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Davington Light Railway

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Davington Railway
Davington Railway Station c1917

This three-miles-long railway was unusual in that it was built mainly for passenger traffic. It was also very short-lived. It linked Davington with the high explosives factories of the Cotton Powder Company and Explosives Loading Company between Uplees and Harty Ferry.  

To meet increased demand during World War I these expanded rapidly, till finally they reached an area about the same as that of the City of London. Hundreds of extra staff had to be recruited, and many commuted in to Faversham Station by mainline rail. They then had to walk nearly 4 miles to get to work - and back. Thought was given to providing a bus service, but the access routes were unsuitable.

In 1916 the Admiralty, which operated the factories during the War, therefore built the Davington Light Railway. Workers still had a 15-minute walk to the Davington Station, but then they had an easy journey to their destination. There were no closed carriages but all had curtains which could be drawn in the event of wet weather. Many women worked at the factories; the folklore is that because their male colleagues' language could get a bit strong, separate trains (not just compartments or carriages) were provided for the women. However, the real reason is probably that as many of the women were housewives, they worked a shorter day than the men and so arrived at the factories later and left earlier.

The track was metre-gauge. There was usually a train waiting when passengers needed it, so only small platform shelters were provided. At both termini (Davington and Uplees) generous accommodation sidings were provided. There was one intermediate halt, with a passing loop and staffed level crossing, at Oare, by the head of the Creek. The steam locomotives bore the Admiralty insignia (an anchor).

The line closed at the end of World War 1 - demand for high explosives had rapidly dwindled. There is now no trace of Davington Station, but the cul-de-sac on its site in the 1990s was given the name Admiralty Walk to commemorate the association. Equally there is no trace of Uplees Station, though the site can still be seen. Part of the formation survives as a farm track behind Court Lodge at Oare. A short tunnel was built under Church Road, Oare, and this also survives. The Railway's three Manning Wardle 0-6-0 tank locomotives found their way to the Donna Teresa Christina railway, a line used mainly for coal transport, in Brazil. Two have been preserved; one is on the tracks at the railway museum at Tubarao and the other is displayed on a plinth at Criciuma.


Davington Railway
Uplees Railway Station c1917

Text and pictures courtesy of Arthur Percival