(London, Chatham & Dover Railway)

3 miles (Crystal Palace Branch)

Opened  1.8.1865
Closed  20.9.1954

- Nunhead 1st (opened 1871, closed 1925); Nunhead 2nd (opened 1825)
- Honor Oak
- Lordship Lane
- Upper Sydenham (opened 1884)
- Crystal Palace High Level r/n 1898 Crystal Palace & Upper Norwood r/n 1923 Crystal Palace High Level.

After the Great Exhibition of 1851 closed, the unique prefabricated glass building housing it was re-erected near Penge in south London and became known as the Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace & South London Junction Railway (CP&SLJR) was backed by the LC&DR and was absorbed by that company when it opened in 1865. The established LB&SCR route to the Low Level station (opened in 1854), however, also provided direct access to the Palace and its existing stations were relatively close to those on this branch so traffic was sparse. In 1910 trains ran every half hour from either Victoria or Moorgate with 30 minutes allowed to cover the 9 miles from Victoria. The branch was closed between January 1917 and March 1919 and again between May 1944 and March 1946. The Palace itself burnt down in 1936 and the line closed to all traffic in 1954.

Route - when open
At Nunhead Junction (GR355760) it diverged from the Greenwich Park branch, turned south and after a mile parted company with the line to Bromley. It climbed continuously at 1 in 78 all the way, after 1 mile reaching Honor Oak station. Continuing south it bridged London Road, passed Lordship Lane station and Upper Sydenham station, which was located between two tunnels, the second of which gave access to Crystal Palace station (GR337708). This terminal station was connected directly to the Palace by an ornate and patterned colonnaded subway built in white and red brick by Italian crypt builders.

Route - today
From Nunhead there is nothing to be seen until one reaches Brockley Way from where the alignment can be followed through Brenchley Gardens. Cross Forest Hill Road and continue past Camberwell Old Cemetery to pick up the course through Horniman Gardens. Cross the South Circular Road and follow a path through to Sydenham Hill. Follow this road, turn left into Wells Park Road and drop down to the trackbed to view the first tunnel. Then walk along Vigilant Close, High Level Drive and The Gradient (a cul-de-sac) where the entrance to the second tunnel can be seen. Return to High Level Drive, turn right into Westwood Hill (A212) and walk along Crystal Palace Parade to view the site of Crystal Palace, the station and the tunnel exit.

Nunhead station (2nd) - still open (SE Trains London - Sevenoaks/Dartford)
- Honor Oak demolished - site built over by high rise flats
- Lordship Lane - demolished. Site built over by flats.
- Upper Sydenham demolished but station house over tunnel survives
- Crystal Palace High Level the large twin-vaulted terminal with vast train shed demolished - housing now covers a substantial part of the site but the subway survives as does a vast retaining wall alongside Crystal Palace Parade.

Bridge carrying Forest Hill Road (B238) at Honor Oak missing;
Footbridge south of Lordship Lane survived in 2005;
Bridge over London Road (A205) at Lordship Lane, missing;
Crescent Wood Tunnel: 400yds aka Upper Sydenham, both portals bricked up;
Paxton Tunnel: 439 yds under Sydenham Hill and College Road, both portals bricked up with opening doors.

(The above text courtesy of Ralph Rawlinson   ©2005.)

1930s map showing:

1) Crystal Palace Low Level station.
2) Crystal Palace High Level station and the location of the ornate subway linking it with the Crystal Palace itself.
3) The southern end of Paxton tunnel.
4) The northern end of Paxton tunnel.
5) Sub-station with a shaft to the tunnel below. The shaft still exists.
6) The southern end of Crescent Wood tunnel.
7) For good measure: the location of the excellent Dulwich Wood House public bar!

Also shown is the location of the Crystal Palace before it burnt down in 1936 and
the close proxity of the high level station to it, as opposed to the relatively poor
location of the low level station. The low level station was the one that survived however,
perhaps because it served more residential traffic than the high level station.

Some links about the Crystal Palace itself:



The southerly end of Crystal Palace station. This area was the turning area for the locomotives, beyond the platforms.

(photo: Sep 2013)






The site of Crystal Palace station looking northwards c.1981 and in May 2005.

These days it is easy to imagine that the station would have been retained and converted into apartments, in much the same way as riverside warehouses along the Thames in east London, or Arsenal football club's Highbury stadium.







This shot was taken from the northern end of the Crystal Palace station platforms and is of the tracks north of the station in 1955,
the year after closure. The retaining wall and the tunnel mouth still remain, as seen in the photographs below. All else has gone,
the site now contains a modern business/residential estate as featured above.

The photo itself has an interesting history - a scan of it was submitted by Tony Griffin. The print has a 'GLC Architecture & Civic
Design Photographic Unit' stamp on the back. Margaret Thatcher dismantled the GLC in the 1980s; a little research revealed that
the photo is now the responsibility of the London Metropolitan Archive. They granted permission for the use of it on this webpage
on condition that acknowledgement was given to the 'Corporation of London, London Metropolitan Archives'.
One cannot help but wonder what other photographic gems lie in their archives.






The southerly end of Crystal Palace station where the substantial main station entrance was. The bridge has been replaced but the piers remain - the central one seen here still shows evidence of the original building and it corresponds with photos of the station when open.

(photo: Apr 2024)






The station took up half of the space between the front of the station and the entrance to Paxton tunnel. The station ended at this point: the brickwork on the far right is the end of the station (and the northerly entrance to the Crystal Palace itself via the piazza). The 'leaning back' brickwork is where the open-air tracks were leading to the tunnel.

(photo: Apr 2024)







Heading toward Paxton tunnel.

(May 2005)







Paxton tunnel, which trains would enter after leaving Crystal Palace station. (photo: June 2002).
Inexplicably, the locomotive providing a memorial to the site's previous usage was removed sometime prior to
May 2005 and relocated in Burgess Park on the route of the former Grand Surrey Canal (next to a now
redundant bridge). (info: Matthew Hudson)

This imaginative suggestion about the usage of the line was emailed by Lester Cowell:

"I always thought the Nunhead-Crystal Palace High level branch could have been incorporated into an underground extension to
the South...a cross city line with the two palaces as termini at either end
[Alexandra Palace at the northern end]. Would this have
been called the 'Palace Line', maybe?"







Looking back at the Crystal Palace site from inside Paxton tunnel.

(photo: c.1981)







The northern end of the tunnel above.

(photo: c.1981)







The site of Upper Sydenham station looking southwards towards Crystal Palace.

(photo: Sep 2005)







The site of Upper Sydenham station looking north. The southern end of Crescent Wood tunnel is obscured by the trees.

(photo: Sep 2005)







Late 1970s photo of the southern end of Crescent Hill tunnel with the Upper Sydenham station building visible, keeping watch
over its former platforms almost.

As pointed out by Nick Catford, the level of the ground here is raised, possibly covering the platforms.

For further info about this station:

(photo: c.1981)







Small remaining section of platform by the tunnel door.

(photo: Sep 2005)







One of the original staircases leading from street level down to the station building.

(photo: Sep 2005)







Upper Sydenham station building viewed from the front.

(photo: c.1981)


For a web page describing the Crystal Palace Pneumatic Railway,
click here.




Crystal Palace - Nunhead  Pt.3