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The South Eastern & Chatham page 3

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Meanwhile confusion was increasing with increase of business at "the Bridge" with four companies running into it. As a remedy they ceased to work independently after the 1st of March 1844, when a joint committee was formed. Next year matters were simplified by the South Eastern taking over the London & Greenwich on a 999 years' lease at a rental of 45,000. In the following January the committee was dissolved, and in July the London & Brighton absorbed the London & Croydon and became the London, Brighton, & South Coast. This left two companies in the place of four, both using the same metals from Redhill and both running in on to the arches at Corbett's Lane for the last 3036 yards into London Bridge; and though the South Eastern soon began to find other outlets from the Greenwich line, that arrangement lasted until the Brighton opened their new line from Purley to Earlswood fifty-four years afterwards.

The same year, 1846, the South Eastern continued its line north-east from Ashford to Ramsgate and Margate, taking Canterbury on the way and linking up with the Whitstable, which soon lost its importance, for Ramsgate became the cathedral city's long-desired port for all purposes that a special port could be of use with a railway to so many ports at the end of Castle Street. Sandwich, Rennie's eastern terminus, was not to be left long out in the cold, but instead of being approached in the Central Kent manner direct from Canterbury, it obtained access to London by the line opened in 1847 between Minster and Deal, in which the Iron Duke, still at Walmer, took so much interest that out of compliment to him the company adopted Wellington brown as the colour of their carriages. In 1843, Morris, who had left Rennie to become one of the contractors for making the South Eastern, bought Telford's old harbour at Folkestone for 10,000, to sell it again to the company for a considerable consideration, and thither the branch from Folkestone was opened in 1849 so as to give the company another route to France. In time the railway company bought the boats that were working the passage; but they would not buy the Dover boats when they were offered to them, and thereby came trouble.

The railways are said by some people to have been welcomed owing to the exorbitant charges and high profits of the canal companies. There were, however, some canals that made no profits, and of such was the Thames & Medway projected in 1804. This went from Gravesend to Strood, and was a little over seven miles long, thus giving the barges a much shorter route to Chatham than round by Sea Reach, if they would only have used it, which they did not. When practically insolvent it was taken over by a railway company who, converting only the part from Higham, opened a line from Gravesend to Strood in 1847. Here was a line in the wilderness that was not long to remain so, for two years afterwards came the North Kent from the Greenwich, through New Cross and Black-heath to Gravesend, which of course meant the purchase of the lonely railway and brought the South Eastern to Rochester Bridge on the way to Maidstone, which it reached from the north in 1856.

In 1849 the line through Surrey was opened to Reading. No one acquainted with the ways of our railways will be surprised at the South Eastern going west or even northwest; but this particular branch is due to amalgamation. The route is of strategic importance, and, among the many schemes promoted in 1845, Parliament dealt with those for filling the gap between Redhill and Reading in such a way that the Reading, Guildford, & Reigate, and the Staines, Wokingham, & Woking, were authorised to construct and use the line which is now this part of the South Eastern, there being certain interchanges of running powers between the South Eastern and South Western. In 1851 and 1852 Ashford and Tonbridge were looped up by the lines to Hastings, the next move being the business extension from Charlton to Angerstein's Wharf, the company's river port.

The Chatham & Dover was now beginning to take shape, and for some seven years the South Eastern lay quiet preparing for the great effort by which its rival was not to be crushed. This was its coming over the Thames to its big stations in the Strand and Cannon Street. It meant two bridges across the river and the purchase of property at extortionate prices; and its cost was about 1000 a yard for a little over 2½ miles. At Cannon Street an entirely new bridge had to be built; at Charing Cross the Hungerford suspension bridge had to be bought with the obligation of retaining the footway, and though the old piers came in useful for some of the columns of the new bridge, foundations for the others were not so easily found. The station was built by an independent company and taken over by the South Eastern in 1864; it is not as it was, for owing to the failure of a tie-rod some of the original roof fell in 1905, and the remainder was taken down for the present roof to be substituted. The roof of Cannon Street Station is somewhat similar to the old one of Charing Cross, but is of better appearance and different in construction. There are many who think that one of these stations would have been enough, but opinions are about equally divided as to which it should be; of one thing, however, there is no doubt, and that is that the working of the trains in and out of Cannon Street, with its crossing of the lines to Charing Cross, is almost as fatal to punctuality as the old arrangement between Croydon and Redhill.

