Remains of the St Margaret's MIlitary Railway, Dover, Kent(PID:15224231033) Source
posted by alias Jelltex on Friday 21st of November 2014 12:37:18 PM
In the 21st century, before anything is built, before a spade breaks the earth, a whole series of legal processes must take place to ensure that no one's point of view is not heard. Our Victorian forebears had no such issues of course, if they saw that something needed to built, then whatever was in its way, it would be torn down so progress could be made. Not always the best way to do things, but this attitude helped the track millage in Britain increase year on year in the 19th century. And then, with the dawning of the 20th century, no more main lines were built in Britain, until the CTRL. But back to the matter in hand. Imagine, someone had an idea of defacing that great symbol of Britain, the White Cliffs of Dover, by building a ten metre wide shelf in them and running a railway up them, a railway which would only be open for a decade at most. Clearly there would be public uproar. Will it ever be built? Well, it was built, the cliffs were scarred, the railway built, used and ripped up. The shelf, The Cliff Road, is still there, leading from under Jubilee Way up round the top of Langdon Hole. It is possible to look at Google Earth and see the trackbed crossing Reach Road, Deal Road before running alongside the Deal to Dover line, the line from the cliffs losing height until at Martin Mill, they had their junction. Then, during WWII, rail mounted guns were needed to fire across the channel, the track was relaid, and new lines laid in arcs of fire, so the guns could recoil and make aiming easier. After the way, the track was taken up again, bridges dismantled and mostly forgotten. Many thanks, then, to my friend Paul Wells for posting shots of these rails, recently uncovered after clearance of mud on an old military road, the only trace, other than The Cliff Road, that remains of the railway. ----------------------------------------------------------- At the cliff end of Athol Terrace, near Eastern Docks, Dover, a steep footpath leads up the cliff and then along Langdon Cliffs towards St Margaret’s. From the footpath, one can watch the daily activities of Dover’s Eastern Docks and Channel shipping beyond. On clear day, the coast France with the Strait of Dover, like a wide river, in between is quite a site. As one traverses the path, it becomes apparent that it was once a railway track. The story begins in 1892 when Dover Harbour Board (DHB) accepted the tender of John Jackson (1851-1919) for the building of the Eastern Arm of the new Commercial Harbour - the Prince of Wales Pier. Four years later, in August 1896, the Undercliff Reclamation Act received Royal Assent. The Act was for laying out land on the South Foreland, near St Margaret’s, where a new ‘Dover’ was to be built. The Parliamentary Bill had been sponsored by Sir William Crundall (1847-1934), thirteen times Mayor of Dover from 1886 to 1910. Crundall owned a construction company that had been founded by his late father, also called William. Both father and son were the prime movers in the development of Dover’s town planning: - On the west side of the Dour cottages for the working class – Clarendon estate - On the east side homes for the lower middle class i.e. Barton Road neighbourhood - Below the Castle and nearer the sea, villas for the upper middle class i.e. the Castle Avenue estate. The next part of their dream for Dover was to be a private estate on the South Foreland for the well-to-do upper classes. Crundall had been appointed to DHB in 1886 and twenty years later, in 1906, he was elected Chairman of the Board. He was to hold the office until his death in 1934. Two other businessmen were involved in the proposed South Foreland scheme, Sir John Jackson, who had won the contract for building the Prince of Wales Pier. The third person involved in the South Foreland enterprise was the eminent construction engineer Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray. His company had tendered to build the proposed Admiralty Harbour, which would enclose the whole of Dover bay. The three men decided that access to the South Foreland site was to be by a road starting from the shore by Castle Jetty, at the east end of Dover’s seafront. It would then run along the base of the cliffs before gently rising to South Foreland at St Margaret’s. To reduce anticipated opposition while the Undercliff Reclamation Bill was going through Parliament, the main purpose given was the prevention of sea erosion at the base of the cliffs. This was substantiated by Sir John Jackson calling an expert witness who proclaimed the necessity. Dover