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Dunton Green Railway Station

Dunton Green Riverhead Railway station came into use when the St. Johns to Sevenoaks section of the South Eastern Railway’s Tonbridge cut off line opened on the 2nd March 1868. The station comprised of two facing platforms, with the main building on the ‘up’ side at the end of Station Approach and, a large waiting shelter on the opposite ‘down’ side.

The main building on the ‘up’ side was a single storey building constructed from timber on top of a low brick base. The walls were of a tongue-and-groove structure known as ‘Kentish Clapboard’ beneath a pitched slate roof with two chimney stacks. The large waiting shelter on the ‘’down’’ side consisted of a flat-roofed canopy design with wrap-a-round sides for protection from the elements while the shelter stretched the same length of the main station building. At the time the station came into use it lacked a footbridge or signal box.

Goods provision at the station were minimal with a single siding trailing off the up line in a south westerly direction to the north of the platforms, which terminated level with the building. Wreford’s private siding eventually followed onto the network of standard gauge lines in the Dunton Green Brick & Tile Works which opened in 1862 from the down main line to the south of the station. On the 1st July 1873, the station name was shortened to Dunton Green.

A consortium known as the ‘’Westerham Valley Company’’ was formed on the 24th July 1876 when Parliamentary approval was received for the construction of a 4¾-mile long branch line from Dunton Green to Westerham. The single-track line, brought numerous changes and improvements to Dunton Green station and contractors, ‘Stevens & Sons’ were commissioned to re-build the earlier goods siding to become the through line to Westerham whereby a curved branch platform was built on the west side of the station forecourt.  The new platform was provided with a long waiting shelter similar to the down platform and a new staff room at the north end of the shelter.

The contractors were drafted in to re-signal the new layout which included the installation of a new covered footbridge and the station was provided with its first new signal box. The new signal box was constructed of timber and towered three stories high due to the presence of the new foot bridge. On the 7th July 1881 Dunton Green became a junction station with the opening of the new Westerham branch line. 

Between 1900 and 1905, the South Eastern & Chatham Railway undertook a modernisation and upgrading programme on its suburban network to improve commuter services into London. Additional tracks were laid and re-signalling took place between St Johns and Orpington stations which were rebuilt and, new stations were built at new sites. The three storey high signal box constructed by Steven & sons was demolished and a new two storey SE&CR cabin based on the Saxby & Farmer design was installed.

In May 1933, work started to electrify the line with a third rail being installed on suburban lines to improve speed, efficiency and frequency. During this time the down platform was extended southwards using prefabricated concrete panels and, the old ‘aerial ropeway’ was dismantled in the autumn 1934 as there was a danger that the metal cable could break and drop into the live third rail and cause a short circuit. Electric services to Dunton Green commenced on the 6th January 1935 when services began running to Sevenoaks.

The British Railways era from brought further changes and sadly marked the beginning of the decline for Dunton Green station. By 1960 the main canopies that consisted of fretted valances were replaced with plain valances and the footbridge lost its roof and glazing at the same time. The branch platform retained its original canopy as it was assumed the branch line to Westerham would have no future. The branch line closed to traffic on the 28th October 1961 but goods traffic continued to the goods yard until 2nd April 1962 when the goods yard finally closed.

The branch line remained in its place until 1965 when British Railways negotiated with the Westerham Valley Railway Association in the hope of buying the track and operate a commuter and weekend tourist service.

During this time BR allowed the WVRA to store rolling stock at Dunton Green station and BR accepted an offer of £30,000 for the line, buildings and branch platform. When the WVRA was unable to raise the capital to complete the purchase, BR withdrew their permission to use Dunton Green and threatened to scrap the stock if it was not collected. The coaches were loaned and later sold to the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway and a Class H locomotive was sold to the Bluebell Railway where it remains today.

The track was lifted in 1965 although, the sidings were reinstated on the 27th July 1965 to handle aggregate traffic in connection with the local programme of road building. The sidings were eventually closed on the 22nd June 1972 and their removal was the last time rail traffic passed through any part of the Westerham branch line.

The majority of the buildings at Dunton Green were demolished in 1968 and replaced by two CLASP shelters which were similar to pre-fabricated steel framed bus shelters. At this time the branch line platform and buildings were also demolished although the subway under the embankment was retained. Thereafter in 1971 the station became unstaffed with the ticket office opening at peak time during the morning and evening. Unfortunately due to the lack of staff present, the station was persistently vandalised and covered in graffiti.

On the 2nd August 1973, the signal box at Dunton Green was closed and responsibility was transferred to the power box at Sevenoaks. The station became totally unstaffed in 1992 and in 1996 the station building was demolished leaving only the station master’s house which became privately owned and is located on Station Approach. A new housing development was built by Barrett Homes on the site of the goods yard in 2005 and aptly named The Sidings.

According to the 2011 Census, the population of the Dunton Green Parish was confirmed to be 2,360 residents and with the development of Ryewood the population has risen to 3,572. Annual passenger usage at the end of 2012 was 133,000 which has since nearly doubled to 256,000 according to National Rail statistics. With the increase in commuters the PERTIS ‘Permit to Travel’ ticket machine was finally replaced with singular ticket machine in February 2017.

 

Anthony Carrol

November 2017