station in March 1987: the sidings were lifted and the sole running line was re-aligned onto the course of the former ‘’up’’ through.

 


April 1989

 

A Class 50 is seen roaring through with a morning Waterloo to Exeter express: next stop Honiton. Mike Glasspool

 


April 1989

 

As the formation heads off west, it becomes clear that a peculiar wire fence had appeared between the struts

of the roofless platform canopy. The turquoise paint scheme of the canopy frame had been applied some time

after closure. Mike Glasspool

 


August 1990

 

A splendid eastward view from the public footbridge better shows both milk depot and the main building. As

mentioned in the main text, note that the latter has roof overhang on this side, compared to the northern

façade, which is a result of modifications undertaken during the 1950s. A concrete bracket lamppost can

also just be seen emerging at the top of the flight of stairs, on the left. Mike Glasspool

 


 

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