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Folkestone Harbour Railway Ltd

The Branch Railway

21 June 1836 Parliament passed a Private Act (6 Wm.IV., cap.75) incorporating the South Eastern and Dover Railway, which shortly afterwards changed its name to the South Eastern Railway.


28 June 1843 the South Eastern Railway was finished as far as a temporary station at Folkestone and on the 1st July the company operated a day trip to Boulogne for invited guests.


1st August 1843 the first scheduled rail/sea service started with local transport being offered between station and harbour.


October 1843 William Cubitt produced a report in English and French confirming the route of the Nord Railway from Amiens to Boulogne along the route that was subsequently constructed.


18 December 1843 the branch railway was opened for traffic as far as a coal jetty. It was constructed from the first permanent station to the east of the Foord Viaduct and logically named ‘’Folkstone’’ (without a middle ‘e’ and later Folkestone Junction). A plan of 1843 shows a new railway line with viaduct arches, possibly a swing bridge and also a new hotel.   Harbour House, Packet Office and coal store are shown but there is no indication of a station on this plan.
1 February 1844 Major General Pasley, the Railways Inspector presented his report to the Committee of Privy Council after visiting on 30th and 31st January 1844 for approval of the railway for freight use to the termination point of Cubitt's brick viaduct.   Either side of the viaduct were freight jetties constructed of wooden piers for use by carts and wagons.


1847 the first swing bridge linked the viaduct to the spit of recovered land and the first section of station and large warehouse were finished also foundations of a southeast facing pier were laid. The railway was and is unique in that it has only one station at the bottom of a 1325 yard double-track branch line, laid at a ruling gradient of 1 in 30.   Trains did operate from the platforms at Folkestone Junction to Folkestone Harbour but this depended on them heading straight into the sidings in order to reverse direction before descending the ‘hill’ to the harbour. The harbour jetty was the existing double track viaduct flanked on either side by wooden piers holding a single line.


1 January 1849, following The Nord Railway's completion to Boulogne in 1848 and the Board of Trade passing the Harbour Branch railway for passenger train use, the world’s first international fully integrated rail/sea/rail service commenced between London and Paris.


15 May 1855 the Great Gold Robbery took place on the London - Folkestone boat train and was only discovered when weighed in Paris. Various staff at Folkestone Harbour were implicated. One box and its lead weight contents still exist at the National Railway Museum.


1856 the Railway station and refreshment rooms were re-constructed and are shown on a plan of that year.


1893 the original swing bridge was replaced by a second structure which served for 37 years until international traffic had increased to a point when the harbour station had to be extended.   Rebuilding of the station commenced with the two platforms rebuilt around a tight curve to give access to a then timber pier. The first four sections of canopies were installed, an enclosed lattice footbridge joined the platforms and a second was constructed adjacent to the level crossing. The goods yard was expanded to a complete maze of tracks mirroring the station platforms with their tightly curved sidings.   Two signal boxes were built, one at each end of the station.


12 July 1904 The French Ambassador opened an extended station complex that included a Customs Hall, Refreshment Room, Cloakrooms, Lavatories and Ticket Office.


1905 a single wooden platform with flat canopy was erected alongside the ‘Up’ line, south of the existing station and physically separated from it by sidings emerging from the west. Later this became the north end of the first of three sections of Pier Platform that were completed on the Outer Pier and covered by a unique metal canopy constructed to protect the platforms and stabled trains from shingle washed over the harbour wall during high seas.
914 - 1918 were war years and these are described in "The Military" page. Operationally 1915 saw the ‘Down’ track wagon turntable removed. The present signal box came into use upon the northern end of the ‘Up’ platform, built by the now South Eastern & Chatham Railway to a Saxby & Farmer design.
0 May 1930 the Southern Railway removed the original swing bridge; replacing it over a single weekend with the present one, a now unique metal Southern Railway replacement was rolled into place in order to allow heavier rolling stock to use the station. This story is graphically told in "The Swingbridge" page.

 

1938 saw the ‘Down’ platform extended by 215 yards to and new canopies installed, virtually doubling its length. The ‘Up’ platform could not be lengthened because of the single track trailing connection with the carriage berthing sidings. This meant that the ‘Down’ platform could hold a full length train whereas the ‘Up’ platform was split and could only hold reduced length ones. At the southern extremities of both the ‘Down’ and Pier platforms an Exmouth Junction constructed enclosed concrete footbridge was installed.


18 February 1960 new colour light signalling was introduced as part of the Kent Coast Electrification scheme. This was controlled by a then new power box installed at Folkestone Junction with the SE&CR cabin remaining in use to operate the level crossing and the points of the platform lines.


18 August 1968 was the day that freight facilities were withdrawn resulting in the lifting of all sidings to the east of the station and use of the land for car ferry purposes. The carriage berthing sidings to the west of the platforms were also removed and the ‘Up’ platform extended to join with the pier platform.
980 had a enclosed transparent footbridge erected over the top of the original station platforms, replacing the earlier open one. This provided the ‘Up’ platform with a direct link to the passenger ferry terminal situated immediately adjacent the ‘’down’’ side of the station.


1980 had a enclosed transparent footbridge erected over the top of the original station platforms, replacing the earlier open one. This provided the ‘Up’ platform with a direct link to the passenger ferry terminal situated immediately adjacent the ‘’down’’ side of the station.


2001 saw the third rail de-energised and the ''Up Line'' taken out of use.


May 2002 somewhat reversed the run-down when the TPWS safety system was installed along the remaining line.


April 2006, new plans were published showing a total redevelopment of Folkestone Harbour. This included the conversion of the whole harbour site into a marina with permanent closure and demolition of the railway to make way for a dual carriageway road on the basis that the railway split Folkestone in two whereas the road would not.


12 April 2008, a closure ceremony, together with an official last train took place but objections by EWS, the Department for Transport and Southeastern meant that this was put off.


20 March 2009 Network Rail announced that they had begun the formal process to close the line and this threat still exists.


30 January 2011 The Remembrance Line submitted its business plan to turn back the clock and re-start boat train operation in connection with fast ferries to Boulogne.


28 December 2012 The Remembrance Line's operating business submitted a revised business plan to use the branch for a tram-train scheme to concentrate "long stay" car parking at a Park and Ride with frequent services to the harbour and Leas Water Lifts (for Town Centre and Coastal Park).   Changes in rail regulation now allow such services to share main lines and this proposal would also link the proposed Seafront Development to Central London and potentially improve journey times from France to London by about 30 minutes over the original submission.