|THE INDUSTRIAL RAILWAY RECORD||
© JUNE 1966
SOME MILITARY RAILWAYS IN ESSEX
A. R. DOUGLAS
(Rather understandably, the vast majority of military railways receive little or no publicity. A far cry from Longmoor and Bicester, the outposts explored recently by Mr Douglas have a charm all their own. Further information would be most welcome. - Hon. Eds.)
In this ancient Fort are the remains of an extensive system of approximately 18" gauge, including a turntable manufactured by Boiling & Lowe of London, with a line to the jetty outside the sea-gate of the Fort. According to the Ministry of Public Buildings & Works curator the system was used for carrying stores, etc., and the trucks were manually pushed. The Fort is being restored to its pre-Crimean War condition, so the tracks are being removed.
Coalhouse Fort, East Tilbury
Forts were built in this remote spot in 1539, 1779, 1795, and in the 1860ís, but the present building seems to date entirely from the nineteenth century. The remains of a concrete pier lie at Coalhouse Point, on the mud-flats, and standard gauge rails still survive. From here a continuous line of wooden sleepers run east along the sea-wall to a fortified tower, round which it curves on the seaward side and then strikes inland. After a level run of about half-a-mile in an bend across the fields, the line crossed a concrete access road, in which rails remain, and entered the Fort by the main gate. The Fort is set some way back from the sea from which it is separated by a great embankment, then a broad moat, then the sea-wall, and finally the mud-flats. The sleepers are not covered by earth, so I guess that locomotives and not horses were employed. It is not possible to enter the Fort and, according to local information, the Army left after the 1939-1945 War. The Fort is marked (but not named) on the 1" Ordnance map (7th series).
The barracks, as distinct from the rifle range, were abandoned some time ago but, according to the local press, they are to be reoccupied. The 1" Ordnance map (7th series) shows a line running from a jetty on the Thames, crossing the mouth of the Mar Dyke (a drainage canal), and following this for about half-a-mile. The west side of the Dyke is not accessible but there are no rails on a bridge that carries the sluice gates. From the surviving trackwork with four points it seems that the line divided, with one track crossing the Dyke on a now non-existent bridge, and the other turning east to enter the central part of the barracks. There are a number of Robert Hudson point levers and, until it was broken by vandals, what appeared to be the frame of a four wheel wagon. From here an 18" gauge line, laid with heavy-section rail, runs through the undergrowth for about half-a-mile alongside the Dyke. On the east is the barracks wall, and at intervals are small brick structures which I suppose were arsenals. The line turns west, and is laid in concrete across a footbridge over the Dyke, after which it becomes double track, crosses a road which follows the west bank of the Dyke, and then vanishes. A few yards along, however, are a group of buildings on the edge of the rifle range, which was apparently the terminus. The sleepers are not covered with earth, nor are there wooden boards at the points, so I expect that locomotives were again used.