Station Name: WEST CROYDON
|Location:||East side of London Road at its junction with Station Road|
|Company on opening:||London & Croydon Railway|
|Date closed to passengers:||Still open|
|Date closed completely:||Still open|
|Company on closing:||Still open|
|Present state:||The station is still open, the track in the Wimbledon bay has been lift and the edge of the platform fitted with railings.|
|OS Grid Ref:||TQ322661|
|Date of visit:||31st May 1997|
Notes: From 1809 to 1836 the site of the station was the terminal basin of the Croydon Canal. The canal was drained and became part of the route of the London & Croydon Railway, opening on 5 June 1839 as Croydon. The name was changed to West Croydon in 1851.
With the opening of the Wimbledon - Croydon line a bay was let into the south side of the 'up' platform to accommodate the trains. After closure of the Wimbledon line in 1997 the track in the bay was lifted and fenced as passengers have to walk along the platform to reach the plat form for London. It the past it was not unknown for passengers unfamiliar with the station to board a Wimbledon train when they were expecting to go to central London. Three platforms at West Croydon remain inn use.BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WIMBLEDON - WEST CROYDON LINE
Before the coming of the railways the River Wandle was very heavily industrialised with 38 water mills and factories along its short length between Wandsworth and Croydon. As the river was not navigable, the mill owners required a means of transport for their goods so the Surrey Iron Railway was built between Wandsworth and Croydon. This was the earliest public railway in the London area and the first railway to receive parliamentary sanction in 1801. The 4' gauge double track horse drawn iron plateway was built by William Jessop and opened on 26th July 1803. The line was later extended south as the Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway terminating at underground stone quarries at Merstham.
It wasn't long before there were further proposals promoted by local interests. One of these was the Mitcham & South Western Junction Railway running from Mitcham Green to the LSWR at Earlsfield. This was opposed by the LSWR but eventually an independent scheme to build a line from Wimbledon to Croydon was approved with the LSWR leasing the line between Wimbledon and Mitcham and the LBSCR leasing the remainder to a junction with its own line at West Croydon. The LSWR eventually pulled out of the scheme and the Wimbledon & Croydon Railway received its act in 1853 with a provision for working arrangements with the LSWR.
The line was built by local Mitcham engineer George Parker Bidder and after two postponements to comply with Board of Trade requirements the line opened on 20 October 1855 with two intermediate stations at Mitcham and Beddington. Although sufficient land had been purchased for double track only single track was laid. The line followed the course of the Surrey Iron Railway from a point just west of Mitcham station to the site of the later Waddon Marsh Halt. There were no major engineering works with the line running on the level for much of its length requiring level crossings over seven public roads. A third intermediate station at Morden opened in March 1857
In a further Act in 1856 the LBSCR secured a 21-year lease to operate the line with authorisation to raise capital to double the track if required. However in 1857 with the prospect of LB & SCR trains running into Wimbledon the LSWR revived their interest and obtained Parliamentary authority in 1857 for joint operation securing the Wimbledon—Mitcham section for the remainder of the lease on the understanding that the Brighton could continue to work into Wimbledon. In 1862 a joint committee was set up to manage the line which was later purchased outright from the W & CR by the LB & SCR on 1st January 1866. The LSWR were offered a half share in the venture but declined only retaining an interested in the section shared with their proposed Wimbledon - Tooting route.
On 1st October 1868, the LB & SCR opened their line from Peckham Rye to Sutton, this cut across Mitcham Common turning sharply to join the W & CR where a new shared station at Mitcham Junction was opened, beyond the station the new line diverged to the south and on towards Sutton.
Freight traffic gradually assumed more importance between Mitcham and Croydon were a number of sidings were built of which the most noteworthy was the ‘Waddon Marsh New Siding’ serving Waddon Flour Mills on the north bank of the Wandle, a single line of almost a mile running due south from the Croydon end of Beddington Lane. Near this junction, sidings served gravel pits on both sides of the line, those on the south later rearranged for the British Portland Cement Works, the others for a permanent way depot. Another siding, on the north side, a little nearer Croydon entered a brewery and was followed by another into the Croydon Gas, Commercial & Coke Company’s works at Waddon Marsh, west of the line. After 1920, these works expanded to the east side, requiring another set of sidings. Also on that side was Croydon Power Station, rail-served from about 1925 and with its own internal system. In 1948—50 a second and very large power station (Croydon B) was built on the west side of the W & CR north of the gasworks. This too had a large complex of sidingsDuring WW1 push-and-pull sets of two side-gangway coaches and Stroudley 0-4-2T were introduced as a wartime economy from 1 November 1918. These were manned by conductor guards who issued tickets to those boarding at what were now unstaffed halts at Merton Park (formerly Lower Merton), Morden and Beddington Lane. The booking office at Merton Park reopened in 1923 but Beddington Lane and Morden Road remained unstaffed.
