Station Name: BRENTFORD

[Source: Nick Catford]

Date opened: 1 May 1860
Location: North side of London Road (A315)
Company on opening: Great Western & Brentford Railway
Date closed to passengers: 4 May 1942
Date closed completely: 4 May 1942
Company on closing: Great Western Railway
Present state:

Platforms partly extant and overgrown. The south ends have been demolished.

County: Middlesex
OS Grid Ref: TQ172773
Date of visit: April 1975, July 1980 & 10 March 2013

Notes: Two stations were built at Brentford; Brentford Town would be the terminus for normal service trains while excursions would run on to Brentford Dock station to connect with ferries for Kew Gardens.

Brentford station was expected to open two weeks after the branch opened for freight traffic on 18 July 1859. The stations were, however, not ready, and the line was eventually inspected by the Board of Trade on 5 September 1859; but Col Yolland was not satisfied that the work had been completed. He stated, 'the north end of the platform at Brentford Town station is required to be ramped off - and fenced with a hand rail - and at the south end a hand rail is required standing over the top of the outside girder of the overbridge to prevent passengers from getting out in the dark and falling over into the road. The station building at Brentford Town is incomplete and there is only one signal erected at Brentford to cover both stations.'

The branch opened to passenger traffic on 1 May 1850 with all trains terminating at the main station, which opened as Brentford, having lost the 'Town' suffix. Although built, the dock station was never opened.

Initially the line was single track, so Brentford was provided with one platform on the up side sited on the embankment immediately north of London Road bridge. Access to the platform was by an open stairway. Initially there were no buildings, but a timber building, which included a booking office and waiting rooms, had been provided by the 1890s. From June
1875, following the laying of a second track (in 1861) and conversion of the original track to standard gauge, the branch was operated as a conventional two-track line, and a second platform was provided at Brentford c1876; it was approached by a sloping ramp. The down platform never had any passenger buildings, but there was a signal box near the centre; it had 12 levers of which 4 were spare.

From 2 May 1904 the passenger service was provided by steam rail-motors. At Brentford station the track layout was changed to allow rail-motors to cross onto the up line on their approach, which allowed them to arrive and depart from the same platform. The down platform was taken out of use at this time. A new signal box was provided at the south end of the up platform; it had 19 levers of which 4 were spare.

After closure to passenger traffic the signal box remained in use until 31 January 1954. The platform building was demolished in the first half of 1957, and the signal box lasted a little longer.

Goods traffic was handled by Brentford Dock rather than at the passenger station and, from 3 November 1930, by the new Brentford Town goods station nearly half-a-mile north of Brentford.

In the years following the opening of the Great Western Railway's main line from Paddington to the West Country, a number of short branch lines were built in order to connect nearby towns to
the main line which had by-passed them. In general, the motivation to build these lines came both
from the inhabitants of the towns who wanted to benefit from the advantages of rail transport,
and the GWR itself, which was naturally interested in generating additional trade. However, in the case of the Great Western and Brentford Railway, the motivation came almost wholly from the GWR.

For some time the GWR had been anxious to obtain a broad gauge outlet to the Thames as near to London as possible, allowing the company to reach the inner London docks; Brentford was finally chosen as the most suitable location. It is situated at a point where the GWR main line is nearest to the navigable Thames and is also the southern terminus of the Grand Junction
(now Grand Union) Canal. The GWR proposed the construction of a dock and a broad gauge branch line, four miles in length, which would connect with the main line at Southall.

Support for the scheme from the people of Brentford was somewhat muted as they had already been placed on the railway map in 1849 with the opening of the Hounslow Loop by the London & South Western Railway, and this line gave direct access to London. However it was recognised that the proposed dock would bring some further employment to the town.

Consequently, on 14 August 1855 the Great Western & Brentford (Thames Junction) Railway was incorporated. Initially there was some opposition, notably from the Grand Junction Canal Company and the Duke of Northumberland, owner of nearby Syon House. The company had been promoted by the GWR which had subscribed most of the capital required and piloted the Bill through parliament.  

Brunel was appointed chief engineer, and he estimated that the cost of the entire project, including the dock, would be £100,000, although once construction was under way he quickly revised this upwards.  This was to be Brunel's last railway project as he died two years after the line opened. The connection with the main line was to be by means of a west-facing junction which would allow through running of freight trains to and from all parts of the system, for freight traffic was to be the life-blood of the branch. However a passenger service was also projected and a
separate platform was set aside at Southall station specifically for this purpose.

The objections to the scheme were quickly resolved, and work was able to start in the spring of 1856 with Thomas Treadwell appointed as contractor. Construction of the railway took four years to complete, the delay being mainly due to the need to build a unique three-level bridge where the railway passed under both the Grand Junction canal and Windmill Lane, the road from Southall to Heston. Considerable trouble was experienced at this point with flooding from the canal.

