North London Railway

North London Railway
North London Railway
Locale North London
Dates of operation 1850–1922
Successor London, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Bow, London

The North London Railway (NLR) was a railway company that opened lines connecting the north of London to the East and West India Docks. The main east to west route is now part the North London Line. Other lines operated by the company fell into disuse, but were later revived as part of the Docklands Light Railway, and the East London Line served by the London Overground. The company was known as the East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway until 1853.



Railway Map of London, 1899, from The Pocket Atlas and Guide to London

The NLR's headquarters and locomotive works were initially at Bow. At first it ran trains from Camden Town[1] to Poplar, and from there via the London and Blackwall Railway to Blackwall and the East India Docks; a connection at Bow allowed trains to also 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 the meantime, the line had been extended westwards to Hampstead Road[2] in 1851 to join the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). 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 and a connecting London and South Western Railway branch to Richmond. An additional 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 LNWR took over the working of the railway on 1 Feb 1909.[3] The NLR Company remained in existence until 1922, with its own board of directors and shareholders, when it was then absorbed by the LNWR. It was done under The Railways Act, 1921 (the grouping act). The last board meeting and last shareholder 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.’[4]

The LNWR, which half-owned Broad Street station, was responsible for fourth-rail electrification of the Broad Street services to Richmond and to Kew Bridge in 1916. The Kew Bridge service was cut as a wartime economy measure in 1940 and never resumed.

The line from Dalston Junction to Poplar was heavily damaged during The Blitz. Passenger service from Broad Street to Poplar via Victoria Park and Bow was not reinstated at the end of the war (its official closure was 14 May 1944). The section from Broad Street to Dalston Junction was closed on 30 June 1986.


In 1979 the line between Richmond and Dalston via Gospel Oak, plus the spur line to Stratford, was joined with the former Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway to form what is known today as the North London Line. The line between Willesden Junction and Camden via Primrose Hill is now primarily used for empty coaching stock movements between the North London Line and Wembley Depot, freight trains and during periods of engineering work, diverted passenger services to and from the Watford DC Line. Primrose Hill station itself has been closed.

The Docklands Light Railway follows the path of the long-disused North London Railway from Bow Church to Poplar and the northern section of the East Cross Route (A12) built in the late 1960s used the route between Old Ford and Victoria Park stations, which were demolished during the road's construction.

The East London Line Extension has taken over the previously abandoned stretch between Dalston and Shoreditch.


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 also had a sizeable wagon repair shop. When the railway was merged into the LMS it was the smallest of fifteen workshops. It not only repaired NLR locomotives but, 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 later on 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 down in 1960.


Richmond to Willesden Junction (joined NLR 1856):

Willesden Junction to Camden via Primrose Hill (opened 1851-2 regular 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 re-opened 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. ^ Camden Town station was renamed Camden Road on 25 September 1950
  2. ^ Hampstead Road station was renamed Chalk Farm on 1 December 1862 and renamed Primrose Hill on 25 September 1950
  3. ^ The National Archives RAIL 529/32 NLR Board Minute No 6940 of 14 January 1909
  4. ^ The National Archives RAIL 529/34 NLR Board Meeting 22 November 1922

External links

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