My books on the District Railway are out. Elsewhere I am noting corrections that need to be made, but the purpose of this page is to make brief amplifications to matters covered in the book about which more might have been said or where new information has become available to me.

It is a moot point whether there is much distinction between what goes here and what goes under 'essays', but so far as there is any difference what goes here is shorter and references the page numbers concerned.

Sion College Ventilator and Signalbox

On page 236 of Volume 1, I refer to the ventilator known as Sion College. It was on the western side of the corner of Victoria Embankment and Carmelite Street. On page 262 I mention the reputed signal box at Sion College. I say reputed because there are documents that refer to it but no evidence that it ever came into use. I attach, below, a copy of the Goad insurance plan covering this part of the line, from the 1880s. You can see on this plan the building known as Sion College (spelt Zion here) and the location of the ventilator just to the west. The plan clearly shows a signal box which, from the way it is portrayed, is clearly situated above the tracks.

Sion College

Shown below is a plan of the ventilator at the time consideration was being given to reducing its size. This suggests the signal box building was in the way and had to be removed. The loaction of the so-called disused building is shown, and this corresponds to the Goad plan. The adjacent cross section of the ventilator cutting shows the north wall to be raked back slightly. although this does not show the box structure, it is evident from the girder-work that the box must more or less have been at street level. How the box was accessed we do not know, nor whether any signalling apparatus was actually installed. The distance between Blackfriars and Temple was not as great as other locations where intermediate boxes were located which is probably why it was never commissioned.

Plan of ventilator

The District’s Stub Tunnels

On Page 52, I referred to a stub siding at the east end of St James' Park station that protruded underneath the road outside the station. This was the end of a layby siding where engines were coaled and watered during the time the line stopped at Westminster. I attach diagram below (not in book) showing the stub protruding under Broadway itself. The tunnel was disused after the extension to Blackfriars. Later platform extensions were build into this area and for a while the stub became a permanent way store. It is now part of the complex of service rooms behind the platform wall where it has been extended.

St James's Park Tunnel

For some months the District Railway used Blackfriars as its terminal station and temporary facilities were provided for replenishing locomotive water and carriage gas tanks. So far as it has been possible to establish, no locomotive run-round facilities were installed so a different loco took the train away from that which hauled it in. I had not thought about the matter any further before encountering the Goad Insurance plan (below), which shows a stub tunnel west of the station rather like the one at St James Park. THis implies that there might have been a short loco siding at Blackfriars for the same purpose. It might be argued this seems a lot of trouble to go to for a facility with such a short expected life, but so was that at St James's Park.

It is a point of interest that the tunnel is not shown on Ordnance Survey maps, which purport to show the route of the District Railway. A close examination of the earlier editions of the 1:1250 and 1:2500 maps of this area suggest the route shown by the OS is actually incorrect and should be regarded as indicative only. There appears to have been no obligation on the OS to survey and map features that are entirely underground and cannot be seen from the surface (later maps did correct the route, for some reason, but still omitted the stub, which might well have been closed off.

The Goad Plans were interested in fire risk and surveyors had more interest in what was going on under the ground, so might well have felt it worthwhile recording this below-ground space. But, assuming it was there, what happened to it? I estimate the tunnel peeled off about 120ft west of the platform ends, at about the point where the west side of the bridge then terminated. This area was profoundly altered when the bridge was widened from 75 to 105ft on its western side and LCC's electric tramlines installed. This took place between 1907 and 1909 and resulted in nnew tramlines installed over made ground in a very sharp curve. The scale of the construction and associated roadworks was tremendous. In addition, a public subway was installed that crossed the District at more or less the spot where this stub tunnel had been. The District tunnel (a brick arch) was altered to carry the subway across it and probably all trace of the old stub tunnel disappeared at the same time. In 1961-2 the District platforms were extended at the west end, but the extension stopped about a cars length east of the point the old stub is shown on the map.

I am inclined to think this tunnel might well have been built, but would be a great deal happier if I found some confirmatory evidence.

Blackfriars Station Engine Tunnel


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