Station Name: NORTH GREENWICH

[Source: Nick Catford]


Date opened: 29.7.1872
Location:

East side of Johnson Street (now Ferry Street). The site is now occupied by the north end of the Poplar Blackwall & District Rowing Club building and the south end as a residential block to the north.

Company on opening: London & Blackwall Railway
Date closed to passengers: 4.5.1926
Date closed completely: 4.5.1926
Company on closing: London & Blackwall Railway
Present state: Demolished - no trace of the station remains. An interpretation board on the adjacent Johnson's Draw Dock slipway commemorates the Greenwich Ferry and North Greenwich station.
County: London
OS Grid Ref: TQ382783
Date of visit: June 1968, October 1968 & 21st March 2008

Notes: North Greenwich station had a single timber platform. The station building was also largely timber with a plain canopy but fronted in brick. The locomotives and rolling stock were stabled at North Greenwich where there was a run-round road, a carriage siding and a small engine shed with an adjacent coal stage and water tank on the east side of the line. No photographs of the engine shed have been found and it has been suggested that the shed was never used with just the stabling point. Early twentieth century photographs show no evidence of the shed.

North Greenwich signal box, fitted with a 17-lever Saxby & Farmer frame, stood at the junction with the shed road. There were no goods facilities.

When the Millwall Extension Railway was built the viaduct severed Wharf Road at North Greenwich. A subway was provided under the viaduct at the north end of the station building.
Although the station opened on 29 July 1872 it did not appear in public timetables until November. Although the station was always known as North Greenwich tickets usually showed it as North Greenwich & Cubitt Town.

Despite its early closure the station remained largely intact after closure; initially it was used as a store for filled barrrels and latterly it was used by a rowing club. It was finally demolished in 1969 because it was in a dangerous condition and a new building for the rowing club now occupies part of the site. The north end of the station site was later occupied by Island Gardens, the terminus of the Docklands Light Railway, but when the Island Gardens was resited in 1999 the earlier station was quickly demolished and a new residential block now stands on the site.

BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MILLWALL EXTENSION RAILWAY
In 1863, the London and Blackwall Railway Company proposed a line across the Isle of Dogs from a junction at Limehouse. The proposed route would cross the western entrances to the West India Docks running south to serve new industries at Millwall, terminating on the north bank of the Thames at Cubitt Town from where there was a ferry to Greenwich.

The proposed line was vigorously opposed by the East and West India Dock Company and rejected by Parliament in 1864 because of the adverse effect it would have on the docks.

The Great Eastern Railway took a long lease on the London & Blackwall line in 1864 and revived the scheme for a branch line across the Isle of Dogs following the successful Bill for the construction of the Millwall Docks. The East and West India Dock Company was still reluctant to allow the railway to pass through its estate and suggested an alternative route across the east side of the West India Docks, where there was already a siding. A further Bill was submitted to Parliament and the railway companies were forced to amend their proposals to accommodate the dock company, agreeing to build either a tunnel under the docks or a line on their east side, which the dock company would build and control with the right to exclude passengers and locomotives, to reduce fire risks.

The Millwall Extension Railway Bill was passed on 19 June 1865 but apart from the junction with the Blackwall line at Poplar, nothing was done as a number of factories that the line was intending to serve went out of business following the financial crash of 1866. The GER lost interest in the line and the raising of capital was left to the London and Blackwall company, The Millwall Freehold Land and the Docks Company. The rebuilding of the South Dock of the West India Docks from 1867 rendered the tunnel option impracticable.

Finance was finally secured in May 1868 and it was agreed that the London & Blackwall would build the first five chains of the line from the junction at Poplar to the West India Dock estate boundary. The dock companies would build and finance the sections of line on their own property, 41 chains through land owned by the East & West India Dock Company and 52 chains along the eastern edge of the Millwall Dock estate. The final 31 chains was built by the London & Blackwall making a total length of 1 mile 49 chains.

