The six mile Canterbury to Whitstable railway opened in 1830 and quickly became affectionately known as the Crab & Winkle Line. It was the third railway ever to be built and the first to carry passengers regularly and to offer season tickets. A pioneer in railway engineering, there were embankments, cuttings and a 764 metre tunnel through the high ground at Tyler Hill (now under the University of Kent).
The locomotive ‘Invicta’ and the line were engineered by George Stephenson and his son Robert at their works in Newcastle upon Tyne. The ‘Invicta’, now on view at the Museum of Canterbury in Stour Street, was based upon the more famous ‘Rocket’ which actually came into service four months later. With only 12 horse power the Invicta could only be used on part of the line. Otherwise carriages were hauled bycables using steam driven engines at The Winding Pond in Clowes Wood and The Halt on Tyler Hill Road. Through the woods the railway men would apparently slow down so that pheasant traps could be checked and mushrooms picked!
Passengers were carried until 1931 and goods until the line closed in 1952, though it did re-open for several weeks in 1953, after the great floods cut the main coastal line.
With thanks to the Blean Heritage and Community Group
The Crab & Winkle Way. This family friendly cycle route was opened in 1999 in partnership between Canterbury City Council, the Crab & Winkle Line Trust, Kent County Council, Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership and Sustrans. It is part of Route 1 (Inverness to Dover) of the National Cycle Network developed by Sustrans.
Download Crab & Winkle Way leaflet/map.
For more information see the Crab & Winkle Line Trust’s website; a charity formed in 1997 they work to promote history and improve public access along the route.