FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Lakeside wanders in semi-lockdown

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on June 14, 2020

The lockdown is easing across the UK, but in practice my re-shaped life will hardly change at all. The majority of staff in my workplace will continue to work from home with no re-opening of our London offices on the cards in the foreseeable future. Since we were sent home from work in mid-March I have been no further than a couple of miles from home.

The re-focus on things local has reminded me of many places I had long forgotten about. Over the past couple of weeks our walks have taken us to South Norwood Lake, which I haven’t visited since childhood.

Boating on South Norwood Lake

South Norwood lake is an unusual feature amid the urban sprawl. It is a man-made structure, one of two reservoirs created to feed the Croydon Canal which ran from West Croydon to New Cross, where it connected up to the Grand Surrey Canal. It was a route that required barges transporting goods to navigate 28 locks and numerous swing bridges to make it along the 9 and a quarter mile route.

The Croydon Canal was a commercial failure, closing in 1836 after a life-span of just 27 years. However, the reservoir remained and eventually found use for a variety of leisure activities – swimming, boating, angling and ice skating. Until the mid 1950s you could take to the waters in a motor boat called the “Skylark” and the hoists for the ship remain in place.

The canal itself was drained and used by the London and Croydon Railway Company to establish a railway line between Croydon and London. Remnants of the old canal survive in a few places and the route of the old canal has been wonderfully traced in a Google map created by Will Greenwood). There’s still a pub in South Norwood called the Jolly Sailor (on the site of an earlier pub built with gardens running to the side of the canal) and the first railway station in the area was named after the Jolly Sailor.

Nest construction on South Norwood Lake

The rich local history was a feature of the teaching in local primary schools when I was growing up, including Croydon Canal, but it is a long time since I gave this place a moment’s thought. It was lovely to re-discover in semi-lockdown, including the sight of two coots building a nest on the lake twig by twig (passing twigs to each other in their beaks).

One other sight that caught my attention on my walk to the lake was a stink pipe (a tall and hollow pipe intended to vent gases from the sewers) from Ham Baker & Co at the junction of Lancaster Road and Warminster Road which I can’t remember ever paying any attention to. There are plenty of these Victorian engineering marvels to be seen across South London, but easily overlooked.


Local lockdown

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on May 17, 2020

It is eight weeks now since the lockdown began in the UK and life changed in ways that would have seemed astonishing just a month before that. In my area we have just seen the introduction of low traffic and exercise streets, an interesting initiative to stop these residential streets becoming rat-runs and to make social distancing a little easier. It’s the first time I have seen any Covid-19 road signs in my local area.

Covid-19 street signs in South Norwood

The sweeping changes recall Lenin’s line about weeks where decades happen. One way systems and screens in supermarkets, masks, social distancing, contact-free deliveries, the return to a weekly shop, remote working, video-conferencing, online team chat, near empty buses, quiet high streets, one-in-one out lifts, accelerated digitisation programmes, magazines shutting down print production, the dreaded daily statistics and so on.

In time we will hopefully resume something close to our pre-lockdown normality and the memories will fade. Many archives and libraries, including my own, are working to capture the strangeness of this time. Much of this will be short-lived material and web-content that would otherwise be lost to the historians of the future looking to understand how we lived through the pandemic.

I really look forward to the day when we look back at this time and these emergency measures once again seem utterly alien to us.

Spring at the (ex) Sewage Farm

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on May 2, 2020

One of the unexpected aspects of the lockdown has been the way many of us have paid a little more attention to the overlooked wonders on our doorsteps. South Norwood Country Park, more or less at the end of my street, is my re-discovery. In its quietest moments it was easy to forget about the current crisis, aside from the notices at the entrances and the chalked notices on the pathways calling on us all to protect the NHS.

A carpet of cow parsley in the woods

I guess that I first came to the park in the mid 1980s when my Scout Group visited the wild space known to us as the Sewage Farm to play wide games during the light summer evenings. My memories are a little hazy, but I know that we were split into two teams so I guess this might have been ‘Capture the flag’ or something similar.

The site was established as a sewage works in 1865 and saw use until 1967. On its closure nature reclaimed the site, a mixture of wetland and grassland, followed by the landscaping that came with its formal designation as the South Norwood Country Park in 1988.

It’s a little hard to visualise this less than glamourous past life on a casual wander through the park, though traces of its former life can still be seen if you look beyond the lush vegetation, such as the concrete channels once used to carry sewage to the lagoons.