The branch was laid with light rails, opening on 18 December 1871 between a new junction station on the London & Blackwall line called Millwall Junction and Millwall Docks station with an intermediate station at South Dock within the East & West India Docks. This section of the line opened for freight and a workmen's service was also provided. Work on the remainder of the single-track line started early the following year opening to North Greenwich with a full passenger service on the 29 July 1872. The terminus was actually in the new working class residential district of Cubitt Town but the GER chose the more 'up market' North Greenwich for the terminus which was sited 200yd from the jetty served by the Greenwich ferry. The main civil engineering features of the line were three swing bridges and a brick arched viaduct between Millwall Dock station and North Greenwich.

Initially steam traction was not allowed through the docks because of the weak timber and the proximity of wood yards. Initially, tram cars were horse drawn between Millwall Junction and the southern boundary of the Millwall Docks from where a steam locomotive hauled the cars to the terminus at North Greenwich.

The GER built a new pier at North Greenwich and in 1874 ancient rights to carry passengers were transferred to the GER with through tickets to South Greenwich available from Fenchurch Street. This service continued until the London County Council opened a pedestrian subway under the river at Greenwich on 4 August 1902. With the opening of by this tunnel the GER agreed to withdraw the ferry service from 31 October after receiving £8,000 in compensation. Through locomotive haulage on the branch finally started on 23 August 1880 after bridges had been strengthened and three small 2-4-0 ST locomotives had been acquired. (For full detail of these see photo captions below.) At this time, the working of the branch was taken over by the Millwall Dock Company with a 15-minute service from 7 a.m.

In November 1922, the Port of London Authority, as successor to the dock companies after 1909 replaced the existing steam engines; presumably they were life-expired but perhaps also the rolling stock was due for replacement by larger and heavier types. Their replacements were three steam rail-motors; two ex-GWR and one ex-Port Talbot Railway via the GWR. The introduction of the Manning Wardle locomotives had, despite their diminutive size, required strengthening of bridges on the short North Greenwich branch and the introduction of the rail-motors required further such work to be carried out. On this understanding, it is surprising that the usually lightly used railway did not close in 1920 but this was not to be and the steam rail-motors duly appeared for the final six years of the line's life. The rail-motors were, from the operational point of view, ideally suited to this short line with its reasonably frequent service as they eliminated the requirement for a locomotive to run round at North Greenwich and Millwall Junction with monotonous regularity. Timetables for the rail-motor period show that only one was required for service, used intensively. Another would have been in steam as standby and would have taken over the service when the first required coaling and watering. The third rail-motor would have been the maintenance spare.

The rail-motors were GWR Nos. 42 and 49, these being numbered RM1 and RM2 by the PLA, while the third was ex-Port-Talbot Railway & Docks Co No.1, this becoming PLA RM3. All three were sold to the PLA in July 1920, which suggests that the Manning Wardle locomotives were disposed of later in 1920. Unfortunately, when delving into history, when something needs to be perfectly clear it seldom is and the PLA rail-motors are no exception. GWR Nos. 42 and 49 were standard, for the GWR, in that they had 0-4-0 vertical boiler power units. Both were what the GWR termed 'suburban' types which basically meant they had less luggage space. Beyond that, they differed in bodywork design, No.42 being 59ft 6in long excluding buffers 63ft 6in overall and a Diagram L vehicle new in January 1905. No.49 was 70ft long excluding buffers 74ft overall and a Diagram N vehicle new in February 1905. No.42 weighed 38t 16cwt in working order and No.49 43t 3cwt in working order. Seating capacities were 50 and 64 respectively with one-class smoking and non-smoking accommodation. It is at this point some confusion arises. No.42 was withdrawn by the GWR fitted with power unit No.0834, which was built at Swindon in 1905, and sold to the PLA with that power unit but No.49 is rather a puzzle, being withdrawn by the GWR fitted with power unit No.0841, which was built at Swindon in 1905, but is recorded as being sold to the PLA with power unit No.0858 built at Wolverhampton in 1905. So far so good but records show there was also a float spare numbered 0858 which dated from October 1905, so which power unit went with No.49 is a mystery. If that was not enough, it is not clear if No.49 had power unit No.0841 replaced by one or other 0858 or if it went to the PLA fitted with No.0841 with a No.0858 as a spare unit. There is no record of No.0841 being fitted to any other GWR railmotor subsequent to 1920 but by that time some rail-motors had already been converted to auto-trailers so there would have been a surplus of power units.

