Tag Archives: london and blackwall railway

The Reign of Terrier

Well, the docklands layout now has a locomotive. I don’t normally buy locomotives specifically for layouts, more the other way round – I build layouts in order to give locomotives somewhere to run.

IMG_1553But, well, I rather like the London, Brighton and South Coast ‘Terriers’, and I saw a second-hand one going cheap on a stall at a jumble sale, so policy be damned.

The use of a Terrier (or A1X, if we’re going to be pedantic) is, of course, entirely justified on an East London layout – the LBSC actually built these delightful engines to work passenger trains on their lines in South East London. They were nippy little engines, and more than capable of the work they were given to do. They were equally capable of goods and shunting work, and their small size and light weight made them perfect for branch and light railway work. So good at their jobs were they that they lasted in service from the 1870s through to the 1960s, often passing through more than one owner – where the LBSC or Southern Railway didn’t want them, someone else generally did. Some even ended up back with the Southern after the lines they had been sold to were taken over.

The engine in the photo is Brighton, an engine that had something of an adventurous life. It was a showtrain of sorts, winning a gold medal at the 1878 Exposision Universelle in Paris and, in a moment to gladden the heart of any red-blooded Englishman, set a speed record of 50mph on the Chemins de Fer de l’Ouest. It went to the Isle of Wight Central Railway in 1902. On withdrawal, it was a seaside attraction at Butlin’s holiday camp at Pwllheli, which frankly sounds like a fate worse than death. Fortunately, the engine was saved by the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and now lives there under its Wight identity of Newport, number W11.

All of which rather suggests that it shouldn’t be in the East End during BR days. Fortunately, there’s a little phrase we modellers like to use, which is “might have been”. J E Connor, in his book Stepney’s Own Railway, notes that there was at one time a plan to build a link between the East London Railway and the London and Blackwall Railway at Shadwell. The East London Railway used Marc Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames to provide a link between the North and South sides of the docks in East London. It was operated by the London, Chatham and Dover Railway, the Metropolitan Railway, the Metropolitan District Railway, the South Eastern Railway, the Great Eastern Railway – and the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Connor suggests that enthusiasm for this project was the reason for Terriers being built with the names Stepney, Fenchurch, Minories, Shadwell, Millwall, Poplar and Blackwall. The Terriers were named after places on or near LBSC lines (which apparently caused Victorian travellers a lot of confusion, as they mistook the name of the engine for the destination of the train), but those seven places were all along the London and Blackwall Railway.

So I’m gonna go right ahead and say that, in the universe where my railway is set, that link actually was built. The Terriers would have been ideal motive power for the dock lines, as the swing bridges carried a severe weight restriction. They already worked through the Thames Tunnel, that’s why they were fitted with condensing equipment, so it’s no stretch to suggest that they would have been regular performers on such a link.

The docks give me an excuse for all sorts of (small) motive power, justifying the use of engines from the London Midland, Eastern and Southern Regions, although I don’t intend to restrict myself to BR days. I could also bring in the Port of London Authority’s locos and stock, as well as any number of industrial shunters.

Yes, I think this is going to work out just fine.

Why “Terriers?”

Ever wondered how these engines got their nicknames? The most popular suggestions are that they’re very small compared to most locomotives, and they have a distinctive exhaust “bark” when working hard (apparently due to their Westinghouse brake pumps). J E Connor adds another suggestion – because the A1 class worked through the Thames tunnel, they spent much of their time underground. Like, yes, a terrier hunting rats.

Further Reading

http://www.terriertrust.org.uk/ – The Terrier Trust. An informative and informal site with lots of interesting articles.

http://www.semgonline.com/steam/a1x_01.html – The Southern E-Group is, to my mind, the best online resource for enthusiasts of the Southern Railway, its constituents and successors. They have no less than twelve lavishly-illustrated pages on Stroudley’s little friends.


Minories Report

I mentioned in my last post that I’m a great enthusiast for the joys of research. So, when planning my new layout set in the East End, what better way to research it than to actually get out there?

