In Part 2 of our piece on The Beeching Report’s impact on London, Pedantic of Purley highlighted that the report called for the closure of the Clapham Junction – Kensington Olympia service. As Pedantic pointed out, this was unusual less for the fact that the service was deemed ripe for closure, as it was almost certainly unprofitable, but because it acknowledged that the service existed at all.

The Clapham Junction – Kensington Olympia service (the “Kenny Belle” to its friends) was by no means officially secret but it was by any definition a “ghost train.” Between 1955 and 1969 it received no mention on the official timetable (our thanks to commentor Dave for identifying these dates) and at the time of Beeching it consisted of just two trains a day either way.

Indeed the proposal to close it arguably brought the line more publicity than it had previously ever enjoyed. Certainly enough that, as commentor Graham Feakins pointed out, it caught the eye of Daily Express journalist Daniel McGeachie who resolved to try and find it. Thanks to Graham, you can read McGeachie’s account of his attempts to travel on the Kenny Belle below. We’ve included a transcript beneath the image for ease of reading.

The Ghost Train article in the Express

A Nine Penny ticket for the ghost train yesterday

by Daniel McGeachie

I found the Ghost Train of Clapham Junction yesterday. But not easily. For there’s always something mysterious about a railway, and British Railways have excelled themselves in this masterpiece of mystery.

The train runs in secret, not listed in any timetable, from a platform fenced off with a concealed entrance, in a station which hides its very existence.

Not surprisingly, British Railways have discovered that the Ghost Train is no howling success. And decided that, after 50 years of service, it should by scrapped.

The Ghost Train makes the eight-minute journey from Clapham Junction to Kensington Olympia four times a day – times known only to a handful of railwaymen, and the group of civil servants who use it regularly.

To say that Clapham Junction has tended to let sales for this train slip is an understatement.


At 8.5a.m. yesterday I asked for a ticket to Olympia. The world’s busiest rail junction was visibly shaken.

“That,” said stationmaster Reginal Davidge, “is probably only the second or third ticket we’ve sold for this train since the First World War. The regulars have seasons.”

As regular with season tickets hurried for the secret 8.46, a ticket was carefully produced from a squeaky drawer; single Clapham Junction to Olympia, 1s. – although it still bore the old fare of 9d., out of date since November 1959.

An arrow pointed to Platform 1 [This would later become platform 17 – JB], Kensington (Olympia).

At the end of the long, long, hallway, well away from the bustle of everyday trains, I spotted it down below at the platform. Four green carriages, an engine puffing steam, the in-the-know passenger. All satisfactory, except for one detail. There was no way of getting to it.

Platform 1 – the Ghost Train platform – had long since been sealed off by a neat metal railing.

“Try the lift,” said a porter, but the lift was out of action.


I found the secret. Go to Platform 4… down stairs to the tunnel… walk until you reach the street… turn left up the steps…

It involved a walk of at least 200 yards. It also seemed a dangerous walk. The wooden floor of Clapham Junction’s main hall creaked.

One plank sank at least an inch under my feet, revealing daylight and a drop to the rails below.

“Well done,” said Mr. Ernest Stainer, ticket inspector for Platform 1, when I arrived. “You need a fair knowledge of the station to find your way to this train. Very specialised, you might say.”

The driver, 61 year-old Tom Hilton of Battersea, said: “We get the Ghost Train job for a day once in 16 weeks. A right laugh. We call it the Winkle.”

Passengers found it less funny. As we steamed to Olympia, Tim Perry, Horley accountant said: “This train could pay if they put in the timetable. People who have lived here all their lives don’t know about it.”

Elisabeth Sheasby of Streatham said: “If they stop this it will cost me twice as much to get to work.”

Cut Out

Stationmaster Davidge says: “Two of the four trains a day are fairly busy, but even if we tried to encourage passengers the line wouldn’t pay. It hasn’t paid for 43 years. That’s why we gave up and cut it out of the timetable.

Whatever you feel about the question of closing the Ghost Train, there’s another question puzzling me still more. How did Dr Beeching ever find it?

Ultimately, the Kenny Belle would survive Beeching (indeed she would eventually end up being the last steam hauled service in London) but the question still remains:- just why did this service exist? And why did it disappear from the timetable in the first place?

A Very British Service

As the article above hints at, the general understanding has long been that it was there for a certain group of civil servants. As Pedantic explained in the Beeching piece:

During this period there would be a couple of unadvertised services in the morning from Clapham Junction to Kensington Olympia exclusively for a group of government workers. There would be no workings in service in the return direction in the morning and in the evening the situation was reversed. In fact it turned out that the workers worked at nothing more mysterious than the Post Office Savings Bank at Olympia. Quite why these workers from another nationalised industry were given their own special service at great expense, and quite why ordinary passengers were not supposed to use it has never been made clear.

It was a curious arrangement, but fifties and sixties London was sometimes a strange place. In an era before the internet peculiarities such as this tended to go unnoticed, and for years the Kenny Belle would remain something of an open secret, one shared between the railwaymen, locals and its users. Indeed this was of course the period of the Cold War – a time when, as Pedantic pointed out, the address of the Post Office Tower was technically an official secret, even though it was pretty hard to miss.

There it is! The Post Office Tower in the 1960s

There it is! The Post Office Tower in the 1960s

Still, it seems unusual that the workers of the Post Office Savings Bank might receive such special attention, respected Government servants though they surely were.

Spooks on the Ghost Train

Given this peculiar honour, it is perhaps unsurprising that there seems to be a slightly more romantic suggestion for the service’s existence, as highlighted by commentor Al Green:

I’m surprised that no-one has explained the reason for the secrecy around the Kenny Belle service. Most of the passengers were spooks and didn’t want the general public to know who they were. The bit of the PO they worked for was not the Savings bank, whatever it might have said over the door. They worked in the section that intercepted and opened the mail of anyone the government regarded as a commie, which at the height of the cold war was a lot of people. Some worked for PO and some for MI5. They didn’t want to be recognised and so really wanted the train to themselves. Hence almost total secrecy about the existence of the service to discourage others from using it.

It’s certainly an intriguing suggestion with some appeal, but just how much truth is to be found in it? Was the Kenny Belle there not to serve the humble men of the Post Office Savings Bank, but instead those engaged in the dark art of Cold War mail interception?

As regular readers will know, we here at LR are of a decidedly logicial bent and as Pedantic and others pointed out in the comments there are a number of flaws with this theory:

1. The argument of anonymous 09:56 [Anyone wanting to be “secret” would have walked to West Kensington – JB]

2. Kensington Olympia as far as I am aware just wouldn’t be an appropriate location to do this. If it had been Mount Pleasant sorting office near King’s Cross I might have started thinking it was plausible. If you intercept mail you have to do it quickly and without delay. Delayed mail on a consistent basis, compared with other people not-suspected, is a classic giveaway.

3. If it had been true then surely this would have been declassified by now. And there are people like Ian of IanVisits who invariably sniffs these things out.

4. It is inconsistent with Steven Taylor’s clear and uniquivocal recollections. [That it was marked on British Rail’s Master Map in the 1960s]

5. It wouldn’t have been in the Beeching Report!!!

These are all good points, although I do feel obliged to chastise my editorial colleague slightly for failing to remember the non-railway specialities of his fellow LR staffers. For with my “military historian” hat firmly in place, I can confirm that his second point above is entirely correct.

Reading the Mail

Throughout the Cold War, the interception and opening of suspect post remained a key part of Britain’s counter-intelligence strategy. The task of doing so fell to MI5, and throughout the fifties and sixties this was carried out by a department headed up by Major Albert Denman. Denman would later be described by Peter Wright (of Spycatcher fame) as “an old-fashioned military buffer with a fine sense of humor” but who nonetheless played things strictly by the book. His description of Denman’s office is worth repeating here:

Denman’s proudest memento was a framed letter which hung on the far wall. It was addressed to a prominent Communist Party member whose mail was regularly intercepted. When the letter was opened the Post Office technicians were amused to discover that it was addressed to MI5 and contained a typewritten message, which read: “To MI5, if you steam this open you are dirty buggers.” Denman classified it as “obscene post,” which meant that legally he had no duty to send it on to the cover address.

Denman’s department was one of MI5’s most important outstations in London and they shared premises with the Post Office Investigations Department (POID) in order to ensure that post could be either steamed or bambooed open quickly, copied, closed and then swiftly sent on.

As a result they shared premises with the POID – but this meant they were based in Post Office buildings in St Pauls, not Kensington.

So were the Kenny Belle’s civil servants actually readers of the mail? Almost certainly not.


Dissecting a rumour

There may, however, be more to the “spooks” story than one might initially suspect.

Although Denman’s mail men were based out of St Pauls, the mail wasn’t the only area of interception in which MI5 were interested or on which they cooperated with the Post Office. It is worth remembering that, at this time, the telephone network fell within the Post Office’s domain and MI5 was actively engaged in wiretapping. To do this, MI5 ran two facilities within London.

The largest of these wiretapping facilities was, at the time, a short walk from their offices in Victoria. Their second wiretapping facility, however, was spread over two floors at Charles House, a rather imposing office complex further west.

Charles House before it was demolished, by jancyclops

Charles House before it was demolished, by jancyclops.

Although now demolished, Charles House could previously be found on Kensington High Street, just a short walk from Kensington Olympia station.

It was a building they shared with a number of other organisations including Post Office Telecoms. It was also, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Kensington offices of the Post Office Savings Bank.

Staying Grounded

Ultimately it is important, of course, not to get carried away. A ghost train for spies makes a wonderful romantic image, but the truth is almost certainly far more prosaic. Never ascribe to the Intelligence Services what can more easily be ascribed to simple inertia or stubbornness on the part of Southern Railways. It is still far more likely that the service existed because it was just about more economical, or at least required less effort, to leave it as it was rather than close it down.

The idea that the service existed, in some way, due to the perceived needs of the intelligence services at the time should not, however, be dismissed entirely out of hand. Looking back from a distance, it is hard to grasp how strange the behaviour of both MI5 and MI6 could be at times during the Cold War.

Whilst it might seem amateurish now to rely solely on “security through obscurity” to preserve a “secret” rail service, it was well within character for the British security services of the time. Indeed the comments on jancyclops original flikr photo, linked to in the image caption above, are well worth a read for those who wish to get a true flavour of the way “secret London” interacted with normality at the time:

I worked on the 7th and 2nd floors from 1980 for Post Office Telecomms. I once got out of the lift at the wrong floor and was confronted by ornamental canons & armed guards. Never did find out who they were guarding. Security in the main part of the building was very lax though. My boyfriend’s brother once turned up in my office & when I asked how he got in he said he flashed his Travelcard at security & they let him in

Stories like the above are not uncommon, even in the official written history of post-war MI5.

At the end of the day it’s unlikely that the Clapham Junction – Kensington existed solely for the benefit of MI5, but ultimately the fact that they were at Kensington Olympia may well not have hurt. Stranger things could – and most definitely did – happen in Cold War London and railway lines have been run for stranger reasons. At the very least it probably bears further investigation.