During the lockdown I have been crossing the park once a week on my way to a weekly shop, giving me the opportunity to appreciate the changes as the trees have come out of their winter slumbers and into gorgeous blossom (especially the crab apple on the pathway into the park). Right now, the park looks particularly splendid swathed in fields of cow parsley.

The highest viewpoint in the park (created from the rubble spoil from buildings demolished after the Second World War) offers views that include local landmarks like the Croydon transmitting station at Beaulieu Heights, the Crystal Palace transmitting station and the floodlights of the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

I feel very lucky to have a 125 acre nature reserve so close to hand, a pleasure that I hope to continue appreciating once we finally return to some sense of normality.


Easter in South Norwood

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on April 13, 2020

I get a little crazy stuck at home for too long at the best of times, but how things have changed in the past weeks! I have largely avoided going outside at all, except for a weekly food shop and a short walk at the weekend for exercise. Today, my walk took in some of the local sights nearest at hand that I have long taken for granted.

The streets of South Norwood would normally be quiet on an Easter Sunday, but this was quite different. The sight of temporarily boarded up pubs, empty shop shelves and firmly shuttered entrances all pointed to a high street that is not about to spring into life any time soon. I was also struck by the near silence – in particular the complete absence of church bells ringing.

Station Road, South Norwood, on an unusually quiet Easter Sunday

The first stop on my walk, the grade II listed St Mark’s Church, was originally built in 1852 and extended seven times between 1862 and 1890. The continual expansion was in part a reflection of the changing nature of the area – when it was first built the church served a local population of 1,300, but by the end of the nineteenth century this had increased to 13,000. It’s not hard to see the evidence of the many additions to the first building, the nave, as you approach the church.

The simplicity of the original rectangular design can be seen in the plan drawn up in November 1852 by the architects, Finden & Lewis, which is helpfully available online through the collection of the Incorporated Church Building Society (ICBS) at the Lambeth Palace Library. The view in my picture shows the chancel with polygonal apse added in 1869, at the junction of Albert Road and Coventry Road.

St Marks Church

The church has been troubled by problems throughout its history. At the end of the nineteenth century the church had fallen into a critical condition owing to settlement in the clay subsoil, necessitating the shoring up of the west wall with timber baulks (as seen in an illustration from the ICBS collection). The floor and aisles of the church had sunk. An appeal, the Twentieth Century Fund, was launched to raise funds for the churches of South Norwood, including St Marks. The cost of making the urgent repairs to the church was assessed as £1200-1400.

Fast forward 100 years and once again the church was assessed as being at risk. Repairs have since been made to the stonework (2013) and the chancel and south slopes of the nave and aisle have been re-roofed (2016) but the church remains on the Heritage at risk register. There were just over 900 listed places of worship on the register in 2019, varying from buildings in good condition with one significant element of risk to buildings becoming vulnerable to risk.

I am embarrassed to say that I haven’t been inside the church, or, if I have it would have been way back in the 1980s (when I attended joint Scout Group meetings in the church hall next door). I’ll have to take a look inside when the lockdown ends and life returns to some semblance of normal, particularly as I gather that the south aisle features stained glass of The Good Shepherd by Henry Holiday, whose work can also be found at Westminster Abbey and at Chartered Accountants’ Hall in London.

Portland Road Bridge

My walk took me underneath the Portland Road railway bridge and the line towards London. It’s not the most friendly of spaces for pedestrians, despite the addition of a rather lovely mosaic designed by local schoolchildren some year ago. The People for Portland Road community group have secured funding for a project that will see the introduction of a lighting installation to make the space more inviting.

As you can see from the photograph above, the bridge is protected by collision protection beams that were installed to prevent any damage to the railway bridge from vehicles ignoring the low height warnings. It has taken quite a battering over the years. The long history of accidents here includes a particularly bad spell of six bridge strikes between April 2014 and July 2015, including one incident where the roof of a double decker bus was sliced off.

The Stanley Halls

The next stop on my walk brought me to the Stanley Halls, one of many buildings associated with the inventor, manufacturor and philanthropist William Stanley (1829-1909) who moved to South Norwood in the 1860s and went on to open a workshop near Norwood Junction Railway Station.

