Canary Wharf London – Railway Transport Systems

I visited Canary Wharf and surrounding area in late 2021, as it has more than its fair share of railway transport systems. The Docklands Light Railway (DLR), Overground, Underground and soon Elizabeth line all serve this or the very immediate area. Her in this blog is a short overview of these. It is by no where a comprehensive look, but hopefully will get you the reader to perhaps go and explore these for yourself.

DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAILWAY (DLR)

The concept of the DLR was first discussed around 1982 when the docklands area were being readied for redevelopment.

Construction of the first two lines, one from Tower Gateway to Island Gardens and from Stratford to Island Gardens were started in 1985.  They both opened in 1987, and over the next 20 years more lines were added as the docklands expanded.

The railway is entirely automated, enabling those at the front or rear of the train to get an unobstructed view of the track, which can be quite entertaining.  There is however a control desk at either end of the train, so that the train can be driven manually in the event of a automation failure.

New trains are due to be in service by 2023, and look the same as the current stock, albeit with a more streamlined look and less boxy.

ELIZABETH LINE

Located on the Abbey Wood branch of the Elizabeth line, the station has been built on the West India North dock.  This has been achieved using a cofferdam, which is an enclosure  built in the water and then pumped out to create a dry space for construction below the waterline.  This picture, taken before official opening and therefore not of the actual station concourse, show that it is a great feat of engineering and very pleasing to the eye.

The excellent roof garden on top of the station building is a very clam place to spend some time, and it is amazing that such a structure should have such a pleasant area sitting on top of it. I recommend a visit to here, it really is something special.

Connecting one half of the station is a walkway (pictures below). The geometric shapes on the walls of this were added in 2020, and designed by French artist Camille WALALA.  It is intended to be a permanent installation, and certainly makes what would otherwise be a plain steel walkway into something Instagram worthy.

This is to be one of two entrances to the Elizabeth line, one either side of the dock, and alongside it are many bars, restaurants and cafes for you to enjoy.

Walking through this walkway and shopping centre will get you to the area called Middle dock. A fantastic space, and one where you can gain excellent views of the buildings, and of course the DLR.

JUBILEE LINE UNDERGROUND STATION

In Middle dock, you cannot fail to see the spectacular entrance to the London Underground Jubilee line. Covered in grass, it is almost impossible to see from the air. The escalators move you down into a cavernous space, very unique across the London underground network.

The concourse is huge, and is certainly able to take the large amount of passengers using the station at peak times.  The high ceilings all around add to the sense of space.

Moving down to the platforms, and you will find these are also a very good size, and the overall feel is that of a safe and very efficient underground station.

If we now hop on a train and go one stop westbound, you will get to Canada Water station.

LONDON OVERGROUND

At Canada Water you will find a sub level platform for the Overground line. This will take you North and South in London, and as such complements the East/West alignment of the Jubilee line.

Both stations, like most on the jubilee line, are spacious and industrial in feel, with steel everywhere, and I personally like it very much, although I get it is not to everyone’s taste. My personal favourite of the Jubilee line stations is Westminster, but that is for another blog!

NIGHTIME

As spectacular as it is during the daytime, the Canary wharf area dazzles at night. Fantastic photography can be had, and here are a few of my favourites that I took on this trip:

Canary Wharf and immediate area is well worth a visit. It certainly is looks the part with its many high rise buildings, and getting here is no problem with the amount of rail travel routes you can take. I would recommend coming late afternoon so that you will get the benefit of day and night time views, i am sure that you will not be disappointed.

I filmed a vlog for this visit, and this can be seen below :

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 2 – Brampton (Suffolk)

Brampton was opened in 1854 by the East Suffolk Railway, on the same day the rest of the East Suffolk line opened.  The railway station and indeed line was absorbed into the Great Eastern Railway in 1862

It serves not only Brampton, but other villages nearby like Redisham.