Corporation echoed this and showed that over the previous 25 years the encroachment of the sea had given rise to numerous cliff falls. It was agreed that in time an Undercliff marine road would be built on the inside of a seawall between Dover and St Margaret’s Bay but not in the foreseeable future. In the immediate future a road if built, they implied, would go over the cliffs. Thus the opposition centred their argument on this saying that if the over-cliff road were to go ahead, it would effectively put public land into private hands. This was dealt with by amendment to the Bill by giving the over-cliff road a lower priority than the Undercliff marine road … either way, the three men got exactly what they wanted! Before the Bill had received parliamentary approval, excavations began. Initially, the men stated that 500 convicts from the then Langdon prison would be part of the workforce. However, Herbert Asquith, the Home Secretary, refused to comply! For the residents of Athol Terrace, permission for the compulsorily purchase of their front gardens was given and the road we see today was laid at their doorsteps. The Admiralty Harbour, we see today, was given the go ahead by the government on 5 April 1898 when the contract was signed. Viscount Cowdray’s company (Pearsons) were the main contractors, Sir John Jackson was a subcontractor and Dover Harbour Board, under Sir William Crundall, was actively involved. To build the Piers and the Breakwater of the new Admiralty Harbour, Pearsons used locally made concrete blocks and faced them with granite. The concrete blocks were made at two blockyards, one on Shakespeare beach in the west and the second on reclaimed land to the east of Castle Jetty, where the Undercliff marine road was proposed to start. To reclaim land the cliff face was blasted and the surplus chalk was removed by steam-navvies – locomotive driven excavators made by Ruston, Proctor & Co, Sheaf Ironworks, Lincoln. Soon a level platform, some 24½ acres (9.915 hectares), was created at the base of the eastern cliffs where the massive blocks were made and stored. The blocks were made out of sand and shingle brought by ship from Stonar, near Sandwich and unloaded into trucks at the Castle Jetty. From there the trucks were manually pushed along a narrow-gauge track to the blockyard. However, the sea journey was subject to the vagaries of the weather and so it was decided to run a Standard gauge Light Railway line (engines could not go more than 25 miles an hour) from Martin Mill, the nearest station on the South East and Chatham Railway line between Dover and Deal. The three and a half mile track was pegged out by June 1898. It ran from the Dover side of Martin Mill main line station parallel to the Dover – Deal line for about a mile. Crossing two roads on bridges made of brick abutments with supporting iron girders. Just before the main line Guston Tunnel the Pearson line veered south towards the coast and then along an embankment passing under the Dover-Deal road (A258) near the Swingate Inn. Past Bere Farm, West Cliffe, the line continued south-east crossing the Dover -St Margaret’s Upper Road by a gate. It then turned south-west, following the cliff contours, skirting Langdon Bay. Running west, it followed the edge of Langdon Cliff for about half a mile where metal frames were erected on the cliff edge to stop chalk falling on the works below. Much of the land that the Pearson railway, as it was called, crossed, was owned by the Cliff Land Company the principal owner of which was Frederick George North, 8th Earl of Guilford (1876–1949) of Waldershare Park. Back in 1844, with the coming of the South Eastern Railway to Dover, the Guilford family had made an application to build 1,500 houses on land to the north of the Castle with an approach road from Castle Jetty. The family still had this dream and the 8th Earl made a deal with Pearsons to charge £25 per year ground rent with the option to buy the standard gauge line, once the lease had expired, for £3,000. It was planned that the Cliff Land Company would use the railway for a passenger service to the development. From Langdon Hole to East Cliff the land was owned by the War Office. They stipulated that the track was to be completed by December 1899. Further, that the Pearson railway was only to be used for carrying materials and the site had to be restored to its original condition. At the end of the line was a chute down which the materials were fed to the block yard. This quickly proved a problem and was replaced by a funicular, down the cliff face, with side tipping skips to ease unloading. At the bottom, the skips were pushed by hand along a narrow-gauge track built on