Cravens Heritage Trains

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Filming At Aldwych

In July 2002 the Cravens unit visited Aldwych during the making of a drama for Carlton Television More...

High Barnet 2002

On 26th August 2002 the Cravens unit operated a shuttle service between High Barnet and East Finchley. More...

Last Days of the East London Line

Saturday 22nd December 2007 was the last day of operation for the East London Line as an Underground line. This short line with long history now closes for 2 years of work prior to becoming part of the new 'London Overground' network. When it re-opens in 2010 through services will linking West Croydon and Crystal Palace with Dalston.

To mark this occasion the London Transport Museum operated another railtour with its' four car unit of 1938 Stock on 16th December. Starting at Ealing Broadway the train first travelled through the city along the District Line, before using the St Mary's Curve, the East London Line's only link with the outside world since the 1960s. Only recently used by empty stock transfers this railtour was one of the few and certainly the last passenger train to use the curve since 1941. Continuing to New Cross Gate the train then reversed and headed northwards arriving at Whitechapel for a short break. Two further round trips were made before the train returned to Ealing Broadway via New Cross.

The 1938 Stock at Ealing Broadway before the railtour.

The reverse of the railtour tickets showed an 1899 ticket for travel on the East London Line.

The East London Line did not start life as part of the Underground. The section under the Thames between Wapping and Rotherhithe was the first under water tunnel in the world but this spectacular engineering achievement was first conceived as a road transport project. In the early nineteenth century huge volumes of cargo were passing through the London Docks. One consequence was chaotic traffic congestion on London Bridge, then the lowest crossing point on the river. A scheme to construct a new river crossing was promoted. The Thames Tunnel Company began work at Rotherhithe in 1825.

The 1938 Stock at Whitechapel. Trains of this type operated regular services on the East London Line in the mid 1970s.

Marc Brunel's patented tunnelling shield made the work possible it proved dangerous and expensive with the water's of the Thames breaking into the tunnel on several occasions. In 1828 a catastrophic flood in which six workers died saw the work halted. Funds were exhausted only resuming when a government loan was secured. The tunnel was completed in November 1841 and opened to pedestrians in March 1843. However it was not possible to raise the funds to build the long slopping approach roads needed if the tunnels were to be used by horse-drawn loads they were designed for. The tunnel did become a tourist attraction and renting space in the tunnel to stallholders raised more revenue but it was not enough to pay the interest on the debt.

The East London Line platforms at Whitechapel are in a deep cutting, the bridge carrying the Eastbound District Line is visible in the background

However in 1865 the newly formed East London Railway acquired the Thames Tunnel Company and began construction of a new route from the LBSCR at New Cross (the station today known as New Cross Gate) northwards. In 1869 the LBSCR operated the first passenger services between New Cross and Wapping. A further extension northwards allowed services to reach Liverpool Street in 1876. Connections to the to LBSCR at Old Kent Road and to the SER at New Cross were also made.

The East London Railway never owned or operated any trains itself, all services were provided by the neighbouring railway companies. Through services were operated by the between Liverpool Street and various South London destinations including Croydon , Addiscombe and Crystal Palace. There was even a short-lived Liverpool Street to Brighton service.

Looking north towards Shoreditch

A connection with the Metropolitan and District Joint Line at St Mary's was completed in 1884. Both companies operated through services around the Inner Circle to their stations at Hammersmith. These trains were withdrawn in 1905 and 1906 when the Metropolitan and District Railways electrified most of their services. The Metropolitan Railway resumed through services in 1913 when the East London Line was itself electrified and the last of the steam hauled passenger services ceased. Freight traffic continued and the line remained under joint control until responsibility was passed London Transport at Nationalisation in 1948.

Shoreditch Station closed in June 2006. The cutting here has been filled in, the extension will be on a new alignment gaining suffcient height to cross the GER mainline. This view of the Station was taken on 18th May 2003, the last visit of the Craven's unit to the ELL. Gary Thorp.

Special excursions and freight trains continued to use the line until the 1960s, when these services ceased the connections at Shoreditch, New Cross and New Cross Gate were removed. In 1995 the line closed for refurbishment and the construction of the Jubilee Line interchange at Canada Water however by this time plans were already being considered to extend services by restoring links to South London and building a new section of line across the site of Bishopsgate goods yard and re-using the route out of Broad Street. When the line re-opens in 2010 services will link West Croydon and Crystal Palace with Dalston. At a latter date services will be extended to Clapham Junction and Highbury & Islington.

End of the line! Until 1966 the ELL was linked to the GER mainline, through freight services and excursion trains were operated. Paul Sweetland.

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