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Notes and news — June 2015

In this issue:


0-6-0 loco currently at Blumsons Timber Merchants River Road, Barking, taken December 2014 by John Lewis

A series of three articles entitled 'Finnish Invasion' in the Railway Observer (the journal of the Railway Correspondence and Travel Society) for December 2014, January and February 2015, gives details of the 0-6-0 tank locomotive referred to in Peter Butt's article (GLIAS Newsletter April 2015).

It was one of a group of 14 locomotives of various types 'rescued' from Finnish storage dumps for preservation in 1990, having originally been retained as emergency backup when diesel traction was introduced. Two of these remained in Finland, but the remaining 12 were sold for use at the Retallack Adventure Park in Cornwall and were shipped from Sompasaari to Felixstowe on 10 September 1990. However, no sooner had they reached this country than the Adventure Park ran into financial difficulties and was unable to take delivery.

The locomotives then languished for various periods of time before being sold to new owners, in some cases changing hands several times. The Railway Observer article also gives details of the remaining locomotives, and of some carriages which were also retained for preservation. The locomotives remain in various locations in the UK, but cannot of course be readily used since their gauge is wider than the UK standard gauge.

No 795, incidentally is referred to as 794 in the Railway Observer article, and the builder was Tampella. Its builders' number was 350 and it was rebuilt from another locomotive, No 781, in 1932. It was one of Class Vr1. Graham Bird

The 0-6-0 loco at Blumsom Timber Centre at Maple Wharf, 38 River Road, is the same one that used to be in the yard of Enfield Timber, Hertford Road (GLIAS Newsletter June 2006). How it found its way to Barking I don't know but there must be a timber merchant/train enthusiast connection.

The '1920s style brick building' described by Peter at Algor Wharf, 42 River Road was the premises of Barking Zinc Oxide Ltd. I guess the shape of the building must have had something to do with the zinc oxide processing that went on there. The factory was built sometime in the 1930s and was in business as Barking Zinc Oxide until the 1990s when it was taken over by the Belgian company Union Minière who closed it in the early 2000s. The site has now been split up into various industrial units. The factory did have a fine chimney at its rear but that has now gone. Speaking of things gone just a little way further down River Road there was an impressive range of five Belfast Truss timber sheds probably built during the 1930s they were demolished in the early 2000s.

The Lowes chemical company was actually Lawes Chemical Manure Company. John Bennet Lawes while working on the family estate at Rothamsted discovered and patented a process of fertiliser manufacture by treating phosphates with sulphuric acid to produce 'superphosphates' the world's first chemical manure. In 1843 he set up a manufactory on Deptford Creek, the business prospered and soon outgrew the site. In 1857 he purchased the 100-acre Thames-side site at the eastern mouth of Barking Creek (the western mouth being the site of Bazalgette's Beckton Sewage Works). Lawes sold out his interest in the company in 1872, using the money to setup the Rothamsted Agricultural Experimental Station which exists to this day as Rothamsted Research. The Barking works still traded under the Lawes name until bought out by Seabright Chemicals in 1969 which continued in the fertiliser business finally closing in 1997. The site is now used by scrap metal recyclers.

The Handley Page aircraft factory at Creekmouth was a short-lived affair lasting from about 1909 to 1912 when it moved to Cricklewood, but there is a claim for it to be the first British public company to build aircraft.

Creekmouth and River Road has always been a desolate, dirty and smelly industrial area unattractive to most, but as part of the London Gateway scheme there are plans for a vast housing development on the many brownfield sites in the area with some estates already built and occupied. There is now a Creekmouth Preservation Society set up by former Creekmouth residents with a website with the intention to inform more about the area and the people that lived and worked there. John Lewis

News in brief

The Starting Gate public house, St Michael's Terrace TQ 303 904, is listed grade II and has a fine interior by Richard Dickenson dating from 1899. There are engraved glass screens and water colour paintings in framed panels. Close to Alexandra Palace GNR railway station this public house was built in 1875, originally as a café, when Alexandra Palace itself was opened. It was named The Starting Gate in 1958. Immediately to the north in Buckingham Road is a 1950s post office building, Wood Green Delivery Office, now of some period interest. This is a substantial building which goes through to Terrick Road.

Battersea power station (GLIAS Newsletter April 2015) now has no chimney at all at the southwest corner. The last gasholder at Battersea, number 7, is being slowly and carefully demolished by Coleman and Company. This MAN gasholder was a prominent landmark visible from a considerable stretch of the Thames. Built in 1932 it was 295 feet high. By early May it was nearly half gone. Now reduced in height, at the time of writing its proportions resemble a Wiggins gasholder. Bob Carr

Website: Rail Map Online

Every railway there is or ever has been in the British Isles. Not just main lines, but industrial railways (no matter how minor or obscure), every tramroad or waggonway, every miniature railway, every funicular — it's all there! Just to mention a few London examples — the temporary railway that operated during the construction of the Dagenham housing estate, the Surrey Iron Railway, the Woolwich Arsenal railways (superimposed on the current road layout), two miniature railways in Battersea Park (including the short-lived one built for the Festival of Britain), the Tower Subway and the Post Office Railway. David Flett

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© GLIAS, 2015