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There are 163 comments on this article
  1. Anonymike says:

    Another very interesting and thought provoking article, though in a way it’s a shame to debunk the romantic notion of a spy-train. I wonder how busy the service would have been if it had appeared in the time-table (and been slightly easier to access) during those days?

    Anyone care to comment on how busy the current overground service is Clapham – Olympia?

    (oh, and much as I hate to be a pedant “they they shared premises”)

  2. Anonymous says:

    How/when/why did platform 1 become platform 17, and is platform 4 still platform 4?

    And I like ‘“Try the life,” said a porter’ – I must just follow that advice!

  3. Greg Tingey says:

    The Kenny Belle had its uses …
    Once, during one of the first GBBF’s @ Olympia, there was a tube strike ….
    How to get there from Walthamstow?
    Walthamstow Central – Liverpool Street
    Bus to London Bridge
    First Westbound to Waterloo East
    Waterloo – CJn
    Kenny Belle

    Though, IIRC, by that time, there were more workings than just 4 a day…
    And now there are 96 (I think)

  4. Stuart says:

    My grandfather used this service, and he was (to my knowledge) a fairly routine PO worker. I guess if the PO was undertaking a lot of activity in the KO area, including the “shady stuff”, the service was one of the perks of working for them

  5. @ RichardB

    Fascinating! A bit off topic but strictly speaking it wasn’t in an age before computers. Computers have existed in great numbers for hundreds of years. They were people, almost invariably women, who did computing of numbers. Typically this would be to produce tables such as logarithm tables. It is only since the second world war that the term, which was already in common use, started being applied to machines. The tables used to calculate the interest rates mentioned in your comment would have almost certainly have been calculated by a computer of one sort or another.

    If you watch the film “The Rebel” (1961) with Tony Hancock you will see a scene similar to that described by RichardB. There is another reason for watching that film but we won’t go into that now. Also the Billy Wilder film “The Apartment” (1960) shows that it was the same in America.

  6. Steer says:

    Surely it could be a bit of both? I could easily imagine the service being a bit of a Southern basket case, mainly ferrying PO workers, but which MI5 had found to be a preferred method of travel given how oblique it was. If this were the case, maybe MI5 did find a way of putting a word in the right ear and keeping the service going (and out of the timetables).

  7. John Bull says:

    Surely it could be a bit of both? I could easily imagine the service being a bit of a Southern basket case, mainly ferrying PO workers, but which MI5 had found to be a preferred method of travel given how oblique it was. If this were the case, maybe MI5 did find a way of putting a word in the right ear and keeping the service going (and out of the timetables).

    Combine this with Stuart’s answer and you’ve got what I’d suggest was the reasoning behind it, if you were to force me to make a guess:

    A bit of a Southern basket case which turns out to be quite useful both to the Post Office and MI5, both organisations perfectly capable of putting words in the right ears – particularly when working together.

    So not purely a “spook train” but there’s perhaps more truth to the suggestion than one might initially suspect.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Another possible destination is the Empress State Building at West Brompton which allegedly housed elements of GCHQ back in the day

    But yes I find the “spy train” theory rather unlikely as just by catching this train you are identifying yourself as a spook, and its not as though there was any talking by commutors back then!:-)

  9. John Bull says:

    No allegedly about it – GCHQ did indeed have offices in the Empress State Building. Indeed when Al Green’s suggestion first peaked my interest that was actually my first guess – that there had been some confusion/rumour due to the presence of GCHQ nearby.

    I think you’d be hard pressed to say that it would fall within the catchment area of Kensington Olympia though. Like you say, far easier connections nearby.

    TfL would, of course, later share Empress with GCHQ for a while (I think their times there overlap anyway). It’s right next to Lillly Bridge Depot.

    As you’ve probably guessed by now, the activities and logistics of British Intelligence in the 20th Century are something I find rather fascinating. The genuine history I hasten to add, not the pseudo-romantic or conspiracy theory stuff. Frankly there’s plenty of interest to be found in the documented history of the likes of MI5 (all the information above can be found in the public domain if you’ve got the right books, for example), and in the activities of the lesser known agencies such as MI9. No need to get all mystical and hand-wavy about it all as well.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I am confused by the platform numbers in the newspaper piece. While I am too young to remember the Kenny Belle when it was steam, I took it when it was a diesel and it left from platform 2, the platform the main Olympia service uses today. I found this picture on Flickr

    Also the ticket says Clapham Junction H.L. so I assume it was bought from the now reopened Brighton Yard ticket office. This would explain the description.

    The reporter walked all the way across the station on the bridge at the country end of the platforms which I well remember had creaking wooden boards. The first part of that walk is inevitably busier giving the impression you are moving away from the main station.

    The way down to platforms 1 and 2 was shut for years but of course the old lift may have been left in place.
    Because the steps were blocked off, you walked down onto platforms 3 and 4 and went through the subway before going back up again.

    As the article probably predates the new housing opposite the Grant Road exit, that may well have been not have been in use at the time, so it would have looked somewhat rundown.

  11. RichardB says:

    The train for spooks makes good copy but I doubt if there were enough of them to fill the two trains that actually ran. Life is both more prosaic but also curious. For those who were unaware of it the Post Office Savings Bank (now National Savings) had a large clerical factory at Blythe Road. The bank employed a large force of clerical workers who worked out interest etc on individual savers accounts. The term clerical factory is also apposite as the bulk of the work force worked in large halls in long lines of desks facing onto another line of desks but with pigeon holes between them for filing papers which also had the added advantage of discouraging workers from idle chit chat. At the end of each line of doubled desks was another desk at right angles which housed the supervisor of each line who could look down the line to ensure the clerks were engaged in industrious activities. To give you an idea of the culture a worker requiring a new pencil had to show the stub of the old pencil to their supervisor before a request to stationery could proceed.

    This was before the age of computers and such activities as were run in the bank were very labour intensive and the workforce was large. The move to Glasgow led to the closure of the Blythe Road operation but when it ran it was a large employer and it would not surprise me if the Post Office had in the distant past arranged with the railway companies for special worker’s trains to be run. Bear in mind the Post Office was a very major customer and could probably swing such a service.

    Coincidentally the mass murderer John Reginald Christie was employed at the bank in Blythe Road and I know this as when the offices closed a number of staff were relocated to the government department where I worked. Some of the ladies recalled him very clearly.

  12. Slugabed says:

    6:12 5/04
    To answer your questions out of sequence….
    Platform 4 is still platform 4
    Platforms 1 and 17 were the lowest numbered (Northernmost) and highest (Southernmost) platforms at CJ.
    Because of the disposition of the lines in the area,trains could (and still can) be routed to either from the Olympia direction.
    When I was at school in the 70s,the service invariably usec platforms 1&2 which,although a bit obscure,were not the hidden mystrey described in the article.They were easily accessible from the footbridge,or,less obviously,from the subway (I think the journalist was using poetic license,or the layout had changed a lot since the article was written).
    Platforms 1&2 had the only gents on the station which was both always open and free to use.I think it was intended for staff.
    In the 70s,the train was usually rum by a Class 33 and a 4TC.Sometimes I’d watch the 33 run-around the set using the “middle road” between plats 2 and 3.
    My dad occasionally used the train to get to work in Hammersmith until the 80s.
    Platform 1 was closed in the ?80s? due to the condition of the structure (the “Banana Arches,because they had been used to ripen bananas in years gone by) upon which the track was laid.
    With the coming of the ELLX the platform 1&2 area has been substantially re-jigged,with an extra platform built out to serve the erstwhile “middle road” for ELLX services via the Ludgate lines.
    Hope this helps.

  13. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Anonymous 08:55

    Also the ticket says Clapham Junction H.L. so I assume it was bought from the now reopened Brighton Yard ticket office. This would explain the description.

    Very observant! Yes some stations would have had more than one ticket office. They would have had completely separate identifiable ticket stock and in general operate quite independently of each other. It’s that audit trail thing again. There was a formal mechanism for transferring ticket stock from one office to another if one was desperate but it was avoided if at all possible. In effect the ticket office with the tickets would sell them at face value to the ticket office without and get a credit note for them if I remember correctly.

  14. John Bull says:

    This was before the age of computers and such activities as were run in the bank were very labour intensive and the workforce was large. The move to Glasgow led to the closure of the Blythe Road operation but when it ran it was a large employer and it would not surprise me if the Post Office had in the distant past arranged with the railway companies for special worker’s trains to be run. Bear in mind the Post Office was a very major customer and could probably swing such a service.

    This was partly why I thought it was worth including a photo of Charles House. People forget just how labour intensive “regular” clerical and Post Office work could be back then. Charles House was very much designed on that layout (to the point where it was often mistakenly assumed it had originally been intended to be a hospital with “wards”). It’s also easy to forget that the Railways and the Post Office used to have a much closer working relationship than they do now.

  15. Slugabed says:

    PS:Platforms 1 and 17 have had those numbers for as long as I can remember (late 60s)
    The description in the article seems clearly to refer to platforms 1 & 2….the “street” being the Winstanley Road entrance.
    These were the platforms invariably used by the service as Anonymous at 08:55 5/04 says.
    In the 70s,access to platforms 1&2 from the subway was outside the main ticket barriers,by one set of steps,and behind the ticket barrier and accessible from a railed area in the other direction.
    The footbridge entrance did have a railing (if I remember correctly) but a gate was usually left open.

  16. IanVisits says:

    Putting my logical hat on, I am left with the question as to why a newish organisation would end up in the situation of having an office in location X and coincidentally so many staff working there who all also just happened to live in location Y that it would be worth the effort to lay on a dedicated transport service.

    Even people working for the spy agencies tend to live all over the place and the chances that a large number of them lived in the same area and needed to catch the same train at the same time seems dubious to my mind.

    The only possibility is if the organisation happened to have offices near Clapham Junction and agreed to arrange transport for local residents for a transition period after an office move to Kensington.

    Even then the cost of a dedicated service would have outweighed the cost of simply subsidising normal public transport travel and the SIS have a reputation for penny pinching where their own administrative staff were concerned.

    I doubt the bosses would have signed off on such an agreement.

  17. Whiff says:

    Fascinating article but i have to ask – how do you bamboo a letter open?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Working as I did overlooking the WLL c 1988-92, I saw a lot of changes to this service

    Platform 16 or 17 at CJ were used for a while for the Kenny Belle when it was opereted by a Western Region diesel unit that came up from Gatwick to do the job. This was after the extensionof the service to Willesden, but before electrification. Before that, a 455 was used for a short while, when the WLL had been electrified as far as North Pole. And before THAT, we had the fun of class 73s working top and tail – for some reason I was told but now forget, only the rare 73/0 subclass could work with hauled (as disinct from TC or other EP) stock.


    Surprised that a 33 would have to run round a TC set – unless a push-pull fitted loco wasn’t available that day?

  19. Slugabed says:

    Anonymous 10:14 05/04
    Yes,I suppose some 33s weren’t fitted for push-pull?
    As Anonymous at 08:55 05/04’s pictures show,this wasn’t always a TC set,either.

  20. Pedantic of Purley says:

    how do you bamboo a letter open?

