Lines that should have been mainlines

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That would make sense to me - though I have not travelled this line (north of Ockley, anyhow) a look at the timetable suggests the congestion is from the Epsom/Sutton area northwards. In the Dorking area you'd probably only need at maximum two fasts and two slows an hour, even at peak, so no need for 4-tracks.

This is also presumably the reason why Dorking, which is a fair size, gets such a slow service to London compared to other towns of similar distance to London of similar size. There is no capacity to run the trains fast, so it has to stop at the majority of stations into London.

The Waterloo-Reading could also benefit from 4-tracks out to say Staines, that's similar to the Dorking route in the sense that places like Bracknell and Wokingham get a very slow service to London. Nonetheless, maybe with careful timetabling they could squeeze in more fast trains. From at least 1981 (perhaps earlier) to May 1985 there were eight trains an hour to Ascot in the peak, and four of those were limited stop. And that was with what looks like a frequent suburban service - maybe they were just very clever with the pathing, ensuring that fasts overtook slows in the Wandsworth Town-Putney-Barnes area (four-tracked).



Yes, that's the other one that comes to mind, and that is a genuine main line (while say Dorking and Bracknell are commuter routes with a lot of traffic which could do with 4-tracking in parts to allow faster mid-distance commuter services).

In contrast to the other examples though, it seems to be the suburban services, rather than the main line (which all or mostly go fast to Bromley South) which suffer, with the all-stations services on this route not as frequent as one would otherwise expect in suburban London.

And of course this route had to, at one time, handle Eurostar too. Not sure exactly how they managed... though I do remember Eurostar crawling thrrogh Penge, Beckenham and the rest before accelerating as it switched to the Charing Cross line...

Didn't some of the Reading Waterloo trains go via the Hounslow loop? I seem to remember using them between Waterloo and Feltham back then
 
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nw1

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Didn't some of the Reading Waterloo trains go via the Hounslow loop? I seem to remember using them between Waterloo and Feltham back then

I believe one did (down direction), a 17:40-ish to Reading which seemed to run that way over a very long time period (in the 1972/3 timetable and from 1981 to the early 1990s; one might infer it went that way through the whole of the 72-81 period but without the timetables I can't be certain). I think the other down trains all went via Richmond though; not so sure about the up trains though perhaps more up trains went via Hounslow as there would presumably be less conflicts in the up direction.
 

NorthKent1989

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I always felt that there should have been a main line to Dartford and Gravesend, I guess the North Kent Line (Woolwich line) was the nearest to being a main line (8tph, mixed stopping patterns, runs far outside London with outer suburban services) and back in the day services ran as far afield as Maidstone and Ramsgate, both towns had much quicker main line services to London than the North Kent Line.

At the same time, you could say that all four Dartford routes (Greenwich, Woolwich, Bexleyheath and Sidcup) make up one main line
 

yorksrob

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I always felt that there should have been a main line to Dartford and Gravesend, I guess the North Kent Line (Woolwich line) was the nearest to being a main line (8tph, mixed stopping patterns, runs far outside London with outer suburban services) and back in the day services ran as far afield as Maidstone and Ramsgate, both towns had much quicker main line services to London than the North Kent Line.

At the same time, you could say that all four Dartford routes (Greenwich, Woolwich, Bexleyheath and Sidcup) make up one main line

I believe that the North Kent actually was a main line (or was going to be) for the London Chatham and Dover Railway before it built its own main line to Victoria through Bromley. The South Eastern Railway had gotten wise to the threat posed by its new rival !
 

NorthKent1989

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I believe that the North Kent actually was a main line (or was going to be) for the London Chatham and Dover Railway before it built its own main line to Victoria through Bromley. The South Eastern Railway had gotten wise to the threat posed by its new rival !

I think it was purely SER, but you could be right, I never knew the LCDR was planned to run through Woolwich, I do recall reading that the original route was supposed to be via Greenwich but for years the naval college rejected any extension under the town through to Charlton, Woolwich and outer Kent, so a more inland route via Lewisham and Blackheath was chosen to reach Woolwich, but the LCDR had beaten it to the Medway and Thanet towns

Ironically the LCDR wanted it’s own line to Woolwich for the barracks hence why they built the Greenwich Park line from Nunhead but either faced opposition from SER or ran out of money not sure which, had they built the route to connect it to Woolwich then the rail geography around this part of SE London would be radically different to what we have today (Victoria to Dartford via Nunhead, Greenwich Park & Woolwich Arsenal)

