Grosvenor Road Carriage Sheds

Carriage sidings have been a feature of the approaches to Victoria since the earliest years. A passenger using the terminus, perhaps with just a passing interest in railways, surely cannot miss the colossal sheds situated east of the descending lines from Grosvenor Bridge, providing shelter for today’s Eastern Section electric stock.

The history of the approaches to Victoria is complicated. Along with the terminus, they were built by the nominally independent “Victoria Station & Pimlico Railway” (VS&PR), and in the formative years were used by three different railway companies. Two tracks — both laid to Standard and Broad Gauges — crossed the Thames upon Grosvenor Bridge and dropped towards the terminus at a gradient of 1 in 57. The London Brighton and South Coast Railway (LB&SCR) was the first company to run scheduled passenger services over these metals, their Victoria terminus being commissioned on 1st October 1860. Next was the London Chatham & Dover Railway (LC&DR), which started operating between Canterbury and temporary accommodation at Victoria on 3rd December 1860; a permanent station for this company’s use, located immediately east of the LB&SCR’s, was formally commissioned on 25th August 1862. This part of the station was taken out on a joint 999-year lease by the LC&DR and Great Western Railway (GWR). The latter started to run Broad Gauge trains between Victoria and Southall via Ealing, Kensington, and Chelsea, on 1st April 1863.

A carriage shed, situated on the eastern side of the running lines, was built in connection with the works to widen the approaches to Victoria, these of which began in 1864. They included increasing the number of tracks which crossed the Thames from two to seven, and a similar widening thence to the terminal platforms. By this stage the two sides of Victoria combined were seeing over 400 train movements daily. Of the tracks upon an enlarged Grosvenor Bridge, three were dedicated to the “Brighton” station; the remaining four were for the “Chatham” side. Of the latter, three were mixed gauge to accommodate GWR trains. The works were deemed formally complete on 20th December 1866.

Now onto the specifics of the carriage shed. Constructed to keep the LC&DR’s rolling stock under cover, the building was situated about 170-yards north of the Thames. Twelve northward-facing, dead end sidings, laid in groups of four, were accommodated in a shed of about 510-foot length by 150-foot width. By the 1890s, one of the sidings had been extended south, beyond the rear of the carriage shed, and this itself sprouted a second track. However, much greater change had occurred by the time of the Great War: the carriage shed had been taken down and eight of the sidings extended south to within a stone’s throw of the Thames. Additionally, a 54-foot 10-inch locomotive turntable had been installed immediately to the north of the sidings, replacing one situated near the station. On the opposite side of the nine running lines to the “Chatham” sidings, the LB&SCR had since laid an equal number of northward-facing tracks (albeit considerably shorter) for rolling stock storage.

After the 1923 Grouping, the decision was taken to restore covered rolling stock accommodation to the eastern side of Victoria’s approaches. This was at a time when the Southern Railway (SR) was frequently being derided in the press for filthy carriages — both inside and out — culminating in a series of cleaning sheds being commissioned in the latter half of the 1920s. On 23rd December 1926, the following was reported in The Foundry Trade Journal:

Contracts for new swing bridges for linking the West India and Millwall docks have been received by the Horsley Bridge and Engineering Company, Limited, Tipton, Staffs, who also are to provide three 750-ft. carriage sheds for the Southern Railway Company.

The carriage sheds mentioned above, which were completed in 1928, are those we see today, and go by the name of Grosvenor Road. In addition to their 750-foot length, the pitched-roof sheds have a combined width of 150-foot and, together, provide cover for nine tracks organised in groups of three. From the outset, the sheds were used to store and clean Eastern Section steam-hauled carriages, and similar accommodation for main line passenger rolling stock was brought into use by the SR at Ramsgate. The locomotive turntable, located north of Grosvenor Road Sidings and dating from SE&CR days, was retained after the sheds’ completion. Additionally, for the Orpington electrification of 1925, a red brick substation was built upon a compact site situated in-between the southern extremity of the carriage sidings and running lines, a little way north of Grosvenor Bridge.

Under British Railways, South Eastern Division steam was phased out as part of the Kent Coast Electrification Scheme, which saw the extension of third rail beyond Gillingham, Maidstone, and Sevenoaks. In conjunction with this, all tracks within Grosvenor Road Carriage Sheds were electrified in 1960 to house the multiple unit stock then being introduced; the shed at Ramsgate was similarly converted in the previous year. Then, in 1964, it was reported in Volume 92 of Modern Transport that the sheds were to be re-roofed:

[The Southern Region awarded a contract to] Alfred Bagnall & Sons Ltd, Belvedere, for recladding roofs at Grosvenor Carriage Sheds, Victoria.

Pullman carriages for the famous “Golden Arrow” were typically stabled at Stewarts Lane, although these were moved to Clapham Junction in July 1967 for the final years. However, the continental stock of the “Night Ferry” was serviced at Grosvenor Road Carriage Sheds, until the train ran for the last time on 31st October 1980. As of today, the sheds and sidings here continue to be used to stable main line and suburban electric multiple unit passenger stock.

Track Plan: 2004

22nd January 1995

The SR substation, built for the 1925 electrification to Orpington, is just visible on the left of this northward view from Grosvenor Road, which includes BR-designed 2-EPB No. 6259 and "celebrity" Bulleid-designed 4-EPB No. 5001. The latter had been painted in all-over BR Green to mark the demise of the type. Two of the three pitched roofs of the sheds are visible behind the units. © David Glasspool Collection

February 2004

The carriage sheds are captured in the weak morning winter sun in this Thames-bound view, a Class 375 being evident under the roof. The diamond crossing in the foreground provides access to a pair of rolling stock sidings for Central Section trains. By July 1907, nine standard gauge tracks crossed Grosvenor Bridge. © David Glasspool