Surrey Iron Railway
|Surrey Iron Railway|
Watercolour showing the Surrey Iron Railway, the first public railway, passing Chipstead Valley Road, Coulsdon, Surrey
|Dates of operation||1803–1846|
|Track gauge||4 ft 2 in (1,270 mm)|
|Length||9 miles (14 km)|
The Surrey Iron Railway (SIR) was a horse-drawn plateway that linked Wandsworth and Croydon via Mitcham, all then in Surrey but now suburbs of south London, in England. It was established by Act of Parliament in 1801, and opened in 1803. It was a toll railway on which carriers used horse traction. The chief goods transported were lime and manure, and coal and agricultural products.
The Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway was built as an extension of the railway, and opened in 1806.
By the end of the eighteenth century, a number of short plateways, such as those to the Caldon Low quarries and the Little Eaton Gangway, had been built. Their purpose was to convey a mineral to a nearby canal for onward transport.
The original plan for a transport connection between Wandsworth, on the River Thames, and the industries of the Wandle Valley had been a canal scheme, put forward in 1799, but doubts about the availability of water led to the adoption of a plateway. This was the world's first railway to be publicly subscribed by Act of Parliament as a railway throughout; the Act is considered to be the first public railway Act.
It received the Royal Assent on 21 May 1801, and work commenced immediately with William Jessop as engineer, George Leather as resident engineer, and joint contractor with Benjamin Outram. The line started at a wharf at Frying Pan Creek on the Thames, and ascended gently through Tooting and Mitcham to Pitlake Mead in Croydon. There was a branch from near the site of the Mitcham Junction to oil-cake mills at Hackbridge.
The share capital was £35,000 with borrowing powers of £15,000 but the final cost was about £60,000. Traffic was lime, chalk, fuller's earth and agricultural products to London, and the return of coals and manure. Horses and mules were the motive power, and passengers were never contemplated.
The railway was not successful financially and it closed on 31 August 1846.
It was a public toll railway, providing a track for independent goods hauliers to use their own horses and wagons. The company did not operate its own trains.
It was double-track plateway with a spacing of about five feet between the centres of the stone blocks. The gauge was not recorded, but the wagons on the line interworked on the Croydon Merstham and Godstone Railway, on which the gauge was 4ft 2in.[note 1]
The rails were of the Outram pattern 3 feet 2 inches long, 4 inches on the tread except for 5 or 6 inches at the ends where they were half an inch thicker.
The nine-mile route followed the shallow valley of the River Wandle, then heavily industrialised with numerous factories and mills, from the River Thames at Wandsworth southwards to Croydon, at what is now Reeves Corner. A short branch ran from Mitcham to Hackbridge. The railway was extended as the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway through Purley and Coulsdon to quarries near Merstham, opened in 1805 and closed in 1838.
William Jessop was chief engineer of the latter venture only and the flat alignment of his route proved more long-lasting than the railway. The advent of faster and more powerful steam locomotives spelt the end for horse-drawn railways. In 1823, William James, a powerful shareholder in the railway, tried to persuade George Stephenson to supply a locomotive. Stephenson realised that the cast-iron plateway could not support the weight of a locomotive and declined.
The railway was not a commercial success, and in 1844 the proprietors sold it to the L&SWR, which sold it to the London and Brighton Railway. The L&BR obtained an Act of Parliament on 3 August 1846 authorising closure, which took place on 31 August 1846. Part of the route was used for part of the West Croydon to Wimbledon Line, part of the LB&SCR from 1856, and some of the route is in use by London Tramlink: routes 3 & 4 between Waddon Park & Waddon Marsh, and route 3 at Mitcham.
Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Railway
Before the railway was completed, it was proposed to extend it to Merstham and Godstone, and an Act for the purpose was obtained on 17 May 1803. The railway's directors were directors of the CM&GR, supplemented by Colonel Hylton Joliffe and Rev William John Joliffe, who had land and mineral interests on its route.
Work started quickly and it opened to Merstham on 24 July 1805 - it never reached Godstone. In 1809 or 1811 a short branch was built at Pitlake to the south side of the Croydon Canal basin.
The track gauge was 5ft 2in.
- On a plateway, the gauge is taken as the dimension over the outer faces of the upstands. The standard gauge adopted by modern edge railways is 4 feet 8½ inches. Referring to a Report on a Section of track excavated early in 1967 at Quarry Farm, Merstham, by Mr. W.G.Tharby . .. on 10 March 1967, Turner says on page 25, "In a subsequent article not published until 1971 but referring to the 1967 excavations at Merstham, the gauge is given as 4ft 6in instead of the correct 4ft 2in. Since Mr. Tharby himself sponsored the special examination of the Merstham site it can only be assumed that error in his 1971 article was due to a misprint. See Tharby, W G, The Surrey Iron Railway."
- John Howard Turner, The London Brighton and South Coast Railway: I - Origins and Formation, B T Batsford Ltd, London, 1977, ISBN 0 7134 0275 X
- Introduction to Rail 150: The Stockton and Darlington Railway and what followed by Jack Simmons, publ. 1975 by Methuen
- A History of British Railways Down to the Year 1830, Dendy Marshall, C.F., Oxford University Press, 1971
- Henry Grote Lewin, The British Railway System, G Bell and Sons, Ltd, London, 1914
- E F Carter, An Historical Geography of the Railways of the British Isles, Cassell, London, 1959
- L T C Rolt, Great Engineers, G Bell and Sons Ltd, London, 1962, page 64
- Turner, page 17
- Eric Shaw and Kevin Leyden, The Iron Railways of the Wandle Valley: a Bi-Centennial Anniversary Guide Wandle Industrial Museum, 2003, ISBN 978-0-9539560-2-9
- Peter Burgess, The Use of Plate Rails in the Godstone Firestone Quarries, in Proceedings of the Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society Ltd., Vol.18, Part 4, March,1994.
- E.N.Montague, Wheels of the Surrey Iron Railway found at Mitcham, in Surrey Archaeological Collections, Vol.68, 1971.
- Derek A. Bayliss, Retracing the First Public Railway, 1981
- Peter McGow, Surrey Iron Railway and Croydon, Merstham and Godstone Iron Railway, Notes On The Surrey Iron Railway, November 2001, unpublished, but see external links below