The Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway

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The Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway

Postby Falkor » 17 Nov 2007 21:57

Does this photo look like remains of the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway to you? If so then please can you explain how the 2 wooden objects, including the metal thing in-between, fit into a railway system! Also, don't forget to mention which direction you think the railway track was running. Kenny should be good at this one I reckon... hopefully, he'll tell us it's something else other than a railway! :wink:
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The excavation was carried out in the late 80s, and the above view is looking directly down into the bottom of the trench; they were only allowed to dig one trench, which brings me onto my next question: could they have really known exactly where to dig based on an aerial photo!?
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Obviously, the ground looks very rough in places, particularly where the funfair used to be sited inside a tennis court, but still... I don't believe they could find the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway from an aerial photo. Looking at the colour view above (they used an inferior B&W one), can you trace lines where you think sections of the railway line may have stretched? Also, If you manage to spot any Roman trackways or Saxon field boundaries then do let us know!!! :roll:
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Postby Rebelmc » 18 Nov 2007 18:44

Obviously if it is part of the pneumatic railway, it's an end because most of it was in a tunnel.

The bit of wood looks the right dimensions to be a sleeper or part of a platform, but if you mean by piece of metal that thing in the middle that the bloke's shovel is resting on, then that doesn't look like a rail to me.

As I understand it, the railway ran for only about 600 yards from the Penge entrance.
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Postby Falkor » 18 Nov 2007 19:14

I know the dig was near the Sydenham entrance, so is close to one end. However, the tunnel was constructed almost entirely above ground anyway.

Okay, so you're not sure whether it's a sleeper or part of a platform? If it's a sleeper then which direction should they be resting in comparison to the rails?
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In this photo you can see the rails running verically and the sleepers running horizontally--is that the kind of sleeper you are referring to? Why wasn't there any rails or stones found?

The metal thing definitely isn't a rail, so what is it?
Image
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Postby Rebelmc » 18 Nov 2007 19:27

If that is a sleeper in the top picture, and assuming it's in it's original position, then the rails would be running from top to bottom of the picture.

It could be part of a platform construction, some of which were pretty primitive, possibly just piles of sleepers.

There wouldn't necessarily be any ballast because they didn't always use it then.

As for rails, I'm pretty certain they wouldn't have been left in situ, they could've been reused (the railway only ran for a few months, so they would've been in pretty good nick) or sold for scrap.

As for the mystery pipe, it looks like the sort of conduit they used to run electrical and/or phone lines in.
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Postby kennyb2 » 18 Nov 2007 21:27

Myself I don`t think they look anything like part of a railway.
What ever the top item is it looks as if it has been well worn buy something running over it, perhaps rope?
There is so much junk buried under years of disturbance at the Palace
grounds this could be absolutely anything.

heres an Illustrated London News engraving, the whole set up was only 600 yard long;
I think people confuse this pnuematic railway with the one that ran along the Forest hill line and suffered from rats eating the leather.
Two entirely different projects.

http://i67.photobucket.com/albums/h314/ ... 001136.jpg
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Postby kennyb2 » 18 Nov 2007 22:18

actually there is no worn bit, its my bad eyes; Also I think that the pipe is nothing more than a land drain, judging by the socketed ends
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Postby Nicholas » 19 Nov 2007 11:03

Is it possible that it is just part of the park amazing systam of underground pipes that where used to pump the fountains.
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Postby neilgunn » 13 Apr 2008 22:13

Image

Whilst looking at google earth I found this. Ive highlighted it with two red lines. Between them it looks like a straight line. This could mean that there is a shallow tunnel here or something else in the past. Looking at a 1874 map on Old maps. There appears to be a collection of buildings at the bottom end where the tunnel entrance was?
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Postby lambchops » 13 Apr 2008 23:04

does a pneumatic railway have to run "on rails"? if it was only a short distance then maybe they just used regular wheels?

i've no idea, obviously, but it's just a different thought.
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Postby neilgunn » 14 Apr 2008 17:12

lambchops wrote:does a pneumatic railway have to run "on rails"? if it was only a short distance then maybe they just used regular wheels?

i've no idea, obviously, but it's just a different thought.


Using metal wheel to rail technology would be the most logical as it has the least resistance compared to rubber tyres.

Some basic info can be found here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Palace_pneumatic_railway
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 14 Apr 2008 18:59

The best known illustration of the pneumatic railway, as shown in the Wikipedia article, clearly shows rails.

