We organise occasional visits to places of interest.
See Branches page for latest information
Friday 3rd June 2016
Greenford East Signal Box
Saturday 27th September 2014
Exeter Panel Signal Box
The visit to Exeter panel signal box on September 27th was a
triumph. 15 participants spent nearly two and half hours watching
the operations of the box and chatting to the signalling staff.
Phil Bellamy of Network Rail and his team could not have made
us more welcome or been more helpful in answering our many questions.
The Central London branch fixtures of the September 2012 Don Kennedy guided walk
and October 2012 visit to the Epping Ongar Railway were great successes.
Reports of these two fixtures are included below.
Saturday 29th September 2012: Don Kennedy guided walk to London's Lost Railways
Don Kennedy led another of his Lost Railways of London guided walks that have been such a successful feature of the Central London branch outdoor fixtures for several years on 29th September. On this occasion he was aided by Andrew Turner. The aim was to explore the industrial railways locations of the Greenwich peninsular, an area that is now home to the O2 Arena, once known as the Millenium Dome.
The 23-strong party met at stages from the Charing Cross concourse, travelling to London Bridge on the 09.32 departure and then the 09.51 for the brief ride on to Westcombe Park. A short walk from the station exit over a footbridge spanning the very busy and noisy A102 road to the southern portal of Blackwall Tunnel, found the group at a foot crossing over a clearly well-used single track line.
This leads to the remaining sidings owned by such companies as Tarmac at Angerstein Wharf. The noteworthy feature here was the few remaining masts which carried the trolley wire overhead electrification, used by the Cl. 71s when not taking the supply from the third rail. A short walk across Trafalgar Road took the historical ferrovial navigators to the site of the former Charlton Tram depot. A local man engaged us in conversation and said he remembered the tram tracks rounding the still-present curve in the pavement edge of Felltram Way which was where the trams frequently derailed. He even had a piece of old rail!
The rest of the day's explorations were a real reminder of the changes that have occurred in recent years in this part of south east London. Almost all of the Greenwich peninsular has been completely redeveloped for the Millenium Dome and of the industrial railway system that once existed, there remains barely a trace. Don had provided a couple of informative maps one of which showed the present road system with the old industrial lines superimposed. There was no correlation between the two. Only beside Willoughby Way was there a slight rising embankment that was probably the end of a siding. Slightly further east, adjacent to the present Thames Path at Durham Wharf, there were clear remains of rusty rails and turnouts. Of the rest of the system to which they must have been connected there was absolutely no sign.
The platoon of industrial archaeologists then turned towards the O2 Arena end of the peninsular, traversing the riverside Thames path and passing the well-used sidings of companies like Tarmac which exist to transfer bulk loads of sand and gravel. At one jetty, owned by Cemex, there was an isolated stub across the path of what appeared to be a narrow gauge track, reckoned to be of 2' 6” gauge, which was built to take supplies to ships. At the landward side of the Greenwich Yacht Club the site of the Redpath Dorman steel fabrication works was noted. This site had a railway system unconnected to any others but no visible remains of it or the works could be seen.
The suburban voortrekkers then headed south for Horn Lane where the site of one of the lines serving the South East Metropolitran Gasworks that crossed this highway was observed, marked by bricks in the road placed at almost right angles to the road alignment. As in the Great Central it was now a case of Forward to continue the search for the route of the remaining gas works lines and a much-needed lunch. Of interest in a railway remains-free zone near Millenium Village and John Hamson Way was a new carved monolith to the employees of the gas company who fell in WWI. This entire locality is now wide roads, newly planted trees, lawns and new blocks of brightly painted flats.
Only the map showed where the lines once ran. To underline the point Andrew showed a picture of River Way as it was not so very long ago. There was a brick arch viaduct of a style not unknown in this part of London and a girder bridge carrying the elevated section of the gas works line over River Way itself. Behind it was a chimney, visible today. The present view of the same location shows not the slightest trace of this infrastructure. A brief sojourn was made to a riverside display panel describing the history of the area. From this point the new Emirates cable car route made a spectacular sight spanning the Thames. A few made use of this facility in the lunch break. An excellent repast at The Pilot pub was then enjoyed by most of the rest of the group. The pub and its associated cottages to the northern side are the only old buildings left in this area.
