This station remains a quite spectacular example of SER architecture, particularly in light of the fact that it is merely a two platform intermediate affair. In 1855, the ‘’Mid Kent & North Kent Junction Railway’’ was formed by an Act of Parliament to construct a connecting line between the SER’s North Kent Line at Lewisham, and the metals of the ‘’West End of London & Crystal Palace Railway’’ at Beckenham. The line came into use on 1st January 1857, the SER leasing it from the Mid Kent Company from the outset. Catford Bridge opened on the same date, and although the buildings here were impressive, the architecture was familiar. The ‘’down’’ platform demonstrated a yellow-brick single-storey pitched roof building, approximately 45 feet in length. This incorporated square stone window frames, and was evidently a standardised design; similar, elongated examples appeared on the ‘’up’’ platforms at both Ladywell and Beckenham Junction. The ‘’up’’ side building at Catford Bridge was a little more special: this was a large two-storey affair, completed in yellow brick and featuring a trio of substantial chimney stacks. Its pitched roof sported an ornate overhang supported by triangular struts. This design was by no means alien to the SER network, and similar features could also be viewed on the equally imposing station building which was erected at Westenhanger. The 70-foot long building boasted an intricate canopy of equal length, the valance pattern also being of a standardised design (which, incidentally, is still in evidence today at Ladywell). Passengers traversed between platforms by means of the station’s namesake – Catford Bridge – which resided at the southern ends of the platforms. This was connected to the station by a pair of covered staircases, which led directly to the platform surfaces.
The LC&DR arrived in the locality by means of the ‘’Catford Loop’’ in 1892, its own station, a mere 250 feet west of the SER’s, opening on 1st July of that year. Compared with its older counterpart, the LC&DR’s ‘’Catford’’ station was undoubtedly a modest affair, the site’s setting around an embankment naturally limiting the extent to which buildings could be erected here. From 1899 onwards, both stations were under ‘’SE&CR’’ auspices, and during its first decade of existence, this company made some substantial modifications to the ex-SER site. The ‘’down’’ side building was extended at its southern end by just over 40 foot, and the ‘’up’’ side structure received a 25 foot single-storey extension at its ‘’country’’ end. In addition to these modifications, high-sided yellow brick walls were erected at the rear edge of both platforms, sandwiched in-between the station buildings and road bridge. These walls allowed the southward extension of the ‘’up’’ platform canopy to a length of 205 feet, whilst the ‘’down’’ side acquired its first canopy just under 160 foot long. These undertakings formed part of the SE&CR’s general programme of improving its London suburban network; more substantial works within this scheme included the St Johns to Orpington quadrupling.
Improvements at Catford Bridge during the SE&CR’s modernisation programme also included the laying of goods sidings beyond the London end of the platforms. A trio of northward-facing sidings, the longest measuring 260 yards, appeared beside the ‘’up’’ line. In addition to this, a lengthy rolling stock siding, some 320 yards long, was laid beside the ‘’down’’ line. It is worth mentioning that the latterly-conceived goods yard was not equipped with a goods shed. The layout was controlled by an all-timber SER-designed signal cabin, which was positioned at the northern extremity of the ‘’up’’ platform and dated from circa 1890.
The Hayes, Addiscombe, and Bromley North branches were early recipients of third rail. When the Southern Railway assumed operation of ex-SE&CR lines, the company swiftly implemented a programme of electrification of the suburban routes. Full scheduled electric operation along the aforementioned branch lines commenced on 28th February 1926, from the ex-SER London termini. Circa 1930, the ornate canopy valances at Catford Bridge were replaced with plain vertical-timber types, but thereafter, little else changed at the site during this company’s tenure. British Railways implemented its own improvement of South Eastern Division suburban services during the mid-1950s, by initiating a train lengthening programme, which would see peak-time commuter services strengthened from eight to ten carriages. As part of this scheme, Catford Bridge witnessed its platforms extended at their northern ends during 1954 with Exmouth Junction-manufactured prefabricated concrete cast components. These extensions came complete with the Southern Region’s trademark concrete bracket lampposts.
Naturally, for most stations, the BR era marked a period of rationalisation, and Catford Bridge was no exception. The ‘’up’’ goods sidings were decommissioned during 1968, most freight having ceased to use the yard in that March, and in the following year, these tracks were lifted. The quaint SER-designed timber signal box became a casualty soon afterwards: from 4th April 1971 onwards, the Southern Railway-opened signal box at Parks Bridge Junction assumed its functions. Further station alteration was to occur after the 1986-emergence of Network SouthEast. During the tenure of this BR Business Sector, the platforms received their first independent metal-fabricated footbridge, placed to the immediate north of the station buildings. To accommodate the western end of the footbridge, the main ‘’up’’ side station building saw its original 70-foot long section of canopy removed; the 135-foot length installed by the SE&CR remained in situ, albeit with the Southern Railway-designed valance. Finally, in 1992, the platforms received further extension to accommodate twelve vehicle ‘’Networker’’ formations; all stations on the line to Hayes received such modifications.
18th June 2007
A southward view reveals the comparatively recent footbridge and, behind this, the impressive SER station building. The latter - two storeys high and of yellow brick construction, - is now completely devoid of canopy, but protection from the elements is still evident on the SE&CR-built extension beyond this. In the background can also just be seen one of the covered staircases connecting the "up" platform with the road bridge.
© David Glasspool
18th June 2007
The substantial "up" side building is in view; a number of windows have been bricked and boarded up, but the station still retains all three original chimney stacks. On the far right can be seen the enormous wall erected by the SE&CR, which now supports the "up" side's only remaining section of platform canopy.
© David Glasspool