Originally known as the Commercial Railway, the London & Blackwall was one of London's earliest and most distinctive lines. Stretching eastwards along a string of viaducts, it went from the City to Blackwall on the Thames. Worked by a rope haulage system initially, rather than conventional locomotives, it was built to a non-standard gauge of about 5 feet - all the more surprising given the involvement of Robert Stephenson. The railway served a mixed clientele, with dock workers and seamen rubbing shoulders with day-trippers and travellers connecting with vessels moored at Blackwall. Later extensions took the rails into the Isle of Dogs and, via Bow, to the east and northeast of London. Leased by the Great Eastern Railway in 1866, it was later absorbed by the LNER until passenger services ceased in 1926. Final closure of the railway in 1968 was not the end of the line for the old L&BR as the arrival of the Docklands Light Railway saw much of the route brought back into regular use.
John Christopher has written and edited a number of books on Engineering, Military History and Railway and Road Transport, specializing in the life and works of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and being the series editor for Amberley's Bradshaw's Guides series. He has also appeared in Michael Portillo's Great British Railway Journeys television series. In between writing books, he is a balloon pilot and Land Rover fan. He lives in Gloucestershire.