Finding out any history for this station has proved extremely difficult, both in paper and internet form.  So if anyone has anything to add, please comment down below, it will be most appreciated.

It used to be a request stop, but on the day of my visit in 2021 it was not, and a check of the timetables seem to confirm that, for the time being at least, it is now a regular stop on the line.

A good set of walks in the local area get to this point, and there is even a circular walk from the station via Shadingfield, which is contained within a free walks booklet.

Passenger services at time of writing are provided by class 755 Bi-Mode units.

Passenger exit and entry figures for 2019 / 2020 were 9, 858

In conclusion, Brampton is a charming and very quiet station along this line. It is also very well maintained. The fact that it is no longer a request stop gives hope that it will remain so for a many years to come. For the enthusiast sight lines are excellent, a visit when an engineering train is due would be recommended.

Below is a video taken in 2021 as part of this series.

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 3 – Somerleyton

Somerleyton was opened in 1847 by the Norfolk Railway.  This was taken over, like all on the surrounding lines, in the mid 1800’s by the Great Eastern Railway.  The village which it serves is around 1 mile from here.

As well as Somerleyton hall, which has featured in many films and tv shows including the crown as a replica for Sandringham, the village has another claim to fame.  It was home to the first testing of the hovercraft, which was built by Sir Christopher Cockerell.

The line moves towards Norwich over the river Waveney via the Somerleyton swing bridge, pictured below. This can yield some pretty good photos and video of trains coming to and from the station.

Even after extensive research , I could not find any documentation of sidings at this location, however there used to be a major brickworks nearby, so I would assume that they would have had a siding or two.  If anyone knows anymore, please comment below.

In fact, details about the station history are extremely sparse, I would welcome more information to flesh out this Blog, but unfortunately after a lot of looking this is all the history I could find.

At time of writing , passenger services are provided by class 755 Bi-Mode Units. Other movements are very rare, with just an occasional engineering, measurement or rail head treatment train.

The entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 10, 898.

Somerleyton is a very picturesque station, plenty of flowers and trees, plus good sweeping views of the track make it ideal for photography and videography; just check to see if an engineering train is due and it should yield a superb and unique photo. The original station building is a bonus, albeit now in private hands. Overall a superb little station which hopefully will remain open in the future.

Oh and also comment about pronunciation of this station, I am unsure of it, and wary of getting it wrong!

Below is my Vlog which I filmed during a visit in 2021 :

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 4 – Westerfield

Westerfield was opened by the East Suffolk railway in 1859, but a few years later like the rest of the stations on the line, it was taken over by the Great Eastern Railway.

At this time the branch to Felixstowe was not here, but this was added in 1877.

Bay platforms were included for trains running to and from Felixstowe from the opening of the branch line.  This continued until 1879, when most trains continued on towards Ipswich, the bays then being used for storage.

From the 1880’s, the station had sidings which served the Westerfield steam brewery, as well as a coal merchant.  During the second world war, these would also be used for storing engines, including the Polish armour train.

After the war, they were used as stabling for the Pullman camping coaches during the winter, these being moved to Felixstowe for use during the summer months.

Unfortunately like most other stations, these sidings were closed un 1964, and the booking office closed soon after, the station becoming a “Pay-Train” station, where you bought your ticket from the guard on the train.

View towards Lowestoft, the spur to the Felixstowe branch is to the right. Freight from Ipswich crosses to the right line just before the level crossing.

Modernisation of the track layout, including the addition of automatic barriers have taken place, and although not terribly busy with passengers, the line here sees much freight to and from the port, as well as the occasional nuclear flask train from Sizewell.

The original station building remains, although this is now a private residence.

As well as an electronic ticket machine, posters, bike rack and new style service information boards, the station has recently been enhanced with an extensive wildflower garden on platform one. Created by East Suffolk Lines Community Rail Partnership, Suffolk Butterfly Conservation Trust, Friends of the Earth and Greater Anglia, it certainly brightens up the station.

