John Speller's Web Pages Rochester & Chatham Extension Railway (SER)

John Speller's Web Pages - SE&CR
Rochester & Chatham Extension Railway (SER) Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled
It was usually the London, Chatham and Dover Railway that was a thorn in the side of the South Eastern Railway, but occasionally the tables could be turned. In the 1880s the South Eastern Railway decided that it wanted part of the lucrative trade associated with Rochester and Chatham, particularly in connection with the Naval Dockyard. The SER accordingly planned a branch line, a little over a mile in length, from their station at Strood via a station at Rochester Central to a terminus at Chatham Central. The Rochester & Chatham Extension Railway was authorized under the South Eastern Railway (Additional Powers) Act of 11 August 1881. Time for building the line was extended under the South Eastern Railway (Additional Powers) Act of 5 July 1888. The line opened to Rochester Central on 20 July 1891 and to Chatham Central on 1 March 1892. In spite of its short length the branch involved some heavy engineering works. The main one of these was a new bridge over the River Medway, parallel to and only a few yards from the existing LC&DR bridge. The rest of the line ran through Rochester and into Chatham over a series of viaducts. There was a substantial goods depot at Blue Boar Lane, which was probably responsible for most of the revenue of the line, since passenger traffic was very light.

After a mere seven years of operation the South Eastern branch became entirely redundant on the creation of the South Eastern & Chatham Joint Committee in 1899. Rochester Central was renamed Rochester Common on 1 July 1899. The branch closed on 1 October 1911 after less than 20 years from the opening. One good thing did, however, come out of the line. The South Eastern bridge over the Medway was newer and stronger than the Chatham company's bridge, so the LC&DR main line to Dover was diverted over it.

Map of the Rochester & Chatham Extension Railway. Click to enlarge
Postcard view of around 1910 showing the viaduct leading from Rochester to Chatham Central station
Railmotor at Chatham Central station in around 1910. The engine part of Harry S. Wainwright's railmotors, built at Ashford in 1905, were the first locomotives on the SE&CR to be fitted with the Belpaire firebox. They were followed by the "E" Class 4-4-0s in 1906
Railway bridge over the River Medway at Rochester. Image copyright Chris Whippet and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons License
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