Fairlop Loop

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Fairlop Loop (Hainault Loop)
Roding Valley
Grange Hill
Hainault depot
Newbury Park
A12 (Eastern Avenue)
Ilford Curve closed 1947
connection lifted 1956
Central line
to Central London
Junction now site
of Ilford Depot
Seven Kings

The Fairlop Loop was a 6.5-mile (10 km)[1] branch line of the Great Eastern Railway (GER). It opened to freight on 20 April 1903 and to passengers on 1 May 1903.[2] It once connected Woodford on the Ongar branch to Ilford on the Main Line, with an eastward connection for goods, excursions and stock transfers to Seven Kings. Today it is the greater part of the Hainault Loop on London Underground's Central line.


GER bracketry still visible at Fairlop station

The GER built the line to foster suburban growth in Edwardian Ilford and Chigwell; the results were mixed. Hainault station had so few passengers that it closed between 1908 and 1930.[2] The loop passed to the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923 after the grouping of railways into The Big Four. The LNER added a station at Roding Valley in 1936 to serve a housing development. Most of the route transferred to the Central line of the London Transport Executive (LTE) during 1947 and 1948 as part of the war-delayed New Works Programme.[3] The transfer brought fourth-rail electrification to replace steam and construction of a deep-level line connecting Leytonstone on the Ongar branch with Newbury Park on the loop, together with severing connections between Newbury Park and Ilford and Seven Kings.

First to go was the westward curve between Newbury Park Junction and Ilford Carriage Sidings Junction, on 30 November 1947.[2] The other connection to Seven Kings West Junction was goods only and survived until 19 March 1956.[2] The whole triangular junction disappeared under expansion of Ilford carriage sheds in 1959.[4] Goods trains operated by British Rail continued using the loop via Woodford as far as Newbury Park until 4 October 1965.[5] A short turn-back siding was provided on the former track-bed south of Newbury Park: after goods trains were withdrawn it was used by engineers' trains until 1992.[6]


Woodford to Ilford[edit]

The Loop was double track and all six original stations had two 600 ft (183 m) platforms: the 1936 station at Roding Valley had 500 ft (152 m) platforms. Hainault station re-opened in 1948 with a third platform[7] It is today used by terminating Central line trains. A fork at the northern end at Woodford Junction let trains leave or join the Ongar branch. A triangular junction at the southern end gave access to the main line, the site now occupied by Ilford carriage sheds and a maintenance depot run by Bombardier. The apex of the triangle was Newbury Park Junction (just south of Vicarage Lane), the western side was Ilford Carriage Sidings Junction, and the eastern side was Seven Kings West Junction.

Grange Hill Tunnel looking east towards western portal.

The topography challenged engineers.[8] The line was on the surface but 260 yards (238m) of tunnel was bored immediately north of Grange Hill. The line between Roding Valley and Chigwell was on an embankment, and a three-arch viaduct was built over the River Roding. Further east, the embankment was bisected by the London end of the M11 motorway in 1977,[9] a concrete bridge carrying the line over the road. Chigwell and Grange Hill were built in cuttings, Hainault and Fairlop on embankment, and most of the route south of Barkingside including Newbury Park was in a cutting. Only the platforms at Roding Valley and Barkingside (eastbound only) are accessible from street level. Works for accessibility to each of the platforms at Roding Valley were completed in 2009; hitherto there were a couple of steps to street level.

Goods yards were at Grange Hill (closed 1965), Hainault (closed 1908), Fairlop (closed 1958), Barkingside and Newbury Park (both closed 1965).[10] One of the former sidings at Newbury Park is now the eastbound through line, with the former eastbound line normally used only for reversing, though it retains the connection facing Barkingside. The sidings at Grange Hill now form part of the north-facing access from Hainault Depot. They extend parallel to the station platforms, and there are also sidings at the southern end of the depot next to the platforms at Hainault. East of Chigwell a short siding served Chigwell Nursery in GER days, but this was closed, probably before Grouping into the LNER (the nursery was sold in 1922[11]).

