The Nine Elms - History section attempts to explain in some detail the principal dates and key developments that are linked both to the building and the historic opening of the line in 1838. Apparently Nine Elms got its name, around 1645AD, from a row of elm trees bordering the lane. This area was a low swampy district, which was prone to flooding and had some windmills and willow beds. Despite this the area soon became an industrialized zone with Thames side docks for wood and timber companies lining the riverbanks plus brewing, lime kilns and potteries lining the lane.
Initially the original Nine Elms locomotive depot built was located near to the original London & Southampton Railway terminus near the Vauxhall end of Nine Elms Lane. As the railway's operation grew so did the locomotive department and the associated depot. However in 1865 it was eventually transferred from its northerly position near the Thames to a point south of the mainline that was extended to Waterloo in 1848 by means of 290 brick arches. Subsequently the old Nine Elms station was closed and the site became a huge railway yard. Gasworks were established in 1853, close to some existing waterworks (South Lambeth Waterworks Co) that later became the site of Battersea Power Station.
Importantly whilst the locomotive department grew so did the Locomotive Works that had provided, up until this time, many of the various classes of LSWR locomotives through these imaginative industrial times. It was the purchase of 30 acres of adjacent land in 1861 that enabled the construction of new Running Sheds and a new Locomotive Works, both to become a far larger and more efficient units than the original earlier constructions, these were then opened in 1865.
At the time of construction the Locomotive Works was observed to be a rather austere but functional building, lacking the earlier Victorian embellishments of the period as when compared with its contemporary neighbouring works at Longhedge, less than a mile away on the London Chatham & Dover Railway.
A number of changes later took place following the extension to the new terminus in 1848 that included the subsequent widening and laying of additional tracks into Waterloo. Subsequently the earlier Running Sheds of 1865 were demolished heralding yet another major change in the depot's location. Two massive Roundhouses, served by two forty-two foot turntables, were constructed in 1876 to replace the Running Sheds of 1865, primarily to house and maintain the increasing London & South Western Railway's operational fleet of locomotives. The old Clock Tower building that can be remembered by many older loco-men will serve as a guide to the exact position of this large depot from the photographs and maps that are available from those times.
During Nine Elms' illustrious history of locomotive construction a variety of designs by the early LSWR's now renown Chief Mechanical Engineers namely Messer's Gooch, the Beattie's, Adams and Drummond were all seen to roll out of the various erecting shops until the last one's doors finally closed in 1909. Subsequently the works was transferred to Eastleigh in Hampshire where yet further chapters in the LSWR's chequed history would continue under the stewardship of Mr Urie from 1913, following the demise of the legendary Dugald Drummond in November 1912.
In the meantime events marched on at Nine Elms and with the development of larger mainline locomotives the old roundhouse depot facilities of 1876 also required to be changed. Thus the emergence of a huge fifteen-road running shed in 1885 that was served by a larger fifty-foot turntable, later in fact the shed's length was further increased in 1889. Following the introduction of the huge coal hopper in the 1930's the old, massive coal stage, that required tubs of hand-loaded coal to supply locomotive's tenders and bunkers, was demolished and so another era came to a close. Years later in 1910 another ten road section was added to the existing 'Old Shed' that became known as the 'New Shed' thus providing a twenty-five road depot. The adjacent large roundhouse depot of 1876, like its predecessors, was eventually abandoned and demolished years later. So the last of the historic Nine Elms depots evolved remaining in service for fifty-seven years until 1967, in those times bearing witness and host to some of the finest of the Southern's locomotives created by subsequent chief mechanical engineers Messer's Maunsell and Bulleid.
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