After lunch the party made their way to the northern tip of the peninsular to explore the remaining industrial archaeology along the Thames path back to Greenwich Power station. There may have been railway sidings serving the many industrial wharves but in every case there was neither trace nor any access. The location did afford excellent views of Canary Wharf and the Manhattan-style skyline. This area of Greenwich is now a mixture of the odd functioning wharf, derelict weed-strewn broken industrial premises and brand new housing development so the changes in this part of town are on-going. At Greenwich power station, the end of the tour was marked by observing a pair of rails set at right angles across the path, ending in a brick wall, so could not have carried any vehicles for decades.
Finding that the intended Greenwich café for refreshment was closed, the remainder of the group headed for a local pub for farewell liquid refreshment of choice. The really hard-bitten railway industrial researchers then headed for Gravesend to return to London on the PS Waverley but that, as they say, is another story. The writer headed for Maze Hill station and the train towards home. The weather was once again kind throughout the day and gave perfect conditions for walking. Even the fresh stiff breeze which wafted over the sunlit Thames Path on the upstream side of the peninsular as we walked back to Greenwich power station -still kept in reserve for emergency supply to TfL.- failed to cool our spirits. Thanks must go again to Don for his hallmark meticulous preparation, and for the assistance provided on this occasion by Andrew Turner. Grateful thanks must also go to the many supporters of this now long-running and popular Central London Branch outdoor fixture. This was another educational event that really did need imagination to visualise what the old maps showed of London's Lost Railways. Details of 2013's walk will be announced in due course.
Saturday 20th October 2012 - Epping-Ongar Railway visit Central London Branch Outdoor fixture 15 members took part in the Club visit to the Epping-Ongar Railway, arranged by Central London branch, on October 20th.
It follows on from the excellent talk given to CLB in July. The group met at Epping Central line station and boarded RT bus RT3228 KYY 957 in Greenline livery on the 339 service for the short but pleasant journey through Epping to North Weald station. This is the present southern terminus of the railway although services work closer to Epping at Coopersale where the trains reverse.
There is no platform or station at this location because it is intended to build an EOR platform at Epping at some time in the future thus allowing easy connection to the present TfL station. Our expected guide was not at North Weald so after collecting our group tickets we boarded the scheduled service to Ongar which consisted of a 4TC set in Southern Region green livery propelled by a former Stratford-allocated English Electric Type 3 Co-Co D6729, latterly known as a class 37.
A smooth journey gave everyone the chance to see the amazing work that has been done on this line to bring the infrastructure up to public service standard. The group then met our guide Simon Hanney, the general manager of the railway, who gave us a tour of Ongar station. It is intriguing to think that this station was once the easternmost station of the Central Line. The signal box has been fitted with new floorboards and the signal lever frame is installed but has yet to be connected up. A new window has been placed in the rear wall so that when a proposed new island platform comes into service it will be easy to exchange single line tokens.
From the signal box several coaches still in undercoat and masking tape could be seen. The platform has been lengthened but the location of the flower beds is exactly as it was in Great Eastern days as judged from old photographs. The group was shown a preserved GER weighbridge, made by J Spencer & Co of Manchester dating from 1889 and it was salvaged from underneath a layer of ashphalt at another location. An excellent job has been done in preserving this classic piece of small railway station vintage equipment. A blue plaque on an adjacent wall commemorates Father Thomas Byles, a local catholic priest who left Ongar to join the Titanic on its maiden voyage and who subsequently perished.
The main station building at Ongar is a real tribute to the restoration teams. The internal décor is in typical victorian colours of mainly dark brown and cream. Some of the previously bent bars over the windows inside the museum were removed and meticulously straightened in a vice prior to repainting and placement. Internal lamp fittings by the booking office look authentic but are actually modern replicas. Likewise, the frosted glass window of the Ladies Waiting Room looks as if it had been there since the station was built but is really a faithful modern reproduction. An authentic-looking fireplace with the Great Eastern emblem is also a modern copy. The problems associated with old buildings constructed without damp proof courses are also manifesting themselves at this station but no doubt they will be effectively and sympathetically dealt with.
Ongar was built as a through station with a view to an extension to Dunmow but has always been a terminus. The buffer stop, recently renewed, actually marks the zero point of the mileage of the Underground system. On the embankment just above the stopblock sits a tiny Ruston diesel shunter, advertising the Railway. It was craned into position recently in a tricky move, considering the overhead wires in the vicinity! Next to the station in the yard are two unidentified Finnish steam locomotives, imported some years ago for a now-abandoned scheme. Both are in poor external condition but one may be repainted and the other, a hefty 2-8-2, is for sale. There is an Anderson shelter-style structure at Ongar, currently masquerading as a loco shed, but the intention is to construct a proper brick locomotive shed with inspection pit, to accommodate the F5 2-4-2T when it is built!
