North London Railway

The North London Railway (NLR) company had lines connecting the north of London to the East and West India Docks in the east of the city. The main east to west route is now part of London Overground's North London Line. Other NLR lines fell into disuse but were later revived as part of the Docklands Light Railway, and the Overground's East London Line. The company was originally called the East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway (E&WID&BJR) from its inception in 1850, until 1853. It ceased operations in 1922.

North London Railway
LocaleLondon, United Kingdom
Dates of operation18501922
SuccessorLondon, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
HeadquartersBow, London


The East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway was incorporated by Act of Parliament on 26 August 1846. It was empowered to construct a railway from the district of Poplar and the docks to Camden Town in north London.[1] The railway's headquarters and locomotive works were initially located in Bow.

At first, it ran trains from Bow Junction on the London and Blackwall Railway (L&BR) to Islington, commencing on 26 September 1850. The line was extended to Camden Town railway station[2] from 7 December 1850 and to Hampstead Road railway station (later renamed Primrose Hill) from 9 June 1851. Another extension via the L&BR was inaugurated on 1 January 1852, extending from Bow Junction to Poplar railway station, and from there to Blackwall and the East India Docks;[3] a connection at Bow allowed trains to run to Fenchurch Street. This arrangement lasted until 1865, when an extension from Dalston Junction to Broad Street was opened; Broad Street became the main terminus, and the Poplar line became a branch.

In 1858 the line was extended along the North and South Western Junction Railway (a joint enterprise by the LNWR, Midland Railway and the NLR) from Willesden Junction to a London and South Western Railway branch to Richmond. A bypass line from Camden to Willesden Junction via Gospel Oak and West Hampstead opened in 1860. Meanwhile, at the eastern end, a spur line connecting the NLR to Stratford from Victoria Park opened in 1854 but was not used by passenger services. The line between Camden Town and Dalston Junction was quadrupled in 1871.[3]

The LNWR took over the working of the railway on 1 February 1909.[4] The company remained in existence until 1922, with its own board of directors and shareholders, when it was absorbed by the LNWR under The Railways Act, 1921 (the Grouping act). The last board meeting and last shareholders meeting were both held on 23 November 1922, the latter giving the shareholders' approval to the absorption. The board minutes were signed by A Holland-Hibbert, the chairman, who added "Goodbye!". Beneath this was typed, "This was the last Board Meeting of the North London Railway Company, the Undertaking being absorbed under “The London and North Western Railway (North London Railway and Dearne Valley Railway) Preliminary Absorption Scheme 1922” by the London and North Western Railway Company as from 1 January 1922."[5]

The LNWR, which half-owned Broad Street station, was responsible for fourth-rail electrification of the Broad Street to Richmond and Kew Bridge services in 1916. The latter was cut as a wartime economy measure in 1940 and not resumed.

The line from Dalston Junction to Poplar was heavily damaged during the Blitz of World War II. Passenger services from Broad Street to Poplar via Victoria Park and Bow were suspended on 15 April 1944 and officially closed on 14 May 1944. A substitute bus service was provided until 23 April 1945 but the service was finally withdrawn at the end of the war. Passenger services from Dalston Junction to Victoria Park Junction resumed from 12 May 1980 during the gradual run-down of the line from Dalston Junction to Broad Street, which finally closed on 30 June 1986. The line from Victoria Park Junction to Poplar Docks via Bow Junction closed on 3 October 1983.[3]

Present day

In 1979 the line between Richmond and Dalston via Gospel Oak and the extension to Stratford was joined with the former Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway to form the North London Line. The line between Willesden Junction and Camden via Primrose Hill is now primarily used (in 2014) for empty coaching stock movements between the North London Line and Willesden Depot, freight trains and, during engineering work, diverted passenger services to and from the Watford DC Line. Primrose Hill station has been closed.

Since 31 August 1987, Docklands Light Railway has followed the path of the North London Railway from Bow Church to Poplar.[3] The northern section of the East Cross Route (A12) built in the late 1960s ran parallel to the rail line between Old Ford and Victoria Park stations, both of which were demolished for the road's construction.

The East London Line Extension took over the abandoned stretch between Dalston Junction and Shoreditch from April 2010, incorporating it into the London Overground network.


Among the first locomotives bought by the railway from outside contractors were five 0-4-2ST saddle tanks. After that, all were constructed at Bow, London.


Bow railway works was built in 1853 and had a sizeable wagon repair shop. When the railway was merged into the LMS it was the smallest of 15 workshops. It repaired NLR locomotives and from 1927 those from the former London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (LTSR).

In the 1930s the works developed and manufactured the Hudd automatic control system for the LTSR, which led to a British Rail (BR) team from the national headquarters setting up in Bow to develop BR's standard Automatic Warning System. The workshop was badly damaged during the blitz and the wagon workshop destroyed.

In 1956 the workshop repaired diesel-electric locomotives for the motive power depot at Devons Road (the first to become all-diesel). After a while it was receiving locos in the morning and turning them round by the evening, which initially confused the statistical returns since locos were entering and leaving the works on the same day. The works closed in 1960.


Richmond to Willesden Junction (joined NLR 1856):

Willesden Junction to Camden via Primrose Hill (opened 1851-2, passenger services withdrawn 1992):

Willesden Junction to Camden via West Hampstead & Gospel Oak (opened 1860):

Camden Road to Dalston (opened 1850):

Dalston to Broad Street (opened 1865, closed 1986, mostly reopened 2010):

Dalston to Poplar (opened 1850, closed to passengers 1944, Dalston- Stratford reopened 1980):

At Poplar, the line connected to Millwall Junction, allowing goods trains to run to Blackwall and the East India Docks), or along the Millwall Extension Railway, which served the West India Docks.


  1. McCarthy, Colin; McCarthy, David (2009). Railways of Britain – London North of the Thames. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7110-3346-7.
  2. Renamed Camden Road on 25 September 1950
  3. McCarthy, Colin; McCarthy, David (2009). Railways of Britain – London North of the Thames. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-7110-3346-7.
  4. The National Archives, RAIL 529/32 – NLR Board Minute No 6940 of 14 January 1909
  5. The National Archives RAIL 529/34 NLR Board Meeting 22 November 1922
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.