During the construction the local company was responsible for any disruption to canal traffic, with a fine of £10 per hour being imposed if there was any suspension of navigation. The approach to Brentford was on an embankment, and a bridge was built to carry the line over Brentford High Street. In later years, with the building of the new Great West Road which by-passes Brentford, a single-span girder bridge was also built where the road passes under the railway.  The line was laid to broad gauge and was single-track throughout although the formation was of sufficient width to take a second track if that was required at a later date.

The line was officially opened on 15 July 1859 when railway officials and invited guests arrived by paddle steamer from London Bridge for the special ceremony and celebration dinner after a return trip to Southall. Freight services began on 18 July 1859 and were worked by the GWR to whom the line had been leased.

Prior to opening to passengers, the line had to pass a Board of Trade inspection which took place on 5 September 1859. In his report, Col Yolland stated that the line was ‘not yet ready for public use’, citing a long list of remedial work that must be completed before the line could open. A further inspection was made on 17 September but Col Yolland still refused to sanction the opening of the branch. There is no record of a further inspection but passenger services commenced without ceremony on 1 May 1860. There were two stations at Brentford: one to serve the town which would be the terminus for normal service trains, and a second station in the dock to be used by excursions connecting with the ferry to Kew Gardens. Although built there is no record of this second station ever being used.

The freight traffic materialised as expected with 58,000 tons of goods and minerals being carried in the first six months; within a year this had increased to 66,000 tons, and traffic continued to grow. In 1861, following the laying of mixed gauge on the main line, a standard gauge line was laid alongside the broad gauge line on the branch; the broad gauge track was used by passenger trains while the standard gauge line was used for goods traffic.  At this time, there were several schemes to extend the line, one of which would have taken it over the river to Twickenham; nothing got beyond the planning stage.

Following a number of disputes between the local company and the GWR the directors eventually sold out to the GWR on 1 January 1872. In June 1875 the broad gauge track was converted to standard gauge and the branch was then worked as a conventional double-track branch.

Although the volume of freight traffic continued to increase steadily through the years, the passenger traffic remained at a disappointingly low level. The branch ran through largely undeveloped countryside and the west facing junction made it impossible to run through services into Paddington. Despite this, the 1902 timetable showed a surprisingly frequent nine
trains each way on weekdays and seven on Sundays. In an attempt to generate more passenger traffic steam-hauled trains were replaced with steam rail-motors on 2 May 1904. At the same time Trumpers Crossing Halt opened at about the halfway point on the line; it served the Wyke Green golf club and the residential outskirts of Hanwell.

Despite a half-hourly service of rail-motors running seven days a week, passenger numbers were still generally disappointing although on occasions there were too many passengers for the single-car rail-motors, and a trailer had to be added. These proved too heavy and, after a year, push-pull auto-trains began operating the service.

On 26 May 1906 electric trams began operating between Brentford and Hanwell and these were quick to take their toll on the Brentford branch. The passenger service was withdrawn as an economy measure during WW1 and was reinstated following local pressure on 12 April 1920, but only on weekdays. The Sunday service was reinstated in 1923 but lasted for only a few weeks.  Trumpers Crossing Halt closed permanently on 1 February 1926.  Passenger numbers continued to decline with the growth of road passenger transport in the locality, and in 1929 the service was reduced to Monday - Friday rush hours, with services on Saturday running in the early morning and around midday. This infrequent service of auto-trains was finally withdrawn on 4 May 1942. The greatest obstacle to the development of local passenger trade had been the west-facing connection at Southall which prevented through running to and from London.  However even had this been possible it is questionable whether the volume would have ever become substantial as the journey would have been somewhat circuitous in comparison with the LSWR route to Waterloo.

Despite closure to passengers the freight business continued to grow, with traffic using not only Brentford Docks but also the Brentford Town goods yard which had opened on 3 November 1930 to serve local factories, some of which had private sidings. It was sited on the north side of the new Great West Road, nearly half-a-mile north of the passenger station.  By 1951 there were 25 goods trains a day but, despite this, single-line working was introduced in 1952 using the former up line. This was reversed in July 1956 and the former up line was lifted.  By 1956 the annual tonnage of goods and minerals had grown to about half-a-million tons and was being handled by the docks and the goods yard in equal volume.

As the 1950s drew to a close, freight traffic was beginning to switch to road haulage.  The early 1960s brought new forms of goods handling in the London docks, in particular containerisation; the outdated facilities at Brentford left little scope for competition. It was decided to close the docks in 1964 following the collapse of a crane. The cost of replacement was such
that it became more economical to transfer the traffic to alternative docks; on 31 December 1964 the service ceased and the track was lifted six months later.

It must be borne in mind that after conversion of the GWR to standard gauge, it would have been a practical possibility for the company to obtain an outlet to the Thames in the main London docks at any time. This would have been simpler still after nationalisation in 1948, which removed the need to obtain running powers over other companies' lines.  After all, the reason for building the Brentford branch in the first place was the restriction caused by broad gauge.