Newbury Park to Leytonstone[edit]

The line between Leytonstone and Newbury Park is of standard twin-bore construction, with the three intermediate stations all having central platforms. The route diverges from the Ongar branch east of Leytonstone at Leytonstone Junction, with the tracks passing either side of the latter and immediately diving underground. The route heads mostly beneath the A12 Eastern Avenue as far as Gants Hill. East of here it turns southeast along Perth Road, then east to pass beneath Ley Street to the alignment of Wards Road, before curving northwards beneath Glebelands Avenue to reach the surface just south of Newbury Park, with the tracks passing to either side of the trackbed of the former line to Ilford: this explains the relatively long tunnel between Gants Hill and Newbury Park. The tunnels were essentially completed when the Second World War broke out in 1939, and between March 1942 and the end of hostilities they were used as an underground munitions factory, complete with its own 18 in (457 mm) railway, by Plessey,[12] based in Ilford for many years. The factory extended almost 5 miles with about 300,000 sq. ft. of space.[13] Redbridge is the shallowest "deep-level" station on the Underground, 26 feet (7.9 m) below street level,[14] necessitating just a short of flight of stairs for entry. Gants Hill and Wanstead, due to their greater depth, have escalators, with additional ramps or stairs at the former.


Stations served[edit]

From north-west to south-east

Fairlop Loop diverges from the Ongar (now Epping) Branch at Woodford Junction

  • Roding Valley, opened 3 February 1936 as Roding Valley Halt by the LNER, closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 21 November 1948.[2]
  • Chigwell, opened 1 May 1903 by the GER, closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 21 November 1948.[2]
  • Grange Hill, opened 1 May 1903 by the GER, closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 21 November 1948.[2]
  • Hainault, opened 1 May 1903 by the GER, closed 1 October 1908 to 3 March 1930. Closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 31 May 1948.[2]
  • Fairlop, opened 1 May 1903 by the GER, closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 31 May 1948.[2]
  • Barkingside, opened 1 May 1903 by the GER, closed 22 May 1916 to 30 June 1919. Closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 31 May 1948.[2]
  • Newbury Park, opened 1 May 1903 by the GER, closed 29 November 1947, re-opening 14 December 1947 as part of the Central line.[2]
Former connection: Fairlop Loop joins Great Eastern Main Line via westward curve between Newbury Park Junction and Ilford Carriage Sidings Junction
    • Ilford, opened 20 June 1839[15] by the Eastern Counties Railway. Operated by TfL Rail as of May 2015. Connection closed 30 November 1947.[2]
Former connection (freight-only): Fairlop Loop joins Great Eastern Main Line via eastward curve between Newbury Park Junction and Seven Kings West Junction
    • Seven Kings, opened 1 March 1899[15] by the GER. Operated by TfL Rail as of May 2015. Connection closed 19 March 1956.[2] (not served by scheduled Fairlop Loop passenger trains)

Remainder of Fairlop loop connects with Central line tube from Leytonstone (nowadays both parts referred to as the "Hainault Loop")

re-joins the Ongar (Epping) Branch at Leytonstone Junction

  • Leytonstone, opened 22 August 1856 by the ECR, closed briefly, re-opening 5 May 1947.[2]

Station architecture[edit]

Most of the surface stations on the Fairlop loop and the underground stations on the Hainault loop are notable for their architecture, dating from Edwardian to the London Transport style of the 1930s/1940s. The bus station shelter at Newbury Park won a Festival of Britain award in 1951, and both it and Barkingside station are Grade II Listed buildings.[16][17] The interior of Gants Hill was heavily inspired by the Moscow Metro.[12] Gants Hill lacks a proper station building, being directly underneath the busy A12 roundabout. Due to bomb damage to Grange Hill in 1944,[18] and expansion of the A12 Eastern Avenue at Newbury Park in 1956,[19] the original station buildings were demolished. They were almost identical to that at Chigwell. Newbury Park was meant to receive a replacement building but it was never built, and the only entrance is via the bus station. Hainault's original structure, prior to rebuilding due to the addition of Hainault Depot, was very similar to that at Fairlop.[20] Roding Valley had rather basic buildings on opening, with a wooden shelter on the Woodford-bound side, replaced by more substantial structures when transferred to the Central line. Notable architects included Oliver Hill for Newbury Park bus station and W. N. Ashbee for the original six stations from Chigwell to Newbury Park (though the Listing authorities credit William Burgess for Barkingside, possibly erroneously). Renowned London Underground architect Charles Holden designed the three new underground stations that opened in 1947.[21]

Service Pattern[edit]

Since 1947 (Central line)[edit]

Typical off-peak service pattern (as of 2007):[22]

Before 1947 (GER/LNER)[edit]

Typical service pattern by 1933 (LNER):[23]

  • Half-hourly during the day, circular service typically London Liverpool Street - Stratford - Ilford - Woodford - Stratford - London Liverpool Street.

