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The Promenade Railway

In 1918 the Admiralty authorised a rail line to connect the  eastern and western sides of the harbour. This would enable the conveyance of defence material and other equipment to the  Admiralty Dockyard, in the area of the Eastern Docks. The line ran from the Prince of Wales Pier to the Eastern Arm,  along the promenade. The line was single track, with no  signalling as such, but with passing loops and catch points,  which enabled trains to be run in each direction. The connection with the main line was at Dover Harbour Station where a section of the down platform was on wheels and could be swung out of  the way. Before they could reach this main line connection  trains had to shunt onto the Prince of Wales Pier and then cross  the swing bridge over the entrance to the Wellington Dock. As  the trains were running along the public highway they moved at  a walking pace and were proceeded by a flag man carrying a  red flag. After the First World War the Admiralty withdrew from the  Eastern Docks but other businesses started to move in. The line  was used to move scrap metal and coal wagons to the Southern Railway’s coal hopper. The latter loads caused great complaint  from Sea Front residents and hoteliers about the dirt and dust.  And in 1932 a limit of 50,000 tons per year was put on the line.   At the outbreak of the Second World War the Admiralty resumed its use of the line to supply motor torpedo boats and motor gun  boats based in the Camber. After the war the Admiralty again  departed and the line returned to civilian trade use. The need  for coal to be transported along the Sea Front diminished as  vessels converted to oil and coal exports from the Eastern Arm  dwindled. Oil was still transported in tankers to the Shell-Mex  and Esso oil depots. It was the car that spelt the end of the Promenade Railway.  Often cars would be parked across the tracks, holding up the  train until the driver's return, and the development of the Roll  On Roll-Off berths at the Eastern Docks was replacing the old  industries which had used the line. The steam locomotives were  eventually replaced by diesel shunters but the last train ran in  1964. 
The Promenade Railway, 26 August 1937.  The Austin Seven motor car is blocking the line and holding up the train. The Promenade Railway, 2 July 1956. Back to Railway Index