The first railway in London. ‘The London and Greenwich Railway’. opened the year before Victoria became Queen First opened on 8 February 1836 from Spa Road, (since closed and demolished, relics of the old station platforms can still be seen at Spa Road Junction) to Deptford. The extension from Spa Road to London Bridge was opened on December 14, 1836. The line to Greenwich was delayed a while, Deptford Creek (River Ravensbourne) had first to be crossed but was finally opened on 12 April 1840. The Greenwich Railway was London’s first railway, indeed it was the first railway in any Capitol City in the World. It received parliamentary approval on May 17 1833 Built on a viaduct four miles long, known locally as 500 arches, it opened in 1836. Other railways into London had to use the Greenwich railways track into London Bridge. Over the years it has been added to and widened as tracks from other places have joined. The part of the viaduct from Greenwich to the North Kent East junction is the original one. London Bridge was opened on 14 December 1836, with the full length of the line From London Bridge to Greenwich finally opening on 12 April 1840.
Linking the capital
There was also a great need for a railway that linked London to the industrial centres of Britain. For example, by 1830, Birmingham was sending over one thousand tons of goods every week by canal to London. In 1833 the London & Birmingham Railway Company appointed Robert Stephenson as chief engineer of their proposed railway.
The London to Birmingham line took 20,000 men nearly five years to build. The total cost of building the railway was £5,500,000 (£50,000 a mile). The railway was opened in stages and finally completed on 17 September 1838. The line started at Birmingham’s Curzon Street Station and finished at Euston Station in London. As the Grand Junction Railway had been finished in July 1837, the four major cities in England, London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool were now linked together by rail.
In the 1840s London became the centre of the railway network with important railway stations being built at Kings Cross, Victoria and Waterloo. By 1861 over 11,000 were employed by the railways in London. The railways also stimulated the growth of the city and between 1841 and 1861 the population grew by 800,000 to 2,800,000 million.