At time of writing, passenger traffic is provided by class 755 Bi-Mode units, with most of the passing freight hauled by class 66 locomotives.

A video is below, taken during a visit in 2021 :

Below is a link to the East Suffolk Lines Community Partnership :

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 5 – Trimley

Trimley was opened in 1891 by the Great Eastern Railway.  Its primary purpose was to fill the gap between the station at Orwell and Felixstowe beach, both of which were substantially far away from the village.

A few freight lines were here, but were withdrawn in 1964, and in 1967 the station building was closed.  This meant that together with the rest of the branch line, the station became a “pay train” station, with the guards collecting fares.  This left only the signalmen at the station, whose purpose was to operate the level crossing and signalling away from the station.

A direct line to the docks at Felixstowe was opened in 1970, and 17 years later in 1987, the spur down to the north freightliner terminal was opened to the south of the station.

The spur to the North terminal is clear to see on the right

The removal of the signal box in 1997 meant the installation of the automatic barriers, and control of these and the points was now undertaken by the Colchester panel signal box.

The station building was a version of a new Essex style, one of only two to be built outside Essex.  Its interior would have included a first class waiting room, porters lodge, booking office and combined booking hall and waiting room.  A ladies room with toilet completed the facilities.

There was also a small building on the other platform, but this was demolished a long time ago.

Although at time of filming it is in a very bad state, it is still standing, and is now under control of the Trimly station community trust.  They gained control of a long term lease in 2011.  Their ambition is similar to that of the station at Wickham Market, to transform the station into a café and meeting room whilst preserving the station fabric.

They have a long way to go, and recent months (2021/2022) have seen Greater Anglia seek improvements to the station which ‘may’ involve the demolition of the building, but nothing has been set in concrete. Hopefully in the coming months both fundraising and grants may become available, however multiple applications to the national lottery heritage trust have not borne fruit.  I do hope this situation changes for the better, as it would be a shame to lose such a quaint and historically important station.  If you wish to know more, I have provided a link in the video description below.

Facilities include a waiting shelter, help point, electronic ticketing machine and new style service information boards.

Passenger traffic at time of writing is provided by class 755 Bi-Mode units, and almost all freight is hauled by class 66 Locomotives.

A class 66 heads towards Felixstowe

The entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 31, 122. These figures are used as the figures for 2020 / 2021 are unreliable due to being very skewed by the pandemic.

Still a functioning station for the village, Trimley could be so much more.  I hope that the building gets funding and finally gives the village a focal point it deserves.

For the enthusiasts, obviously the abundance of freight (albeit only intermodal) plus excellent sightlines, gives plenty of video and photo opportunities.

I recorded a video for this station in 2021, and you can view it below :

Links to the Trimley station community trust :

http://www.trimleystation.org/

https://www.facebook.com/TrimleyStation/

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 6 – Oulton Broad South

Opened in 1859 by the East Suffolk Railway, it was originally named Carlton Colville.  The line like most in Suffolk was amalgamated with the Great Eastern Railway shortly after.  The station wasn’t renamed to Oulton Broad South until 1927

Just to the east of the station under the road bridge, the line split to the Kirkley branch, with services to sites on Lake Lothing.

These included sidings into Kirkley goods depot.  Companies using these would include Boulton and Pauls canning products, and confectionery from Mortons and the co-op group.  This line was fully closed in 1972, and no real trace of it remains.

A station building remains on the working platform, the line here being single running at this point since the late 1980’s.  However the other platform remains with a building which is used for small businesses.  The small goods yard which was adjacent to that platform is now a car park, but its history contains the fact that pullman camping coaches were positioned here between 1952 and the late 1960’s

This view from the road bridge shows clearly that the line used to be double tracked at this point.

Passenger services at time of writing are provided by class 755 bi mode units.

As far as facilities go, the station has an electronic ticketing machine, help points and posters not only for the regional rail network, but also information about the area. There is also this old style ‘direction of travel’ board, which is great to see.