trestles to the blockyard and emptied into one of six lines of mixers where some 250 blocks were made at once. These were moved by blockyard goliaths – cranes with a span of 100-feet that could lift 50-tons. The excavations were not without problems. In October 1898, fuses and explosives were taken and deliberately fired at the rear of the sea front East Cliff houses. In September 1899, Albert Knowler was killed during blasting and three months later, a fire in the East Cliff office burnt a man to death. Then, on 19 January 1900, as men were preparing to blast some more of the cliff face there was a massive explosion. Five men, George Jeffries, aged 24, – who later died – James Murton, Ernest Dutton, William Davies and Algenon Gibbs were all injured. In May 1900, labourer Bill Chadwick age-32, was killed by a lump of chalk during blasting at East Cliff. Neither was the new railway line without controversy, much to the annoyance of the local tourist industry it caused the North Fall Tunnel, a pathway created by the Dover Chamber of Commerce in 1870 to provide a short cut from the beach to the Castle, to be destroyed. In its place, a new path with a steep gradient was excavated up to Broadlees, some distance east of the Castle. This path was expected to be extended in the direction of St Margaret’s Bay and eventually to become the over-cliff road, one of the two options that was envisaged to connected Dover with New Dover – the superlative estate that Crundall, Jackson and Cowdray planned to build at the South Foreland. The actual building of the Eastern Arm was started in January 1901 and Crundall, Cowdray and Jackson applied for a Light Railway Order to extend the Pearson railway to the South Foreland. A Light Railway order would allow the trains to run on a standard track but at no more than 25 miles an hour, however, this the degree of regulation was less than that applied to main line services and therefore cheaper to set up, run and maintain. The proposal said that the line would run from Athol Terrace, up a 1-in-28 gradient along a 60-foot wide ‘road’ cut into the face of the cliff to Langdon Battery. It would then cross the fields to St Margaret’s to the proposed site of New Dover, before continuing to Martin Mill and joining the main line. The application stated that it would be a tram/railway service powered by electricity - the local electricity company was then in private ownership and Crundall was the Chairman. There was also the stated intention of extending the line from the Eastern Dockyard, as it became to be called, along Dover’s seafront, Union Street, Strond Street and then to the Harbour station, on the western side of what became the Western Docks. There the proposed line would join the main South East and Chatham Railway line. Another line would go from the existing Deal line at Buckland and then via River to Bushy Ruff in the Alkham Valley. In April 1902 a public inquiry, headed by the Earl of Jersey, was held into the application. It was agreed that the Company could lay down lines for a light railway in the Borough of Dover, but they could not exercise that power for two years. This was to give time to Dover Corporation, if desirable, to obtain the authority to extend their tramways. Further, on the proposed light railway to Bushy Ruff in the Alkham Valley, this was to terminate at River church and go no further. The application explicitly stated that the tram/railway would be a passenger service, which contravened the agreement with the Earl of Guilford. He immediately sought legal advice and eventually laid out his landholdings on the cliff top as a seaside residential resort. Crundall, against considerable opposition, in 1907, gained permission to develop the area around the South Foreland. This would, claimed the local paper, Dover Express, turn the acres east of Dover into a ‘land flowing with milk and honey, with many noble marine residences.‘ In the meantime, the land from Bere Farm to Langdon Hole, owned by the Earl of Guilford and designated as a seaside residential resort, was taken over by the War Office. , gained permission to develop the area around the South Foreland. This would, claimed the local paper, Dover Express, turn the acres east of Dover into a ‘land flowing with milk and honey, with many noble marine residences.