WILLIAM CORY'S TRAIN SET
by John Hinson
In the course of some research carried out into Crabtree Crossing
box, an interesting report from the Board of Trade came to light, regarding
developments during World War One. The connections with the main line, near
Belvedere are nothing outstanding, but the sidings that they served were
exquisitely laid out.
The sidings were, in fact, a War Office project - provided for
Messrs Cory to stack coal destined for the ordnance factories at Woolwich
Arsenal. The coal came in by rail, and was stockpiled prior to loading into
barges bound for Woolwich. Rumour has it that many children have based their
Triang train set layout on this intriguing prototype layout.
On a more serious note, some interesting correspondence exists on
the Inspecting Officer's file regarding the positioning of the connections with
the main line at Crabtree Crossing box, which also identify the purpose of the
unusual layout. The Board of Trade requirements then required all siding
connections to be located more than 100 yards from any level crossing to
prevent the crossing to be fouled during shunting operations. In fact this
requirement still exists, despite the inappropriateness of the 100 yard
distance and that shunting of trains is, these days, rare.
Roger Hornsby wrote in December 1999 with some interesting
information about this location:
Within the last few years there have been considerable road
improvements in this area, between the SER line and the Thames. The
major road built has been a spine road, running from Erith to cut Crabtree
Manor Way some 300m north of what was the Crabtree level crossing and continue
to join the earlier dual carriageway that runs across the open marshland to
The triangle of land trapped between the railway and this new
spine road, Bronze Age Way the A2036, is being developed as a road haulage
yard. The Land Registry shows the site as two plots, one corresponding to the
area annotated as Messrs Corys Sidings. The land take of the
old SER steps in towards the tracks by the link with the main line. The gate
across the link still exists as does a short section of track from just the
Railtrack side of the gate to the majority of a turnout. The three sidings
occupied a low embankment that was twice the width needed but that had been
fenced to enclose the three sidings only.
An apocryphal story is that the North Downs Railway, not the most
fortunate of preservation societies, had negotiated with the owners of the site
to lift this bullhead rail but were beaten to it by others - the
implication being that the NDR had exposed the track by clearing the
undergrowth only to make the theft easier.
Interestingly a report by a Consultant, mainly an office based map
study to assess possible contamination of the ground, contained a number of
part maps that implied the site had been rough pasture until the 1930s,
with the sidings not being shown until a 1933 edition. Chairs found on site
were non railway castings dated 1923.
It is not surprising that these sidings could be omitted from maps as
a state secret - one only has to look at M.O.D. installations
that, until recently, did not appear on O.S. maps.
Additional notes by Roger Hornsby
Comments about this article should be addressed
to John Hinson