Dover: The absolute Jewel-in-the Crown of East Kent ports.
What a transformation from very small beginnings with Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) traffic. In the picture the submarine pens in the camber were still in use, now lost to reclamation. Although the pens were built and used for Submarines they were mainly used for Motor Torpedo boats during the wars and birth one was the home of the RNLI lifeboat for many years. The vessel in the picture is the British Railways SS Dinard built 1926 1,769 Gross Tons and could deliver a respectable 19.5 knots. Notice the number of cars waiting to load, which would have been a full load. Compare the Dinard to today’s Spirt class vessels and it’s been quite a journey. The following pictures shows Townsend’s Free Enterprise 2 loading, September 1972, with the M.V. Autocarrier (previously the GSNC Royal Sovereign converted from a day pleasure cruiser) moored in the camber. Picture taken from the arriving SNCF Compiegne. Townsend’s were progressive moving the RoRo business on by providing a better on-board experience and had vessels that could take Trucks, when British Rail, SNCF and Belgium Marine were still building car only ferries.
For more information on the Autocarrier visit the Ramsgate page.
The ferry business has been transformed with size of vessels and the facilities on-board. P&O’s Spirit of Britain built by STX Europe at Rauma, Finland. She is 47592 Gross Tonnage and has a length of 213 metres and a width of 31 metres.
Ferry operators have changed gone are the state owned companies replaced by P&O, DFDS Seaways and MyFerryLink. Dunkerque Seaways is seen arriving Dover from Dunkerque late afternoon.
MyFerryLink currently under threat of closure and is the Cinderella of the operators, running the old Sea France vessels. Berlioz seen departing Dover for Calais.
The Eastern part of the harbour has also changed and is unrecognisable compared to the early days of RoRo operations. There are now 8 link-spans and trucks and coaches fill the vessels alongside the cars, vans & caravans. It’s all a long way away from the steam packets taking vehicles on board by crane on the Admiralty pier.
As a young teenager and being interested in trains my mates and I would have a wander-ticket on the trains for a week traveling the South East collecting train numbers. I have long since lost the note book but if only I had owned a camera to record all those steam trains that pulled into the Marine Station. The cherry on the cake was if the Golden Arrow arrived headed-up often by either Iron Duke or William Shakespeare. We would spend a day on the station recording all the locomotives pulling the boat trains as they arrived, avoiding the Station Master who would see us as a nuisance chase us off. We got to know the footplate personnel on the shunter engines and managed a ride on the footplate for the length of the platform on one occasion, quite an achievement. The station was magnificent and just a wonderful bustle as boats and trains came and went. The cruise vessels make a wonderful site. The Braemar is about to depart for Norway.
Today the Marine Station and the Admiralty Pier have a look of abandonment. With the growth of cruise vessels calling in and with HS 1 just up the line what bonus it would have been for both tourist and travel industry had the infrastructure had been retained. It would put Dover Harbour on another level. Once again short term decisions for short term gain, visionary decisions keep on giving. The pictures below were taken in February 2013 and paint a disappointing scene. I understand it is now having a major refurbishment, which is excellent. What about restoring the rail-link?
The covered walkway, under which the boat trains would arrive when they came via the Ashford/Folkestone route. Tracks all dismantled and there are now vehicle parking bays.
The full extent of the rusting neglected iron work. Looking forward to seeing this back to it’s former glory. The regeneration of the Western Docks is a major Port of Dover project, which hopefully will allow us all to enjoy its history and infrastructure to the full. I’m looking forward to up-dating the photos as the project moves forward.
Dover’s Norman Castle presides over the harbour. In the foreground is the Cemex aggregate and ready mixed concrete facility, which is on the old rail-ferry terminal. The lock gates and pumping facilities were magnificent, but I have to accept it had out used it’s usefulness. At least it hosts dredgers delivering the aggregates, keeping the area operational.