‘ In the meantime, the land from Bere Farm to Langdon Hole, owned by the Earl of Guilford and designated as a seaside residential resort, was taken over by the War Office. At the western end of the harbour, the Admiralty Pier extension was completed in 1908 and South Eastern Railway Company, with representatives on the Dover Harbour Board, proposed to erect a grand new terminal station at the landward end. Early the following year, Crundall, as Chairman of DHB, invited tenders to widen Admiralty Pier for the possibility of a new railway station. The Lords of the Admiralty visited and discussed the proposals and on 9 December, Pearsons were given the contract. The Admiralty Harbour was officially opened on the 15 October 1909 by the Prince of Wales, later George V (1910-1936) who unveiled a stone commemorating the event on the Eastern Arm. Two months before, on 9 August, the Dover, St Margaret’s and Martin Mill Light Railway Company (Light Railway Company) was formed. Crundall, Cowdray and Jackson owned 25 shares each and four others owned one share each. One of these shareholders was Richard Tilden-Smith who later became the main shareholder of Tilmanstone Colliery. Later that month planning permission was given by Dover Corporation for the utilisation of the Light Railway Company line as a public tramway. The residents of East Cliff objected but their concerns were dismissed by the Corporation and John Bavington Jones, of the Dover Express. Work started on 21 July 1910 to widen the shore end of the Admiralty Pier for the new railway station comprising of over 11 acres. Chalk for in-filling was taken from East Cliff excavated by the steam-navvy machines. The excavations also created a new road. However, because of the cliffs are so steep when the ‘road’ reached the top it had to be cut in a series of zigzags. This problem was expected to be dealt with later, when the rest of the road was nearing completion. At the base of East Cliff, railway lines were used to transport the chalk to Castle Jetty where it was loaded onto barges and taken across to Admiralty Pier. In 1910, while the excavations were going on, Channel Collieries Trust was set up to purchase land near South Foreland. Their remit stated that they would build a residential estate, approached by a Cliff Road and the St Margaret’s Light Railway from Dover. The Trust syndicate was composed of … Crundall, Cowdray and Jackson! The road from the excavations was started on 21 July 1910. The last coping stone on the Admiralty Pier extension was laid by Crundall on 2 April 1913. A month later work started on building the Marine Station, the foundations having been filled in by 1 million cubic yards of chalk from the eastern cliffs. Two months before, in February 1913, DHB chaired by Crundall, filed a Parliamentary Bill to make changes to the Tidal Basin at the Western Docks. As a supplementary, the Channel Collieries Trust sort consent to replace the western half of the seafront and beach with a 5.75 acre dock and terminus for a Light Railway Company. This went down badly in Dover and a petition was raised followed by a poll that took place on 20 May 1913. Of those eligible to vote, 2,265 voted against the Bill’s Supplement and 1,508 for it. The Supplement was withdrawn. On 13 April, a closed meeting of the Light Railway Company was held when it was announced that Cowdray and Crundall had sold their shares, by transfer, to the Channel Collieries Trust. The four holders of the single shares in Light Railway Company were not invited to the meeting – the first they heard about it was when they read the national newspapers. A bitter legal battle ensued with Richard Tilden-Smith unsuccessfully trying to seek redress. In the event, Sir John Jackson and two nominees owned the controlling shares in the Light Railway Company. At the time, the East Kent coalmining industry was taking off. Arthur Burr, a mining entrepreneur and major shareholder of several companies with interests in the Kent coalfield, was the leading light. One of these companies was Kent Coal Concessions. Arthur Burr had formed it in 1896 with the purpose of buying potential underground coal fields but not surface land. The intention was lease the coalfields for a share of the royalties. By 1906, the company had secured coal mining rights in East Kent sufficient, it was said, for 20 collieries. East Kent Colliery Company also was part of Burr’s portfolio and its holdings included, Shakespeare and Snowdown Collieries. Shakespeare Colliery was sunk in 1896, but had not proved viable and was finally abandoned in December 1915. However, Snowdown, north of Dover, saw the first commercial East Kent coal raised on 19 November 1912. About that time, Burr announced the intention of floating a new company, as a subsidiary of Kent Coal Concessions, to ‘exploit undeveloped areas of East Kent.’ A previous similar floatation had not been a commercial success and the Company Board were not happy. The situation came to a head at a meeting on 31 July 1913 when Burr, along with his son, Dr Malcolm Burr, were ‘retired’ from the Board. The remaining directors consolidated Kent Coal Concessions with allied companies including Kent Collieries Ltd that had extensive mineral rights and had been undertaking mineral exploration. Towards the end of 1913 the giant steel firm, Dorman Long, in which Cowdray was involved, reported that they held 30,000 shares in the Channel Collieries Trust Company, whose holdings included the East Kent Colliery Company, part of the Burr portfolio. Borings had confirmed the existence of iron stone. Dorman Long also had interests in Kent Collieries Ltd. Just prior to World War I (1914-1918), in May 1914, Burr attempted to raise £77,000 in debentures and £800,000 in income bonds for his East Kent Colliery Company. However, little interest was shown and the holdings were handed over to Kent Coal Concessions, by the Official Receiver, with the remit to consolidate. Following consolidation the company held mineral rights under some 20,000 acres of East Kent. In December 1917, Burr was declared bankrupt with debts amounting to £53,176 but he died in September 1919 age 70. At Dorman Long & Co.’s AGM held in August 1917, it was reported that their investments, through the Channel Collieries Trust Ltd, were a satisfactory £877,304, even though the War had stopped any further excavations. Albeit, with the consent of the Treasury, a fusion of the different East Kent coal interests was agreed with the two chief companies, Kent Collieries Ltd and the Channel Collieries Trust put into voluntary liquidation. Out of this, the Channel Steel Company was formed with a capital of £750,000. It was reported to the assembled shareholders that it was the existence of a large deposit of ironstone in East Kent that had provided the name of the new company. Sir William Crundall – Chairman of Dover Harbour Board; Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray – whose company, Pearsons, had successfully tendered to build the Admiralty Harbour, Sir John Jackson who had been involved in the building the Admiralty Harbour. The railway line was generally known as the Pearson Line. The railway line was generally known as the Pearson Line. The company had applied, in 1914, for the renewal of their powers to carry coal through the streets of Dover with a view to extending the line from the Western docks to the Eastern Dockyard. The Town Council opposed this, but due to outbreak of World War I (1914-1918), the case was deferred. In order to carry explosives to war-ships berthed in the Camber, at the eastern Dockyard, the War Office decided to build a Sea Front Railway, using the powers that were likely to have been awarded to the Light Railway Company. Pearson’s successfully tendered and work on what was to become the Sea Front Railway was eventually started in 1918. Single-track and running the length of the promenade from the Prince of Wales Pier to the Eastern Dockyard, the lines that had been used for the Pearson Line and belonging to the Light Railway Company, were taken up and used. It had passing loops and catch points so that trains could run in both directions but soon after the line was laid an accident occurred so a low fence was erected on each side. Following the death of Sir John Jackson, in December 1919, the Light Railway Company was taken over by the Channel Steel Company. They applied, in 1920, to run a line from the Sea Front Railway at New Bridge, along Camden Crescent, then Liverpool Street (now the rear of the Gateway flats), and following the base of the cliffs to Eastern Dockyard. It was expected that the cliff side residences of East Cliff and Athol Terrace would be demolished. At the Eastern Dockyard it was envisaged that a railway station would be built and the previously cut road would become a railway track that through a newly constructed tunnel, would join the track of the old Pearsons line. This would then be extended Sea Street, St Margaret’s where another station would be built. The line would then cross the countryside to join the Dover-Deal railway line at Martin Mill. The new proposal was given outline approval by Dover Corporation with the preference for the construction to be a road not a railway track. This was due to the continuing rise in unemployment in the town – a situation that was prevalent throughout the country at the time – more men could be employed to build a road then a railway. If, however, the company were mindful to create a railway then, the Corporation said, their preference was for the facility to be a tramway, similar to that, which already existed in Dover at the time. Finally, whatever the company decided, colliery trucks could only be used on land purchased by the company and the track could