Ramsgate's WWII Deep Shelters
Written by Bob.
Image - Bob.
The Ramsgate Underground Railway
disused mainline rail tunnel (shown as blue on the map below) was
originally used by trains travelling to the Ramsgate Harbour Terminus
which opened on October 5th, 1863.
In 1926 this station was closed.
Ramsgate Borough Council purchased the land and buildings and there was
talk of an "Indian Village" tourist attraction but the site was later
leased to a company who developed it into the "Merrie England"
Amusement Park (later to be renamed "Pleasurama").
So as to provide
a near-direct link with Dumpton Park railway station, the company
decided to construct an electric light-railway utilising two-thirds of
this tunnel plus a newly constructed section to a purpose-built station
and cutting at Herson Road near to the junction with Muir Road. In May
1936 work began and "The Ramsgate Underground Railway" opened three
months later on July 31st in time for the August Bank Holiday.
At the sea-end (the south portal of the existing tunnel) "Beach Station" was constructed.
service ran for the summer season each year, usually from the Whitsun
Bank Holiday until the end of September. Due to the illuminated scenes
from around the world, on the tunnel walls, the railway also became
known as "The World Scenic Railway".
The service was suspended in
1939 for the duration of WWII when its tunnels were incorporated into
Ramsgate's network of deep air-raid shelters.
The train service resumed in 1946.
1965 the park's owners decided to close the line at the end of that
season. The tunnel was later sealed at the Herson Road end, the station
demolished and the cutting filled in, the site is now (at time of
writing) occupied by a car dealer.
The amusement park site, following a devastating fire, is about to undergo major redevelopment.
WWII Deep Shelters
fears of another war with Germany grew, Ramsgate Borough Council drew
up plans for public air-raid shelters. As the town sits on chalk, a
deep tunnel system was proposed on the grounds of economy and ease of
construction, the plan being to have entrances within a five minute
walk of anywhere in the town. The plan also called for the inclusion of
the former mainline railway tunnel and scenic railway tunnel and where
possible the new tunnels were to follow the routes of roads. The
majority of these tunnels were to be unlined and unsupported with only
the unstable sections and entrances being reinforced with concrete.
plans were submitted to the Home Office on two occasions and turned
down, a third application was eventually approved and construction
began, the system was near-completion at the outbreak of war.
Following the end of hostilities, most of the entrances were sealed and others secured against public access.
These tunnels are said to be haunted.