With the opening of the Northern Line extension to Morden on 13th September 1926 passenger revenue form Merton Park, Morden Road (formerly Morden) and Mitcham declined rapidly although through journeys continued to attract a steady patronage. In 1927 there were 14 push-and-pull workings between Wimbledon and West Croydon, one extended to Crystal Palace Low Level, two from Wimbledon to Sutton via Mitcham Junction, and another from Mitcham to Crystal Palace Low Level; a similar service worked down. The line maintained healthy freight traffic, especially around Croydon and Waddon Marsh.In 1930 during the building of the London County Council's 825-acre St. Helier housing estate the contractors, laid an extensive temporary network of flat-bottom rails on cinder ballast to carry materials as required to the building sites, this being connected to the W&CR through a siding at Mitcham goods yard. This rail network which included 30ft bridge over the River Wandle was operated by six locomotives, shedded at a depot about a mile south of Mitcham. It was one of the last examples in southern England of a major public works contract relying on rail-delivered materials which were carried to site over specially-laid lines.
The W&CR also handled the Southern’s own needs for its permanent way depot on the north side of the line near Beddington Lane and for the civil engineer’s depot next to the goods yard at Mitcham.
As no corridor electric stock was available for conductor-guard operation, 2-car electric sets were made up from redundant side-gangway first class trailers from the LBSCR’s 1909 overhead stock built for the South London line electrification. After conversion and refurbishment at Peckham Rye works into two car multiple units, they were ready to start work on the newly electrified line on 6 July 1930, operating every 20 minutes at peak times, otherwise half-hourly, seven days a week, and sharing the reconstructed platforms 9 and 10 at Wimbledon with the Wimbledon and Sutton service.
On the opening day of electric service, a new halt was added at Waddon Marsh, attached to the south end of the existing signal box, served by a passing loop. Traversing the whole length in just over 16 minutes, the electric trains passed each other on the double track between Mitcham and Mitcham Junction.Although there were two or three patches of new housing between Morden Road and Mitcham by the end of the 1930s, the rural atmosphere was preserved when the extensive area of Morden Hall Park came under the care of the National Trust. From Mitcham to the Junction many small houses were built between 1927 and 1939 and the general residential growth of the Mitcham area required some improvement to the goods yard in 1936. At Beddington Lane there was a small cluster of new housing close to the station.
The mixed land uses and street transport competition stunted the growth of passenger traffic that normally accompanied suburban electrification. The 2-car sets continued to provide ample accommodation for the traffic offering right through to the 1950’s, when they reached the end of their useful life. In 1954 they gave way to BR 2EPB 2-car sets which brought an end to the conductor-guard operation and ticket issuing arrangements were provided at Morden Road while passengers using Waddon Marsh and Beddington Lane were able to buy tickets from the signalmen.
Freight traffic was still quite heavy in the mid-fifties but by the 60's this was in decline. Mitcham yard closed, from 1 May 1967. After the Croydon gasworks closed, there remained until 1973 two or three daily trips bringing coal from Betteshanger Colliery in Kent to Croydon B power station, but in that year a switch was made to Durham coal brought by coastal vessels to Kings-north (Kent) where it was loaded into lorry loads and taken over congested urban roads to Croydon. This left gas oil for the power station’s auxiliary plant as the only regular freight movement.
In common with others on the Southern Region, the halts lost this description in the timetables operative from 5 May 1969. With the drastic reduction in freight, it became possible to work the separate goods line between West Croydon and Beddington as a siding from West Croydon. In 1971 a land slip on the Wimbledon side of the road bridge at Mitcham station resulted in the double track section being cut back to the station and the up platform was taken out of use. BR once again considered closure that year but despite declining passenger numbers there was strong opposition and the line was reprieved after a public enquiry.A year later, BR issued a poster encouraging people to "ride the line, which remains a useful link between two important suburban centres." After October 1991 the last 'slam door' trains were withdrawn from the line which was then worked by modern air door Class 456 units.
In 1986 a study was carried out by London Transport and British Rail which covered all of London. From 1990 Croydon Council and London Transport worked to promote a tram network to improve traffic congestion. Public consultations took place during 1991 discussing routes and testing public opinion which resulted in a bill being put before Parliament in November 1991. The Croydon Tramlink Act received Royal Assent on 21st July 1994 giving London Regional Transport the legal power to build and run 'Tramlink'. Three routes were planned, Route 1 running from Elmers End to Wimbledon utilising he entire length of the Wimbledon and West Croydon line.
By this time the line was in a very dilapidated state with little passenger traffic and all the stations covered in graffiti. Closure was announced for 2nd June 1997 with a special service operating on 31st May to cope with the anticipated crowds. This shuttled backwards and forwards all day but even before closure most of the signage had been removed from the stations to deter collectors and the stations took on an air of desolation despite the crowded platforms. The final train was en enthusiasts 'special' which also travelled over the Elmers End - Addicombe branch which also closed on the same day as part of the Tramlink conversion.
The official opening finally took place on 10th May 2000 at New Addington when Route 3 opened to the public. Route 2 to Beckenham Junction opened on 23rd May 2000 with the Route 1 from Elmers End to Wimbledon opening a week later on 29th May 2000.
See also the St. Helier Estate Railway