Charlton Lane Crossing
The level crossing here is the deepest into London as far as the South Eastern Division is concerned; it also appears to hold the records of being the closest crossing to the centre of London (marked by the Eleanor Cross on the Charing Cross station forecourt), and the busiest. It sees at least twenty trains per hour during the peak, not including empty stock movements or freight. The delightful signal cabin here is worthy of note: almost invariably, the SER designed and built such structures to its own standardised design (a fine example of this style still being in existence at Snodland) - however, there were notable exceptions. The cabin at Charlton Lane Crossing opened after the North Kent Line of 1849, it coming into use about forty years later. Whilst nearby Charlton station boasted an SER product, Charlton Lane appears to have been graced with a structure designed by contractor Saxby & Farmer, a company whose architecture was seemingly more prevalent on the LC&DR's lines. In retrospect, however, the SER's Bexleyheath Line of 1895 seems to have been exclusively supplied with signal cabins from this contractor, which suggests that the SER was more reliant on outsourcing work in its later years. For the majority of its career, Charlton Lane worked in conjunction with two signal boxes: 490 yards to the east, beyond Charlton and Mountstreet Tunnels, was an SER cabin at Sand Street Crossing. This, with the crossing itself, was taken out of use on 5th August 1969 and thereafter, only pedestrians could pass over the line by means of a prefabricated concrete footbridge. About 815 yards to the west was the cabin of Charlton Junction station, again of SER design, but significantly larger than the signal boxes at the aforementioned crossings. This lasted only marginally longer than the layout at Sand Street, going out of use on 15th March 1970 with the commissioning of automatic colour lights on the route. A temporary signalling panel had been set up at St Johns prior to the March 1976 commissioning of the London Bridge signalling centre. Charlton Lane's cabin survived, but it was reduced in status to a gate box; the traditional level crossing gates were retained for a short while longer, however. Full automatic barriers, complete with warning lights, came into use during May 1973, these being controlled directly from the signal cabin. More recently, in about 2002, the cabin's traditional four-quarter wooden window frames were replaced with double-glazing, complete with thick plastic rims. Similar to the structure still in operation at Stone Crossing, Charlton Lane Crossing's signal box retains its original mechanical levers.
A pair of Class 33 diesels are seen approaching the level crossing, hauling ''Brett'' hopper wagons on what is thought to be a working from nearby Angerstein Wharf. The signal box retained its traditional window frames at this time, but had taken on a black paint scheme.
A second view from the same lattice footbridge this time shows refurbished Bulleid-designed 4 EPB No. 5473 on the ''80'' Charing Cross to Dartford service via Greenwich. The signal box was even host to an advertising billboard, promoting holidays on the Isle of Wight.
30th May 2006
The delightful signal box is seen over twenty years later, complete with name board and renewed double-glazing. Since this photograph was taken, anti-vandalism mesh covers have been installed over the windows.
© David Glasspool
30th May 2006
Boo! The warning lights are flashing and the barriers are down as Class 465 No. 465036 emerges at speed from behind the vegetation.
© David Glasspool