Railway an important part of town’s past
Anyone with knowledge of Ashford will know that it was once a railway town.
The Ashford locomotive works was built by the South Eastern Railway on a new 185-acre site in 1847, replacing an earlier locomotive repair facility at New Cross in London. By 1850 more than 130 houses had been built for staff, called Alfred Town by the railway but New Town by everyone else, close by.
The site employed about 600 people in 1851, increasing to about 950 by 1861, and about 1,300 by 1882.
A carriage and wagon works was opened on an adjacent 32-acre site in 1850.
On January 1, 1899 the railway entered into a working union with the London Chatham and Dover Railway, forming the South Eastern and Chatham Railway (SECR). Each antecedent company had its own locomotive works, but Ashford was larger than the Longhedge works and so became the principal locomotive works for the new organisation.
After the grouping of the SECR with the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway and the London and South Western Railway to form the Southern Railway on January 1, 1923 most new locomotive and carriage design and construction was transferred to the more modern facilities at Eastleigh Works in Hampshire.
Nevertheless, Ashford continued to build and service locomotives and wagons until well after the nationalisation of the railways to form British Railways in 1948.
The locomotive workshops closed on June 16, 1962. The last locomotive to be repaired at Ashford was N class 2-6-0 no 31400 on June 9.
The wagon works continued for two decades, producing continental ferry vans, Freightliner vehicles, merrygo-round coal hopper wagons and the Cartic4 articulated car transporter. It became one of BREL’s main wagon works but, as trade declined, it operated on a -decreasing scale until closure in 1982.
The massive site is currently being developed for housing with plans to create the Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre (AIMREC) on part of the site due to be submitted soon.
Do you have any photographs or slides that you would be willing to lend me to enable them to be scanned and featured in the Kentish Express? If so please write to me, Steve Salter, at Kentish Express Remember When, 34-36 North Street, Ashford, TN24 8JR or email me at rememberwhen_kmash@ hotmail.co.uk or follow me on Twitter @SteveKMAshford. Or you can also leave a telephone message for me with brief details by calling 01233 623232.
The inside of one of the giant repair sheds at the Klondye works in Newtown, pictured in 2004, long after the closure of the rail works.
Two 60 ton propane gas tanks at Ashford rail works in 1980