London and South Western Railway

From Academic Kids

The London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) was a railway company in the United Kingdom from 1840 to 1923. Its ultimate network extended to Plymouth via Yeovil, Exeter and Okehampton with branches to Barnstaple and Wadebridge - a territory in which it was in direct competition with the Great Western Railway - and along the Dorset coast to Bournemouth and Weymouth. Following the grouping in 1923, the L&SWR lines became part of the Southern Railway.

After railway privatisation the name was partially evoked for South West Trains who operate over much of the old London & South Western routes.



The L&SWR was originally promoted in 1831 as the Southampton, London and Branch Railway and Dock Company: its original plans envisaged the line through Basingstoke (where a branch was to have run to Bristol) and Winchester to Southampton). Parliament rejected the scheme and it was re-promoted as the London and Southampton Railway: it was authorised by Act of Parliament in 1834. It was the first of the three trunk routes running south of London. During its early years there were many eventful occurrences:

The L&SWR also had many strengths:

  • it connected with many holiday centres, and virtually brought them to prominence;
  • Southampton Docks were entirely owned by the Company; it dealt with Continental and Channel Islands traffic; and it owned steamers on the Isle of Wight ferry routes
  • it was instrumental in building up the south-west London suburban area;
  • it was associated with much of the military parts of southern England: for example, Aldershot and Bordon; and Portsmouth and Plymouth dockyards

Among the innovations of the LSWR was the running of an express train, the North Cornwall and Bude Express. It was first run in 1907; the Southern Railway was later to rename it as the Atlantic Coast Express in July 1926. It was the 11am train from London, and it continued to run until 1964. For more details see these notes (


The first section to be opened was from was from Nine Elms, the company's first London terminus in the suburban parish of Battersea, to Woking (then named Woking Common) on 21 May 1838. On that date the company changed its name to L&SWR. The remainder of the main line line followed:

  • Woking to Winchfield (Shapley Heath): 24 September 1838
  • Winchester - Southampton: 10 June 1839
  • Winchfield - Basingstoke: 10 June 1839
  • Basingstoke - Winchester: 11 May 1840. This last section was the most difficult on the route with an initial climb to Litchfield Tunnel and a ten-mile down-grade to Winchester.

Waterloo station

It was ten years later that the L&SWR built its metropolitan terminus at Waterloo. On 11 July 1848 the line was extended through a new Vauxhall station: the original terminus at Nine Elms took on the role of works, locomotive depot, and goods depot. Today it is the site of Covent Garden market.


The Southern Railway built a new through station at Southampton Central in 1933. Southampton Terminus remained in use until 1966 and the L&SWR's classical building of 1840 (designed by Sir William Tite, who also designed the Nine Elms terminus) survives.

Main Line

The stations on the main route (with dates of opening if not original L&SWR) are :

Other principal lines

Reading and Portsmouth lines

Apart from the original main line, the LSWR had the following routes:

Apart from the Windsor branch, there are many suburban lines in this area, including the Hounslow loop line; and the Twickenham/Kingston-upon-Thames/Shepperton routes

There is also the Lymington branch, opened by the Lymington Railway on 12 July 1858. See Lymington Flyer

Route to the south-west

The LSWR main line continued, serving the following places:

Beyond Coleford Junction all lines, except that to Barnstaple, are now closed. They served, among other places:

Line details

Locomotives & rolling stock

Locomotives were painted green lined in chocolate and black and white; passenger rolling stock, yellow tint of cream upper parts, brown below. The railway ran a large number of steam rail motor cars on the smaller branches. The locomotive works were at Eastleigh, having replaced Nine Elms in 1911.

Other details


The L&SWR adopted third rail electrification of its suburban routes during the First World War. This subsequently became the standard for the entire Southern Railway, almost certainly because of the influence of Sir Herbert Ashcombe Walker, who had come from the London and North Western Railway to be General Manager of the LSWR in 1912; in 1914 he had also been appointed as Chairman of the wartime Railway Executive Committee.


Vauxhall station reputedly has had an interesting influence on other languages. Legend has it that a party from Russia came to see what what happening around the time the station was opened (with a view to planning their own rail system). They saw the station nameboards, thought the word was the English word for railway station and took it back home. In fact, the first Russian railway station was built on the site of pleasure gardens based on those at Vauxhall - nothing to do with the English railway station. The anglicised script version of the Russian word is 'vokzal'.

See also

External links


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