In his later years William Stanley decided that the area was in need of a public hall, gifting South Norwood the Stanley Halls (1903-4) which the Pevsner Architectural Guide considers to be one of the highlights amid the “relentless suburban sprawl” of the area, described as “a vigorously eclectic group in red brick and stone, with two towers and a series of gabled roof-lines, adorned with the extraordinary motif of copper flowers in flowerpots”. Pevsner praised the building as “one of the most eccentric efforts anywhere at a do-it-yourself free-style”. The unusual complex was grade II listed in 1990.

The legacy of ‘Mr South Norwood’ was something we were encouraged to discover at my primary school but I suspect William Stanley’s name will be much less familiar to future generations as many of the buildings associated with him disappeared in the early years of the 21st century.

The former Stanley workshops, latterly in use as a joinery, were badly damaged by fire and later converted into flats. Stanley’s first home in the area at 74-76 Albert Road, known as ‘Stanleybury’, was demolished in 2003. Three years after this, Stanley’s last home at Cumberlow Lodge (1878) was demolished by developers before it could be listed. Finally, the school he founded, Stanley Tech, was renamed in 2006.

In the early 1980s it was used by the local Scout District for their annual gang shows, but hopefully the photographic evidence of me on stage during these will remain well buried!

South Norwood Clock Tower

A short walk along the High Street, took me past the boarded up shopfront of Kennedy’s butchers. The shop, built in 1926, was grade II listed in 2008 but looks more disheveled than ever. It was a place I was very familiar with up until it closed, on account of the superb quality of its pies and puddings, but it was also quite remarkable to step inside a shop with all its original fittings intact. It is another of our local landmarks on the Heritage at Risk register.

At the junction of Station Road and the High Street I reached the cast-iron South Norwood Clock Tower which was erected in 1907 to mark the golden wedding anniversary of William and Eliza Stanley. The clock tower, produced by clockmakers Gillet and Johnston, was paid for by public subscription which just goes to show the immense respect of the local population for a man who gave everything to his community. It is now Grade II listed.

From here I would normally have looped back through a tunnel under the railway station, the world’s first reinforced concrete underpass, built by Robert McAlpine and Sons in 1912. However, it would be impossible to stay socially distanced in the tunnel so I retraced my steps back along the high street instead.

The Albert Tavern

The last stop on my short walk, the Albert Tavern, was not as obvious a sight as the rest. You won’t get any argument from me that this is some pretty unremarkable 1960s architecture, but look behind the walls and you’ll find a much loved and quite simply terrific community pub.

The pub came under threat in June 2019 with the news that Greene King were planning to sell off the plot to developers to turn into flats, as reported on Inside Croydon in ‘Selling off the Albert for flats is like demolishing the Queen Vic’. The importance of the pub to the community is evident from the comments on the petition. It would be a sad loss for the area were it to disappear.

A public house stood on this spot from the 1860s until 9th July 1944. On that fateful night a V1 flying bomb destroyed the pub and ten neighbouring houses, taking with it seven lives. A new pub was built on the spot in 1966 and it has been going strong ever since. It is boarded up right now, along with other pubs in the area, in response to the lockdown. A sign on the boards says it all: Thank you NHS and key workers. We love you.

It’s a lovely place to enjoy a pint in better times. Let’s hope they are not too far away.

Farewell to 2017

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on December 31, 2017

Over the past few decades I have watched as the relatively well served high street in my local area, South Norwood, has gradually been losing the shops that once made it a great independent shopping centre – a story that I’m sure has been echoed across the country. It feels like 2017 was a turning point, seeing the arrival of some exciting new businesses as well as the departure of another long-standing store.

Emertons closed after 115 years

There are few historic survivors left in South Norwood so the closure of Emertons, The Ironmonger after 115 years was sad to hear. It was a brilliant store in its time which would always have just what you needed for home repairs, backed up by a really knowledgeable team. It’s going to be strange seeing Station Road without the familiar green storefront (although it has to be said that this was a latter day creation, the signage was bright orange when I was growing up and only met its end with the storm of 1987!).

It follows the closures of other long-standing high street businesses in the past decade, including Kennedy’s (1877-2007) which made the best sausage rolls anywhere in London and terrific Christmas puddings to a long-standing recipe with ale and suet. Other businesses that have disappeared from South Norwood High Street have included Boots, Co-op, Dewhursts (Butchers), Woolworths, Lawrences (Bakers) and Lorimers (Stationers and toy shop). When my parents arrived in the area there was also a branch of Mac Fisheries on the High Street.

