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Notes and news — August 1986

In this issue:

News from Dockland

Work is proceeding quickly on the construction of the London City Airport (STOLPORT). Prince Charles laid the foundation stone and the work will be carried out by Mowlem's who are also building the Docklands Light Railway. The aircraft used in recent trial flights: (Dash 7) are reported to be quieter than helicopters. The runway will be sited along the "Peninsula Road" between the Royal Albert and King George V Docks. Most of the transit sheds here will have been demolished by the time GLIAS Newsletter No. 105 comes out. At the Western end, all buildings to the East of the two Royal Albert Dock dry docks, including the former Harland and Wolff machine shop, have been demolished and the Stothart and Pitt travelling crane has gone. It is reported that one of the three dry docks in this area was to have been adapted as a multi-storey car park, the dock was dewatered and steel framework installed, but planning permission was refused and the scheme has fallen through. At Beckton gas works the remaining buildings, partially destroyed (by explosives?) and carrying slogans (in Vietnamese?) present a bizarre sight. Bob Carr

The Graham Road curve

Dual voltage electric trains from Watford are now running to Liverpool Street, causing a little confusion to passengers unfamiliar with the North London Line (GLIAS Newsletter June 1986). The construction of the bridge over Graham Road was said to have annoyed local residents so there will be relief in the vicinity now work is finished. At the Broadgate development office blocks are springing up rapidly on the site of former railway warehouses (there are good views of the new work). Industrial archaeologists are advised to inspect the southern end of the brick railway viaduct from Dalston Junction. There were still a few hydraulic remains here quite recently. Bob Carr

Southall Railway Centre

In February 1979 the GWR Preservation Group secured the lease of part of the private goods station which is adjacent to Southall Railway Station. The Group has since that date set about the tremendous task of developing the building into a unique and exciting project which will be unequalled in the London area. The aim is to provide a railway museum with both static and working exhibits including steam and diesel locomotives and rolling stock. The centre will also provide facilities for the restoration of steam locomotives. The scheme also has the ultimate intention of reconnecting the rail link with British Railways and in conjunction with them providing a passenger service over the Brentford Branch with trains hauled by both diesel and steam locomotives. The Brentford Branch provides a very picturesque ride and passes many places of interest, including Brunel's Three Bridges. The building itself is of great architectural and historical interest and was built in the early part of the century for Otto Monsted, who were the first manufacturers of margarine in this country. With the building designed for dealing with both the incoming raw materials and the despatch of the finished product, it is ideal for the use now intended. Much has already been done since the early days of 1979, but a great deal more has still to be accomplished if the aim is to be met. Visitors to the centre will be able to see the work that has already taken place since the occupation of the site, when the building as completely derelict. The centre now has amongst its collection eight locomotives. Three of these locomotives are of GWR origin and have been rescued from the scrap yard, and are to be restored into full working steam order again. The other five locomotives are in working order and include two industrial steam locomotives, one of which is named "Birkenhead."

How to get there: Train — Southall Station. BR W Region. Buses: 120, 105, 232A, 195.

By airship over London

Through the good auspices of GLIAS and Russ Nichols, I was fortunate to obtain a standby ticket on the Airship Industries' "AIRSHIP 500" G-BIHN, on Saturday 7th June. Archaeology of anything is relative in time and I hope the technology, management and operation of airships, flying boats and other less common forms of transport in 1986 are being recorded for future readers. I thought I would put pen to paper to note some of my experiences and set them down for your annals.

"Standby" has all sorts of connotations for a traveller on a jet aircraft. An aircraft has a number of seats July certified, but when it's full, there are no more. Standby on an airship has a totally different context. To some extent, everybody is on standby. The cabin, built by Slingsby, holds 7/8 passengers (plus a toilet) in the configuration flown on the day, plus two pilots.

Being an aerostat, it depends on helium density for its vertical buoyancy. If it rains the advertising banner and other surfaces pick up water. Barometric pressure affects the forces as well. The actual weight of one's fellow passengers makes up the difference. So in the vagaries of British Summer weather in June 1986, whether you ride or not depends upon a buoyancy equation, dictated by natural forces. My first attendance at the booking tent produced doom and gloom. 305kgs lift, only 4 lightweights go. Next try, the new standby has turned up, 5 lightweights go, not me. Third try. Yes, six can go, your son can travel too. We sally forth to the airship. The ship is weighed on the mast. Load is 5kg over. "As you (me) the heavy standby, you won't mind staying, will you?"

