The Canterbury to Whitstable Railway


The Invicta locomotive (displayed in Canterbury Heritage Museum) was built by Robert Stephenson in 1830, for the Canterbury to Whitstable Railway, the world’s first railway for paying passengers.

The first passengers described the scene on the opening day: The fields on either side were crowded with well dressed people, and presented a most lively scene.The procession set in motion at a quarter past eleven, and was most loudly cheered. The bells of the Cathedral rang merrily, and guns were fired from the Westgate Tower.

In the first carriage were the Directors of the Railway, wearing white rosettes, and the Engineers, wearing crimson rosettes. In the second, Aldermen and other Members of the Canterbury Corporation. In the third, ladies, in the fourth a band of music, in the fifth, ladies….and in the other carriages the Proprietors of the Railway and their friends.

The motion was particularly agreeable and dispelled every fear.. The entrance to the tunnel was very impressive – the total dark – the accelerated speed – the rumbling of the cars – the load cheering of the whole party echoing through the vault.

The passage through the woods was very pleasing.
At Tyler Hill and Clowe’s Wood 2 high pressure steam engines perform the work of the first 4 miles…
The Invicta locomotive took us the last 2 miles into Whitstable…with driver Edward Fletcher ensuring there wasn’t the slightest accident.
A excellent lunch was provided at the Cumberland Arms.

It later became known as the Crab and Winkle line (watch out for a reference to it in the Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt), and took generations of children to the seaside, before its closure in 1953. Today it is a popular cycle route.

Visit the Museum to see:

  • A model of the oldest railway bridge
  • Photographs of the last days of the line
Canterbury to Whitstable Railway LineCanterbury to Whitstable Railway Line. © Canterbury Museums and Galleries Collection.

Follow the Museums on:

The Invicta Locomotive

The Invicta Locomotive, on display at Canterbury Heritage Museum

Stephenson's 'Invicta' locomotive on display in the Canterbury Heritage Museum. 



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