Wednesday 23 November 2011

Greenwich Power Station, industrial railways and stuff

Over the past week or so GIHS has had several enquiries from Greenwich University students who saythey are researching the background and architecture of Greenwich Power Station.

First of all I always ask ‘do you mean the one on Crowley’s Wharf’ which is still in use?? But –poor things – they are unlikely to know anything about Blackwall Point power station on the Peninsula  or the great series of power stations at Deptford – and to the first power station of allto which there is, scandalously, no memorial. Not to mention those in Woolwich – including – the still standing depot at White Hart Road.

Anyway – I refer them to Peter Guillery’s seminal article “Greenwich Generating Station” in London’sIndustrial Archaeology No.7. (and take pains to point out what an important architectural historian Peter is). I refer them to the GLIAS website but I am aware that it doesn’t have a link for book sales – and I will get on to the editor myself and try and sort that out. I can, I suppose, provide a photocopy – and –as I actually edited that edition of the journal I might have a digital copy of it somewhere on an old CD.
Drawing of Greenwich Power Station taken
 from the booklet produced by LCC on its opening

The other question we need answered about Greenwich Power Station is “is it the oldest power station left fulfilling its original function?? It opened in 1906 to supply power for the London County Council tramways – and still performs the same function, albei tto the London Underground..

Anyway – this note is also to introduce items from another book which has recently come our way. “Industrial Railways and Locomotives of the County of London” (Industrial Railway Society 2008 compiled by Robin Waywell and Frank Jux)

This is an exhaustive list of all the industrial locomotives which ran at some time or other in London. I haven’t done any counting but it is my guess that Greenwich and Woolwich easily top the list of boroughs as far as numbers are concerned – and also as far as sites where locomotives ran. There is hardly a page where a Greenwich industrial site isn’t mentioned – and the two largest sites are ours (the Arsenal with 8 pages, and William Jones with 10 pages). It includes some remarkably obscure firms –and it is a gold mine for us and we should be able to feature many of the companies in the future.
Locos on the power station jetty
So – back to Greenwich Power Station – and, yes, it features as a site for an industrial railway. The book tells us that electric locos built on tramcar trucks were used to haul coal from the jetty but in the early 1920s a system of conveyor belts was used and the locos “relegated to spare”. You will have to look at the book itself for all the details of the locos and the gauges and stuff like that.


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