After Simon's interesting talk the group were free to do as they pleased. Some went riding with the Cl. 37 and 4TC set because there was no steam after Pitchford Hall had failed, others went for lunch in Ongar while some rode the RT buses. There is an RF to enjoy and the Railway also has a Class 31 currently needing a BR blue repaint plus some matching BR blue and grey Mk1 and 2 stock, all beautifully restored. The writer chose to return to North Weald and then to Coopersale, to complete his coverage of the line. After the last buses, participants made their own way home with the exception of five individuals who enjoyed a pint in The George pub and then an excellent chinese meal in the Dynasty restaurant, both in South Woodford.
The Epping-Ongar Railway, which only opened to the public at the end of May 2012, has all the feel of a vibrant heritage railway that is very well managed and knows exactly where it is going within careful spending limits. The fact that the last bus back to Epping from North Weald at the relatively early hour of 15.40 had to be supplemented by RT1700 KYY 527 to meet the demand, mostly from family groups, bodes very well for the future of this delightful line on the fringe of London.
Grateful thanks are due all the participants for supporting this visit and also to Simon Hanney for his time and trouble in talking to us. Special thanks are due to to Rob Mearman, Central London branch Outdoor Fixtures officer, for making the necessary arrangements and to Martyn Gregg for booking the evening catering. There will be a repeat visit in due course.
Bob Stonehouse October 24th 2012
UK Study Tours 2011
UK Study Tour Loughborough Thursday 6th to Sunday 9th October inclusive.
Great Central Autumn Steam Gala, up to four days of heritage steam activity
on the GC at Loughborough.
Saturday September 24th 2011.
Central London branch: London's Lost Railways, a guided walk organised
by Don Kennedy.
The walk was in three main parts. The first part was to trace the locations of scenes from the 1955 Ealing Studios comedy The Ladykillers. For those of you who have not seen this wonderful period piece, put this Bulletin down now and find a DVD or Video, watch it, come back and then read this report, otherwise the references here will make very little sense!
The second part involved visiting the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, very close to the new Dalston Junction station.
The final part was more akin to Found Railways of London, exploring the new links currently being reinstated to form the southern extension, ultimately as far as Clapham Junction, to the East London system
The Ladykillers film stars Alec Guinness, Danny Green, Herbert Lom, Cecil Parker and Peter Sellers as the anti-hero robbers, with the incomparable Katie Johnson as the delightfully dippy landlady Mrs Wilberforce, heroine of the story. Jack Warner also makes an appearance as a policeman, arguably reprising his Blue Lamp and predating his Dixon of Dock Green roles.
The robbery scenes were filmed very close to and actually at King’s Cross station but, as we were to find, very little of the original locations remains. So the intrepid urban adventurers broke camp and marched across the Euston Road to see the view from Mrs Wilberforce's house which looks up Argyle Street to London St Pancras. Of course this was a pure cinematic effect, as the aforesaid house was actually constructed, at a surprisingly high cost for 1955 of £2500, above the southern entrance to Copenhagen Tunnel, some distance away.
The line to the former Caledonian Road goods depot passed just in front of this house. The lynx-eyed and lovers of minutiae have spotted that the address given on the post card in the shop window scene is 57 Frederica Street. The actual Frederica Street, also known previously as Frederick Street, was next to this film location but only numbered up to 56, so someone had a very good sense of attention to detail.
The views of the steam activity that set the scene and mood in the film were recorded from the tunnel mouth parapet looking down on the line between Gasworks and Copenhagen tunnels, where the North London line and now HS1 pass over the exit from King's Cross. The outtakes are available on DVD via the Huntley film archive, amongst other sources, and are now pure and utterly superb steam age nostalgia though of course they were routine, mundane and, dare the writer say it, rather boring scenes at the time. Next we braved the native hordes who migrate along the shores of the Euston Road to see the locations where the quintet of rogues tried to retrieve the trunk containing their loot by taxi. One view, at the south-eastern end of King's Cross station looking up the Pentonville Road and the Grays Inn Road, is hardly changed from 56 years ago.
