Kent Downs Line Station History
The Kent Downs Line was named in July 2020 by the Kent Community Rail Partnership, to represent the stations that run between Ashford and Otford. Here is a collection of images from the past and information about these stations.
Ashford Station as we know it today opened on 1st December 1842. A second station Ashford West opened in 1884 to run passenger services to London Via Maidstone. However, this closed in 1899 and Ashford Station was used instead to continue running this service. In 1996 it was renamed Ashford International Station and runs services along the High Speed 1 line to St.Pancras.
In June 1874 the station opened and was known as Wrotham Station, and later became known as Wrotham and Borough Green. The line ran from Swanley to Maidstone. It wasn’t until 1962 that it changed it’s name to Borough Green and Wrotham. The signal box finally closed on 9th December 1983. The 1939 footbridge was eventually replaced in 2008.
Harrietsham Station opened on 1st July 1884. The goods yard closed in May 1961 a few months before the line was electrified. A concrete footbridge was also erected at the same time. This also meant the end of the gas lamps that adorned the station platform. The signal box closed in November 1972.
Lenham Station opened on 1st July 1884 as part of the London to Dover Railway and extension from Maidstone to Ashford West. The signal box was closed in May 1984 and later demolished to enable the extension of the platform. In 2010 a new footbridge was erected.
Barming Station opened on 1st June 1874. In 1982 the signal box was demolished. The concrete footbridge built in 1939, when the line was electrofied, was removed in 2013 from the western end and replaced with a new bridge at the eastern end.
Charing Station officially opened on 1st July 1884. During the Second World War, the goods shed was used by the military. It wasn’t until the 1960’s that Charing had a footbridge built, around the time the line was electrified. Prior to this the station relied on the track foot crossings for passengers to use. The signal box remained in operation until April 1984.
Hollingbourne Station opened on 1st July 1884. Freight facilities stopped running on 15th May 1961. A footbridge was also installed at the station and the line electrified a few months later. The signal box closed in April 1984. Around 2003 both platforms were extended to cater for longer trains.
Maidstone East Station was opened on 1st June 1874 to run between Maidstone and Otford. It was known as Maidstone Station. In 1899 it was renamed Maidstone East. The line was electrified in 1939. Freight services ceased in September 1965. On July 17th 1967, a goods train hit the back of a passenger train. In 2020, the front of Maidstone East Station has been modernised.
Bearsted Station opened on 1st July 1884, to form part of the extension from Maidstone to Ashford. In July 1907, it became known as Bearsted and Thurnham. In 1968 the goods yard closed but still stands today. In April 1984 the signal box closed.
East Malling Halt opened in 1913. It was originally built out of sleepers before being rebuilt with concrete in the late 1950’s. In 1988 the ticket office closed. Around this time, the platforms were also extended so they could take 8-car trains. In 1993 the original 1913 shelter was replaced by the more common ‘bus shelters’.
Kemsing Station opened on 1st June 1874. freight services were withdrawn on 31st October 1960 and the line was electrified in June 1962. The signal boxed closed as early as 30th September 1964. In 1985, the station was no longer staffed and all the station buildings were subsequently demolished.
West Malling Station was opened on 1st June 1874 as part of the Maidstone Line from Swanley to Maidstone. Freight services were withdrawn during May 1964. In April 1999, for Kings Hill was added to the station boards as the old West Malling Airfield become a huge housing and industrial development.
Kent CRP would like to thank Ray Moore and the Kent Photo Archive, David Glasspool from Kentrail, Peter Sedge, Ashford Borough Council Museum and Snodland Museum for their permission to use copies of their photos.
If you have any old historical photos or additional information, please do get in touch and we will be delighted to add them to the site.