Railways in Beckenham.
Within the former Borough of Beckenham there were twelve railway stations. On the main line from Victoria there are Penge East, Kent House, Beckenham Junction and Shortlands; on the Catford Loop line Ravensbourne; on the Mid-Kent line Lower Sydenham, New Beckenham, Clock House, EImers End, Eden Park and West Wickham; and on the Crystal Palace line Birkbeck. Ironically 'Beckenham Hill', near Southend, is not within the Borough area.
The development of local railways is most interesting, and friction and competition between rival companies was acute.
The first railway was the Mid-Kent line opened on 1st January 1857, a junction being made with the North Kent line at Lewisham. Beckenham was a terminus, the turntable being near where the bridge is now; the roof over the line was painted red, white and blue. Soon after this line was opened a coach! ran from, and returned to, Sevenoaks; also Sir John Lubbock and his sons used Beckenham Station morning and evening, coming from 'High Elms' in his carriage with a postillion, en route for the City.
About a year later a railway company called the West London and Crystal Palace Company made the line on to Shortlands, at first named 'Bromley', which was opened in 1858 by a service from there to the Crystal Palace calling at Beckenham; the first train was greeted by a peal of cannon from Martin's Hill, Bromley.
Where the Birkbeck line crosses Beckenham Road, between Blandford and Mackenzie Roads, there was a small station known as 'Beckenham Road, (now Beckenham Rd tram stop) or Birkbeck Halt', built in 1858. The first, and I might say only passenger to use this station; he was not an Englishman, but in those far off days a German, Julius Kressmann (who lived in the High Street): he afterwards became Chairman of the first Beckenham School Board reason of his knowledge of 'Kultur', I suppose! Now to return to the Railways"
The South Eastern Railway Company extended the line from Shortlands to Southborough Road (now known as Bickley). Between Beckenharn and Shortlands it was only a single line.bout this time the Volunteer Movement was making headway, and the first Volunteer review was held at Bickley Park. This taxed the resources of the railways.
George Hannan, afterwards Station Master at New Beckenham, was appointed Pilotman for the single line. He wore a red coat and no train was allowed to go without him personally giving permission to the driver.
Many trains were worked by the Great Western Railway Company from Kensington etc. and the Brighton Company from Pimlico, and was successfully carried out. While the foregoing was taking place another company, then known as the East Kent Company, had made a line from Strood South Eastern Railway to Faversham; this was extended both ways, down to Dover and up to Bickley, and by using the West London and Crystal Palace Railway, got access to the Brighton Company's line to Pimlico and became the London Chatham and Dover Railway. Later on they made the line through Penge Tunnel (1863) from Beckenham to Herne Hill, the bricks for which were made from the clay got out, on the ground now known as Crampton Road, a Mr. Crampton was one of the Directors, thus the name. The tunnel is 2,200 yards long.
Like all the early railways they had their ups and downs, and in the early part of January 1866 there was a very heavy fall of snow which broke down all the telegraph wires, so the only knowledge beyond the clock, when a train was coming, was by seeing it! A thaw followed and on Sunday morning 10th January 1866 at 2.10 a.m. Mr. W. Baxter, signalman at the Beckenham Junction box, saw the head light of the down goods train for Ramsgate pass Penge junction, and he lowered the signal. Then when the train was crossing over the double bridge, over the stream and the occupation way (now Blakeney Road), he saw the light disappear, and heard the crash. The bridge collapsed, the foundations having been washed away by the rush of water in the swollen stream. The engine 'The Tacita' parted from the tender and fell on its side in the meadow; the driver was thrown clear and found himself sitting under the hedge facing Penge, unhurt. His fireman fell partly under the tender on which many trucks were piled up, he being killed outright. It was not until the following Thursday that his body was got out. The contents of many trucks, being 'general goods', went floating down the stream.
On the Mid-Kent line, the branch from New Beckenham to Addiscombe Road, with stations at Clock House and Eimers End, was opened in April 1864.
Then as regards the mode of working; several different ways had been adopted, and one of the conditions imposed by the Cator Estate was that no train should stop at Beckenham on Sundays during Divine Service.
About 1866 or 1867 the S.E.R. Co. discontinued running between Beckenham Junction and Bickley. Six coaches off every Mid-Kent train were attached to the down London Chatham and Dover trains for Bromley and Bickley passengers (very few traveled to and from London by the L.C. & D. route in those days) and in like manner these coaches returned by the up trains. Then passengers for the Addiscombe Road branch had to change at New Beckenham. After that the down trains were divided at New Beckenham, the front portion going to Addiscombe, and to save time on the up journey, the 'Junction' portion was propelled out, and attached to the Addiscombe portion which had to run into New Beckenham first. This was the only place in the Country where trains with passengers in them, were regularly worked between two stations with the engine in the rear. It was said 'they push and shove us about as they like between Beckenham Junction and New Beckenham'.
The signal box at Beckenham Junction was the second box in the United Kingdom to be fitted with new Saxby and Farmer's interlocking apparatus, and at the time was looked upon somewhat as a marvel. There were 36 levers and the points had to be set right before the signal lever could be pulled over, but even this was found not enough to guard against accidents, so ten minutes before the morning and evening down Boat Trains were due, the signalman had to put a bolt through the tongue facing the points and screw on a nut. The Stationmaster, Mr. M. Moore, had to see it done and wait until the train passed.