October 2010


The origins of the London & North Western Railway’s involvement on the Circle are somewhat complex, extremely fascinating but ultimately beyond the scope of the history of Basilica Fields. However, a précis is desirable in order to explain the presence of Webb’s tanks in the East End!

The general public were slow to embrace train travel across town, largely preferring to walk, until the introduction of cheap workmen’s fares in the mid-1860s on the Metropolitan and Chatham lines popularised suburban rail journeys among the working classes. By the time of the Cheap Trains Act of 1883 it had become well established, with the horse-drawn tram demoted to second best except in the west and north-west tram-less districts where the horse drawn omnibus still held sway on the roads. Although the tram companies also offered cheap workmen’s return tickets, the ‘bus companies made little, and often no attempt to provide services before half past eight in the morning, and it was in this scenario, in the decades before direct electrified underground services across town, that steam-hauled ‘long way round’ suburban services flourished in a network of meandering connecting links and radial routes, some of which had lain dormant since the 1830s.

One such route was the West London Railway (WLR); initially promoted as the Birmingham, Bristol & Thames Junction Railway, it was authorised to run between Willisden Junction and Kensington Canal in 1836, but floundered as construction was beset by engineering problems. In 1840 it took up the title of the WLR, and for three years half a mile of the line was leased to the promoters of the atmospheric railway, and trials were undertaken to demonstrate the potential of that system.

In May 1844 the WLR was finally opened utilising conventional steam power, but suffered from a lack of patronage, and six months later services were withdrawn and the line closed. The following year the line was jointly leased by the Great Western and London & Birmingham Railways (the latter would become the dominant constituent of the London & North Western in 1846) and for eighteen years passenger services remained dormant while the line used for mineral traffic only.

Iin 1859 an Act granted the Great Western, London & North Western, London Brighton & South Coast and the London & South Western Railways power to double the line and construct an extension to cross the Thames to connect with the LB&SC and LSWR south of the river at a point close to Clapham Junction. The International Exhibition at Kensington in 1862 proved to be a good reason to introduce services from Harrow, and the following March full services over the line and the extension began in earnest.

In 1869 the Met & District (MDR) began construction of a spur off its line through Earls Court to join with the West London Railway at Kensington, and passenger services running from Broad Street (North London Railway) to Mansion House (MDR) and promoted by the LNWR as the Outer Circle, commenced in February 1872. With the opening of the Extended Circle and Extended Widened Lines in the late 1880s, the LNWR introduced a limited service of one train an hour beyond Mansion House to the Extended Circle via the junction at Mark Lane. This service initially terminated at Basilica Fields, but by 1892 was extended to Bishopsgate (Liverpool Street), the journey effectively, if not physically, completing a full circle. When the Outer Circle trains were electrified in December 1905, the LNWR negotiated to maintain the steam hauled service to Bishopsgate via Basilica Fields for three years, until the end of December 1908.

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Prior to Stroudley’s appointment, the LB&SCR under Craven had few locomotives designed for shunting and trip work, these jobs usually going to locos awaiting repair or withdrawal. In the winter of 1874/5 Stroudley put an end to this unsatisfactory arrangement when the first six of his E tanks was released to traffic. The successful design was based very much along the lines of his A and D tanks, and construction continued, albeit with detail differences, beyond Stroudley’s death in 1889. The class eventually totalled 78 examples, with the final six released to traffic under Billinton in 1891 .

The locos were painted in the goods dark olive green with black lining and borders, and in contrast to Stroudley’s C class 0-6-0 goods locos, the class received names – most with a Continental flavour which caused some confusion among the Company’s signwriters judging by some of the reported spelling errors!

As a temporary measure due to the acute shortage of suburban passenger locos in the early 1880s, twenty new builds and nine existing members of the class were fitted with the Westinghouse brake, new balance weights, and Krupps long-life tyres on the leading wheels before being painted in the famous Stroudley passenger livery of yellow ochre. Although very successful on goods workings, the E1 tanks proved unpopular with passengers due to their penchant for surging and rough riding at passenger speeds. These duties were also unpopular with the crews who found it difficult enough to keep to their feet, let alone fire at speed. Nevertheless, no alterations were made to address these issues as another batch of D tanks was soon delivered in 1881-2. The twenty nine Westinghouse fitted E1s kept their brake equipment, but quickly returned to their goods and shunting duties. The yellow ochre livery on these locos was generally left untouched until the next visit to the Works, but many of the New Cross locos were repainted olive green long before overhaul.

Further examples of the class were fitted with the Westinghouse brake between 1890-3 for fitted goods workings, at which time both they and the earlier Westinghouse fitted tanks received a fine red line to their dark green either side of the broad black band. Despite their earlier problems on passenger turns, photographic evidence shows the class wasn’t exempt from such work even into the 1920s.

The LB&SCR had no part in goods workings over the East London Line via Wapping and Rotherhithe; those services were entirely under the jurisdiction of the Great Eastern which ran trains from and to the exchange sidings at New Cross. With the opening of the New Tunnel and a couple of small LB&SCR depots north of the river, E1 tanks ran limited goods services via that route on to the Extended Widened Lines.

New Cross had an allocation of twenty nine E1 tanks in the mid-1890s, and the one representing the class on Basilica Fields will be No.132 of 1878, which carried the wonderfully exotic name Epernay. The loco is seen here before the early 1890s when she was fitted with the Westinghouse brake, and the model will be built from an Albion Models kit.

This post concludes the précis of LB&SCR locos for Basilica Fields.