JOURNEY ALONG THE NORTH LONDON LINE PART 1
Words and photos by Dave Bosher
Dave Bosher is our guide on a journey along the North London Line, which runs from Stratford to Richmond. These photos were taken at the beginning of November 2007, just a few days before the operation transferred from Silverlink to Transport for London.
Part 1 Hackney Wick - Kentish Town West
Hackney Wick was a new station provided for the 'Crosstown Linkline' (see Dalston Kingsland) and was opened in 1980 just to the east of the former Victoria Park station. The latter was a four-platform junction where the NLR (North London Railway) connected with the GER (Great Eastern Railway) to Stratford. The service to Stratford was withdrawn in 1942, shutting the branch platforms while those served by Broad Street to Poplar trains followed suit in 1943. Poplar trains did not finish until the following year, trains running through non-stop from Homerton to Old Ford.
The line here opened in 1850 and the original Homerton station was added in 1868 and lasted until 1944 when the Poplar service was withdrawn due to war damage. The current station was opened on the same site in 1985
When this stretch of the eastern section of the ex-NLR reopened to passengers in 1979 after thirty-five years (see Dalston Kingsland), there were no intermediate stations; trains running past the ghosts of the abandoned premises non-stop from Stratford to Canonbury where they met up with the Broad Street to Richmond service. Hackney Central station was opened in 1980 on the site of the former NLR Hackney station closed in 1944. Its Victorian style entrance on the corner of Mare Street and Amhurst Road survived intact following original closure and was converted for other use, so the new station was and is accessed by a footway leading up from the street. It was and is possible again after 115 years to travel from here to stations on the western half of the ex-NLR without a change of train. A few peak-hours only trains continued to serve Broad Street until 1986.
The station is on the base of the former Dalston Triangle. When the Broad Street line opened in 1865 services from both the eastern and western halves of the NLR were diverted there; anyone wishing to travel between the two having to change at Dalston Junction until 1944 when the eastern section was closed due to war damage. There was also an east facing spur for the Broad Street to Poplar trains, creating a triangle but that is now built over.
The line through Dalston Kingsland was freight only for 35 years from 1944 until the section through Hackney was suddenly reopened to passengers in 1979 with a service of diesel multiple units from North Woolwich to Camden Road, marketed as the 'Crosstown Linkline.' The service utilised the former Great Eastern Railway branch from Victoria Park station, originally closed in 1942, to access the North Woolwich line, while the section from Victoria Park to Poplar was abandoned. The southern stretch from Bow to Poplar was utilised for the Docklands Light Railway in 1987, while the central stretch between Victoria Park and Bow through Old Ford has remained disused and is now lifted.
Highbury & Islington
This station was the temporary terminus of the North London Line when it opened from Bow on 26 December 1850 before being extended to Camden Town (now Camden Road) on 7 December the following year. The Great Northern & City Railway, now served by the suburban electric services from Moorgate to Hertford, Welwyn Garden City and Stevenage, opened in 1904 with an entrance on the opposite side of the road to the NLR station. This is still standing but disused, as with the coming of the Victoria line in 1968, a combined station was built resulting in the demolition of the grandiose Victorian station overlooking Highbury Corner. The replacement is the pathetic entrance it now has obscured behind a Post Office building. Nevertheless it is one of the busiest stations between Richmond and Stratford, being a major interchange point.
Caledonian Road & Barnsbury
Opened in 1850 as Camden Town and renamed exactly a century later in 1950. The entrance, the only NLR Victorian station entrance to have survived in railway use still has "Camden Town Station" engraved on the walls at street level. The station was modernised in the 1960s after surviving the Beeching cuts. With one side retaining its Victorian grandeur and the other a ghastly concrete block and the rest of the platform devoid of shelter it gives the station a very lopsided appearance.
Kentish Town West
The section of the line from Camden Road to just south of Willesden Junction, on which this station is situated, opened in 1860 as the Hampstead Junction Railway with this station being added in 1867. Its wooden Victorian buildings survived in picturesque decay until 1971 when they were burned down by vandals and for a full ten years trains passed this point and it seemed as if the station would never be rebuilt. However, a new station was finally opened in 1981 and is ghastly in the extreme, surprisingly so since it is from the same era as Hackney Central and Hackney Wick, which are a year older and are somewhat more substantial in design and layout.