Port Talbot Railway and Docks Co. No.1 was an oddity, being a monster with an 0-6-0 horizontal-boiler power unit articulated to the carriage portion and the only self-contained steam rail-motor with an 0-6-0 power unit to operate in Britain. The power unit was built by R & W Hawthorn, Leslie and Co and the carriage portion by Hurst, Nelson & Co. These companies are usually referred to by the abbreviated titles Hawthorn Leslie and Hurst Nelson. Ex works in early 1907, No.1 was 76ft 9in long over buffers with 3ft diameter driving wheels and had a tractive effort of 9,792lb which was a long way short of even the GWR 4800 class 0-4-2T which, from the 1930s, was to take over many rail-motor duties with an auto-trailer. Other details of railmotor No.1, such as seating capacity, appear to be lost in the mists of time.



Port Talbot steam rail-motor No.1 photographed when brand new in 1907. Features to note are the articulated power unit disguised to more or less match the carriage portion, the horizontal boiler facing smokebox inwards (logical to enable the controls to be at the outer end) and the number applied to both power unit and carriage portions. Also of note is the resemblance of the non-powered end to that of the later GWR rail-motors, a feature which was presumably pure coincidence. This rail-motor was destined to become Port of London Authority No. RM3 in 1920. Picture from Grace's Guide.

The involvement of the GWR with the Port Talbot concern is by no means clear. The GWR had taken over operation of the Port Talbot concern's railways in January 1908 but for some reason this was legally considered to have occurred early the previous year. The answer may lie in the fact that running powers and other necessities were not formalised until 1908, implying that the GWR had already been operating the line since the previous year. Operation of the entire Port Talbot concern occurred in 1911 but, it would appear, the Port Talbot Railway and Docks Co was not formally absorbed by the GWR until the Grouping. But whatever the story, for some reason rail-motor No.1 was taken to Swindon in 1915 and there it appears to have remained until 1920. The arrangements for the GWR to operate the Port Talbot concern, pre full absorption, included responsibility for the Port Talbot rolling stock, which would explain how No.1 ended up at Swindon but why remains a mystery. All three rail-motors destined for the PLA were withdrawn in July 1920 and seemingly sent to London immediately but why did the three include Port Talbot No.1? It seems a strange move given that the other pair had standard GWR power units as it would have meant staff training on two different types and presumably two different sets of spare parts. As No.1 became PLA RM3 we assume it did actually operate but as at the time of writing no photographs of any of the rail-motors in service with the PLA have come to light we just do not know for certain. Click here for more pictures of the rail-motors used on the Millwall Extension Railway.

The line had never proved popular with passengers and had been steadily in decline except when Millwall Rovers Football club was playing at home; on these days the tiny locomotives often pulled five crowded coaches. This seasonal traffic was, however, lost when the club moved south of the river to New Cross in 1910. During WW1 the service was reduced to two trains an hour and, with many of the passengers lost to motor buses, closure was inevitable and was announced for 30 June 1926. This was, however, pre-empted on 4 May 1926 when locomotive crews were stopped by pickets during the General Strike and the service was never reinstated.

The three rail-motors were withdrawn when the North Greenwich line closed to passengers in 1926 and all three were scrapped in 1928,presumably having languished somewhere within the docks in the interim. Freight traffic continued over part of the route until 1929 but the line between North Greenwich and Glengall Road was completely closed and part of the viaduct was demolished c1936.

In December 1982 Government approval was given for the Docklands Light Railway which would utilise the London & Blackwall line between Minories and Poplar. The DLR opened on 31 August 1987. Initially the DLR consisted of three branches with their termini at Tower Gateway, Stratford and Island Gardens. The Island Gardens branch turned south at Poplar running through the Canary Wharf development joining the old North Greenwich alignment at Crossharbour close to the site of the old Millwall Docks Station from where to DLR followed the course of the Millwall Extension Railway across the Millwall viaduct to Island Gardens which was built roughly on the site of the former North Greenwich terminus.

Shortly after the DLR opened, Lewisham Council commissioned a feasibility study of extending the DLR under the Thames to Lewisham. The line was eventually authorized. Its proposed alignment left the original DLR route south of Crossharbour dropping down to a new a street-level station at Mudchute, from where the new line would be built by cut and cover through Millwall Park to a new sub-surface station at Island Gardens, just east of the southern end of the Millwall viaduct. From there the line would tunnel under the Thames and on to Lewisham.

