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The History of Kent

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History of London and Croydon Railway

The London and Croydon Railway (L&CR) operated between London and Croydon. It was opened in 1839 and in July 1846, merged with other railways to form a part of the London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR).

The London and Croydon Railway proposed an 8.75-mile route between Corbetts Lane, where it would run over the
London and Greenwich Railway to the terminus at London Bridge, and the thriving market town of Croydon. The first three miles from Croydon to Anerley followed the alignment of the unsuccessful Croydon Canal, with the new Croydon station and locomotive depot on the site of the old canal basin.

The new railway was authorised by Act of Parliament in July 1835 and the company purchased the Croydon Canal in 1836, for £40,250. However, before it had finished building its line, the company entered into agreements with two other railways to share its route into London. Parliament had decided only one route should enter the capital from the south, and therefore, the South Eastern Railway (SER) agreed to construct its line to
Dover from Croydon. Likewise, the London and Brighton Railway joined the L&CR at Norwood Junction.

The consultant engineer for the new line was William Cubitt. The line proved to be expensive to build, ultimately costing £615,000 rather than the estimated £180,000, due to large cuttings at New Cross. The only severe gradient was 1:100 for 2.75 miles from New Cross to Forest Hill. In addition to the viaduct, where it joined the L&GR, there were eighteen bridges, and three level road crossings, each attended by a policeman.

The track was ultimately laid to the standard Stephenson 4 ft 8.5in gauge; although during the construction, the directors were undecided and ordered extra-long 9 ft sleepers with a view to possible later conversion to 7 ft 0.25in broad gauge. The line used the so called Vignoles flat bottomed rail, somewhat broader in the base and lower than modern rail. These were mounted on longitudinal timbers with cross sleepers.

A new station was built at London Bridge for the Croydon trains, on the north side of the original L&GR one, although the track was shared as far as Corbetts Lane. There were six intermediate stations at New Cross, Forest hill (then known as Dartmouth Arms), Sydenham, Penge, Anerley Bridge, and Norwood (known as Jolly-sailor near Beulah Spa until 1846). The line reached a terminus at London Road in Croydon.

Because of the planned additional traffic following the opening of the L&BR and the SER, the L&CR sought powers to widen the viaduct from Corbett's Lane to London Bridge in 1840. However, Parliament decided that the widening should rather be undertaken by the existing owners, the L&GR. This work was completed by 1842. By this time, the L&CR had joined the newly opened SER and L&BR to form a committee, and agreement was reached with the L&GR to exchange their stations at London Bridge in 1843 in order to avoid train's crossing over at Corbetts Junction.

By 1843, the L&CR and the SER were becoming concerned about the tolls charged by the L&GR for the use of their newly widened line between Corbetts Junction and London Bridge. As a result, they jointly constructed a new terminus at Bricklayers Arms with a branch line from the L&CR line at New Cross, thereby avoiding use of the L&GR line. From 1844, the SER transferred all of its services to this new terminus, and the L&CR operated services from both termini. This arrangement lasted until 1852

In 1844, the railway was given parliamentary authority to lay an additional line of rails next to their existing track and test an experimental atmospheric railway system. Pumping stations were built at Portland Road, Croydon and Dartmouth Road; these created a vacuum in a pipe laid between the running rails. A free running piston in this pipe was attached to the train through a slit sealed by a leather valve. The piston, and hence the train, was propelled towards the pumping station by atmospheric pressure. The pumping stations were built in a Gothic style, with a very tall ornate tower which served both as a chimney and exhaust vent for air pumped from the propulsion pipe.

As part of the construction works for the atmospheric-propulsion system, the world's first railway flyover was constructed at the north end of Portland Road, to carry the new atmospheric-propulsion line over the conventional steam line below. The railway experienced many problems with the stationary pumping engines during 1846, and in 1847, the experiment was abandoned. According to one historian, the use of the atmospheric system cost the railway £500,000 and was 'a sad fiasco'.

The railway opened an early example of a roundhouse motive power depot at New Cross on 1 June 1839, but this brick-built building was burned down on 14 October 1844. It was replaced by a traditional straight shed in 1845, although the original turntable and associated lines were incorporated into a locomotive repair depot in the same year. There was also a small depot at Croydon.

The railway provided first and second-class four-wheeled carriages, both of the three compartment type usual for the period, the main difference seeming to be that the first-class coaches carried eighteen passengers, while the second-class carried twenty four.

As a result of the poor financial performance, leading to dissatisfaction with returns, the shareholders of both the L&BR and the L&CR forced the merger of the two Railways, forming the London Brighton and South Coast Railway, which was confirmed by Act of Parliament on 27 July 1846. At this time, an Act of Parliament was passed granting the newly formed company authority for an extension of the railway between New Cross and Deptford Dockyard


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