North London Railway

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North London Railway
HeadquartersBow, London
LocaleLondon, United Kingdom
Dates of operation1850–1922
SuccessorLondon, Midland and Scottish Railway
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
North London Railway diagram
Queen's Park
Kilburn & Maida Vale
Loudon Road
Chalk Farm
Hampstead Road
Kentish Town Junction
Camden Town
St Pancras Junction
Maiden Lane
Caledonian Road & Barnsbury
Highbury & Islington
Mildmay Park
Western Junction
Dalston Junction
Broad Street
Kensal Rise to Blackwall
Kensal Rise
Brondesbury Park
West End Lane
Finchley Road
Hampstead Heath
Gospel Oak
Kentish Town
NLR main line to Queens Park
Camden Town
St Pancras Junction
Maiden Lane
Caledonian Road & Barnsbury
Highbury & Islington
Mildmay Park
Western Junction
NLR to Broad St
Dalston Kingsland
Hackney Central
Victoria Park
Old Ford
South Bromley
Poplar (East India Road)

The North London Railway (NLR) company had lines connecting the northern suburbs of London with the East and West India Docks further east. The main east to west route is now part of London Overground's North London Line. Other NLR lines fell into disuse but were later revived as part of the Docklands Light Railway, and London Overground's East London Line. The company was originally called the East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway (E&WID&BJR) from its start in 1850, until 1853. In 1909, it entered into an agreement with the London and North Western Railway which introduced common management, and the NLR was taken over completely by the LNWR in 1922. The LNWR itself became part of the LMS from the start of 1923. The railways were nationalised in 1948 and most LMS lines, including the North London route, then came under the control of the London Midland Region of British Railways.


Railway map of London, 1899, from The Pocket Atlas and Guide to London

The East & West India Docks & Birmingham Junction Railway was incorporated by Act of Parliament on 26 August 1846. It was empowered to construct a railway from the district of Poplar and the docks to Camden Town in north London.[1] The railway's headquarters and locomotive works were initially in Bow.

At first, it ran trains from Bow Junction on the London and Blackwall Railway (L&BR) to Islington, starting on 26 September 1850. The line was extended to Camden Town railway station[2] from 7 December 1850 and to Hampstead Road station (later renamed Primrose Hill) from 9 June 1851. Another extension via the L&BR was opened on 1 January 1852, from Bow Junction to Poplar railway station, and from there to Blackwall and the East India Docks;[3] a connection at Bow allowed trains to run to Fenchurch Street. This arrangement lasted until 1865, when an extension from Dalston Junction to Broad Street was opened; Broad Street became the main terminus, and the Poplar line became a branch.

In 1858, the line was extended along the North and South Western Junction Railway (a joint enterprise by the LNWR, Midland Railway and the NLR) from Willesden Junction to a London and South Western Railway branch to Richmond. A bypass line from Camden to Willesden Junction via Gospel Oak and West Hampstead opened in 1860. Meanwhile at the eastern end, a spur line connecting the NLR to Stratford from Victoria Park opened in 1854 but was not used by passenger services. The line between Camden Town and Dalston Junction was quadrupled in 1871.[3]

In 1864, a North London Railway train was the scene of the first murder on a British train.

The LNWR took over the working of the railway under a common management arrangement on 1 February 1909.[4] The company still existed until 1922, with its own board of directors and shareholders, when it was absorbed by the LNWR. The last board meeting and last shareholders meeting were both held on 23 November 1922, the latter giving the shareholders' approval of amalgamation. The board minutes were signed by A Holland-Hibbert, the chairman, who added "Goodbye!". Beneath this was typed, "This was the last Board Meeting of the North London Railway Company, the Undertaking being absorbed under “The London and North Western Railway (North London Railway and Dearne Valley Railway) Preliminary Absorption Scheme 1922” by the London and North Western Railway Company as from 1 January 1922."[5]

The LNWR, which half-owned Broad Street station, was responsible for electrification of the Broad Street to Richmond and Kew Bridge lines in 1916.


Camden Road station is one of the few remaining examples of the NLR's yellow-brick, "Venetian" architectural style. It was designed by Edwin Henry Horne.

