The station that you see in the pictures was built by the South Eastern Railway Co (SER) and was opened on 6th February 1846, coinciding with the opening of the Ashford to Canterbury extension of the SER network. Seven days later the Canterbury to Ramsgate section of the line was opened. Canterbury West was however not the first Canterbury railway station; this was located in the goods yard, now a housing estate. It formed the terminus of the Canterbury to Whitstable (C&W) railway which opened on the 3rd May 1830. It had the distinction of issuing the first ever railway season ticket valid from 25th March to 1st November 1834 priced at £2 2s per person or £5 5s per family. Prior to the refurbishment of Canterbury West in 2010 there was a blue plaque commemorating this fact, but unfortunately this has currently disappeared.
The proprietors of the C&W were always short of money and it must have been a relief when they leased it to the SER in 1844 and eventually sold it to them in 1852. The SER made a new connection in 1844 from their station to the branch (see the layout diagram) and made the original terminus a goods yard.
The original station had canopies extending over the tracks (Image 1), and these were not replaced until the 1930s by the Southern Railway Company. The internal layout on the upside (i.e. London bound platform) was essentially simple, consisting of a central entrance and booking hall flanked by wings with waiting rooms, booking and parcels offices, station master’s office etc. It has been much changed over the years, particularly in 1976 with the opening of two additional sets of doors from the entrance hall to the platform.
In 1890s the direct connection from the C& W to the old goods yard was severed, and all trains from the branch had to run into the down platform. Further signalling alterations took place in 1924, with replacement of the two signal boxes, one of which controlled St Dunstan’s level crossing, with the current high level signal box at a cost of £5600. The station and signal box received grade II listing in 1973, followed by the Goods Shed in 1986.
Recent alterations (2010) to the station have improved the passenger facilities, but the new footbridge is not the first one at the station. The first was provided by the SER. Unfortunately it was blown down in a gale in the 1890s and replaced by a subway (costing £400) which is still in use.
Between 1887 and 1947 (apart from during the Second World War) trains also ran on the Elham valley line from Canterbury West to Folkestone West. A new high speed train service to London St Pancras was launched in December 2009, offering a journey time from Canterbury West of 59 minutes.
Sources: Hart (1991); Ratcliffe (1980)