Not Stopping Here: Crystal Palace High Level

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Opened by the London, Chatham & Dover Railway in 1865, the branch line to Crystal Palace High Level station was built to serve the Crystal Palace itself and as direct competition to the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway’s own line to their own station (the current Low Level site).

Crystal Palace High Level station 1908

Crystal Palace High Level station 1908, via Wikipedia

Both lines were heavily patronised in the Palace’s heyday, but the destruction of Paxton’s glass wonder saw a serious decline in traffic. The LC&DR’s line, ending as it did at the High Level station, suffered particularly badly. The line and its stations struggled on for a while, but the cost of permanently repairing war time bomb damage proved prohibitive and the branch line finally closed in 1954.

Crystal Palace High Level itself was demolished in the early sixties, and to the casual eye nothing remains to suggest the grand station that once sat below the Crystal Palace Parade. Traces of the line and the stations it served can still be found, however, if you know where to look. The line boasted two substantial tunnels – Paxton Tunnel (439 yards) and Crescent Wood Tunnel (400 yards) and both these tunnels are still extant. As is the local myth that one of them contains an entombed train…

Upper Sydenham station, today a private residence

Upper Sydenham station, today a private residence

Retaining wall on the approach to Crystal Palace High Level

Retaining wall on the approach to Crystal Palace High Level

The view from above Paxton Tunnel south portal, looking towards the station site

The view from above Paxton Tunnel south portal, looking towards the station site

The Pedestrian Subway that linked the station with the Palace

The Pedestrian Subway that linked the station with the Palace. The subway itself is still there (securely locked) and contains an ornate vaulted ceiling

Steps leading down from a secondary entrance to the station

Steps leading down from a secondary entrance to the station

Paxton Tunnel, South Portal

Paxton Tunnel, South Portal

Paxton Tunnel, South Portal close up

Paxton Tunnel, South Portal close up

Paxton, north portal (with portaloos)

Paxton, north portal (with portaloos)

A closer look at the north portal

A closer look at the north portal

Crescent Wood Tunnel, north portal

Crescent Wood Tunnel, north portal.

Bunchley Gardens to Nunhead

Bunchley Gardens to Nunhead. Courtesy BJG

The cutting between Lordship Lane and Upper Sydenham

The cutting between Lordship Lane and Upper Sydenham. Courtesy BJG

Cox's Walk bridge over the cutting

Cox’s Walk bridge over the cutting. Courtesy BJG

The Not Stopping Here series highlights disused or unusual transport-related engineering and architecture in London that is still visible to the public, if you know where to look. Suggestions for items to feature are welcome and can be sent to [email protected].

Written by Looper 23