The Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway

The History of Sydenham from Cippenham to present day. Links to photos especially welcome!

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Postby Steve Grindlay » 19 Apr 2008 14:31

This is a slightly earlier account of the railway. It is from the Illustrated London News of 10 Sept 1864, so was written at about the time the line was operating and, presumably, is a first-hand account:
Image
I've also got a better version of this picture, from the same edition of the ILN:
Image
All accounts say that this station, from where passengers began their journey, was near the Sydenham Gate. Behind the train is the boiler house and to the right of the boiler house is the casing enclosing the fan. The pipe referred to would only have extended from the fan to a point just beyond the entrance to the tunnel, no more than a few yards, so it can have nothing to do with the "pipe" you referred to earlier.

Yesterday I had a look at the area you suggested might be the site of the tunnel, and took this photograph:
Image

There is a barely perceptible shallow depression, from close to the path at the left of the picture, curving away towards the information centre in the centre distance. However, if you follow it, the depression continues round the cricket pitch, perhaps making a complete circuit. I'm fairly sure it is all that is left of a miniature railway ran round the pitch some years ago.
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Postby neilgunn » 20 Apr 2008 00:22

Your photo is interesting. Ive seen the miniature railway marked out on a map and read references to it. Im amazed how visible these marks are from ground level. Nothing from the air, this could be due to the height of the sun (no shadows) when the aerial image was taken. The 'straight line' is visible because the grass is a different shade, lighter and darker!

The pipe may have nothing to to with the railway, but its at the same angle as the grass line. Somehow I can't rule it out.

Mark Brader sent me this really visible image of a park tunnel in Toronto. In this case it was built 40 years ago.

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=43.693381 ... 00144&z=19

And this one is where the docklands light railway dives down under the thames towards woolwich. This was consructed fairly recently.

http://maps.google.co.uk/maps/ms?hl=en& ... 6&t=h&z=18


If the line on the map is a tunnel then its puzzling why it appears to stop. This could be because its close the surface at this point and gets deeper. Or it has collapsed along this section or vice versa.

I noticed that its a long downward slope towards where the 'tunnel' exited
at the penge end. Reading the 1864 account there is mention of an 'incline' on leaving the lower terminus. The top of the incline could be where the grass line dissappears - tantalizing.
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Postby neilgunn » 20 Apr 2008 10:25

neilgunn wrote:
And this one is where the docklands light railway dives down under the thames towards woolwich. This was consructed fairly recently.



Sorry I meant towards Greenwich. Well I was Up late so thats my excuse!!
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Postby will greenwood » 20 Apr 2008 10:37

..This is becoming very interesting.
I just wanted to suggest an alternative.
imagine the station at Sydenham gate being in a cutting, with the tunnel entering the raised ground adjacent to the road...then following a course similar to that marked in blue here;

Image

i'm probably wrong, but it does have some merit, and I remember an old family friend saying the route was under where the adventure playground was....
just a thought.
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Postby MartinH » 20 Apr 2008 12:28

A piece of string 176 yards long would be interesting. I'd be up for it but would need an accomplice. Anyone out there?
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 20 Apr 2008 15:39

That is the route I believe it followed, Will, very similar to yours:
Image
I used the scale at the bottom of the map, which shows chains and feet. The ILN article tells us that the line was 600 yards long with a curve of 8 chains radius. So, using a piece of string (it would have been neater if I had a pair of compasses) , I made a curve of 8 chains radius at the point where the curve seemed likely; 8 chains is the distance from the curve to the "C" in "Cricket". I then extended the line in both directions until it was the equivalent of 600 yards, and it all fitted in rather nicely. What particularly pleased me was that it led directly to a building near the Penge Gate which could well have been the remains of the other station.
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route of atmospheric railway

Postby peter coppin » 20 Apr 2008 17:08

Looking at all the posts and the engravings - it appears to be the most feasible route, it is also noted from the ILN that the gradiant was 1 in 15. Since your route goes through what appears to be a man made mound - could the sydenham end gone underground and if so could there be any truth in rumour that there was a teribble accident and the carriage was sealed up in the tunnel (The where abouts got lost in history).

I might be mad but who knows L.O.L

Peter
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Postby will greenwood » 20 Apr 2008 17:15

hi Steve,
yep. I reckon you're pretty close there.
I did consider the sydenham gate station being in the hilly area by the gate house...it does make sense, from those pictures.

here's a rough overlay;
Image

...it seems as if the cutting is further east than I originally thought, and may still be extant in the wooded area east of the footpath, here;
Image
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Postby neilgunn » 21 Apr 2008 15:32

will greenwood wrote:
I remember an old family friend saying the route was under where the adventure playground was....
just a thought.


Hi Will, Where was the adventure palyground?

Some very good theories here. On the face of it they look plausable.
I have a few gripes though!

The 'building' at the bottom end of the line was built before 1864, it appears on the 62 map.

If this was to do with the railway then where is the north station buildings, engine house, fan,etc.

If that was a cutting then why is it so large. It looks to wide even for a single track main line railway. It cant of been that deep here. If it was then there wouldnt of been much of an incline from leaving penge.