The passenger entry and exit figures for 2019/2020 were 43, 518

Oulton broad south is a quiet station, but is still used fairly frequently.  The fact that both platforms remain is great, and the station buildings, although not being used for their original purpose, are still in situ.  For the enthusiast, although sight lines are good, the absence of freight means that traffic is very light indeed.

My 2021 Vlog from the station can be viewed below.

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 7 – Derby Road (Ipswich)

Derby Road was opened in 1877 by the Felixstowe railway, and was amalgamated into the Great Eastern Railway in 1879.  It only had one platform originally, but due to popularity gained a second one in 1891

This popularity was due to the Ipswich tramway terminating at this point.  Passengers going to Felixstowe for the day would get the tram from Ipswich and get the train from Derby Road.  In fact, during the summer many trains would terminate at Derby Road from Felixstowe, instead of going though to Ipswich

The trams continued until 1926 when they were replaced by trolleybuses, but these too were fully phased out by 1962.  Some of these can still be seen at the Ipswich transport museum, a link to which is at the end of this blog.

Getting back to the station, it also had two sidings, which were increased during the early 20th century, but like most in the country were phased out by the late 1960’s

The station building still stands, although not used today.  Originally it had a fine canopy and a similar structure was to be seen on the other platform.  This other building no longer survives, as well as the canopy on the main building.  The other notable absentee is the signal box which was on the Felixstowe side of the station.

However, this does not mean the station has been left unkept.  In fact in late 2020, work was started to create a wildflower garden on the entrance to platform one.  Supported by the East Suffolk Community Rail Partnership, Greater Anglia Railway, Ipswich Friends of the Earth and Ipswich Council, it really adds colour to the station and makes it feel very well looked after.

An additional poppy patch is situated on the Felixstowe end of platform two.

Many of the freight headed towards Felixstowe will stop here, as the line after the station becomes single line running for a few miles. These are at time of writing mostly hauled by class 66 locomotives, and passenger traffic is provided by class 755 Bi-Mode units.

The entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 46, 808.

In conclusion, Derby road was once an important interchange for the passengers from Ipswich to the coastal town of Felixstowe.  However after the 1960’s, most passenger traffic would be confined to the local area.  The expansion of Felixstowe port has brought many more freight trains through the station, these quite often stop in the loop.  Great views can be had of both freight and passenger traffic, especially through the curves towards Ipswich.  The station benefits from the new wildflower garden, and generally speaking is a good place for the intermodal freight enthusiast.

My Vlog, taken in 2021, can be seen below

The Ipswich Transport Museum can be found here:

https://www.ipswichtransportmuseum.co.uk/index.html

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations in Suffolk | 10 – Elmswell

A large village between Stowmarket and Bury St Edmonds, Elmswell is certainly deserving of a station with a rich history of manufacture.

The line was opened by the Ipswich and Bury railway company in 1846, serving the towns of Bury St Edmonds and Ipswich. A lavish station building on the Ipswich side was built and opened at the same time.

The station passed onto the newly formed Great Eastern Railway in 1862, who added a waiting room and toilets on the Bury St Edmonds side of the station.

In the early 1900’s, a line ran from the sidings to the west of the station to the Woolpit Brick Company, which famously produced white bricks. It used three steam locomotives. Other companies which used siding space during the 1900’s were a bacon factory, Beer & Sons and St Edmundsbury Co-op. Due to lack of traffic, the yard closed in 1964.

Elmswell became an unstaffed halt in 1967, and ‘Pay-Train’ working was to be introduced on the line. Unfortunately the main station buildings on the north platform were demolished in 1974 and the signal box succumbed to the same fate in 1986.

However, the buildings on the other platform remain. These still retain the Great Eastern Railway marking on the canopy steel works, and look to have been freshly painted when I visited in 2021.

The actual building is being let out as business space, and I was pleased to see them being used.

