An Important Link between Britain’s Northern and Southern Lines
A GENERAL VIEW of Clapham Junction showing, on the extreme left, the Brighton lines, in the centre the West of England main lines, and to the right, the Windsor and Reading tracks. The total area enclosed by its platforms is 24¼ acres. Clapham Junction is the second largest station in Great Britain.
IT has been said, in a phrase that has become proverbial, that everyone one meets,
sooner or later, under the clock of Charing Cross Station. Of another Southern Railway
Clapham Junction retains many distinctions even in an age in which the records of
It adds to its other activities that of serving as one of the main transfer and interchange
points for passenger and goods traffic passing between the main railway systems north
and south of the Thames. Its name has naturally, therefore, become synonymous with
that of a busy meeting-
To understand why Clapham Junction should hold the record for passenger train movements,
it is necessary to understand something of the history and geography of the railways
south of the Thames, and of the special conditions existing on those lines, as far
as short distance traffic is concerned. As well as dealing with the traffic of “foreign”
companies, Clapham Junction serves both the Western (London and South-
The main reason for the exceptionally heavy traffic movements at both Victoria and
Waterloo is that the Southern Railway is predominantly a passenger-
The whole of the long-
The importance of Clapham Junction will be appreciated when it is remembered that
from the beginning Waterloo was called on to handle a large and constantly growing
traffic. The traffic grew in spite of the pessimistic predictions that were so freely
made when the London and Southampton railway -
The Junction's Importance
But, although a running road with four tracks was remarkable in those early days,
it shortly afterwards became necessary to enlarge the terminus by the building of
It is interesting to speculate on what might have happened if, for reasons explained in "The Story of the Southern" which begins on page 643, the Brighton and the London, Chatham and Dover Railways had not both fixed on Victoria as a terminal site. The Brighton line did not reach the site of Clapham Junction until many years after the London and South Western. The original Brighton line terminus was at London Bridge, and Victoria Station was not opened until 1860, although a line between London and Brighton was in use throughout as early as 1841.
The third Partner, so to speak, in Clapham Junction is the West London Extension
Railway. This line, which is five miles in length, possesses neither locomotives
SEVEN SIGNAL BOXES control the traffic working at Clapham Junction, three of which
The West London Railway, originally known by the high-
The combined system, insignificant though it is in point of mileage, occupies a position
of importance on the British railway traffic map, since it connects the Southern
Railway with the LMS (via Willesden Junction), and also links up with the Great Western
main line. This railway link has largely served to make Clapham Junction such an
important centre for interchange and transfer traffic. Figures alone, impressive
though they are, fail to give an adequate idea of the volume of traffic with which
Clapham Junction is called on to deal. Because of the nature and variety of the business,
and the fluctuations in engine movements and other operations, no exact statistics
are available. Officially, the total number of trains dealt with by the signalmen
Nearly one every thirty seconds; this figure is considerably exceeded during the rush hours, when a train passes through the station every twenty seconds.
The peak periods are from 8 to 10 am and from 5 to 7 pm (except on Saturdays). It
is during those hours that Clapham Junction assumes its most striking aspect, since
the immense volume of suburban traffic is swollen by the important long-
It is doubtful whether the vast majority of the travellers who pass through Clapham
Junction every working day of their lives ever realize the great size of the station.
This is remarkably deceptive, partly because of the somewhat fan-
Traffic developments within recent years have somewhat altered the place of Clapham Junction as an interchange and transfer centre. It remains the link between the systems north and south of the Thames. But some of the through goods traffic has been diverted to Nine Elms, where the space available for the handling of general merchandise has been increased since the removal of the locomotive and carriage building shops to Eastleigh. Although the London and South Western Railway’s workshops were situated at Nine Elms during the greater part of that company's existence as a separate undertaking, their removal to a site outside the London area had already been contemplated many years before.
One important effect of this diversion of traffic to Nine Elms, which has incidentally deprived the Junction of its place as the great clearing house for the potato traffic from the Channel Islands, has been to lessen the amount of “foreign” trains using Clapham Junction. At one time those trains represented practically every main line entering London, each company working the traffic by its own locomotives, as is still done by the Great Western Railway. Not the least interesting chapter in the history of the station relates to the through passenger services worked in the past by “foreign” companies, or running to and from the lines of other undertakings. Perhaps the best known example of the former was the London and North Western Railway’s service from Willesden Junction to Croydon.
The “Sunny South Express"
Among the vanished long-
largely been rendered unnecessary by the provision of other travelling facilities on a much larger scale. Another discontinued service was one between Ludgate Hill and Clapham Junction; but through passenger traffic is no longer worked between the Junction and the Eastern Section of the Southern Railway.
Traffic working at Clapham Junction s controlled by no fewer than seven signal boxes,
of which three are electro-
Apart from its record in connexion with passenger train movements, Clapham Junction occupies an unusual position as a traffic centre. There are other stations within the London area, such as Westbourne Park, Willesden Junction, and Finsbury Park, whose geographical situation in relation to the terminus is more or less comparable. But none of these has a comparable importance; their traffic is much lighter, and none of them serves two main lines, which is one of the unique characteristics of Clapham Junction.
This geographical position made it of importance during the war of 1914-
THE DOWN “BRIGHTON BELLE” passing Clapham Junction. The electric express is scheduled
to cover the 51-
[From part 36, published 4 October 1935]