The Richmond Railway

Pictured : the station building, designed by James Robb Scott in Portland stone and dating from 1937, is in Art Deco style and its facade includes a square clock. Robb Scott (1882 – 1965) was a Scottish architect who became the Chief Architect of the Southern Railway. He was born in the Gorbals, Glasgow, the son of the 30-year-old architect Andrew Robb Scott and the teenaged Mary Fletcher. His parents married two years later in 1884. James Robb Scott married in 1908 in Richmond, Surrey and in 1914 he was living at 29 Moormead Road, St Margarets-on-Thames.

NB: When the Leslie R Freeman Collection was added to the Transport Treasury in January 2010, James Harrold wrote a note in memory of his friend (1932 – 2000): (“…National Service was in the Royal Air Force at RAF Benson, Oxfordshire, served by the Cholsey to Wallingford branch-line…”).

Leslie Freeman: THE COMING OF THE RAILWAY” appeared in the Barnes and Mortlake History Society Newsletter June 1996, from which the following is extracted:

Although Mortlake and Richmond stations were unfinished, a directors’ special of 16 carriages drawn by the locomotive Crescent left Nine Elms terminus of the LSWR at 2pm on Wednesday, 22 July 1846. The Times recorded that “At a few minutes after the hour named, the train started, and moved slowly along the main line of the South Western for two miles; it then turned off to the right, and proceeded at a more rapid rate along the newly-constructed portion to Richmond. The pace, although not great, yet was sufficiently fast, and, from the very slight motion experienced, there is no doubt when it has been longer used all unpleasant motion will entirely cease.”

Herepaths Journal considered the line wanting in the picturesque though crossing beautiful country, a defect compensated on reaching Richmond where the station was decked with flags bearing the word “Welcome” in large letters. There was the usual band and the bells of the parish church were ringing as the train arrived. A second train arrived about 4pm and trains were run for the rest of the day, with free rides for the local residents. Years later, Samuel Minton of Mortlake recalled to I. E. Anderson how as a boy he traveled twice to Nine Elms that day. Later there was a banquet and ball for several hundred ladies and gentlemen at the Castle Hotel, with a “cold collation, accompanied by all the delicacies of the season.” Public services commenced on Monday 27 July 1846, but the track had apparently been laid in too much haste. On the directors’ special two heavy jolts had been noticed near Richmond and within four days of the opening G.V. Gooch, the LSWR Locomotive Superintendent, reported the line unsafe, his drivers being unable to maintain time. Joseph Locke was called in to remedy matters and was doubtless not amused. Staff engaged for the railway included at Barnes the station agent at £60 per annum and the railway policeman (the forerunner of the signalman) at £48 8s per annum, although when the latter discovered other policemen were receiving £49 8s the directors gave him a suitable increase.

The extension of the line to Waterloo was completed by the LSWR in July 1848. By then the local company had been absorbed by the LSWR. That railway had been given powers to lease or purchase the Richmond Railway in July 1846, but by then negotiations were already in hand. The first LSW offer was for the Richmond stock to become LSW stock after paying construction expenses, but many, including the Railway Times, considered the offer unreasonable and it was rejected. (As a result the Railway Times was not invited to the opening by an annoyed LSWR). The Richmond company was wound up on 31 December 1846, although when T.B. Simpson, the Richmond deputy-chairman, was nominated for the LSW board he was informed that no vacancy existed. An irate Mr Simpson eventually extracted a promise from William Chaplin that he would have a seat as soon as a vacancy arose. One of the last acts of the company in June 1846 was to submit a Bill for a branch line to Kew, diverging west of Mortlake station, crossing the Lower Richmond Road and Williams Lane and running close to Kew Meadows Path to a terminus at the foot of Kew Bridge. The Bill was rejected by Parliament in August 1846.

In the National Railway Museum at York are two carriages which came from the Bodmin & Wadebridge line and these are probably early LSW carriages of the type used on the trains to Richmond. Crescent, which hauled the directors’ special, was broken up in 1856, having been rebuilt as an early tank engine in 1852 for use between Eastleigh and Salisbury. Only one other engine is known from the opening. On the day after the public opening, a local resident noted that the first train from Richmond at 7.45am was pulled by Raven and carried five passengers. No extra engines were built for the new railway and it is not difficult to imagine a crisis at Nine Elms, with no engine fit to work the first train to Richmond. Although a stationary boiler, Raven may still have been complete with its wheels and motion and, since it was only six miles to Richmond, it was level and the train very light, the foreman may have decided that even Raven should be able to get there and back in one piece before anyone in authority was about to ask awkward questions.

It can be safely said that the Richmond was a railway that more than justified the highest hopes of its promoters. It is obvious the primary interest of the LSWR was not in Richmond. Chaplin’s sights were set firmly on a far more glittering prize, Windsor, and within two years the Richmond line was being extended to Datchet, reaching Windsor in 1849. Traffic increased to such an extent that the line, built as double track, had to be quadrupled between Clapham Junction and Barnes in 1885. This is undoubtedly the reason so little of the original railway of 1846 remains. The small stations at Putney and Mortlake soon proved inadequate and had to be rebuilt. There remains the curious question of why Barnes was singled out for the Richmond’s grandest station (the original terminus at Richmond became the goods yard after 1848 but the buildings never rivaled Barnes). Of one thing we can be certain. William Chadwick and his fellow directors and shareholders could hardly have realised that their little railway would form part of one of the busiest sections of railway in this country, the Windsor Lines.”

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