UK: Sea Wall Repairs Uncover Dover Railway History

Image courtesy of Network Rail

Network Rails efforts to repair the sea wall at Dover with contractors Costain have uncovered a surprising history to the stretch of railway along Shakespeare Beach.

Using laser surveys, drones and spades, as well as local newspaper archives and online videos to piece together the information required to properly repair the line. Southern Railway, which operated between 1923 and 1947, did not keep good records on works undertaken at the site in 1927.

Engineers have been investigating the structure using bore holes and trenches to discover that the Shakespeare Beach Railway was raised on wooden trestles until Southern Railway build the sea wall parallel to it, with room for a new track. They subsequently moved thousands of tones of chalk around and beneath the viaduct and constructed the railway on top of it.

This functioned until Christmas 2015, when two storms reduced the level of the beach by two metres and sink holes appeared near the wall, rendering trains unable to run from Dover to Folkestone. The tracks have since been excavated, enabling engineers to investigate the soil and structure of the edifice beneath.

Steve Kilby, senior programme manager for Network Rail, said:

“We are the sixth company to own this stretch of railway since it was built in the 1840s, and the record-keeping of some of our predecessors means we are still finding out how this stretch of railway was built.
“So along with traditional engineering, one of the first things we did with this project was to research the history of the site to build up a picture of what happened here.
“What is rapidly emerging is that, while the original viaduct was well built, the work that was done in the 1920s was not what we would have hoped.
“We are working on designs all the time and the investigations we are undertaking will help us make the right decision for Dover. We need to be absolutely sure we have the right solution and a timescale we are confident in.”

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