On the 3rd May 1830, the world’s first timetabled steam-powered passenger service began operating on the Canterbury and Whitstable Railway. Due to Whitstable being a seaside town, the line became affectionately known as the Crab and Winkle line, and continued to operate a passenger service for just over a hundred years before becoming goods-only.
It’s important to add some clarification to the Crab and Winkle line’s claim to fame. Firstly, it wasn’t the world’s first passenger railway – that was the Stockton and Darlington railway in the north of England – but the Stockton and Darlington only used steam locomotives for goods transportation. Horses were used to pull passenger carriages along the tracks. What made the Canterbury and Whistable Railway unique was the steam locomotive ‘Invicta’. Built by George and Robert Stevenson in Newcastle, and transported to Whitstable by sea, ‘Invicta’ was the first steam locomotive to haul passengers on a public railway line.
However, even ‘Invicta’ wasn’t used for the entire journey. The locomotive only transported passengers over a short, flat, section of the line. Due to steep inclines, and the very low power of ‘Invicta’ – it was rated at just 9hp – stationary steam engines hauled carriages that were attached to long cables for the majority of the 6 mile journey.
However, the line was significant for the 757 metre long Tyler Hill Tunnel, which Isambard Kingdom Brunel studied while designing his landmark tunnel through Box Hill for the Great Western Railway.