Yeah I think It’s fair to say that the North Kent is a secondary main line that only has two tracks but two branches at the London end (Greenwich branch and Lewisham branch) but falls short of being what the South Eastern main line and the Chatham main line are
 
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nw1

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I think it was purely SER, but you could be right, I never knew the LCDR was planned to run through Woolwich, I do recall reading that the original route was supposed to be via Greenwich but for years the naval college rejected any extension under the town through to Charlton, Woolwich and outer Kent, so a more inland route via Lewisham and Blackheath was chosen to reach Woolwich, but the LCDR had beaten it to the Medway and Thanet towns

Ironically the LCDR wanted it’s own line to Woolwich for the barracks hence why they built the Greenwich Park line from Nunhead but either faced opposition from SER or ran out of money not sure which, had they built the route to connect it to Woolwich then the rail geography around this part of SE London would be radically different to what we have today (Victoria to Dartford via Nunhead, Greenwich Park & Woolwich Arsenal)

Yeah I think It’s fair to say that the North Kent is a secondary main line that only has two tracks but two branches at the London end (Greenwich branch and Lewisham branch) but falls short of being what the South Eastern main line and the Chatham main line are

A bit OT but one thing that struck me recently was: why did they not (thinking of the 1980s or 1990s here) run the 'stopping' Margate/Dover services via Woolwich (and the fasts via Bromley), and terminate the Bromley stoppers at Gillingham rather than the Woolwich trains? If they'd have done that they could have provided through services from the Woolwich area to places beyond Gillingham while also maintaining the fast services from Canterbury/Margate etc via Bromley.
 

30907

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A bit OT but one thing that struck me recently was: why did they not (thinking of the 1980s or 1990s here) run the 'stopping' Margate/Dover services via Woolwich (and the fasts via Bromley), and terminate the Bromley stoppers at Gillingham rather than the Woolwich trains? If they'd have done that they could have provided through services from the Woolwich area to places beyond Gillingham while also maintaining the fast services from Canterbury/Margate etc via Bromley.
That was more or less the pattern introduced in 1959: the existing North Kent semi fast (Woolwich A, Dartford, Gravesend, Strood) continued all stations to Ramsgate and cross connected with a Sheerness-Dover stopper, while the Victoria-Gillingham stopper went to Sheerness direct. Essentially a 1939 pattern of service which lasted until Victoria-Ramsgate went half hourly instead in the 70s (as did both CHX and VIC-Gillingham, with the North Kent service diverting via Lewisham and calling at Abbey Wood).
 

NorthKent1989

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A bit OT but one thing that struck me recently was: why did they not (thinking of the 1980s or 1990s here) run the 'stopping' Margate/Dover services via Woolwich (and the fasts via Bromley), and terminate the Bromley stoppers at Gillingham rather than the Woolwich trains? If they'd have done that they could have provided through services from the Woolwich area to places beyond Gillingham while also maintaining the fast services from Canterbury/Margate etc via Bromley.

It was pretty much this service pattern until the 1980s along the North Kent line, then when Lewisham, Blackheath and Abbey Wood were added, the service was cut back off peak to Gillingham only, leaving the Maidstone West portion, as the Strood to Maidstone/Paddock Wood shuttle we see today, services to Ramsgate did continue in the peaks until the early 1990s since then services to Ramsgate via Woolwich have only been summer excursion services, one of the last remaining seaside excursion specials still running.

There was talk a couple of years ago of extending the CHX to Dartford via Woolwich service down to Maidstone West so the CrossRail net could be widened, not sure if this is still though.

That was more or less the pattern introduced in 1959: the existing North Kent semi fast (Woolwich A, Dartford, Gravesend, Strood) continued all stations to Ramsgate and cross connected with a Sheerness-Dover stopper, while the Victoria-Gillingham stopper went to Sheerness direct. Essentially a 1939 pattern of service which lasted until Victoria-Ramsgate went half hourly instead in the 70s (as did both CHX and VIC-Gillingham, with the North Kent service diverting via Lewisham and calling at Abbey Wood).

Indeed, and with Bromley fasts and HS1 theres no longer a need for regular services from the NKL to the Thanet towns
 

nw1

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It was pretty much this service pattern until the 1980s along the North Kent line, then when Lewisham, Blackheath and Abbey Wood were added, the service was cut back off peak to Gillingham only, leaving the Maidstone West portion, as the Strood to Maidstone/Paddock Wood shuttle we see today, services to Ramsgate did continue in the peaks until the early 1990s since then services to Ramsgate via Woolwich have only been summer excursion services, one of the last remaining seaside excursion specials still running.