    If I recall correctly, from reading about it I hasten to add, you took a piece of very thin bamboo, or modern substitute, which was split down its length and inserted it through the top of the flap of the envelope. You would have to do this very carefully so that the letter caught in the split. One could then twist the bamboo to wrap the letter around it and retrieve it. Having read it, it was supposedly possible to reverse the process, flatten the envelope to remove any curling and allegedly the letter would appear unopened.

    Let it not be said that London Reconnections isn’t an informative site.

  21. strawbrick says:

    I have a (reprint) copy of Bradshaw’s July 1922 timetables.
    There is an entry on page xxxviii of the Index to Stations for Kensington, Addison Road – West London Extension to Table 272. Table 272 shows 22 (yes, twenty-two) trains each way on a Saturday! This Table refers to more trains to be found on Table 445; here there are 11 trains each way on the predecessor of the current Southern service from Watford!

    I also have a copy of the first “all-lines” timetable dated 5th May 1975.
    In the Index to Stations, at page 11, there is the entry “Kensington Olympia (table) 147.
    Table 146 ends at the bottom of page 807 and Table 148 starts at the top of page 808 – there is no Table 147!

    With regard to Platform numbering and access, the Southern services from Watford arrive at Platform 17, and then either carry on the Croydon or, in the evenings return directly from Platform 17 to Watford. Northbound trains from Croydon stop at Platform 16. as far as I am aware, no other in-service passenger trains use either platform. Platform 17 is on a VERY sharp curve and as such must have the widest and highest “Gap” in the UK – the warning to “Mind the Gap” when leaving from the train is very pertinent!

    Finally, and off the main subject, there is a sign on Platform 17 at CLJ which reads as follows:

    Under Byelaw 13(1) of the South West Trains Ltd Byelaws,
    this area has been provided for the use of those persons
    having business with South West Trains ONLY.

    Any other person found using this area without permission
    may be requested to leave and a refusal to do so may
    result in Police attendance.

    Authority: Section 129 The Railways Act 1993

  22. John Bull says:

    If I recall correctly, from reading about it I hasten to add, you took a piece of very thin bamboo, or modern substitute which was split down its length and inserted it through the top of the flap of the envelope. You would have to do this very carefully so that the letter caught in the split. One could then twist the bamboo to wrap the letter around it and retrieve it. Having read it, it was supposedly possible to reverse the process, flatten the envelope to make remove any curling and allegedly the letter would appear unopened.

    Correct. Congratulations! You just earnt yourself a place on an MI5 watch list!

    Interestingly, MI5’s biggest problem back then, when it came to snooping on the mail was…

    …wait for it…


    Basically if the person whose mail they were intercepting had taped down the ends of the envelope flap, they were pretty much unable to get into the letter without it being obvious that it had been tampered with.

    If they address had been typed on the envelope, that wasn’t a problem as they could then just rip it open and put it in a new envelope with the same address typed on. If the devious commie spy had both sellotaped it and written the address on by hand though then they were scuppered.

  23. Alastair Palmer says:

    The Empress State Building has a revolving platform at the top, which means you can stand still and get a wonderful 360 degree panoramic view over the whole of London in about 40 minutes. In this, it resembles the Post Office Tower, which had a revolving restaurant at one time, when it was still open to the public.

  24. Steer says:


    I suspect a number of the MI5 types were fairly well-healed and that a reasonable proportion would have lived in Surrey or Sussex, meaning that a journey into London would almost certainly be via CJ. They could then get off and change onto the Kenny Belle

  25. Steer says:

    *well-heeled (goodness me)

  26. Anonymous says:

    Slugabed 1023

    Only nineteen of the (I think) ninety-seven class 33s were fitted for push/pull working – those later classified as Class 33/1. They were adapted for use on the Bournemouth-Weymouth section, when the limit of electrification was Bournemouth – taking over a TC set from a REP/TC formation that had come down from London town so as to provide a through service from London to Dorset. The push-pull arrangment saved an awful lot of shunting at Bournemouth

  27. Anonymous says:

    JOHN BULL – wouldnt a Clapham Junc to Olympia service stop at West Brompton?

  28. Greg Tingey says:

    Only if/when West Bronpton was open, though…..

  29. mr_jrt says:

    West Brompton’s WLL station closed due to WLL bomb damage in WW2 and was subsequently demolished.

  30. Anonymous says:

    “there is a sign on Platform 17 at CLJ which reads as follows:
    Under Byelaw 13(1) of the South West Trains Ltd Byelaws, this area has been provided for the use of those persons having business with South West Trains ONLY.”

    A bit of a problem for anyone wanting to catch a train there then – only Southern’s services call there.

    Anon 0229
    The WLL platforms at West Brompton were out of use between 1940 (when the WLL passenger service was withdrawn) and 1999.

    St Quintin Park & Wormwood Scrubs, Uxbridge Road, Olympia, Chelsea & Fulham, and Battersea stations also closed in 1940

  31. Stuart says:

    @ IanVisits
    “Putting my logical hat on, I am left with the question as to why a newish organisation would end up in the situation of having an office in location X and coincidentally so many staff working there who all also just happened to live in location Y that it would be worth the effort to lay on a dedicated transport service.

    Even people working for the spy agencies tend to live all over the place and the chances that a large number of them lived in the same area and needed to catch the same train at the same time seems dubious to my mind”

    I guess a high proportion of the large number of routine PO workers employed around KO (asides the army of spooks !) lived in the suburbs of South London (Balham, Streatham, Norbury, Croydon, Purley etc) and South West London (Kingston, Wimbledon, Surbiton, Putney, Richmond, Woking etc) who would nearly all have to trek into Waterloo, Victoria etc and across to Kensington. A couple of CJ to KO services each week day could save a few man years of commuting over a short period of time. If people used it …

  32. Jeanpierre says:

    Anonymike @ 06:09

    Services between Clapham Junction and Kensington (Olympia) are generally very well patronised all day and every day. The last time I travelled from Olympia to Clapham Junction a couple of weeks ago, at about 21:15, I caught a Southern service formed of a 377 4-car unit, and it was standing room only.

    Shortly after the Overground Clapham Junction-Highbury & Islington service began, there was a lot of track renewal being done in and around Clapham Junction, which effectively took out platforms 16 & 17, and I noticed that Southern’s Watford Junction-Clapham Junction trains were using platform 1, which also hosts the Overground Clapham Junction-Willesden Junction-Stratford service.

  33. Kit Green says:

    After the secret era the service was still abysmal:
    1983 timetable (table 149) 8 trains from CLJ and 7 back. Weekdays only (trains are subject to alteration at short notice).

    1985 timetable same number of trains as 1983. Were there no Inter City services?

    1987 timetable (table 149) 7 locals from CLJ and 7 back. Weekdays only.
    Additional Inter City trains every day, (table 50 summary). Some not calling at CLJ (as via Bromley South) but calling at Olympia.

  34. Anonymous says:

    “Working as I did overlooking the WLL c 1988-92 …
    The Kenny Belle was operated by a Western Region diesel unit that came up from Gatwick to do the job. This was after the extension of the service to Willesden, but before electrification.”

    Yes, but the service to Willesden only restarted in 1999, didn’t it?

    The Evening Standard said that mail opening happened in the 1970s on a whole floor of Euston Tower, by the way.

    I remember listening in on a conversation at a Labour Party conference in the 70s, so some of the spooks’s phone tapping was somewhat imperfect.

  35. Jeanpierre says:

    Anonymous @ 03:46pm

    Can’t remember the exact date, but I’m pretty certain the Clapham Junction-Kensington (Olympia) service was extended to Willesden Junction in the early 90’s – I remember using it in 1996 when I was job-hunting following redundancy.

    I also remember reading of some residents living alongside the West London Line complaining because there were suddenly more trains using the line, the response being that ‘you live beside a railway line, and whether there is one train a day or 100, it’s a railway line’!

  36. Dr Paul says:

    I worked in a civil service job on Brooke Green during 1985-87, and sometimes used the train from Clapham Junction to Olympia (or vice versa) if I fancied a different route to or from work to my usual way. By then, if I recall correctly, the train would be mostly either an Oxted diesel or a DMU that seemed to have been borrowed from the Western Region, although sometimes there would be a 33 diesel with two or three Mark I carriages.

    The services were advertised by then, but the morning one had a nasty habit of being cancelled — which then required an interminable journey on the 295 bus — or running late from the depot, and on several occasions we had to run from platform 2, where the train was advertised to depart, right across to platform 16 when it finally appeared, coming up the Brighton line. I understand that it was kept at Streatham Hill depot.

    I’ve not heard of any spook connection to the service, nor have I heard of any connection between Charles House and the spooks. I will be contacting a pal who worked for the Post Office then BT who has an interest in such things to discover whether he has heard anything. I was under the impression that the service was more for the use of the National Savings staff at Blythe Road, but again this is just what I’ve heard, nothing more concrete than that.

    To digress slightly, when I was last at Clapham Junction, I noticed that the line into platform 2 has been extended westwards into where the Kensington sidings used to be, but there is also from that a siding which points eastwards seemingly towards where the original platform 1 road used to be. Is the original platform 1 to be reinstated, so that there will be three platforms for the Willesden and Peckham, etc, services? If so, will it be numbered platform 0 like the new one at Kings Cross?

  37. RichardB says:

    @ Ian Visits

    I think the spooks story is a red herring. Some may have used the service but tge numbers who may have been employed pales into insignificance compared to the Post Office Savings Bank HQ at Blythe Housevin Blythe Road. It employed some 4000 staff and opened its doors some time after 1899. For more information on this outfit please see the link below:

    The POSB was incredibly traditional in its management style with a strong emphasis on hierarchy but it was also very paternalistic. I can see the Post Office liaising with relevant railway companies to request this service and given the importance of the Post Office as a railway customer I can see them getting a positive response and also with little or no subsidy being required from the Post Office. Before the First World War a private train cost about £25 per day so on that costing two trains per day in each direction would cost £100. However given there were fare paying passengers and a captive market I can see that the Post Office would not be required to pay the private train cost especially as I suspect the trains would be profitable to run at the time

  38. Anonymous says:

    Dr paul

    What has actually happened at CJ is that what was No 2 platform road (now renumbered No 1) has been truncated so that it is now a bay. This platform is used for WLL trains.
    The wrestern end of the platform itself has been built out over what was the platform road so that trains using what used to be the centre through road (between old platform 2 and platform 3) can use the new platform. This new platform, called platform 2, is used by SLL trains.
    The old platform 1 is now known as platform 0, but is unlikely to see any trains in the forseeable future because of the dilapidated condition of the cantilevered structure supporting it.

    Kit 1542
    “1983 timetable (table 149) 8 trains from CLJ and 7 back. Weekdays only (trains are subject to alteration at short notice).
    1985 timetable same number of trains as 1983. Were there no Inter City services?
    1987 timetable (table 149) 7 locals from CLJ and 7 back. Weekdays only”
    Additional Inter City trains every day, (table 50 summary). Some not calling at CLJ (as via Bromley South) but calling at Olympia”

    I think those 7 or 8 trains include the Inter City (Manchester- Brighton) services. These ceased to appear in the local timetable when Voyagers were introduced (as they did not have “grandfather” rights to call at the curvaceous platforms at CJ and had to run non stop from Olympia to East Croydon) and were subsequently diverted via Guildford before ceasing altogether.

