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the history of Leyton and Leytonstone
from . dot to … dots – with plenty of spaces
A new railway line was opened in July 1894 connecting at Tottenham with the London Midland Railway’s network and at East Ham with the London to Tilbury line. Coming after Leyton and Walthamstow had been covered with streets and housing, much of the route was on brick viaduct at rooftop height. In 1910 Leyton Midland Station between 7am and 9am had 12 trains for Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street, taking about 20 minutes, and 8 trains for Moorgate (then called Moorgate Street) taking about 45 minutes 1.
In 1905 Leyton Council acquired the tramways of the Lea Bridge, Leyton and Walthamstow Tramways Company. Almost immediately electric operation from overhead cables was installed along the routes. An electric tram network replaced the horse-drawn vehicles in 1906 on the routes between Clapton and the Rising Sun pub in Epping Forest, with routes leaving at Whipps Cross for the Green Man, Leytonstone High Road, Stratford and Bow Bridge. 40 vehicles each taking 53 passengers were purchased to operate the services. Power came from Leyton Council’s generating station in Cathall Road. The current was carried by cables in pipes under street pavements to the overhead wires supported by poles 2. The Union Road tram maintenance works were used by the London County Council until 1911. By 1913 there were services along Leyton High Road and from parts of the Leyton area to Chingford, the Victoria and Albert Docks, Forest Gate, Hackney, Bloomsbury, Moorgate and Aldgate 2.
Electric tramways dominated streets with their metal rails and their overhead wires on pole supports. They were quite noisy and after dark their lights were like nothing else at that time. They had a working class image 3. There was this praise for neighbouring Walthamstow’s new tram system : “The tramcar is to democracy exactly what the square is to freemasonry.” >>
3 ‘District Times’ of 25th April 1911 quoted by Neil Houghton ‘London-over-the-border: Politics in Suburban Walthamstow, 1870-1914’ in London Politics, 1760–1914 edited by Matthew Cragoe and Antony Taylor