A look at the 1981 timetable (timetableworld.com) suggests that most trains terminated at Gillingham and were second-class only, aside from a few outbound trains in the morning (presumably for day-trippers). There are stops at Lewisham and Abbey Wood but not Blackheath.

Maidstone West had no through service off peak but, impressively had a through portion every 20 minutes during the peak from the Strood end. There were also a limited number of peak through services at the Tonbridge end which attached to mainline services, though oddly the only through up train arrived at Cannon Street after 0900.
 

NorthKent1989

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A look at the 1981 timetable (timetableworld.com) suggests that most trains terminated at Gillingham and were second-class only, aside from a few outbound trains in the morning (presumably for day-trippers). There are stops at Lewisham and Abbey Wood but not Blackheath.

Maidstone West had no through service off peak but, impressively had a through portion every 20 minutes during the peak from the Strood end. There were also a limited number of peak through services at the Tonbridge end which attached to mainline services, though oddly the only through up train arrived at Cannon Street after 0900.

Thanks for this information :) I had the idea that by the early 1980s Gillingham was the regular terminal for these services.

I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet but what about the Mole Valley line being a sort of second main line to the coast but via Streatham, Sutton and Horsham
 

Western Sunset

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Not quite in the 4-tracking league, but the onetime direct Bristol-Radstock-Frome line was half the distance between Bristol and Frome of the current main Bristol-Weymouth route, meandering round through Bath (where it heads due north at one point) and into Wiltshire through Trowbridge and Westbury. All the junctions point the right way as well.
I saw a train at Saltford yesterday afternoon. After watching a couple of other trains pass, I walked back to my car which was parked some way away. I then drove to Castle Cary and parked up (not at the station). As I was walking down the path to the station, the same train was just arriving.
 

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Not a secondary route as such, but maybe the Coventry - Birmingham New Street section of the WCML?.
The LMS were planning exactly that in the 1930s and land purchases were in progress in the run up to WW2 but the plan was abandoned post war.
 

nw1

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Not a secondary route as such, but maybe the Coventry - Birmingham New Street section of the WCML?.

Certainly should have been four-tracked, I think, given the amount of trains that use it.
 

73128

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I believe one did (down direction), a 17:40-ish to Reading which seemed to run that way over a very long time period (in the 1972/3 timetable and from 1981 to the early 1990s; one might infer it went that way through the whole of the 72-81 period but without the timetables I can't be certain). I think the other down trains all went via Richmond though; not so sure about the up trains though perhaps more up trains went via Hounslow as there would presumably be less conflicts in the up direction.
I recall a number of up trains went via Hounslow, as you say with less junction conflicts. Hounslow loop also only had a half hourly loop service until quite recently.

Thanks for this information :) I had the idea that by the early 1980s Gillingham was the regular terminal for these services.

I don’t know if this has been mentioned yet but what about the Mole Valley line being a sort of second main line to the coast but via Streatham, Sutton and Horsham
Mole Valley used to have an hourly fast service Victoria - Sutton - Dorking - Horsham and thence to Bognor and Portsmouth. Left London at xx02 and ran via Streatham fast line spur.
 

30907

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Mole Valley used to have an hourly fast service Victoria - Sutton - Dorking - Horsham and thence to Bognor and Portsmouth. Left London at xx02 and ran via Streatham fast line spur.
...and was the "traditional" LBSC route to Portsmouth until electrification (when 1 hour in 3 they ran via Redhill).
 

Sprinter107

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The LMS were planning exactly that in the 1930s and land purchases were in progress in the run up to WW2 but the plan was abandoned post war.
I'm sure I read somewhere that Lea Hall station was built so that the platforms could easily be converted into island platforms if the line should get quadrupled.
 

Spartacus

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Perhaps, but if it had been four in the past it would be easier to turn back into four now - no need for land take, for one thing.

Curiously enough the Leeds & Selby was built with expansion to 4 tracks in mind, with land bought wide enough for that in most places (it helped that most of the land was owned by major shareholders), and in some cases bridges built wide enough for, or to span 4 tracks, sometimes even when the associated cutting or embankment was only wide enough for two, leading to curious situation of bridges appearing to disappear into the cutting side! Labour was cheap and plentiful, and it was much easier and cheaper to get a load of men to dig out a long cutting than to replace a bridge to a major shareholder's farmland if expansion was needed.

