SEmG

Balham

Text and reminiscences from Cliff Hutton

Immortalised by Peter Sellers: "Bal-ham, set square upon the Northern Line."
And, "Is there honey still for tea?" ... "Unney's orf dear."
 
Balham station.

This postcard image of Balham station from the road dates from 1905
and is reproduced here by kind permission of A J Wills


In the above image the station buildings are the buildings at the extreme left, under the signals. The shops in front of it were demolished to make the entrance to the LT station in 1924-6, when the Northern line was being built.
 
Well, it is on the Northern Line, but Balham (named Balham and Upper Tooting for its first 100 years) is very much a Southern station too. It's en route from Victoria to Brighton and many of the London suburbs. Only Wandsworth Common station lies between it and bustling Clapham Junction.

I was a Balhamite in the mid-fifties.

20001 at Balham station. A photo of the railway bridge taken later than the above postcard image shows the sign advertising the "Elevated Electric" services of the LB&SCR, and the catenary for these overhead electric trains.

photograph by A. J. Wills © Southern Railway Net

   
The station boasts four tracks, served by two island platforms, wooden I think. It's perched above the busy main road and LTE bus routes 88 and 155. Seems odd it had to go up over that road when it's already made the stiff climb up from Wandsworth Common. Deep beneath is the Northern Line stop of the same name. (Prior to 1954 there had been a third platform outside the down slow line giving two platform faces to this line. This platform's removal allowed for a wider and safer island platform.)

Bulleid/Raworth Co-Co Electric Locomotive Nº20001 with the down Newhaven Boat Train passing through Balham station sometime during 1950. These locomotives had taken over this duty from the Brighton Atlantics during the previous year.

photograph: W.J.Wyse/Mike Morant collection

20001 at Balham station.
   
Just to the south of the station, in the throat of the 'Y', where the Brighton line swings away to the right, was one of those art-deco, glasshouse signal-boxes with "Balham" writ large on its sides.

There was very little steam at Balham; the seemingly ever-present green caterpillars had the monopoly. I do remember the handsome W tanks slogging up the slope with goods trains, and the wonderful sound of them at night.

 
U1 at Balham station. Steam at Balham! A very grimy U1 class, smokebox numberplate too dirty for identification, approaching the down main platform at Balham. This was almost certainly taken on a Saturday morning during the summer holiday period when the Newhaven boat train relief was a regular working, and nearly always with a U1 in charge.
Note the wooden platform referred to in the text. These were frequently used where a platform extended over a bridge as they have lot less weight to support.

photograph by A. J. Wills © Southern Railway Net

 
The lovely Brighton Belle used to slide through, plying its exotic trade betwixt Victoria and the seaside. Usually two of the 5-BEL units in their handsome Pullman livery made up the train.

On occasional Sundays, Balham station was the gathering point for my ATC squadron. We'd travel by electric train to Kenley and march up to the R.A.F. airfield of Battle of Britain fame, dressed in our scratchy, ill fitting, blue uniforms. The high point of those days was a 15-minute flight in an Anson. We did more marching than flying but it all seemed worth it.

 
More steam at Balham! The sole remaining Brighton Atlantic, Nº32424 Beachey Head, passes through Balham with the swansong RCTS "Farewell Atlantic" railtour on 13th April 1958, prior to its withdrawal later that month.

photograph by A. J. Wills © Southern Railway Net

Beachey Head at Balham station.
 

On the gradient up from Wandsworth you could, if you looked carefully, see concrete blocks with rusted steel stubs protruding. These blocks had once supported the LBSCR's catenary in the days before the Southern emerged with the third rail system.

Like Mr. Sellers, much has gone now.

All photographs are copyright

This page was last updated 27 June 2007

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