It will be easily recognised by visitors approaching Keen House. However, turning around by 180 degrees, another scene involving a taxi on the 1955 station rank has been completely obliterated by the 1971 redevelopment of the concourse. That area too will soon be changed again. Other parts of King's Cross seen in the film have likewise been fundamentally changed by the current construction work.
One exception is the scene of a Thompson L1 2-6-4T No. 67800, very clean for the time, which made an appearance as the 1.05 pm from Cambridge in a recognisable Platform 1, filmed from the now removed footbridge. Of the remaining locations in what were Cheney Road and Battle Bridge Road, where the robbery itself took place and Frankie Howard had his contretemps with Mrs Wilberforce, the horse and the fruit barrow, nothing remains. It has all been demolished and all those locations are now in an inaccessible construction site for the new and exciting King's Cross station and associated much-needed local redevelopment. It is all taking shape as this is written.
The group moved on to St Pancras Road and past The Gymnasium dating from 1861. At the junction with Goods Way a solitary brick wall on the north side of the road was all that remained of a 1955 scene with one of the landmark gas holders prominent. Behind this is the present Camley Street Natural Park built on the site of former coal drops. All the property in this vicinity is now either being redeveloped or has been demolished and like Stratford station area further east it all looks very different from only a few years ago.
The group then proceeded along Goods Way, noting the new King's Cross Boulevard (opened only the day before) on the southern side, and then found themselves looking down on the throat of King's Cross station. This location yielded a moderately good photographic opportunity but alas the scheduled A4 departure that day had been cancelled. It was another salutary experience to note the site of the long-gone York Road platform at King's Cross as well as the former diesel locomotive servicing area.
The group observed the adjacent canal, a Gasworks Tunnel ventilator and the partly derelict Kings Cross goods sheds and associated buildings (in the process of restoration for Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design / University of the Arts London) before going left and further north along York Way. The old York Road underground station façade was observed, still in its terracotta livery. However, once more the changes resulting from the redevelopment around this place are astounding. A former 34A fireman in our midst did not recognise where he was! The old York Way bridge spanning the approach to Top Shed has, in company with Top Shed itself, totally disappeared and the road dips down past new tower blocks under construction. There is a reasonably good view from here of the Javelins and Eurostars as they approach and leave the HS1 tunnel. The sight of the 19th -century GN London Cemetery Company station at Belle Isle (closed 1863) was observed from Randells Way.
The group continued further along York Way, under HS1 and under the North London line, where the last remains of Maiden Lane station could be seen immediately on the left. The group then made their way steadily along Vale Way past new offices and round the final corner to the nearest accessible point to the location of Mrs Wilberforce's house. Alas, the actual site is now a business premises with high security fencing and locked gates. Of the reversing headshunt sidings and cutting that led to Caledonian Road depot not a trace now exists. On some of Don's earlier visits to this location it was possible to actually visit the site of the film-set house and the goods sidings visible in the film - but no longer. The group were, however, just able to see where the dastardly deeds of the disposing of the robbers one by one took place. In common with the entire suburban lineside out of Kings Cross excessive buddleia growth here completely obscured any view of the main line over the retaining wall.
The group, still not wilting under the pressure of all this information intake, then retraced its steps to York Way and right into Brandon Road and past The Albion pub. Your scribe would like to think that all good and proper pubs (it was not clear to this writer if the pub was actually open as a business) should have a strong railway connection, beginning with the sign.
This one was obviously drawn by someone who had not the first idea of what a real steam locomotive looks like. Worse, it was actually in a crude form of 3D! Hastily moving on and passing the Robert Blair primary school in Blundell Street, the walkers found a builders merchants premises on the site of the reversing headshunt of the goods depot sidings north-west of Mrs Wilberforce's house.
The walkers continued a short distance further along Blundell Street and turned right into Sutterton Street to find themselves in a new housing estate, built mostly on the site of the former goods depot. The group went to the end of Bunning Way which is closest to the eastern side of the film location. Alas, this area too was all gated, locked up and completely inaccessible. At this point the first part of the walk really came to its conclusion as all the former Ladykillers railway locations had then been visited.
However, the intrepid band of urban iron way explorers that support these walks are made of sterner stuff and they did not give up. Adjacent to the stub end of the original Frederick Street, it was possible to note an old brick wall and vehicle entrance to the old Caledonian Road goods depot. A white stone, with carved words clearly legible proclaiming the boundary of the Great Northern Railway, was in situ.