The Clocktower (1907)

In many ways the trigger for the steady decline of the high street was the arrival of the first large supermarket in the form of Safeways many years ago (subsequently replaced in sequence by Morrisons, Somerfield, Co-op and now Aldi!). Up to the arrival of Safeways there were at least three butchers, three greengrocers and a couple of bakeries in the high street. In some ways it is surprising how long it took for shopping habits to change and the true impact to be felt on the high street.

It’s not just shops that have been disappearing. Not so long ago there were three banks in South Norwood High Street and at least two Building Societies. The last remaining of these will leave the high street when NatWest closes its doors on 22nd May 2018. I’m sure the nuisance value of this for me must be outweighed by the inconvenience of trekking further afield for local business owners.

Aside from this, I miss the re-assuring sight of Norwood Junction Models (1963-2013), just off the high street at the top of Portland Road, even though I had long since stopped spending my pocket money there by the time it closed.

The artwork ‘The Long Way Home’ in Norwood Junction subway (1912) shows Emertons in happier times.

More change is on the way with a proposal to re-locate South Norwood Library to a spot on Station Road next to Aldi in 2019. Much as I love the old library building, a place I spent many happy hours as I was growing up, the idea of creating a library within sight of Norwood Junction Station, next door to Aldi, seems a great way of binding the library even closer to the community. It’s certainly better than the talk of closing the library altogether a few years back with nothing in its place.

There has been some talk about the unwanted gentrification of South Norwood which rather overlooks the ups and downs of the past 100 years. I prefer to think that the arrival of some of the new businesses to the area as a much needed and welcome revival. Long may it continue!

Tennison Road Bridge re-opens

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on June 13, 2015

The year long closure of Tennison Road Bridge to road traffic has come to an end with the official re-opening of the bridge on 11th June 2015, five days earlier than originally announced.


The old bridge (with temporary footbridge behind)


The new bridge

It has seemed like a slow six months since the bridge was impressively jacked into place over the live railway, with spurts of development following days of relative inactivity. The new bridge opened to pedestrians on 18th March, followed by the removal of the temporary footbridge on 29th March (an exercise which required the use of a 1000 ton crane during a 27 hour posession).

Since then we have seen the demolition of the old approach wall; the installation of precast panels and parapets; the redirection of gas, power and water services; fitting out of street lights/speed cameras/mobile masts; four layers of road surfacing; the painting of street markings and the addition of assorted fencing. None of this has been quite as dramatic as the launch of the bridge in December but I have updated the pictorial timeline (below) to reflect the steady progress that got us up to the re-opening this week.

The flow of traffic in the area seems to have improved quite quickly following the re-opening of the bridge, though I suspect that many drivers haven’t cottoned on yet as it’s not quite as busy as it has been in the past. It’s good to see that the 410 bus is already back to its original route.

Although the road has now re-opened work still remains to reinstate the children’s playground in South Norwood Recreation Ground which is currently a well churned muddy field where the construction compound used to be. The latest indications are that work will continue here for several more weeks.


Tennison Road: From one bridge to another

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on December 14, 2014

Over the last week the main span of the new bridge crossing the railway at Tennison Road, South Norwood, has been moved into position. The timing was a slight surprise as the original plan was to hydraulically push the bridge into place on Christmas Day when no trains were running, but the use of innovative techniques has enabled the engineers to move the span into place ahead of schedule and without closing the railway.

It looks like there is still plenty of work to be completed so the road won’t be re-opening anytime soon but it is still great to see the gap bridged again.

Sunset at the new bridge

The sun sets over the new bridge

The whole exercise has been no small undertaking – this is the largest bridge replacement that has taken place in the South East for the last decade, evidenced by the impressive cranes and heavyweight equipment that we have seen being brought in.

The transformation has been fascinating to watch from the sidelines, from the demolition of the old bridge to the assembly and installation of the new steel bridge deck. Nevertheless, it will be good to see the works finish and normality resume in Spring 2015.

Postscript 21/12: After I published this post Network Rail released a rather wonderful timelapse video of the replacement of Tennison Road Bridge which shows the new bridge being launched into position using a hydraulic strand jack system. It’s hard not to be impressed!


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Tennison Road: Bridge to nowhere

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on December 13, 2014

Over the weekend of 4th/5th October 2014 the final two spans of Tennison Road Bridge in South Norwood were demolished, completing a process that began on 1st September. The bridge, which Network Rail says dated back to 1922, had been nearing the end of its operational life and is set to be replaced by a structure better suited to the times (stronger, wider and more resilient).

