Docklands Light Railway

This page was last updated on 4 December 1999.
Selected alterations on 10 August 2004 & 6 August 2012.

This page contains a selection of photos relating to the Docklands Light Railway. It is not intended to be comprehensive, but it is hoped that the reader might find something of interest here.

Bank branch

[PHOTO: DLR train in tube platform: 49kB]

Above: Deep beneath King William Street and also beneath the Northern Line, a two-unit train of B92 Docklands stock sits in platform 9 of Bank station, awaiting departure to Island Gardens (Friday 30 October 1998 at about 22:12).

King William Street here refers — perhaps unusually for me (!) — to the road rather than the nearby abandoned tube station of the same name; meanwhile, Bank station has latterly been known as part of the Bank-Monument complex. Island Gardens was not served by the DLR between 9 January and 19 November 1999 inclusive, whilst the link was made with an extension to Lewisham (now fully open).

Behind the train, this track and that of the platform 10 arrival line join to form a Y-shaped siding: it curves to the right beneath Bank road-junction to follow the line of Princes Street up to Lothbury.

[PHOTO: ventilation/escape point in a traffic-island: 61kB]

Above: And here is the view at Lothbury! I did think of asking if I could walk along the headshunt to get the interior view, but I fear the answer is obvious! Princes Street and the Bank of England are just out of shot to the left. The headshunt comes to a sticky end in a set of large ventilation fans which uses the floor-grating in this fenced-off traffic-island as its intake/exhaust. Also provided is a Dry Falling Main for the fire-brigade, and an escape-route via a ladder and a hatch which cannot be opened from outside (!). (1998 Nov 22.)

Evacuation exercise

Over the weekend of 21/22 November 1998, buses replaced all DLR train services while an upgraded version of the SELTRAC moving-block signalling software was tested.

The opportunity was also taken to stage an evacuation exercise which took place on Sunday morning in the tube-tunnel section between Royal Mint Street (near Shadwell) and Bank. Part of the exercise involved two dozen volunteers (including one wheelchair-user) being taken from HQ at Poplar to Bank, where we were shepherded past the locked lattice-gates and down to the closed platforms; we “caught” a waiting ghost-train to Island Gardens which was being driven manually and signalled by two-way radio. I liked the attempt at realism given by the “Passengers for Beckton should change at Westferry” announcement!

[PHOTO: Portal of DLR tube tunnel: 56kB]

Above: To nobody’s great surprise, part-way along the tubes the train stopped and we were informed that it was on fire: this wasn’t simulated, however. The emergency door-releases were operated and we were led to safety along the tunnel walkway (which I found quite narrow and slippery); upon congregating on the concrete apron between the tracks at the tunnel portal, I took the rare opportunity to capture the view from this angle.

[PHOTO: Short-circuiting device on rail: 68kB]

Above: Amongst the various radio-conversations heard, was one informing the Train Captain that the Short-Circuiting Device (SCD) had been applied, thus discharging the traction current and rendering the third rail harmless. Sure enough, when we reached the end of the tunnel we saw it in position there; a cable runs to a metal clamp screwed to the other running-rail, either to help ensure a good earth or to operate track circuits (?).

[PHOTO: DLR track on 1-in-17 slope: 52kB]

Above: This is the view in the opposite direction, up the 1 in 17 gradient to Royal Mint Street Junction, where the DLR Bank Branch joins the Tower Gateway Branch and the formation of the LTS lines out of Fenchurch Street (top left).

The old “High-level” route to Mudchute and Island Gardens

[PHOTO: forked station seen from incoming train: 47kB

Above: The DLR has been extended beyond Island Gardens to Lewisham; twin tube tunnels run beneath the Thames to Greenwich, and because of the huge difference in height between the old and new routes, the old “high level” section beyond Crossharbour station had to be abandoned. So, Friday 8 January 1999 was the last day of DLR operation for Mudchute and Island Gardens “high level” stations, to allow the embankment and station site around Mudchute to be removed and a cutting dug to meet the new, subterranean alignment. On the dull and rainy afternoon of that day, the approach to the platforms at Island Gardens is seen through the wet windscreen of a DLR train. The platform on the right was rarely used and could only hold single-unit trains.

[PHOTO: view (from train) of ancient railway viaduct: 51kB]

Above: This view was taken from the rear of the same train as it made its return working back to Canary Wharf and beyond; we have just travelled over the brick arches of Millwall Viaduct, built in 1872 for a railway whose alignment, long after closure, was taken over for use by the DLR. Now the viaduct has again seen its rails torn up and ballast removed - probably for good this time; it itself remains however, as it is a listed structure. On the left is the construction site of Island Gardens low-level station, whilst the dome covering the lift-shaft at the high-level station can be seen on the right of the picture.

[PHOTO: On-train view of (then) current and future alignments: 44kB]

Above: This view, again taken from the rear of a train heading towards Canary Wharf, shows the point where the new alignment (centre left) now diverges from the (then current) old one near Mudchute high-level station: however, the new route is already much lower at this point, demonstrating why the existing alignment had to be removed to make way for the new. On a return visit to this area in May 1999, Mudchute high-level station and the embankment seen here was gone, and the new station appeared largely ready to accept trains and passengers. On a recent journey over the new “low level” route through to Lewisham, very little of the older route was visible from the trains.

The last train from Island Gardens “High Level”

[PHOTO: flashless nighttime view of DLR train in station: 53kB]

Above: A special working, comprising a single unit, arrived at Poplar around 2330 that drizzly Friday evening to convey enthusiasts, historians and DLR staff to Island Gardens high level; on arrival, it swung to the right and stopped in the number 2 “short” platform. The last service train arrived and departed whilst we savoured the last moments of useful existence of this station — and I took the above photograph; note Canary Wharf in the background, and a member of DLR staff removing the wreath from the end door to “change ends”!

Finally, it was time to leave: as we pulled out across the points, and Millwall Viaduct saw its “last-ever train” for the second time round, the interior lights were switched off and we joined local historian and author, Jim E. Connor, in singing Auld Lang Syne. Amongst those on the trip was a man who, as a five-year-old, had travelled on the previous “last” passenger train over this section in 1926 when the London & Blackwall Railway was closed (freight continued until 1966); and David Connor (sometime of uk.transport.london) who rode on the first-ever DLR train to Island Gardens. We paused briefly to pay our respects to Mudchute high-level station, before returning less memorably over the remaining network to Poplar. Over the weekend, the tracks at Crossharbour were fitted with buffer-stops and various other changes made to facilitate its use as a terminus for about ten months; by Monday, track-lifting was well under way and Mudchute high-level station was already being demolished; no trace of it remains today.

Something a little different…

[PHOTO: 75 traffic-lights in a bunch, gone berserk: 46kB]

On a lighter note… this isn’t strictly to do with the DLR but it is very much in its territory: it’s a “tree” made from 75 traffic-lights displaying random aspects! It sits on Heron Quays roundabout, and is definitely one of the more imaginative and amusing pieces of public modern art to be seen in London.

2012 update

The traffic light tree was removed in December 2011 as part of a road-improvement scheme. Apparently it will be returned to public view, either at Westferry Circus or elsewhere on the Isle of Dogs.