Station Name: MIDDLE STOKE HALT

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: July 1906
Location: At the end of Burrows Lane, by Stoke Airfield
Company on opening: South Eastern & Chatham
Date closed to passengers: 4.12.1961
Date closed completely: 4.12.1961
Company on closing: British Railways (Southern Region)
Present state: Although the platform has been demolished the concrete plinth that supported the platfrom shelter is still extant.
County: Kent
OS Grid Ref: TQ833753
Date of visit: 1962, September 1974 & 23.5.2005

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE HUNDRED OF HOO RAILWAY
In 1865 the North Kent Extension Railway was granted authority to build a line from the SER track at Gravesend across the marshes to a pier on the west bank of the Medway opposite Sheerness. However since neither of the rival companies, the LCDR nor the SER, liked the idea, it failed to materialise.

Origins of the railway on the peninsula go back indirectly to the Continental Trade Agreement whereby the LCDR and SER agreed to share all receipts from Kent Coast and Continental traffic in various proportions. In 1876 the LCDR violated the terms by opening a railway pier at Queenborough with angered the SER who immediately revived the scheme for a line from Gravesend to the Medway and to achieve this end, they instigated a supposedly independent company called the Hundred of Hoo Railway Company. As the route from Charing Cross to Port Victoria (as it was to be called) was 40 miles compared to the LCDR's 52 mile route to Queenborough, the SER were convinced the route would be successful.

Parliamentary Acts were granted by 1880 and construction work started shortly afterwards. A further Act in 1881 passed the line over to the SER. On April 1st 1882, the first section from Hoo Junction to Sharnal Street was opened with the remaining section to Port Victoria opening on September 11th 1882 by which time a wooden pier and a modest weather-boarded Port Victoria Hotel had been provided. It was soon clear that the new rout was not as popular as predicted due to the new docks that opened at Tilbury in 1886. The line was however used by the Royal Family.

Initially the Port Victoria branch had only two intermediate stations at Cliffe and Sharnal Street but in 1906 new halts were added to serve villages at High Halstow, Beluncle, Middle Stoke and Grain Crossing. Between Cliffe and the junction with the Gravesend to Higham line, a halt was provided near the British Uralite works that had opened in 1901 and was used mainly by workmen's traffic. Three further halts were also provided on the main line at Milton Road, Denton and Milton Range. The halts were all of timber construction but were later rebuilt in prefabricated concrete. Milton Road was short lived and closed during WW1 as an economy measure. It had never been popular due to its close proximity to Gravesend Central and it never reopened.

By 1916 the pier at Port Victoria was declared unsafe and the seaward portion was barricaded off.

Passenger traffic continued to dwindle after the First World War but at the same time freight traffic was developing with the opening of the Medway Oil and Storage (later Power Petroleum Company) Company's new depot at Grain in 1928. The pier continued to deteriorate and by 1931 no trains were allowed onto it and a temporary wooden platform was built at the landward end while a basic concrete platform was completed on safer ground.

The Southern Railway opened a single-track branch line from a new station at Stoke Junction to Allhallows on Sea in 1932 optimistic that a new resort would develop around the station. A station hotel was built but the bleak marshes did not entice the holidaymakers. Six trains a day were provided, two of these to and from London. Allhallows-on-Sea station comprised an island platform with a run-round loop plus carriage and goods sidings. Still hopeful, the Southern Railway maintained its confidence in the lines future with a second platform being added at Cliffe and Sharnal Street and the branch to Allhallows was doubled in 1935.

With the opening of the branch to Allhallows, passenger traffic to Port Victoria dwindled to almost nothing with only two trains a day, principally for the benefit of the workers at the petrol depot.

The popularity of Allhallows was improving by the late 1930's and the Southern Railway considered doubling the whole line. The proposal was put on hold on the outbreak of war in 1939 and was eventually abandoned.

During the war the line was well used with the oil terminal being adapted as the base for PLUTO (Pipeline under the Ocean) supplying the allied forces in Europe.

After the war the long term future of freight traffic seemed assured with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (the successor to Power Petroleum) building their largest refinery in Britain at Grain in 1948. Extensive rail facilities were provided and from June 19th 1951 Port Victoria (which was within the new refinery) and Grain Crossing Halt were closed while a new Grain Station was constructed 700 yards east of Grain Crossing. The new station had a long single island platform and a large brick signal box and was intended primarily for the use of workmen at the oil terminal.

Due to the increase of freight traffic there were rumours that the whole line was to be electrified but the post war popularity of the motor car led to a continued decline in passenger numbers. The resort of Allhallows did not continue to develop and despite all efforts, attempts to sell housing plots remained unsuccessful and before long the railway authorities accepted defeat and reverted to a limited local service. As the traffic continued to deteriorate the line went back to single track in 1957.

The situation lingered on until 1961 when the passenger services from Hoo Junction on the Gravesend line to Grain and the branch to Allhallows were withdrawn on December 4th.

The wooden station buildings at Cliffe and Sharnal Street were demolished in 1966 and the signal box at Cliff was demolished in 1973.

In 1974 a campaign was instigated by Stoke Parish Council to have the railway reopened to passenger traffic but British Rail opposed the proposal as the line was only single traffic and because of the signaling complications in introducing a passenger service onto the busy freight line.

Sources:
Kent Railways Remembered by Leslie Oppitz - Countryside Books 1988 ISBN 1 85306 016 X
Isle of Grain Railways by Adrian Gray - Oakwood Press 1974

To see the other stations on the Hundred of Hoo Railway Line click on the station name: Milton Road Halt, Denton Halt, Milton Range Halt, Uralite, Cliffe, High Halstow Halt, Sharnal Street, Beluncle Halt, Stoke Junction Halt, Grain Crossing Halt, Grain, Port Victoria & Allhallows-on-Sea.

 

Middle Stoke Halt in 1962
Photo by Terry Tracey



Middle Stoke Halt before rebuilding in concrete
Photo from Lens of Sutton

The site of Middle Stoke Halt in April 2005. The concrete plinth supported the platform shelter which was behind the platform.
Photo by Nick Catford


Click on thumbnail to enlarge

 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]


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