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The 'Crab and Winkle Line' - The Track

MapThe "Canterbury & Whitstable Railway Line" was incorporated in 1825, the line was originally conceived "as an alternative means to the turnpike road for carrying coal and merchandise between Canterbury and Whitstable harbour". William James, a leading promoter of railway schemes, carried out the survey for the project and proposed three routes. Despite the tunnelling and hill climbing involved, the most direct route (about 7 miles) was chosen. As is often the case in these things, the original costs were underestimated. It is said that William James went bankrupt in 1824 and that the final cost was 83,000. George Stephenson got involved about this time and his son Robert supervised the construction work which took about 4 years to complete.

It must have been an engineering nightmare, requiring as it did specially designed engines to cope with the steep gradients (never a good idea for a railway) between the town and city. The engineers handled this by installing a number of stationary traction engines to pull the train up with ropes. Pulling stations were set up at Tyler Hill and Clowes Wood and later, at the top of Church Street.

Construction of the 6 mile line took several years of arduous digging and preparation. Work excavating the 828 yard Tyler Hill Tunnel proved difficult and lengthy. By the autumn of 1826, after 15 months, only 400 yards had been completed. Work was delayed by a fall of earth but at last in May 1827 contact between the north and south ends was effected. Bearing in mind that almost 2,500 feet of track was involved, amazingly the final calculation was correct to within an inch.

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Dec 2005