March 2010

Until the website is up and running, I’ve added a precis to the ‘About‘ page, also accessed from the green bar at the top of the page.

Graham’s comment to yesterday’s post raised the question of the angle in the viaduct. If you click the image above you’ll have a clearer picture of the GER’s massive goods depot – and this is without the transfer sidings and enormous coal viaducts a few hundred yards east.

The drawing shows the two rail-served levels at Bishopsgate. The upper drawing shows the plan at viaduct level, and the lower shows the street level with sub-surface lines marked on too. The angle in the brickwork which Graham queried in yesterday’s photo signifies the beginning of the northernmost siding of the yard (or field as the GE would have it) which served the ‘Continental Bank’ – one of the outer banks or platforms at the depot. It was so named as it was originally for continental traffic received from and sent to Harwich and Parkston Quay. The drawing must be dated post-1909 as St. John Street was been renamed Grimsby Street that year, and the position of the angle in the viaduct is clear.

Two photographs on this page give an idea of how things looked. The first photo looks out from the warehouse onto the field, and the housing on the left in the middle distance mark St. John (Grimsby) Street. The third photo shows the covered Continental Bank.

[edit] I won’t be modelling Bishopsgate Depot!

Although the bridges (see last post) are an attractive feature, most of the backdrop will be like this – the huge, monotonous brick viaduct carrying passengers and goods in to and out of the capital.

St. John Street was renamed Grimsby Street in 1909, and here we’re north of the railway facing the road junction with Brick Lane. The street is currently inaccessible due to the corporate and political vandalism being wreaked upon this historic and unique piece of Victorian civil engineering progress; it’s being torn down, leaving just the oldest part, the Braithwaite viaduct of 1839, which was encapsulated in the progressive widening schemes of the late 1800s. Yet even this treasure nearly succumbed to the demolition ball, as English Heritage that bastion and saviour of all that’s good and great in this land declared that it was ‘nothing of special architectural or historic interest’ despite being one of the oldest surviving railway structures in the world, and the second oldest in London. Idiots.

But I digress…

Along with the main lines the former Bishopsgate/Spitalfields goods depots shared the viaduct here, and on the other side of the formation lies Shoreditch (ELR) station. If you take time and allow yourself to become lost within the photograph you can almost hear the clang of buffing gear and couplings echoing down the street, the call of the shunter, and a Buckjumper’s blastpipe roaring to life as the little locomotive takes the strain.

The backdrop to the whole of the Basilica Fields project will be the Great Eastern main and suburban lines out of Liverpool Street at viaduct level, and one of the features will be the multitude of bridges crossing roads both large and small. This is girder bridge is not actually on the main line out of Liverpool Street, but is at Limehouse Causeway c1908, and is part of the Great Eastern line to Blackwall, but is a scene so typical of the East End.

Limehouse Causeway was part of London’s original Chinatown where all manner of Oriental goods and services could be bought. It’s another photo full of detail – Edwardian litter (no coke cans or chewing gum!), the dusty street laid with setts, the front room shops with bric-à-brac outside and in the cart, the dirty brickwork, the gorgeous lamp and the sot sleeping it off on the pavement. All this was swept away in the 1930s leaving just the viaduct which now carries the Dockland Light Railway..

Atmosphere by the brick outhouse load! The rear of Pereira Street c1900 gives a stark impression of the poverty of the East End neighbourhoods in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. The housing was coming to the end of its life, and the area was cleared shortly after the Great War. The Barclay Perkins sign is on the Freemasons Arms pub which was demolished at the same time, and the tall chimney in the distance belongs to the Albion Brewery in Whitechapel Street.

Replicating this little lot is going to be great fun; the back yards are crammed full with the cameo modeller’s delights, and it’s obviously a Monday. The outside toilet looks singularly uninviting…and the wooden Tower of Babel in the furthest ‘garden’ is a pigeon loft. Just look at those chimneys!

The old, and very much in decline, silk-weaving neighbourhoods characterised many streets in London’s East End at the time represented on Basilica Fields, such as the Huguenot Weaver’s houses seen here in Florida Street, Bethnal Green c1896. The looms were placed upstairs to catch as much daylight as possible through the large windows, while the family lived below. The Basilica Fields project isn’t just about modelling the pre-Grouping railways of East London; it’s about recreating a part of East London life in the late Victorian/Early Edwardian period, and this photo drips with the kind of atmosphere I’m attempting to capture.

Of course today Florida Street looks very different.

A recent birthday brought in another influx of relevant books, amongst them a trio of Middleton Press titles, seen here with one already in my collection.

Apart from the one on the East London Railway, Liverpool Street to Ilford, Liverpool Street to Chingford and Fenchurch Street to Barking all seem to have little in common with the Extended Circle and Widened Lines to Basilica Fields. However, they are very relevant indeed, as the backdrop to the layout will be the great viaduct carrying the Great Eastern’s Main and Suburban lines out of the Capital.

Liverpool St. to Chingford has some useful photographs of Bishopsgate Goods and Bethnal Green station. Although the line to Chingford branches off at Bethnal Green, there are some very useful photographs of various stations on the line showing the GER 1870s style of buildings and canopies. Completely off topic, but there’s a fantastic photograph of an M15 class 2-4-2T pulling into Clapton with a down train. It’s a very murky image, but packed with bags of atmosphere.

Liverpool Street to Ilford has more immediate relevance, again there’s lots of useful photos of Bishopsgate, Bethnal Green, but more importantly, Coburn Road, which was virtually identical to Basilica Fields. One very useful set shows the 1870s canopies being removed with the skeletal structure still in situ.

Fenchurch Street to Barking seems an odd choice as it’s not even the right line, but Cable Street coal depot was very similar to Seething Friars coal depot which is a couple of segments down the layout (and therefore at least a decade hence).

The East London Railway is obviously very relevant; the raison d’etre of the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines was to relieve the ELR which was working to capacity, and help introduce further passenger and goods services by the various Companies involved, to and from either side of the Thames.

All are currently £15.99 RRP.

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