    I do not recall the exact dates but certainly diesel was working the shuttle most of the time I worked in the area (I left in 1992)
    class 455s operated briefly following electrificatoin as far as North Pole for Eurostar in the early ’90s, (Wikipedia suggests 1993)
    but was dieslised briefly again (usually a 117) when the service was extended to Willesden (Wikipedia suggests this was 1994) until the missing link was electrified later that year and an all-day service was introduced.

  39. Anonymous says:

    The Inter City services didn’t stop at Clapham even before Voyagers as far as I know.

    I have seen the reserved area notices on the other Southern platforms too.

  40. Steven Taylor says:

    @ Anonymous

    Inter City services did stop at Clapham Junction for a few years (about 20 years ago). I actually travelled on a morning direct service to Sandwell and Dudley station. Sorry I cannot be more precise on dates.

  41. timbeau says:

    Everything you could possibly want to know about these inter-regional services, which ran from 1979 to 2008, on the 1S76 website here

    The Clapham Junction stop was eliminated from May 1994, when the all day loacl service was introduced. The voyagers came in in 2002.

    It is of course the withdrawl of these services which led to the famous “ghost bus” from Ealing Bdy to Wandsworth Road

  42. Steven Taylor says:

    Re Platform Numbers at Clapham Junction.

    I read somewhere (Middleton Press?) that the platforms were renumbered – I think before WW2. The South Western Platforms were numbered as follows: Current 1/2 (Prior to recent Overground alterations) No 1; Current 3/4 No 2; Current 5/6 No 3. Current 7/8 Number 4. Current 9/10 Number 5. Platform 11 No 6; Platform 12 No 7; Platform 13 No 8; Platform 14 No 9; Platform 15 No 10; Platform 16 No 11 and Platform 17 No 12. The old LSWR islands had only one number whilst the LBSC had every face numbered.

    It may be of interest to state that the subway at CJ was open to the general public until the late 1960s early 1970s. Each set of stairs up from the subway had ticket inspectors. The current Platform 11/12, which has 2 sets of stairs had only the western one in use – to save staffing costs I assume.

    Whilst conceding my recollection could be wrong, I do not recollect any gates from the over bridge stopping access to Platforms 1/2. I used to observe the Milk trains stabled on Platform1. Can anyone assist here? Is my memory wrong?

  43. Peter Murnaghan says:

    The Kenny Belle didn’t always leave from Platform 1 at Clapham Junction. I managed a ride on one of the afternoon trips from Kensington Olympia in the days of steam, when the train was formed of four mixed coaches and ran into Platform 17. One coach in the formation was the unique fibreglass coach, S1000.

    I have uploaded a photograph of the train, having run round in Platform 17 and ready to return to Olympia for its second run back . The date was 29th June 1965.

  44. Steven Taylor says:


    A bit of trivia. I was at Wandsworth Road station today, and since London Overground took over, there is a full size poster proclaiming the 2008 Tuesday only `Ghost Bus`. Normal passengers must surely be completely perplexed about this.

  45. Greg S says:

    This newspaper article is just like a diamondgeezer post from the fifties 🙂

  46. Steven Taylor says:

    @Peter Murnaghan

    Thanks for the link. Brings back happy memories.

    I am looking wistfully at the lovely full length Platform canopy on Platform 17, instead of the current cut-down apology.

  47. slabman says:

    Just to (tenuously) remake the spy connection – the recent movie of Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor made great use of the old Savings Bank offices at Blyth Road. The main use of the offices these days is to store some of the Science Museum archives – there’s some fascinating stuff in there

  48. Dr Paul says:

    Anonymous: ‘What has actually happened at CJ is that what was No 2 platform road (now renumbered No 1) has been truncated so that it is now a bay. This platform is used for WLL trains. The western end of the platform itself has been built out over what was the platform road so that trains using what used to be the centre through road (between old platform 2 and platform 3) can use the new platform. This new platform, called platform 2, is used by SLL trains.’

    Yes, I’m afraid that I didn’t make that clear in my post. The platform 2 road is the one that goes through to where the old Kensington sidings used to be. These sidings had become pretty much derelict by the 1980s, and some had been lifted, although they were very busy up until the 1960s as photographs in books show.

    What puzzled me is that the siding that comes from the end of the platform 2 road, alongside the Windsor lines as they rise up a grade to the west, has itself a line diverging from it to the east, that is, back towards CJ station, as if it is going towards platform 0 from the west. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good look at this from the up Windsor train on which I was travelling, and I haven’t travelled that way since then.

    If, as Anonymous states ‘The old platform 1 is now known as platform 0, but is unlikely to see any trains in the forseeable future because of the dilapidated condition of the cantilevered structure supporting it’, the purpose of this latter line is unclear.

    Re the spook connection at Charles House, I’ve been pointed to a report that states that there was at some point a telephone tapping centre there, I imagine in the 1950s although it’s not clear exactly when, but the idea that a railway service, however meagre, would be run just for that is, I feel, quite improbable. I suspect that the service was mostly intended for the National Savings staff at the huge office in Blythe Road.

  49. paul says:

    I think that the set of points and short bit of line facing east off the Kensington siding is basically a set of catch points to divert a stabled train if it happens to run back towards down the slight gradient to the station accidentally. As is usually the case current designs of all types of railway stuff seem a bit over-engineered…

  50. Mr A says:

    @ Dr Paul

    Am also puzzled by the small piece of track from the Kensington sidings. It’s definitely not going towards platform 0 as the track bed is now covered by the new staircases from the over bridge to platforms 1 & 2.

  51. JohnG says:

    In the early 1970’s at Watford High Street we had a long-travelling Season ticket holder to CLJ via Willesden Jcn & Kensington O who was also issued with a Brakevan pass. His fare was issued by LM HQ. Presumably he had held his Season ticket continuously and we were required to renew on demand as the fare was marked ‘for issue to existing ticket holders only’.
    When did any passenger service (last) come through to/from Willesden Jcn prior to then?

  52. Greg Tingey says:

    The “Sunny South Special” operated jointly by the LNWR/LBSCR pre WWI ??

    No … my 1922 Bradshaw shows 32 trains each way Willesden Jn – Addison Rd, in the LNW local tt ….
    Also Willesedn Jn – CJ – East Croydon, on another LNW tt page, shows 11 trains, all of which stopped at Addison Rd, & two of which are X-country: the 15.25 & 15.30 (modern terminology) departures from Addison Rd, going to Brighton & Ramsgate, respectively.
    The station index shows Addison Rd appearing in SIX separate tables ….
    W London Extn
    Underground ….which would mean, oddly enough the “Met” – NOT part of the UndergrounD group – service via the now-vanished, because bombed, connection between Latimer Rd, Uxbridge Rd & Addison Rd.
    LNWR through trains (separate tt)
    LBSC (two separate entries)
    and the SECR.

    The last three were ….
    the aforementioned through trains,as individual teble-entries – a Bradshaw peculiarity.

    As to when these services ceased .. ?
    I suspect the depression killed some & WWII did for the rest.
    And inertia & the general weariness of this country in the 1950’s prevented their revival.

  53. timbeau says:

    I think local services ceased in 1940 – that’s certainly the date the Willesden- earls Court service ended, along with Wormwood Scrubs, Uxbridge Road, etc. Whether there were through services WJ- CJ to the end, or whether a change was needed at Addison Road, is not clear.

  54. Twopenny Tube says:

    Railway Magazine October 1960, from the “The Why and Wherefore” section, edited for length:

    “Before the outbreak of the second world war, the LMS operated electric trains between Earls Court and Willesden Junction, via Addison Road and the West London line, and SR worked steam trains over the WLER between Addison Road and Clapham Junction. There was also a service of electric trains, worked by LT between Edgware Road and Addison Road, via the H&C line.

    The SR trains were withdrawn on 14.9.40, and the LMS trains on 3.10.40. The service between Edgware Road and Addison Road was withdrawn on 21.10.40, after the connecting spur between Latimer Road and Uxbridge Road had been heavily damaged in an air road. […] Addison Road Station was renamed Kensington (Olympia) on 19.12.46, and LT trains provide a shuttle service to and from Earls Court, when exhibitions are held at Olympia. Apart from this, the only local service now using the WLR, or its extenion, is a morning and evening service between Clapham Junction and Olympia, run for the convenience of the staff at the head office of the POSB.

    When the services were withdrawn in 1940, there were intermediate stations […] on the southern section of the line … at West Brompton, Chelsea & Fulham, and Battersea.”

  55. Slugabed says:

    Recently on District Dave,there was a discussion as to when the last trains ran/when the track was lifted on the Latimer Rd/Uxbridge Rd spur.
    Consensus was that a GW goods service ran in the Down direction (only) well into the 50s and the track remained intact into the 60s.
    I think the air raid destroyed St Quintin Park and Battersea stations,and this provoked the railways to withdraw local services entirely to free the WLL for essential wartime freight.
    This is only my theory….but if there had been a single disastrous air-raid,why weren’t all the local services withdrawn on the same day?

  56. Steven Taylor says:

    Re the line in Kensington Siding at Clapham Junction and the set of points.. I agree with what has been said – namely – it is a `catch-point`. I did ask a driver once. For information, I should add it is literally a `switch` – there is no plain line connection here.

  57. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Living up to my name, it is not a catch point – it is a trap point.

    Catch points on National Rail are there to safely derail unbraked freight that is running away in the wrong direction. They have not existed on National Rail in Britain for decades.

    Trap points are points generally in sidings to prevent a driver wrongly taking his train forward onto the “main line” where it could cause a disaster when the signals are not cleared for it. There used to be a siding at Hayes on an embankment and twice in the morning rush hour I have seen the immediate aftermath of a driver driving his train in the sidings forward without realising that the ground signal had not cleared and the trap points were still against him.

    I expect as train protections systems become more sophisticated the need for trap points will be reduced.

    Curiously there are trap/catch points at both the top and bottom of both lines from Northumberland Park Depot to Seven Sisters on the Victoria Line. Nowadays both lines are fully reversible but I am surprised they were installed on the line that was originally to  the depot. Now with these lines under full ATO they seem quite unnecessary and a maintenance liability.

  58. Slugabed says:

    Stephen Taylor
    8:51 05/04
    I read ?somewhere? that the canopy on P17 was cut back to provide clearance for Channel Tunnel trains (we’re talking of the 1970s scheme,here) which were to be of continental gauge.I don’t know if this is true or not,but it’d be high time to restore the canopy if money could be found.
    Also of note are the buildings right up against the solum in Clapham Junction Station Approach….once a cheerily shabby shopping street,then derelict for many years during the 70s/80s.
    The ticket barriers at the top of the stairs at Clapham Junction feature in the film “Up the junction”….

  59. Steven Taylor says:


    Thanks for post. Re canopy, I do not think there is any money left to do a re-instatement during the current works. Shame.