At the eastern end of the main platform at Waterloo there is a single line leading out, which is occasionally used for passing troop trains through. It belongs to the South Eastern, and was put there to give through communication between north and south when the Charing Cross line was opened and there was no Waterloo Junction but a station at Blackfriars Road. In July 1865 a service of trains was put on from Euston through Kensington and Vauxhall that went over this line to London Bridge, and next year these trains ran into Cannon Street, further complicating the working and being little patronised. The South Western complained that the South Eastern Company were deliberately discouraging the service, as they were, and at last gave that company notice to complete their engagements and build Waterloo Junction. This, much against their will, they were compelled to do, for they had hoped to save the expense; but as some relief they asked that the through service should be taken off, and this was done on New Year's Day 1867. Meanwhile the competition of the Chatham & Dover had forced the South Eastern to find a shorter main road, and in 1868 there was opened the new route to Tonbridge through Sevenoaks, an extension of the line from St. John's to Chislehurst completed four years before.

The story of the London, Chatham, & Dover can be more briefly summarised. It began with a building estate at Herne Bay belonging to George Burge who, under Telford, was the contractor for the St. Katharine's Docks and the pier at Herne Bay along which the cars were driven by sails. Burge had bought the property in the hope that some day a railway would come along to increase its value, and when the Central Kent was being surveyed he made the acquaintance of John Rennie's two assistants: Morris, who did so well afterwards in purchasing Folkestone Harbour, and Thomas Russell Crampton, a railway engineer of importance.

Crampton, a Broadstairs man born in 1816, was a fellow-apprentice of Frederick Bramwell's at John Hague's in Cable Street, and when his time was up was an assistant to Sir Marc Brunei until he entered the Great Western service under Daniel Gooch, for whom he made the drawings for the Firefly. Leaving Gooch he went to Samuda's, where he had a hand in the machinery of the Gipsy Queen, which was on a new principle, but, apparently being uncertain as to its safety, he obtained a berth under the Kennies on the 8th of November 1844 - and four days afterwards came the trial trip of that ill-fated vessel when her boiler blew up and killed Jacob Samuda and four men.

Before he left the Great Western he had begun to improve the locomotive, and in 1843 had sufficiently advanced to take out his first patent. Leaving the Kennies in 1848, he started in practice on his own account, and began to develop his patent engines with the driving wheels behind the firebox, the first of which, the Namur, had been built to his design by Tulk & Ley the year before for the Namur & Liege Railway. The Namur had been tried on the North Western, and had done so well that that company had given him an order for the London, followed by one for the famous Liverpool.

So many of Crampton's engines came to be used on the South Eastern and Chatham & Dover, that, though she belonged to another line, some particulars may be given here of this much-talked-about engine which attained a speed at times of 79 miles an hour. She had eight wheels, six carriers of 48 in. and a pair of 96 in. drivers; she had outside cylinders 18 in. by 24 in.; her boiler was 12½ ft. long and contained 300 tubes, and her heating surface was 2290 sq. ft., the grate area being 21½ ft.; over buffers her length was 27 ft., and she weighed 35 tons, that is 56 tons with the tender. In one case this engine took along forty carriages and kept time, thus exceeding the combined power of three engines of the ordinary kind, but, as Bowen Cooke says, she played havoc with the inferior permanent way then in use, and was withdrawn in 1852.

The Compagnie du Nord of France, agreeing in the advantages of her low centre of gravity, accessible working parts, and liberal bearing surfaces, ordered several like her. In fact they worked their line with Cramptons from 1849 to 1876, and of one of their engines there is a working model at South Kensington which is most popular amongst the boys who like to seethe wheels go round. Cramptondid something else besides designing locomotives; he it was who in 1851, taking over the enterprise in the time of difficulty, laid the first practicable submarine cable between Dover and Calais.

