Kent Rail

Southfleet Junction

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The first line to pass through the area was that of the LC&DR’s, from Fawkham Junction on the ‘’Chatham’’ main line to Gravesend West. This opened to passenger traffic on 10th May 1886, with Southfleet being provided with a single island platform arrangement from the outset. Located down in a cutting, the island was accessed via a flight of stairs from the adjacent road bridge. The branch to the West station was always the poorer relation of the SER’s earlier North Kent Line through Gravesend Central, so much that it closed to passengers on 3rd August 1953. Freight lasted on the line considerably longer, however, this not ceasing to the terminus until 24th March 1968. Whilst a short section of the line from Fawkham Junction remained in use until 1976, serving a coal bunker at Southfleet, the rest of the route was returned to nature. Demolition of the terminus at Gravesend West began in 1987, but the rest of the track bed remained largely intact, of course overgrown. The short stretch from Fawkham Junction, which had lasted until 1976, still had the track in situ.

 

From 5th October 1998, it was all change for this abandoned line, when the task began to, once again, prepare it for railway use. The second time round, however, Gravesend was not about to see its terminus station re-opened! Whilst the pier and the elevated brick track bed remained, the actual buildings - of historical interest - had been demolished a decade previously and the site had disappeared underneath a DIY superstore and its associated car park. The station approaches had also become part of a retail park and the tunnel through the chalk cliff had been reused by a road. Southfleet at the time was completely overgrown, its buildings too demolished, but the road bridge was still there, as was the Station Master’s house (at road level) and the railway cutting. Part of the track bed was to be reused for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, which aimed to provide a dedicated high-speed international passenger line through Kent. It was to join the ‘’Chatham’’ main line at Fawkham Junction and follow the course of the original track bed to as far as Southfleet. Immediately before the former site of Southfleet station, it was planned for the line to take a sharp right turn to assume a south easterly heading, shortly before the line from Ebbsfleet joined, thereafter continuing onto Ashford. This required significant earthworks at Southfleet, a new cutting having to be excavated for the new course of the route. The problem of what to do with the excavated soil was solved by using it to infill the section of cutting from the former Southfleet station site, to just beyond the Station Master’s house. The road bridge remained, but its underneath was packed with earth and today, there is no trace of the former Gravesend West branch at this point. With this small section of cutting eliminated, the opportunity was taken to build a couple of residences upon it, immediately north of the Station Master’s house. The ‘’new’’ Fawkham Junction came into use on 28th September 2003, but with the commissioning of the route from St Pancras to Southfleet Junction via Ebbslfeet in November 2007, this short spur faces an uncertain future.

 


 

Drawn by David Glasspool

 


 

This view on 14th May 2006 is looking back towards Fawkham Junction and is from the footbridge

indicated on the above map, below the words ''station site''. Note that the track begins to deviate

here from the original course of the Gravesend West branch. David Glasspool

 


 

Another view from the same over bridge on 14th May 2006, this time looking in the Gravesend

direction. The line now takes a sharp turn eastwards to join with the line from Ebbsfleet at what

is now known as ''Southfleet Junction''. The earthworks here are new and the only clue to the

original course of the Gravesend West branch is the top of the road bridge - its underside has

now been in-filled. In this view, this is positioned between the end of the left-hand side fencing

and the catenary posts. David Glasspool

 


 

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