    I remember the piecemeal demolition of the shops around the station approach – a time when Clapham Junction was down at heal.

    Re ticket barriers – I felt the newspaper article implied there was a barrier from the overbridge down to the platform – something I do not remember.

  60. Slugabed says:

    Steven Taylor
    11:55 6/04
    I have a hazy memory of there being a fence across the footbridge,between the stairs to 3&4 and the stairs to 1&2.There was either a gap,or a gate always open to allow access.
    I’m prepared to be proven wrong as it was nearly 40 years ago.
    One of the last buildings standing in the old station approach (Newbolton’s furniture) had been one of the earliest cinema buildings in London,and there was an unsuccessful campaign to save it.

  61. Mark Townend says:

    @Pedantic of Purley, 10:25AM, 6th April 2013

    Trap points: These are not provided just to mitigate against false starts, but also for unattended vehicles in sidings and depots, which might be left without handbrakes engaged properly or in some indeterminate maintenance state without wheel chocks (both also human error of course). There is an old board of trade requirement, still extant in modern standards, that wherever a passenger line is joined by a non-passenger track, traps MUST be provided. In days of old a simple throw off like former catch points would often suffice, but sometimes little thought would be given to where a runaway would end up having left the tracks. Today such ‘arrangements’ are frowned on and a short spur is often provided leading to a friction buffer stop. A similar arrangement at the merging of passenger tracks can allow a signal ‘overlap’ (a reserved length of track beyond a red signal) to be switched towards the spur, allowing the protecting signal to be placed much closer to the junction whilst still allowing a train to approach it when the junction is blocked by other traffic.

    Catch points were usually not controlled or indicated on typical unidirectional double tracks, being held open by a spring and trailled through by trains in the normal direction. That meant that each one in a section had to be manually clipped and padlocked closed if single line working had to be instituted. It was not unknown for derailments to occur because some sets were overlooked. It took a long time for the last examples to be removed finally after unfitted freights were removed completely (late 80’s?). And many were left in place pending track renewals but permanently secured in the closed position.

    Trap points by contrast are always controlled and indicated, today usually operated by point machine as an additional sympathetic ‘end’ of the associated junction points.

  62. mr_jrt says:

    Still, on the upside, those buildings having been demolished means that the work required to straighten platforms 16 and 17 should be a lot easier!

  63. Kit Green says:

    In the interests of topic drift here is a link about the Clapham Junction Cinematograph Theatre

  64. Pedantic of Purley says:

    @Mark Townend.

    You don’t happen to know when the Board of Trade mandated this requirement by any chance do you ?

  65. Whiff says:

    Thanks Pedantic and John Bull for the information on bambooing letters open; I’ve read my fair share of spy novels over the years and it’s not something I think I’ve ever come across before.

  66. Michael Wadman says:

    Much is being made of the failure of the WLL service to appear in the timetables.

    But I recall reading about this service in an article in Punch, probably in the late ‘sixties or early ‘seventies, in which the author claimed that although the service wasn’t in the Southern Region timetable book, it was in the ABC Rail Guide.

    Meanwhile, the West London Line still hosts a ghost train of a sort: the notorious Tuesdays only “parliamentary rail replacement bus service” between Ealing Broadway and Wandsworth Road, advertised only on a poster hidden away behind a corner at Kensington Olympia, was supposed to cease running last December, but, allegedly due to a bureaucratic mix-up, continues to operate and I understand will do so at least until the start of the new timetable in May.

  67. Leytonstoner says:

    @Whiff et al – IIRC the technique was fulsomely described in Ben McIntyre’s 2010 book Operation Mincemeat, which documented “The Man Who Never Was” story. A good read, BTW.

  68. Slugabed says:

    Mr_jrt 12:58 5/04
    The buildings in the picture have been replaced by a shopping centre and Platforms 16&17 are as curvy as ever,and are set to remain so.
    Come to think of it,P15 and,to a lesser extent 14 are fiendishly curved as well.
    Kit Green 1:04
    Thanks for the link!

  69. Twopenny Tube says:

    Meanwhile, on the other side of town, I vaguely remember two mysterious, albeit not ghostly, workings on the Eastern Region. The service from North Woolwich stopped at Stratford Low Level on its way to its destination(s) in North London. However, at least once a day, in mid-afternoon, for some reason a DMU would leave the mainline station, from one of the curved (high number) platforms, I don’t think anyone knew until it arrived which particular platform it would appear in, to start a journey to Lea Bridge and Tottenham Hale. Those platforms were, back then, generally deserted, apart from train spotters, and railway employees, on their way to or from the cafe or signal box.

    The other oddity, which did appear in the public timetable, was, that long after LT had taken over the Epping line, into the 60s, and maybe beyond, I have a hazy memory of there being an early morning BR train from Epping to Liverpool Street, presumably using the connection at Leyton to join BR metals. Was this for spies? Or BR employees with some ancient right to direct journeys? I would appreciate authoritative opinions as to whether this service existed, or I dreamt it. As a bonus, if it did exist, any idea why?

  70. Kit Green says:

    Michael Wadman 05:24PM, 6th April 2013

    Your comment reminded me that I have a July 1966 ABC Rail Guide. There is no mention of Olympia, except on the London Transport Railways map.
    In the alphabetical section “KENSINGTON London” simply says “See High Street Kensington”.
    The entry for Clapham Junction has no reference to any table for trains to Olympia.

  71. Steven Taylor says:

    @Michael Wadman

    Re Tuesday only `Ghost Bus` Wandsworth Road / Ealing Broadway.

    Since London Overground took over Wandsworth Road Station, there is also a full size poster at the bottom of the access ramp giving full details, headed with all the usual legal jargon.

    Unlike the `ghost train`, which would run as empties anyway, the ghost bus is surely costing us tax payers money!!

  72. Anonymous says:

    dmus on the Central Line were discussed on District Dave here

  73. Slugabed says:

    There used to be another high-level entrance to Clapham Junction….it joined the existing footbridge at right-angles above Platforms 9&10 (note how wide the gap between the lines is) and was in similar style to the footbridge we see today.It curved towards St.John’s Hill where the remains of the steel supports and a change in the bridge parapet brickwork near to the Stationmaster’s House show where the entrance to the road once stood.
    I have only ever seen one photo of this structure,in an aerial photo in an estate agent’s window.
    The St.John’s Hill end had long gone by the time I used the station often (early 70s) but the stump at the footbridge end remained until it was damaged by fire in the 80s and demolished.
    Looking at gthe footbridge now,you would never know this other entrance had ever been there,so well was it restored.
    Does anyone know anything about this other entrance? Dates? Photos??

  74. Greg Tingey says:

    Yes there was at least one train a day from Stratford LL to Loughton/Epping.
    I have been on it, to do the track!
    So there ……

  75. 1956 says:

    The service to and from Willesden Junction High Level to Clapham Junction was restored on 31st May 1994. An article entitled “West London Renaissance” on Page 3 in the “Special Introductory Issue – Limited Edition” London Railway Record provides details.

  76. Anonymous says:

    You sure…?

    Looks like “Station Approach” lies where those pictures show, and should be very easy to raft over to straighten the platforms.

  77. Jim says:

    Everyone here is so in the know, that an obvious detail (but not obvious to me) hasn’t been mentioned: if the service between Kensington Olympia and Clapham Junction was “secret”, what were the regular services through Kensington!? If they weren’t going to Clapham Junction, then where instead? Waterloo, via a curve not used today? Or did they terminate at Imperial Wharf?

  78. Anonymous says:

    For most of the time of the “secret” service, the only other regular passenger trains at Olympia were the District Line exhibitions-only shuttle from Earl’s Court and Motorail trains to Scotland etc, all terminating there. Imperial Wharf was a long way into the future!

  79. Windsorian says:

    In 1975/6 I was living in Kennington Road SE11 and would catch a Routemaster bus to Trafalgar Square via Westminster bridge and the Embankment; after turning into Northumberland Avenue the bus conductor (usually West Indian) would call out loudly “all you spooks get off here”.

  80. DW down under says:

    @Jim, @Anon Didn’t the LMR EMU service from Willesden Junction to Earls Court (ceased c. 1951 IIRC) overlap with the operation of the Kenny Belle?

  81. DW down under says:

    @Anon (aka jrt?)

    Did you notice where Google marked the Clapham Junction toilets …. in among the bushes between the railway and “Station Approach?” 🙂

  82. Anonymous says:

    The LMS Earl’s Court-Willesden Jn service never made it to the LMR – it ended in 1940.

  83. Slugabed says:

    12:17 7/04
    Yes,I am sure.
    Google Earth is no substitute for going there and walking about.
    Note where the Eastern end of Platform 17 actually lies,and where the full length (due to the constraints of the site 17 is,necessarily a n exceptionally short platform) of the back (South) boundary of the platform abuts.
    And what it abuts against..
    It would be an absolutely ENORMOUS task to straighten 16 & 17,which is probably why,despite the problems the curvature has always caused, easing it has never been seriously suggested.

  84. Steven Taylor says:


    Re the old LBSC entrance to Clapham Junction. I do remember this from the late 1950s.
    This is where the original road descended down to a yard between the Main Line to Southampton and the original site of the Windsor Line and West London Extension – which were moved northwards in the mid 1870s.

    When the LSWR main line was quadrupled in the 1900s, together with the `Up Loop`, there was no room for the access road, and an entrance on stilts was constructed. This was complete but disused when I remember it in the late 1950s. It was part demolished in the late 1960s (this date is uncertain – my memory is failing), between St John`s Hill and the end of Platform 9/10,

    The residue part of the bridge over the platform I believe was used as a signalling school, with a demonstration train set.
    It caught fire late one afternoon in 1981 during the rush. I remember being stranded at Waterloo.

    At risk of `getting all nostalgic` I remember getting an excellent view of the station from the old Trolleybus.

    A useful book is the old Ian Allen book Rail Centres No 17 Clapham Junction- Faulkner. This has been reprinted by Booklaw Publications.

    Trust this is helpful.

  85. Steven Taylor says:


    I fully concur with your comments re Google Earth. A very useful resource, but where possible, actually getting `out and about` can pay dividends, although it is obviously difficult if you live in Inverness and wish to comment in depth on London Railways.

  86. Steven Taylor says:

    @Pedantic of Purley

    Thanks for your explanation re Trap Point, which is obviously what it is – the siding it not on a gradient and is not a normal running line.

    I am amazed I have never heard the term before, despite being a rail enthusiast all my life – I am now 60.

  87. JimJordan says:

    Re “Bambooing”, when I was doing the rounds of Handley Page’s factory in the late 50s the pay envelopes had a system whereby the notes were folded and secured but a corner allowed you to count them. I was told how to extract a note using a piece of folded wire in the same way as the bamboo. One then went to the cash office and hopefully got an extra pound. I emphasise VERY MUCH that I never tested this myself, being a good upstanding citizen! The spooks were not alone.

  88. P Dan Tick says:

    ‘….a department headed up…’ Was Major Denman an American?

