Scenic railway doesn’t usually make you think of a large dark tunnel – we might find them scenic but usually they’re the parts people fall asleep in. Ramsgate’s didn’t start that way – it began as a main line railway tunnel built in 1863 and it worked that way for over 60 years (the reason for the dark soot staining of the brickwork).
It was closed as a main line track in 1926 and then in 1936 became part of the “Scenic Railway” built by a local funfair company. This was a mainly single track line with passing places. Carriages had lights which illuminated scenes with dummies along the tunnel walls (great ).
In 1939 the scenic railway stopped running and the network became part of a new complex of air raid shelter tunnels under Ramsgate. This main section had three main entrances, the south portal by the seafront, the north portal which adjoins the current main railway line, and the Hereson Road entrance of the Scenic railway in the middle. In addition there were several offshoot tunnels dug through the chalk to new entrances in order to make the shelters as accessible as possible once the air raid sirens went off. Churchill in fact once used the shelters when he was in Ramsgate. He was made to put out his cigar and said sadly “There goes a good ‘un”.
After the war the Scenic Railway resumes operation until 1965. Over the next 30 years the tunnels because less accessible as entrance like the Hereson one got filled in or were closed off. There are occasional moves to reopen them.
More information and plans here
For the other tunnel sections see
Westcliff section ramsgate tunnels 02/06/10
Visited first with Wevsky (cheers mate), and then solo a couple of times.
Damn place got closed up again just as I was making plans to abduct a young Swedish opera singer and teach her “a bit of heaven’s music” (yeah, well that’s what I called it – these Swedish sopranos will believe anything)
Scenic railway entrance spur
heading back north
one of the air raid entrance offshoots
nice bit of chalk (handy unicycle)
collapsed section beyond St Luke's recreation ground branch
another offshoot, heading up to the roadway entrance
remains of funfair dodgems at the north portal