London Cannon Street
The ''Charing Cross
Railway Company’’, a nominally independent concern instigated by the SER, was
formed by an Act of Parliament in 1859. The company’s purpose was to extend the
existing London & Greenwich Railway metals beyond London Bridge, to eventually
arrive at a new terminus in the West End. This involved forming a 1⅓ mile track
bed upon brick arches to carry the line through the densely-populated Borough of
Southwark, before arriving at a lattice girder bridge to carry the tracks over
the Thames. Construction began in the year of the Act, but trouble was already
afoot for the SER. In 1860, the Metropolitan Extension Act was created, which
enabled the rival LC&DR to reach the City of London. Hitherto, the LC&DR had
been running to Victoria by means of the ‘’West End of London & Crystal Palace
Railway’s’’ (WEL&CPR) metals between Beckenham and Battersea, via Crystal Palace
and Balham. The WEL&CPR became part of the LB&SCR in 1860, a company which the
LC&DR had already entered into controversy with; this concerned the sharing of
the terminus at Victoria. Consequently, the aforementioned Act of 1860 not only
enabled the LC&DR to construct a spur to the City, but it also permitted a
completely new line between Beckenham and Battersea, allowing the company to
avoid the metals of the LB&SCR. In response to the LC&DR’s City endeavours,
Parliament passed a separate Act in 1861 after lobbying by the SER, which
allowed the construction of a northern appendix to the westward extension from
London Bridge. This would be about ⅓ mile in length, and connect with the London
Bridge to Charing Cross route by means of a triangular junction; the SER would
now be placed firmly in the City, the capital’s financial headquarters.
Construction of the £4 million Charing Cross extension had begun in 1859, the year in which the Act of Parliament received Royal Assent, but building of the City appendix did not commence until the summer of 1863. After extensive building works and the excavation of 7000 corpses (these subsequently being reburied at Brookwood), scheduled services from Hayes and Greenwich (both at the end of terminating branch lines) began running to Charing Cross on 11th January 1864, followed by North Kent and Medway Valley Line services on 1st April, and Tonbridge and Kent Coast trains on 1st May. The SER’s City terminus site, bordered at its north by Cannon Street, was far from complete, and it would be over two and a half years later until this was commissioned. To span the width of the Thames between Southwark and the City, a 706-foot long iron girder bridge was erected on a series of cast-iron columns, these in turn being built upon brick and concrete bases. The bridge was designed to carry five parallel lines; on the immediate approach to the station, a further four tracks were spouted, and in total, eight platform faces were to be in use. Of the nine tracks, one was to be used for carriage berthing – this lacking any passenger access – and the longest platform faces would measure some 721-feet. The SER commissioned ‘’Cannon Street’’ station for passenger use on 1st September 1866, and without doubt, the entire layout was far more impressive than the efforts of the LC&DR, which had established itself half a mile to the west. A semi-circular-shaped curved overall roof, measuring 680-foot by 190-foot, graced the platforms, this being constituted of a 1000 ton iron framework. Two thirds of the frame’s three acre surface area was glazed. The huge trainshed, which was an enlarged (and, as was later discovered, more robustly built) version of the example which had appeared at Charing Cross, was held up on either side by huge yellow-brick walls. Both trainsheds were products of civil engineer John Hawkshaw. The station’s side walls, some 6½ feet in width, terminated at their respective southern ends in the form of a huge tower, each rising up to 106½-feet above rail level and providing the Thames-facing façade with a spectacular symmetrical appearance. The fact that the station had to be elevated, to reach the level of the incoming tracks, ensured that a huge storage basement, formed of numerous arches, was created underneath the platforms. This was reached by a series of hydraulically-operated lifts, which used water from tanks in the towers as power. These tanks also supplied water for locomotives.