The Kew Bridge service was withdrawn as a wartime economy measure in 1940, which proved to be permanent.

The line from Dalston Junction to Poplar was heavily damaged during the Blitz of World War II. Passenger services from Broad Street to Poplar via Victoria Park and Bow were suspended on 15 April 1944 and officially closed on 14 May 1944. A substitute bus service was provided until 23 April 1945 but the service was finally withdrawn at the end of the war. The northern section of the East Cross Route (A12) built in the late 1960s ran parallel to the rail line between Old Ford and Victoria Park stations, both of which were demolished for the road's construction.

The Crosstown Linkline service reinstated passenger service over the Dalston Junction to Victoria Park Junction section of the Poplar branch from 14 May 1979, running from Camden Town to Stratford and then over the former Eastern Counties and Thames Junction Railway to North Woolwich. The remaining freight line from Victoria Park Junction to Poplar Docks via Bow Junction closed on 3 October 1983.[3] From 13 May 1985, the Camden to North Woolwich Crosstown Linkline was combined with the Richmond to Broad Street service and ceased to serve Dalston Junction and Broad Street, which finally closed on 30 June 1986.

The line between Willesden Junction and Camden via Primrose Hill is now primarily used (in 2014) for empty coaching stock movements between the North London Line and Willesden Depot, freight trains and, during engineering work, diverted passenger services to and from the Watford DC Line. Primrose Hill station has been closed.

Since 31 August 1987, Docklands Light Railway has followed the path of the North London Railway from Bow Church to Poplar.[3]

The East London Line Extension took over the abandoned stretch between Dalston Junction and Shoreditch from April 2010, incorporating it into the London Overground network.


Among the first locomotives bought by the railway from outside contractors were five 0-4-2ST engines. After that, all were constructed at Bow, London.


Bow railway works was built in 1853 and had a sizeable wagon repair shop. When the railway was merged into the LMS it was the smallest of 15 workshops. It repaired NLR locomotives and from 1927 those from the former London, Tilbury and Southend Railway (LTSR).

In the 1930s, the works developed and manufactured the Hudd automatic control system for the LTSR, which led to a British Rail (BR) team from the national headquarters setting up in Bow to develop BR's standard Automatic Warning System. The workshop was badly damaged during the The Blitz and the wagon workshop destroyed.

In 1956, the workshop repaired diesel-electric locomotives for the motive power depot at Devons Road (the first to become all-diesel). After a while it was receiving locos in the morning and turning them round by the evening, which initially confused the statistical returns since locos were entering and leaving the works on the same day. The works closed in 1960.


The NLR erected a First World War memorial to fallen staff at Broad Street. On that station's closure it was moved first to Richmond, then in 2011 to Hoxton.

Richmond to Willesden Junction (joined NLR 1856):

Willesden Junction to Camden via Primrose Hill (opened 1851–2, passenger services between South Hampstead and Camden withdrawn 1992):

Willesden Junction to Camden via West Hampstead & Gospel Oak (opened 1860):

Camden Road to Dalston (opened 1850):

Dalston to Broad Street (opened 1865, closed 1986, mostly reopened 2010):

Dalston to Poplar (opened 1850, closed to passengers 1944, Dalston- Stratford reopened 1980):

Bow to Plaistow (1869 to 1916):

At Poplar, the line connected to Millwall Junction, allowing goods trains to run to Blackwall and the East India Docks), or along the Millwall Extension Railway, which served the West India Docks.


  1. ^ McCarthy, Colin; McCarthy, David (2009). Railways of Britain – London North of the Thames. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7110-3346-7.
  2. ^ Renamed Camden Road on 25 September 1950
  3. ^ a b c d McCarthy, Colin; McCarthy, David (2009). Railways of Britain – London North of the Thames. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing. pp. 13–14. ISBN 978-0-7110-3346-7.
  4. ^ The National Archives, RAIL 529/32 – NLR Board Minute No 6940 of 14 January 1909
  5. ^ The National Archives RAIL 529/34 NLR Board Meeting 22 November 1922

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