Acton History

Transport

The relative closeness to London, yet rural nature of Acton, encouraged a number of wealthy people to build country retreats from the City. By the beginning of the 18th century, the roads had improved so that commuting from Acton to the City was possible. However, increased traffic made repairs more necessary. The Turnpike Act of 1714 provided for the maintenance of the roads through the payment of tolls.

The Canal

The Grand Junction Canal (now Grand Union Canal) cut its way through Acton in 1801 providing cheap and faster links between London and the industrial towns of the north, cutting the price of coal in London at a stroke. The Canal had little influence on the development of Acton as it passed through largely rural part of the parish some distance from the village. Funding from the canal builders in compensation for the loss of common land did however provide for some rebuilding of the Church of St Mary’s.

The Tram Depot

 

The walls say "London United Tramways Limited"

 

Acton Tram Depot Open Day 20th July 1996.

The Horse Tram Service from Shepherds Bush was extended to Acton Hill in 1895. A plot of land at the top of the hill was purchased from C R Round for the sum of £1,094. The Tram depot and stables ,together with a large paddock for the horses were constructed. The Tram Line was converted to electric operation in 1901, and the service was extended to Southall. The depot could house up to 35 electric trams. The redundant paddock was used for the construction of houses fronting

Gunnersbury Lane and a new road called Denehurst Gardens.

In constructing the depot, the Red Lion and the Pineapple public houses were demolished, and replaced by a new establishment with the combined name of the Red Lion and Pineapple.

On the front wall, it is still possible to make out the words, London United Tramways Limited. The depot was converted for use by trolley busses in 1936, but in 1937, the depot was closed, and used as a store for electrical equipment. The depot became operational again as a bus depot in 1990.

 Is Acton Tram Depot happy or sad today? A very sad garage that is now closed, and has been demolished, to be replaced by a block of flats.

Trams

The horse drawn West Metropolitan Tramway opened to from Shepherds Bush to Acton in 1878 and was extended to Acton Hill in 1894. The line was electrified and extended to Southall in 1901. This provided for the needs of the workmen, as the fares were cheaper than the railways, which were preferred by the middle classes. A Tram Depot was constructed at the top of Acton Hill in 1895, and has continued in service to the present day, having been successively used by horse trams, electric trams, trolley buses (1936), as a store for the underground railway (1937) and since 1990 as a bus depot. Throughout this time, the name has remained resulting in modern buses displaying Acton Tram Depot as their destination!

London General Omnibus Company

The introduction of the trams prompted the London General Omnibus Company to improve its services, and it introduced through services to central London with low fares. A depot and stables was opened in Lexden Road in 1892, which were in regular use until the 1960’s. As the population grew, and motor buses took over from the horse, regular services were introduced along the Uxbridge Road to the City and East Ham; Barking; Putney; Finchley; Wandsworth and Willesden.

The London General Omnibus Company opened its Central Overhaul works at Chiswick in 1921, and brought together the work previously done in 30 other garages to a central point. This action reduced the time to overhaul a vehicle from 16 days to 4 days, giving a 3½% improvement in availability. In addition to overhaul, the works also built the complete bodies for a number of vehicles. The works extended to some 31 acres, employing 1200 staff and maintaining fleets of about 6000 vehicles. During the war London Transport co-ordinated the London Aircraft Production and Chiswick Works manufactured parts for Halifax bombers, with the final assembly being undertaken at the Aldenham works. The first aircraft flew in December 1941, and production continued until 1945 by which time 710 aircraft had been built.

After the war, Chiswick concentrated on the overhaul of vehicle parts, feeding the production line at the Aldenham Works. Changes in vehicle manufacturing techniques and policies of decentralisation reduced the workload at the Chiswick Works during the 1980’s and the site has been closed, and sold for development.

Open-top Routemaster in Acton Park

 Park Royal Vehicles

Hall, Lewis and Co. had its origins in Cardiff in 1889, manufacturing, repairing and leasing railway vehicles. The company moved into two of the rail connected Army Stores buildings remaining from the extensive muntions factory at Abbey Road, Park Royal in 1924. The company became Park Royal Vehicles Ltd. in April 1930. In 1920 it turned to manufacturing motor car bodies and by the end of 1924 had started building the bodies for small buses and char-a-bancs. The building of bus and trolley-bus bodies became the major part of the company's work., and in 1927, it built its first double deck vehicle on a Karrier DDC chassis.

