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The Actual Branch Line


Between the Thames and Medway estuaries in Kent lies the Hoo peninsula. This tract of land was frequently described as depressing and dreary and, until as late as 1917 (when a major attempt was made to eliminate it) ram­pant with marsh fever - now know as malaria. A stretch of this land was purchased by the Hun­dred of Hoo Railway Company after receiving Royal assent in July 1879 and the whole affair was purchased by the SER in 1881. The origi­nal line ran from Hoo Junction on the SER’s line from Dartford to Strood and was single track from the start, terminating at a remote spot on the Isle of Grain known as Port Victoria, where a pier was built because the Medway at that point has deep and suitable water for ships. The line opened to traffic in 1882. Port Victoria lay opposite the LCDR port of Queenborough on the Isle of Sheppey and was the main reason for the line's existence.

In 1906 six halts were opened on the line in an attempt to generate local traffic, whilst in 1931 the Southern Railway commenced building a branch line from where the line crossed the Grain road between Middle Stoke and Grain Crossing Halts .This branch was 1 % miles long and ter­minated near the tiny village of Allhallows, which in the 1930s had a population of around 360.

An article published in April 1932 in the South­ern Railway Magazine set out the Southern Rail­way’s high hopes and perhaps pie-in-the-sky aspirations for this new line: “The small village of Allhallows, amid fields where cattle graze and the ploughman walks his furrow, workmen are busy constructing roads and laying the main drains and conduits for the gas, water, telephone and electric light services to houses of which not a brick has yet been laid. In contrast to the urban development of an earlier day, the prospective house-purchaser (and season-ticket holder) at Allhallows will approach his future home from a modern reinforced concrete carriageway, instead of stumbling through the ruts of an unmade road.” The Southern along with a property developer, were hoping to rival Southend-on-Sea across the estuary.

A concrete halt was built where the line left the Grain line and was named Stoke Junction. The line was ready in May 1932, with the first public train running on 14 May. The line was single track throughout and Allhallows station was a single platform with a run round loop and small plat­form signal box. The station was about a quarter- mile from the so-called beach and three-quarters of a mile from Allhallows village. However, by 1932 due to a large number of day trippers arriving mainly from south London (Allhallows being only some 37 miles from Charing Cross), the Southern had to double the line from Stoke Junction and build a new long island platform (685ft) at Allhallows. On Sundays during July, August and September of 1934, 72,557 passen­gers used the line. In this form the line remained until 1957, when due to ever-falling passenger numbers, the line was singled again and the line closed for good on 3 December 1961.

I fell in love with this line first in late 1960, when as a 13 year-old I used to cycle across the Hoo peninsula to watch the SECR H class tanks and their two coaches running across the marshes. Armed with my Brownie 127 camera, I even took a few photos at the time.