Today, this is a
rather unloved two-platform station, serving exclusively South London Line
trains running between Victoria and London Bridge. Once, however, it boasted
five platform faces, catering for the traffic of two separate railway companies.
The station’s origins lie with the LC&DR, which commissioned a cut-off line
between Stewarts Lane and Beckenham, via Herne Hill. Its raison d’ȇtre was to
provide the company with an independent line which avoided the tolls imposed by
the LB&SCR on the existing route to Victoria via Crystal Palace. The line was
opened in two stages, first between Stewarts Lane and Herne Hill on 25th August
1862, and then between the latter and Beckenham on 1st July 1863. Wandsworth
Road station came into use upon the first section of the line on 1st March 1863,
situated around what were initially two tracks forming the ‘’Chatham’’
approaches to London Victoria. Not long after opening, however, and with the
impending development of the South London Line, the LC&DR completed a new
‘’high-level’’ line to Victoria, which involved laying an additional three
tracks on a completely new viaduct between Grosvenor Bridge and Wandsworth Road.
Between the latter and Brixton, a five-track layout existed on a widened
embankment, and new platforms were brought into use at Wandsworth Road around
the new lines. The LB&SCR’s double-track South London Line opened throughout on
1st May 1867, completing a circuit route between Victoria and London Bridge. The
route left the existing Victoria to Clapham Junction line just south of
Grosvenor Bridge. From there, it was carried for ¾-mile upon a new viaduct,
which was 24-foot 8-inches wide between parapets and averaged 30-feet in height.
This then joined the original double-track ‘’low-level’’ LC&DR line to Herne
Hill about 100-yards north of Wandsworth Road station.
Since the opening of the South London Line, LC&DR services exclusively used the more recent triple-track arrangement. Of these lines, one was the ‘’down’’ main, one the ‘’up’’ main, and the third the ‘’up’’ Metropolitan. Similarly, the original double-track west of these lines became dedicated to South London Line trains, but remained in LC&DR ownership. Three platform faces were available to ‘’Chatham’’ traffic, two of which formed an island platform sandwiched in-between ‘’up’’ Metropolitan and ‘’up’’ main lines. A brick-built ticket hall existed below the running lines at street level, on the eastern side of the railway, by the corner of Wandsworth Road. This was of yellow brick construction throughout, with arched orange window frames, and essentially utilised the same set of materials and architectural features as Penge station, just down the line. Early maps show that the LC&DR platforms were covered at their extreme northern ends by an overall roof (as was common at the time). On the ‘’down’’ platform, along the embankment’s northern fringes, could be found the Station Master’s house, a two-storey-high yellow-brick structure with a hipped slated roof. This was built to the same design as the main building at the company’s Canterbury station, and survived long after the closure of the ‘’Chatham’’ platforms. Maps from 1882 still show the overall roof at the far northern ends of the LC&DR platforms, but by 1895 this had disappeared and more conventional canopies installed (as indicated on the enclosed map).
As mentioned earlier, the LB&SCR station served the double-track which had originally formed the LC&DR’s approaches to Victoria from Herne Hill, but had since been turned over to ‘’Brighton’’ traffic. The two brick-built platforms commanded their own Station Master’s house, built on the Victoria-bound side of the South London Line tracks. This was a substantial yellow brick structure, two-storeys in height with a slated pitched roof, located at the southern end of the site. The Station Master was treated to a large garden in what was then deep in rural territory – the urban sprawl of Central London had yet to take over, and the landscape constituted flowing fields and a sea of trees. The two LB&SCR platforms were linked at their western ends by a subway, and each surface was host to an economical clapboard waiting shelter. This station was separated from the LC&DR site by the latter’s ‘’up’’ Metropolitan line.
200-yards north of the station could be found ‘’Factory Junction’’, where the South London and ‘’low-level’’ LC&DR lines split, and also where the latter and a double-track spur to Clapham Junction diverged. The junction was controlled by two signal boxes, one situated within the fork of the diverging Clapham Junction and Victoria lines, and another situated on the western side of the South London Line, 50-yards north of Wandsworth Road station. During the 1880s, a third signal box came into use, this time at the southern end of the station, sandwiched in-between the ‘’down’’ track of the South London Line and the ‘’up’’ Metropolitan line of the LC&DR route. This cabin is marked on the enclosed map, and replaced the aforementioned signal box located at the opposite end of the station, on the ‘’up’’ side. It, too, had gone by 1920.
In 1891, the South London Line recorded that six million passengers had used the route, an impressive total for what was one of the capital’s busiest suburban lines. In the early 20th Century, however, the proliferation of trams reversed this trend and passenger numbers steadily fell. In response to this, the LB&SCR received Royal Assent for the electrification of its entire network in 1903. The South London Line was the first recipient of a new system of overhead wires, supported upon lattice gantries and carrying an alternating current of 6,700 Volts. Public electric trains commenced between London Bridge and Victoria on 1st December 1909, steam being retained solely for those services running early on weekdays, between the hours of 4:30 AM and 7:30 AM. Naturally, gantries were installed along the LB&SCR platforms at Wandsworth Road, but those tracks of the SE&CR remained without such treatment.
On 1st June 1912, steam was wholly eliminated from the South London Line, and just under four years later, on 3rd April 1916, the three platforms of the ex-LC&DR station were closed. On the same day, closure also came to SE&CR platforms at Battersea Park Road and Clapham, eliminating all stops between Brixton and Victoria for ‘’Chatham’’ trains. On maps from the early Southern Railway period, the disused platforms and the lattice footbridge at the ‘’country’’ end of the station are still indicated.
