Down Memory Lane: Rail line that brought prosperity to Thurrock

Rail staff at West Thurrock in 1908

Rail staff at West Thurrock in 1908

First published in News Thurrock Gazette: Photograph of the Author by

This week we look back to the opening of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway.

It all started at Fenchurch Street Station, a familiar place for many Thurrock people who work in the City, which opened on April 13, 1854. Construction of the line had been authorised by Parliament on June 17, 1852.

Built by Peto and Grissell, the first section to be opened was between Forest Gate junction, via Barking, and Grays. The line was extended from Tilbury to Southend by 1856.

Fenchurch Street Station was the first to be constructed inside the City of London. The original station of 1840 served the London and Blackwall Railway, but it was rebuilt in 1854, following a design by George Berkley, adding a vaulted roof and the main facade.

The station became the London terminus of the London, Tilbury and South- end Railway and the location of the first railway bookstall in the City of London, operated by William Marshall.

The line was known for its use of 4-4-2 tank engines, which were later displaced by 2-6-4Ts after it had been absorbed into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) in 1923.

I can only just remember the thrill of standing on the bridge at Grays station and experiencing the noise, steam and smell of the locomotive as it passed beneath!

However, the thrill was lost when electrification of the line went ahead and was completed by 1962.

This vital link to the City created opportunity for Thurrock’s industries, indeed it was the catalyst for building the Port of Tilbury and many factories along the river frontage combining the use of deep wharves and a rail linkage to create employment.

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