Thursday, 9 June 2016

One hundred years of the railway that served Eltham

For two and bit years I travelled on Southern Region from Well Hall Station up to New Cross.

I have few memories of those journeys other than the last stretch on the way home to Eltham when the train took that slow bend and you got a glimpse of Shooters Hill and the woods.

But in all that time and since I have given little thought to why the railway was built, the people behind it and its construction.

It was built in 1895, quite late in the history of the railways by “landowners wanting to enhance the value of their agricultural land for house building.”

Amongst the shareholders was Thomas Jackson of Eltham Park, Charles Beadle a coal and corn merchant and George Mence Smith who owned seventy oil shops in the area.

The story of the planning, construction and first 100 years of the railway are told in The Bexleyheath Railway at Eltham 1895-1995, by Gus White and published by The Eltham Society.

Eltham Park 1895
It is a fascinating account and demonstrates yet again that some of the best history is not written by professionals but local people with local knowledge and a desire to share it with their neighbours.

Much of the book concentrates on the early 20th century but there are descriptions of the opening of the new station in 1985, the Well Hall train crash thirteen years earlier and the reference to those double decker trains which ran from 1949 to ’71.

I have to confess I had begun to doubt that they existed or that I travelled on them given that I was always met with disbelief from friends when I described them.

Eltham Park 1985 eight months after its closure
There are also some fine pictures many of which cover the period before and after I left Eltham, and in between a few of the station and bus station that I remember.

My own favourites must be of Well Hall Station in the 1920s, the approach to the station taken in 1985 along with another from1955 showing the station master's house and with out doubt that of a tram travelling south under Well Hall railway bridge.

So there you have it, 100 years of Eltham’s railway history all for just £2 if you are a member of the Eltham Society and £3 plus post and packaging from the Eltham Society, 

Picture; of Eltham Park, DISUSED STATIONS, by courtesy of Nick Catford from http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/e/eltham_park/index.shtml



*White, Gus, The Bexley heath Railway at Eltham 1895-1995, The Eltham Society, 1996

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