As per Charing Cross, an initially separate commercial entity backed onto the rear of the station, providing a spectacular street-facing façade. This was the City Terminus Hotel, a five-storey masterpiece worthy of Hawkshaw’s station. It was based on the same French Renaissance style employed at the Charing Cross Hotel, and the structures at both termini were designed by architect Edward Middleton Barry. The City Terminus Hotel opened later than the station it served, the first customers using it in May 1867. To coincide with the station’s construction, the opportunity was taken to insert a tunnel underneath the site of the hotel forecourt, for the impending District Railway underground line.
The layout of the entire appendix from the original Charing Cross extension had been geared primarily for a timetable which saw all services to and from the West End terminus call at Cannon Street. Unfortunately, however, the track arrangement derived from such an operating principle would cause congestion chaos in future years, particularly after the discontinuing of the Cannon Street stop. As mentioned earlier, a triangular junction linked the Cannon Street spur with that between Charing Cross and London Bridge. On eastern and western sides of the triangle were three tracks, whilst the southern end of the triangle – destined to become the busiest section of them all – was just double-track. This arrangement south of the Thames was eventually controlled by three signal cabins: Borough Market Junction, Metropolitan Junction, and Cannon Street (No. 2). The station at Cannon Street itself was controlled by a 62-foot long signal cabin which, like the example at Charing Cross, was suspended across the tracks on a lattice girder framework, beyond the platform ends. This had been erected by contractor Saxby & Farmer, a company which is perhaps better known for undertaking signalling projects for the rival LC&DR. The very practice of reversing Charing Cross services into Cannon Street also called for an engine shed to be erected on the southern bank of the Thames. This was positioned immediately east of the Cannon Street approach lines, beside the diverging tracks which formed the east and west sides of the triangular junction. The shed was of a terminating arrangement, featuring five southward-facing tracks (each approximately 125-feet long), which were all fed by a turntable. The cramped nature of the site meant that locomotives would approach the turntable from the north, then after rotation, double-back on themselves to enter the shed.
9th December 1967
The terminus is seen two years after the completion of its first major rebuild, on a gloomy December's day.
Visiting from the South Western Division was 4TC (later Class 438) No. 424, wearing all-over BR Blue with
small yellow warning panel and aluminium BR ''Arrows of Indecision'' on the cab sides. The set had been
hauled into Cannon Street by Electro-Diesel No. E6018, and the train had originated from Bromley North.
This was just one of the routes travelled by the formation on this day, as part of a tour for the Locomotive
Club of Great Britain (LCGB). From Cannon Street, the train travelled to Ludgate Hill, and then on to
Victoria, this time being hauled by D6584 (later Class 33 No. 33064). In this view can clearly be seen the
V-shaped canopies erected to provide protection from the elements, after the graceful overall roof lost its
glazing. Notice on the far left that the original station wall has been partially demolished, and replaced by a
metal barrier. In the background can be seen the flat concrete slab that was laid over the concourse during the
rebuilding works, whilst above and behind are the soulless office blocks which replaced the former elegant -
but bomb damaged - City Terminus Hotel. David Glasspool Collection
24th August 1986
Rebuilding of the railway bridge was undertaken between 1979 and 1982 inclusive, and the result was the
rather austere arrangement seen in the above view. Positioned immediately to the right of the nearest tower
is Class 33 No. 33008 ''Eastleigh'', wearing 1960s BR green, but with large yellow warning panels. ''Jaffa
Cake'' 4 Cep No. 1529 stands prominent over the bridge. These items of rolling stock formed part of an
interesting line-up at the London & Greenwich Railway's 150th Anniversary celebrations at Cannon Street,
over the weekend of 23rd and 24th of August. Mike Glasspool
24th August 1986
At the celebrations, 4 Cep No. 1529 was seen pairing with a 4 Vep, the latter of which was displaying the then
new Network SouthEast livery, which had been unveiled for the first time in June. The huge western wall can
be seen in the background, with its massive arched windows bricked up. Grass was growing out of the top of
both station walls, but the two distinctive towers had been fully restored by this time. Mike Glasspool
Next: the History Continues >>
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