Behind these buildings is a very small car park, perhaps for only 3 or 4 cars. The level crossing has for some time been fully automatic. The rest of the station has small waiting shelters, help points, regional and local maps. There is even an amazon pick up point on platform one. Flower boxes enhance this little station, and it is clean and tidy throughout.

Passenger traffic at time of writing is provided by class 755 Bi-Mode Units. There is quite a lot of freight based traffic to and from Felixstowe also, mainly hauled by class 66 Locomotives.

Entry and exit figures for 2019 / 2020 were 71, 050.

Elmswell is a functional station, and even if the main station building has gone, the other smaller building complete with its nods back to the past helps keep the history alive

Below is the vlog I shot for this series, there is a link at the end to the playlist for the whole series, I hope you enjoy watching it.

Top Ten Least Used Railway Stations In Kent : 1 | Swale

Swale really is remote, no real housing or commercial buildings are nearby, and it is amazing it is still used. However it does have an interesting and important part to play in the history of the line.

The station was opened in 1913 as Kings ferry bridge halt, and as such had no station building, just a couple of small huts for shelter. It traversed the River Medway over a bridge, but after a ship collided with the bridge in 1922, it was deemed unfit for railway traffic.

This meant that passengers were required to exit this station and walk over a temporary bridge to another station which had been provided to continue their journey.  This change meant the renaming of the station to Kings ferry bridge south halt.

It was renamed again in 1929 to Swale Halt when the railway bridge reopened after repairs, and continued with this name until a new bridge was opened in 1960, when it became known just as Swale station.  The station is very remote, the nearest village being Iwade, which is a 25 min walk away.

There is one dot matrix display, positioned at the top of the ramp which from the very small car park (which is in fact where the replacement bus service would pick up and set down.  At the bottom of this ramp is an electronic ticketing machine.  Turning back to walk up the ramp, on your left are various poster boards.

These include timetables, service information, a board for the Kent community rail partnership and of course an onward travel information board.  Like others on this list, there are no other facilities here. Trains at time of writing are class 375 electric multiple units.

Passenger entry and exits for 2019 / 2020  were 8, 044. I am using these figures as the figures for 2020 / 2021 are skewed due to the pandemic, and so are unreliable.

The video for Swale, recorded before the Class 375’s took over the line can be seen below.

London Termini – London Bridge

London Bridge is the oldest of the Termini in London, and one of the combined termini where terminating platforms are alongside through services. Often derided in the past as gloomy and difficult to navigate, a 21st Century makeover was completed in 2018. It is now a sleek modern building, its angled lines smoothed out with a curvy façade on one side. London’s tallest building, The Shard, towers above it, literally pinpointing the stations position.

A brief history

In 1831 a railway was proposed between Greenwich and Tooley Street. Because it would run through very congested streets, it was agreed that the best course of action was to build a viaduct. This would become a huge 878 arch bridge, made from 60 million bricks which were made in Sittingbourne, Kent. Initially the viaduct had a walkway which people could use for the sum of 1 pence, enabling elevated views of the city. However this was closed during the expansion of 1840.

Partly opened in 1836 as far as Spar Road, the full line to London Bridge was opened in December 1836. The station at this time was very basic, steps or ramps up to the platforms which were totally open to the elements having no sheltering roof or trainshed whatsoever.

Expansion came very quickly, with the London and Croydon Railway Company and The South Eastern Railway company taking routes North and South respectively between 1839 and 1842. The increased traffic gave the station a new building in 1844, the first of many rebuilds London Bridge would have.

The most significant of these was in 1850, where the station was divided in two, the South Eastern taking control of the North side, and the newly formed London, Brighton and South Coast railway company the South side. A huge wall was erected, with both sides having differing rules and regulations, causing services such as horse drawn taxis to pay differing charges as they traversed the station.

This remined in place until 1923, when all the southern rail companies were amalgamated into the Southern Railway Company. A footbridge was built to link the two stations in 1928.

