Railways of Herne Bay

The Railways of Herne Bay is a Facebook group devoted to all things locomotion.

Herne Bay is known primarily as a seaside town, and while its beaches have helped make its name, the town also a lot of important railway history. We spoke to Mark Jones, the group’s admin, to find out what lies behind his passion.

 

Where did your interest in local railways come from?

I wouldn’t say that I’m a railway enthusiast per se, I grew up in Herne Bay and having spent the first 40 years of my life there, I have developed much affection for my old town. These days, I live in Faversham, but would find it difficult to move too far away. On leaving school I joined the Youth Training Scheme with British Rail. I’ve been a railway employee for 37 years and it’s been very much part of my life. Over the years I have seen many changes most notably the end of slam-door-trains, and the introduction of automated information systems. Long gone are the days of parcels, mail, newspaper, coal and freight trains. I guess having seen all the changes, nostalgia kicked in, and I wanted to revisit the past.

 

Do you have a background in history, or are you self-taught?

I recall early in my career, one of our regular travellers talking to me about Dr. Beeching and being horrified that I didn’t know who he was, so I thought I’d better find out. Of course, research was a little trickier in those days without Internet and online resources. My education as a child had been hampered by the untimely death of my dear mum, and I lost all interest in school. As a result, more recently I’ve gained a newfound desire to educate myself on social issues, political history, and local railways. A relationship breakdown and broken arm gave me the opportunity to take on my newfound interest and occupy my mind. One of my favourite haunts these days is scouring the newspaper archives, and rediscovering lost history.

 

Is it very rewarding to see that so many other people are also interested in this part of local history?

Most definitely, and the wonderful thing about being part of a community is that we feed off of each other, which is a great way to learn. I do think, however, a lot of focus has been given to the history of the seafront, and the railway which helped develop the town has somehow been overlooked. I hope now that is changing as there is a wealth of railway history in our town.

 

Are there any interesting facts or anecdotes connected to Herne Bay station?  

Perhaps the most heart-breaking of stories was the tragic train crash that occurred in the evening of August 1st, 1895, when a goods train ran into the back of an excursion train. A young girl by the name Alice Maud Harrison, from Clapham, succumbed to her injuries a few days after the accident. She hadn’t even reached her fifth birthday.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m currently engaged with working on an exhibition in relation to the Railway Convalescent Home, and Friendly Societies Home in Beltinge in conjunction with other events to make the bicentenary of the birth of the financier and philanthropist John Passmore Edwards. And another project on the Proposed Railways of Herne Bay that were never built, for the Herne & Broomfield Local History Group. In my spare time I continue to research and write and hope that one day there will be a book.

 

Check out the Railways of Herne Bay Facebook group for updates on Mark’s projects and more local history here.

by Alice Smales

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