The part demolished bridge on 20th September 2014

The part demolished bridge on 20th September 2014

I used to live on the approach to the bridge and it has always been one of the familiar sights that I associate with home, particularly as it was the last part of my walk back from school. It was striking to see the bridge retreating week by week over the autumn, with the bridge literally leading nowhere (indeed, Google maps currently shows two Tennison Roads terminating on either side of the railway with no connection between either).

If it looked strange viewed from a distance, it looked even odder to see a cross section of the bridge when travelling on trains passing the site.

The last span, as seen from a passing train

The last span, as seen from a passing train on 4th October 2014

The railway cuts right through modern day South Norwood but when the first bridge was constructed it was surrounded by undeveloped open land. The construction of the first bridge in the late 19th century was as much a part of the residential development of the area as the houses that followed on both sides of the railway. Around this time other familiar features of South Norwood were being laid out (South Norwood Recreation Ground, 1889) or constructed (Holy Innocents Church, 1888).

The original bridge first made its presence felt on maps of the area in the late 1880s. An Ordnance Survey map from this time appears to show the plots being marked out for the approaches to the first bridge prior to its construction, remarkably before Tennison Road was laid. The equivalent map from 1896 shows the bridge firmly in place and the road fully connected. Assuming that Network Rail is correct, the earliest bridge(s) would have been replaced by the recently demolished bridge in 1922.

A view of Norwood Junction on 30th October 2010 with Tennison Road Bridge in the background

A view of Norwood Junction on 30th October 2010 with Tennison Road Bridge in the background

Before any construction started surveys were completed to make sure that there were no unexploded items left over from the Second World War. This was a wise move, given the history of the surrounding area. Some years ago one former railwayman from the depot recalled seeing the effects of a bomb landing near the bridge, resulting in all the roof tiles rising into the air from one of the nearby houses.

Incidentally, it was not just the depot here that was a target for the Luftwaffe. A report on enemy action on 20th January 1943 describes the deliberate attempt to kill engine crew in three separate incidents – one of which occurred at Norwood Junction. In this instance, Southern Region tank engine 2169 was on shunting duty at Norwood Junction when it was attacked by a low flying enemy aircraft targeting machine gun fire at the cab.

The first signs of change came at the end of January 2014 with the closing of the playground in the rec, a space that had changed little in the past forty years (I could have pointed out where I played at Star Wars as a ten year old without any difficulty!). The works compound that the space steadily transformed into is almost unrecognisable, taking with it some of the trees that had been planted in the park at its very beginning (surviving everything from bombing raid to the worst of storms along the way). I don’t dispute that change is necessary, but that doesn’t mean that you have to like the side-effects.

The temporary footbridge alongside the doomed bridge

The temporary footbridge alongside the doomed bridge on 30th March 2014

On 15th-23rd March 2014 a temporary footbridge was installed to maintain the link between the two halves of South Norwood, for which I was very grateful. The bridge itself remained open to road traffic until 16th June 2014 and open to pedestrians until 24th July 2014. All the while the bridge offered some interesting perspectives on the work taking place on the embankments, the re-routing of utilities, piling works and reinforcement.

The severed bridge on 8th September 2014

The severed bridge on 8th September 2014

The demolition of the bridge itself took place over five weeks in September/October with the spans nearest to the Woodside side of the bridge disappearing first. Spans 1-6 were demolished between 1st-8th September, span 7 was demolished between 13-15th September 2014 and spans 8-9 were demolished between 4-6th October. It looked at its strangest midway through, when just half a bridge was visible from the platforms at Norwood Junction. Once it had disappeared entirely it was hard to imagine that it had ever been there.

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An encounter with the South Norwood bug

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on August 15, 2014

I am a somewhat reluctant gardener at the best of times, but the perils of gardening in South Norwood had never really occurred to me until I got bitten by an insect in my back garden the other day, leaving me with a rather striking ring mark on an inflamed leg. The end result was a four night stay in hospital, taking antibiotics by intravenous drip.

The staff at the urgent care centre at Guy’s Hospital and the various medical teams I saw at St Thomas’ Hospital were simply marvellous throughout my stay, providing superb care and reassurance from start to finish. I don’t think I have ever really appreciated the wonders being performed by the doctors and nurses in the NHS, but this was a real eye opener for me.

I have no particular desire to make a return trip to hospital anytime soon, but will not forget the time I spent inside, nor the kindness of my fellow patients and the medical staff.