The ship comes off the mast, the sun comes out. Five minutes of deliberation and another 5 legs, are found — we're all off at last, including me.

The day was bright, sunny, with patchy cloud. We flew, or should I say, pitched and yawed — down the M1. We flew over the R33 gondola in the RAFM museum — what a contrast in technology! Down Park Lane, across Piccadilly, a leisurely 30mph takes us to Tower Hill. Over London Docks, London Bridge Station. The last stages of the Milk Cup Cycle race cross Waterloo Bridge like ants chasing an invader. Around the Houses of Parliament and glimpse of the gardens of Buckingham Palace, back over Hyde Park. England are still playing the Indians at Lord's cricket ground. Oh dear, I have now run out of film — it's amazing how 70 francs of camera film are shot off, when you have one hour on an aerial platform with enormous windows to look through.

What are the last recollections? On the ground London is all buildings, from/the air the green of parks and gardens is greater than I would have allowed — we must hang on to these oases and build more green sanctuaries — I hope Docklands will create more, it's still grey. How silly the railway lines are — all that commercial fighting has produced illogical and extensive visual damage to our environment and sterilised large areas of land next to the amenity of water and the centre of our capital. Too late to rationalise, I expect. I hope, when experts talk of airship travel, they will define "guaranteed seat" and "standby" on their promised services — not all members of the public understand the laws of nature, or have time to wait! But for me, my son and my fellow passengers, the opportunity to share the experience of the flight, view and versatilities of airship travel, — the first commercial service since 1937 — is something I shall never forget. I hope that many others will join the airship trip — it is unique.

Some Statistics:

G. Volume..........5153 m
Length.....52 m
Dia...........14.0 m
Gondola length.....9.2 m
Width.....2.4 m
Height........ 1.9 m
Max. speed......... 55 knots
Endurance......19 hrs
Water ballast......1130 lbs
Engines....Porsche 204 BMP. Lynx Gearbox. Hoffman Varalle pitch fan.

R P Dawson

Great West Road demolitions

Along the Great West Road Wallis Gilbert & Partners may still rule O.K. but buildings of lesser architectural merit are very much threatened. The Isleworth Winery of 1923 is due to be redeveloped and recently demolished are the Dome Garage, Phoenix Works and Springvale building of 1936. Art Deco might be all the rage in Dockland but it seems not yet in fashion in West London. However there is a striking newcomer — a standard 1960s office block has recently been radically remodelled for Wang.

New River to close

Unbeknown to many the Thames Water Authority is undertaking the major task of constructing a new ring main which will supply more than half London's water. Thirty seven miles of tunnel eight feet in diameter are to be driven through the London clay at an average depth of 130 feet, sufficient to clear shallower existing services. With twelve miles already built and later additions, a total of eight miles is planned to be in service by 1996, the estimated cost being 175 million. Eighteen pumping-out shafts, 26 feet in diameter, will be spaced about one and a quarter miles apart. Uneconomic plants at Surbiton, Stoke Newington, Hornsey, Barn Elms and elsewhere will close and a new works at Cheshunt will mean that for the purposes of water supply, the New River will be abandoned south of Broxbourne.

Present flow along the New River is about 25 million gallons per day (mgd). It is planned to reduce this to one mgd but the ecological effect which would ensue is already causing concern to naturalists. Privatisation of Thames Water is almost certain to mean increased pressure to sell inessential land and this could affect listed buildings of interest to GLIAS members. It has been estimated that Thames Water will recoup 27 million from the sale of land made redundant by the ring main.

Most of the New River itself is likely to be retained as a public amenity with reduced flow. At Hornsey TWA land will probably be used for housing and at Stoke Newington the site of the two reservoirs made in 1833 could be a desirable area for redevelopment, although their depth, about 18 feet, means that building is likely to take place only around the edges (c.f. Dockland)*. Very vulnerable are the filter beds built in 1856 just to the west of the well-known castle-like pumping station building on Green Lanes (by Chadwell Mylne, 1854-6, beam engines removed by 1948, listed grade II*). Some kind of supermarket/garden centre scheme has been proposed for this site. Bob Carr

Letters to the editor

From Mary Mills, who writes:
Brian Sturt's article on the relationship between the Greenwich Railway and the local gas companies (GLIAS Newsletter June 1986) is very interesting and detailed — would I be allowed to add even more? It is after all the anniversary of the line.

