Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The West London Joint Railway

Teasing Torments  

My first introduction to this line came from reading the section on the West London Railway in the book “London's Disused Stations Volume 5: The London & South Western Railway” by J. E. Connor, published by Connor & Butler Ltd.

Here I discovered that the West London Extension Line was built with L&NWR buildings, GWR track and signaling, but that for some odd reason or another the Chelsea & Fulham station had a GWR signal box. The West London Extension Railway was formed to take the West London Railway across the Thames. It was financed by both the London & North Western, and the Great Western Railways, who had a one third share each, while the London & South Western and the London, Brighton & South Coast Railways each took a sixth of share each interest in the venture. After the Grouping in 1923, the Southern Railway inherited a one third share from its two precursors. After reading this I thought to myself that this would make an ideal line to model as it would have all the advantages of having three of the four Group railways running trains over any layout one built.

At this time I imagined it would be a little bit like the Holborn Viaduct branch. How wrong I was.

Further reading came from the reference in the first book I read to H. V. Borley & R. W. Kidner’s book, “The West London Railway and the WLER” published by The Oakwood Press. This book gives a brief overview of the history of the line and really left me wanting to know more after tantalizing me with little snippets like; the line was six miles long with 11 junctions.

I then bought a second hand copy of “The West London Joint Railways” by J. B. Atkinson, by Ian Allen Ltd., which was published in 1984. This book is the most substantial work about the West London Line, but it focuses pretty much on Addison Rd., and the services to Kensington Olympia. This means that there is little description of any of the other stations and their operational details. However, the WLJR had up to 184 train movements every day, with lots of transfer freights across the river, with through passenger trains and local traffic too.

It was at this point that I found a map of Chelsea Basin circa 1916 with six tracks in the book“West London Line: Clapham Junction to Willesden Junction” by V. Mitchell & K. Smith, published by the Middleton Press. The Mitchell & Smith book is a collection of captioned snapshots with some maps. The map of Chelsea Basin showed a reasonable size yard with two triple track sidings, which split to go either side of the canal basin. It even had some of those turntable things for wagons. Inspiration indeed.

However, being a Southern Railway and fan of all things Bulleid, I want to run my models of West Country, Battle of Britain and Merchant Navy class Pacific’s, which means I'm going to be modelling  the 1945/47 period (later revised to 1947/49 as this was a transitional period for liveries that would allow for the greatest number of choices for paint scheme variations). Unfortunately, I then found out that Chelsea Basin had by this time become a 23 track yard, which made it a rather impractical proposition to model.

Finally I found some really good photographs of trains on, or leaving the WLJR in “Southern Railway Reflections. The London Area’, by T. Gough published by Silver Link Publishing Ltd. This was useful for me as it gave me a very good idea of what the train consists looked like, and the typical locomotives that could be seen on the line.

It appeared that the LMS used a nice selection of 4Fs, Super Ds, Fowler 7Fs etc. Whereas the Southern, while Terrier tank locomotives were thin on the ground (I have a model of one I would like to run),  appears to have routinely run Bulleid Pacific’s along the line, along with Q1s, and class W 2-6-4Ts etc. However, it really amused me to find that the GWR was limited to running all its freight trains with Pannier tanks.

So, I was sold on the line as the basis for a layout I could build, even if my initial expectations of what this line was like turned out to be wrong and that in fact it really was a mainline route around the outskirts of London for all North to South traffic. One other very nice thing though is that I live close to the line and actually travel along it when I go and see friends in South London, and it is fascinating to see how the line has changed from the time of steam to the modern electric services that run today.


  1. Hi Ashley,

    The Joys Of Research.... Little Nuggets lead to Bigger Things. It's one of the reasons that my bit of the London & Blackwall hasn't got that far. The Mitchell and Smith books are great for interesting views. Chelsea Basin... what is it with rails and water? I've just purchased an Irwell Annual because it had an article on Brentford Dock.. COMPLETELY the wrong side of London, but lots of oooh's and aah's :) Keep it coming...


  2. Thanks for the comment. It's always heartening to know that someone reads and enjoys what one has written.

    BTW: Worth reading the following articles:

    British Railways Illustrated Vol.7 #3 December 1997; Unsung Heroes-The Southern "W" class 2-6-4Ts.

    British Railways Illustrated Vol.16 #6 March Willesden and the Southern Transfer Freights-Part 1.

    British Railways Illustrated Vol.16 #7; Willesden and the Southern Transfer Freights-Part 2.

    all absolute goldmines of golden nuggety trivia.

  3. 30+ years ago I worked in the Avonmore Trading Estate (formerly Whitley's Depsoitory) with a window onto the WLJR just south of Kensington Olympia. Every Saturday (a working day back then) a short train would go through heading north which was a nuclear waste working. IIRC usually hauled by a 73.

    Outside your timeframe, I know!

    If you take your dates back to 1939, you then have an excuse to run all manner of traffic associated with WW2 - evacuation and troop specials, blitz clearance, war materiƩl etc etc behind all sorts of locos. And I am sure that the GW didn't limit itself to panniers for these workings...


  4. You are of course right, but I love Bulleid Pacific's too much to change my period. Sorry, they are IMO just one of the most beautiful locomotives that one can look at. YMMV.