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Southbound steam

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on June 7, 2014

This weekend sees a celebration of the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Seaford to Brighton railway line, with steam specials heading to the terminus today and tomorrow.

BR Britannia Class 7MT 4-6-2 no. 70013 'Oliver Cromwell' departs from Norwood Junction

BR Britannia Class 7MT 4-6-2 no. 70013 ‘Oliver Cromwell’ departs from Norwood Junction

At the same time, today’s railtour offered the unusual sight of southbound steam stopping at Norwood Junction (for twelve minutes) before heading onward. I am not sure how often this has happened since the end of steam on the southern, but it can’t have happened many times, if at all. It seemed an opportunity too good to miss, even if the forecast was pretty attrocious.

The much heralded heavy rain was nowhere to be seen for most of the morning but made its dreaded appearance half an hour before the railtour, conditions deteriorating steadily from this point until the scheduled departure time of 10.24am. Nevertheless, it was terrific to see the volcanic eruption as of BR Britannia Class 7MT 4-6-2 no. 70013 ‘Oliver Cromwell’ headed out of Norwood Junction.

It was lucky timing as this view is set to disappear shortly with Tennison Road Bridge scheduled to close on 16th June 2014 (ahead of its demolition and eventual replacement). A fitting finale.


The view from the bridge

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on February 23, 2014

The railway line that cuts through South Norwood has given many a developer and urban planner a headache over the years, but particularly in 2013/14 as the two bridges that cross the line have required substantial repair (Goat House Bridge) and replacement (Tennison Road Bridge).

The existing bridge at Tennison Road is due to be demolished between September and November 2014 and with it will go the views in each direction – a vista of Croydon’s skyline to the south and a view of Norwood Junction to the north. The design of the replacement span for the new bridge is focused on the protection of the operational railway (ensuring that the impact of any road accident will be isolated upon the bridge structure) and this includes taller bridge parapets. The views are an unfortunate, but necessary, casualty.

66112 passes through Norwood Junction on 25th March 2012

A freight train passes through Norwood Junction on 25th March 2012

I would not dream of claiming that these are the most exciting or scenic views that you are ever likely to see, but the bridge has provided a window on the changing landscape of the area since the late 19th century. It has also been a view that I have become very familiar with over the years, from the moment that I grew tall enough to look over the top (or more likely, persuaded my father to give me a shoulder top view!).

Recently I came across a shot that I had taken of the view north of the bridge around 1990 and returned to photograph the matching scene in 2014, providing an interesting comparison of some of the changes that have taken place in the last quarter of a century.

The view north from Tennison Road Bridge circa 1990

The view in 1990

The view north from Tennison Road Bridge in February 2014

The view in 2014

In the time between the two photographs the sidings north of the bridge have disappeared, the industrial units visible next to the single carriage have been replaced by flats (in a nice touch the roof of the block mimics that of the building they replaced) and the scrapyard has given way to houses. In the background of the 2014 shot, Goat House Bridge can be seen as it nears the end of its renewal (whilst the Goat House pub has been replaced by a block of flats).

On the other side of the bridge the changes have been more dramatic – the old paint shop at Selhurst has been demolished, the lighting tower was cut down around ten years ago and a considerable number of sidings have vanished. I am sure that if you delved further back the changes to the views would be even more striking. It would be especially startling to slip back in time one hundred years to find the railway line electrified with overhead cables (in contrast to the ground level third rail electrification of today) and surrounded by a landscape of allotments/open fields!

It is quite astonishing to think how much change could be glimpsed from this bridge during its lifetime and I for one will be a little bit sorry to see that disappear.

Steaming into 2013

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on February 9, 2013

After a few months without any sight of steam, Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 no. 35028 ‘Clan Line’ made an appearance at my local station – Norwood Junction – today. It was a good local start to another year of steam photography, which seemed appropriate as one of the most exciting developments this year will be happening nearby – the opening of the Bluebell Railway‘s extension to East Grinstead.

Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 no. 35028 'Clan Line' passes through a wet Norwood Junction on 9th February 2013

Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 no. 35028 ‘Clan Line’ passes through a wet Norwood Junction…

Today’s steam special was a British Pullman service on a luncheon tour through the Surrey Hills operated by Venice Simplon Orient Express, taking a circular route to/from London Victoria via Guildford. Normally such excursions would take the main line through Selhurst but engineering work between East Croydon and Balham this weekend forced a diversion via Norwood Junction.