not go through the town. The Company chose the road option following the route given in the outline proposal. It was to be 50feet (16 metres) wide with a 15-feet (5 metres) wide pavement on each side. The estimated cost was £43,000 and it was expected to provide employment for up to 300 men. The council suggested that Pearsons paid one third, the Corporation a third and it would be expected that the government’s Unemployment Grants Committee would pay the remainder. In the autumn of 1922, Pearsons joined forces with steel makers Dorman Long, to form Pearson & Dorman Long Company and take over most of the rights from the Kent Coal Concessions. The latter company had been set up by Arthur Burr, the East Kent mining entrepreneur, in 1896 with the purpose of buying potential underground coal fields but not surface land. By 1906, the company had secured coal mining rights in East Kent sufficient, it was said, for 20 collieries. Burr’s large portfolio of mining associated companies in East Kent were consolidated in 1913 under the name of Kent Coal Concessions. The giant steel makers, Dorman Long held 30,000 shares in the consolidated company as borings had confirmed the existence of iron stone. In 1917, a partial consolidation had created the Channel Steel Company and included Snowdown Colliery. Although Kent Coal Concessions did retain some mineral rights, due to the economic depression no one was interested in leasing them and in 1925, the company folded. Having amalgamated the newly styled Pearson Dorman Long company immediately started the preliminary work on what resulted in Betteshanger Colliery. However, as they did not own the surface land they were unable to sink the pit. Albeit, through the subsidiary, Channel Steel Company, they proposed building a steel works between Dover and St Margaret’s adjacent to the proposed new road and Dover Corporation gave their approval. The council applied to the Unemployment Grants Committee stating that the cost for the new road was £56,000. The Committee asked for the plans to be modified and suggested that the Ministry of Transport and Kent County Council (KCC) should contribute towards the costs. While these applications were being made the road was put on hold. During the winter of 1923-24, the revised estimate had increased to £129,000 but government financing was not forthcoming. On 29 September 1923, the Admiralty formerly handed the port over to the Dover Harbour Board (DHB), still headed by Sir William Crundall. This included the Sea Front Railway line but the Eastern Dockyard was retained by the Admiralty and let on lease to Stanlee Ship-breaking Company. The Camber was retained for Admiralty purposes. During spring and summer of 1924, Dover’s Mayor, Richard Barwick, and the Town Clerk, Reginald Knocker, visited various government departments laying before them the urgent need for unemployment relief. The Ministry of Transport relented and sanctioned the borrowing of £45,000. In the autumn of 1924 sites near Kingsdown were put on the market through Protheroe and Morris of Cheapside, London. Channel Collieries Trust held the mineral rights under the property and the sites were bought by Pearson Dorman Long – at last, they could sink Betteshanger Colliery. Unemployment continued to rise and in 1925 DHB applied to Parliament to close Dover harbour’s Western entrance. They wanted to run a railway line along the Southern Breakwater to load Kent coal onto ships for export from there. However, the disparity in exchange rates between the UK and the Continent meant that the country was importing coal and the application came under a lot of criticism. On the subject of Exchange Rate parity and the negative effect it was having on British industry, Sir Arthur Dorman made a powerful and well reported speech (Economist 19.12.1925). He begged the government for equal parity in the exchange rates but the response was: ‘a strong £ was the sign of a strong country.‘ Pearson Dorman Long wrote to the council saying that they could no longer afford to contribute to the cost of the road. Cheap imports of coal continued to affect the domestic industry but in February 1926, the government did give a grant of £2m to the Kent coalfields. However, at midnight on 3 May saw the beginning of the General Strike. In October, that year, the council finally heard from the Unemployment Grants Committee through a letter sent to the town’s Member of Parliament (1922 -1945), Major the Hon. John Jacob Astor. The Committee had declined to provide a grant for the East Cliff Road, the reason given was that ‘unemployment in Dover was not sufficiently exceptional to warrant relief.’ It was generally felt that the refusal was retaliatory because East Kent miners had joined the national strike. Richard Tilden Smith, who had been involved in a bitter legal action against the Dover, St Margaret’s and Martin Mill Light Railway Company in 1913, bought Tilmanstone Colliery from the Official Receiver in November 1926. At the same time an application was made by Tilmanstone (Kent) Collieries Ltd for the right to carry an aerial ropeway for a distance of 6½ miles (this was stated in the original application) from their colliery. This was to include a tunnel being cut through the cliffs to the Eastern Dockyard. The proposed course extended over land owned by 18 different personages one of which was Southern Railway. Although permission was granted, Southern Railway, and the Pearson, Dorman Long’s Channel Steel Company appealed but this was overturned and works started. In 1927 Weetman Dickinson Pearson, 1st Viscount Cowdray, died. Under the 1896 terms of agreement between the War Department and Pearsons, the line from East Cliff to Langdon Hole had to be restored to its original condition. In May 1929, the War Department took legal action forcing Channel Steel Company to pay £1,300 compensation for the breach of covenant. The next month, the same Department sold the land to … the Channel Steel Company! At the same time, Tilden Smith leased 24 acres of land at Langdon Hole from the War Department for cement works that would utilise chalk from Dover’s white cliffs. He also planned steel and brick works nearby – that was to be part of his plan for East Kent to become the New Industrial Eden. While on 17 March 1927, Southern Railway sought permission to carry coal on the Sea Front Railway and along the Eastern Arm of the Eastern Dockyard to specially built giant bunkers. Tilden Smith’s, now 7½ mile, aerial ropeway from Tilmanstone colliery to the Eastern Arm was formerly opened on 14 February 1930. The ceremony was simple as Tilden Smith had died suddenly in the House of Commons on 18 December 1929. The tunnels, through which the ropeway ran to the Eastern Arm, can still be seen. Bunkers were built but in August 1928 a huge coal staithe to be installed at the end of Eastern Arm, was commissioned by Southern Railway. It was built of ferro-concrete by the Yorkshire Hennebique Construction Company and held 5000-tons of coal. The Staithe was fitted with electronic discharging mechanism that enabled a vessel to be loaded with 500 tons of coal an hour and cost £22,000. DHB withdrew its proposal to close the Western entrance and focused on increasing the number of coal sidings at the Eastern Dockyard. It was clear that this was to enable the export of coal from Pearson Dorman Long’s Snowdown and Betteshanger collieries. The electronic coal staithe officially started operating on 19 April 1932. The first ship was Dover’s steamer Kenneth Hawksfield, which was loaded with 2,450 tons coal from Snowdown Colliery. Although it was suggested that a rail link would be built through a tunnel from the Eastern Arm to join the Deal railway line at Kearsney, until such time the Sea Front railway was to be used. It was anticipated that the railway would be in use 14-hours a day and would carry 800,000tons of coal a year together with scrap iron and oil for refuelling ships. The coal was transported on the Sea Front Railway. The first train from Snowdown Colliery at 09.00 and in the next 23-hours, 18 trainloads of coal was carried on the Sea Front Railway line choking its whole course with dust. 17,000 Dovorians signed a petition that was sent to the House of Lords. Parliament restricted the use of the Railway to carrying a maximum of 500,000 tons of coal a year and only during day light. In 1933, Parliament approved a DHB Bill for a 1.75-mile railway line from the Kearsney junction, on the Deal line, through a tunnel to the Eastern dockyard. Although this would have obviated the need of the Sea Front Railway to carry coal, with the death of Sir William Crundall, the Chairman of DHB, in 1934, the scheme was abandoned as too expensive. On 1 April 1934, Dover Borough municipal boundaries were extended bringing in to the Borough, Eastern Dockyard and Arm but the cliffs overlooking the area remained part of the Rural District. That same year, the council resurrected the idea of finishing the Cliff Road to St Margaret’s utilising the earlier Light Railway Company’s permit. This had been renewed every year and was given added impetus in 1937 when, due to war preparations and the shortage of scrap iron, the remaining track of what had once been the Pearsons line was lifted. Following the outbreak of World War II (1939-1945), the War Office instigated the building of the Martin Mill Military Railway, operated