  89. Greg Tingey says:

    The various services to Addison Road were all timetabled up until their closure in the early days of WWII.
    WHY was the “knney Belle” dropped off the list – why did it vanish from the public tt’s? Given that, up until then, it was clearly visible.
    And, of course, thje present-day services are almost the same as those of 1922, excepting the demolished curve, of course.

  90. Slugabed says:

    Steven Taylor
    08:57 7/04
    Thanks for that useful info re the old entrance to Clapham Jct….I’d always assumed it was L&SWR with the Brighton using the ornate building (recently re-opened….next time I visit my parents by train I must check it out) on Brighton Yard.
    I remember the fire,or its aftermath at least,as I was at school in the area at the time.

  91. Steven Taylor says:


    The evolution of Clapham Junction between 1863 and 1909 when the current layout was finished is most interesting. I mentioned that the Windsor lines were moved in the mid 1870s, but it may be of interest to advise that they were further moved Northwards in the early 1900s – this is when the `famous` banana arches were constructed.

    There used to be 2 broad gauge lines (WLL) although no one knows if they were ever used. My research has shown that there is only 1 platform face in the same position as the 1863 station, namely Platform 12. The island platform was widened in 1874-1876 so the opposite face, Platform 11 is not quite on the same site. All the other platforms are on different sites. By all accounts, Clapham Junction was a `hit` from day 1.

  92. Steven Taylor says:


    A typo. I stated LBSC in error. You are quite right. I should have said LSWR railway. The LSBC used the ornate entrance hence its name `Brighton Yard`.

  93. Fandroid says:

    But doesn’t the recently reopened ticket office building have ‘London & South Western Railway’ visible on its brickwork? Or is my memory completely fooling me? Nip out and have a look please.

  94. Fandroid says:

    Mea Culpa. Mr Google shows quite clearly that it says ‘London Brighton and South Coast Railway’. My brain must have translated it somewhere between eyes and head to LWSR.

  95. DW Down Under says:

    @Steven Taylor

    Inveress! Hmmm. I can empathise. At least you don’t need to pass through Border Security (yet, anyway) to go and have a butchers. For me, it’s a heap more loot and takes longer too 😉

  96. Slugabed says:

    Steven Taylor
    3:12 7/04
    Thanks again for the info….presumably the Windsor lines used to do an S-bend in order to approach Plough Lane bridge correctly from the East,before the final widening was completed?
    I really ought to have a look at the book you recommended in order to get a comprehension of what was,for the first 30 years of my life,my local station.

  97. Steven Taylor says:


    Initially the line was straight and on the level to a level crossing on Plough lane, which was replaced with an overbridge in the 1870s.

    If you observe the current Windsor Lines westward from Clapham Junction – Platforms 2 to 6 all give agood view – , you will observe there is a reverse curve in the distance after passing over Plough Lane. The route of the `old` line was basically where the carriage sidings are now and was straight.

    As you know, the whole area around Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Road and Battersea Park stations is a most interesting area, with the low-level and high-level lines interweaving , and the somewhat incredible fact that all the lines are still open to traffic.

  98. Greg Tingey says:

    At least one person who, notoriously “never” travelled by train [In fact she did, but it was kept VERY QUIET when she did.] is no longer with us.
    a.k.a “Ding-Dong the witch is dead.”

  99. Guano says:

    It was common for services that ran mainly for employees of one factory or office complex to be unadvertised. It was easier to amend or cancel the service at short notice if there were changes in the working hours.

  100. Fandroid says:

    The story I heard about the late ex-PM’s train trip was that she had to get to Gatwick for a flight somewhere and everyone pretended that they had arranged a special non-stop train for her, whereas it was part of the normal Gatwick Express service which always had a train ready to depart.

  101. Greg T ingey says:

    Fandroid – true.
    There was also an occasion, somewhere, where the only way she could be got from A to B (normal arrangements having fallen down in a heap) was to sit in either , & I forget which, the front or, more likely, the back-cab of a DMU thrashing across the wilds of somewhere-or-other, whilst the security detail cleared out the adjoining half-saloon.

  102. David Bleicher says:

    I have an October ’71 ABC rail guide. Table 133 says:
    “Mondays to Fridays only
    Clapham Junction 0818 0850
    Kensington Olypmia 0826 0858
    Kensington Olympia 1636 1708
    Clapham Junction 1644 1716
    Subject to alteration at short notice”.

    Just out of interest, does anyone know when the Kenny Belle ceased to be steam-hauled? Also, I’ve heard rumours that in the 70s and 80s it was sometimes hauled by a class 09 shunter. Can anyone confirm this?

  103. John D says:

    The Brighton to Manchester service in 1979 used to call at Olympia. Off topic but does anyone have photos or drawings of British Railways putting a concrete deck on Chelsea Bridge ?

  104. Steven Taylor says:

    @David Bleicher 09:56

    Re Kenny Belle steam hauled last day, I think it was in July 1967, but I need to check.

    Re Shunter – I have never seen this. I have always lived overlooking all the lines at Clapham Junction. Obviously it could have happened once or twice and I missed it.

  105. Anonymous says:

    Do you mean Grosvenor Bridge?

  106. Slugabed says:

    Somewhere I have a write=up in a civil engineering journal,of the reconstruction of Grosvenor Bridge.
    As I understand it,Cremorne Bridge hasn’t had much work done on it and has been in a poor state for years.There was (is?) a 15mph speed limit imposed.

  107. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Very interesting. This is a video about the reconstruction of Grosvenor Railway Bridge. The contractors for this big task apparently were the evil firm of Marples Ridgeway who everyone keeps telling me wanted to see the demise of the railways as roads were the future and they were only after profits and therefore had no interest in seeing railways survive.

  108. Slugabed says:

    10:01 9/04
    “they were only after profits” hits the nail on the head.
    Marples could see the big money in the long term was in road construction,but the firm was happy to take on any jobs which paid sufficiently.
    No contradiction there.

  109. Steven Taylor says:


    Cremorne Bridge (1862) is about to undergo a 1 year complete refurbishment (not sure if that is the word) to ensure it will last another 150 years!!


  110. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Totally agree. So if they could have seen a future in railways they would have been equally happy to work on the major railway construction projects. They were a “construction firm” not a “roads construction firm”. They wanted work and the only way they could see a big future for the company was by encouraging road building. They were following the money. You would not have expected them to do otherwise.

    Similarly, I would not have expected a firm like them to push for closure of railways which is what people are suggesting. For one thing. if you keep the railway there then the construction work will be greater as they have to build new railway bridges over the new roads or new road bridges over the old railways. Marples Ridgeway gets a mention in the much-discussed book by Follenfant. Presumably this is because they were the ones who built the railway bridge taking the central line over the M11.

  111. Slugabed says:

    10:35 9/04
    Note in my post I distinguished between “Marples” the politician and “the firm” (Marples Ridgeway).
    As regards your analysis,this applies to the firm perfectly adequately.
    Marples the politician,however,was a proven crook who,it is clear,was happy to make political decisions which would favour a firm in which he (sorry,his wife) held a substantial shareholding.
    It seems clear that running down the railways (which were “already there”) and emphasising road transport (for which infrastructure needed to be built) was one of those decisions.

  112. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Point taken. I didn’t pick up on the subtle difference. I would agree entirely with what you have written.

  113. Slugabed says:

    10:56 9/04
    Sorry,I should have made that more clear.

    Steven Taylor
    10:31 9/04
    About time! It always seems as if speeds on the Southern end of the WLL are very slow….hopefully the “refurbished” Cremorne Bridge will do something to ease this!

  114. Twopenny Tube says:

    It seems to be open season on reviewing political events of the 80s. The April 1986 edition of Modern Railways has a number of articles reviewing the contributions (ideas and cash) made by the GLC which was wound up as that edition was hitting the newstands. Of particular relevance to this discussion, the following may be of interest, from an article by Alan A Jackson, “BR in London: the GLC contribution”:
    “The GLC has enthusiastically furthered proposals to reopen the three BR cross-Thames links, all of which once enjoyed regular passenger services connecting north and south London. During 1983 the Council gave £50,000 for a BR study on reintroducing a service between Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction over the West London Railway. There followed an offer of £1.27 million to fund four new stations on this route, as described in the October 1984 issue […] BR again refused, uncertain of future support after the GLC disappeared and of the effect on its Public Service Obligation grant from central government. With the fragmentation of local government that follows the removal of the GLC, a number of obstacles are faced with the implementation of this worthy project.”

    The other two projects, were the East London with a feasibility study of running into Liverpool Street, and the reinstatement of the Snow Hill connection (of which much has been written in very interesting articles and discussions on LR in recent months).

  115. Jim Grozier says:

    Fascinating – a friend on Facebook alerted me to this blog and I have just wasted a very nice half hour reading it! I did 26 years on the railways (telecoms) from 1974-2000 and have always been a fan of Clapham Junction – even had a letter published in the Grauniad once defending it from an attack by some worthless journo. What I like is the fact that is high up, light, and airy. I used to enjoy a nice coffee in the Platform 13 buffet when you could get decent coffee there (and sit down to drink it, at a proper table!)

    I remember the old Olympia service leaving in the morning from platform 1 or 2 (can’t remember which). The old platform 1 trackbed now has a structure of some sort blocking it, possibly a location case? There were 2 trains a day I think, and they must have been in the timetable then (late 70s) or I would not have known about it.

    The Brighton to Rugby service which came in in the 90s was, I think, about the only good thing ever achieved after privatisation. (Thameslink was pre-privatisation of course). It was eventually cut back, and does not seem to mesh very well with the WCML services nowadays, but it is still there as East Croydon-Milton Keynes and long may it continue! But why was it never energetically publicised? You still find people who don’t know it exists (mind you, you still find people who don’t know Thameslink exists!) Only today I was explaining to a friend how his 86 year old mother in Manchester could visit him in Brighton without having to travel across London on the tube or bus. He hadn’t realised, and in fact she had given up trying to make the journey!

    There again I often wonder why the North London Line is not publicised more. I have a special affection for it as my last big railway job was on that line. If only a few more interchange stations could be built it could surely take a huge strain off the tube!

    Finally, can any of you very knowledgeable gricers explain why platform 8 at Clapham hardly ever gets used? Up fast trains (which did not stop there when I was growing up in Godalming) tend to use platform 7 … why?

  116. Anonymous says:

    @ Jim Grozier

    Platforms 7 and 8 are both served from the up main on the South Western main line. For reasons which I understand have something to do with curvature, stopping trains call at platform 7 and non-stoppers overtake them through platform 8. I’m not sure whether it’s that platform 8 is better suited for speed, or has worse gaps between train and platform.

    “High up, light and airy”
    Too many winter nights spent waiting on platform 10 there for me to appreciate the “airiness”.

    Brighton to Rugby the only good thing from privatisation? I would add the Chiltern service to Birmingham, and , err, ……..

    It is not that long ago that there were direct trains from Manchester to Brighton (ended in 2008) . see the linkie to the 1S76 website somewhere upthread

    I think now that the NLL is on the Tube map most Londoners know it’s there – but conversely, they won’t know about Thameslink.

  117. Fandroid says:

    Interesting question about CJ Platform 8.

