Cannon Street Shed

SE&CR: ''3''

This was once an interesting shed, and it appears to have come into use with the terminus at Cannon Street in September 1866. The depot was constructed on the south side of the Thames, on a large jutting out appendix of the viaduct which carried the sharply-curving triple-track in from London Bridge. The restrictive nature of the shed’s site called for a partial roundhouse-type design to be implemented, which involved feeding five southward-facing tracks (three of which were about 160-feet long, the remaining two extending for about 200-feet) directly off a turntable. The shed building was built from the same yellow brickwork which constituted the terminus it served, and both side elevations featured semi-circular windows, the latter of which were effectively a scaled-down version of those found along the sides of Cannon Street station. The depot played an important role for both the SER and SE&CR, for it was used for the numerous locomotive exchanges that took place as part of the practice of reversing all Charing Cross services at Cannon Street.

The triangle of lines south of Cannon Street engine shed featured three tracks on its western and eastern sides, and the side which was ultimately to become the busiest of them all, the south, had a complement of just a double-track. SER enlargement works, mostly completed in February 1892, saw the installation of a fourth track on the eastern side of the triangle, in addition to the commissioning of a second turntable to the west of the Cannon Street bridge approach tracks. The latter had been brought into use to augment the engine shed’s turntable during the somewhat chaotic train reversals, as traffic levels continued to rise. An additional depot was also commissioned at Ewer Street, Southwark, by the SE&CR in 1901, to facilitate increased engine movements.

The importance of the shed at Cannon Street diminished after 1916, when wartime economies resulted in the SE&CR abandoning the practice of reversing all Charing Cross services into the City terminus – a select few did continue to operate, however. Nevertheless, the shed remained in operation, as a sub to Bricklayers Arms, especially since the entire SE&CR network continued to be exclusively steam-worked. Shed allocation comprised mostly of those tank engines, Classes ‘’H’’ and ‘’R’’, which monopolised commuter services along the North Kent routes and out to the limit of the suburban operation, at Orpington. This was at a time when both LSWR and LB&SCR companies were electrifying their suburban lines, absorbing a capital cost that the SE&CR just could not afford. All was to change on the advent of the Southern Railway in 1923, however. This company wasted no time in implementing an electrification programme on Eastern Section commuter lines, and from as early as 12th July 1925, scheduled electric services were in operation between Victoria / Holborn Viaduct and Orpington. For the impending electrification northwards from Orpington, to London Bridge and the ex-SER termini, major revisions were made to Cannon Street’s layout. The station’s approaches were completely re-laid to accommodate a rebuilt platform arrangement, the two SER-designed signal boxes were decommissioned, Stoney Street Junction (at the northern apex of the triangle) was abolished, and the five-road engine shed and turntable were closed to steam. The shed’s western wall was demolished, as was the roof, but the rear and eastern elevations were retained. The SR erected one of its large steel-framed red brick electric substations upon the shed site and, interestingly, the original engine shed walls were incorporated as part of this structure, which included retention of the earlier-mentioned semi-circular windows. The turntable of 1892 was retained to the west of the station bridge approach tracks, and steam locomotive facilities were still on offer at Ewer Street. The Cannon Street station revisions were deemed formally complete in June 1926, even though electric services from the terminus had commenced on 28th February of the same year. The former engine shed turntable site remained vacant until the commissioning of a new ‘’power box’’ upon the land on 15th December 1957.

16th March 2008

The eastern wall of the engine shed, complete with fully glazed windows, still exists above Stoney Street. The yellow brick is the same as that which features in the walls of Cannon Street station. The rear wall of the former engine shed also remains in existence. Above the shed wall can just be seen the top of the 1926 SR electric substation. © David Glasspool

A pair of rolling stock sidings exist upon the former site of the smaller of two turntables south of the river. The sidings can be accessed by those trains terminating in platform 7 of the station. © Wayne Walsh

This splendid panorama of Cannon Street's approaches shows several items of interest. Across the tracks, we can see the side wall of the long-closed semi-roundhouse, complete with semi-circular window. Built within the confines of the shed is the 1926 substation, whilst to the right of this can be seen Cannon Street signal box, which closed as far back as 15th April 1975. The short stub on the right, in the foreground, was once host to a turntable. © Steve Roffey