Through the 1960s the local factories which had been the mainstay of the goods yard had been steadily transferring their freight to road transport, and there was a general decline in the volume of rail traffic. Brentford Town goods station closed on 7 December 1970 although some private sidings remained open. Eventually all that remained of the original traffic which used to pass through Brentford goods yard was an occasional coal train, stone and scrap metal; the large goods shed remained empty and unused. In May 1976 the GLC signed a 30-year contract with British Rail to use the branch for the transport of rubbish. The following year, a solid waste transfer station was opened on the site of the former Brentford Town goods yard. Special container wagons were loaded at Brentford from where they were transported to a tip at Didcot for emptying. In 1993 there were six workings over the line each week.

The transfer station currently handles 158,000 tonnes of waste each year. The waste is delivered by the London Boroughs of Richmond, Hounslow and Ealing.  It is then loaded onto trains which currently leave the site up to four times a week transporting rubbish to a landfill site in Oxfordshire for disposal. It is one of only three transfer stations in London with a rail siding to allow waste to be taken away.

Tickets from Michael Stewart, route map drawn by Alan Young, Bradshaw from Chris Hind

Click here to see a video of the Concrete Cow railtour which visited the Brentford branch on 28 January 2012.

Click here for a video of the aggregate terminal on the Brentford branch made by the GWR Preservation Group


  • British Branch Lines No 9 - The Great Western & Brentford Railway by KW Whittaker (magazine article)
  • The Brentford Branch by JE Connor - article in London Railway Record No. 17 October 1998 (Connor & Butler)

To see other stations on the Brentford branch click on the station name:
Southall, Trumpers Crossing Halt, Brentford Town (Goods) & Brentford Dock

See also special feature Windmill Lane Bridge (Three Bridges)

Steam rail-motor No. 17 has arrived at the down platform soon after this service was introduced in 1904. The following year the track layout was altered to allow incoming trains to arrive at the up platform from where they also departed. This rail-motor was built in 1904 to a design by G.J Churchward. Most rail- motors were converted into auto-coaches and the power units were scrapped. Auto-trains offered most of the benefits of rail-motors but, because they were operated by separate locomotives, were much more flexible in operation and easier to maintain. The first rail-motor was withdrawn in 1914 but sixty-five survived until 1922 and the last was withdrawn in 1935.
Copyright p
hoto by John Alsop

1896 1:2,500 OS map shows the station after the second platform was added. No buildings are shown on the down platform. The access ramp is clearly visible.

1935 1:2,500 OS map.  Nothing on the map has changed although the down platform was
out of use by this time.

1961 1:2,500 OS map. The station is now closed. All the platform buildings have gone, they were demolished in 1957. The signal box at the south end of the up platform has also gone.

Brentford station looking south-east c1920s. A GWR Steam rail-motor 88 waits in the up platform, the down platform having been taken out of use with the introduction of steam rail-motors in 1904. 88 was built in January 1908 and withdrawn by the GWR in October 1935.
Photo from John Mann collection

Brentford station looking south-east on 13 October 1956 during a visit by the West London railtour. 42595 entered service for the LMS on 2 November 1936 after being built by The North British Locomotive Company, GLasgow. A Stanier designed 2-6-4 passenger tank, this class 4 lasted until withdrawal on 21 September 1963 and broken up during the following January. This design inspired Riddles’ 80000 2-6-4 Standard tank design  and sadly, none of these fine looking locos are preserved, the last two being withdrawn in September 1967
Photo by Alan A Jackson

Brentford station looking north-west in March 1957. The 1905 signal box is seen on the right; it replaced an earlier box on the down platform. The platform buildings were demolished later that year.
Photo by Bob Cogger

The up platform at Brentford station in 1957, shortly before the platform buildings were demolished. The signal box, which closed on 31 January 1954, lasted a little longer.
Photo from John Mann collection

Looking north-west at Brentford station in July 1960 from a passing goods train. The photographer managed to cadge a brake van trip along the branch on this day.
Photo by David Pearson

Looking north-east along London Road in April 1961. The remains of Brentford station are seen to the left of the bridge.
Photo by Ben Brooksbank

Brentford station looking south-east in 1973.
Photo by J E Connor

Brentford station looking north-west along the up platform in 1973.
Photo by Ian Baker

Brentford station looking south-east along the down platform in July 1980.
Photo by Nick Catford

The site of Brentford station seen from flats on the far side of London Road in March 2013. The south end of the platform was demolished, and the site is now used by the motor work shop. Beyond that the embankment is intact, and the overgrown platforms are still there. The embankment is difficult to reach, and it was not possible to get a closer view. The brick rear of the up platform can be seen from the adjacent car park.
Photo by Nick Catford

Click here for more pictures of Brentford station




[Source: Nick Catford]

Last updated: Sunday, 04-Jun-2017 09:57:46 CEST
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