    I sometimes change at CJ off of a train from Basingstoke. On those occasions the platform face is always on the east side, so I assume it’s platform 7 (I never check the number when alighting). Returning, it’s always platform 9 which is also on the east side of the train. Hmm- looking at track diagrams doesn’t help much. You could infer that it allows non-stop trains to overtake, but the layout would only allow that in the up direction. No SW mainline trains stop there in the peak anyway.

  118. Twopenny Tube says:

    @ Anonymous 03:27PM
    “I think now that the NLL is on the Tube map most Londoners know it’s there – but conversely, they won’t know about Thameslink.”

    I guess the thing about Thameslink, is that rather like the M25, it wasn’t/isn’t relly meant for Londoners, who are expected to use the ‘normal’ rail routes to north and south. Besides, are there not restrictions on the use of Travelcards etc on that line, to discourage point to point journeys within the London zones?

    As to NLL on the tube map, this is another issue mentioned in the April 1986 Modern Railways article I quoted from above. Part of the ‘legacy’ (an over used word these days!) of the GLC, was promotion of the NLL. Alan A Jackson again: “The GLC has always been interested in this route and as early as 1966 contributed £2,600 towards a £7,000 BR publicity campaign to increase public awareness and thereby usage of the Broad Street to Richmond service […] The GLC also secured the inclusion of the Broad Street-Richmond line on the ubiquitous and popular Underground diagram map from February 1977.”

  119. Mark Townend says:

    @Fandroid, 03:33PM, 9th April 2013

    CJ SW fast line platfroms –

    8 & 9 are severely canted to allow fast through running (50MPH?). On 9 that results in the train leaning in towards the platform face, reducing the stepping distance to acceptable limits for stopping trains. On 8 the train leans significantly away from the platform leaving an alarming vertical and horizontal gap, hence all up trains booked to stop are accommodated in the platform 7 loop which is limited to only 15 or 20MPH, has little or no cant and thus provides acceptable stepping distance. Restrictions on stopping use of 8 came in with new trains many years ago although I think it can still be used in emergency. Turning up trains out into 7 always used to be very restrictive with signal approach release bringing train speed down a long way before the junction. There were proposals for less restrictive arrangements e.g. flashing yellows or splitting distant, but I don’t know if anything ever came of these. It might be possible to build platform 8 face up and out, but that might be particularly expensive given the size of the vertical gap and the desire to avoid platform surface gradients. Alternatively the through speed and cant could be reduced and all trains stopped at Clapham Junction, perhaps alternately in 7 and 8.

  120. timbeau says:

    I don’t think there are are any differences in Travelcard validity between Thameslink and any other line, but there is the north/south divide on Oyster fares. which sees Tube fares charged on several NR lines north of the river but very few to the south. (On Thameslink NR fares are charged as soon as you venture beyond Z1 south of the river, but you can get to West Hampstead in the other direction)

    There might be a problem with building CJ platform 8’s face up and out to meet stopping trains, as this might interfere with the dynamic envelope of faster trains. The plan to build a fifth track between Vauxhall and Surbiton would incorporate platorm 7 as part of this new track. see page 134

  121. Malcolm says:

    So if I wanted to go from,say, West Hampstead to Oval, should I use Thameslink and change at Elephant, or Jubilee and change at Waterloo? Do both routes cost the same? I would automatically assume that tube+tube would on average involve less waiting than Thameslink and tube. Most travellers would probably think the same, even if they happened to know about the Thameslink possibility.

    The London connections map, by the way, is still readily accessible on the tfl website (, in a form which pre-dates the latest bit of the overground. Not just the wrong colour, but totally absent! Whose hymn-sheet are they singing off?

  122. Graham Feakins says:

    Malcolm – Not sure where you unearthed that TfL 2011 map from but the latest TfL London Connections map is here, explaining the Oyster restrictions and including the latest London Overground route addition:

    P.S. I’m glad that I kept that newspaper cutting and pleased at the reaction on this page.

  123. ngh says:

    The key problem with CLJ platform curvature and hence cant etc seems to be caused by the presence of very wide buildings* on the P9/10 and P13/14 islands, this then means that the track on platforms 14-17 has to have double reverse curves and P7-9 more curved than they could be and hence require reasonable cant which then leads to platform height issues.

    *demolishing these would allow the straightening out the P9 (of 9/10) and P14 (of 13/14) islands which then allows 7/8,15/16,17 to be completely re-aligned (straighter with higher approach speeds and less cant). The points at the city end of P7 allows the train to rejoin the Up Fast immediately or use the most easterly of the carriage siding tracks (and then rejoin the up fast later etc) is the connection to the carriage siding tracks the reason for approach control given the conflicting movement potential if something went wrong as it is very difficult to fully interlock the carriage sidings and allow as many movements as possible to take place?

    RE timbeau 06:50PM, 9th April 2013

    Option F5 has a guestimated cost of £1bn. It seems CR2 is now the preferred solution (includes 5th track Hampton Court junction to Wimbledon. This would divert most of the slows on to CR2 allowing some of the services on to the fasts to be moved to the slow lines providing the ability to stop all trains at CLJ as there would be less services on the fasts.

  124. Mark Townend says:

    @ngh 11:25PM, 9th April 2013

    CJ P7 –

    Passenger movements back on to the up fast can only take place via the first crossover immediately London side of

    the platform. This maintains trapping of the sidings against the passenger line but prevents a simultaneous arrival

    into 8 at the same time as a departure from 7 due to overlap conflict at the London end. On the other hand an

    arrival into 7 can have its overlap switched into the sidings under this special provision:

    4.7 Overlaps into Goods Lines and Sidings
    It is not permissible for the overlap beyond a signal on a passenger line to lead into
    a goods line or siding unless the line is proved clear for the required overlap
    distance and:
    a) a route is set from the signal into the goods line or siding; or
    b) the trapping arrangement in the goods line is proved to be effective.

    – this is an extract extract from:

    This features theoretically allows a train to arrive in platform 7 at the same time as one is departing platform 8, but as 8 is no longer used for stopping services it would never happen in normal service. The length of the overlap for 7, whether set out onto the Up Fast or into the sidings, is sufficient to meet the ‘reduced’ requirement in the group standard, so the only remaining justification for the restrictive approach control (if it still remains) is the speed differential between the 2 routes (50MPH in pl8, 20MPH in pl7). If this differential could be reduced to 10MPH or less (e.g. 30MPH in pl8, 20 in pl7) there would be no need for approach control for the slower route. I think the access to the nearest fan of sidings to pl 7 could be rearranged to create room for the platform 7 loop to be lengthened, with the London end connection moved further east. Both platforms could thereby gain free overlaps clear of the junctions allowing them to be used alternately by stopping arrivals from the west whilst the previous train is simultaneously departing at the east from the opposite platfrom. This is assuming the lower speed on 8 would allow cant and any dynamic envelope constaints to be reduced, enabling the platform stepping distance to be brought within acceptable limits.

  125. Greg Tingey says:

    Malcom: the “interchange” at Infanta del Castile between the LCDR & the tube lines is a very bad joke ….

  126. peezedtee says:

    @timbeau: “I don’t think there are are any differences in Travelcard validity between Thameslink and any other line”

    — Well there are, but not for journeys within London. Thameslink has evening peak restrictions on Travelcard use (and certain other tickets), northbound only, from stations East Croydon/Sevenoaks/Wimbledon Loop – West Hampstead inclusive to stations St Albans – Bedford inclusive.

    @Twopenny Tube: “Besides, are there not restrictions on the use of Travelcards etc on that line [Thameslink], to discourage point to point journeys within the London zones?”

    — No. Between Elephant / London Bridge and West Hampstead, tube fares apply and there are no restrictions: the passenger may regard it as for all practical purposes part of the Tube. Which makes it all the more absurd that that section is not shown on the Tube map. That’s what “discourages point-to-point journeys within London”.

  127. peezedtee says:

    @Greg Tingey: “Malcom: the “interchange” at Infanta del Castile between the LCDR & the tube lines is a very bad joke ….

    — Too true. Then again, the interchange at Waterloo between Jubilee and Northern is pretty awful too. If I were undertaking the journey Malcolm proposes (West Hampstead to Oval) I would probably take Thameslink to Elephant and then a bus, unless it was in the evening peak. Alternatively, for ease of interchange, at the cost of having to make two more or less same-level changes rather than one highly inconvenient one, you could go Jubilee to Baker Street, then Bakerloo to Waterloo, then Northern to Oval.

  128. @Mark Townend @01:49

    Yes. There appear to be quite a few places like that which appear to be needlessly constrained by signalling. With TPWS I would have thought there are quite a few places where there is overkill. The one that really irks me is a East Croydon when an up four car unit cannot enter the rear of a London-bound platform due to lack of an clear overlay beyond that 12-car platform at the north end.

    It is another rarely mentioned advantage of modern ATO. Done properly it can enable permitted movements that previously weren’t possible. The recent resignalling of the Victoria line allowed various permitted movements with other trains in the area that simply could not have been done with the older 67 stock and the less advanced ATO that was formerly installed.

  129. Mark Townend says:

    @Pedantic of Purley, 09:21AM, 10th April 2013

    LUL were always better at this even with the old tech. Take for example the arrangement at Baker St on the west eastbound Circle/H&C, with the extra signal and train stop part way along the platform cleared on final approach to control speed if the junction ahead of the platform starter is blocked. Of course it helps having far less variation in rolling stock type and braking ability and (in this case) no potential weather effects. The signalling is designed around all trains stopping at the station as well which makes things easier.

    When most national rail routes were last signalled, there was no TPWS or other LUL equivalent trainstop or overspeed device, so layout of track and signals couldn’t take advantage. Thameslink core stations provide an example of how additional conventional signals can be incorporated along the platform, but retrofitting these to older installations would be expensive and difficult, especially where it is also desired to maintain braking distances and aspect sequences for fast through running as well as stopping with minimised junction interaction.

    I agree that modern cab signalling systems can offer much benefit freeing up movements around and approaching stations and junctions, as it decouples the block marker positions from the concerns of braking and lineside signal aspect sequence. Hence you can have the equivalent of additional signals much closer together to ‘close up’ the trains (rather like older semaphore layouts in principle!), yet max speed and braking requirements will always be calculated on board correctly. On urban railways, throughput is mainly constrained by stations and junctions. Moving block or equivalent out on the long plain line sections between stations provides no real capacity advantage over the current 3 or 4 aspect signalling by contrast, although less physical equipment out in the field will offer useful maintenance and renewal savings.

  130. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I presume you mean eastbound.

    To be fair to Network Rail there are one or two places where they have removed or propose to remove extra protection that is now superfluous with TPWS. There’s one at Purley which was installed after the accident there and I believe there is another at Nunhead.

  131. Mark Townend says:

    Oops yes I did mean eastbound at Baker St. Both the cases you refer to were examples where additional safeguards above and beyond the normal engineering standards of the time (or indeed today) were introduced. The one at Nunhead was particularly odd; a genuine near miss caused by a wrong side signalling failure, which was traced to a lineside transmission system malfunction, although this was never proved conclusively. After a number of spurious signal aspect changes and similar events reported more widely across the south by drivers and signallers, NR decided to replace the suspect ‘vital reed’ equipment throughout the DC electrified railway with a modern digital system, and I believe this project is now complete.