Burge wanted a line from London that would reach Herne Bay; Morris and Crampton thought there was an opening for a shorter road to Dover, and soon the three went into partnership and began seeking about for capital and support in the usual way to make one of the links in the projected route, that to Canterbury through Faversham from the North Kent at Rochester Bridge, with a branch from Faversham to Herne Bay to be made by the Kent Coast Company. "Morris, Crampton, and Burge," says Sir John Rennie, "commenced the London, Chatham, & Dover Railway with comparatively very little support for an undertaking of the kind, and experienced very great uphill work; so much so, that Burge got alarmed, and Morris and Crampton bought him out. Morris and Crampton still struggled on with it, and then Morris went out, and Crampton remained alone. At last he got Peto and Betts to join him, and then the concern went ahead. Lord Sondes, a large landed proprietor in Norfolk and in Kent, also joined them, and they completed the original line." And he might have added did something more, for with it in 1860 there was finished the line from Sitting-bourne to Sheerness, which afterwards went to Queen-borough, while the Kent Coast had got as far as Whit-stable; and in addition to these the Bromley to Bickley line, which had been opened in 1858, was carried on to Rochester Bridge. In 1861 the London, Chatham, & Dover, as it had become, reached Dover, and was ready to work with the boats that had been bought when the South Eastern refused them; and in another two years the Kent Coast was extended to Ramsgate, to become the property of the Chatham in 1871.

Meanwhile it had been growing at the other end. The year it reached Dover it was at Penge; the year it reached Ramsgate it was at Herne Hill, where it joined up with the section already made to the Elephant. And thus it grew by small instalments until it arrived at Victoria and Ludgate Hill, and then the Viaduct and St. Paul's, and could run on its own metals all the way. How it was all done was a mystery on which some light was thrown when, in 1861, nearly every one connected with it went into bankruptcy, and Lord Salisbury and Lord Cairns began their three years' work as arbitrators, which ended in the Arbitration Act of 1869 with its drastic revision of the capital account.

A road made by joining up short lengths in this way was not likely to be an easy one, and the Chatham & Dover track is the worst for speed running out of London. For fifty of the miles between London and Dover the gradients range from 1 in 100 to 1 in 132, and only eighteen of the miles are easier than 1 in 200. For twenty-seven miles it undulates up to Sole Street, where it is 300 ft. above sea-level; it then continues up and down, mostly down, to Canterbury, to rise for nine miles to Shepherd's Well, where it is 290 ft. above the sea and there is a tunnel 2385 yards long, from which it drops for seven miles to the coast. Add to this the many junctions and much suburban traffic, with almost every London company's goods and passenger trains on it, and the difficulty of managing it satisfactorily is evident.

The old South Eastern by way of Redhill was easy enough, from Forest Hill onwards, as far as gradients and curves were concerned, but the present main line is quite another sort of road. As soon as it passes St. John's it begins to go up at 1 in 140, 1 in 120, 1 in 146, 1 in 310, 1 in 120, and 1 in 170 to Halstead; then down at 1 in 143, I in 204, and 1 in 150; and up from Dunton Green at 1 in 160 into Sevenoaks tunnel, 3451 yards in length, and down at 1 in 144 and 1 in 122 to Tonbridge, where it joins the old Cubitt line and runs nearly level to Headcorn, whence it rises from 100 ft. to 280 ft. at Saltwood tunnel, and by a falling gradient averaging 1 in 260 for the twelve miles reaches Dover.

The long pull up out of London, to say nothing of the hindrances north of Hither Green, is responsible for a great deal of the South Eastern's reputation for slowness, but considering the weight of the trains it is by no means bad going, and could not be so well done if it were not for the really good engines that work its best trains. The engines are good enough, the permanent way is of the best, the rails, 91 lb. to the yard, are heavy enough; and yet, for the reasons mentioned, no company gives you so much of its time for the money.

Ashford Station, that site of many changes, has been quite transformed from what it used to be. As rebuilt it is one of the largest and most convenient junction stations that any company possesses, and there are rumours of much improvement in the services of the lines beyond. It has had a long history, for it was opened in 1842, five years before the locomotive works were ready to begin business. Prior to that they were at New Cross, in the shed now used by the Brighton Company for its London Bridge engines.

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