Mudchute and Island Gardens stations closed on 11 January 1999 and the Lewisham extension opened on 20 November 1999, the Millwall viaduct having lost its train service for the second time. It can still be seen today in Millwall Park and is the only tangible evidence of the Millwall Extension Railway.

Sources: The London & Blackwall Railway by Geoffrey Body & Robert. E. Eastleigh. Trans-Rail Publications 1964.
British History Online web site - University of London
Stepney's Own Railway - A history of the London & Blackwall System by J.E.Connor, Connor & Butler 1984 & 1987 ISBN 0 947699 02 3.
London's Local Railways by Alan A Jackson - David & Charles 1978 ISBN0 7153 7479 6
Mick Lemmerman's Isle of Dogs - Past Life, Past Lives blog

Tickets from Michael Stewart, route map drawn by Alan Young

For other stations on the Millwall Extension Railway click on the station name:
Millwall Junction, South Dock & Millwall Docks

See also Mudchute & Island Gardens on the Docklands Light Railway

North Greenwich Gallery 1: c1875 - c1920

The 2-4-0WT locomotive 'Ariel's Girdle' poses at North Greenwich & Cubitt Town station sometime prior to 1878 when it was withdrawn. In the form seen here, the locomotive had been rebuilt from its original 2-2-0WT form in which it had appeared at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The name was originally carried on plates, according to a contemporary engraving, on the sides of the boiler but appear to be absent in this view. 'Ariel's Girdle' is believed to have derived from Shakespeare's The Tempest and perhaps intended to impress at the Great Exhibition. In original form, the locomotive is sometimes misdescribed as a Crampton but although somewhat similar in appearance it was not a Crampton. It was not until 1880 that the dock insurers relented and allowed locomotives to work the entire North Greenwich branch, so this view dates from Millwall Extension Railway days hence the tram-like trailer which would have been horse drawn in the immediate vicinity of the docks. Despite the presence of the spark arrestor on the locomotive's chimney, the reason for the pre-1880 prohibition was, mainly, the fear of fire to ships sails. Details of the tramcar-type trailer have proved elusive, however it is known there were four of them supplied by Starbuck of Birkenhead in 1871/2. Assuming all four were identical, they had a 6-wheel railway-type underframe enabling the car to use standard railway platforms and, it would appear, railway-type buffing gear. The car would thus have been relatively heavy by tramcar standards and would have required at least two horses to pull it. Under as close an examination as this picture permits, the bodywork displays the hallmarks of Starbuck with rounded window tops, camelback roof and central clerestory section. How it was driven, when drawn by horses, and how passengers entered and exited is something of a mystery as there are no obvious signs of end platforms despite the presence of extended roof ends and footsteps at each end. Note the gentleman on the platform, far left, possibly the stationmaster or other senior official. He represents the perceived stereotype of Victorian London.
Click here to see this picture with an extended caption.
Photo from Eric Pemberton collection


1869 1:2,500 OS map shows the site of North Greenwich station before the Millwall Extension Railway was built. Wharf Road runs across Johnson Street.

Stanford's Library Map Of London And Its Suburbs was published in 1872, the year that North Greenwich station opened. The engine shed is named but the station is not.

1896 1:1,056 OS Town Plan shows the layout of North Greenwich station building. Stairs to the upper level are shown at both ends of the building. Wharf Road has now been severed by the railway viaduct. A run-round loop is seen opposite the platform with the engine shed also opposite the platform with a coaling stage and water tank alongside the shed road. A carriage siding is seen between the shed road and the loop. The 17-lever North Greenwich signal box is seen opposite the north end of the station. The station fronts onto the south end of Johnson Street. Johnson's Draw Dock is also seen at the end of the street with a jetty on its east side which was used by the Greenwich Ferry until 31 October 1902.

