Notes: The third Canning Town was a major complex comprising
a bus station and platforms for the North Woolwich line, Docklands
Light Railway and Jubilee Line. The North Woolwich trains were
served by an island platform a littler to the south of the site
of the first Canning Town Station.
BRIEF HISTORY OF STRATFORD
- NORTH WOOLWICH LINE
In 1833 a railway line was proposed from Limehouse, to the north
bank of the Thames opposite Woolwich. Nothing came of this scheme
but in 1842, George
Parker Bidder put forward a proposal to link the Eastern
Counties Railway at Stratford with the Thames to enable seaborne
coal to be distributed throughout East Anglia.
Bidder's scheme was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1844
as the Eastern Counties & Thames Junction Railway, with
powers for a line from Stratford to a terminus on the Thames
near the mouth of Bow Creek. It was opened between Stratford
and Barking Road on 29th April, 1846 and was purchased by the
E.C.R. in August of that year.
Meanwhile, in 1845, an Act had been obtained for the North Woolwich
Railway, which was to extend the Thames Junction line to a point
on the river opposite Woolwich. Despite opposition from the
Board of Trade the bill was passed as the line would provide
access to Woolwich and its arsenal which at that date was without
a railway connection.
After completion, the North Woolwich Railway was bought by
the E.C.R. in 1847 and the 21 mile line was opened on 14th June,
1847, together with a curve to the main line at Stratford, enabling
through trains to be run between the Eastern Counties terminus
at Shoreditch and North Woolwich. There were two intermediate
stations at Stratford Bridge (later Stratford Market) and Barking
Road (later Canning Town).
The branch quickly proved popular and an hourly service was
established between Shoreditch and North Woolwich where two
steam ferries, owned by the railway, provided the connection
to Woolwich itself.
The line was extended northwards to a junction with the North
London Railway at Victoria Park on 15th August 1854, to accommodate
these trains; a new station was opened at Stratford Low Level.
On 31st March 1858, the London Tilbury & Southend Railway
opened a loop to the North Woolwich line at Abbey Mills providing
a route into Fenchurch Street.
In 1849 the South Eastern Railway opened their line to Woolwich
resulting in a huge loss in revenue to the North Woolwich line.
In an attempt to gain revenue there was some development around
the remote North Woolwich terminus. Silver & Company established
a factory adjacent to the line and prospered to such an extent
that the locality became known as Silvertown.
In 1850 the Victoria Dock Company was authorised by Act of
Parliament to construct a dock east of Bow Creek and immediately
north of the railway. The entrance to the dock cut across the
railway and to avoid disruption to traffic the North Woolwich
branch was diverted around the north side of the dock, to rejoin
the original line about three-quarters of a mile west of the
terminus. A station was opened on the new line at Custom House.
The original line was retained to provide railway connections
to the numerous factories which sprang up along the river bank
crossing the entrance to Victoria Dock by a swing bridge; it
was known as the Silvertown Tramway.
Victoria Dock opened in 1855 and was an immediate success with
its direct connection to the Great Eastern Railway. The district
surrounding the railway quickly prospered with new stations
opening at Tidal Basin and Silvertown. In 1862 the E.C.R. merged
with other lines to form the Great Eastern Railway.
In 1874 the Beckton gasworks company opened a single-line branch
from Custom House to their works and in 1880, another branch
was opened from Custom House to a terminus at Gallions close
to the dock basin where the P. & O. liners berthed.
In 1864, the Victoria Dock passed to the London & St. Katherine
Dock Company, which, in 1880, opened the Albert Dock as an easterly
extension of the Victoria; it was joined to the latter by a
short cut. It was again necessary to divert the North Woolwich
line and an 1875 Act gave the dock company powers to divert
the loop line through a tunnel under the cut between the two
docks. The original line was retained as the high-level route
owned by the dock company but in the event of the tunnel becoming
impassable through any cause, the Great Eastern the right to
use the original route free of charge until the tunnel was again
fit for use.
In 1872 the Great Eastern Railway opened a new line from Bethnel
Green to Stoke Newington and Lower Edmonton with a branch from
this line at Seven Sisters opening to Palace Gates in 1878.
On 1st January 1880 a new spur was opened allowing a new service
to be established between Stratford and Palace Gates, this service
later ran through to North Woolwich.
Both the Gallions and the Beckton branches were closed to passengers
on September 7, 1940. Tidal Basin Station was closed to all
traffic from 15th August 15 1943 after it was damaged by enemy
action. Freight traffic to and from the docks was also affected
inevitably by the war. In the early war years labour and equipment
were transferred from London to other ports, but in 1944 preparations
for D-Day put a heavy strain on the railways feeding the London
After the war passenger numbers were in decline with commuters
finding the busses and trolleybuses more convenient; freight
traffic was initially less affected but road haulage was beginning
to make significant inroads. Passenger trains continued to run
between Palace Gates and North Woolwich with short workings
to and from Stratford Low Level. Stratford Market Station closed
in 1957 and weekend services were withdrawn shortly afterwards.
The service between North Woolwich and Palace Gates was withdrawn
in 1963 and by the mid 1960's freight traffic had dwindled away
to almost nothing and one by one the local goods depots were
closed with the final blow coming in the late 1960s with the
rapid decline of their docks.
The goods service was withdrawn from North Woolwich in 1970
and the passenger service was expected to follow with the line
east of Custom house being reduced to single track. A reprieve
came at the end of the 1970's when the GLC joined forces with
British Rail to revitalize the North Woolwich line by extending
the service from Stratford over the freight only North London
line to Dalston Junction.
The line between Stratford and Dalston Junction had not seen
a passenger service since 1943. New stations at Hackney Wick
& Hackney Central were provided and all the stations between
Stratford & North Woolwich were rebuilt. At North Woolwich
this included the closure of the 1854 Grade II listed building.
A new entrance building was provided on the south side of the
line and the track re-laid into the southern platform to serve
it. A new station provided at West Ham for interchange with
the District Line.
The old station building and down (northern) platform were
acquired by the Passmore Edwards Trust and after renovation
the Old Station Museum was opened by the Queen Mother in November
1984. In May 1985 the line between North Woolwich and Dalston
was electrified with a new service introduced between North
Woolwich and Richmond with the resumption a full weekend service.
Despite this huge investment in the North Woolwich Line its
future was not secure. With the expansion of the Docklands Light
Railway the line between Stratford Low Level was closed on 9th
December 2006. The section between Royal Victoria and Stratford
has been handed over to the DLR and will be rebuilt as an extension
to the DLR between Royal Victoria and Stratford International,
due to open in 2010. The section between Custom House and North
Woolwich was closed completely as both North Woolwich and Silvertown
stations are within 300 yards of existing DLR stations.
There are proposals to hand much of this section of the line
over to Crossrail
who will incorporate it into their route but construction is
unlikely to begin until at least 2013. In the meantime the Old
Station Museum at North Woolwich is due to be cleared of its
exhibits and archive and the Grade II listed building will be
handed over to The London
Rail Heritage Centre who are proposing to run a heritage
rail service between North Woolwich and Custom House and a rail
school until the land is required. This will include the building
a new servicing facility on part of the former goods yard.
To see the other stations on
the Stratford Low Level - North Woolwich line click on the station
Low Level, Stratford
Market, West Ham,
Canning Town (1st), Canning
Town (2nd), Tidal
Basin, Custom House,
See also Gallions
& Beckton branch