and manned by the Royal Engineers and using diesel locomotives. The line followed the original Pearsons route from Martin Mill to a point called RDF Junction, about 900 feet ( 275 metres) past the then Dover-Deal road bridge. Here it divided, with the ‘main line’ turning north-east to service the guns, Winnie and Pooh. Passing beneath Winnie’s gun barrel it crossed the St Margaret’s – Martin Mill Road to Pooh’s position. A second line, from the RDF Junction, went straight ahead for about half a mile, then in a north-east direction for another half a mile. This served the Wanstone and South Foreland Batteries. The battery close to the Dover Patrol Memorial, Point at Leathercote Point, was served by a branch line from Decoy Junction – this was named after a dummy Winnie, on the ‘main line’. Winnie and Pooh were two 14-inch ex-naval guns manned by the Royal Marines and were capable of firing their missiles across the 21-mile wide Dover Strait to France. Winnie was installed during the Battle of Britain, in 1940 on St Margaret’s golf links and was soon after joined by Pooh, located along the Kingsdown Road. In August 1942 Jane and Clem, two 15-inch guns, came into operation overlooking Fan Bay Battery, an emergency battery with three six-inch guns. Jane was originally designed for HMS Repulse and named after a Daily Mirror cartoon character. Clem was said to be named after the Labour leader Clement Attlee (1883-1967) or Winston Churchill’s (1874-1965) wife Clementine (1885-1977)! These were wire wound guns made of a composite of steel and steel wire. The construction was introduced in the 1890’s to deal with the increased pressures in the barrel caused by the use of the then new propellant – cordite. Radar was installed and linked with the guns that proved successful. There were also three 13.5-inch calibre railway guns manned by Royal Marines and called Gladiator, Piecemaker and Sceneshifter. During periods of inaction, these guns were normally hidden in the Guston tunnel but sometimes in tunnels at Shepherdswell and Martin Mill. The Battery at South Foreland was equipped with four 9.2-inch guns, while near the Dover Patrol Memorial was the Bruce gun. An experimental, hypervelocity gun built by Vickers and weighing 86-tons. The barrel was 60 feet long and could fire a shell weighing 256lbs over a distance of 100,000 yards – 57-miles. However, it was never fired in anger due to the enormous pressure affecting the shell fuses causing some to explode prematurely in mid-flight. All the real guns were hidden under camouflage netting, while dummy ones were partially concealed on the cliff top site, which accounts for the reason why the cliff top is pitted with craters. By late 1944, the operational use of the Martin Mill Military Railway was declining, only being used to move stores and equipment. Following the end of hostilities, the Light Railway Company resumed management and some of the track was sold for export to Tanganyika as part of the ill-fated Groundnut Scheme (1947-1951). However, beyond that and seeking repeated extensions, nothing else happened and in 1952, the company officially ceased trading. By that time, the route across the cliffs had become a favourite walk but in the spring of 1954, due to the Cold War, the military began erecting a 5-foot chestnut fence on either side of what had been the 6-foot wide track. Vigorous protests were made and the military agreed to remove the fence from the seaward side except where it enclosed military installations. Three years later the Big Guns – Jane, Clem, Winnie and Pooh were dismantled and uprooted from their reinforced concrete emplacements. The smaller guns were also removed. About 200 acres of land, which had been commandeered by the military between Dover and St Margaret’s, was de-requisitioned following the stand-down of Coastal Artillery in 1956. Much of the remaining railway track was lifted although the rails and bridges at the Martin Mill end were still in situ in 1960. At that time, the Ministry of Transport was considering using the track for a motorway approach to Eastern Docks. Finally, during the post-war period, Marine Parade was widened and the Sea Front Railway safety fence was removed. In order to tell tourists to remove their parked cars off the track, a man with a red flag walked in front of the trains! Robert Eade, Dover’s Mayor in 1961, was one. By that time freight traffic, using the service was declining and the last train – a diesel locomotive pulling three wagons, ran on the 31 December 1964. The lines were eventually covered with tarmac. doverhistorian.com/2013/11/07/dover-st-margarets-and-mart...
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