The arches under the station were used in the Second World War as air raid shelters, although conditions were very grim. Inspections declared they were unfit for use and demanded improvements to make them both safer and hygienic. Unfortunately, before any real improvements were made, a bomb hit London Bridge in February 1941, killing 68 and injuring a further 175.

A Major rebuild of the infrastructure and station occurred in the 1970’s. This included new signalling and rerouting of the lines in and out of London Bridge. The building was given a modern design, but people would still complain that it was cramped and uninviting.

It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that another rebuild would take place. The most radical and expensive so far, this time they seem to have got it right , as I shall explain in the rest of the blog.

A quick view of the current station

Although I label this as a quick view, the station is so vast that being quick here is not something i’d recommend if you wish to appreciate this new station.

Entering from the underground station, after going up the escalators you enter a passageway which is Joiner Street. Move into Joiner Street and you should soon see on your left the entrance to the Western Arches.

The Western Arches

Moving into here, the old pillars that are holding up the railway above you, go down this corridor in a pleasant symmetrical fashion. Shops are placed at the side, and the feel of this section is fantastic.

At the end of the passageway is another intersection, this time with Stanier street. Of note here is the plaques along the wall detailing the history of the station layout, well worth a look if you have the time.

Plaque in Stanier Street

Moving back to the end of the Western arches, and head of you is the main concourse – a sleeper in on one of the walls just as you are about to enter the concourse is dedicated to the opening in 2018.

Dedication plaque

Turning right here will take you down past more shops on your right, and the main ticket office on your left. Carry on down to the exit and you will see on your left a memorial to the railway workers who died in the first world war. This exit would take you into St Thomas’ street, next to St Thomas’ hospital, should you go through it.

First World War Memorial

Turning back into the main concourse, head all the way back to the Western Arches and carry on. You will see various gateline entrances to your right, as well as a big escalator and stairs in the middle which will take you up to the upper concourse and the bus station. Lets go up and take a quick look.

Up the escalator ahead of you is the glass frontage of what used to be known as the main entrance to the station. If you were to exit there, the Shard would be immediately to your right, with the bus station immediately in from of you. It is worth going out here just to marvel not only at the Shard, but the impressive all glass frontage to the station here (see the opening picture of this blog post).

Moving around the upper concourse the sense of natural light and space is very evident. Moving to the left you will find gatelines for Platforms 10-15. If you gain access to these platforms, try to take a moment to stand at the end of the terminating platforms, and you will be greeted by a very pleasant sight as the canopy structure over the platforms snakes away from you, yet another good photo opportunity.

A view down platforms 14 and 15

Lets go back downstairs to the main concourse, and turn right towards the exit for Tooley Street. Various gatelines will be on your right, as well as an information centre. Exiting into Tooly Street will give you a look at the new sweeping façade at this entrance. This mixes well with the original arches, which can be seen meandering away towards Greenwich. The view as you enter the station again is below.

View after entering via Tooley Street, note the huge escalators towering above you.

Moving into the station, we go through a gateline into the inner concourse. Impressive concrete pillars, looking like huge egg timers, are dotted around, with seating around their circumfrence. The space here is very welcoming due to the high ceiling. Various lifts are in the centre too, and ahead of you are the huge escalators which take you to platforms 1-15.

A view across the concourse post gateline, with the lift shafts, pillars and high roof.

Departure boards are placed around the lifts and on the side walls, really the wealth of information about arriving and departing train services is comprehensive.

I visited during rush hour, and yes it was busy, but the station layout as it is now didn’t seem to have any major congestion points. The station and surrounding structure is still being worked on, but all the major components are open, and it seems that at last London Bridge is able to cope with the passenger numbers it receives.

The video below shows London Bridge platforms at evening rush hour.


Please visit my Vlog site on YouTube

Please visit my Facebook page

Please visit my Instagram Page


Many thanks for reading, I’ll blog again soon.