  132. P Dan Tick says:

    @Greg Tingey.

    Shouldn’t that be ‘Infanta de Castilla’ ?

  133. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Surely either “Enfant de Castile” or “Infanta de Castilla”? Stick to one language.

    Presumably known as Infanta de Castilla in her own language but French would have been the language of court in this country so it as l’enfant de Castile that she would have been referred to here. It would appear pretty obvious that the corrupted name for the area came out of the French version.

    The ever reliable Wikipedia has an entry that casts doubt over whom this refers to.

  134. P Dan Tick says:

    I hadn’t thought of the French version. It does make the transition to Elephant look a bit more straightforward.

  135. P Dan Tick says:

    But we can’t deny Greg his nickname for the station, even if it’s perpetuating a myth

  136. Greg Tingey says:

    I almost certainly got my cases wrong – I don’t speak ANY Spanish (or Catalan) …
    I always thought it referred to Catherine of Aragon – but it might be a reference to the Planatgenet involvement in the late 14th/early 15th Centuries ….

    As opposed to the pub name: “the Case is Altered”
    Casa del Altar / The house on the hill – a direct reference (I think) to the battle of Busaco,

  137. P Dan Tick says:

    Wikipedia casts doubt on the Infanta De Castilla connection for Elephant and Castle, effectively saying that there weren’t any princesses from Castile associated with England at the right time. Catherine of Aragon was a daughter of Los Reyes Catolicos, Ferdinand and Isabella. Their marriage united most of Spain and they later captured the last Moorish kingdom (Granada). Ferdinand was king of Aragon and Isabella was queen of Castile. Catherine could happily have been an Infanta of either, but it’s possible that the Castile title had already been nicked by an older sibling. (She was the fifth child).

    The Case is Altered was the title of a play by Ben Johnson, published in 1609. Just a tiny bit earlier than the Battle of Busaco in the Peninsula War.

  138. Stuart says:

    Wasn’t Ben Johnson a drugged-up sprinter ? We seem to be going bit off topic …

  139. Pedantic of Purley says:

    I think he means Ben Jonson.

  140. Chris says:

    This does seem to have gone a bit off-topic.

    Can I just say, I commuted to Waterloo from Walton-on-Thames for a couple of years in the mid-1980s – 1983 to 1984 – I would often see the Kenny Belle at Clapham Junction. It was usually a Class 33 + TC but I remember seeing a Class 73 and two Mk I carriages, a brake composite and a saloon, on several occasions.

  141. Greg Tingey says:

    So it was a Ben Johnson play – but several pub-signs of that name, show Spanish dancing/celebration in front of a white-painted building, in dress of the turn of the 18/19th C …..
    Take your pick.

  142. Littlejohn says:

    Sorry to be a little late but I mislaid my copy of ‘The Old Dog and Duck – the Secret Meaning of Pub Names’ (and I don’t concede that talking of pubs can ever be off-topic). Among a few purely local contenders there are 2 realistic origins for ‘The Case is Altered’. One derives from ‘casa de saltar’, a Spanish strip club which gained currency after the Peninsular War. However the Ben Jonson play pre-dates this by 200+ years. Most likely is the story of Edmund Plowden, a celebrated Catholic lawyer who demolished a Protestant accusation of hearing Mass with the phrase ‘No Priest, No Mass. The Case is Altered’. This was 15 or 20 years before the Ben Jonson play.

  143. Anonymous says:

    @ P Dan Tick

    ” Catherine could happily have been an Infanta of either, but it’s possible that the Castile title had already been nicked by an older sibling”

    If I have understood the system, there is no monopoly on being an Infanta – the style is applied to any junior member of the Spanish royal family (i.e not the monarch and his/her heir). Thus, if the practice were applied to the UK royal family, Princess Anne would be styled Infanta, and Princes Andrew and Edward would both be styled Infante.
    This is different from titles such as Princess Royal (traditionally granted to the monarch’s eldest daughter) or Duke of York (to the monarch’s second son). As there can only be one such, and the title is kept for life, the present Queen was never Princess Royal during her father’s reign as one of her aunts already had that title. Similarly, if Prince Charles succeeds to the throne during the lifetime of the present Duke of York, Prince Harry cannot have that title.

    The Dukedom of York is a hereditary title, but remarkably no Duke of York has actually inherited his title since the Wars of the Roses – the ten subsequent Dukes all either became King as their older brothers died or abdicated (Henry VIII, Charles I, James II, George V, George VI), or had no sons (the younger brothers of Edward IV, George I, George III, George IV and Prince Charles). There have been exceptions – Queen Victoria styled her second son Duke of Edinburgh, rather than York.

  144. Pedantic of Purley says:

    Back to the subject of trap points.

    Here is an example of them doing their job. Thanks to Railway Eye for bringing this to the world’s attention. The action starts about forty seconds in.

  145. Malcolm says:

    Some serious adjustment is required. I suggest they start with the nut behind the regulator.

  146. Paying Guest says:

    Re Charles House: “I once got out of the lift at the wrong floor and was confronted by ornamental canons (sic) & armed guards.”

    In the 70s and 80s a small part of Charles House was home to the Ordnance Board of the Ministry of Defence. The Ordnance Board jealously guarded its history; hence the ornamental cannon at the entrance. It was responsible for vetting the safety of weapons and explosives for all three services and no more secret than most parts of the MoD. Like most MoD offices passes were checked at the entrance by the MoD Guard Force – uniformed guards, yes – armed – no.

  147. Littlejohn says:

    In my experience all parts of MoD avoided arming sentries, gate guards etc if at all possible. The issue and recovery of individual weapons to individual people was a complete pain in the proverbial, not to mention the nightmare scenario if one went off accidentally (even if no-one was in the way).

  148. Tim says:

    I must agree with Littlejohn that from personal experience no civvies, whether with the MODGS, contractors, etc were ever armed and if there was a person armed they were in uniform at all MOD sites I ever visited. Sometimes they kept things very low key to avoid one knowing it was an MOD building till you stepped through the doors

  149. Paying Guest says:

    Tim is spot on about low key MoD buildings. That was especially true of the London ‘office type’ buildings. The give-away usually was that the exteriors had not been updated. A good example was Castlewood and Prospect Houses and St Giles Court, all by TCR station. When the lease expired on Castlewood it was refurbished for commercial letting (air conditioning, marble fascia, new windows etc. No grimy blast curtains either!

    The uniformed (unarmed) guard just inside the door checking passes is why some lifts in Charles House did not stop at certain floors. For the Ordnance Board you had to get out at the main OB entrance floor, show your pass and then go up the internal stairs if you needed one of the other floors.

  150. Anonymous says:

    Largely unnanounced, (although it was on this forum a week or so ago) the last ghost bus from Ealing ran on Tuesday

    and a reminbder that the last ghost trains from Wandsworth road to Olympia are tomorrow

  151. Steve Taylor says:


    For some reason I cannot open your quoted web links. However, as far as I am aware, I travelled on the last Ghost Train from Clapham High Street last Friday (14th). There were at least 20 people travelling. This agrees to the closure notice displayed at both Clapham High Street and Wandsworth Road, which stated that the service would be withdrawn on and from Monday 17th June. Also, this train has vanished from Train Times. I would assume the legal notice was correct. In fact, the London Overground station staff member took a picture of the train for his records, as it was the last train.

    With regard to the Ghost Coach – I may be wrong here, but I read that as the contract run out on 7th June, the last coach/bus run actually run on Tuesday 4th June – not sure where I read this.

    I would be interested to have confirmation whether the Ghost train will run tomorrow.

    As you may know, this train is used as a pixie buster, and I often see it returning at Clapham Junction. If I can, I will ask the driver tonight.

  152. Steve Taylor says:

    I have just been on the web. The last Wandsworth Road ghost bus did depart on 11th June.

  153. Anonymous says:

    mea culpa – I’m a week adrift from reality

  154. Castlebar says:

    Note this commentin the Ealing Gazette article rearding the last ghost bus: > >

    John Beeston, chairman of Ealing Passenger Transport Users’ Group, said more thought needs to be given to rail services.
    He said: “We would like to see a service linking Greenford, West Ealing and Clapham Junction.

  155. Graham Feakins says:

    Ealing – Wandsworth Road was reported on ITV London news on 11th June:

    “‘Ghost bus’ makes final journey

    The once-weekly ‘rail replacement’ bus between Ealing Broadway and Wandsworth Road made its final run today. The service was put on to replace a train service between Birmingham and Brighton which ceased in 2008 at a cost of £500 per week.” Includes video report:

  156. AlisonW says:

    thanks GF for the pointer – somehow I’d not read this previously.

    One point, telephone intercepts – on international calls at least – were carried out at the Faraday interchange (in Chinatown).

  157. Slugabed says:

    Wasn’t Faraday off of Caledonian Rd? I once knew a bloke who worked on installing the exchange there. Or was that a different Faraday?

  158. Graham Feakins says:

    Whereas the international telephone exchange was actually in Faraday House, Queen Victoria Street:

  159. Anonymous says:

    I’ve just spotted this, and I had a distant cousin who worked for the Ordinance Board in Charles House, where they worked out range tables and things – using huge valve based Elliot computers I believe (replaced when he retired in 1976 by a programmable pocket calculator!) It also had bits of the Inland Revenue and all sorts. I understood that one feature of the building was wide corridors and doors which would enable it to be quickly converted to a field hospital for causalities flown in from a tactical n-war in Germany and delivered by rail. My cousin did use the line, I wonder if part of the reason for running it was a cold-war way of making sure the line was working. They did such things – the speaking clock was a test of the air-raid distribution system.

  160. Miles says:

    @Anonymous- True about the speaking clock, I have found a few air raid sirens around London still in situ, theres one right in the centre of Lewisham on old pole opposite the station.

    I wonder if this service is linked to the special train that would take Whitehall officials from Olympia to the massive bunker at Corsham in Wiltshire. The idea would be, within days or hours of nuclear war to evacuate MoD civil servants to Warminster, and by bus they would continue to Corsham.

  161. Andrew says:

    @ Anonymous 01/09/15 23:17
    In addition to the wide corridors and doors, Charles House also had lifts large enough for theatre trolleys. I always wondered why it felt like a hospital disguised as an office block.

  162. Graham H says:

    @Miles – no, any special train would not form part of the normal service and would make no difference as to the need or not for a closure case were the operation to be terminated.

    More generally, at least in my time in charge of such things in DTp, it was understood that the Kenny Belle continued to run partly to avoid the unattractive closure case and partly because of the POSB traffic, as mentioned. The possible use of Charles House as a field hospital had no relationship to the train service -how could it? Any trains laid on to serve the converted building in the event of nuclear war would be run entirely separately from any normal service (if such a thing were likely or possible in war conditions). It would not in any event be necessary to run a scheduled passenger service to ensure that the line was still operable.

    MOD certainly wanted some additional features to the railway system, which I am not allowed to tell you about, but as they were never willing to pay for them, the answer was always no.

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