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British Industrial History

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Commercial Railway

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The former name of the London and Blackwall Railway, it was more commonly known as the fourpenny rope due to its 4d fare.

1836 Company incorporated

Bought the premises of John Hague in Cable Street, Wellclose Square close to the terminus at Minories. The railway was originally worked by ropes. That was done on the advice tendered on May 17th, 1836, by Robert Stephenson to the House of Commons Committee which considered the Bill for the railway. He said that he and his father deprecated the use of locomotives in towns on account of the danger of fires from sparks. On trains starting from the London terminus there were two carriages for Blackwall and one each for the intermediate stations. The latter carriages were detached in succession as they arrived at their destinations and were re-attached on the return journey.[1]

Two steam winding engines, one by the Blackwall terminus and the other at Minories a short distance east of Fenchurch St station were the power sources for the railway. They pulled a 7 mile long rope, 5.75" rope; the train ran on 5' gauge tracks. The railway was 3.5 miles long .

1839 Name changed to London and Blackwall Railway

1840 The line was opened; initially only one line was put in use and only three intermediate stations were opened - Limehouse, West India Docks and Poplar. The second line opened a short while after this as did the stations at Stepney and Shadwell. The trains were operated as a series of slip coaches. As a result travel between intermediate stations was not possible.

1841 Extension into Fenchurch St was completed; this was not powered but used momentum to get into the station from Minories and the gradient to get out again. Name changed when the line was allowed into Fenchurch St. (or was this 1839?).

The rope was later replaced by a metal cable.

The railway was controlled by telegraph, the first railway in the world to do so.

The line was popular, and an extension was planned to Epping from Stepney which would utilise other company's lines which were standard gauge.

Converted to standard gauge

1849 Rope haulage ceased.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Engineer 1924/11/14
  • London Blackwall [1]