Stephenson Locomotive Society

Surrey Iron Railway 200th - 26th July 2003

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Opened on 26th July 1803 the Surrey Iron Railway ran south from the Thames at Wandsworth (South London) towards the Wandle Valley industrial area. It was later extended further south. It was the first public railway in Britain and was therefore a significant milestone. It was horse powered and the wagons running on it used plain wheels (unflanged) running on L shaped rails. It was a direct descendent of the rutted track ways of antiquity

On Saturday 26th July, exactly 200 years from its opening date, a small party of mainly Stephenson Locomotive Society members were led over parts of the route by Geoff Lipscome. After assembling at Waterloo the party took lunch in Wandsworth, visited the Borough's Museum to see the small SIR exhibit and then rode over part of the route's alignment, now a road, by service bus as far as Earlsfield. We travelled by service train to Wimbledon, followed by Croydon Tramlink as far as Mitcham. Tramlink picks up and follows part of the route of the SIR before Mitcham then follows it onwards into Croydon. The journey was broken at Mitcham to look at one of two buildings named after Jessop (the line's engineer) and to walk along Tramway Path which was built by the SIR. Leaving the former SIR, a further service train took us from Mitcham Junction to Carshalton. At the Heritage Centre the group were able to see some surviving rails and block chairs recovered from the later Godstone extension. The Centre Manager, John Phillips, gave a very informative talk about the railway and its historical context in the River Wandle area. The group returned by train to Mitcham, then rode the remaining section of the SIR to Reeves Corner in Croydon. In Croydon the tour concluded by viewing plaques erected in 2001 by the Croydon Society to celebrate the founding of the first public railway company.


John New (SLS Webmaster) advises "The tour was very informative for all and also showed what can be done with just a London Travel Card too. However it was disappointing to see such low-key celebrations for what is such a significant event in UK railway history. With the Wollaton (Strelley) Tramway 400th due around now too, I hope these highly significant early railway milestones can be given wider publicity. The Society will build a section on the SLS website to publicise and coordinate interest in these early railways and their upcoming anniversaries if there is sufficient enthusiast interest to provide material."

Photograph Copyright John New - Tram 2537 approaches the Mitcham stop heading for Wimbledon. It is on the alignment of the former SIR and was photographed during the visit on 26th July.t

Click on link to open large image


Wall plaque in Wandsworth marking the Surrey Iron Railway

close up of wall plaque

   wall plaq wandswth 1.jpg

Plaque in situ on right hand side on Brewery Wall. Looking along the former alignment of the route.

wands_align.JPG ( Broken link restored 4 Oct 03)

Some members of the 200th anniversary tour party returning to the Mitcham Tram stop after walking a section of Tramway Path.

party_mitch.jpg (Broken link restored 4 Oct 03)


Tram 2537 running towards Wimbledon at Mitcham on 26 July 2003. The route here is on the SIR's former alignment.

2537 approaches mitcham..gif


An unidentified tram on the former SIR viewed at Mitcham Junction. (Wimbledon bound)

tram at mitcham junc.jpg


Track from the Croydon, Merstham and Godstone extension of the SIR preserved at Carshalton Heritage Centre.



 Close up of the CMG chair and rail.

chair and rail.jpg


Plaque on building at Reeves Corner in Croydon.

reeves plaque.jpg