Thursday 27 May 2021


(this article was written to support an ACV application last year)

The Angerstein Railway is a freight only railway which runs from just outside Charlton Station to the river.  We understand it is now the only railhead on the river and it currently handles transhipped dredged aggregate. 

John Julius Angerstein was a Russian financier, suspected to be the illegitimate son of the Empress Ann of Russia and a British banker. In 1774 he bought Woodlands, now in Mycenae Road, and his pictures there provided the foundation for the National Gallery.  His son John owned land which included Combe Farmhouse slightly north of Westcombe Park Station. In 1851 when the North Kent railway was built from Blackheath to Charlton he financed a private railway line to the river. It is on an embankment, opened in 1852 it was immediately leased to the South Eastern Railway. As industry grew the line was extended by numerous branch lines to factories. Recently Network Rail have rebuilt the signaling including that which controls the access from the line to the main railway

What has been under threat is the foot crossing? 

Before the line was built a footpath ran from Combe Farm, to fields and later chalk pits. It remained when the railway was built and thus is a right of way. Steps were built up to the line and in the 1960s works for the Tunnel Approach included a bridge from Westcombe Park station across the motorway to the crossing. Recently new housing built north of Gurdon Road has meant large numbers of residents use the path to get to Westcombe Park station.

Locomotives on the line travel very slowly and drivers have a wide view.  They can see if people are on the crossing and stop accordingly - drivers often chat to people.  I am not aware that there has ever been an accident.

In April 2019 letters were posted to residents in Fairthorn Road to say that the foot crossing was going to be permanently closed because more trains were planned. Within 24 hours Greenwich Council’s legal department had written to Network Rail reminding them that it is a right of way and that there were proper procedures for such closures. Matt Pennycook, MP, contacted the railway management and as a result Network Rail decided they weren’t going to close the crossing after all!  

This little crossing is in a charming and isolated spot where for a second you can imagine yourself at a countryside railway in the 19th century. Last April a local community group backed calls for it to be given some recognition.

At the time Matt Pennycook MP said that Network Rail’s Route Managing Director for the South East had apologised for various mistakes made in terms of communication. But the temporary postponement of the crossing closure should not be interpreted as a shelving of it, merely a temporary reprieve. Network Rail are very clear they need to overhaul the outdated signalling system that is currently in place on this line as it has contributed to regular freight derailments over recent years. The installation of this new signalling system would bring freight closer to the crossing point. They think there is a real risk on an open crossing that people try to cross underneath stationary freight and are injured/killed when trains start moving. Network Rail expects an increase in freight along to 20 or so per day. Matt has told me that he knows of nothing further.


Council transport staff  also say they have heard nothing and that the Borough Solicitor’s letter on the legal position still stands


There were some stories circulating locally that IKEA were directing walkers from Westcombe Park Station to their shop via the crossing in order to avoid the Angerstein roundabout.


Local community groups (Westcombe Society) asked the Council to give the crossing some recognition. It is now on the Local List as follows.


Angerstein Freight Railway, SE7

Crossing & Walkway between Fairthorn & Farmdale Rd  - Age and History

Railway and crossing built by local landowner John Julius Angerstein in 1852. Crossing erected for the benefit of Combe farm workers as a cut through to avoid Woolwich Road Design: Pedestrian crossing over single-track railway line accessed from the east via an arched walkway beneath the terraced housing and a raised walkway between back gardens Materials Stone, timber and brick

Features Arched opening beneath dwelling house

Degree of alteration steps have been upgraded

Significance Rare survival of a historic pedestrian route over a freight railway, still in regular use by residents for its original purpose - to avoid Woolwich Road - and as a route to Westcombe Park station.

Railway also still in regular use for transport of aggregates around London

Qualifying criteria: Historic Interest, Environmental Significance: i) characterful, time-honoured locally valued feature