I started out in Shadwell, taking the Docklands Light Railway. I’m a big fan of the DLR, because it’s simultaneously very modern and very historic. It utilises a lot of the old infrastructure of lines long since closed. For instance, here it runs on the viaducts of the old London and Blackwall Railway. These were very characteristic of railways in West London, where gravelly soil made tunnelling difficult.

I thought this was the old station building. Wikipedia begs to differ.
I thought this was the old station building. Wikipedia begs to differ.

Further East, the railway has been built on new concrete flyovers. At West India Dock, there’s a veritable spaghetti junction of lines passing over and under each other as the trains try to figure out which way they’re going. From here, it’s a short walk back to Tower Gateway, following the route of the line.

minories station

The picture above was taken just short of Tower Gateway, and shows both the original London and Blackwall Railway viaduct and the later Midland Railway goods station building – this line was used by the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway and the North London Railway, both of which ran into the L&BR’s Fenchurch Street terminus. The goods station had a roof back in the 1980s, and now forms part of a car park. Car parks have little respect for history.

"You know, I don't believe this train goes to Poplar at all."

"You know, I don't believe this train goes to Poplar at all."

Above is pictured another historic feature of interest. One of the selling points used by the builders of the L&BR, or the Commercial Railway as it was known in those early days, was that by putting the railway on a viaduct, the arches could be converted into houses or shops – a nice little moneyspinner, and one in the eye for the rival scheme supported by George and Robert Stephenson for a railway built in a cutting. One slightly unexpected by-product of this was that when the lines were closed, they couldn’t demolish the viaducts, being as how they were occupied. So as a result, you’ll get long stretches of overgrown, trackless viaduct which suddenly end at the road.

You probably can't read that street sign.

You probably can't read that street sign.

This photo shows the area the line runs into – Fenchurch Street on the main line and Tower Gateway on the DLR. The reason I’ve taken a photo of this particular bridge is because it’s a significant place for modellers. This street is, in fact, the original Minories.minories2

Minories, in model railway terms, is a layout plan by the late, great Cyril Freezer for a compact city terminus station. See http://carendt.com/scrapbook/page85b/index.html for a tribute to Cyril and a reproduction of Minories (along with some of his other well-known plans). The layout doesn’t look much like the real Minories – it was actually inspired by Liverpool Street. But as Cyril was an East London boy, he would almost certainly have been familiar with the area.

The real Minories was doomed from the start. As I said above, the L&BR was originally known as the Commercial Railway, for the simple reason that it didn’t actually enter the City of London itself. They had to settle for Minories, a short distance from the Tower of London, which opened from 1840. It was only the following year that an extension was completed to Fenchurch Street. It wasn’t a long extension, but it did give the Commercial Railway that all-important presence in the City – the only line at the time to have a station in what was then considered Central London. Minories was immediately demoted to the poor relation. It was too close to Fenchurch Street to prosper, and in 1853 it was closed entirely and converted into a goods yard for the newer terminus.

Minories Station. The L&BR was originally cable-hauled, hence the lack of locomotives in this picture.

Minories Station. The L&BR was originally cable-hauled, hence the lack of locomotives in this picture.

That, by the way, is what became the Midland Railway goods station shown above.

Minories wasn’t gone for good, though. With the decline of goods traffic on British Railways (thanks again, Beeching), the goods station was abandoned. Fast forward to the 1980s, and the Docklands Light Railway was looking for a site for its western terminus. Well, here was a ready-made terminus site, just a couple of minutes’ walk from BR’s Fenchurch Street and London Underground’s Tower Hill. So it was that Minories had the last laugh – under the new name of Tower Gateway.

Further Reading

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/technology-obituaries/5517020/Cyril-Freezer.html – Telegraph obituary for Cyril Freezer, briefly touching on Minories and his East End childhood.

http://www.themodelrailwayclub.org/docs/minories.htm – A literal version of Minories, using an imaginary extension of the Great Northern Railway.