South Eastern and Chatham Railway

South Eastern and Chatham Railway

The South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SE&CR) was a working amalgamation of two neighbouring rival railways, the South Eastern Railway (SER) and London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LC&DR), that operated services between London and Southeast England. Between 1899 and 1923 the SE&CR had an effective monopoly of the railway service in Kent, and several of the main Channel ports for ferries to France and Belgium.

The companies had competed extensively over the same area, with some of the bitterest conflicts ever seen between British railway companies. Competing routes to the same destination were built; thus many towns in Kent were served by both companies, and left with a legacy of two stations and services to multiple London termini.


By the end of the 19th century the SER and LC&DR had fought over a small and not particularly lucrative territory for 40 years. Both were notorious for the poor quality of their services and decrepitude of their stock, and the struggles had driven both companies to the verge of bankruptcy. It became inevitable that they must combine or succumb.

The SE&CR was formed on 1 January 1899, when the SER and LC&DR formed a "managing committee" comprising the directors of both companies. This effectively merged the two companies, although officially they remained separate, with the receipts split 59% to SER and 41% LC&DR, until the Grouping; this was to avoid the financial costs and risks of a formal merger.


The SE&CR instituted numerous connections between the two largely separate networks. New services were introduced to reap the benefits of joint working. The most significant step was the construction of a junction where the SER and LC&DR's respective mainlines crossed near Bickley and St Mary Cray, east of Bromley (circa 1902-04). LC&DR's terminating line via Maidstone to Ashford was connected to the SER hub at Ashford. The SER branch from Strood to Chatham alongside the LC&DR's main line to Chatham was closed prior to World War One. Later the overlapping network on the Isle of Thanet (Margate-Broadstairs-Ramsgate) was extensively rationalised by the Southern Railway. Service cuts under BR saw Gravesend lose its second station.

Further development

After the formation of the SE&CR, three minor lines were built before the SE&CR became one of the constituent parts of the Southern Railway in 1923. They were:

* Tattenham Corner Line - Kingswood to Tattenham Corner, in 1901.
* The Sheppey Light Railway - branch off the Sheerness Line, in 1901 (closed 1950).
* Bexhill branch off the Hastings Line - Crowhurst and Bexhill West, in 1902 (now closed).

SE&CR locomotives

The LC&DR's works at Longhedge, Battersea was closed in 1911 and production was concentrated at Ashford. Harry Wainwright was replaced by Richard Maunsell as Locomotive Superintendent in 1913.

* List of locomotives


Prior to grouping, with the development and implementation by competitors (notably L&SWR, LB&SCR, various "Tube" companies) and electric trams) of electric traction in the early twentieth century, SECR planned to start electrifying its lines. The proposed method of electrification was 1500V DC using two additional rails - ie four rails (like London Underground and L&NWR), this very high voltage (for rail track level systems) was only used in elsewhere on the L&YR's 1200V DC side contact third rail line from Manchester Victoria to Bury. Grouping in 1923 led to Southern Railway's adopting L&SWR's standard of 660V DC third rail over SECR's network.

Further reading


External links

* [ A potted history of the SECR]

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