Neil, I don't think your image shows the line of the railway. I've uploaded some maps of that section of the park. The earliest is dated 1862, before the railway was built. The other maps are dated 1864 and 1871 and show a feature that appears to be an embankment running across the field from north to south. I believe this is the line of the tunnel. This is the 1871 map:
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Edited to correct the date of the map
Last edited by Steve Grindlay on 19 Apr 2008 05:32, edited 4 times in total.
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Postby neilgunn » 14 Apr 2008 21:09

Hi, Steve Ive had a look at your maps. I cant see the embankment though. What I can see is something marked 'pipe' that first appears on the 1864 map. This is on the same alignment and length as the mark in the grass! And there is an engine house at the bottom end and something called a suction basin. Was this an above ground section of the tunnel or something else. Coincidence?

I contacted Nick Catford (Subrit.org) with the aerial photo. According to him it was in a wooden tunnel (described as brick on his site!) sitting in a trough on the surface, possibly on that alignment.

On Frederic Delaitre's page the line is described as being 1/4 a mile long between the Penge and Sydenham entrances. The sydenham end is not clear on your 1864 map. I wonder if you have this on your later maps.
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 15 Apr 2008 18:59

I'm fairly sure that features marked "Lower Engine House", "Artesian Well" and "Pipe" were part of the complicated process for supplying water to the fountains. I have now encircled the embankment I was referring to.

There are two very good books on atmospheric and pneumatic railways, by Charles Hadfield (1967) and Howard Clayton (1966). From these it is clear that the tunnel extended from the Sydenham Gate to the Penge Gate. The tunnel was lined with brick, was 10 feet high, 9 feet wide and 600 yards long. It had a single track and a station at each end. Power was supplied by a stationary engine at the Sydenham Gate end that drove a 22 foot fan that blew or sucked the train along the tunnel. There was a single carriage that could take up to 35 passengers. The train had a collar, with a thick fringe of bristles that pressed against the tunnel walls, sealing the gap between the train and the tunnel.The railway only operated for a few months in 1864

The following pictures (the only known pictures of the railway) show the station and train at the Sydenham Gate end of the tunnel.
Image

Image

The excavation referred to above was conducted by the mysterious Marquis de Saint Empire in 1989 in an area near the One O'Clock Club by the Sydenham Gate.
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Postby Falkor » 15 Apr 2008 19:09

There are two very good books on atmospheric and pneumatic railways, by Charles Hadfield (1967) and Howard Clayton (1966).

The most authoritative account of the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway was published in a 2-part article in 1993 by the London Railway Record (if I remember correctly); will try and upload scans sometime soon considering there is now some interest in this subject.
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Postby neilgunn » 15 Apr 2008 20:19

Steve Grindlay wrote:I have now encircled the embankment I was referring to.



The formation that is circled looks like some sort of quarry excavation to me. As the ground rises it gets deeper. Looking at the direction of the lines I dont see how that is an embankment.
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Postby Falkor » 15 Apr 2008 20:25

1993

Sorry, I meant 2003. I guess I'm feeling a bit tired tonight...
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Postby neilgunn » 16 Apr 2008 14:07

Thats a nice set of clear pictures, the second one ive not seen before.

Looking at the line in the grass again,judging by the cars it looks to be about 10 - 15ft in width and 350ft long. I that is only a 'pipe' than how can this be so wide? And its visible 140 years later! Could it be a site of a recent excavation. It puzzling because its not visible on multimap. Perhaps its only visible after a prolonged dry period etc.
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Postby marymck » 16 Apr 2008 18:57

In the 80s I was working in the BBC's History & Archaeology Department and had a really good friend who was a pilot. We had some amazing summers when the weather conditions were just right to show the underground remains of ancient buildings and settlements. In fact I put up a programme suggestion for a series where we would go looking for rumoured sites from the air, follow up with ground penetrating radar and archival research and then excavate them. The BBC wasn't interested.
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Postby neilgunn » 17 Apr 2008 23:01

Ive just found this article on the net. It a New York times article describing the line at the time. I searched for atmospheric instead of pneumatic. It goes into great detail and mentions a 'pipe' that was connected to the tunnel!! It sounds like the one on the map!


http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3110/2422139958_ce9a406196_b.jpg
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Postby neilgunn » 17 Apr 2008 23:10

Image
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