We crossed the Caledonian Road close to HM Prison Pentonville to reach Caledonian Road and Barnsbury station for the short hop in a very busy AC Cl 378 to Highbury and Islington. Here we transferred to a slightly less busy DC Cl 378 to the new Dalston Junction. The curve from the North London line to the old Broad Street route has only recently been reinstated to a brand new Dalston Junction station. We alighted here and made our way to the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden. Two sides of the old triangle of lines now exist but the eastern side alignment, which lost its passenger services in 1944, remains - though it is now buried under a very pleasant area of green space. The south end tunnel portal of this curve is blocked off at the new Junction station and a bench seat sits right on top of the filled-in north-eastern-end tunnel portal complete with visible coping stones. It appears to be relatively simple to reinstate this curve should there be justification. It was now time for the welcome lunch break before the third part of the proceedings began. This was much more a discovery of what is being reinstated or newly built on London's railway network, and not visiting the obscure remnants of the railway past.
The group boarded a service on the newly reinstated East London line which takes the old Broad Street route to just beyond Hoxton station, where the very neat and tidy new construction and the newly-placed memorial to North London Railway employees who fell in WW1 were observed. The station affords a spectacular view of the City skyline.
The frequent service meant we were soon on our way again, via the completely new spur to the equally new Shoreditch station, over that infamous bridge that crosses Bethnal Green bank on the main line from Liverpool Street then down a steep gradient to the 1865 route from the old Shoreditch station to Whitechapel, through the Brunels' tunnel under the Thames from Wapping to Rotherhithe followed by Canada Water to arrive at Surrey Quays station.
After the heartening experience of using a very new and well patronised London railway, old habits briefly reasserted themselves as the alignment of the short branch to the Docks Office was then investigated. Moving swiftly on, the group walked alongside the new ELL New Cross branch along Rotherhithe Old Road to Oldfield Grove. Here the joyous sight of a railway under construction was noted and the new footbridge afforded an excellent view of the flyover junction where northbound East London line services from West Croydon and Crystal Palace will cross over the new reinstated line towards the Old Kent Road junction.
On previous Don Kennedy walks to this location it was possible to walk under the viaduct carrying the many multiple tracks in to London Bridge. However, Phase 2 of the ELL project is now well under way and the route is now a major construction site and is thus inaccessible. It was necessary to divert right along Silwood Street and left under the main line along a very grubby and smelly Bolina Street to reach the outskirts of the Millwall football stadium.
A delivery van proclaiming “Kennedy's Pies” (or Kennedy Spies?!) caused some amusement here! The visiting supporters’ exit from this stadium is a footpath along a part of the former Bricklayers Arms branch. A right and left brought us into Canterbury Road, over the Surrey Canal route and eventually to the Old Kent Road itself. This part of the railway routemarch took us close to the Old Kent Road junction with the present day South London line of which more anon.
Where the South London line crosses the street and on the southern side of the Old Kent Road itself is the location of the Old Kent Road and Hatchem station, closed in 1917. More footslog brought the group to Queens Road Peckham (no sign of Rodney or Del Boy) station. At this stage several participants left the main group to go home having had a really good day out. A few hardy masochists, sorry, enthusiastic supporters, boarded a train to London Bridge via South Bermondsey, which from the right hand side afforded a good view of the current construction work on the Old Kent Road Junction.
This junction closed in 1911, when the service from Shoreditch to Peckham Rye was withdrawn and is due to reopen 101 years later, in December 2012. Returning on the 1741 departure from London Bridge and seeing the junction again, this time on the left, the remainder of the group went to Battersea Park to change for Clapham Junction. This will be the end of the newly reinstated East London line when services resume next year but will be routed by way of Factory Junction and Longhedge Junction. Modified platforms 2 & 3 here will serve the new route.
There was now no more to be done and the survivors gathered on the footbridge at Clapham Junction to say their farewells and to thank Don for leading yet another superb “Lost (and now Found!!) Railways of London” for Central London branch LCGB. Once more the weather was just right for the task and it was a rather tired but fulfilled and enlightened writer who went on to a birthday celebration with friends in South London.
Thanks are due to Don for corrections and amendments to this article at the manuscript stage.
LCGB Dawlish Visit
Saturday 26th Sept 2009
Don's guided walks for Central London branch,
which are planned with meticulous attention to detail, are simply
the best and healthiest way of exploring the remnants of London's