The London, Brighton & South Coast Railway was the first company to operate over the East London Railway, services commencing 7th December 1869 between Wapping and New Cross.

The company had sprung from the merger of the London & Croydon and the London and Brighton Railway companies in 1846, which had opened their lines in 1839 and 1841 respectively. The London & Croydon shared the route at the London end with the London & Greenwich, which itself became part of the SER in 1845 – both companies providing their own stations at New Cross, and both of which later became the terminating stations for many ELR trains. With the opening of the South London Line from 1866, Old Kent Road and later Peckham Rye would also become terminating stations for some LB&SCR hauled ELR trains.

Extending the line northwards under London Docks proved to be an herculean task, but LB&SCR trains eventually ran into Liverpool Street from 1876. With the formation of the East London Railway Joint Committee (ELRJC) in 1882, which comprised the Metropolitan, Metropolitan & District, South Eastern Railway, London Chatham and Dover, the Great Eastern (from 1885) and the LB&SCR, the latter took responsibility for maintenance until handing over to the SER in 1885 (which had itself withdrawn trains over the line the previous year). From 1886, with the advent of GER services over the ELR, LB&SCR trains were cut back from Liverpool Street to Shoreditch, and the GER then took over LB&SCR services to Croydon.

With the opening of the ELR Extension (ELRE) and the New Tunnel, the LB&SCR provided passenger services over the Extended Widened Lines (EWL) through Basilica Fields to Bishopsgate (Liverpool Street), and for the first time provided a limited goods service to its recently opened small depots on the EWL.

By 1902, the LB&SCR was providing 64 of the 276 passenger trains every weekday over the ELR, but because the ELRJC initially failed to back the electrification plans for the Circle extending over the ELR, the Metropolitan and Metropolitan & District withdrew services over the line from the end of 1906, the upshot of which was that within five years the LB&SCR was providing over 100 trains daily to Shoreditch and back. The ELR was finally electrified in 1913.

By the early 1900s, passenger receipts over the EWL/ELRE were falling fast due to competition from the roads. Electric trams along Mile End Road, Burdett Road and Commercial Road had duplicated much of the EWL route, and electrification was deemed too great a financial risk, even for the determined Metropolitan Railway. The LB&SCR along with other members of the ELRJC therefore continued to provide steam-hauled services until the line was closed during the Great War.

Three classes of loco will be represented on Basilica Fields, all designed by William Stroudley, and will be explored in detail later. His A class tank No.59 Cheam stands at Shoreditch on the East London Railway, probably c1876, shortly after the Wapping – Liverpool Street extension was completed. No.59 was one of only two New Cross Terriers to retain their condensing equipment beyond 1894 which enabled them to be utilised on ELR services. A further exploration of this class and its successors will follow.