Although it's been nearly 200 years since the line was first planned and there's inevitably been some sell off and rebuilding, aerial views still show that the boundary is often much further from the line than you might otherwise expect, though possibly not to modern standards.
 

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No one appears to have mentioned the MSWJR (Midland and South Western Junction Railway) from Cheltenham to Andover, part of a direct route from Birmingham to Southampton. Unfortunately, it became part of the GWR (rather than LMSR) as part of the 1923 grouping and was not developed further as the GWR had competing routes.
 

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When I was young (early 90s?), I certainly recall seeing Kent coast trains at Woolwich Arsenal - but not that frequently.
 

yorksrob

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...and was the "traditional" LBSC route to Portsmouth until electrification (when 1 hour in 3 they ran via Redhill).

Arguably up until the mid 1970's, when the majority of main line services were diverted to serve Gatwick Airport.
 

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Euston-Camden was originally built with 4 tracks, partly in the expectation that the GWR would use Euston as its terminus.
Complicated by the cable haulage up Camden bank, which only applied to 2 of the tracks.

Arguably, the Midland was quadrupled to Sheffield around 1900.
It's just that the additional tracks went via Nottingham and Rugby and were called the Great Central. ;)
The LNWR was effectively 4-tracked to Crewe with the Northampton and Birmingham loops.

Competition gave us multiple routes between cities, hence 3 (or 4 or 5 depending on how wide you cast the net) between Manchester and Liverpool.
None of them were ever 4-tracked throughout, I think the one with the most 4-tracking was the L&Y Atherton/Kirkby route, now severely downgraded.
 

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Arguably up until the mid 1970's, when the majority of main line services were diverted to serve Gatwick Airport.
Yes, the services via Redhill went IIRC with the big timetable recast of 1967 (and the shift in departure time from xx18 to xx02)
 

NorthKent1989

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When I was young (early 90s?), I certainly recall seeing Kent coast trains at Woolwich Arsenal - but not that frequently.

There were a few Ramsgate services in the peaks, these were an extension of the CX to Gillingham semi fast service via Blackheath and Woolwich, then from the mid 90s onwards these became summer specials
 

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Makes sense - I was only 6 or 7 at the time, so can't remember anything except 'there was a train that went to the coast, and this was new to me'
 

nw1

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No one appears to have mentioned the MSWJR (Midland and South Western Junction Railway) from Cheltenham to Andover, part of a direct route from Birmingham to Southampton. Unfortunately, it became part of the GWR (rather than LMSR) as part of the 1923 grouping and was not developed further as the GWR had competing routes.

That route could have been very useful as a cross-country 'Regional Railways' type route. It directly joined many towns which currently require a long-winded, indirect and roundabout journey (Southampton to Andover, Southampton to Swindon, Andover to Swindon, Southampton to Cheltenham, for instance). Perhaps the Swindon-Cheltenham section was less useful (as the surviving route isn't too indirect) but south of Swindon I'm amazed it didn't survive Beeching.
 

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It got taken over by the Great Western early in its history, but I wonder whether the Wycombe Railway ever had plans to double its route. It ran from Maidenhead to Oxford and Aylesbury via High Wycombe and Princes Risborough. The stretch from High Wycombe to Risborough was eventually doubled as part of the joint line with the Great Central and the GW's shortened route to Birmingham. .
 

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That route could have been very useful as a cross-country 'Regional Railways' type route. It directly joined many towns which currently require a long-winded, indirect and roundabout journey (Southampton to Andover, Southampton to Swindon, Andover to Swindon, Southampton to Cheltenham, for instance). Perhaps the Swindon-Cheltenham section was less useful (as the surviving route isn't too indirect) but south of Swindon I'm amazed it didn't survive Beeching.
When taking over the M&SWJR in 1923, the GWR considered it unattractive for through trains from the North and Midlands to the South Coast. The GWR preferred to develop the route via Oxford, Reading (West) and Basingstoke which was double track throughout, and already engineered as a trunk line; they also disregarded the single track Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line. At Cheltenham Spa, the GWR continued to run the M&SWJR route trains to the Midland (now LMS) station, and this was continued by BR (Western region) until the late 1950s. The line was closed in 1961, i.e. pre-Beeching.
 
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quantinghome

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Admittedly they were dictated by geography, But Leeds-Manchester and Leeds-Sheffield as built were never particular useful as main line passenger routes. Leeds-Manchester was sort of 4-tracked eventually, but only by adding very circuitous routes. But to this day neither of them are main lines in terms of alignment.
 
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