The DLR 30 years ago (2)

The DLR 30 years ago (2)

As I pointed out in Part One of this feature, the opening of the DLR to the public was not without its problems. Our train which was bound for Island Gardens got diverted to Poplar. On the next day, the 1st of September 1987, I encountered a somewhat more serious problem on the DLR as my pictures from the early days of the DLR show.

I rode in the front of Train 03 from Tower Gateway to Island Gardens. The trip took about fifty minutes as opposed to the usual twenty minutes or so because 03 had become very temperamental, stopping in the middle of nowhere, and refusing to start.

As we left Tower Gateway 03 suddenly stopped. The train captains restarted it and progressed to Shadwell without incident. En route to Limehouse it stopped again. Another restart and then as 03 approached Limehouse it stopped on the sharp bends there and refused to enter the station!

The train captains (we had two on this train) took over and drove 03 manually into Limehouse station where it was put back on auto (that’s the SelTrac CBTC system.) 03 ventured onto the long viaduct above the Regent’s Canal basin before cutting out completely and refused to budge. No amount of adjusting the controls would prompt 03 to move forward.

The train captains trying to coax 03 to move from its spot above the canal basin at Limehouse.

Compared to the first day, 31 August 1987, the 1st September was a very hot day and being stuck on a train above Limehouse soon made it feel like a sauna. It took about fifteen or twenty minutes before the train captains could coax 03 to move. Even then it cut out again as progress was made towards Westferry and West India Quay. It was somewhat surprising the train controllers didn’t decide 03 should be diverted to Poplar like we had experienced with train 06 the previous day.

I imagine the line controllers had identified a teething problem and this may have been the reason for wanting to keep train 03 in service so they could see what the system was getting up to. The train managed the steep climb up to the delta junction without coming to a stop and reached West India Quay. After a long radio conversation with line control, it was decided 03 should continue in service and amazingly it managed the rest of the journey to Island Gardens without a further hitch!

The original route to Island Gardens was superseded in 1999 by the new line to Lewisham.
The photographs shown below are of great interest because even some of the early buildings that were constructed for the new Docklands no longer exist! The red building that was constructed over Middle Dock was I think a hostel and was demolished quite a few years ago. The tall flats seen behind it are still there, considerably modified in appearance.

Canary Wharf station didnt exist in 1987 and that is why there is nothing to see in the next picture depicting the section of DLR between West India Quay and Heron Quays. The ‘island’ on which Canary Wharf now stands wasn’t even big enough and more than half of the adjoining docks had to be filled in. Its amazing to think that on the left of the railway, a huge 800ft skyscraper would eventually rise with a enormous shopping complex built beneath it. Just to the south of the wharf there is a park where there was once water.

The view from West India Quay southwards on 31 August 1987. The train in the distance is at the site of Canary Wharf, whilst Heron Quays station can be seen behind.

A similar view to the one taken in 1987. West India Quay station is now much bigger, whilst Canary Wharf is gigantic! The original line of sight from 1987 has been lost with so much building taking place.

The next picture is a view looking west from Heron Quays and it shows yet more buildings that have vanished. The modern structure at left is no longer there whilst the council flats to the right have all gone. The picture shows that infilling of parts of Middle and South Docks had already occurred by 1987.

The view from Heron Quays station on 31 August 1987. The station’s isolation can easily be seen. The Nat West Tower (now Tower 42) seen in the distance was once London’s tallest office block.

The present day Heron Quays station. Thirty years ago it was a small halt in the middle of nowhere! And now…. its, well… like a city! The change is just amazing. A very difficult picture to take because of the huge dynamic range.

View northwards to Heron Quay & first stages of the Canary Wharf development. 5th October 1989.

The Canary Wharf development seen from South Quay station. 5 October 1989.

The 1987 picture taken from South Quay station (below) is amazing as it shows the elevated DLR working its way southwards to Crossharbour. That’s a view which can’t even be seen today! Eventually quite a few buildings rose here at this very point including the South Quay shopping centre. The IRA bombing that took place here in 1996 did so much damage a number of buildings had to be torn down whilst several others needed considerable rebuilding. Even the railway and South Quay station sustained damage and DLR services south of Canary Wharf were suspended for a month and a half whilst repairs took place.

The elevated section of DLR visible almost all the way from the original South Quay station to Crossharbour. 31 August 1987.

Crossharbour station was at one time an important station for many of the DLR’s trains terminated here. That was because there was not enough capacity on the original single line section from Mudchute to Island Gardens. This explains why there are crossovers and stabling sidings that rarely see much use these days.

The DLR once ascended from this point at the far end of Crossharbour’s sidings and crossovers, southwards up to the original Mudchute station, again on an elevated section. August 2017.

Mudchute station is down in a cutting, rather than up on an elevated viaduct as the original was!

Mudchute and Island Gardens were the only original stations never to have been modified. Ironically they too are the only ones on the DLR to have been replaced by new stations on a different alignment. This section of line, including the Milwall viaduct, was originally part of the London & Blackwall Railway’s branch to North Greenwich which closed in 1926. The DLR reused the Milwall viaduct for far less time than its original 54 years of use between 1872 and 1926. The viaduct is listed so has been left intact for prosperity.

A view looking from Mudchute station. Unit 11 about to go onto the Milwall viaduct towards Island Gardens. Greenwich power station can be seen at left. 31 August 1987.

The present DLR line to Lewisham runs underneath the park seen on the left in the above picture. In any modern contemporary view from this same point, if it was at all possible, one would be able to see the newer Island Gardens station sited by the far end of the Milwall viaduct. DLR services terminated at Crossharbour for most of 1999 whilst the tracks were realigned southwards to descend into the new underground section leading under the Thames to Greenwich. During those very same works the 1987 stations and concrete elevated sections were demolished.

Island Gardens station on the very first day of public services, 31 August 1987. (Author’s collection.)

The very first station here was North Greenwich as mentioned previously. The DLR’s Island Gardens station was built slightly further north than that at North Greenwich. As the picture shows, Island Gardens was the DLR’s only station to have a spiral staircase and one of only two that had a single lift, the other being at Tower Gateway. Island Gardens was the scene of the DLR’s one and only accident when a train on test failed to stop and crashed through the end of the viaduct. The carriage was left perilously hanging in mid air!

The station at Island Gardens didn’t last very long, managing just 12 years of use as has been mentioned. It closed on 8 January 1999 and the new underground station opened in November of the same year. The site of the original Island Gardens terminus is today a block of flats.

Pretty much the same view today as that in 1987! The block of flats built on the former Island Gardens station.

The newer Island Gardens station, opened 1999. Its gigantic compared to the original.

In the early days of railway operation an incident happened that could easily have been a pun of sorts. The original Island Gardens station, on the Isle of Dogs, of all places, had a dog find its way onto the tracks. Perhaps it was a protest to convey the idea no dog should be seen as an island?

Anyway the dog sat upon the tracks where the two platform spurs diverged and trains were stopped whilst staff stood on the platforms tried to coax the dog away. It wouldn’t shift so they had to turn the current off to allow staff to go on the tracks. I have photographs however these are in another batch somewhere so until I find these I have no idea of the date the dog incident occurred. I was quite fortunate to find the photographs of the DLR that are shown here in these two posts. These pictures from 1987 were found just a couple of weeks ago – buried deep within my archives on London’s buses!