Above: The level crossing is quite narrow because it is only used by pedestrians and only crosses a single railway track.
A foot-crossing on a railway track in London is very unusual these days. This one allows pedestrians to cross the single-track of the Angerstein Wharf Branch railway line. The line only carries freight and there are not many trains each day, sometimes none at all. The line passes close to the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road at a point which is within easy walking distance of Westcombe Park Station – which is on a separate passenger railway line running from London Bridge Station to Crayford.
Above: The entrance to the footpath between the houses in Fairthorn Road leading to the east side of the level crossing.
The crossing was originally provided for farm workers, because when the branch line was built it cut Coomb Farm in two. When the surrounding area was developed, with terraced housing and industry, the crossing was retained, and an alleyway was built between two of the terraced houses in Fairthorn Road. Nowadays the crossing provides a short-cut to and from Westcombe Park Station, via a footbridge over the Blackwall Tunnel Approach Road.
The Angerstein Wharf Branch railway line was opened in 1851, and linked the North Kent Line near Charlton Station to Angerstein Wharf on the River Thames. It was promoted and built by John Julius Angerstein, a local land owner, investor, businessman and art collector – whose collection of paintings formed the nucleus of the National Gallery. Because the line passed over his land and was built with his own money he only needed to seek Parliamentary Powers to build the bridge over Woolwich Road – he is thought to be the only individual to have gained Parliamentary permission to build a railway in the UK. The line was leased by the South Eastern Railway in 1852 and bought outright in 1898.
During the line’s life it had links to the South Metropolitan Gas Works (whose gas holders remain near the southern entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel) and the London County Council (later London Transport) Central Tram Repair Depot at Penhall Road (which gradually became the place where London’s Trams were scrapped after the system closed in the early 1950s).
Although much quieter today the line is still in use, with trains four or five times each week conveying sea-dredged aggregates from a terminal at Angerstein Wharf. The line never carried passenger trains, although the odd enthusiast excursion train has used the track. The level crossing is certainly a curio for railway enthusiasts in London.