It is relatively rare to see a steam locomotive through Norwood Junction, though it is already the second time this year (a similar VSOE excursion was re-routed this way during the heavy snowfall of 18th January 2013).

Merchant Navy class 4-6-2 no. 35028 'Clan Line' approaches Goat House Bridge, South Norwood on 9th February 2013

…and approaches Goat House Bridge as she heads on to Crystal Palace

I have gone a long way to see some of the remaining steam survivors around the world but it is good to have a reminder of the unrivalled steam heritage on offer in the UK. The wide variety of preserved railway lines in this country and the incredible number of steam specials that can be seen on the mainline is quite astonishing fifty years on from the supposed end of steam.

Christmas Past

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on December 25, 2011

The roads are quiet, nothing is moving in the nearby railway yards and the only sounds are the first stirrings of family. The familiar pattern of Christmas is embedded in my head so well that I could probably tell you the entire timetable for the day without waiting for it to unfold (and as a creature of habit I quite like that). However, there have been some unusual moments in past christmases that I had quite forgotten about until relatively recently.

Amongst the boxes of photographs, slides and cinefilms at my parent’s home I found a small collection of slide positives taken by my father on Christmas Day 1975 or 1976 which show at least eight Class 33 diesels lined up outside Norwood Loco. The diesels were only ever lined up like this at Christmas, from Christmas Eve round to sometime after Boxing day, when all the diesels were in the depot – this was one of a number of lines. Another line was made up of nothing but Electro Diesels (Class 73s).

A long line of Cromptons (Class 33 diesels) outside Norwood Loco

At the time of these photographs just one driver was booked on to look after the diesels (in later years a second man was also booked on). My father was booked on to do this duty on Christmas Day 1975 or 1976.

The general idea was that he would start the first diesel and work his way down the line. When the last one was running he would return to the first and start switching them off. This would generally happen only once or twice per line during the day, with the intention being to stop them getting frozen up. This was done each Christmas for many years (the sheds were usually filled up with electric stock and 350 shunters).

The thought of a yard filled with all these diesels now is almost impossible to imagine and I was far too young to appreciate just how rare such a sight would become in the years ahead. This was simply a moment to enjoy for what it was and I must have been in my element.

Headcode JB

On this occasion my father changed the headcode on the nearest Class 33 to show my initials, JB, which the photograph above illustrates. The final shot is a picture of me at the controls of one of the Class 33 diesels.

In the cab

After all this, I kept an interest in the railways for many years until I reached my late teens. After that, not so much – until a chance encounter with a steam locomotive at Poznan in 2004 re-awakened my long abandoned passion. However, maybe it was in this moment in 1975/76 that my interest in the railways really began…

Britannia passes through South Norwood

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on July 14, 2011

Britannia (BR Class 7MT 4-6-2 no 70000) passed through Norwood Junction on time at 10.38am en route from Lewes to Ely. I took a short video clip from a popular spot on Goat House Bridge which hopefully captures a little of the spectacular sight. It was definetly worth coming out to see – she really looked and sounded absolutely magnificent.

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Britannia, Bastille Day and Bicycling Cows

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on July 14, 2011

A happy coincidence saw the appearance of a steam locomotive in daylight through my local station, Norwood Junction, on bastille day. The thought occurred to me (and my brother) that this would present a great opportunity to witness the occasion and then chill out in front of a tv to savour what promised to be a key stage of this year’s Tour de France. How we could not take the day off work in the circumstances!?

The spectacle of a steam locomotive through my local station is a rare event and even rarer in daylight. I think the last time I saw that happen was in the mid 1990s, though I’ve seen a couple of locomotives pass through at night in the last five years.

Britannia passes through Norwood Junction

Once the geeky bit was out of the way I headed round to my folks to watch the Tour de France. Today’s stage took the riders from Cugnaux, across the Hourquette d’Ancizan, over the Col du Tourmalet and up to the summit of Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees. The combination of a category 1 climb with two hors categorie climbs would surely re-shuffle the pack we thought. As it transpired, the answer was both yes and no. The order at the top has been shuffled but incredibly Voeckler retains the yellow jersey – for now. For us, it was compelling viewing with the valiant efforts of Geraint Thomas for much of the day and later on watching the Schlecks attacking again and again on the final climb.

