Big Wheels Old and New


This post was inspired by a number of lots that will be featuring in James and Sons’ next auction (20th – 22nd February, 1st two days at James and Sons’ premises in Fakenham, third day at The Maids Head Hotel, Norwich).


This structure, from the top of which Windsor Castle was visible on a good day, was open between 1895 and 1906 (hence the green coloured heading – it closed before the Piccadilly line opened,m meaning that the only public transport link would have been the District line). More about this wheel can be found here.

Lots 1286-90 inclusive and also lots 1294-5 in the auction are tokens/ medallions from this wheel’s period of operation…

If this gallery has tickled your fancy, a click on the image of lot 1286 reproduced below will take you to a full auctuion catalogue:

Lot 1286


The nearest experience to this you can enjoy in the capital today is on the London Eye, which is near Waterloo, and hence can be reached on the Northern, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Waterloo & City lines, as well as mainline, national and international railways and by boat.

For more on today’s version of a gigantic wheel visit the official website.

Bits and Bobs


This post deals with three systems that I am taking together for reasons that will ultimately become clear:

  1. The Waterloo and City line
  2. Tramlink
  3. The Docklands Light Railway



Athough this has been part of London Underground since 1994 I am not giving it a whole post to itself because it comprises only two stations, Waterloo and Bank. It was the second deep-level tube line to open, in 1898, but for the first 96 years of its existence it was run as part of the main-line rail network. For administrative purposes it is run as part of the Central line, whose rolling stock it uses.


This is the newest of three basic components of this post, although two parts of it long predate the network itself, the former branch line from Wimbledon to West Croydon and the former branch line from Elmers End to Addiscombe. This system currently has a western terminus at Wimbledon and three eastern termini at Beckenham Junction, Elmers End and New Addington.


This opened in the early 1990s, originally running from Tower Gateway and Stratford in the north the a southern terminus at Island Gardens, which in those days, like most of the network was an elevated station. The first expansion to this network was the opening of a branch to Bank, which is in tunnel. Then a branch to Beckton was opened. The third extension was a southern extension from Island Gardens to Lewisham, which replaced the original Island Gardens with a new station that was in tunnel. Finally, what had been the Stratford – North Woolwich section of the line that now forms the nucleus of London Overground became a DLR branch to to Woolwich Arsenal (the equivalent of North Woolwich is George V, while the extension to Woolwich Arsenal on the other bank of the Thames is new.


This is the section that is going to bring the three elements above together. Followers of these posts will have noted integration as a common theme, and on this occasion my vision has the Waterloo & City acting as a bridge between Tramlink and the Docklands Light Railway. The DLR connection would be achieved by means of a track connection at Bank. From Waterloo the line would follow the line of mainline railways, coming to the surface at Clapham Junction and continuing over existing tracks to Wimbledon where a track connection would take this line on to Tramlink tracks. The Lewisham branch of the DLR would be extended by taking over the Hayes line from mainline railways, and another track link at Elmers End would complete the integration. As for further extensions, my preference for linkages to my envisioned London Orbital Railway is known and I will leave it to your imagination save for:

  1. I would project services north from the current Stratford International Terminal to Cheshunt over existing tracks and have all mainline train services run non-stop between Tottenham Hale and Cheshunt
  2. Beckton is quite close to Barking, and I would extend that branch over new track to Barking and then existing track to Upminster.


Usually in these pieces I take you on a metaphorical journey along the line being surveyed, but there are too many parts of this network on which I am unqualified to comment for that to be appropriate this time, so I will settle instead for a selection of places of particular interest, starting with



A station opened on the present site in 1882, was closed in 1884 in favour of a new site at Mark Lane and then in 1967 the old site was reopened under the present name Tower Hill. I am going to mention two significant sites served by this station before talking about its other connections…


Started in the reign of William the Conqueror and augmented consistently thereafter, this is one of the most famous sites in London. One of the more spectacular commemorations of World War 1 during the centenary year was the ceramic poppy display.