The line was in a tunnel all the way, why did it need a cutting?
This feature is described as 'rifle range' on one of steve's maps here.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevegrindlay/2364021000/sizes/l/

If this was known to be the course of the railway then it would of been common knowledge, and photographs taken at a later date.

The plate image above of sydenham station reveals something. In the far right distance the ground rises and looks higher than the left side. Does this reflect the terrain on the proposed route looking this direction? I dont know this area so I cant argue. Also I cant see the entrance track from sydenham gate over the tunnel.

This image might not be accurate though and could of been altered/enhanced.

The line could of been on this route. But the features mentioned dont convince me. Its possible that no part of the line survived long enough for it to be recorded on to a map. Who Knows!!!

I think we should contact Time Team!!
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Postby MartinH » 21 Apr 2008 19:44

I am still amazed that no photographs have survived of what was a ground breaking invention.There also appear to be no first hand accounts of the ride. You would have thought that some one would have written about the experience in typical Victorian fashion, especially the noise of the partial vacuum and the blackness of the carriage. Is it not possible that both the illustrations are artists impressions of what was proposed? I can remember in the early seventies an article in the News Shopper saying that there was to be an excavation adjacent to the adventure playgroung to hopefully discover the pneumatic railway. I attended this dig together with a few dignitaries and authors. Two or three trenches were dug crossing a very lush line of grass and eventually a brick pipe approx. 3 feet in diameter was found. A few bricks were removed and the pipe was, obviously, found to be full of water. At the time it was thought to be a pipe connecting the lower lake to the intermediate one. With all this renewed interest it occurred to me that perhaps a smaller scale pneumatic railway was built as the Victorians were not quite sure what effect the vacuum would have on the human body. Just a thought
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Postby neilgunn » 21 Apr 2008 20:00

MartinH wrote:I can remember in the early seventies an article in the News Shopper saying that there was to be an excavation adjacent to the adventure playgroung to hopefully discover the pneumatic railway. I attended this dig together with a few dignitaries and authors. Two or three trenches were dug crossing a very lush line of grass and eventually a brick pipe approx. 3 feet in diameter was found. A few bricks were removed and the pipe was, obviously, found to be full of water. At the time it was thought to be a pipe connecting the lower lake to the intermediate one.


Hi, Was that the same line I highlighted on google?
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Postby MartinH » 21 Apr 2008 20:19

Hi Neil, I can't remember the exact location but I think it was nearer the footpath. If you look on 192.com you will see a different set of lines in the same area so I think it is inconclusive, possibly seasonal?
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Postby will greenwood » 21 Apr 2008 21:07

perhaps when the rifle range was built, they dug back into the tunnel to open up the area...just a thought...
the adventure playground was somewhere along the area that was sold off*, opposite the bell.
its a mystery that there are no comprehensive maps or blueprints

(*I was surprised how much of that side of the park has gone....i hear rhey're selling off part of rockhills now too...shame)
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Postby gone » 21 Apr 2008 21:30

"*I was surprised how much of that side of the park has gone...."


Give Bromley Council half a chance and it will cover the park with houses.

Probably the last rotten borough in existance, I could tll some stories about vested interests there....
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Postby peter coppin » 22 Apr 2008 02:48

Hi

Just a point of information - from these posts there are 2 seperate articles - on the railway - the ILN and the new york times? - both with measurements.
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Postby neilgunn » 22 Apr 2008 10:07

peter coppin wrote:Hi

Just a point of information - from these posts there are 2 seperate articles - on the railway - the ILN and the new york times? - both with measurements.


Yes I should of said. The NYT article dates from 1869 presumably after the railway was long long. This could account for error in length described as 'nearly a mile long'. The rest of the info sounds plausable though.
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Postby neilgunn » 22 Apr 2008 10:08

My spellings terrible. Must slow down.
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 22 Apr 2008 13:49

Will, was the adventure playground you mentioned more like an army assault course in the wooded area? I took a look at that area yesterday; I couldn't get in, but peered over the fence from the footpath. Just the other side of the fence there is a fairly steep drop, more or less aligned with the western edge of that oblong feature; it looks as though, as you suggested, it is "still ... extant in the wooded area east of the footpath".

The suggested line of the railway may not be correct; apparently, the excavation in the late 1980s was to the west of the footpath, near the northern end of the cricket ground. If the features in the photographs of the excavation were really part of the railway it is hard to fit a 600 yard track, between Sydenham and Penge gates, with a bend with an 8 chain radius, into the space available (at least, I can't do it with my piece of string). But then, without seeing a report of the excavation, it is difficult to be sure what they did find.
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Postby will greenwood » 22 Apr 2008 18:28

it certainly was like an assault course,
I think it did stretch into that area at some point, because it took up quite a lot of that side of the path.
that excavation report would be useful.
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Postby Steve Grindlay » 24 Apr 2008 10:16

Near the beginning of this thread Falkor mentioned the definitive article on the pneumatic railway. It's now available and makes fascinating reading, although it still doesn't answer the question of where, precisely, the track went. I've uploaded the images in a fairly accessible size but if you click on each image, and then click again, you can get a more readable version.

Image

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Image

Image

Image

Image

Image
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