1916 1:2,500 OS map. The layout of the station remains unchanged. The engine shed is still shown although photographic evidence shows that it had gone by this time. The footpath leading to the subway that linked the two parts of Wharf Road is clearly seen; it is not shown on the earlier map above. The north entrance to the Greenwich foot tunnel is seen to the south-east of the station. This opened in 1902 and led to the closure of the Woolwich Ferry a few months later. The Horseshoe Manufactory shown on the 1896 map has been replaced by an oil refinery.

1950 1:2,500 OS map. The track has now been lifted and the Manchester Road bridge demolished; the viaduct north of Manchester Road is shown as 'disused'. Johnson Street and the west end of Wharf Road have been renamed Ferry Street and link to an existing Ferry Street to the west that served Potter's Ferry. The east end of Wharf Road has been renamed Saunders Ness Road. The subway under the line is still shown. The gardens of 72 - 76 Ferry Street appear to have been extended onto the trackbed - a little confusing as the track was on a viaduct here. These houses lost their gardens when the Millwall Extension Railway was built. The oil refinery to the west of the station is now a paint factory.

Of all the photographs on this page showing the Manning Wardle locomotives this one is possibly the earliest as the sleepers are still largely covered by ash ballast. By 1910 at the latest the track had been reballasted and the sleepers exposed so this view is estimated as being from the 1900 - 03 period but no earlier. On the right the water tower is partially in view while in the centre background stands North Greenwich signal box, being a Saxby & Farmer box fitted with a 17- lever frame. The line had three of these Manning Wardle 2-4-0T locomotives, originally numbered 3, 4 and 6 by the dock company and new in 1880. They were originally saddle tank locomotives, later rebuilt with side tanks as seen here. In 1909 the Port of London Authority came into being and the locomotives then became PLA Nos. 28, 29 and 31 that same year. The broken numbering system can probably be explained by the Manning Wardles being 'slotted in' to the existing locomotive fleet. Original livery of the locomotives was, of all things, yellow and said to have been similar to that used by Stroudley on the LB&SCR which could be described as a 'yellow ochre' shade. In 1900 the Millwall Dock Co. abandoned this livery and repainted the locomotives red. The exact shade has been given various descriptions and on balance seems to have been a mid range shade, perhaps akin to red oxide but glossy. Lining was black and straw, this being the livery seen here and hence we know the photograph is no earlier than 1900.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

With plenty of staff to be seen, a train has just arrived at North Greenwich & Cubitt Town from Millwall Junction. The locomotive cannot be identified as its numberplate is unreadable but the livery is that which replaced yellow so the date is sometime after 1900. The livery was perpetuated by the PLA but with lining applied, seemingly haphazardly among the class of three if these ancient photographs are to be trusted, but with sleepers exposed and spark arrestor still present the likely year is 1910. From this view the conversion of the locomotives from saddle to side tank view is obvious. The lamp on the bufferbeam has an engraved plate fixed to its chimney and under magnification the top line appears to say 'Cubitt Town' but the remainder is unreadable. Whatever the full wording may have been, the implication is that these lamps were dedicated to the North Greenwich branch. Carriage stock is generally accepted as being GER although the carriage seen here behind the locomotive has window and ventilator styles which hint of LC&DR. On the right stands the coaling stage and water tower. Note that the bag (the canvas hose) comes direct from the tank rather than via a boom or water crane. There was also a small engine shed, out of view here, but whether this remained in use until the line closed is unclear as it would have totally unsuitable for the steam railmotors. The southern tip of the Isle of Dogs is divided between Millwall, west side, and Cubitt Town, east side so the title 'Cubitt Town Station' is geographically correct - just. 'North Greenwich', on the other hand, is something of a deception which appears to have been conjured up by the railway and probably because it sounded more upmarket.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Sometime after 1909 but prior to 1920 a train waits at North Greenwich & Cubitt Town before departing on the short journey to Millwall Junction. The Manning Wardle locomotive is unidentified; the oval plate on the cabside is the worksplate, the plates bearing the running number were attached to the sides of the tanks and on this occasion the gentleman standing second from left has his head nicely positioned to obscure the plate. During the period the locomotives wore a yellow livery it is said they carried advertisements for Pears Soap and if so the little locomotives must have made a colourful sight amid the industrial gloom of the Isle of Dogs. Rolling stock on the branch appears to have been mainly of GER origin although whether stock was hired to the line or sold to them is rather unclear. The carriage visible here is a GER 4-compartment 4-wheeler and appears to be a composite. Note the bars across the door droplights. The station was gas lit but precisely where gas was supplied from has proved difficult to determine. The Poplar Gas Light Company had its Millwall works on Westferry Road with another at King Street but these operations appear to have ceased even before the North Greenwich branch opened. Thereafter the Commercial Gas Co supplied the area from Stepney so presumably this was the source of supply to the railway.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