Although I do nat have any photographs of the Tower, I do have the complete gallery for this medallion which went under the hammer in James and Sons March 2015 auction…



The other site I mention here is Tower Bridge, most distinctive of all the bridges across the river Thames. If you manage to be there when this bridge opens up to let a boat through you will not forget the experience. Again I provide a picture in the form of an old auction lot. This plaque was part of a lot that went un der the hammer in February…



The only square on the London Monopoly board to contain all five vowels, and the only one of London’s main line railway terminals whose name does not appear on the London Underground map, Fenchurch Street is just across the road from Tower Hill. Trains from this station go to Tilbury, Southend and Shoeburyness.


Tower Gateway, just across the road from our title station, was one of the original termini of the Docklands Light Railway when that network first opened. In those days, it was very much smaller than it now is, with the other northern terminus at Stratford and the only other terminus at Island Gardens.



I am treating these three stations together because of how I personally would handle a visit to this area. Although it is no longer as splendid as it was when Island Gardens was the southern terminus of the DLR I would still choose to get off at Island Gardens, and walk through the Greenwich Foot Tunnel under the Thames to start my visit to Greenwich with a look at the Cutty Sark. Once I had finished with the old tea clipper I would head through Greenwich to the National Maritime Museum and the Royal Observatory and the London Planetarium (which used to be based at Baker Street, next to Madame Tussauds but has now moved. I would then depart from Greenwich, so I personally would not make use of Cutty Sark station.


You could choose to alight at George V and walk under the Thames (yes there is a foot tunnel here as well). I have never actually visited the Woolwich Arsenal (you may have heard of what used to be their works football team – they moved to north London and dropped the Woolwich part of their title, also convincing the powers that be to change the name of Gillespie Road on the Piccadilly line in their honour), but I am familiar with Woolwich’s other great attraction, the Thames Barrier which is well worth a visit. Those who are really keen walkers might enjoy the walk along the Thames to Greenwich (it is about three miles) and the attractions there.


Home of the London 2012 Olympics, and Olympic Park remains a great attraction. The Olympic Stadium is now the home ground of West Ham United, and still stages athletics events.


The station itself is of some interest, as described in my post on the Jubilee line and not far from here is the Balfron Tower, with its stand-alone lift shaft, connected to the main building by covered walkways.


This station serves many lines, as mentioned in my piece about the Central line. It is noted for its fiendishly complicated layout (some consider the chances of locating the desired exit without incident as being equivalent to those of winning the lottery). This is the heart of the City, and to name every place of interest within walking distance of this station would be exhausting, so I will settle for a couple. This station is linked to Monument by escalators, and the Monument itself (it commemorates the Great Fire of London in 1666) is well worth visiting. Designed by Christopher Wren it is precisely 202 feet tall and stands precisely 202 feet from the spot where the fire started. The other place I give a specific mention to is Draper’s Hall which hosted this year’s Great British Menu banquet which was celebrating the centenary of the Women’s Institute. The Waterloo & City line platforms are linked to the main station not by escalators by by travelators (moving ramps as opposed to moving stairs).


I covered the attractions based near this station in great detail when writing about the Bakerloo line.


For more on this location check out this post


Mitcham Common is noted among cricket fans as being where Tom Richardson learned to play the game. Richardson is still Surrey’s all-time leading first class wicket taker. He took part in the first test match ever to won by a side who had been made to follow on, at Sydney in 1894, and eighteen months later at Old Trafford he nearly made it two, when Australia set 125 to win courtesy of an astonishing debut perfomance from K S Ranjitsinhji (62 in the first innings and 154 not out in the second) lost seven wickets, six of them to Richardson who bowled unchanged at one end before squeaking home.


Croydon is a major shopping area. It is also home to Whitgift School, on whose cricket ground Surrey play one match per season.


Beckenham is one of the venues at which Kent play county cricket matches. From 1886-1996 it was home to a professional grass-court tennis tournament.



The three lines that feature in today’s post and their current connections.