Old North Woolwich Station
Image by wirewiping
The rather grand North Woolwich Station, built in the Italianate style, was opened by the Eastern Counties Railway in 1847 and served a ferry linking to the busy dockyard town of Woolwich on the opposite bank. Although the name North Woolwich might appear to be a railway invention, it was actually the correct geographic name for this location as a historic quick meant that this small enclave on the north side of the Thames was part of the Borough of Woolwich in the administrative County of Kent – an anomaly that persisted until the creation of Greater London on 1st April 1965 when North Woolwich was incorporated into the new London Borough of Newham.
The station prospered, especially with the construction of the Royal Docks between 1855 and 1921 and the lack of any real competition from road transport. However this changed with the construction of the new Silvertown Way in the 1930s, part of a Government Scheme to reduce unemployment by funding transport infrastructure schemes; not least because London Transport decided that the trolleybuses which replacing trams in East London would be extended along the new road, from Canning Town to Silvertown and North Woolwich. After the Second World War the Docks went into decline, and so did the train service – by 1978 it had been reduced to a shuttle from Stratford, and looked set for closure.
The Greater London Council instead set about reviving the line. In May 1979 the service was extended to Camden Road, with new stations at Hackney Central and Hackney Wick (opened 1980); existing stations were given new, and very basic, facilities; this included North Woolwich which had a new building added to the side. All this was a pre-cursor to electrification in May 1985, which saw the service incorporated into the North London Line with trains running from North Woolwich to Richmond. In the meantime the old Station building at North Woolwich was refurbished and opened by Newham Council as a local Railway Museum.
It was the development of other railways in the area which finally killed off the North Woolwich Line. The Beckton line of the Docklands Light Railway opened in March 1994 and the Jubilee Line was extended to Canning Town and Stratford at the end of 1999, but it was the coming of the line to King George V in December 2005 (since extended to Woolwich Arsenal) that finally rendered the old line redundant; services between Stratford and North Woolwich were withdrawn after 9th December the following year. Since then the route between Stratford and Canning Town has been reused by the Stratford International branch of the DLR (opened August 2011). The section between Custom House and North Woolwich is being incorporated into the Abbey Wood branch of Crossrail, due to open in 2018; however as the line has to tunnel under the Thames a portal is being built to the west of here, so its is unlikely that a train will ever run into this station again. Even the Museum closed in November 2008, a victim of funding cuts (its exhibits and papers were moved elsewhere), so once again this grand building faces an uncertain future.
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