As Brian has said the Railway Company set up their own gas company from which to supply gas for lighting up the line. Landmann was the engineer to this gas company — and it is interesting to note that he had previously been engineer to the Intercontinental Gas Association. Another point of interest is that he owned land on the other side of Old Kent Road to the South Met's works.

However the Railway Company also approached the existing local gas companies. Landmann had detailed discussions in 1834 with South Met to supply gas for lighting the line — he had offered to let South Met lay pipes for gas, charging the costs to the railway and invited them to supply the railway with gas for some years. The railway wanted lights at 21 yard intervals on each side of the line and at the stopping places at each end — about 700 lights — and it would be left to the option of the gas company: to lay the pipes at the foot or on top of the railway. Landmann told them that soon the railway work, would pass through a sewer, which had to be dried so that the railway's gas pipes could be laid through it. South Met Minute books record no further dealings with the Greenwich Railway. In 1836 the Railway Company was using the Phoenix Company's gas. However the Phoenix Company complained to Greenwich Railway that they were using South Met's gas, which they denied.

Sources for this: Phoenix and South Met Minute books, some deeds in the possession of Southwark Libraries and an unpublished history of ICGA (in that company's possession). Mary Mills

From Bill Firth:
Re: WEBA WARE. Recently I acquired a small "brass" letter rack of uncertain age, which is embossed 'Weba Ware'. Does anyone have any information? Is Weba Ware a particular alloy, a company name, or a trade name? Might the rack be a give-away? Any ideas on age? Bill Firth

From Philip Daniell:
HIGH ELMS ICE WELL. This is one of the finest ice wells in Britain. It is open for inspection on Sunday afternoons. Car park off High Elms Road, between Farnborough and Downe. Obtain a ticket free the nearby Nature Centre. Philip Daniell

The Ragged School Museum Trust

Thanks to the generosity of GEC/Mowlem and London Regional Transport, who are responsible for the construction of the new Docklands Light Railway, a section of parapet railings from the mid-19th century have been secured for the Ragged School Museum. They were removed from their original site on Friday 4th July and are now stored pending their restoration. The railings were situated along the top of the old railway viaduct near Three Colt Street, just to the west of the former Limehouse Station site and have been in situ since the line was built by the London & Blackwall Railway in the late 1830. The route was opened in the July of 1840 and was originally provided with a passenger service that was worked by an ingenious system of cable haulage. The engineer largely responsible for its construction was George Parker Bidder, although he was assisted by none other than the illustrious father and son team of George and Robert Stephenson. It was the first complete railway to employ the use of the electric telegraph and it was also the earliest rapid transit system in the world. For all its ingenuity however, the rope-hauled system proved troublesome and the railway was altered to normal locomotive haulage in 1849.

The passenger service to Blackwall ceased to run in 1926 and freight which used the route were withdrawn in the 1960s. Now the Docklands Light Railway scheme has given the old viaduct and trackbed a new lease of life and the formation is being restored. The Ragged School Museum itself has acquired its name because it is being created within three old Regents Canal-side warehouses which once accommodated the largest Ragged School in London. The first section is expected to be ready for the public next year and when it is completely open it will be the first museum in the East End to be totally devoted to East End history. Ragged School Museum Trust
Further information from: The Secretary, Ragged School Museum Trust, 46-48 Copperfield Road, Bow, E3 4RR

The Docklands Light Railway — Part Two

This second extract from 'The Docklands Light Railway' has been reprinted with the kind permission of Mr. R E. Bayman, Operations Manager of the Docklands Light Railway.

Light Rail in London: previous projects

Since the 1970s London Transport had considered the use of Light Rail transit in several areas other than Docklands. The provision of light rail links from Croydon to New Addington and between Finsbury Park and Muswell Hill were considered, but both were eventually dropped principally on the grounds of cost. A light rail link between Hatton Cross Station and the new Terminal A at Heathrow Airport was also considered. In this case the tight timescale for construction and the disadvantage of a change of mode in a very short distance eventually ruled out anything other than a conventional railway link: the decision was taken to extend the Piccadilly Line instead. By this time plans were being drawn up for the complete regeneration of the area by the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) and, after extensive studies, Light Rail was identified as being the most suitable form of public transport for the area.