Rolling stock[edit]

Since 1947 (Central line)[edit]

Before 1947 (GER/LNER)[edit]

The closed connection today[edit]

The connection between Ilford/Seven Kings and Newbury Park is approximately 0.8 miles (1.3 km) long, and is still evident at ground level despite the track being lifted many years ago. From south to north, there are three road bridges - Vicarage Lane, Benton Road and Wards Road - crossing a missing alignment: much of the route was in a cutting that has been filled in since the line closed.

South of Newbury Park, the inclines to/from the tunnel portals towards Gants Hill diverge away from the former route. Immediately to the south is an electrical substation off Glebelands Avenue. Further south there is derelict land followed by a small area of allotment gardens north of Wards Road, with more allotments to the south and north of Benton Road. South of Benton Road, an outbuilding of St Aidan's School and Friars Close blocks of flats occupy the alignment as far south as Vicarage Lane. South of there are Piper Way flats just north of Ilford Carriage Sheds, the expansion of which followed the initial severing of the Newbury Park Junction to Ilford Carriage Sidings Junction curve in November 1947. The route was abandoned when the connecting curve to Seven Kings West Junction was lifted in 1956, the site of which is occupied by the depot's "New Shed", opened in 1959.[4] Little evidence remains for the junctions at the main line ends.

Ilford to Newbury Park: modern alternatives[edit]

The recent construction of residential blocks and the long-standing and ongoing use of the alignment for allotment gardens mean that there can be no re-instatement of the line between Ilford and Newbury Park. The Central line serves both Stratford and Liverpool Street, just as Fairlop Loop services did, and to travel by rail between Newbury Park and Ilford requires a change of trains at Stratford, or bus routes 296 and 396 serve both stations, and the 169 serves Ley Street and Horns Road, a few hundred yards west of Newbury Park. The 296 and 396 head west along the Eastern Avenue as far as Gants Hill before turning south, and the 169 is a less circuitous route.[27]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Cravens Heritage Trains - History". Archived from the original on 16 March 2013. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r Connor 2007, p. IV
  3. ^ Electrifying London - The 1935-1940 New Works Programme
  4. ^ a b Brennand 2006, p. 10
  5. ^ Connor 2007, p. 115
  6. ^ Connor 2007, p. 117
  7. ^ due to rebuilding associated with construction of the nearby depot. (Connor 2007, p. 101)
  8. ^ Jackson 1999, p. 395
  9. ^ Motorway Archive - M11 dates
  10. ^ Brown, Joe (2007). London Railway Atlas. Ian Allan. ISBN 978-0-7110-3137-1.
  11. ^ Connor 2007, p. 89
  12. ^ a b Connor 2007, p. 118
  13. ^ "Factory in an Uncompleted London Tube Tunnel". The Railway Magazine. Vol. 92 no. 563. Westminster: Railway Publishing Co. May – June 1946. p. 160.
  14. ^ "Central line facts". Transport for London. Archived from the original on 2 December 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2018.
  15. ^ a b Brennand 2006, p. IV
  16. ^ Newbury Park station Grade II Listing
  17. ^ Barkingside station Grade II Listing
  18. ^ Connor 2007, p. 94
  19. ^ Connor 2007, p. 114
  20. ^ Connor 2007, p. 99
  21. ^ Charles Holden station photo gallery Archived 31 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Clive's UndergrounD Line Guides - Central line services
  23. ^ Connor 2007, p. X
  24. ^ a b Bruce & Croome 2006, p. 69
  25. ^ Glover, John; Marsden, Colin J (1985). Motive Power Recognition: 4 London Transport Railways and PTE Systems. Ian Allan. p. 59. ISBN 0-7110-1460-4.
  26. ^ Jackson 1999, p. 396
  27. ^ London Bus Routes - List of routes


External links[edit]