The History of
Hampton's Waterworks & Railway
Water-borne urban plagues were a
feature of 19th century urbanisation. Water closets were becoming
fashionable and cesspits were simply overflowing. Suddenly it became
compulsory to put raw sewage into rain-water drains. Much of this
muck eventually found its way into the River Thames. During the
summer the smell became appalling, and in the year of The Great
Stink even Parliament, being next to the river, could not ignore
In 1852 the Metropolis Water Act
obliged the London water companies to move their intakes upstream.
This meant moving above the tidal limit at Teddington, so three
major companies established works and pumping stations at Hampton.
(Before locks were built the tidal limit might have been as high as
In 1902 the three companies at
Hampton came under the control of the Metropolitan Water Board. Coal
was unloaded from barges at Hampton Wharf opposite Platt's Eyot by a
steam crane running on standard gauge track. Thames Water offices
now occupy this site. In times of flood or lightermen's strikes,
coal could be unloaded from the LSWR at Kempton Park and moved by
1913 Act of Parliament approves
the MWBR. In 1912 plans for an industrial railway were compiled,
and approved by the Metropolitan Water Board's directors prior to
Christmas 1913. The Deputy Chief Engineer had estimated the cost at
£17,000 for a 2ft. gauge railway running over some 3 ½ miles of
track. Besides moving the coal more cheaply, it could be used for
furnace ash disposal and reservoir work. At the time, the Cornish
Beam and Bull engines were burning about 109 tons of coal a day in
the six Hampton stations, and a further 38 tons at Kempton Park.
200 tons of 35 lb. flat bottom rail
was ordered plus 320 foot of tram rails. Regular track was laid on
Baltic Fir creosoted sleepers. Work was completed by 1915. Three
locomotives based on M.W.B. engineers' specifications were ordered
from Kerr Stuart and Company of Stoke-on-Trent. They were named
Hampton, Kempton and Sunbury, costing about £700 each. Livery was
green with an unusual triple striping. Although running on 2ft.
track the locomotive width was 6ft., overall length 15ft. with a
weight of 10 tons. No examples remain unfortunately. There were
about 140 Vee-shaped tipper wagons and some flat trucks. On 15 to
20ft. curves, these would be pushed into the boiler houses by hand.
The locomotives were required to cope with 40ft. curves and had
re-railing bars fitted at both ends! Only two engines worked on a
daily basis, one delivering coal to boiler houses and the other on
shunting duty at Hampton Wharf. This meant that signalling was not
needed. Expressed simply, the system had three branches.
The first ran south of the Lower
Sunbury Road to the Riverdale and Morelands buildings at the Eastern
end of the site. Four pumping buildings along the Upper Sunbury Road
were served by the second branch. Kempton Park was served by a
further two mile branch and that is the section we are currently
interested in. Gradients under the Upper Sunbury Road bridge reach 1
in 20. The track bed still exists running in a cutting adjacent to
Oldfield Road. It turns left running parallel with the Shepperton
line, before sharing an under-bridge with the Staines aqueduct.
There used to be a twin track level crossing at Kempton Park Lane.
Beyond this point the original track bed has been overtaken by
In the 1930s more efficient pumping
engines were being introduced and electric-powered pumps. Some coal
was being moved by conveyor belt. The MWB Railway system was finally
dismantled in 1947 - a working life of 32 years. Thames Water took
over in 1974.
Back in August 1999 proposals for
re-instating the railway were put forward at the Hampton Thameside
Forum. In 1999/2000, Ian Allan and colleagues had plans to build a
15 inch gauge railway, using the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway
as an operating model. Thames Water put forward several objections.
Late in 2002 it became clear that other schemes had been shelved.
Initial discussion for
setting up what became the "Metropolitan Water Board Railway
Society" started in 2002 and our first meeting was held at the White
House Community Centre on 21st March 2003. The M.W.B. Railway Society was founded in
Hampton on 20th May. It aims are as follows:
restore and rebuild the railway link on or close to the original MWB
track bed based on the original 2ft.
industrial gauge with the ultimate aim
of running between Hampton Riverside and Kempton,
operate a passenger carrying railway,
provide educational opportunities that explain the original purpose
by means of literature, artifacts and a small museum.
For more information on our history, depicted in
video form, please go to our
Sad Death of Founder Member::
John Webb who
died on 24th November
the age of 80, was a founder member
of the Metropolitan Water Board
Railway Society, and its Secretary
for the past four years. He had
always been keen on Railways (as his
father had been) and during his
National Service was in the RAF –
but as Movements Clerk on the
Railway at York!
As you can see
from the picture he was very keen on
Horses, especially Shires. He was a
staunch supporter of the Royal
British Legion and President of his
local Branch. His funeral was
Royal British Legion at the Hanworth Crematorium, 11 am. 7th