Sometime post 1900, one of the Manning Wardle locomotives is pictured at North Greenwich with a typical 2-carriage train. The carriage behind the locomotive is a GER Brake Third with duckets and end windows to a design common in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. At bottom right it appears that ash from locomotives is spread among the rails, probably a throwback to the time when it was standard practice for ballast to entirely cover sleepers and almost hide the rail chairs. Note the Home signal in the background; the tall post would have been for sighting purposes but what exactly necessitated this is not known.
Photo by Ken Nunn

A scene which could have been witnessed thousands of times, this photograph is said to date from September 1910. One of the Manning Wardle locomotives is pictured at North Greenwich with a typical 2-carriage train. A good idea of the station's construction is seen in this view. Note, foreground, the buffer on the loop headshunt. This track was the same length as the other tracks which ended overlooking the water's edge so the reason for its obstruction is unclear. The locomotive is recorded as being No.4 which, by September 1910, should have been carrying the number 29 so either the recorded date is incorrect or the locomotive had been allocated its new PLA number but its plates had yet to be changed. The latter scenario is, perhaps, the most likely as dates which include a month, with or without a specific day, can usually be relied on.
Copyright p
hoto from Paul Laming collection

An unusual view of one of the Manning Wardle locomotives in the process of running round its train at North Greenwich. The date is unknown but we can determine it to be quite late in the life of these locomotives as this example is in the post 1909 PLA livery, albeit unclear if the straw lining is present, and has lost its external spark arrestor. In addition and although the numberplate is unreadable it can be seen under magnification to be of two digits, thus a PLA number. The side tanks look distinctly odd and the saddle tank origins of these locomotives is fairly obvious. Said to have been at one point in time the smallest standard gauge passenger locomotives in use on a British main line railway, they nonetheless looked the part with their train braking, sanders, screw couplings and rather ornate oil lamps which, incidentally, appear larger than they probably were due to the small size of the locomotives. The Manning Wardles gave forty years’ service, being scrapped in 1920 and their work taken over by steam rail-motors as described elsewhere. The bell on the right is something of a puzzle. Usually bells on the ends of piers and jetties served as fog warnings but this purpose would seen unlikely in this instance. Perhaps the bell had some connection with the ferry which once crossed the river from Johnson's Draw Dock, just out of view to the right. This is not to be confused with Potter's Ferry (a.k.a. Isle of Dogs Ferry), which was a little further west near The Ferry House public house. Potters Ferry closed in 1892 and Johnson's Ferry ceased operation due the opening of the Greenwich Foot tunnel in 1902. Across the river in the left background can be seen The Royal Naval College, Greenwich. Designed largely by Sir Christopher Wren, the complex ceased to be used by the Royal Navy in 1998 and today is partly open to the public and partly a campus of Greenwich University.
Copyright photo from John Alsop collection

Looking east along Manchester Road sometime between 1910 and 1925 and more likely during the 1918 - 25 period. As indicated on the bridge, North Greenwich station is just out of view to the right. The destinations listed on the bridge are notable in that through trains to the City are implied, with Millwall Junction being of secondary stature, when in fact it was necessary to change trains at Millwall Junction. Following closure of North Greenwich station, the bridge was removed but precisely when is unclear. In the 1980s it was to reappear as the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) was constructed to Island Gardens, this station originally being more or less on the site of the former North Greenwich station. The DLR station and the new bridge lasted only from 1987 until 1999 when the Lewisham extension dictated a new site, this being beyond the bridge and on the left. Click here to see a larger version of this picture with an expanded caption.
Photo from Jim Lake collection

Click here for North Greenwich Photo Gallery 2:
1949 - March 2008

 

 

 

[Source: Nick Catford]




Last updated: Thursday, 07-Sep-2017 08:05:53 BST
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