During 1925, third rail was laid between Victoria/Holborn Viaduct and Orpington. Through Wandsworth Road, ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ main lines of the ‘’Chatham’’ route were electrified, but the ‘’up’’ Metropolitan (which was subsequently re-designated the ‘’up’’ relief) was left untreated. Public electric services of these tracks commenced on 12th July 1925. In August 1926, the SR announced the abandonment of the A.C. overhead wires and the pursuit of the ex-LSWR’s 660-Volt D.C. third rail system. On 17th June 1928, public services on the South London Line switched from A.C. to D.C. operation. The A.C. wires remained live for some months afterwards, to allow movement of empty A.C. stock to Peckham Rye Depot from other parts of the network. The gantries were finally taken down during 1932, and it appears that at this time, the disused ‘’Chatham’’ platforms at Wandsworth Road were reduced to rubble. The lattice footbridge crossing all running lines at the southern end of the station was taken down, the two remaining platforms being linked at their northern ends by an existing subway. The bridge’s retention up until this time suggests that the ‘’down’’ side ticket office of the ex-LC&DR station remained in use beyond the closure of its platforms. Thereafter, South London Line tickets were issued from timber huts on the ‘’Brighton’’ platforms. Conversion of the South London Line from A.C. to D.C. operation also saw the platforms of Wandsworth Road receive Swan Neck electric lamps and ‘’Target’’ style name signs.
Early changes under British Railways involved replacing the dilapidated signal box at Factory Junction, an all-timber affair which dated back to the days of the LC&DR. Immediately to its north, an austere brick-built cabin was brought into use on 21st January 1953. Later in the same decade, as part of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme, colour light signals were installed between Factory Junction and Ramsgate, via both Herne Hill and the Catford Loop lines. In addition, colour light signals replaced semaphores along that section of the South London Line between Wandsworth Road and Denmark Hill. At Wandsworth Road, the ‘’up’’ relief line, which until this time was without third rail, was electrified. On 8th March 1959, colour light signals between Wandsworth Road and Denmark Hill, and from Factory Junction to Herne Hill, were brought into use.
On Sunday 20th July 1975, the London Bridge Panel came into operation, controlling the lines from the terminus to Anerley and North Dulwich, and the South London Line tracks through to Wandsworth Road. Just over four years later, in September 1979, a trailing crossover was brought into use between ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ main lines. The ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ main lines were slewed onto a new alignment over the former site of the SE&CR island platform, thus removing the kink in both tracks. Further signalling alterations were enacted on 17th May 1980, when the signal box at Factory Junction was closed, its functions being taken over by the Victoria Panel at Clapham Junction.
In 1988, partial rebuilding began at Mitcham station, on the Wimbledon to West Croydon line. This sought to provide a new booking office at platform level, a rebuilt road over bridge, and elimination of a redundant lattice footbridge. The latter had gone out of use as far back as 1971, having formerly linked ‘’up’’ and ‘’down’’ platform surfaces. After a landslip at Mitcham in that year, it was deemed economical to take the ‘’up’’ platform and line permanently out of use. In the true SR tradition of recycling, it was decided to dismantle this footbridge and re-erect it at Wandsworth Road, where it could replace the existing subway at the northern ends of the platforms. An unfortunate consequence of this was the demolition of the LB&SCR timber waiting shelters on both platforms, to provide room for the staircases. In 1996, frugal glazed shelters eventually came into use, in place of the rather more commodious timber structures. In that year, redevelopment of the land behind the Victoria-bound platform was completed, new residential property having been built – this was on the area once occupied by the Station Master’s house.
Wandsworth Road: 1913
Ordnance Survey of Wandsworth Road from 1913, a time when both SE&CR and LB&SCR platforms were in
use. At the southern end of the station can be seen the long lattice footbridge, linking all platform surfaces.
The Station Master's house of the LB&SCR station is marked by the shaded rectangle sandwiched in-between
the station and the rear of ''Brayburne Avenue''. Click the above for a larger version.
1st September 1969
E5000 series No. E5008 is seen passing the site of the ex-LC&DR station on the ''down'' main, hauling the famous
''Golden Arrow''. This luxurious service had ceased to be all-Pullman in 1954, and by the time of this photograph,
most of the formation comprised BR Mk 1 vehicles. Much evidence remained of the ex-LC&DR station, including
the gap in-between the ''up'' main and relief lines, and the Station Master's house. The latter can be seen in the
background, with a whitewash finish and blocked up windows. Towards the top left can be seen the chimneys
of Battersea Power Station, at this time still very much operational. © David Glasspool Collection
A northward view towards Factory Junction shows route learning unit No. 931001 approaching the station.
The brick surround to the right of the unit marks the position of the subway stairs, by that time closed. On
the extreme left can be seen Factory Junction signal box, disused since 1980. To the right of the signal box
can be seen the pair of ''low-level'' lines to Victoria and, to the right of these, the triple-track ''high-level''
route to the terminus. No. 931001 was converted from a BR-designed 2-EPB. It was eventually scrapped
at Immingham on 3rd February 2004. © David Glasspool Collection
Four Class 47 diesels, led by No. 47326, are seen passing the Victoria-bound platform of the South London
Line station. All four are in the Railfreight Distribution fleet and have originated from Dollands Moor. The
high fencing on the right shields a then new housing development from the railway, upon land once host to
the Station Master's house. © David Glasspool Collection
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