One of the strange things about watching the tour is that whilst you appreciate the immense physical effort required the effect of hours watching the rolling countryside (whether that is mountain tops, zig-zagging roads or castles) often seems to be to hypnotise you into a state of complete lethargy in your armchair (at least, that’s my excuse). And where else could you get the associated amusements of, for example, a cow riding a bicyle* (as we did today)!?

Finally, getting back to Bastille day I have to say that the photos taken from the air this year at this year’s parade were truly remarkable. In particular the shots of three jets (one Rafale and two Mirages) flying over Paris were quite remarkable, in particular the three jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and over La Defense. Quite unlike anything I’ve seen before.

*The bicycling cow was one of many creations made by French farmers in the fields adjacent to the tour to capture the eye of tv directors. My favourite this year has to be the moving bicycle created by tractors (for the wheels) and quad bikes (for the chain wheel) that appeared on stage 3 – check out this youtube clip of the bicycle made out of hay-bales and tractors.

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Gallery: Norwood Junction

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on July 14, 2011

Apart from the sight of a steam locomotive through Norwood Junction a couple of additional photo opportunities presented themselves whilst I was enjoying my day off, including the appearance of one of GB Railfreight’s newest acquisitions – a class 66 diesel from Colas Rail (so new in fact, that it was still in Colas Rail livery). The diesel was working empty spoil wagons down to the Bluebell Railway for the continuation of their waste by rail programme.

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Engineering work

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on July 2, 2011

The familiar tale of engineering work and travel disruption at the weekend is one of the frustrations that anyone in London soon gets used to (me included). However, for rail geeks it also provides the occasional pleasure of engineering trains to photograph. Just such a chance presented itself today as I headed out for the day…

Class 66 diesel 66717 runs through Norwood Junction just after midday on 2nd July 2011 whilst working 6G13 from Hoo Junction to West Norwood Junction.

Waste by rail

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on February 25, 2011

In the middle of a relaxing day off work I slotted in a moment to photograph class 66 diesel 66720 ‘Metronet Pathfinder’ passing through South Norwood with empty spoil wagons for Imberhorne Cutting on the Bluebell Railway. The “waste by rail” trains are being used to remove one thousand tons of waste each weekday as part of the ongoing work to clear the landfill that is blocking the extension of the railway to East Grinstead.

66720 'Metronet Pathfinder' on 6O10 Forders - East Grinstead seen passing through Norwood Junction at 12:33 on 25th February 2011

66720 'Metronet Pathfinder' on 6O10 Forders - East Grinstead seen passing through Norwood Junction at 12:33 on 25th February 2011

For further information on the four week “Waste by Rail” programme and the planned extension to the Bluebell Railway, see the Latest Progress towards East Grinstead page on the Bluebell Railway website.

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Snow in South Norwood

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on December 2, 2010

The snow has been in South Norwood for a few days now and the appeal has certainly worn off after a few chaotic commutes to London. The usual combination of frozen points, failed trains and overcrowding on the few trains running have all played their part in the experience. Roll on the spring summer!

On my walk to the station today to catch one of the few Southern services operating (an all stations shuttle service between East Croydon and London Bridge) I took a few shots of the local scene in South Norwood. Overall the area has not been as badly affected as in February 2009 but the heavy snow further south has certainly had quite an impact on services.

A Southern class 455 unit passes a Network Rail test train topped and tailed by 97301 and 31459 outside Norwood Junction

A Southern class 455 unit passes a Network Rail test train topped and tailed by 97301 and 31459 outside Norwood Junction


Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on October 30, 2010

There’s no doubting that autumn has arrived from the golden backdrop at the lineside, as seen here in this shot of preserved Hastings DEMU 1001 through Norwood Junction today. The DEMU was working ‘The Wandering Willow’ charity railtour for First GBRf and was on a leg from Newhaven Marine to Hastings (via London Bridge) when this shot was taken. A class 66 diesel was at the tail of the DEMU.

Hastings DEMU 1001 passes through Norwood Junction on 30 October 2010

Hastings DEMU 1001 passes through Norwood Junction on 30 October 2010

Scunthorpe to Eastbourne

Posted in England, South Norwood by folkestonejack on October 2, 2010

On Saturday 2nd October 2010 Railtourer operated a trip from Scunthorpe to Eastbourne with top and tailed class 47 diesels. I had the pleasure of catching sight of 47851 ‘Traction Magazine’ taking the lead on the way out on an unexpectedly sunny morning.

47851 passes through South Norwood on 2nd October 2010

47851 passes through South Norwood on 2nd October 2010