diamond geezer

 Friday, August 31, 2012

The Docklands Light Railway is 25 years old today. The Queen went for a ride back in July 1987, but it wasn't until 31st August that the general public came aboard. The London Docklands Development Corporation wasn't expecting their fledgling railway to be quite such a big hit. The first trains had only one carriage, the platforms were little more than elevated shelters, and there were only two short lines. Both ran to Island Gardens, the green line from Tower Gateway and the red line from Stratford, with both following former or existing railway lines for much of their length. Trains ran every seven and a half minutes during the day, which on the Stratford stretch is better than we sometimes get today. There was no Canary Wharf development at the time, except on the drawing board, so the tracks curved like a monorail across docks that still echoed East London's maritime trading past.

A series of three leaflets were produced at the time, which for 20p allowed DLR riders to look out of the window and enjoy "A Journey Through History". They're brief but lovely, and just a bit rail-geek-tastic. Head over to Harry's's website and you can print them out for a journey today, as well as explore several other leaflets from 1987, beyond and before. There are lots of photos of the original stations too - so modern, yet so dated. A few related websites you might enjoy include thetrams.co.uk, London Reconnection's pictorial celebration of the DLR at 25, Clive's Underground line guide and the original passenger timetable.

A heck of a lot's changed on the DLR since those early days. Six new extensions have been built, tracks have been realigned, stations moved and trains extended. So much change indeed that it's hard to find much evidence of 1987 out there at all. I've been out trying to uncover some, probably inexpertly, and I'm sure you'll tell me what I've got wrong or missed out. But I do know that the three stations which most resemble their original selves are on the Stratford branch, including my local station Bow Church. Let's have a look around the network for evidence...

Red line
Stratford: Terminus of the 25-year-old railway, but the too-small single platform was completely replaced by a grander structure in the summer of 2007.
Pudding Mill Lane: Not an original station. Was added, in a safeguarded loop, in January 1996. Scheduled for Crossrail-related rebirth next year.
Bow Church: A true original, although dressed up and extended since. The giant grey shelter above the entrance is 21st century, but the brick kiosk between the lift entrances is original. One of the large white globe lights remains, the other recently disappeared presumed smashed. It's the platforms that would feel most familiar to 25-year-old passengers, even though they've been extended to two carriages and then three since [photo]. The curved blue roof covering used to be commonplace at all DLR stations, now it's rare, although only the section nearest Bow Road is original [photo]. But for the best example of ye olde 1987, check at the bottom of the stairs at the entrance to the southbound platform. One staff telephone remains, securely locked inside a metal casing, with "For Docklands Light Railway employees only" on a red and blue background in the original font.
Devons Road: A short distance down the line, somewhere you'd never go unless you were local, another original. Designwise it's the twin of Bow Church, although the street level entrance is narrower and split level, and as yet unaugmented by an overarching shelter. Again the platform has blue curving shelters, which have survived because the station abuts the road so can only be extended southward [photo]. And yay, there's another original staff telephone, in an identical position, in case you have a key and want to ring in to some long unstaffed HQ.
Langdon Park: A recent addition, again in a safeguarded location, opened as recently as December 2007.
All Saints: The third of the 25-year-old survivors, and similar in style to the other two - brick kiosk, narrow stairs, curved blue shelters, ancient staff telephone. And one huge change since 1987 visible from the asymmetric platforms - the towers of Canary Wharf poking above the local housing estates. [photo]
Poplar: The hub of the DLR network, then as now, although the "Delta Junction" close by has since been replaced by a spaghetti junction of flyovers. Wholly restructured in 1994 to accommodate the Beckton extension.
West India Quay: An early rebuild, extended in 1993 from two short to four longer platforms.
Canary Wharf: Was due to open in 1987, but emerging plans for Docklands meant it was already being redesigned when the rest of the line opened, and the six platform trainshed didn't see service until 1991. Check the two fire escape staircases at each end of the station, because they're still labelled with 21-year-old signs reading "Push Bar To Open" and "Warning Automatic Railway Electrified Tracks". Not quite original, but a lovely echo of the past. [photo]
Heron Quays: Entirely rebuilt as part of the Lehman Brothers building between September 2001 and December 2002.
South Quay: Entirely rebuilt alongside a less bendy section of track in 2009, to accommodate three-carriage trains.
Crossharbour: Almost original, but not - it's been revamped.
Mudchute and Island Gardens: Nothing remains of the original DLR stations, built atop the viaduct of the old Millwall Extension Railway, although the viaduct remains through Millwall Park. Reopened at ground level/underground in 1999 when the DLR extension to Lewisham was completed.

Green line
Tower Gateway: The platforms suffered a complete rebuild recently to accommodate one long train rather than two shorter trains. But the domed entrance up via the escalators from Tower Hill, that's pretty much original, and still very of its time. [photo]
Bank: No no no, this was the first DLR extension in 1991 (which famously cost millions more than the entire original network four years earlier).
Shadwell, Limehouse and Westferry: Sort-of original, but each relentlessly extended and upgraded (including new canopies) so that 1980s features are very hard to find.
West India Quay to Island Gardens: as above

Some might argue that the DLR's 25th birthday, at the height of the Paralympics, is its finest hour. A 100%-accessible railway linking almost every important Paralympic venue... if it hadn't existed LOCOG might have needed to build it from scratch. The DLR recorded its highest ever ridership earlier this month - more than half a million passengers in one day - and made travelling to the Games an absolute breeze. Those of us who live round here sometimes take its simplicity and reliability for granted, whereas we should instead realise how lucky we are to have this child of the 80s on our doorstep.

As the DLR's silver jubilee passes, the only sad thing is that there are currently no serious plans to extend the network any further. With political and economic considerations stifling growth I guess we'll have to make do with excellence over aspiration... on the 25-year-old train that Londoners still can't resist sitting up front and pretending to drive.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
life viewed from london e3

email    twitter    G+

my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
853
arseblog
ian visits
londonist
scaryduck
blue witch
the great wen
onionbagblog
edith's streets
spitalfields life
linkmachinego
tired of london
in the aquarium
round the island
christopher fowler
thamesfacingeast
one bus at a time
ruth's coastal walk
london reconnections
uk general election 2015

read the archive
Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

diamond geezer 2013 index
diamond geezer 2012 index
diamond geezer 2011 index
diamond geezer 2010 index
diamond geezer 2009 index
diamond geezer 2008 index
diamond geezer 2007 index
diamond geezer 2006 index
diamond geezer 2005 index
diamond geezer 2004 index
diamond geezer 2003 index
diamond geezer 2002 index

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
cube routes
metro-land
capital ring
river fleet
piccadilly
bakerloo

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
boredom
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters
iceland

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
thunderbirds
routemaster
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
amsterdam
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
typewriters
doctor who
coronation
comments
blue peter
matchgirls
hurricanes
buzzwords
brookside
monopoly
peter pan
starbucks
feng shui
leap year
manbags
penelope
bbc three
vision on
piccadilly
meridian
concorde
wembley
islington
ID cards
bedtime
freeview
beckton
blogads
eclipses
letraset
arsenal
sitcoms
gherkin
calories
everest
muffins
sudoku
camilla
london
ceefax
robbie
becks
dome
BBC2
paris
lotto
118
itv