The AEC company, formed as a subsidiary of the London General Omnibus Company, manufactured considerable numbers of bus chassis for use in London, with many of the bodies being built at Park Royal; the best example being the supply of 3280 bodies for the RT type buses built for London Transport.

The company had a competitor in the form of  Strachn and Brown, Coachbuilders, who moved to Wales Farm Road, opposite North Acton Station in 1914, and who also manufactured Char-a-bancs and bus bodies, and laterly horse boxes.

Manufacturing some 1000 bus bodies per year, the company became becoming one of the largest suppliers in the country, selling to many provincial bus companies, in the UK and worldwide. During the Second World War the production changed to military vehicles and bus bodies manufactured under the government imposed Utility scheme, with vehicles being allocated to authorities with the greatest needs. The company were also part of the London Aircraft Production group, and built wings and body components for the Halifax Bomber.

Although buses were now the main product, the Company built a small number of rail vehicles including four single unit diesel railcars for the Great Western Railway in 1934, and a batch of 20 two unit diesel multiple units for British Railways in 1957. In both cases, the mechanical parts and engines were supplied by AEC.

In 1949, the Company became part of the Associated Commercial Vehicles Group, and there was an increased co-operation with AEC, also part of the group. The style of vehicle construction was changing, from one in which the chassis and the body were separate entities, and usually manufactured by separate companies, to one in which the vehicle was a single construction, a strengthened vehicle body taking the role of the separate chassis. Although, the AEC / Park Royal partnership had produced many vehicles for London Transport, their greatest success came in 1958 with the design and construction of nearly 2000 of the Routemaster buses for London. It is a tribute to the quality of the design and manufacture that many are still in daily use in London and a number of other places in the UK.

Park Royal Vehicles became part of British Leyland in 1962, but production declined as competition from private cars and other manufacturers increased, and the works finally closed in July, 1980, the remaining business being concentrated at other British Leyland factories. The Park Royal site has been re-developed as a thriving business park.

A trolley bus at Stamford Brook Garage (in Chiswick)

Acton Central level crossing.

70013 Oliver Cromwell passing Bollo Lane crossing (2009)

A Motor Parcel Van passing through Acton Main Line

34067 Tangmere passing Acton main line October 2011.

The Railway Expansion

The gradual expansion of London began to influence Acton in the 1840s when the village began to grow with the middle classes moving out from the centre of London. The greatest change began in 1859 when the Enclosure Award permitted the re-allocation of the strips in the five common fields into blocks which enabled their owners to build the lower class housing required to keep up with the rapid growth of London.

The arrival of the North and South Western Junction Railway at Acton (now Acton Central) in 1853 and South Acton in 1880 allowed an easy journey to the City via the North London Railway for the occupants of the rows of terrace houses and cottages that grew up from the stations. There was also extensive recreational travel, with the occupants of North London and the City visiting the country at Kew. The line was electrified in 1916.

The District Railway arrived in 1879 at Acton Green (now Chiswick Park) and Mill Hill Park (now Acton Town) servicing the higher class properties of the Mill Hill Park estates. The line was electrified in 1905.

The Great Western Railway passed through Acton in 1838, but did not have a station until 1868 (now Acton Main Line). Junctions with a number of other railways in the vicinity of Acton lead to the development of a large marshalling yard at Acton where trains were re-ordered for their onward journeys, a role still key to the efficient transportation of stone from Somerset quarries to many terminals in the London area. The GWR had vast sidings and it's major locomotive depot serving the Paddington terminus at Old Oak Common in the north east corner of Acton.

The railway had a direct influence on local development in the construction in the 1920’s, of the Great Western Railway Garden Estate alongside the Acton marshalling yard. This was an early form of co-operative housing to provide high class housing for the staff of the GWR, primarily drivers from the locomotive depot at Old Oak Common.

In the North of the parish, the London and Birmingham Railway opened a station at Willesden Junction, with further sidings and a small village of “Railway Cottages” (1878) to accommodate its staff.

The Central Line of the Underground completes the rail links with the opening of stations at East Acton (1920), North Acton and West Acton in 1923.

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