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The Atmospheric Railway

In the 1840's Railway construction was prolific in and around the Croydon area. One the companies working in the Croydon area was the London & Croydon Railway which had several rail links to the town.

In August 1844 it was authorised to build a third track for use by Atmospheric trains. It was to run from Corbetts Lane to the Jolly Sailor, and from there a new Croydon extension Dartmouth Arms. This used to be the route of the Croydon Canal, that closed in 1836 and was sold to the railway. 

In July 1845 Dartmouth Arms was renamed to Forest Hill, and Jolly Sailor became Norwood.

The atmospheric railway was faster, quieter and cheaper than the steam railways, it could also cope with steeper gradients.

Atmospheric Railways worked by sucking the train along by creating a vacuum in a 15 inch tube, sealed with leather gaskets.

There were pumping stations all along the route, that were quite lavish in appearance.

On 22nd August 1845 they ran their first test at a speed of 60mph they overtook the Brighton train that had seven carriages and was pulled by 2 steam engines.

As developments got better it reached 70mph in September 1845 sucking 6 carriages and 30mph sucking 16 carriages.

During February 1846 and June they transported an average 81,642 passengers per month.

Then problems started. On the 10th October 1846 the Railway Chronicle reported the results of a survey it had undertaken, regarding the opinions of regular travellers. Delays, slowness and general disappointment were among the comments.

The company continued with their plans to extend the railway to Epsom to meet demands for the 15th May 1847 race traffic.

Croydon's Woodside race track meetings were proving very popular, but also under threat from Croydon council for that very same reason.

There were problems with the companies finances as the work cost far more than expected, so the companies directors announced to shareholders in May 1847, that steam locomotives would be better and the atmospheric railway was sold off immediately.


Last modified: 10th November 2010 - Copyright Canning and Clyde Residents Association