Various route options were examined before the final design was chosen. The most notable of those was on the northern branch of the system which was originally to have terminated at Mile End Underground station. This would have involved vehicles running along a section of Mile End Road, but the plan was eventually dropped due to the impracticability of operating along such a busy road and Stratford, a more important centre, was chosen, as the northern terminus instead.

The routes described

The initial DLR system will consist of three legs joined at a triangular junction. These legs will terminate at Tower Gateway, Stratford and Island Gardens; the latter is at the south end of the Isle of Dogs.

DLR route The Tower Gateway branch

Tower Gateway Terminus is being built on a new structure next to the British Rail (BR) Fenchurch Street line viaduct at Minories. The nearby Tower Hill Underground station will provide interchange between DLR services and the Circle and District lines. From Tower Gateway (DLR) a new double track structure will carry the line east as far as Cannon Street Road. At this point the DLR will move on to the BR viaduct where space has become available. A stop will be built at Shadwell, where the viaduct crosses Watney Street, for passengers to change for the East London Line Underground station in nearby Cable Street.

At Limehouse (formerly known as Stepney East) a new structure is being provided to carry the line over Butcher Row. A new stop is also being built here, allowing interchange between British Rail and DLR services. At this point the line leaves the BR alignment and follows the course of a disused railway viaduct. Although this structure was built as long ago as 1840 by the London and Blackwall Railway, it is still in good condition. Nevertheless some work is being carried out, notably the strengthening of some arches and the replacement of several bridges. The line passes close to the Regents Canal Dock (also called Limehouse Basin) and then crosses Westferry Road, where another stop is being provided. After crossing West India Dock Road, the site of the North Quay high-level triangular junction is soon reached, just to the north of the West India Docks.

The Island Gardens branch

The Island Gardens section runs south from North Quay junction to West India Quay station, which is being built in the space between two quayside warehouses on the West India Import Dock. A series of new bridges then carries the line across all three docks in the West India Docks system with stations at Canary Quay and Heron Quays. The bridge will give a clearance of 8 metres (26 feet) above water level to allow vessels to pass underneath. At Canary Quay the line passes through the middle of the existing warehouse Shed 31) in which a station is being built.

After crossing the docks the route curves sharply to the east and descends to South Quay station, then rises again in order to cross the Millwall Cut, again with a clearance of 8 metres (25 feet) above water level. From here the line descends and curves sharply to the south. The route then continues south on new structure, passing Glengall Grove where Crossharbour station is near the Asda store in the District Centre and the Sports Centre. After this station the alignment of a disused railway embankment will carry the line south beside East Ferry Road to a point where it turns east and crosses the road on a new structure which will also support Mudchute Station.

Leaving Mudchute Station, the new construction leads on to another old viaduct. This single track viaduct, which was built in 1872, is in good condition despite the fact that it has been totally disused since 1926. It requires only relatively minor strengthening, some repair work and new parapet handrails. The viaduct runs through Millwall Park, ending at Manchester Road. Here a new bridge carries the line across the road to a two-platform terminus at Island Gardens. Passengers will be able to cross the Thames to Greenwich using the nearby pedestrian tunnel, which was opened in 1902.

The Stratford branch

The line to Stratford heads east from the North Quay triangular junction and soon descends to Poplar station. The Operations and Maintenance Centre is being constructed on the northern side of the line here. The route then curves north in shallow cutting to follow the course of another disused railway to Bow. Stations are under construction at All Saints, Devons Road and Low Church and the provision of an extra station at Carmon Street is under consideration. At Bow the railway will be reduced to a single track and a new embankment will take it up alongside the BR Fenchurch Street to Stratford line. From here the line makes use of a surplus DR track south of the Liverpool Street to Stratford main line. An additional stop at Pudding Hill Lane between — Bow Church and Stratford is also under consideration. A disused bay platform is available at Stratford station and this will be used by DLR trains. Here passengers will be able to conveniently change to the Central line and BR services.

Proposed eastern extensions

Proposed extensions to the east would leave the main system at a junction east of Poplar station. From here a line would run east towards the Royal Docks and Beckton (>>>). Several alternative route alignments have been investigated and public consultation meetings held during 1984 and 1985. (To be continued). R.E. Bayman

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© GLIAS, 1986