Station Name: NORTH GREENWICH
[Source: Nick Catford]
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2-4-0WT locomotive 'Ariel's Girdle' poses at North Greenwich & Cubitt Town station sometime prior to 1878 when it was withdrawn.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.
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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.
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 photo 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
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